The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 6

Marissa tells Brian that she has the impression that he needs to summon the Peddler. Not only does it have to be he who does it, but he has to dance—naked. Understandably upset by that announcement, Brian freaks out a little, so they leave Sweeties and go to Chase’s house.

“So, naked,” Brian said.

“Huh?” Chase, who was the only one who hadn’t heard, was immediately vigilant.

Brian explained briefly while the girls took the time to vacate by cleaning up the work space.

“So…. Naked.” Chase nodded, laughing.

“Don’t laugh or you’ll join me,” Brian snapped. “Why me? And why naked? I’m asking our folks about this. Because no f**king way!”

“Brian!” Marissa scolded.

“Hush, Marissa. If you’d been told you had to dance around with no clothing, you’d be upset too,” Jordan said. “We’ll ask Dora,” she advised. “She knows about rituals and stuff. In fact, we need a meeting of the families. Tonight. My house. Eight.”

“That’s okay with your folks?” Chase asked.

“Yes,” Jordan said. “It will be when I tell them. Everyone. Your folks too,” she added with a squint of her eyes at Marissa. “They might like to spend their Saturday nights being all pious, but this is more important.”

Marissa pressed her lips together on whatever snarky reply she’d intended. Jordan was right. Marissa had learned a lot in the last year, not the least of which was that agreeing with Jordan was the prudent thing. She was right more often than she was wrong and she was a strong leader. While they might never be best friends, like Brian and Chase, they were grudgingly learning to get along.

“I’ll let them know,” she said with a gulp.

“We need to go,” Jordan said. “If I’m going to invite people over, I’ll need to clean up and prepare.”

“I’ll help,” Marissa volunteered. “We can make those Shrewsbury Drops your mom showed us last weekend. And I’ve been working on a new tea blend.” The girls chatted as they walked upstairs.

Brian and Chase followed them more soberly. Brian walked with his hands in his pockets, head down. Chase wasn’t much perkier.

“See you tonight,” Chase said at the front door.

“Yeah.” Brian stopped, turning around to face his friend before heading to his car. “Life got too damn complicated, didn’t it? I mean, we should be worrying about football and our grades—whether we’re gonna get laid before we’re twenty.”

“Why us?” Chase asked, his eyes wandering over to where Marissa and Jordan were. “And why, for God’s sake, Marissa?” he dug his toe into the grass by the porch. “I mean, I like her and all. But Jesus!”

Brian chuckled, smacking his friend in the arm. “Exactly. I know it’s not easy, Chase. Jordan makes me crazy. I can’t even imagine what Marissa’s like. But do you love her?”

Chase shrugged, rolling his eyes helplessly. “How would I know? You have any vast experience to draw from?”


“Brian!” Jordan called. There was command in her voice.

“Just got a jerk on the short leash,” Brian said quietly. “See you later.”

“Yup.” They tapped knuckles.

Jordan was right that her parents didn’t object to having the meeting at their house. In fact, Jackie even suggested calling their Louisiana friends too. None of them were surprised to find out that they were already planning to come up.

“Spend the night,” Jackie suggested. “We’ve all got room.”

That was decided and they set about getting the house in order. Jordan and Marissa talked on the phone, organizing rooms and food while the boys cleaned bathrooms and made the guest beds. Once that was accomplished, they joined the women in the kitchen, pitching in to prep vegetables or wash dishes as needed.

Maribelle and Miles Casey arrived with Elise in tow. Heath walked in the door a few minutes later. Maribelle joined them in the kitchen, but Miles and Heath took Elise outside to play in the huge back yard. Their job was to start the gigantic grill and set potatoes baking in the coals.

They were greeted by delighted yelps of two huge dogs. Zofia and Janus had stayed behind after Mr. D. left. They had deigned to make Jordan’s house their home, though they visited Brian and the others regularly. Sometimes, they would disappear for days at a time, coming back filthy and tired. No one knew where they went, but none of them questioned the actions of the two enormous dogs. Elise loved the huge animals and they doted on her. They played gently with the baby, letting her tug at them, climb over them and roll around in the grass.

“I just gave her a bath,” Maribelle said with a sigh. “She’ll be filthy again before dinner.”

“It’s okay, Mom. I’ll give her a bath when the dogs finish mauling her.”

Maribelle giggled, swatting at her son. “Thank you. You’ll make a good father one day.”

Brian blushed. “Thanks.” He had no words for how embarrassed he felt. Everyone in the room knew that when he had children, at some unspecified time in the future, it would be with Jordan. Strangely, the subject didn’t seem to bother her.

“Corn’s ready for the grill,” Chase said, showing the foil wrapped bundles.

“Potatoes are already in the coals,” Brian said. “Let’s get these out there.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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