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DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON • by Walter Giersbach

Jonas hunched deeper in the lawn chair with the rotting webbing and watched the puddle under his lemonade widen until it was the size of his hand. The condensation reminded him of the sweat under his armpits and the wet hair under his Yankees baseball cap. He was a goner. He’d be dead meat as soon as Maria’s mother came up the driveway.

Maria was his first real girlfriend — not just someone to text message or chat with at a game, but get really, really serious about by spending money to take her to Coney Island every weekend for the last three weeks. But, it wasn’t the boardwalk — it was under the boardwalk that cemented their relationship.

Until her little brother Dominick butted in. He’d torn pages out of her diary. Maria had discovered the violation and screamed. She knew he was the perp. In tears, she called Jonas.

“I told my diary about you and me, about what happened there on those Saturday nights.”

Jonas knew all too well and stopped her from explaining. He’d done it to Maria, and in New York when a seventeen-year-old does the nasty with an underage girl… Well, his friends would say, sixteen will get you twenty.

Maria’s brother was an eleven-year-old monster. A devil. He tormented bigger kids in his class. He’d blackmail the Pope if he could. No way wasn’t he going to spill the beans to Maria’s mother.

The lemonade’s ice cubes continued melting and Jonas sank lower in the chair. The drink looked disgusting. The blue metal swimming pool looked disgusting. The sun and aluminum-sided house and his Mom’s tomato garden all looked disgusting.

Jonas would be dead as soon as Maria’s old lady pulled into the driveway. Maria might even be ratted out and have to leave Cardinal Cooke High School and not go to college. Jonas — well, he’d be in jail. No college for him either.

Goddamn people who couldn’t keep a secret! Maria’s big sister, Angela, was okay, though. She was a college kid, home for the summer and clerking at Gristede’s market in Ozone Park. Maria and her sister should gang up and kill Dominick. Maybe he should kill Dominick himself.

The lemonade was a tepid mess with the remains of a single cube melting into oblivion. Then he heard the DelVecchios’ old Chevy and the perspiration under his hat turned cold. He had two minutes to live.

“Jonas!” Mrs. DelVecchio, the mother from hell, said, “I want to talk to you.”

“Uh, Mrs. DelVecchio, I can explain…” How does a kid explain he’s stolen a girl’s virtue, what Father Joe at St. Anselm’s cautioned was a woman’s only treasure.

“No, just stay where you are.” The heavyset woman wheezed through the gate in the chain-link fence and lowered herself into a lounge chair opposite him. “I don’t need any explanation.”

“Well, I’m sorry, I really am. I don’t know what…”

“Is that lemonade? It looks lovely. And how’s your mother?”

Jonas could only stare at Mrs. DelVecchio’s red face.

“If it’s about Maria, I can explain…

“Angela already told me. Her sister found some pages of Maria’s diary. Angela told me how Maria described the way you defended her honor when those boys, the muggers, were bothering you and her. I want to thank you.”

“Angela said…? I thought Dominick took the pages.”

“Heavens, Dominick’s gone to camp upstate. Maybe he took the pages. I don’t know, but I only wish Maria herself had told me. You were so threatened, the both of you! She just wants to forget about it. But, I do not want you to go back to that amusement park again!”

“Where’s Maria’s diary now? The missing pages?” Jonas couldn’t believe this was happening. Perhaps there was a god after all, one called Angela. He might even go to church with his parents next Sunday. He clutched the lemonade glass, letting the slip of ice slide over his tongue. He was free!

“The diary pages? I think Angela threw them away. I don’t know. But excuse me if I run. I have errands. And mind what I say — Maria’s not to go back to Coney Island!”

Jonas nodded strongly as the cell phone vibrated in his pocket. “You bet, Mrs. DelVecchio!” He opened the phone and put it to his ear.

“You are dead, boy!” The voice was a silky melody whose lyrics were filled with venom. “I read what you did to my sister and I’m coming right over.”

“Angela? But your Mom just said…”

“She said what I told her to think. I won’t have her hurt.”

“I don’t understand…” He was totally confused.

“You wouldn’t. You’re not a girl. You aren’t pregnant. But you and Maria will run away tomorrow and get married. I’m going to put you on the bus myself at Port Authority.”

Jonas blanched as Angela clicked off. His stomach heaved as he put the now-warm glass against his forehead. His future had just melted away.


Walter Giersbach has been published in Southern Fried Weirdness, Written Word, Bewildering Stories, Mystery Authors, Mouth Full of Bullets, Every Day Fiction, Short Fiction World and Big Pulp. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, have been published by Wild Child.


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Posted on July 4, 2009 in Literary, Stories
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  • http://patriciahale.blogspot.com Patricia J. Hale

    A humorous thread runs through this well-crafted piece.

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    Well done, and I loved the twist at the end. The lemonade imagery was nicely done. Voted it five ice cubes!

  • http://jfjuzwik.blogspot.com Joyce

    Very clever story with a crazy twist. Liked this a lot.

  • J.C. Towler

    Like Jim, I really enjoyed how the lemonade became a sort of stand in for an hourglass for poor Jonas. “16 will get you 20″ was my favorite line. Nothing like letting them off the hook only to find they’ve been caught in a net. Well done.

    –John

  • Jen

    Ooh, so Angela took the pages! Nice twist!
    Though I do think Jonas should take responsibillity instead of feeling trapped.

  • http://allotropiclucubrations.blogspot.com Walt Giersbach

    Thanks, guys! I’ve gone through such “I’m dead” moments, even after being a teenager.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    One mistep into a horrible future – a long life in confusion doing the nasties to a treasureless creature and drinking sour beverages containing cubes of disgusting meltiness.

  • Margie

    Well done!

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Got me hook, line and sinker – a five from here.

    Not too sure about ‘nodded strongly.’ Surely ‘vigorously’ would be better.

    Also, I’d change the final line to something like, “The ice had melted away, just like his future.”

    The ice is an integral part in the development of the story, so have ice mentioned!

  • Sharon

    Oooooh–this was really good! Nice twist. I wonder if there’s a *Mr.* DelVecchio and does he maybe have “family” connections? Jonas indeed got more than he bargained for–in fact, I’d say the whale really swallowed him this time.

  • jennifer walmsley

    Great story. Loved the build up and the surprise ending. Had me feeling sorry for Jonas.

  • http://www.cathryngrant.com Cathryn Grant

    Good story, nice twist. Great images, especially, of course, the lemonade.

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