Flash Fiction: Arboretum, Chapter Two
By Don Stouder
Fifteen year-old Peter Taylor loved Saturday afternoons. His older brother was usually off playing sports, and his Mom always did her grocery shopping on Saturday. Peter’s father was typically on-duty for the local volunteer Rescue Squad on Saturdays, or was working on some home improvement project in the basement or garage.
Basically, Peter had the place to himself. He also loved his bedroom; located in the attic, he was far away from the many distractions his family could cook up. Distractions like his parents fighting and leaving him wondering which parent he would get stuck with when they finally got divorced. Distractions like his mother being a total bitch about his schoolwork or some cleaning chore. Distractions like his older brother hitting him with his fists or anything else within reach that might hurt, just because he thought it was funny, just because his brother was so fucked up in his own head that the only way he knew how to feel in control of his life was to torture Peter. So yeah, Peter thought, none of those things are dogging me today, and that makes it a good fuckin’ day, as his friend Bobby Flanagan might say.
His bedroom was big and sprawling, a lot like Peter’s imagination. His bed was located under one of the very low eaves, just a mattress on the floor that he liked. On another side of the room and under another eave was a pile of boxes, mostly Christmas decorations and other assorted junk. It was still the attic, after all. Right in the middle of the room, Peter had pushed two folding worktables together to try and duplicate the old-fashioned oak Partner Desk that his grandfather had used for years. It didn’t look anything like that, but it gave him room to spread out all his own junk and jump from one interest or project to the other. If it wasn’t on top of the desk, it was in some wooden box under the desk. That’s how Peter liked it.
On this particular Saturday afternoon, Peter was sitting at his desk working on one of his CB radios. He loved the idea of talking on a radio to his friends, just like the cops and firemen did. Seeing how far away he could talk to people was pretty cool too. He learned how to tweak all the settings, improve the sound, and make the radio transmit farther and farther on the measly 5 watts of power the FCC allowed. Luckily, his father never knew how much damage he had done to the roof while attempting to install all manner of surplus antennas and other gadgets up there. As Peter was about to take the back panel off his old Realistic Navajo TRS-660 Base Station, he began to hear the sirens. Coming closer and closer, Peter knew right away that they were coming toward his neighborhood.
As Peter grabbed his CB walkie-talkie and started to walk down the attic ladder and then the staircase of their English Tudor home, he heard his father running out the front door. As the sirens seemed to be getting closer, Peter figured that his father had heard the call go out on his police scanner and that it must be nearby. He moved faster down the stairs, and now saw the front door ajar. Walking out the door, Peter saw the first of several police cars whipping by the house, followed by fire/rescue with many more sirens in the distance and getting closer. Peter looked up his street, a cul de sac that backed up against a 140 acre wooded preserve called the Auburn Hills Arboretum. All the activity seemed to be happening at the house at the end of the cul de sac. The Haimoff’s house.
Peter broke into a run toward the end of the street. Most of the neighbors were out and looking by now or already gathered. The cops and firemen were running behind the house, and some neighbors tried to follow but were being told to stay away. As Peter got closer to the house, he began to hear a woman screaming. He thought it sounded like Mrs. Haimoff.
“Petey, you have your radio on? What the fuck is going on?” Peter had forgotten that he flipped on his CB radio, and now his friend Bobby Flanagan, who lived three streets over, had heard the commotion. “I don’t know yet, it’s at the end of my street. Watch your mouth on the radio. Get over here”.
As Peter approached the end of his street, he saw his father walk out from behind the blockade of emergency vehicles. He had his head down, and looked pale. “Stay back Peter” his Dad said. “What happened?” Peter asked. “Is something on fire?”
“No Peter. It’s Mr. Haimoff. Some sort of accident or assault, we don’t know”.
“What happened to him Dad?” “His head was almost cut off” his father said, and then turned to his side, bent over, and puked on the pavement.
Peter took a few steps back and felt a little sick himself. He had never seen his father look so weak, so fragile. Nothing like this had ever happened on his street, in his town, in his life. At just about the same moment, Bobby Flanagan skidded to a stop right next to Peter, riding his Schwinn Stingray. Peter jumped out of the way, looking angry.
“Fuck Bobby, you scared me half to death. Watch where you are going, will you?”
“Hi Mr. Taylor,” said Bobby. “You feel OK?” Bobby had the slightest trace of a grin on his face. He wasn’t as smart as Peter, he thought, but he was braver and more athletic and loved to screw with him. He was Bobby’s best friend, and he loved Peter like a brother though he would never tell him that.
“Not so much, Bobby. No swearing Peter, you know how your Mom feels about that”. Mr. Taylor wiped off his mouth with his sleeve, and headed back toward where the Police were standing.
“So what happened Petey? Looks like half the town is here”. Sirens were still wailing in the background as almost every vehicle owned by the Auburn Hills Township Police Department arrived in the cul-de-sac. “Is all my Dad would say is that Mr. Haimoff is dead, and it sounds gross. Something about half his head cut off, they don’t know how it happened. I have never seen my old man look so scary after a squad call”. “Jesus you mean like a murder? Have we ever even had one in this town?”
“I don’t know”, said Peter. “Not that I ever remember”.