Something had to be done, and there was no one in the world to do it but me.
Len was already courting a 102-degree fever and he was taken directly to the hospital. Doctors all over the county were scrambling around to figure out what was happening to my friends. I was the only person in the world who knew what was going on and was healthy enough to do something about it. I ignored the terror constricting my heart and rode my bike out to Tempest Gate Games.
Olga sat on a stool outside the store. Murky blues music swam out of the doorway and slithered into the world as she twisted her beard into little braids.
I dropped my bike to the sidewalk and proclaimed, “Sir Drexler must be stopped.”
I was expecting a similarly heroic reply, but Olga only squinted at me quizzically. “Sir who?”
“Sir Drexler,” I said. “The guy in the book Toddy stole.” I was confused. In pondering the events that had happened since Tuesday, I’d convinced myself that Olga was some kind of magical representative of another world who’d set everything in motion intentionally.
“That little shit stole the book,” she said, as though processing it for the first time.
“You really didn’t know? I thought you were testing me or something.”
“Honey, I hate to burst your bubble, but I fell into this job just after falling out of one in retail. It pays better than working a cash register and there’s less crap to deal with than in restaurants, so I’m not complaining, but I most definitely don’t have any master plans.”
I sat down heavily on the sidewalk, defeated.
“Well then I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. My friends are dying.”
I choked back a tear and felt my face flush red in embarrassment.
“Dying?” Olga twisted her beard thoughtfully. “The goblin goods usually just give people nightmares and stomach aches and stuff like that. Never heard of them killing anyone before.”
“That’s what I call the weird, cursed stuff in the store. Just a thing I made up. Are you telling me this one is killing people?”
“Yes.” I told her the whole story, starting with the lime green garden gnome and ending with Len in the hospital.
Olga braided her hair thoughtfully. “That’s terrible,” she said. “But, I don’t understand what the problem is, honey.”
I threw up my arms in all the teenage indignation I could muster.
“You don’t think kids dying is a problem?”
“Calm down, honey. That’s not what I mean. I just don’t understand why you’re acting like the solution is so complicated. You don’t need a magic sword from me or anything like that.”
Her image blurred through my tears.
“Then what do you suggest?
“You just need to kick Toddy’s ass and take the book.”
My first instinct was to laugh off her ridiculous suggestion. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized she was right. The solution wasn’t complicated. I was just too scared to fight Toddy to admit how easy it was. I always had been scared of him.
“I don’t know how to fight,” I said.
“Kid, I’m a bearded woman that grew up on the south side of Chicago. If there’s one thing I know, it’s fighting.”
She stood up and motioned for me to follow suit. Out on the pothole-laden road she showed me how to set my feet and how to bend my knees, like springs. She explained that a punch starts in the feet and comes mostly out of the legs and waist. I listened carefully and followed all of her instructions.
Mostly I tried to keep my mind focused on hitting Toddy, rather than on Toddy hitting me back.
Part 7is HERE.
Copyright 2020 Jeff Suwak