The next day was cold and rainy. It rained all day long. The cold seeped into everything, slowed and dragged at everything. Mechanical devices froze up, doors stuck, wheels and bearings turned reluctantly. Fingers and toes were stiff and painful, backs ached, sinuses clogged. Anything that rusts up in wet weather was swollen and hurting.
Everyone was affected by the rain. Traffic snarled, lines grew longer, people got grumpy. Everything took twice as long, and lots of things just didn’t get done because it was too difficult to get around. Not that it was any more inclement than usual. It’s just that this was a Class A depressive rain, strong enough to make birds and mammals suicidal, magnetic enough to give computers headaches, complicating everything enough to make it not worth doing.
It was a full moon. Usually a high energy time, when lots of people do impulsive things. But the rain had dampened the energy, sedated the natural exuberance of the full moon, like it was on Prozac. So everyone gave their impulses precedence, but the consequences worked themselves out in slow motion.
Overnight, a flock of John Does came into the ER. Several with acute lead poisoning, without IDs. Several Jane Does impersonating zombies and giving only aliases. Toward dawn those that could talk became a little more forthcoming. Half a dozen walking wounded all claimed to be going down the street minding their own business, but were pretty fuzzy about which street. And one poor asshole beaten all to hell who croaked on the table, whispering Roxy with tears in his eyes. All in all, it was a banner night in the ER. They’d planned for it, of course: they came out of the woodwork on a full moon.
Nobody ever mentioned the full moon on the morning news. People at the network noticed the uptick in strangeness, they even had a disaster betting pool every full moon, but it went without saying that astrology wasn’t newsworthy, so it was never mentioned. Judy was the only one of the siblings who would have noticed this, or cared. She would have sat there and lectured the TV screen for twenty minutes on why the full moon was a big deal. But she wasn’t watching television right then. She was having her own full moon crisis.
Just a couple of hours before the sun would have come up, if the sun were not depressed and lethargic and hadn’t taken a valium and gone back to sleep, Judy decided that she was going crazy, and drove herself down to the hospital. There was a line, even at four in the morning. Noodling in her head about how wrong it was to make crazy people wait patiently in beige waiting rooms, she went off to the bathroom to roll a joint, and snuck out to smoke it in the hedges between the parking lot and the ambulance entrance.
The rain had slackened a little, but fat drops splattered on her from the bushes. She took a couple of tokes and started to relax. Maybe she wasn’t really crazy. The next ambulance came over the hill, whining and blinking. She watched it come as the rain picked up again, wondering what kind of human tragedy it carried.
They had Rick in the back of the ambulance. She was positive. She stuck her head right into the gap between bushes and peered at him while they got the wheels down. He was horribly hurt, and very bloody, but it was her brother. She took another hit while the rain rolled down her hair, then carefully put the joint out, wrapped it in a stickie, and hid it in her pocket for later.
By the time she got inside he had already died. They were doing painful things with electricity in another room, and she was in a beige waiting room at the bottom of a long sign-in list. She sat under the television, ignoring the blather, thinking. She was crazy. And her brother was a goner, the EMTs had said he was running to the light as they wheeled him in.
Well, she never liked him anyway. But still. Her brother. Her oldest younger brother. She remembered how it was, being kids together, pulling each other’s hair, ganging up on the other two together.
Somewhere he became a caricature of what their parents and the times had taught him. She had too. She was a campy old hippie, he was a cruel, driven tycoon. Not really themselves, but outfits they wore. The innocent kids, that was the real them. Or maybe not. Maybe the innocents had been switched out long ago for the conniving, scheming, self-centered, vindictive people they were now.
If they were still kids inside, then they could be forgiven. If they were responsible for the nasty pieces of work they’d become, then they were all fucked.
By the time the list worked its way down to Judy, she had decided she probably wasn’t crazy, and went home to get a little sleep.
* * *
During the night, Cindy met Sindee. They went walking in magic rain cloaks that kept them dry. On a dragon hunt, they were wounded by the swipe of a claw. It itched horribly, and swelled and burned. Sindee showed Cindy how to cauterize her arm in the campfire. A dragon scratch is poisonous. Sindee explained many things to Cindy. They became very close.
That morning, Cindy woke up to find her arm bloody and scabby, the skin weepy raw and angry looking. The itch of her poison ivy was gone, but nothing stopped the pain of the wound in its place. She clutched her elbow and ran to the bathroom cabinet, where she downed two Oxycodone, furious she didn’t have any more.
She screamed at Bill when she found him sleeping on the couch. How could he just lay there and let someone set fire to her in her own bed? Bill didn’t answer. He was tied to the couch, covered in paint and other liquids from the garage. He promised not to tell a soul what happened, a horrified expression on his face.
Distracted from the pain, she untied him and let him go. He ran off as if expecting to be shot in the back. She thought to call the cops and report another attempted murder, but Bill wouldn’t be there to back her up, and she didn’t feel like being laughed at again. She was too stressed to be nice to sarcastic cops right now.
* * *
When Judy woke, it was as dark as when she got home, and raining heavily. She wondered if she’d slept an hour, or was it that evening? Or tomorrow morning? The confusion continued until she was fully awake. Which took many cups of coffee and whisky, and the few roaches set aside – for when she ran out of pot. Which she had done.
You could argue that it was Judy’s desire for weed that led to her doom.
Frank’s sudden death sent her into a tailspin. She stopped cleaning and organizing, stopped taking care of the house, the yard, the trash. She stopped washing her hair. She stopped bathing and changing her clothes. She smelled like rotting skin.
She went around in filthy socks, soiled pajamas and a ratty housecoat, the pockets overflowing with stickies. Why they hadn’t seen to her right away when she’d gone to the hospital like that, she couldn’t say. A reasonable person would have wanted Judy put away the moment he saw her.
It was early in the day. Having contacted Allen for an emergency supply, and agreeing to meet him at the liquor store, the one-stop idea being a prudent measure when she was a little impaired, she shed her bathrobe and staggered to her car.
She weaved and dodged and drove ten miles under the speed limit all the way home. Arriving safely, she noticed a car in front of her house. It was a representative of the county, waiting in the rain to talk to her. He was there to inspect a report of hoarding made by those seemingly nice EMTs, and to take appropriate action.
She walked him thru the house, pointing out the progress she’d been making. But all he saw was the devastation of her grief. He made her sign papers condemning her house as unsafe. He gave her a card and told her to call for more information, and warned her that the process could take some time. He gave her a moment to collect a few necessities, and suggested she go to a shelter for the night, or a hotel, or maybe she had family nearby she could stay with.
She spat into a puddle, got in her car, and left. Circling back, she returned to the house once he’d gone. There were new locks slapped on all her doors. Rain dripped inside her clothes and down her body. Her socks and shoes were sodden.
* * *