I don’t know you

I DON’T KNOW YOU
By Janet Shell Anderson

 

I know they’re outside the house, Viktor, Leland, Finn, waiting in the black van. The moon’s a sickle, about to be eclipsed by storm. Viktor never remembers my cell number.

My father said I could walk through night and never be seen, could live forever, like him. He shot himself in Idaho when I was fifteen.

I know too much. I was at Salt Creek on the fifth of May. Two meth dealers from Beatrice, Nebraska, died. I never thought Leland would come here after that or Viktor either, but I was wrong. They’ve never been inside this house, my mother’s new house, my house now. It’s huge, beautiful. My mother’s dead. That’s another story.

Viktor waits in deep darkness under the hundred-year-old ash tree. If the storm comes, it’s a bad place to park. The limbs are two feet thick, could crush the van. Viktor’s afraid of nothing, except me. He says I make things that should not happen, happen. I’m afraid of everything.

He and Leland, Finn, they’re hunters now. They hunt people.

There’s a door in the basement under the porch. Viktor doesn’t know about the door. I go down the servants’ staircase as the landlines ring, crawl behind the basement shelving, try not to let it scrape as I move it. The door beneath the porch is only two feet high. What was it for? God knows. It’s a good thing I’m thin. I open the door, slide into the dirt underneath the porch, behind bridal-wreath spirea in full bloom, see eyes in the hedge, a cat. It skitters toward the van. As it moves, I move, slide under the hedge. Car lights probe the street, show the passage between my house and the neighbor’s. A cigarette glows in the van. I hear the voices.

“Man, go in, she’s there.”

“No car.”

“In the garage.”

“She parks out front.”

“This is just a bad idea, Viktor.”

“Call her again, Leland; she trusts you.”

I move; thin branches tear my hair. Viktor was my husband, Leland, Finn, my friends. From Park Middle School until now, we were Lincoln, Nebraska’s darkest, wildest children, always together. Until we weren’t.

I get past the open garden gate into the backyard, into darkness so thick I am afraid to stand up; I’ll fall. Then lights go on in the house behind the alley, and I can see too well. The landline rings. I go under three yew bushes, reach the back fence, crawl toward the gate, slip into the narrow passage between garage and wall, creep into the alley. The men argue in the van.

I married Viktor, had a son. He only lived a day. When I was pregnant, I called my mother from a payphone. She pretended not to know me, would not tell me where she lived. I found her. We are dysfunctional. When I think maybe life’s not real, I remember her saying, “I don’t know you.” I felt the baby kick that moment.

In the alley, the lights are murderous. I move shadow to shadow, edge by the neighbor’s house, cross Sixteenth Street. If Viktor starts the van, turns right, they’ll see me. I move quickly but don’t run. I parallel “A” Street, walk toward the sickle moon. I cross Seventeenth, no traffic, climb the steep alley between “A” and “B”. Gusts of wind circle. Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, no more alleys, I chance walking straight down “C” Street, hear a car, find shadow.

It’s a van. My mouth is full of copper.

When my father died, my mother said, “I wish it had been you.” She never knew if I had a son or daughter. The baby kicked when I asked her how to find my way to her new house and she said “I don’t know you.” We’re dysfunctional.

The van goes by.

Viktor was sleek and beautiful and I loved him more than anyone I ever saw, would watch him sleeping, that beauty, the only one I ever wanted. Afraid of nothing, except me, he knows too much.

Twenty-seventh Street is four lanes wide. Cars rush past. Lightning flashes. I stand away from the streetlight. When the street’s empty, I run. The Lincoln Chidren’s Zoo, the bike trail, are both close. Viktor never biked. The trail cuts through yards and parks away from streets, follows an old railroad right of way.

“She’s just a dumb bitch,” Finn said when I was under the bridal-wreath spirea.

“You know what she can do.” Viktor.

“You think she’ll kill us. Some kind of spell or crap.” Leland.

“She set us up, you idiot. She killed those bastards herself at Salt Creek. She’s got the money and the meth.”

“Man, that’s just not possible.”

I pass behind a strip mall, cross a bike trail bridge over Highway 2. The wind’s coming up; the storm is near. Lethal weather.

“She killed her mother, right?”

My car waits in the parking lot where I left it near Salt Creek. I drive south and east and south below frantic skies, forked lightning, to Beatrice, then Blue Springs, then Wymore. Out of the storm. Into Kansas. Safe, the way I planned.

I picture it: at last Viktor remembers. My cell phone in my house rings. I left a message on it. Same as for my Mom.

“I don’t know you.”

 

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Nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Janet Shell Anderson writes flash fiction and was published by Vestal Review, Grey Sparrow, Larks Fiction, The Scruffy Dog, Long Story Short, and others. She is an attorney.
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