Three girls, giggling and immersed in conversation, strolled along wide and appropriately named Maple Street. Trees lined the avenue splattering pockets of shade like patchwork, with limbs outstretched in an elegant ballet. The leafy ceiling shielded the friends' raucous conversation, submerging their laughter in a gentle blanket of coolness. The teens moved, stopped to giggle, then walked again in repeated steps making their way down the street.
Meg, the tallest, boasted sunshine eyes that never wavered. And Pat, the grounded one, pushed brown-rimmed spectacles on her nose and glanced to the third girl, Josie. Josie always looked rustled and discontent.
"Josie, do you believe what Meg said!"
Josie looked back, perplexed. She hadn't been listening. She rarely did, being the odd one in the group and always off base with her surroundings. Normally, she found their conversations silly, but the other two made good company, or at least it was better than being alone. It got her out of the house, that asylum house. She ran trembling fingers through her Medusa hair and looked to Pat with large, dark eyes that hovered over her tenuous lips.
"What did she say?"
"Josie, do you ever pay attention? This idiot just said she's asking Butch Hartley out? Do you believe that?"
"Who is Butch whatever?"
Pat threw her arms up in exasperation. "I'm a genius between two morons!"
They reached the intersection and stopped. On the opposite corner the town "character/nut job"--known simply as "Daniel" hovered, muttering and shaking one fist in the air, engrossed in earnest conversation with an imaginary foe. If he did it only this one day, he might not have built a reputation on it. But Daniel spent every afternoon in the same manner, cussing and hopping around on that corner in a rage. Constantly disheveled, hair spiked, his haunted, red eyes looked to a curious world of demons. Close up, where you could taste the effluvia of his nightmare, he presented a frightening spectacle. But from a distance his antics remained harmless, even comical.
The vacant corner of Maple and First was his regular haunt. One would think, assuming he was drunk, he'd want to be near a bar; unless you were one of the people who knew he actually didn't drink, that Daniel was simply crazy.
Josie knew. He was her brother. But not many people were aware of it, certainly not her girl friends. She kept it secret. To let it fly out and be announced would humiliate, blacken, destroy her. People would match her up with him like they belonged together, like they were both crazy.
"Oh God! There’s Daniel!" Meg declared. "Don't cross the street! Let's get out of here!"
Josie's mind blasted into a thousand pieces as she tried to slow her thoughts and find her bearings. Her burning cheeks! Would her red face give away her secret? It felt like her face must be apple red.
"I wouldn't want to interrupt that lively conversation he's having with himself!" Pat added, a wry smile passing her lips.
Josie caught her breath. They didn’t know, did they? That Daniel was her brother? He seemed bad today, obviously off his meds. She never knew what he'd be like, minute to minute.
"Josie, are you coming?"
The other two stood importantly, hands on hips. Josie's mind raced. Those girls' biggest problem was who to ask for a date. So easily they could dismiss the fellow on the corner! The dull thumping in her head eased and the burning in her cheeks cooled.
"I'm coming!" she said. The sooner, the better. Besides, didn't they say any port in a storm? Any port. A hell of a storm. She’d just keep walking with them...keep walking. They didn’t know. She was safe. Get out of here. Any port.
Copyright 2011 JO Janoski