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Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Bugs' house was laid out quite the same as Cary's and Clearing's: a three bedroom, two bath affair. Yet the Edgecombe's house was lighter and more airy, with gauzy curtains and pastel colored furniture clearly indicated someone with an eye towards comfy, “lived-in” design. Cary saw no signs the housed had been trashed, or condemned only weeks before, though he had walked past it many times in its derelict condition and seen it from the outside. Bugs' father and mother were both gone, as Bugs explained. “Dad's at work, he stays in Houston a lot. My... um Mom goes to with him sometimes, they say I'm old enough to look after them, so I must be old enough to look after myself. Silly, right?”

“I picked most of it out. Mom doesn't really care as long as it lasts and Dad, well, he's happy with a big TV and a big bed.” Bugs said when she spotted Cary pressing against the softness of the sofa in the living room.

“Want to see my room?” Bugs offered. Cary said, “Sure.”

Bugs' room was shockingly yellow. The walls were the strangest Cary had ever seen. He was immediately fascinated. Covering every square inch of three walls were cork display boards under glass with thousands of insect specimens pinned to the cork boards. The insects were all shapes and sizes. Cary peered into glass after glass, saw a huge green and yellow beetle, a massive dragon-fly, three separate kinds of cockroach and a whole case full of bedazzled butterflies. Bugs was patient, she stood next to him in silence, let him enjoy it.

On the fourth wall he saw something different.

A bookshelf. Filled with not just books, but tens of action figures. A vintage He-Man, complete with sword and shield faced off with a staff-bearing Skeletor. Gandalf and Aragorn stood sword to sword facing Lion-O and three Thundercats. Megatron and Galvatron hovered behind a fully-transformed Unicron set against no less than five versions of Optimus Prime and grim-looking Ultra Magnus hovering behind. Cary stood open-mouthed, his hand reached out quivering towards the pristine figures.

“You like them?” Bugs said cheerfully. “I guess I'm supposed to have kept them in the boxes, but I like to play with them!”

She reached over and grabbed Gandalf and Skeletor, one in each hand. Held them up facing one another and made them talk. “Naur edreth lammo!” Gandalf said. Skeletor roared “Take THAT Wizard!”

Bugs giggled but did not look chagrined or embarrassed. “I know it's silly.”

“I use Barbies sometimes.” Cary said. Bugs gave him a confused look, and shrugged before she said, “Well She-Ra would have been better of course, but did you at least cut off all their hair?”

“Only if they were evil. But Gandalf. He was my favorite.” Cary said. He found his mouth was like a river which had been dammed for a century, now burst. Words poured out like trapped, angry water.

“Yeah! I made the evil ones into warrior Amazon witches! And I turned Gandalf into a Soul Sorcerer and a Cinderella Barbie into an evil warlock who could possess the bodies of others and use the energy of their soul to cast spells and I found a Starscream and made him into a robotic overlord of the Galaxy...” Cary continued like this for maybe ten minutes. Bugs didn't interrupt him once.

Soon they were having their own little private battle with several of the figures. It lasted for an hour before Bugs put down her Man-at-Arms and Papa Smurf (dressed as a medieval knight) and asked, "Are you hungry, Care? I'm starving, right?”

She led Cary to a kitchen more fully stocked than anything Cary had ever seen in a private home. It was like everything he wanted to eat was there somewhere, from Twinkies and Uh-Oh Oreos to Cookie Dough Ice Cream and honey-roasted turkey sandwiches with Muenster cheese. He had only had Muenster cheese once before because Bird had gone shopping dead drunk and bought it mistakenly, then thrown it out in disgust. Cary had fished it out of the garbage and loved it. He ate his fill of turkey and Munster sandwiches with Uh-Ohs crushed up over ice cream and warmed-up Twinkies. Bugs ate even more.

“You won't get in trouble for eating all this?” Cary asked.

Bugs laughed. 'Nah. It's all mine anyway. I mean they bought it all for me. Dad and my..um.. Mom are kinda boring... they eat mostly veggies and soy. Vegan stuff. Yuck!” Bugs opened the fridge and showed him several large plastic drawers of veggies and blocks of whitish soy. She mimed vomiting. Cary laughed.

Bugs waved excitedly after they had eaten. “I just got a new PS4 and a new Final Fantasy game if you want to....” Bugs said. Cary was nodding already at PS4. They played Final Fantasy and several fighting games. Bugs showed Cary some of her best moves, even let him get the hang of the buttons before she slaughtered him mercilessly. Each time she killed Cary they both laughed and nodded to go again.

By the time the Sun set, Cary was talking almost as much as Bugs herself.

“I'm adopted, too, you know.” Cary said. “But not really, it's not like Bird ever actually adopted me, I guess. He just collects the checks for being my foster-father.” Cary said. He had often been vaguely ashamed of this, and had never spoken it aloud to anyone. But Bugs, oddly, thought it funny and suddenly Cary realized he felt the same. Sad too, but mostly just funny.

“And I've never really had friends in Happy Endings, or anywhere really, except Mr. Clearing. The other kids thought I was weird because I talked to my action figures and made up voices and stuff.” Cary said.

Bugs nodded. “You're friends with the Physics teacher? I guess that makes me weird too. I always had Mom and Dad though and my insects, to keep me company. I didn't have many friends in Louisiana,either, except my Latin teacher!” Bugs admitted.

After they had talked a while longer, Bugs turned on the television and thrust the remote control at Cary. The only contact Cary had really had with the remote at his house was when Lana would viciously throw it at his head. He had no idea what to watch, at first even the buttons confused him there we so many. Bugs eventually settled him on a news program. "And the world mourns with Ovah and her loss of her best friend Layla String, who died this Saturday unexpectedly of causes unknown at forty-seven, after being in a coma for the last week.” Cary had never heard of Layla String, only loosely of the former talk-show host, Ovah. Bugs gave Cary a very serious look after she heard this.

“That's terrible. They were best friends since they were our age.” Bugs said. Cary felt a cramp or spasm just under his heart. He had known Bugs less than a week and yet could easily grasp the devastation he would feel if he lost her. Bugs smiled wide at him and squeezed his hand, as though she knew exactly what he was feeling and felt the same.

The night passed until both Bugs and Cary were yawning. “I guess I should go home...” Cary said after a jaw-cracking yawn. He hadn't thought once about what Bird would think of his being gone the entire night. Bugs mimicked his yawn and nodded, “Yeah, we do have school tomorrow.”

“I had fun.” Cary said. He found it was still just as easy to talk to Bugs and he had no need to stare at the ground to collect his thoughts around her. It was a very nice feeling.

Back at his house, Lana was not around and Bird passed out drunk and “Hillbilly Handfishin'” blared on the television so loud he wouldn't have noticed Cary walk by had the man been fully conscious. Cary brushed his teeth, washed his face and got in the bed in the guest room. He fell asleep almost right away and slept peacefully the whole night.

Next Chapter: Chapter 19