Prologue in Alexandria, New Jersey (part one)

Aleck by Mike Bennewitz
Aleck by Mike Bennewitz

(excerpted from Weird Luck: City of the Watcher, Book One)

Almost noon, New Year’s Day, nineteen-seventy-one. Aleck, thirteen, sat down on the top step to the basement and sighed with resignation, his breath trailing a long cloud out across the dead lawn. He watched Billy, below him, pound on the basement door again.

“Come on!” called Billy. “Let us in already, you fascist pig!”

Aleck heard Damon shout something back through the door that sounded like, Buzz off, small fry.

“It’s my basement!” shouted Billy. “You don’t even live here!”

“Forget about it,” muttered Aleck. “The station’s going to start playing it any minute.”

“No way!” barked Billy. “What, we gonna listen to rock music upstairs with my hung-over parents?”

“Ride our bikes back to my house,” said Aleck.

“And listen on your dinky transistor radio?” scoffed Billy. “And anyway, we’ll miss the beginning!”

“They’re playing the whole album, man,” said Aleck. “We won’t miss much.” He got up, looked across the dead lawn to his bike, lying on its side near the mailbox.

“No way,” said Billy. “I am not going to submit to that imperialist pig-dog.”

Aleck ignored this attempt to sway him with revolutionary hyperbole. “If we leave right now, we might not miss anything,” he said.

“No way,” Billy repeated. “I am not going to miss the opening of Black Sabbath’s second album, man.” He turned to face the door. “Grace has a good hi-fi down here, and it’s technically half mine.” He pounded again. “Mom and Dad gave that hi-fi to both of us!” he shouted. Damon shouted again from the basement. Aleck heard other voices, too, but couldn’t distinguish them. Billy grumbled, spat, turned, and stomped up the stairs towards Aleck. “Come on, let’s go under the porch.”

“We can make it to my house it ten minutes on our bikes,” said Aleck. Billy ignored him. Around the side of the house, they ducked behind the juniper bush, and slid into the space under the porch: ‘The Spider-Cave.’ They crept across a floor of dusty dirt. Spiderwebs thickly laced the joists overhead.

“What the fuck was his reason this time?” whispered Aleck.

“The usual,” grumbled Billy. “We’re too young.”

“Figures,” said Aleck.

“They called us kids,” said Billy. He sneered.

“‘Kids.’ I’m thirteen!”

“Jerks,” muttered Aleck.

They reached the dingy basement window and lay down on the ratty old cardboard air conditioner box. Billy’s big sister Grace kept the basement room dimly lit, but the Spider-Cave was darker even in daytime, so they could always see in without being seen. Grace had decorated her lair with oversized pillows and black light posters. Billy and his friends were alternately welcomed and banned according to criteria that none of them could ever reliably discern.

“Where the hell is Mikey?” whispered Billy.

Aleck shrugged. “He said he was coming.”

“He’s gonna miss it,” said Billy.

“So are we,” muttered Aleck. “We can’t hear worth a dang down here, man. We shoulda gone to my house.”

“If they turn it up loud enough,” said Billy.

“It’s fine if you know the songs already,” said Aleck. “But the first time…we’ve never even heard it. Your brain can fill in the pieces, but not if you never heard it.”

“It’s fine if they turn it up loud enough,” said Billy.

“It sounds like crap out here,” said Aleck.

“Better than your transistor radio,” said Billy.

Aleck pointed. “Damon’s got a joint.” Damon lit a hand-rolled cigarette with his Zippo lighter and passed it to Grace, who passed it to Damon’s sidekick Luke, who passed it to one of Grace’s girlfriends, a blonde, who passed it to another, a brunette. “That’s why they don’t want us down there,” said Aleck. He enjoyed looking at Grace’s friends, but none of them compared to her in his eyes; they never talked to him. Grace made him laugh out loud.

“That’s bullshit,” said Billy. “We’ve smoked pot with them a million times.”

“You have, maybe,” said Aleck. “I have maybe twice.”

“Here,” said a voice behind them.

Aleck jumped, banging his head on a joist. “Ow.” He rubbed his skull. Spiderwebs had clotted in his shaggy hair. He turned and saw Mikey, offering a lit joint.

(to be continued…)