And You Get Three Wishes
Johnny S. Geddes
‘I don't believe you. Don't take offence. I hope you can see how being in a hole like this kind of messes up believing in things.
‘But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Because if Dr Landru has set this up to keep me in here, you're not going to get me raving. No way. I'm out of here next month and I'm off to Spain for a while so I can work this out, my way. Corey's brother's coming, too, so that's that.
‘Oh. What happened? Hi, by the way, I'm Gary Lewis. Not the Gary Lewis you've read about. No way. He's outta here. Totally. They don't let me read much here because they're worried I'll go off again…
‘But I know what's been said. God's sake, it's a year now and they're still trying to keep me here because of that … thing.
‘What I'm telling you happened last summer in my parents' semi in Milton Keynes. Fairly normal house in a city so normal it's abnormal. Cities can be like people, you know. It's always the quiet ones that turn out the bad karma and end up being killers. But that's beside the point.
‘My dad and mum always fight. Fought. No, fight. It's good to keep in the present tense because I know they're still alive somewhere. You'd know them as Rod and Yvonne Lewis.
‘My dad had … got … has. Has his own sign printing and laminating company. Nothing fancy - just a small contractor in one of those tacky assed tin can units you can rent from an industrial park. There's loads round here.
‘Now what you may have heard about his affair was true for a while but he smartened up before … this. Things were going kind of crazy and Dad lost a major contract then Mum started at him with heavy stuff like that Tenerife holiday we were supposed to be going on at Christmas but the money died.
‘And that's what set him off. Now, Mum's always been a bit of a spender. Always at the shopping centre and there was never a week that she hadn't got four of five new things in clothes. Shoes and all, you know. The overdraft she had was pretty … forgiving. Dad always said … says that's how they get you, these credit card and bank companies.
‘It all came to a head one Friday night. Just to show you how cured I am, I've lost count of the number of days ago that was. Mum started on Dad about being too tired to take her out and he went into one.
‘He never hit her. Not really. So don't go thinking I'm in here at all for any of that stuff. No. That night he threw her onto the sofa after she kept turning the Sky remote off so he couldn't watch any TV at all.
‘He just sat there finishing off a bottle of his fancy Belgian lager while she said how he had the strength, all right – just he didn't care about her.
‘And then he laid into her. When he had her on the sofa, he swiped all the stuff off the coffee table. Everything fell off except for this Goodstuff Catalogue.
‘Now I'd been in my room and was on my way down to the kitchen to get some Pepsi. I guess I was worried about Mum, too. From all the noise and all. Wanted to be Peacemaker General. UN style. Ha. And when I sneaked down the stairs and checked through the banister gaps, all I saw was Dad ripping this catalogue into bits and yelling at her for using it to order stuff and waste more money.
‘All Mum did was cry and cry and cry while he told her she wouldn't know what she wanted if it came up and …
‘You get the idea. It looked like it had been snowing ripped-up catalogue pages in there.
‘At the time, I was angry at Luke and Corey. They were to swing by before eight so we could skateboard in the business district. You know. When all those office people go, it's prime wheeling ground.
‘So I played X-Box in my room 'til I passed out. I woke up around ten Saturday and hung around the living room with my breakfast and cleaning up all that paper mess.
‘Dad was up and, from the way the bumps and groans in the spare room sounded, he was seriously hung over. I took Mum up some coffee but she wanted to sleep some more so I tried Dad with it.
‘His eyes had black rings. Serious. He was trying to get dressed. He told me cheers for the drink and he'd be down after he got his head right.
‘On my way downstairs, the weirdest thing happened. Right ahead of me is our letterbox, right. And it opens and in slunks this huge thing.
‘I thought it was one of Mum's magazines from the clear wrap until I saw the colour of it. It was minging. Filthy with dirt and crap. I didn't want to touch it. I knew it was a catalogue from the chit lying over the main mag inside the wrapper. Luke's mum and dad did that leaving catalogues out lark and it drove them crazy. He told me they were always complaining about how some people seemed to enjoy trashing 'em. Hose pipe water and even driving over them. I heard one guy even got his dog to shit into one so Luke's folks would never come back.
‘Dad didn't come down for another hour. By that point I was up in my room again getting dressed and calling those gimps to see how their night had been. Corey's bro does that street racing lark and they were hanging out with them. Tossers never even called and they weren't answering. Who cares? They're not true skaters. When I get driving, I'll beat all those wusses out.
‘Listen, this next bit's strange so I need you to bear with me. Now, my dad was downstairs. I wasn't really listening because I had my TV on and then I was in the shower.
‘What Mum said is that he must have had a look in that new catalogue that looked like crap and he went off leaving it there on the coffee table so she'd see it. Rub it in, like. She didn't know how he'd have got to going out, though, because he hates walking and his keys were still on the table, so …
‘Look, I need to say this. Therapy if not for anything else, right?
‘I can just see my dad standing there scoffing at the stuff in that grubby catalogue, flicking the pages back really hard while mouthing “you can get this or get this, bitch” in a sarky voice up through the ceiling at my mum.
‘I was all dressed and ready with my skateboard when I heard her go downstairs. She asked me twice if he was up there. No. Not a trace. Then I went to their window to check the back garden. Not a trace there, either.
‘The reason she didn't get worried right away is pretty obvious, I think. He must've really ripped her up to end up sleeping in the spare room. So I went out while she got herself brunch or whatever. My dad's Nissan was empty as I went by and there wasn't a trace of him in the garage or on the lawn. Wherever he was, it was serious.
‘Now, Luke and Corey and me, we always skate the strip up by the courthouse. You get the higher skids up there 'cause they built it like a pyramid. On our way there, we passed Tenth Street and this is the bit that still gets me.
‘There was this old guy up there with this duffel coat and a massive wheelie bin thing. He was close enough for me to see he was leaving out those same catalogues. Looks like he didn't clean any of them but the cover picture was the same as the one in our … my house.
‘God I wish I'd known … so I could stop and do something to him to keep him from … Sorry, I …
‘I won't cry again. Not about this. About losing my folks like that. Until they're got back, that is. I was skating with the guys until three. It was too muggy and the cops were on their third warning with us.
‘I went home alone. God I hated it. Finding our front door open and …
‘Damn it! I can still see her in that sofa. She used to sit like this, see? Off to the side with her coffee mug with her name and definition on it between her fingers like this.
‘I spent half an hour going round that house. I called both their mobiles and the things went off upstairs! Upstairs, mind!
‘And then I started on her friends. Was she here, was she there? Why the hell didn't she take her mobile?
‘Her coffee mug was on the table, still over half full. And what should be beside it?
‘That goddam catalogue. I hate it. I hate that bastard who laid it out. Who the hell wears a duffel coat in July! He had grey stringy hair and there was something …
‘I guess if they have to warn kids about what to lookout for then it'd be him. A paedophile. I'm going to find this guy and …
‘Not rip his nuts off and stuff them down his throat. At least you can tell Dr Landru I'm past that. But he knows where my folks are. That bastard. You just see if he doesn't. That son of a bastardised bitch in hell.
‘So I spent two hours waltzing about my house looking for anything that would give them away … where my folks had got to. Jesus, I just didn't know! Was going to call Grandma but she really worries about Mum and I didn't want to worry her bad heart so I hung up before I stopped dialling.
‘I called the cops only after what happened happened. I was so angry by then because all there was on the coffee table was my mum's half-drunk mug and this catalogue. I hate Landru the way he uses that psychology bullshit. They tell me the familiar by the unfamiliar and all that crap made me go ape on it. The night before, a catalogue had set my dad off real bad and now there was another one here and things were worse.
‘I picked up the catalogue, more to chuck it in the bin than anything else. And you know, if it hadn't been for that stupid square in the middle of the page it was open at, none of this would have happened and I might have still had a clue on where mum and dad wer - are.
‘Jesus … it said “Free Section - Look at this Space and Make Three Wishes” in really big lettering. Three! Well I was so mad I only had one wish. And I remember wishing that all these stupid catalogues and those who lay them out would just get the hell out forever. Gonzo, Deadsville, effed off the edge of the damn planet. You know?
‘So I guess that's what put me in here. They're still looking for Mum and Dad. I reckon he wished for a better deal in life and she wished she could find out just where the hell he was.
‘And what do I go and do? Jesus Christ, I only go and lock the door that could've got me to them both! Lock it with bloody deadbolts - then weld bars and shit over it so nobody can ever get in or out! The damn thing vanished! I'm telling you that god damned catalogue was the key to all this and I willed it out of existence! Know how painful that is?
‘And what's worse is nobody remembers the guy with catalogues. Not one living soul. The police went round to everyone on that street and even searched a few places but no catalogues were ever found. Three days later they did a ‘recall' on those catalogues over the radio. None from there showed up at all. Ditto for every place else in the city.
‘Landru's got his own way of seeing it but I've thought some up too that I'll tell you about. I only mention them because they kind of popped out of my mouth early on enough for me to be telling you about them now and not mean I still believe in them.
‘I think the asshole with those catalogues was from another dimension. Only people with serious enough problems took his bait. Maybe he still lays out catalogues to this day but you don't see him. My dad ripping up that other catalogue probably attracted him to our house. Maybe he wanted to give us a shot at happiness. Or take angry folks away and keep them as goddamned pets or something.
‘If I ever find the bastard, I'll kill him. If he doesn't get me my folks back from wherever the hell it was he took them, I'll kill him then I'll go to Spain and pick almonds for the rest of my days.'
©2004 Johnny S. Geddes
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