Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Ups and Downs of Being Invisible

Although I wrote this story over the summer, it is seasonally appropriate, as several of you pointed out, so enjoy!

My best friend is invisible.
No, he’s not a ghost, and he’s NOT my imaginary friend, whatever my parents used to say. He’s just invisible, and he always has been.
Once, a green frog sang about how it’s not easy being green. Well, it’s not too hot having an invisible best friend either. It’s like when you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and you maneuver around your furniture in the dark so that you don’t stub your toe or bruise your shin, only to habitually turn on the bathroom light and blind yourself.
No, having an invisible best friend is not easy. When we were kids, Wendall and I would take our evening bath together. We sailed the seven seas in our bathtub pirate ship. We surfed the waves of Hawaii on our bars of soap. We became weather gods who created a tsunami to drown the peaceful settlers on the white tile beach next to the porcelain ocean.
When my mother would come to scold me for getting bathwater on the floor, Wendall wouldn’t confess his part in the flood. He stayed silent, the little bugger, and I had to endure the entire punishment. At least I had company in time out; Wendall follows me everywhere, for I am older.
Sometimes, having an invisible best friend is great. On principle, I do not eat vegetables that look like summer or winter trees in miniature. My mother, however, loved to serve minuscule flora. Wendall has no aversion to tiny trees, so whenever Mom served broccoli or cauliflower, I gave mine to Wendall. He ate over at our house a lot, which was good because Mom served broccoli and cauliflower a lot.
As we grew older, Wendall and I forsook our nautical adventures in favor of braving the land beyond the borders of my house. We explored the mysteries of the box hedge until every branch and every leaf had been assimilated into our kingdom. We ventured passed the wrought iron gateway into unknown territory. We exchanged grassy paradise for hellish asphalt, and we found that we enjoyed the escapades the asphalt gave us better than the pleasure paradise provided for us.
We wandered farther and farther from the front yard until our feet beseeched us for mercy. We promoted ourselves from feet to roller skates to bikes. Wendall and I would wheel ourselves to the park where I would watch the birds and the people while Wendall walked to Wal-Mart across the street. Wendall haunted Wal-Mart. He considered it a second home. (My home was Wendall’s first home because he spent so much time there.) Because Wendall is invisible, he used to steal us sodas and snacks from the store until we were banned from ever entering that particular Wal-Mart ever again. Somehow, the security guard discovered our scheme and came after us in the park one day.
Actually, he came after only me because he couldn’t see Wendall. When the security guard caught me, he blamed me for shoplifting. Just like when we were kids playing in the bath, Wendall didn’t confess his part in the crime. The security guard banished me from Wal-Mart, and I, in turn, banished Wendall. If I couldn’t go there, then neither could he. Wendall disappeared for a while after that because I made him scared when I yelled at him.
I didn’t actually know that Wendall was gone, of course, because Wendall is invisible. He could have been sitting next to me the whole time giving me the silent treatment, and I wouldn’t have known it. I’m fairly certain he was gone, though, because the empty space off of my left shoulder was just a little emptier than usual.
Then, I turned sixteen, I earned my driver’s license, and my parents bought me a car. Wendall can’t resist cars, so he appeared again. He didn’t have his driver’s license, so he sat in the passenger seat and seduced me to speed while he turned the radio up too loud.
There’s nothing quite like driving too fast with the windows rolled down and rock blasting out of the speakers. The wind dries out your eyes so they water and make the road blurry, and it numbs your hands so that they don’t feel like a part of your body anymore. The music pulses in your veins alongside your heart and fortifies your mind against any other sound. It’s bliss, until the cops pull you over.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the cop asked.
“No,” I replied, and I really didn’t.
“You were driving in the carpool lane, and you’re alone,” said the cop.
“No, I’m not,” I said.
I explained about Wendall, but the cop didn’t listen, and Wendall didn’t speak up, like usual. One ticket later, I yelled at Wendall again, and he disappeared again. This time, I knew he was gone. Not only was the empty space next to me emptier than usual, but Wendall’s pillow and blanket disappeared from my closet (his honorary room as my best friend), and chills stopped running up and down my body as they usually do when Wendall enters a room.
I missed Wendall more this time than the last time he disappeared. I felt like you do after watching something intense, like a fireworks show. As the white light streaks into the sky, leaving behind a trail of smoke, and explodes in white, red, blue, and green, every muscle tenses unintentionally, waiting for the BOOM that reverberates into the grass beneath your feet and travels up into your body. After the show finishes, you feel hollow exhaustion, and you are not sure why.
That is how I felt when Wendall disappeared.
Luckily, he returned quicker than last time, and he came back with a request: he wanted to drive my car. I was so happy to have my best friend back that I agreed to Wendall’s entreaty. I spent that afternoon teaching Wendall how to drive. We laughed at his mistakes and wrestled when we disputed.
That night, Wendall drove out of my neighborhood and onto the freeway. He drove faster than I do. He drove us to a party. I remember that night only in flashes: a blue front door with a knocker on it. Writhing bodies on a dark dance floor. Red Solo cups. High cut shorts. Low cut shirts. Messy hair. Running makeup. Music. Music. Music. The front door again. Stumbling to the car. Wendall driving. Laughter as we drove in S’s down the road. The road no longer in front of us. A house. A jolt as we made a hole in the house. Red and blue flashing lights. Trouble. Trouble. Trouble.
I don’t remember what we told the cops, but my punishment was community service and paying for the damage caused by my car. Wendall totaled that car, and my parents did not buy me another one.
I turned eighteen, and I did not go to college. Who needed college when I could support my lifestyle by working at the factory? And what a lifestyle it was! A two-room apartment with a TV and plenty of time to muse about life. Pop tarts and ramen and re-runs of the Simpsons. And Wendell.
He didn’t contribute to our household. He ate all of the pop tarts. He was hardly ever at home.
Until one day he returned and interrupted one of my musing sessions. He announced that he was covered in blood.
“What?!” I exclaimed. I dropped the last pop tart on the carpet and did not pick it up again.
Wendall again announced that he was covered in blood. When I enquired whose blood it was, he said in a sassy voice that it wasn’t his.
“We have to get you cleaned up, man,” I said, panicked.
I took Wendall to the bathroom and turned the shower on for him. I climbed inside with him and helped him to wash the blood from his body. I saw it spiral down the drain and I felt sick for two reasons. One was because it is unsettling to see blood in your shower, and the second was because it is unsettling to see blood in your shower without seeing where it comes from. Eventually, the water turned from red to clear, and I knew that Wendall must be clean again. He still wouldn’t tell me whose blood it had been or how it had gotten on him.
I soon found out when the police arrived.
“You’re under arrest for the murder of the Wells family,” they said.
I expected Wendall to speak up, to confess, but of course he didn’t.
I’m in prison now. Sometimes, I get a chill, and I know that Wendall is nearby. Sometimes, he leaves me pictures of hangman’s nooses. He’s a little grim, but that’s probably because he’s invisible. I asked him to bring me a razor. After all, since he got me into this mess, he should be able to get me out of it. I’m confident that he will bring it for me.
That’s what best friends are for.

What did you think? The next one won't be as creepy! Don't worry. Happy Halloween. And Happy 500th Year of Martin Luther pinning his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg!


  1. Such a light-hearted but gruesome story. I did not know this kind of story was possible. And I had no idea where the plot was headed. Started out innocent enough...

    1. When I wrote it, I didn't think it would end up the way it did... Oops.
      I guess it could be called satirical/comical grotesquery.

  2. Agreed. The early lightness only added to the chills of the finale. The final line is thought provoking too.

    Looking forward to reading through some of your past material Abbey.