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Teaser Of Eden Fading

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Eden Fading

Excerpt

   We arrive to a typical hazy summer day in Southern California,
with the temperature hovering around the mid seventies. The
air is redolent with the smells of eucalyptus trees and orange
blossoms. Mixed with these obvious good smells is background smells,
which are not so good…smells which are clearly part of this haze that
surrounds us and envelops everything. It is August of 1961. We, the
witnesses, are in the back yard of a small, light-green and white trim,
two bedroom, one bath, and 800 square foot starter-house. There is a
purple flowered bougainvillea covered lattice which takes up much
of the back wall. A six foot cedar fence surrounds the back yard, with
alternating baby-blue and crimson flowered hydrangeas planted every
five feet along the back yard fences. At the back right of the yard is a
large white playhouse, complete with front porch and railing, a working
door, and two windows (not actual working windows, since there is no
glass, or opening and closing mechanism—just square holes). At the
pack left of the back yard is a one-car garage, painted the same lightgreen
as the house. 
   It is a normal lazy Monday morning, mostly quiet with husbands off at 
work, and their wives busily working on their chores. The occasional car or 
truck interrupts the silence, as it passes by out front (The muffled sound 
comes from the other end of a long tunnel…or other universe). A large walnut 
tree with massive branches that reach out to cover almost the entire back 
yard, and easily stands 100 feet tall is the centerpiece to this serene scene. 
It stands to the front right of the back yard, and blocks so much light, 
no matter how hard they try, grass will never grow under it. Underneath the 
full-sun-blocking branches of the walnut is a large handmade wooden picnic
table (as is the playhouse), where two boys sit; one is three years old,
and the other just under two. Both boys are wearing swimming trunks
and T-shirts, and both are barefoot. They both have short blond hair,
and hazel eyes like their Dad. They have the charm shared by young
boys everywhere; they project purity and innocence, and have probably
gathered here to talk about toys, or swimming pools, or maybe forts
they can build where they can fight off imaginary Indians. The older
boy suddenly hops up and walks quickly to a large homemade brick
barbecue grill ten feet away, to retrieve something we cannot quite see.
   We move closer to get a better look at this shiny object in Danny’s hand
and see that it is a beer bottle. He holds the bottle out to his younger
brother, as he whispers something we can now just make out.
   He says, “Drink this Wayne; it won’t hurt you. Daddy was drinking
it yesterday, and he’s OK.”
   Wayne shakes his head stubbornly, with as much resolution as the older 
one trying to get him to take a drink. The older brother is relentless, and 
now switches his tactics.
   He says, “Look! I will take a drink! Look! Watch Me! Watch, Wayne!”
   His younger brother is now watching his hands he has folded on
the table before him. The older brother tilts the bottle up and takes a
big swallow. He once again holds the bottle out to Wayne, who is still
adamantly shaking his head.
   The older brother says, “Look! I’ll drink some more. It doesn’t hurt me!”
   He takes another sip. The younger boy speaks in a voice remarkably
quiet and timid.
   Wayne says, “No Danny, Daddy told us not to touch those bottles, that 
they are bad for us.”
   Danny tries again, “This isn’t bad, it’s good, Mmmmmm…” he says with the 
most winning smile he can muster, and then takes another sip.
   We can see what is happening. This is an old dance that both boys
know well. Danny is the leader (by virtue of being the elder brother),
and Wayne the follower (because he is the youngest). Wayne has made a
valiant attempt at resistance, but we can see in his eyes that his strength
is waning. Danny continues to hold out the bottle, but now he has begun
to smile…just a little. We move in to get a better look. Something of
importance is about to happen. We would like to be able to change what
we see, but we are only witnesses. The boys are still frozen in their
earlier poses, as the battle of wills goes on, and it is then that we smell
something that immediately draws our attention. The smell is coming
from the beer bottle, and it isn’t beer. We quickly scan the Barbeque
grill, and see what we are so afraid to see; perched high on the grill,
but not high enough, is a metal can of lighter fluid. We frantically put
the pieces together in our mind, and realize that Danny has taken an
empty beer bottle (carelessly left there from a get-together the night
before) and filled it with lighter fluid, to be used later. We immediately
turn back just in time to see Wayne slowly reaching his hand out for
the bottle. We can’t stop it from happening, but we can’t turn away
either. Wayne now has the bottle and very slowly raises it to his lips.
Immediately, he lowers the bottle.
   Wayne says, “It smells bad.”
   This is more of a statement than an argument. The two brothers both
know that this is a done deal.
   Danny says, “Drink it,” but he is no longer begging.
   He says this with confidence he shares with all older brothers, whose
sole purpose in life is to torment their younger brothers. Wayne nods
in resignation then takes a sip. Wayne’s hands fly to his mouth as his
eyes open wide. This is quickly followed by a muffled cry as Wayne
jumps to his feet. Something extraordinary happens then: Time swings
back to its normal speed, which makes us realize that up until now, time
has slowed. Time had no meaning, as is often the case when extreme
events are taking place. Now, as Wayne stands next to the table and
his cry turns into a wail, time catches up all at once. Wayne turns and
sprints for the back door (on a course to get Mom), who is inside
doing the laundry. We turn to look at Danny, and we see an intriguing
thing happen. Like a shape shifter, he appears to change from a little
monster back into a three-year old boy. Nothing changes physically,
except for a drooping of the shoulders. The biggest change happens in
his eyes: They go from willful and knowing to frightened and anxious.
He just sits there on his side of the table, with his hands gently folded
on his lap, waiting for his Mom to come out and punish him. He is well
accustomed, it seems, with the, “break a rule, get punished” cycle. He
has obviously traveled this road before.
   For a while, his Mom doesn’t come. He is both grateful and a little
confused by this. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, he hears
the sound of a siren far off. The siren grows louder and more insistent
until it dies altogether out on the front street. Danny knows that sound
from TV shows and it exhilarates him. Within a few short minutes, the back 
door opens and slams shut. A very petite blond-haired, blue-eyed woman who 
seems much too young to be the mother of these children rounds the corner 
at a fast walk. She is wearing a pair of white pedal-pusher slacks, sandals, 
and a loose multicolored blouse. Danny is particularly glad he thought to 
drop the beer bottle (filled with the damning lighter fluid) under the table. 
He is also aware that during his handling of the bottle (and the drinking of 
the contents), quite a bit of the fluid spilled on the picnic table in front 
of him, and his clothes. Not much he can do about that. He sits up straight 
and watches his Mom as she draws up, then kneels down next to him.
   “Danny, an ambulance is here to get Wayne and take him to the hospital”, 
she says.
   “Your brother said he drank some of the lighter fluid in the white
can, the poison your Dad told you to stay away from”, she concludes.
   Mom’s nose picks up the overpowering smell of lighter fluid. She
turns to look at the lighter fluid can on the top of the barbecue grill and
wonders how Wayne was able to reach it in the first place. Danny is
dismayed to know that his brother discovered his deception of hiding
the lighter fluid in the beer bottle. Mom now leans forward to smell
his breath.
   She says, “Danny, did you drink any of the lighter fluid?”
   Amazed that she doesn’t smell the lighter fluid on his breath, he
answers,
   “No Mommy, I didn’t drink anything.”
   His Mom stares into his eyes for a moment longer, searching for
the lie, and decides he is telling the truth. He realizes he was saved by
the strong smell of lighter fluid on his clothes and table. His Mom now
nods her head.
   She says, “I called Mrs. Reyes to come and take you and Eddie to
her house, while I go to the hospital in the ambulance with Wayne, OK?”
   Danny is starting to feel better about how things have turned out.
He nods his head, stands up and walks with his Mom back towards the
house.
   We follow these two up the back steps on to the back porch, through
the laundry room, then through the kitchen and Dining room, and into
the front living room where two paramedics are loading Wayne on to a
gurney. Mrs. Reyes is standing there holding a baby in her arms who is
screaming like a banshee, while he holds out his arms for Mom. Meet
Eddie, the third child.
   “Maria: thank you again for coming so quickly,” Mom says.
   Maria reaches out with her free arm and hugs Mom, then whispers
intently as she faces her,
   “Jean, we are friends! This is what friends do. You take care of
Wayne. I will watch Danny and little Eddie. You go. We’ll be fine.”
   Mom says, “Let me get a bag for Eddie together real quick; diapers,
clothes, bottles.”
   As the two Paramedic’s give each other a look of impatience, which
both women see clearly,
   Maria says, “No, I’ll get everything I need. You don’t worry about
that. Now go and be with your Son.”
   The paramedics quickly wheel Wayne out to the waiting ambulance
(a long bright-white 1960 Miller Meteor Cadillac, with the characteristic
“hump on top”), where Mom climbs in, then off they go. Danny stands
together with Mrs. Reyes, as his Mom and brother speed away, the siren
wailing its crazy-mournful cry. The ambulance mesmerizes Danny, by
how beautiful and breathtaking it is.

                                                2
   We know that Wayne is cared for. Our interests lie with Danny,
so we follow him. Eddie continues to scream despite Maria’s
best efforts to distract him with her keys. Strangely, Danny
is not bothered by this piercing and strangely siren-like wailing. After
Maria packs a bag with Eddie’s things, and gets him loaded up in the
stroller, she takes hold of Danny’s hand then off they go out the door
to her house. Once they get there, she calls out to her husband.
   She yells, “Humberto, come here quick, please.”
   He enters from the other room, and Maria fills him in on what
happened. Humberto listens quietly and says a silent prayer when she
finishes; barely moving his lips as he does so. He then crosses himself
and takes a still-screaming Eddie from Maria’s arms. Danny watches
all of this impassively, then moves to the couch and flops down, while
Humberto sets Eddie in a crib that Maria keeps for her sister’s kids
when they come to visit. Maria turns the black and white TV on for
Danny and switches quickly through the three available channels until
she reaches Alvin and the Chipmunks. With Danny fully engaged, Maria
returns to Eddie to see what he needs. After a quick diaper change, his
crying finally stops. Maria is behind on chores, so she picks up clutter
and finishes sweeping her floors.
   “Poor kid…watching something like that happen to your little brother,” 
she thinks.
   Every time she walks by Danny she glances his way, to make sure
he is doing OK. On her third pass by, she looks at Danny much more
carefully. She looks at him again. Something doesn’t feel right. Danny
is much too subdued and usually has much more energy. She sees that
his skin is pale, and his mouth is hanging open. On closer inspection,
she sees his eyes are glazed.
   She asks him, “Danny, Honey, are you OK? You don’t look well.”
   Maria sits down next to Danny on the couch and immediately the
smell of lighter fluid assaults her. She chastises herself for not changing
his clothes first, before bringing the kids over here. What was she
thinking? All people have moments of enlightenment in their lives,
maybe just one, and now Maria has one that likely saves Danny’s life.
   She asks, “Danny, did you drink any of the poison Wayne drank?”
   Danny is shaking his head no. After all, once you tell a lie, there’s
no going back. Maria has an unusually strong feeling about this.
   She asks again, “Danny, you won’t get in trouble Honey if you
tell me the truth. If you have been poisoned, I need to take you to the
hospital.”
   Danny decides to come clean, because he can tell she won’t give
up. He draws in a big breath, to tell her more, and then he burps…not
a little one either. Immediately a large amount of lethal gas escapes his
mouth and shocks Maria so much she leans back in surprise. She now
fully understands that Danny is much sicker than she or anyone else
thought. Surprising Danny, she picks him up into her arms, and then
yells for Humberto. He walks in from the kitchen as she tells him she has
to take Danny to the hospital right now. Maria gives out instructions for
taking care of Eddie (Who, wonder of wonders, has started screaming
again). Maria doesn’t wait for an acknowledgement from Humberto,
but heads out the door, with Danny still in her arms, depositing him in
the spacious back seat of their old green 1949 Plymouth 4-door sedan.
   Once Maria sits behind the wheel, a previously quiet Danny asks,
“Don’t I get an ambulance too? Why do I have to go in a car?”
   She looks at him as she starts the car, then answers,
“We don’t have time Honey. We’re going to the hospital now.”
   In the rearview mirror, she sees a look on Danny’s face that gives
her the chills. For just a few seconds, she sees extreme rage on the boys
face; or what her husband calls, ‘A look that can kill’. Then, just as
quickly his entire countenance switches to no emotion at all. A strange
cocking of his head accompanies this blank face, as if he has just heard
some sound far off, and trying to find it. This lack of emotion on his
face, this total departure from anything human, especially in one so
young, remind Maria of the look on Vincent Price’s face in that movie
her husband took her to see at the drive-in last year…something about
a pit. It doesn’t matter. That was the same look.
   She whispers, “¡Aye, Dios Mio! Ayúdeme Jesús.”
   She quickly makes the sign of the cross as she stares once more at
the boy in the back seat.
   “He’s very sick. I’m just imagining things. That’s all,” she thinks.
   Maria speeds towards the hospital, being just careful enough to keep
from having an accident, and eager to get out of this car. Against her
better judgment, Maria routinely glances at Danny and sees the same
vacant look on his face. The inside of the car is eerily quiet, except
for a soft and mournful tune coming from the radio; “Crazy,” by Patsy
Cline.
   In the back seat, Danny sits and broods. He knows he is sick, but
he is angry too. Danny obsesses with the idea that his brother got to go
to the hospital in an ambulance; that he got to travel in style, with the
siren at full volume. On the other hand, he has to make the same trip
to the hospital in a car; a dull and drab (and quiet), car. Nobody will
look at him as he speeds by. He doesn’t even get to hear a siren like
riding in an ambulance. Danny thinks of his brother a lot. He always
has, but, not in the way you may think. His thoughts are darker than
any three-year-old has any business thinking. He does not feel sorry
for Wayne, as he seems incapable of that emotion. Danny’s thoughts
are much more primitive and basic.
   Danny thinks, “How do I kill him next time?”