Bunyip and Crow
Bunyip and Crow
Tobie was on the phone, sitting on the green corduroy couch in his midtown loft. He didn’t own a TV and he’d read through the day’s papers, so a phone call was a pleasant distraction from the vast emptiness of his apartment.
“Are you listening?” Robin asked, her voice growing shrill.
“Sure,” Tobie said, but he’d been distracted.
“Did you watch my show last week?”
“Yeah… most of it,” Tobie said.
Robin was the host of Robin’s Lair of Mystery and Imagination, a program for horror fans on public-access, Saturday mornings at 2AM.
“What does that mean?” Robin asked.
“…The beginning, mostly,” Tobie said. He’d fallen asleep.
“‘Cause at the end I showed off my Halloween selections for this year.”
“Fine!” she said, hanging up.
He hadn’t really meant to piss her off, but he seemed to be singularly good at it. They’d dated the month before Tobie graduated high school, at the end of her first year.
They’d gone out a few times, but it was more like friends hanging out, the same as they’d done before they were dating. They’d grown up on the same street, Robin living right next door.
Tobie had foggy memories of her father bringing her home from the hospital as a baby, the day after her mother died, but remembered more clearly his mother crying the day Robin’s dad died, a few years later, tripping off a bridge.
They’d last met the previous Christmas. She still lived with her grandmother, in the same house, next door to where Tobie’s parents now lived.
He promised himself, next Friday, he’d brew some coffee and try to stay awake.
The phone rang again, and he dove for it, thinking it might have been Robin and preparing an apology.
“Hey, Tobie.” It wasn’t Robin.
“Jo?” he asked.
“I’m coming over,” Jo said and hung up before Tobie could give him the address.
Tobie jumped up from the couch and grabbed the half dozen cereal bowls in a stack on the coffee table, wandering to the kitchen and dumping them in the sink.
He’d met Jo twice before, both while on the job. This would be their first casual meeting, he thought, but then second guessed. He might have been coming with a story.
There was bottle of wine on the counter, the cheap kind in a basket, a gift from when he’d gotten his job at The People’s Voice. He tried to remember where he’d hidden the glasses but realized Jo was probably too young to drink.
There was a knock at the door, and he rushed over, opening it a crack, as it seemed too soon for him to have arrived.
Jo stood in the hall, wearing white short shorts, over hips that were a bit round for a boy, with a short white t-shirt showing his belly button. His outfit was splattered like he’d been house painting, red paint. The splatters continue over his pale skin.
Jo’s smile was strained, unlike him, in Tobie’s experience, and his golden eyes were wet. It wasn’t red paint.
“Are you okay?” Tobie asked, stepping into the hall. He wasn’t sure what you said to someone coated in blood. He started pawing at him, lifting his T-shirt a few safe inches, looking for wounds.
“I’m fine,” Jo said, playfulness returning to his smile as he pointed to the side.
Tobie glanced over and jumped, noticing the big man with one eye leaning against a wall, dripping red on the rough wood floor. He had to be six-six, in black leathers, with dark hair, long over his shoulders, and a gray beard like the Greek Pope.
“Can we come in?” Jo asked.
“Y-Yeah,” Tobie said.
Jo took the man’s arm, helping him in and laying him down on the couch. “Do you have a needle and thread?” he asked, running off to the kitchen and returning with a needle and thread. “I thought you would,” he said, giggling.
“…Who is this, Jo?”
“Declan,” Jo said. “My pop.”
Tobie looked down at him, and the man nodded, a kind of biker greeting, he assumed, but he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to respond in kind.
“…How does that work?” Tobie asked.
Jo giggled. “I was adopted,” he said.
Declan struggled up, and out of his black jacket, tearing off his t-shirt like a body builder. His chest was covered in gray hair and dozens of scars, with at least five bloody holes.
He caught the spool Jo tossed to him, and threaded the needle.
“…What happened?” Tobie asked.
“Daddy’s got these psychos after him,” Jo said, disappearing into the kitchen again.
“Waiting for me at my safe house,” Declan said. His voice was only what you might expect, like the voice of an old tree. “Shouldn’t ‘ave stopped for Chinese.”
“Psychos…?” Tobie asked, as Jo returned with a pan full of water and a sponge.
“Yeah, Jane and… the Clyde to her Bonnie,” Jo said chuckling.
“He doesn’t have a name,” Declan said, as he started stitching his wounds.
“…The Masked Killer?” Tobie asked.
“That’s what your paper calls him,” Jo said, “but it’s more like a veil– Kinda queeny, don’t you think?”
“…Yeah,” Tobie said. He still wasn’t sure Jo was male. It seemed he was either a very strange girl or an oddly attractive guy. Tobie hadn’t reconciled his feelings on that yet, but he thought too late the queeny comment might have been some kind of test he’d just failed.
“Well…. I want a shower- You have a shower, right?” Jo asked.
“Yeah,” Tobie said, imagining blood coating the tile floor.
Jo inched towards him slowly, creeping up with his arms crossed behind his back. Tobie saw nipples through his blood splattered T-shirt, but Jo’s gender still eluded him.
“You kinda smell,” Jo whispered.
All Tobie could smell was the sweet scent of Jo’s orange hair, like flowers in a forest.
“You could shower too,” Jo said.
“…I don’t think so,” Tobie said, glancing down at Declan who was still busy stitching his wounds.
“I was just kidding,” Jo said, giggling and bouncing off.
Tobie grabbed the folding chair from its place against the wall and sat across the coffee table from Declan, hearing the shower start to run. “…Can I get you anything?” he asked, noticing the blood soaking the green corduroy, and thinking he would need a new couch.
“Bourbon,” Declan said.
Tobie hopped up from his seat, happy to be away from that man, as he wandered into the kitchen.
The bathroom door was open, and Jo stood, outlined behind a pearlescent white shower curtain, already streaked pink with blood.
Tobie stood and watched, the voice in his head, telling him to close the door, losing to his curiosity.
A knee peaked into view through the gap left by the curtain. Tobie had seen Jo’s knees when he walked in, but it felt different now. Jo leaned down to wash his feet, Tobie imagined soap, bubbly between his little toes. His round bottom came into view, and Tobie almost turned away.
Jo snapped up, and peaking out, half of his smile appeared through the gap. Tobie turned, remembering his purpose.
He retrieved the bottle of wine, the only liquor he had on hand, and returned to the living room.
“This is all I’ve got,” he said, handing Declan the bottle before realizing it wasn’t screw top and he’d never in memory owned a corkscrew.
“Good enough,” Declan said. Gripping the bottle in both hands, he snapped off the neck. “You want some?”
“…I’m fine,” Tobie said, and Declan downed it in a few gulps.
“Jo’s a good kid,” Declan said, wiping at his mouth and slamming the jagged bottle on the table. “Play nice or I’ll fuck you up.”
“…I understand,” Tobie said.