BLOOD ON THE SCARECROW
Baxter Falls, Connecticut
Daniel was dreaming. It was always the same dream. He’d dreamt about it for so long he could give a perfect play-by-play without any effort. It started with him in the back of a wood-paneled sedan. A familiar but distant tune, reminiscent of Glen Campbell, played on the radio.
In the front were two people chatting lively. They laughed and smiled lovingly at each other. They were his parents, but when they turned to talk to him, they were faceless. Anyone else would have been disturbed by anonymous distorted parents but for Daniel; it was as normal as the blue sky. He supposed that if his parents had faces, they would look happy. They would be laughing and joking around, but whenever they looked at him, their individuality wiped away. As soon as they turned away came the moment Daniel hated the most.
The sedan passed through an intersection in a strange but oddly familiar neighborhood, and just as Daniel turned his head left, he saw another vehicle—a black truck with flashers ablaze—crashed into them. Daniel wondered as the metal crunched together if the other driver attempted to stop. The sedan spun wildly out of control. The unmistakable smell of burning rubber and gasoline overwhelmed his senses. His eyes watered uncontrollably. Daniel couldn’t help but gag.
But it wasn’t over yet. The out of control sedan came to rest by wrapping around a telephone pole. The windows shattered upon impact and scattered everywhere, cutting Daniel mercilessly. His parents suffered the brunt of the accident. Thrust forward, his mother slammed her head into the dashboard and then into the broken glass of the windshield. She stopped moving. His father was, hopefully, dead when his head implanted into the steering wheel.
As the noise and world faded into oblivion, Daniel marveled in quiet horror at how much blood a person had. When he woke, it was to the blaring sound of his alarm clock. Daniel automatically hit the off button only to knock his alarm to the floor. He groaned in frustration and rubbed his face. It was going to be one of those days.
Relishing the few precious minutes he had before he was forced to get up, Daniel reflected on the nightmare. For quite some time now he’d had this nightmare and it never deviated. It started innocently enough. At sixteen, Daniel’s curiosity got the better of him, and he decided to do some research on his parent’s demise. He got a copy of a newspaper printed the day after their accident. The article was vague in detail. Daniel had read the story so many times he had it memorized. Due to the seriousness of the crash, the details were sketchy. Daniel, filled in the story with his imagination. He wanted to discuss this with his Gramps but never dared to bring it up.
The only thing that seemed to change was his place of sleep. From the time of his parent's deaths, Daniel had slept in this room. He had been away from this bedroom now for quite a few years and lived on his own. Now it was a reminder of the days he spent as a wayward teen. The poster of Farrah Fawcett in her iconic bright red bathing suit with her alluring smile and come-hither eyes taunted him from across the room. Adjacent was the tattered posters of the Beatles and Star Wars. Above his bed was a beautiful sunburst guitar. A relic from the ages, it belonged to his father. It was a vintage 1966 Gibson Byrdland. The body was a gorgeous, bright orange of a midsummer night sunset, accented by a mahogany hue. The guitar was defunct.
Daniel fondly recalled the summer that he, along with a few friends from school, rummaged through the pawn shops and second-hand stores for musical instruments in the hope of starting a band. Daniel had found the sunburst guitar in his parent’s attic. Without wasting any time, he brought it to his friends and was immediately the star of their garage band. He passed the guitar around, allowing his friends to feel as cool as he did. They strummed the strings, did riffs, and attempted to mimic the moves of the great guitarists of their age.
Gramps had warned him not to take the guitar out, as it was one of Daniel’s father’s cherished possessions. Daniel defied him. Later in the summer, he left the guitar in the garage where they practiced. When he went to the house again to rehearse, he found the headstock broken. No one was willing to take the blame. Daniel had mixed emotions about his friends. He felt he lost the few he had and couldn’t trust them anymore. All his life Daniel had trust issues, and this further enhanced his feelings. He isolated himself from the world. He brought the guitar home and hid it from his grandfather.
Daniel’s grandfather eventually found the guitar and the crack. He mounted it in the case and hung it up on Daniel’s wall. The guitar remained there for years, and neither Daniel nor his grandfather ever discussed it. The garage band fell apart. Everyone went their separate ways, but Daniel never forgot those summer days and nights where it seemed like anything could happen and stardom was within reach.
Daniel moved past his nostalgia and got on with his day. He needed coffee, but before he could indulge himself in his morning ritual, Daniel went down the hall to check on Gramps. His grandfather was into his eighties, and while he always kept his body healthy, his mind was starting to slip. Dementia was a terrible and cruel thing. Daniel peeked into his grandfather’s bedroom and saw he was still sleeping. His bellowing snores filled the small room. Everything was alright with the world--for now.
Daniel descended the stairs and helped himself to his first cup of coffee. The aroma of a well-brewed cup stimulated his senses. Already, he was feeling more awake. The serenity of a peaceful morning was something Daniel cherished. As he took a seat at the kitchen island, he wondered how many more mornings like this he would have. He cast a disdainful gaze towards the pile of letters from Benjamin, Benjamin, and Franklin, Esq.
Inside the letters were the papers to change his grandfather’s power of attorney. Daniel shuttered at the fight that would come from asking his grandfather to change it over to him. His grandfather was proud and stubborn. He was deaf in one ear but refused to admit. He kept on like nothing was wrong. Faking one’s hearing was forgivable but a rotting mind? Changing a power of attorney would be the beginning of a series of disagreements.
He stared into his coffee cup and sighed. He caught a glimpse of his reflection. Daniel had aged poorly. His face etched with worry lines, had stubble, and his eyes were duller than ever before.
No one ever prepares you for this.
He looked toward the living room where there was a photo of his parents.
“What would you guys say to him?” he asked the photograph.
He wondered what they would do? Growing up, Daniel heard nothing but stories about his parents like how his father was the funniest guy around or how his mother could balance finances like no one else. They were smart people who seemed to have the answers to everything. But now they were dead, and Daniel was left alone to navigate the minefield of advanced aging.
On his way out, he stopped in the living room and lovingly touched the picture of his parents. Ever since he moved in with Gramps, this had been a daily ritual. This day was different. It was the twenty-seventh anniversary of their deaths.