Are You Adaptable (part two)
“You’re Nola’s friend,” she told him.
Nola, to Beloye: “We decided, why not come over here instead, if we’re just having pizza?”
We decided, she thought. Heidi and Nola on the phone. Dan smug in his schlumpy gear. Heidi in her pink sweat suit. Nola in jeans, not losing the poncho, a tee not-thin-looking-enough underneath. Beloye, the fool in the room as usual, dressed to go out. At least Stenner was wearing a sports jacket.
Of course, to be fair, home life for Nola might be awkward just now.
“I guess…” (Using this prompt to pry a little intelligence.) “If we came over, it might be awkward.”
“Awkward,” Dan, spewing a divot of pepperoni.
Stenner said: “Let me tell you my graveyard story. And you all can tell me what you make of it.”
His mother was recovering from surgery. He was caring for her Pom, Trinket.
“You’re looking after your mother’s dog, that’s nice.”
“Shut up, Mom.”
“I cut him off at three pm, for food, then take him for a dump just before bedtime. Not my Mom’s schedule. In my place, boot camp…little bastard needs to learn discipline. So, about eleven last night, before I turned in, I put Trinket on the leash.”
Used to being carried, the dog lagged and flopped, but under cover of dark Stenner made progress…two blocks, tugging and toting. He decided to cut through Green Mount Cemetery. “Yeah, I confess, I’m not into pooper-scooping. I was up to no good.”
“Animals can sense evil,” Dan remarked.
“You’re familiar with Green Mount.” Stenner turned to Beloye, who nodded. “Nothing spooky, no creaking iron gates or weird statuary, just respectable headstones in nice little rows. I had gone about halfway to the other side. I was alone, but it wasn’t really dark—there’re streetlights at both ends. I noticed this big oak tree. Some older graves were close by, the markers sort of tilted sideways, thrown up by the roots, you’d figure. I put the dog down on the grass, played out some leash.
“I began to get the impression of movement. Something bluish white off to the right, then off to the left. A noise sort of filtered in. A kind of collection…?” He looked at his audience, made a searching gesture. “That’s not the word I want. As though…someone starts out whispering, then some other sounds and voices are admixed or layered gradually onto the first track.”
“But what did you see?” He was making Beloye nervous.
“Nothing, of course. Trinket took care of business. I finished our walk.”
Dan crumpled the paper lining his box and tossed it…to rebound off the lip of Nola’s bag. “So what’s the point?”
“The point is, why do people do these things?” Stenner maintained eye contact with Beloye.
“You didn’t think it was a ghost?”
Are You Adaptable
(2015, 2018, Stephanie Foster)