Pucker

Free Pucker by Melanie Gideon

Book: Pucker by Melanie Gideon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Melanie Gideon
long?”
    Then he abruptly sits forward, his chair squeaking, and riffles through my file as if searching for something, some small piece of paper that would tell him why he hasn’t seen me until now. It’s an act. He’s waiting for me to fill the silence. Meanwhile I’m getting into character. I’m fully prepared to have a discussion about what methods of suicide I’ve been considering. Unfortunately, Sandros doesn’t seem to have any interest in the particulars of doing oneself in.
    He picks a leaf of basil and offers it to me. When I don’t accept it, he tears the leaf into tiny bits and chews it into a bright green cud. He pours himself some hot water, squeezes some lemon into it, and takes meaningful sips. Finally, when it appears I have wasted both his time and my own, he says, “What it must be like for you, Thomas, living in this world with a face like that.”
    His voice is incredibly gentle and his words sum up my entire existence. Is this a question? A statement? An invitation? Whatever it is that he said, it creeps inside and begins loosening everything up. I never realized how buttoned up every little piece of me had to be in order to make it through each day. I begin to weep and once I start, I can’t stop.
    Do we say anything else? Do we discuss anything after that? I can’t remember.
    â€œOur time is up,” says Sandros.
    I look at the office clock: two hours have gone by. He scribbles something on a prescription pad.
    Oh God, I’ve failed. He wants to medicate me. With trembling hands I read the script. You must go to a world where you can be whole.
    There comes a point in time when all history and faces are one. Sitting in his office, I could have been all of the forgotten and given-up-on boys: boy who climbs in the wrong car and is never seen again, boy in juvenile hall pretending he’s not afraid so he won’t be stabbed with a plastic butter knife, boy who goes to war and never returns home. But no longer. Somebody has come to drag this boy into the light.
    â€œI have a proposition for you,” says Sandros. “Are you interested?”
    â€œYes,” I answer.
    â€œThen listen carefully,” he says.

PART TWO

FIFTEEN
    T HE ROOM IS DISAPPOINTINGLY SMALL, the furnishings minimal. There are a chair, a table, a lamp, a green rug, and a tiny window through which a faint breeze blows. I focus on that window. I feel ensnared. Two days have passed since I’ve received the invitation to go to Isaura. Now the time has come to go, and the urge not to is overwhelming.
    â€œSit,” says Sandros, gesturing to the chair.
    What are we doing here? I expected the portal to be somewhere outside.
    â€œI thought it would be different,” I say. Sandros crosses his arms and frowns.
    â€œYou’re one of the lucky ones. You can walk; you can breathe on your own. Most of the people I recruit are in wheelchairs. You expected the journey to be some kind of a wild, psychedelic ride?” he asks in his heavily accented English.
    I nod, not trusting myself to answer. Even though I know he’s not a Seer, I’m still afraid that any minute he will be alerted to the fact that I’m not who I appear to be.
    â€œAll right.” Sandros lays a hand on my shoulder. “Time to go.”
    I can smell his cologne, some sort of musk. His hand gets heavier on my shoulder. Soon it’s weighing me down.
    â€œStop leaning on me,” I struggle to say, trying to bat his bear paw of a hand away.
    His scent becomes overpowering and I realize the legs of the chair are sinking into the carpet. With a grunt, Sandros pushes down on both of my shoulders hard.
    â€œGo easy now,” he says as I slide right through the floor with a pop.
    It’s every child’s nightmare, getting trapped beneath the ice. But in my case I’m trapped beneath cheap maple flooring from Home Depot. Panicked, I scrabble with my hands at the

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