Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Linda Barrett

            Johnny sat down across from the Singhs in the living room of their new home. Crossing his lanky legs at his knees, he spoke in his soft, gentle voice with his matching smile.

            “I used to live in this house. I called it my home. You folks stole it from me,” He said.      The four members of the Singh family groaned through their duct taped gags. They were all bound in their dining room chairs with anything Johnny Puleo could find. Four pairs of brown eyes stared back at him, terror masked on their faces.

            “You didn’t like the iced tea I made you. Those sleeping pills did quite a job on you. They put you out so fast I couldn’t believe such brown skinned people like you are so weak,”

            Mr. Singh growled behind his gag.

            “She’s too good for you!” Johnny shouted then sat back in the furry recliner. “That’s what my dear Pa used to say whenever I looked at Dawn. You never met Dawn, did you?” Johnny drew a deep sigh and steepled his fingertips together.

            The Singhs moaned and groaned behind their gags in protest.

            “Dawn Shamley lived in exactly across from us. Dawn was like her name, bright and pure. I was just a skinny, clumsy boy with a dark side. She brightened up my life.” Johnny drew a sigh.

            Mr. Singh worked his jaw through the duct tape while his wife glanced side long at him.

            Johnny leaned across the glass topped coffee table and placed the pointer on the Ouija board.

            “This is how we’ll contact Dawn. She’s in the spirit world now but if we can use the board, we can get her to come here!” He said.

            Mr. Singh spit out what was left of his chewed off gag.

            “What about the lighter fluid and the matches? Why burn down this house?”  He cried.

            Johnny pointed a finger at him, his thick brows lowering on his high forehead.

            “This is my house! I told you that in my letters! I wanted this house ever since I left Norristown State Hospital two months ago. They let me out because of a compassionate discharge!”

            “You’re dying of cancer?” Mr. Singh shouted.

            “They closed up the place! Too much money to keep me away!” Johnny muttered as he put one finger on the Ouija board’s pointer. “They had me there for 50 years! Wanted me in a group home in Ambler!”

            Mr. Singh glanced out of the corner of his eye at his wife, Usha.

            “Why were you there?” He spluttered.

            “I lost my head and strangled Dawn. She married some dirty hippie,” Johnny muttered. He then paused to drench himself with lighter fluid.

            Mr. Singh’s eyes widened. “You killed her?”

            “Almost did! They called the police at the party and they took me away. She ran off to Colorado with her dirty hippie husband. I just got back from the Army!”

            “D-did you see action? Were you in Vietnam?” Mr. Singh’s voice softened.

            Johnny swayed to his feet. Grabbing a lit citronella candle off of the coffee table, he held it up.

            “So don’t try anything because I can set you on fire, too!”

            Mr. Singh drew back on his chair.

            “I just asked you a question! Were you in Vietnam?”

            Johnny fell back into the recliner.

            “They wouldn’t take me! Section 8! I got mad at a guy and beat him up! Beat him so hard that he wound up in a wheelchair. Medics said he’d be there for the rest of his life! Nobody makes fun of me and lives to tell the tale!” He growled.

            “Uh, you’d better let us go! We know that this is your home! Just don’t burn us down! We can play Ouija with you if you untie us and let Usha and the kids go!” Singh stammered.

            “You’re trying to humor me. Just because I got a Section 8 in the Army doesn’t mean I’m dumb. If it wasn’t for my Pa hitting me on the head all the time, I’d be a rich guy like you with a college degree!” Johnny rose from his chair and went over to the old stereo with the record turntable. Pulling off the sheet which covered it, he leaned over to plug it into the outlet.  Meanwhile, Mr. Singh turned his chair around  to untie his wife’s ropes.

            “Uh, that looks like a nice home entertainment system,” Mr. Singh laughed despite his nervousness. “How old is that?”

            “50 years. Since Dawn left me. I came over to her house to play Ouija and I found her with her hippie friends from Penn State Ogontz campus. They were talking treason. I gave Dawn my ring and she said she loved this hippie guy. I used to play records on this thing.”

            “Uh, like what? The B-Beatles?”

            Johnny placed an LP onto the turntable.

            “I kept this thing in mint condition just for the day Dawn would come back,”

            “Uh-huh,” Singh nodded his head as he crouched down to untie his children’s bonds.

            “WFIL-AM 560. The Boss Jocks. This record was the one I used to play when we were

at the Ouija board. We always used to ask it all these questions about life,” Johnny sighed.

            Freed from their chairs and their ropes,  the Singhs emitted nary a sound as they hurried out the front door.

            Johnny turned around and his shoulders slumped.

            “All the music we used to listen to on WFIL-AM. All on this record.”

            He sat down on the recliner again. Taking the citronella candle to his chest, he watched as the flames ignited on his Nehru jacket. Tossing the candle to the floor, he leaned over the coffee table and put his hands on the Ouija board. A newspaper obituary lay next to it.

            “Dawn,” Johnny said. “You died of cancer in 2011 but I want to be with you. Happy Together.”

            The split level house erupted into flames as Johnny moved the Ouija board’s pointer to the Good Bye direction. The Turtles hummed their last coda to the song when its foundations collapsed onto Johnny Puleo.

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