Monday, April 06, 2009

Joe & Querty #1.1

The cemetery was located three mile out of town on County Road 4-East. The road curved to the north and into the cemetery. The gravel road led around the back of the cemetery and connected to three other roads that led out. Situated on the west side of the cemetery was a beautiful old stone church. A small crowd gathered around a purple tent and golden brown casket. A gentle breeze blew across the cemetery but it was going to be a humid day. The funeral was for Larry Shamus who had lived in Williamsburg, New Jersey for most of his life and lived in a white Victorian house on Nursery Street. Under the tent, sitting in chairs right in front of the casket were Larry's wife, Irene; his daughter Nicki and son, Joe.

Irene used to be a nurse until she retired when Nicki was born; Nicki was a senior in high school and was just biding her time until she graduated. Joe worked at the CAAF Oil Refinery with his best friends Buddy Culver and Kip Lamarr. The funeral wore on and came to an end. The Shamus family proceeded back to the family house where close family friends had set up a buffet table full of the food given to the Shamus family. Dr Arnold Fish was the Shamus' next door neighbor and a popular gynecologist. He was always there for Joe or Nicki to talk to.

As the hardest worker of all, the sun, lowered in the western sky creating an orange-purple haze, the Shamus family was looking through photos and a foot locker that Larry kept in the garage. Joe finished emptying out the locker and looked around confused.

“What’s wrong?” Irene asked.

“Where’s Dad’s old high school stuff? I wanted to look through his yearbooks,” Joe replied.

“I think it’s all in the old trunk down in the cellar,” Irene recollected.

“I’ll go down and look,” and with that, Joe bounded away to the cellar door in the kitchen.

Nicki stood up and walked over to Irene and placed her hand softly on her mother’s shoulder. “Mom? Isn’t it in that trunk?”

“Oh my. Yes it is. Well, don’t worry. It’s been almost ten years, surely that thing won’t have that much control over him after all this time,” Irene reassured but there was some doubt in her voice.

Down in the cellar, Joe pulled the string to turn on the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. The old trunk was tucked away in the corner covered by a small pile of useless keepsakes: an old easel, three pairs of beyond-repair overalls and, for some reason, a map of Germany.

Back upstairs. “What are you talking about?” Buddy asked. “Does Joe have a hideous deformed brother?”

“No, Buddy,” Harry began. “When Joe was seven, he didn’t have many friends and therefore he created one.”

“Oh! So he has an imaginary friend?” Buddy queried.

“Not exactly…” Nicki said haltingly.

In the cellar, Joe pulled an old football jersey out of the trunk and unfolded it to look at it. A sock fell to the ground. The sock had two big black buttons sewn on for eyes. “Oh my God,” Joe said in a hushed voice as he bent down to pick up the sock. “I haven’t seen this in years,” Joe slid the sock on his hand, looked at it and smiled.

Upstairs. “He had a sock puppet friend?” Kip howled with a huge grin on his face.

“It’s not funny Kip. Joe had a serious problem and Querty helped him get through his formative years,” Irene explained.

“He wore a sock on his hand from the age of seven until he was nineteen!” Buddy ejaculated.

“To be fair Buddy, Joe stopped wearing Querty to school when he was 16,” Irene said matter-of-factly.

“Querty? He named the sock?” Kip questioned.

It’s been ten years guys,” Marilyn interjected. “That part of Joe is probably long gone.”

Joe’s eyes met Querty’s buttons. Joe smiled and moved Querty’s ‘mouth’ in a playful manner. “Querty…” Joe said in a reminiscent tone, “…what the hell was I thinking?” Joe pulled the sock off and tossed it aside. He went back to work digging the yearbooks out of the trunk.
“What were you thinking?”

Joe stood straight up and glanced around the cellar.

“I helped you through some troubling times and this is how you repay me?”

“Wha…?” and before Joe could continue, his eyes locked on Querty. “Querty?” Joe bent down and slid Querty back on his left hand.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Querty said as he looked right at Joe. “Do you know how long I was in that trunk?” the sound of Querty talking did seem to actually come from his ‘mouth’ and Joe’s lips were tightly pressed together.

Joe shook his head.

“I’m asking you. It’s not like there’s a freakin’ calendar in there. Well, there is but it’s from 1949. Ask your father why he keeps a 1949 calendar. Very peculiar,” Querty rambled.

“He…He died,” Joe said.

“What?” Querty asked, stunned.

“He passed away a week ago. We had the funeral today.”

“Jeez, I’m sorry, kiddo. Had I known but the spiders aren’t really all that talkative in that trunk,” Querty said apologetically.

“That’s okay. Let’s go upstairs. I just came down to get these yearbooks,” Joe scooped up the yearbooks in his right hand, keeping Querty erect on his left hand. He went upstairs and peered around the corner from the kitchen. “Hey look what I found!” he said ecstatically.

“Oh, no,” Irene and Nicki moaned immediately.

“Dad’s yearbooks!” Joe held them out from around the corner for all to see.

“Oh, thank God,” Irene sighed.

“And look!” Joe emerged from the kitchen with Querty on his hand. Querty turned his head and made ‘eye’ contact with everyone.

“We-ell, long time, no see,” Querty said. “And for some of you, just no see.”

“Oh yeah, introductions!” Joe cleared his throat and went around the room. “You remember my Mom and possibly Nicki?”

“Oh my. That’s Nicki? She is a beautiful girl,” Querty complimented.

“Thank you,” Nicki said but then blushed and covered her eyes when she remembered that she was talking to a sock puppet.

“And who are these people?” Querty asked.

“These are my friends Buddy and Kip," Joe said.

“Well, it's a pleasure to meet and re-meet all of you. And I do apologize for Larry's passing. He made this world a better place while he was alive,” Querty said.

“Thank you, Querty,” Irene said. “Oh, Jeez,” she sighed.

“I’m gonna go upstairs and catch Querty up on what’s been going on,” Joe said.

“It was a pleasure seeing you all again. If I don’t see you later tonight I will see you in the morning. Good night,” Querty said. Buddy and Nicki absentmindedly waved and everyone watched Joe and Querty head up the stairs. “So do you think Nicki would go out with me? I know there’s a difference in age but since I’m not human…” everyone heard Querty say as they got to the top of the stairs.

“You know that there are probably pills that can cure that,” Buddy said.

“For Joe or for us because we just treated a sock puppet like a human,” Kip pointed out.

“Well,” Buddy stood up, “this has been…swell but we’re gonna get going. If you have any problems with Joe or Querty,” Buddy sighed, “call.”

“I will,” Irene said and accepted a hug from Buddy and then from Kip.

“And I am going to check and see if Querty will be around for awhile,” Nicki said, “because I could smell him from here.”

Joe takes Querty to work; Nicki becomes editor of the school newspaper.