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In the Forest of Light and Dark.
By Mark Kasniak

Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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In the Forest of Light and Dark - Mark Kasniak
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Synopsis

Excerpt:

It was four years ago, the summer of 2010. Late June was approaching, and I had been just one week into my summer vacation. I had also just finished my junior year at Saraland High in my hometown of Saraland, Alabama—Go Spartans!—when my life was about to change forever.

Looking back on that day that would kick off a chain-of-events that would, ultimately, and irreversibly, turn my life upside-down, I guess you could say had started out like any other. After arriving back home from an afternoon of sunbathing down by the Gulf with a couple of friends of mine, Lettie Sheppard and Gerralyn Hanks, I had entered our house through the kitchen, whereupon I heard my parents arguing in their bedroom located near the rear of our home. That wasn’t at all unusual, though. The two of them bickering behind closed doors had been something they’d always done when they had matters to discuss that they clearly didn’t want me knowing. So, I guess that’s where my story begins. It’s as good of a place as any.

My name is Cera Singer and like I’d said, I had just finished the eleventh grade at Saraland High. Yes, I know. I’m Cera from Saraland. I get the gist. Maybe, that’s why my mama had decided to spell my name so differently from Sara or Sarah, so that I could avoid all the jokes that I would later have to inure when kids grew old enough to become mean. So why don’t we just get them out-of-the-way now, okay.

Anyways, moving on, so normally when you come home to find your parents arguing behind the confines of closed doors, it’s usually about things like money, or a letter from the school that had arrived in the mail informing them that you’re failing in math, or they’d just found out that another mouth to feed is on the way. These are all pretty much normal topics of conversation for squabbling where I come from. I mean… It’s par for the course. It’s what parents do, right? They’re married to one another; it would be pretty weird if they didn’t fight all the time.

So, coming home to find my parents fighting again wasn’t the problem. The problem was… By the time I had gotten home that afternoon from sunbathing and submitting a few applications to some of the local eateries—I had been looking for a summer job as a waitress so I can earn the money I would need to buy a car, or at least buy the parts needed to fix up the ‘86 Pontiac Trans Am that sat abandoned in our garage. My Step Daddy Cade had said that if I put forth the effort into finding myself a job and earning the money myself for the new tires and catalytic converter it required, then he would put forth the work in fixing it up for me. Not a bad deal at all if you ask me. And, it was a pretty bitching set of wheels, cobalt blue with grey trim and leather bucket seats.—my parents had already been in their bedroom arguing for some time and that meant only one thing. Something bad in the Singer household had probably just happened, and that was never good.

As I stood in the kitchen listening to their muffled argument coming through the walls. It had reminded me of the time when I was ten and had come home from school to find them going at it in their bedroom much like they were now. My mama, her face still puffy, pink, and streaked with tears, had emerged from their room after having heard me come home. She then kissed me on the top of my head, asked me how my day was, and proceeded to make me a PB&J—which was something I had every day when I’d came home.

As soon as she had finished making me my sandwich and having made sure to cut the crust off. I watched as she went back into her bedroom to continue arguing with my Step Daddy Cade. The heated discussion ended up lasting another couple of hours, in which time I was left to fend for myself as my mama only emerged periodically to check in on me.
At the time I had no clue as to what they were fighting over, but I had known they’d been going at it often lately over my Step Daddy Cade’s drinking.

You see, growing up where I’m from. Old Grand Dad isn’t just some loving, fatherly male relative who lived with you in your house’s spare bedroom, and Wild Turkey wasn’t just a free-range fowl that likes to run around on the outskirts of your property. They’re a serious problem where I come from, and the cause of far too many family breakups.

A few hours later though when my parents had finally emerged from their bedroom they gingerly sat me down at the kitchen table informing me that they would be “taking a break” for a while as my mama had put it. But, all I knew was that, after that, my Step Daddy Cade had left home and he didn’t come back for four months. At the time I had honestly thought he was never going to come home again.
That’s how things usually worked out around here in Saraland. Well, I should actually say, that’s how things seemed to work out here in Saraland. Dads’ or boyfriends’ leaving after a fight never be heard from again or showing back up several months later, after having knocked up some huzzy they’d hooked-up with after a late night of drinking. Then the wonderful news would be delivered to you of there being a new addition to the family, and how you’ll soon be getting a new roommate.

Luckily for me there was no baby on the way, but I’m sure there was probably a huzzy or two while my step daddy was away.

But that wasn’t even the worst of what can happen when my parents end up fighting. There was this other time last year when I had walked in on them arguing. (Again, I had been with my friend Lettie Sheppard, but we had been at her house not down by the Gulf. We’d spent the morning playing spin-the-bottle with a couple of local boys Tucker Calhoun and Eron Durfee. They had tried desperately to get us girls to make out with each other every time one of us spun the bottle and it ended up pointing at another one of us girls, but we weren’t having any of that. My friend Gerralyn did however show them her tits though, just to keep them happy. Boys are so simple and stupid—you’d be surprised at just how much you could get them to do for you just by showing a little boob.)

But anyways, I’m getting off topic again. Where was I… Oh, yeah? So, I had come home from Lettie’s house to grab a change of clothes and a few other things I needed for the weekend. Lettie’s parents had gone away for the weekend to visit Lettie’s aunt Carla in Montgomery, and Lettie had told them that she was going to stay the weekend out on the Gulf at the summer cottage of another one of our friends, Gerralyn Hanks. Gerralyn had told her parents that she would be with me, Lettie, and Lettie’s parents for the weekend visiting Lettie’s aunt and uncle who lived out on a ranch in Montgomery, and then the next day we’d all be visiting the Montgomery Zoo.

This little scheme we’d concocted had fooled our parents several times in the past, giving us free weekends to party. But we can’t take all the credit for it. It was the same scam those boys in that movie
 Stand by Me did when they went on their trek to see that dead-kid’s body. In fact, that’s where we got the idea from.

So, like I’d said—when I had stopped off at home that afternoon to pick up a change of clothes, my parents must have heard me come into the house because they immediately came out of their bedroom to greet me. I had taken one look at their sullen faces and instantly I’m thinking,oh, crap, what now? Because I could tell that my mama had been crying evidenced by her still ashen and puffy face, along with her eyes that were still imbued and leaking moisture. Not to mention the freely flowing trail of snot that was still pouring out of her Rudolf-red nose like a sieve. That one was a dead giveaway.

But my parents say, “Cera, hold up a second. We need to talk to you.” then they sit me down and guess what they tell me? My f**king dog is dead! Yeah, my dog and best friend Maddy is gone.

Apparently, my mama had taken her out for a walk, and when Maddy had seen a couple of squirrels, she bolted for them because that’s what a good hunting dog does. In the act of doing so, she ended up yanking the leash right out of my mama’s hand—heading straight for the roadway.

Maddy had never even seen the damn pickup truck coming towards her as its driver came barreling down the road like a lunatic. She had crossed the road diagonally chasing those goddamn day rats and ran smack dab right into the truck’s bumper like a scud missile. The truck striking her straight atop of her head and crushing her skull as if it were an eggshell, before pushing her down under its wheels.