In Turquoise, New Mexico, a small group of hippies believe that the mountain north of town emits a constant, resonant hum that is only audible to a chosen few. They call themselves the Hearers, and the fact that fourteen-year-old Kevin Brown has never trusted them makes it all the worse when his own ears begin to ring, and he comes to realize "The Turquoise Hum" may be much more than a sound.
Kevin Browne arrived at the park with a rust-colored stain on his shirt and a thick film of bloody saliva in his throat. He had been in his first ever fistfight that morning. He lost. Blackstone Park was the end point of his retreat. Hidden inside a forgettable neighborhood and shaded with the tallest, thickest elm trees in Turquoise, Blackstone Park was safe from the prying eyes of adults who might wonder why a fourteen-year-old was out and about on this, the first day of the school year. Blackstone Park was also far from campus, far from the stares and snickers of his classmates at Turquoise High School, far from those who stood witness to the pummeling he had received at the hands of Ruben Graves.
At least, that’s what Kevin imagined as he ambled through the alleys behind Jefferson Avenue. Just off the school grounds, he had seen a sparrow bathing in the remains of a mud puddle. His head, fogged in panic and pain, twisted that sparrow into a ridiculous vision that had been with him ever since. He saw himself lying on his back under a tall elm tree, waving his arms up and down, soaking himself in the wet grass of Blackstone Park like a bird in the mud.
He was disappointed to find other people in the park when he arrived. A guy and a girl, maybe his age or a little older. He might have seen them around town before, but he didn’t know their names. The guy was standing, his back against the tree, his nose in a book. The girl sat cross-legged a few feet from the tree trunk, holding a small pair of binoculars to her eyes as she looked into the branches above her. They had the same dark brown hair, the girl’s long and straight, the guy’s thick and unkempt. It was odd that they, like him, weren’t in school.
He needed a different place to hide. He had to be alone right now. The thought of--
Too late. He’d been spotted. It was the girl. She had turned his way and was looking at him through her binoculars.
“Hello!” she shouted.
“Hi,” Kevin responded. His voice came out airy and weak.
The girl stood up. She approached, walking with a confidence that made Kevin nervous. What did she want?
“I’m Jackie,” she said. She put her binoculars in her pocket and extended her right hand. Kevin shook it.
“Nice to meet you, Kevin. What happened to your face?”
Kevin’s intestines knotted. A gruesome image of how he might look came to mind. He envisioned his too-pale skin turning purple and black under his left eye, his already large nose swollen larger still, his nostrils pushed up and out by a fat upper lip.
“I was in a fight,” he said.
Jackie’s eyebrows sprung up her forehead. “A fight? With whom?”
With whom? Kevin nearly laughed and let out a phony cough to cover himself. Who said with whom other than English teachers?
“I’m fine. It was at school.”
Her eyes drifted past Kevin to the backpack on his shoulders. He felt ridiculous and wished he wasn’t wearing it.
“It was just some guy named Ruben.” Kevin waved his hand, like it was no big deal. It occurred to him that he looked terrible, but to someone who hadn’t seen the fight, he hadn’t necessarily lost. For all this girl knew, Ruben might look even worse.
“You’re going to have a black eye tomorrow if you don’t put some ice on it,” Jackie said.
“I…don’t I have a black eye already?” Kevin asked, mortified at how weak his voice sounded. He cleared his throat.
“No, it’s just swollen.” She stepped closer. Kevin stepped away.
“It’s alright,” she said in a voice one might use when approaching a stray dog. “I just want to look at it.”