The sky outside was a brilliant blue, so much depth to the coloring that the critic might say, of an artist who had painted it, “Too bright, too blue! What have you been drinking, anyway?” But in my world the sky wasn’t blue. It was a flaming, blood red. My anger was at a peak, and anyone who knew me would know that I would blow at the next person to cross path in the wrong way.
Steve. Even the mention of the name was enough to raise my blood pressure. Steve. The 6'2" hunk as Diane had recently called him. Steve. The heavy-set, and muscular football player. It was just too much for me to bear.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like Steve. He was a close friend of both Diane and me. We had been friends for years. We had gone frogging together. He had bowled against each other, played golf together. We had gone fishing together, played Chess. But this situation was unacceptable. He was now intruding upon my territory. Operation Superspy was over, and I had given him plenty of time to back off. He had not.
I was outside, and I noted that Karl was bringing stuff down to the boat. I wandered over to greet him. We talked for a few moments, and I learned that they would be leaving the cabin in about a week, for several days. There were some things that they had to do in town; things that could only be done in the cities. Then I got up my nerve.
“Is Diane around this morning?”
Karl didn’t reply immediately, and I had a feeling that he didn’t want to answer that question. Then he said, “No. She went into town with Steve.”
That name again! I clenched my fist. Karl noticed my clenched fist, I guess, because he looked at me a bit oddly and asked “Is something wrong?”
I forced my hand open with a little difficulty. “No, I just wanted to see her again,” was my reply.
He excused himself to allow himself to continue the loading of the boat. He and his dad would be going fishing. I went over to the mini-golf course in back, and began to play a few rounds. Time passed, as I watched for the familiar Chevy to pull up in the driveway next door. After an hour, I gave up, and went inside to read. But I kept an eye peeled for the car that would pull up. An hour passed, then a second. Finally, I saw the red Chevy that I had been waiting to see. Steve was driving, and Diane was sitting next to him.
“Good God!” I muttered. “Tell me it isn’t so!” They were sitting much too close to each other for just a casual chat. They sat for a few minutes, then Diane opened the door. Then, my worst fears became a reality. They were kissing. They both got out of the car, and they met in front of it. As I watched, they kissed again–a little too passionately for my tastes! This was not good. I felt as if someone had stuck a knife into my chest and was twisting it to make the wound worse. I didn’t breathe for a almost a minute as I began to see “Operation Superspy” as “Operation Benedict Arnold.” I had, apparently, been betrayed. Steve had betrayed me, and over a girl I knew better than he did! Or, at least, I thought I knew better. Apparently, that wasn’t the case anymore.
I closed the curtain. Since I was home alone at this time, I began kicking things. Throwing things. I pounded the mattress on the bed. Finally, exhausted, I stopped. But the red sky of my world had not dissipated. It remained, if anything darker and more ominous than before. Now, I sat, thinking, trying to figure out what I was going to do. I simply could not allow this to continue!
There was a reason, I rationalized. I had heard it through the grapevine, as the song had said. But I verified the truth of what was rumored, and knew the situation was true. The blind date that Steve had set up for his sister, Denise, had not been a failure. It was a disaster. Steve's sister was only a year older than Diane. And his sister was now 4 months pregnant. There was no way that I would let this happen to Diane, I resolved. Steve, my soon to be former friend, was the person who had played with fire. But it was his sister who had been burned.
Finally, I reached a decision. I would go to Steve next time I saw him, and I would, again, tell him to back off. It would not matter if he was with anyone. I would not let it stop me. If he didn’t back off, I wasn’t sure what would I would do. But, if worst came to worst, I’d kill him. I couldn’t take this. I would kill him.
I began to shake. What was I thinking? Murder? I didn’t want any part of that. It went against everything I believed. But that thought burned at my brain; a hot torch, a branding iron labeled “Kill.”
As the afternoon passed, and evening came, I watched the driveway of the cabin next door.
No car except the family car. I hoped that Steve had come to his senses. I did note that Karl and Diane had gone swimming. They had asked me to join them, but I declined, saying I wasn’t feeling well. It was true, after all. The cloud of jealousy, which I had not recognized as such, had settled over me, and I was still steaming over the kisses shared by Diane and Steve. Whether Karl knew of Steve’s moves on his sister, I didn’t know. I had no plans to ask. I didn’t know how to ask such a question. And I wasn’t really sure if I wouldn’t be termed a yenta for not minding my own business. So I let it ride, planning my next moves. Except, this wasn’t chess I was considering. What was coming over me, anyway? All this, over a girl. And I was confused, more because it was over a girl I had only known for a short time. Only since July 4th. And yet….
I couldn't think straight. And the flaming red sky of my world began to shade toward black.
The next day, I went for a walk. I was bird-watching. There were hawks, a lot of them, down by the swamp which was just a half mile away. I had originally planned to do some frog catching, but had decided against it. The hawks were more fun. One of them always would take exception to anybody who would be walking by. The lakeshore association had just filled in a road across the swamp two years back. He was still angry. He would dive at anyone. I had a pocket full of rocks to protect myself from an attack by that hawk. I stayed on the road, watching for him. He didn't seem to be around on this day. I threw some of the rocks at a few turtles, seeing if I could get them to enter the water.
Then, I heard voices. I ducked behind the cattails, and listened. I heard a girl's voice, low and melodious. It was Diane's voice. I couldn't make out more than a few words. I heard some rocks hit the water with a splash, and heard a couple of turtles splash into the water. Someone had succeeded where I had failed. Then, there was a boy's voice. I listened closely. As I peered through the rushes, I saw Steve, walking hand in hand with Diane. As another kiss was shared, I could not take it anymore. It was time to go over and tell Steve to keep his hands off of Diane.
I stood up, and saw that both Steve and Diane were facing the lake, rather than the road where I was. Steve put his arm across Diane's shoulder. And that was the final blow to me. I yelled across the swamp. "STEVE! I want to talk to you!" The anger in my voice echoed around the lake. Steve turned, and saw me. I began to run around the swamp, racing to confront Steve.
Shortly before I got to the other side, a car pulled up near Steve, and stopped. That big guy, the one who had tossed the firecrackers at me, was the driver and he got out of the car. I didn't know the guy's name. But I could see that he would be trouble.
I reached Steve and Diane. Diane looked at me curiously, as if wondering what was going on, why I was there. Steve spoke to me, saying "What's up, Mike?"
I responded tightly, through clenched teeth. "I said I want to talk to you." The anger in my voice grew worse. The vehicle's driver walked up to Steve, his back to me. He positioned himself between me and Steve, and turned, giving me an evil look. I was close to the swamp, just a few steps from it. And I noticed that he was just a step or two from a large, fallen branch.
"Is this guy bugging you, Steve?" he asked.
"Nah," responded Steve. "He's a friend."
But the big guy pushed me. He pushed me hard, and I fell. Picking myself up, I stood there and I hoped that Steve's comment would stop the fellow from causing trouble. I shook off some mud. And I returned the stare that he gave me. I uttered a curse in Latin. And it may have been a mistake. The guy pushed me again, even harder than last time. I stumbled backwards, stepping into the mud of the swamp.
Diane spoke up. "Ralph, calm down!" Now, I knew his name.
He muttered "Blasted idiot." And it was too much for me.
"Oh, yeah? You creepy S.O.B!" I replied, with my voice increasing in volume, pitch, and anger on each syllable I spoke. I took a step forward, and threw two punches. I threw a left to his stomach, and a right to his jaw. Then, I shoved with all my might, and he stumbled over the branch, falling. I knew that I wouldn't be able to count on Steve to help me. I turned, and I ran. I ran faster than I thought I would ever be able to run. I reached the beach in a matter of just a few seconds. Ralph had just gotten up, and was trying to start his car. I ran the rest of the way to the cabin, and sped inside. Nobody was home but me. I hastened to lock the doors. Then I went to my room, and there I allowed the tears of pain to fall. There was no choice.
I watched outside as the guy pulled up to the driveway. He knew where I lived, now. And it would be bad for me. As I watched, however, my parents pulled up, and I unlocked the door for them, while Ralph drove off.
Now, I locked the door to my room, and sobbed quietly. And I wondered what I would do next.
As I did, an alien thought one again entered my brain. But that thought was no longer a complete stranger. This time, I could not dismiss the thought so easily. I had to protect Diane. And, if it came down to it, that I acted on the thought.... then so be it. And the thought continued to burn at my brain. The thought didn't change. It still said "Kill."