Excerpt: On Weddings and Ghosts

perfume2I nose the Ford over the speed bumps and turn right, driving through town rather than taking the highway. The lake road is busy, pickup trucks hauling boats, kids out making the most of the last days of summer. I honk at a few people I know. We drop Olle off at the house, and head up Route 30. Dane lives a half mile away from us straight as the fish swims, but it’s a five-mile drive to his side of the lake.

“Thanks for the ride,” Dane says.

“So how long are you grounded?”

“Until this wedding garbage is over. You coming? It’s not every day a guy becomes his own cousin.”

“So when you jerk off now, will it be incest?” I ask.

“Y’know, I hadn’t even thought of that. C’mon, Lars you gotta go to this thing. The whole town will be there, and the guys are playing. I’ll need someone to hang out with.” He stops talking as I pull up to Floatbridge Road. I glance at him as I look for oncoming traffic. He’s smirking at me. “Minnie Largo is catering it, so the girls will be there. Including Violet.”

The truck lurches as I grind the gears. “When did she get back?”

“Yesterday. She was there, today, at school. Figured you’d bump into her at the theater.”

I say nothing and the grin spreads like grease across his sooty face. “Surprised you didn’t see her at the fire.” I pull into his driveway, but not up to the house. “She cut her hair,” he says. When he opens the door, I roll the truck another foot–and when he tries to get out, another two–but he just laughs. “Don’t even pretend, Lars. You watched her ass your entire sophomore year.”

“Out of my league, man.”

He slams the truck door. “And wear a tie to the wedding.”

“Why do I have to wear a tie?”

“Because I have to.”

Dane’s uncle calls him in, and I head back up Route 30, following the line of lake houses to the smallest one. I leave enough room in the driveway for another vehicle, but mom has left a sticky note for me on the kitchen counter saying she’ll be back on Tuesday. I peel it off, and toss it in the trash. There’s another on the bathroom mirror for my brother. It curls as the room fills with steam from the shower. In the foggy glass, I search for a glimpse of the ghost, but the only resemblance I see of my father is the ash of the fire on my face.

From THE SCENT OF FLAMES, Chapter 1: Sentinels

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