by Bart Mann
She didn’t know where the scar came from and the truth was, she didn’t really care. It had appeared on a blustery October night, showing up on the back of her left shoulder like an uninvited guest. It wasn’t an uncomplicated arrival however.
One ordinary afternoon she was out tomboyin’ as usual with Flip and his buddies Roger and Frank. They climbed trees and played their favorite game – running through rows of Ol’ Kyle Sykes corn as fast as they could letting the stalks slap at them like disapproving hands over and over again. Then dinner time came along to strangle the fun out of the evening and it was just her and Flip left, walking home on Maryville road.
She lived on the far north end of Maryville, way past Drillings All Seasons Sports Store, which marked the invisible borderline bisecting Calmar into the good and bad parts of town. She lived in the bad and Flip in the good… but good and bad were ideas that adults like to chew on, she had no use for them. She hoped Flip felt the same way. Besides to her there were just the fun and the no fun parts of town, and even then the no fun parts of town had places to explore. She loved exploring.
Flip, whose name was really Phillip Boyd IV, was a year older than her and the son of the son of the son of one of the town’s founders. She guessed she had had a crush on him since 5 years already, maybe more. She maybe had a crush on him before she knew what a crush was. She liked him despite the ribbing Roger and Frank gave her for his being way too rich for her.
Walking north, Flip suddenly grabbed her hand, and they left the road running as fast as cold water through a grassy field until they ended up breathless, backs against the west wall of the United Beverage plant. They’d left their bikes there since nobody was around to steal them. The plant had shut down a year ago.
Hidden from view she suddenly felt like she and Flip were completely alone, as if they were on their own planet, with only each other to explore.
Suddenly they were kissing just like movie stars did, mouths open, tongues extended and wrestling each other. She’d never felt anything else that good. And it was good every time, even when sometimes Flip tasted like a cigarette or pickles.
After a little bit Flip pulled back, his face flushed. “Well see ya tomorrow I guess,” he said, hands on his knees and exhaling sharply.
She hated it when he pulled back like that, like a spooked pony – always right when things were getting interesting. She wondered if Roger and Frank were right, if it was because of where she lived, or because she was poor – her daddy having been out of work since the plant shut down.
She had no idea Flip was doing it for her. He knew she was too young to do what he wanted to do, so when his motor was running almost too fast to stop he’d hit the brakes. He guessed he loved her and he was willing to wait.
Maybe things would’ve ended differently if she knew it wasn’t a rebuff but a gesture of love.
She jumped on her bike, “Not if I see you first,” she said, punching him hard on the arm. She was half way across the barren parking lot before he could even say, “ouch.”
That was the last time anyone saw her for 5 days.
When she never showed up at home that night, word spread around Calmar almost instantly. Search parties got set loose; Flip was questioned and ruled out; theories were hatched and butchered rapidly all to no avail. There were no other suspects. It was like she had ridden her bike into another dimension and just disappeared.
Outrageous tales explaining the inexplicable began to take root, as they always did at times like these. The prevailing myth seemed to be of alien abduction. It had been started by a boy who made it up because his favorite movie was “Invaders from Mars.” He even found a large depression in the dirt right on Maryville road where she had supposedly been sucked underground by aliens like the people in the movie.
Then 5 days later she just came home. She walked through the front door, covered in dried mud but wholly intact… save for the scar. Her mother fainted and her father, always more practical, called the sheriff even before greeting her. The news hit Calmar like a concussion grenade.
She was rushed to the county hospital for a thorough check-up. The only evidence anything had happened at all was the scar and neither their fancy machinery nor the doctors themselves seemed sophisticated enough to conclude just how the scar had gotten there.
The baffling thing about the scar was that it wasn’t fresh. It was old… well healed over like years had gone by. Her normal complexion was flawless and tawny, but here she was puckered purple. The scar itself was shaped like a comma with a pig’s tail. A design of soft pink flesh embossed on a circle the color of a deep bruise.
No matter how many asked, or who did the asking – she couldn’t remember anything. After racing across the plant parking lot, all she recalled was suddenly sitting on her bike in her front yard. She felt like a page furtively turned by the wind.
The entire hubbub might have passed if not for the scar. It wasn’t the question of who had taken her nor where she had been taken or even what all was done to her… it was the mystery of the scar and only the scar that lit people’s flames. And nobody believed that someone could get a scar like that and not know how. Since she hadn’t been killed or raped, people ran out of sympathy and got angry instead. People thought she was lying or afraid or brainwashed or mentally deficient or playing a prank.
Days passed and people were still asking her everything about the scar. If her shoulder was bare, people followed behind her wherever she went just staring at it, trying to wrap an explanation around it. At any gathering, any time of the day or night, it was the only topic of conversation. People argued about it. Some called it the mark of ruin. Some started calling it beautiful.
And then there was Flip. Flip, who on that fated October night faced the demand for the truth and had told everything, even about their kissing stuff. After that they were forbidden to be alone together.
They finally took a chance and ducked behind a school bungalow together. “Why’d you have to go tell everybody about that? It was private Flip!” she said.
“They was all around me with these bright red faces asking me over and over, telling me to tell them everything, that anything could help,” Flip said, “and I was scared for you and well just in case it had something to do with anything I figured they needed to know about our canoodling.”
“Didya tell them you got too scared to do more than kiss Flip? Or wouldn’t do more with a girl as poor as me? Didya tell them that?” she asked.
He could tell she was too angry to reason with so he tried to change the subject. “You see Roger or Frank last couple of days because I haven’t,” as he asked he reached out to touch her scar. He’d been wanting to the whole time. She slapped his hand away. “What in the high holy do you think you’re doing?” she yelled.
“I just wanted to touch it… see how it feels.”
“First off that is like perverted gross Flip,” she said.
“Considering other things you’ve let me touch how is this so gross?” he asked.
“Better ask Roger or Frank,” she whispered. Then her eyes went dark like he’d never seen before. She grabbed his hand, pulled it over her shoulder and led his fingertips to the scar. At first he wasn’t certain what he felt. Then he felt warmth… then electricity… then molten lava. He wanted to scream in pain but he no longer had a mouth.
She walked out from behind the bungalow alone, a patina of sweat covering her brow. Days later nobody thought much about Flip’s disappearance, or of the others similarly vanished. They couldn’t have. They were all too busy thinking about the scar, trying to figure it out, wondering how it got there and what it meant.
About a month later she rode her bike out of the ghost town Calmar, looking for someplace else, someplace… bigger. She didn’t care where the scar had come from, but loved where it was taking her.