This is the 37th installment of my new book (launch is in about a week) Lost Days. I hope you’ve been reading carefully because the answer to the qualifying question is in one of the previous posts. Qualifying question for what? For your chance to win a free laptop computer. Click here to read the rules for the drawing. Basically, you read Lost Days for a chance to win a laptop! If you don’t want to read the free online version, it will be available for sale on Amazon next week!. Good luck.
After I caught up on my homework, I went out on the front porch to get some fresh air. The sun was long gone, and there was a chill in the air. I wasn’t exactly dressed for it, but I didn’t care. I folded my arms and sat on the steps.
J-Rob’s truck pulled up in front of the house. The gigantic man extracted himself from the cab, and started walking to the back of the house. When he saw me, he stopped to talk.
“You’ll catch your death dressed like that on a night like this,” he said.
“I’m fine,” I said.
“You should at least have a sweatshirt on.”
“Crew gave me a good talking to, by the way.”
“What for?” I asked.
“For telling you about the accident. He wasn’t pleased. You ain’t much on keeping secrets are you?”
I chuckled. “I guess not. Doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Why because he told you it wasn’t true?” J-Rob said kicking the ground in front of him.
I looked surprised. “You know it’s not true?”
It was his turn to chuckle. “I know he tells people it’s not true.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, right, I get it.”
“You get what?” he asked.
I shivered as a gust of wind blew through me. “Nothing,” I said. “Uncle Crew was raised by Bigfoot.”
He took his jacket off and threw it over my shoulders. “Not quite, but close.”
His coat smelled like cigarettes and coffee, but it was just what I needed. I grabbed the lapels and pulled it in tighter.
“You think like everybody else?” J-Rob asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you dress like everyone else, think like everyone else, laugh at all the same jokes?”
“No,” I said. “What’s your point?”
“My point is me and Crew is just like you. We don’t think like everyone else. The difference is they threw us in a hospital because we thought differently. You ever been to one of them… hospitals?”
I shook my head.
“Ain’t no fun,” he said. “When you first get there you try to convince everyone you don’t belong there by converting them to your way of thinking. You know what you believe is 100% ironclad truth. But after awhile, you just want to fit in, so a little at a time you pretend to come around to their way of thinking just so they’ll stop looking at you that certain way and whispering behind your back.”
“So, Uncle Crew…” I started, but J-Rob interrupted me.
“Is just trying to be like everyone else even if he has to pretend.” He started to walk away.
“Wait, don’t you want your coat?” I asked.
“Keep it,” he said. “I got another one.”
He was gone before I could insist. I thought about following him, but it was too cold. I slipped my arms through the sleeves and welcomed the warmth the coat brought, even if it stunk to high heaven. Obviously, J-Rob was not familiar with dry cleaners or laundromats. Mixed in with the cigarette and coffee was the faint smell of body odor. I stuck my hands in my pocket and felt something that I thought was a lighter. I pulled it out and was astounded to see a jump drive. J-Rob didn’t seem like the type that could find the power button on a computer let alone own a jump drive. A voice in my head told me the right thing to do was find him and return the drive, but a louder voice in my head was screaming at me to look at what was on the drive. The screaming voice always wins out in my mind. I pulled myself up and ran up to my room.
Grover was nowhere to be seen so I shut the door and hurriedly turned on my laptop. I stood in front of the computer trying to will it to boot up faster than normal, but instead it seemed to be taking far longer than usual. The login window appeared, and I was so nervous and excited I typed it in wrong twice. I sensed myself getting more and more frustrated so I stopped and collected my thoughts. Slowly and taking great care to hit the correct keys, I typed in the password and opened the Windows desktop. I stuck the jump drive into the USB port and waited for the system to recognize the new drive. Everything was taking twice as long as it usually did. As soon as the system read the drive and allowed me access to it, I opened it to discover one folder with the name “LGC Field Study.” I opened the folder and found 14 images. Before I could look at them the doorknob turned. I slammed the laptop shut, and groaned louder than I intended when Grover walked in.
“It’s my room, too, you know,” he said insulted that I took exception to his presence.
“I shouldn’t have to share a room with you. I’m in high school.”
“Writing love letters to your boyfriend?” Grover asked.
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” I said looking down at the laptop. That was the first time I heard myself admit that out loud. A lot had changed in a day. I went from thinking the greatest guy in school had a thing for me to thinking the greatest guy in school wasn’t that great, and may have had ulterior motives for wanting to get to know me.
“Looking at more of your pictures?” Grover asked.
The question caught me off guard. I fumbled for a reasonable answer and finally just said, “Stop asking me dumb questions.”
He looked at me mischievously. “Let me see what you’re hiding.”
“No, dip wad.” I moved the laptop behind my back.
“I’ll tell mom.”
“And I’ll tell mom you have one her magazines.”
“Go ahead,” he smiled. “I put it back.”
“So, I’ll tell her you had it. She’ll believe me.”
“And I’ll tell her you’re doing something on your computer you shouldn’t be doing.”
I grunted. “I’m not playing, Grover! This is serious stuff.”
“I’m not playing either,” he said. “Show me.”
I balled my hands up into fists and thought about leaping out of the bed and socking him in the eye, but instead, I just cleared my throat and said, “Fine, but I swear to god, you are dead if you tell anyone.”
“Cool,” he said jumping on the bed.
I lifted the lid to the laptop and awoke it from its sleep. The file was still open. I clicked on the first picture and Grover said it best.
We stared at the picture for a long time without saying a word after that. I was trying to process it. Uncle Crew was squatting down next to a… something huge. It was covered in hair or fur or whatever you call it… it was…
“Bigfoot!” Grover yelled.
I quickly clamped my hand over his mouth. “Shhh! It’s not Bigfoot,” I whispered. “It’s a fake.”
He looked up at me and shook his head. “No way that’s a fake,” he said with my hand over his mouth.
I removed my hand. “It has to be.”
“Open another one,” he said excitedly.
I did as requested and we both gasped. There were two apes or guys in gorilla costumes or whatever they were wearing. These two were standing next to J-Rob. I laughed nervously. They were two feet taller than him. They were really big guys in really big costumes. I could feel sweat forming on my brow. They had to be fakes. They just had to be.
“Two Bigfoots,” Grover said.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said with a fake chuckle.
“Another one,” he said pointing to the mouse pad. “Open another one.”
I huffed. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to have to see more of those things. I was mad at them for looking so… real. But if I didn’t click on the next picture, Grover would have had a hissy fit. I opened it. An ape with breasts squatted next to the ape laying on the ground. Uncle Crew was off to the side. The female was holding a large Tupperware container and appeared to be scooping some kind of mushy food out. She was twice as wide as Uncle Crew.
“Boobs,” Grover shouted.
“Shut up,” I growled.
“These are real,” Grover said. His teeth were almost chattering he was so excited. “Bigfoot is real.”
I didn’t deny it this time. I clicked through the pictures, and saw more of the same. It became clear to me that the ape laying on the ground was injured or ill, and Uncle Crew was tending to it. The other apes looked on with concern and curiosity. The faces of the creatures started to get to me the more I studied them. They were ape-like in their features, but they were human, too. The faces were leathery, and the brow ridges were prominent. But the noses were more human than I was comfortable with.
I clicked on the last picture and saw a female holding a baby. It was beyond cute, but I was still utterly disturbed by the whole thing. I tried to convince myself once again that they weren’t real.
“Wait ‘til I tell Tommy Dixon,” Grover said.
I jerked him up by his collar. “You can’t tell anybody about this, you understand?”
He looked at me scared out of his mind. “Let go of me.”
“Promise me you won’t tell a soul about this.” I could feel the veins popping out on my neck.
“Okay, okay, I promise,” he said.
I let him go. “We don’t even know if it’s real,” I said more for myself than him.
“You’re crazy,” Grover said. “Nobody could fake that.”
“They can fake all sorts of things. Ever heard of Photoshop?”
“Of course,” Grover said. “Learned it at computer camp last summer. Never saw nothing like that, that’s for sure.”
“That doesn’t prove it’s real,” I said. I pulled the jump drive out of the USB port and held it up. “What do you want to bet that old J-Rob is pretty good when it comes to Photoshop?”