As I reached the conclusion of this story, I realised that I wanted to pull a Stephen King manoeuvre here. I love how the great man links many of his stories together: my mind automatically heads towards Dolores Claiborne, Gerald’s Game, and Bag Of Bones and the fact that they all occur at the same, or similar, point in time. I got goose bumps when I read each novel and my brain registered that they all involved elements of the previous story, many of these quite subtle. By no means am I implying that I’m anywhere near as good as Stephen King, I simply thought I’d like to try and employ one of his techniques. Needless to say, I’m glad I did because I do so like the way this story turned out. And yes, we all know by now that I’m warped and twisted . . .
Eric knelt and watched the river rushing by. He put his hand in and shuddered. The water was cold; not surprising, given it was winter. The rain hadn’t abated in nearly three weeks. The river was close to breaking its banks, and had it not been for the exceptionally dry summer, it would have done so days ago.
He remembered back to his childhood, and the times that he and his little sister, Amy, used to play here. His memories were foggy and confused, but he knew that the area had not changed in nearly forty years. The same people lived in the same houses, and did the same things day after day, week after week, season after season. Nothing had changed, except for Eric.
He was no longer the carefree child who played hide and seek with his sister, in the woods. Long ago he had lost his childhood innocence. The fact that he was here, reminiscing, struck him as odd, and confused him just a little. He hadn’t thought of this place in many years; had no reason to ever return. And yet, here he was by the river again, having surrendered to an unexplainable pull to return.
Eric stood and turned to walk away. He was startled by the old man who was stealthily approaching him.
‘Well, well, if it isn’t little Eric Cooper. Haven’t seen you in years, boy. Your father still got that gun shop?’ He thrust out a gnarled, old hand for Eric to shake.
Momentarily unable to recognise the old timer, Eric took the offered hand and shook it, hoping to buy some time for his memories to kick in.
‘Dad died about nine years ago, sir. Heart attack.’
The old man winced. ‘Damn, that sure is a shit of a way to go, kid.’
Eric nodded, but said nothing.
‘You look like you don’t remember me, boy. Edward Parsons. I live next door.’ He pointed with his walking stick in the direction of a ramshackle old cottage off to his left. ‘You and your sister used to come over and play with my granddaughter, Jenny. The year that . . . the year Jenny . . . you were always over. Even after she disappeared.’
Eric smiled as he remembered Jenny Parsons. At the time he and Amy would have been playing with her, Jenny would have been a year older than Amy and four years younger than Eric. She was a pretty girl, all pony tails and ribbons and flowery little sundresses. The child never had shoes on her feet though. As a boy, Eric had wondered if her parents mightn’t be able to afford a pair. They had five other children to look after other than Jenny, and Eric was pretty sure he remembered hearing his father say that old man Parson’s boy had lost his job at the mill, so there was no money coming in to feed all of those ragamuffin kids.
‘Mr. Parsons. I’m sorry. It’s been such a long time. I don’t remember much about the time we spent here. No offense intended, sir.’ He hoped his apology would offset any hurt he had caused by not remembering the old man.
‘None taken, Eric. It was a hell of a long time ago, and your family was only out this way for six weeks that year. Plus, with your accident and all, I wouldn’t expect you’d remember too much.’
But he did. Eric remembered a lot more about some things than he actually wanted to: like Jenny’s disappearance. He and Amy knew a lot more about her disappearance than anyone else suspected.
. . . To be continued . . .