Teletale Part III: Pooja

Writing Jan 20, 2022

Art searched Kalil’s face to see if he was certain. When he found nothing but grim determination, he said, “I told you I have her address.”

Kalil frowned. For a beat, there was silence. Then his brows rose, as understanding finally dawned upon him. “No. Arthur. No.”

“I know someone who might just have just as much to lose as us. And when we find her… we take it to the mouse woman.”

“What part of ‘she's going to send someone to kill you’ do you not understand?”

“She’s going to try eventually! You want us to just sit here and wait for her to come?” Art clenched his fists to stop them from shaking. He didn’t need his step brother to see how scared he was. He’d only just managed to earn some respect; this would ruin it all. “Your mom is out there somewhere. The mouse woman had something to do with it. We have no money, and no other leads. Tell me you have a better idea to end this. Tell me, because I’m so tired of living like this. So are you with me?” He grabbed his bag again, and started to his feet. “Because I’m going to do this with or without you.”

Kalil drew out a long sigh, then got up, brushing his jeans off. His eyes were still red from crying, but there was no hint of his previous distress in his voice when he spoke, “Who else is gonna stop you from getting yourself killed?” He seemed to realize what he’d just said, and backtracked. “Except that this mission is most definitely going to get you killed. And now I just volunteered to join you. So I guess I’m not doing a very good job.”

A grin split across Art’s face. In all fairness, he had his doubts. Kalil always took a ‘hands off approach’ when it came to Art. He wouldn’t even help Art with math homework in grade school—but in all fairness, Kalil wasn’t really the smartest kid on the block. And it was probably the fact that his mom was missing was way more important than elementary algebra. “Dude, I’m literally unkillable,” he said. “How do you think I’ve survived this long?”

“A miracle,” Kalil murmured, but Art barely heard it, already heading out the front door, mind set on the next part of his plan.

When he heard Kalil’s heavy footsteps finally following behind him, crunching the fallen leaves, Art asked, “You remember Cynthia, right? Cynthia Parker?”

“Cynthia?” Kalil asked. “Sure I remember her. I delivered papers with her in ninth grade, kinda a weird kid. Why?”

“She’s a cashier at Molson’s Grocers. And two days ago she was checking my stuff out. She reaches to get a bag and I see this… marking on her collarbone. A tattoo. I asked her what it was, and guess what she said?”

“A mouse,” Kalil breathed.  “Mom was looking for a girl with a mouse tattoo.” His step brother’s words began to speed up, taking a life on their own as he grew more certain. “She said ‘that’ll solve the mystery of the mouse’.”

“The moustery,” Art said, nodding solemnly.

“What?”

“The moustery. The mouse myst—never mind,” he muttered at Kalil’s confused look. “All I’m saying is, Cynthia has a weird family. The whole town knows that. Her parents left on a trip to Bosnia and never returned, her older brother joined the circus, her uncle is a dog food taster.” He picked up his bike from the side of the road and swung a leg over the seat, waiting for Kalil to get his. Then the two of them walked to space between their house and the next, where there was a narrow path of gravel leading to the main road. “So she lives with her aunt,” he continued. “But no one’s ever seen the aunt. How much do you wanna bet she's the mouse woman?”

Kalil shielded his eyes from the sun. “I don’t like where this is going.”

“Cynthia gets off work in 20 minutes,” Art said, pretending he hadn’t heard. “You go in, talk to her, and somehow get her to Dawson Park by sundown.”

“Is this why you needed my help?” Kalil grimaced. “To talk to a girl I haven’t seen, much less spoken to in years?”

“You’ve got the best shot! Besides.” Art glanced around at the silent neighborhood with its white buildings, picket fences, clean lawns, and darkened windows, and lowered his voice. “I can’t go around as easily as you can. Someone’s always watching me. Just make sure Cynthia doesn’t suspect anything, and I’ll take it from there. It’s time to get the mouse woman before she gets us.”

Author Bio:

“Island Chocolate” investigates numbers by day and hurts her characters by night. She can be found at @ambrxxsia on Twitter, where she catastrophizes her daily life and obsesses over her projects.

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Pooja B.

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