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By the time they got to the well, Greg’s shirt was soaked under his coat and his shoes were coated in mud. He alternated between shivering and sweating, depending upon when the cold wind stole its way into his jacket and high-fived the layer of moisture on his skin. He didn’t wear a toque because it would have ruined his hair. He didn’t know who he would run into out here that he’d feel the need to impress with his Billy Idol hair, but he didn’t think of that. He only thought after checking himself in the mirror that he looked good and his hair was perfect. Too perfect to mess up with cramming a winter hat on top of it. Even though he knew the hat would have added to his leaking faucet pores, it would’ve lessened the chill factor. His teeth chattered and when Jared stopped at the well, his eyebrows climbed his forehead.
Green moss clung to the stones on the side of the well facing him and Greg instinctively held back from approaching it. The dark trees beyond it lining the acreage of land added to the foreboding menace of the well. It looked like it would crumble at any time and Greg imagined it collapsing and sucking him down the hole with its black mouth if he got too close. He noticed it before Jared stopped and intended walking a wide path around it even if it meant having to walk-run a bit to catch up to Jared and his long stride except Jared stopped in front of it and slung the backpack onto the ground. They weren’t moving forward; they were stopping.
Greg glanced around them. A scary place, when he thought about it. You could disappear out here. He’d rather they kept moving or went back home. Except Jared didn’t intend on doing either. Greg worried at a nail and watched Jared pull out a length of rope, thicker than his thumb plus a flashlight. He heard metal clinking in the bag and Jared’s hand reached into the bag and retrieved carabiners. At Jared’s feet lay rope, flashlight, and carabiners. And they were standing by a well.
Greg said, “You’re not going into the well, man.”
Jared stopped and frowned. He stood with the rope and walked to the closest tree. His feet slurped in the mud. Jared said, “But I am.”
Jared looped the rope around the base of the tree and did something with one of the carabiners.
“Are you fucking crazy, man? What could be in the well that’s so important? It’s not like the Goonies. You’re not going to tell me there’s some pirate treasure at the bottom of the well are you? It was a cool movie and all, but you know, it was a movie!”
Jared removed a second heavy rope from the backpack. He looped the second one around another tree and knotted it tight. He tied the bottom of it around his waist.
Greg said, “What the fuck is that for? In case you fall?”
“Around your waist? If you fell, the weight of it could snap your back! You do know that right? Know that this is a new level of stupid? What the hell are you doing?”
Jared stopped and blew out a breath and said, “Look. I haven’t heard from or seen my mom in a week. Every time I ask Trevor where she is he says it’s none of my business. You know what goes on in my house. I don’t tell you but you’re not an idiot and you know. You know what he’s like and you know what he can do.” Jared paused, swallowed and the furrow appeared again. He said, “I think Trevor killed my mom. I think the fucking asshole killed her. Remember the night I stayed at your place? We watched vids until three in the morning and your mom made us popcorn and your dad kept popping in with his terrible jokes?”
“Yeah. Just last Saturday.”
“Right. I was thinking at the time that not once did your dad yell at you or call you stupid and I was like you got a nice life and I got to be a part of it for one night. It was a great night for me, like the best and I thought if I ever had kids I’d want to be like your dad, you know?”
Greg always thought his dad was nice but still, kind of lame. But compared to Jared’s dad, his own father was pretty awesome. So Greg did know and he said, “Yeah.”
“Well, while I was all misty-eyed and having a great time thinking how different my life would’ve been if only I wasn’t born to Trevor, he was here, killing my mom, and I think he stuffed her down this well. I just want to look. That’s it. I want to make sure he didn’t drop her down here in the cold and the dark to be eaten by the rats. She’s my mom, man.”
Greg studied his friend with an open mouth. Did he just hear that right? He thinks his dad murdered his mom? Greg’s hands shook and he stuffed them into the pockets of his coat. He thought of Trevor, the big, angry drunk with the mean eyes and began nodding his head. He remembered the burn marks on Jared’s back, the broken nose, and taped fingers and thought if anyone was capable of murder, it was Trevor.
“Jesus. Alright. And I’m here in case you fall?”
“Well, that and to help me get up. It’s hard to pull yourself up. I could if I were only going ten feet down but I don’t know how deep it is and it’d be tough to get out by myself. ”
“Okay, but Jared, she could be anywhere, if he did it. This is a big place.”
“I thought of that and all week I’ve been walking the fields, looking for broken earth, a mound or something. Nothing. I looked along the tree line for prints into the woods and there were none. If he went out there and buried her, I’d have found his tracks. People don’t just go walking through our field. And Trevor lost his license for drinking and driving and wouldn’t risk taking her out of here in his car. The cops know him and would stop him for sure because they know what he does, they know what a complete dick he is, but if my mom won’t complain, there’s nothing they can do. She never complained. Even when he cut off her pinky.”
Greg said, “Jesus.”
Jared sighed, a shaky expulsion of air and when he turned to Greg, his eyes shone. He said, “So she has to be here and this is the last place I’m going to look.”
“And then what? Call the police?”
“If she’s there, yeah. But if she’s not, I don’t know.”
Jared stuck the flashlight in his belt. It was a large one and Greg thought it’d be useful to club someone with. Jared slipped on heavy gloves, grabbed the rope with one hand and climbed into the well. It tightened against the stones and pulled a large rock into the well. Jared yelped and Greg tightened his sphincter as the urge to go to the toilet intensified to the point where he almost lost control.
“You okay?” Greg asked as he leaned closer to the well. He didn’t want to get too close. He really didn’t want to fall in.
“Yeah. The rock hit me on the chest and I dropped an inch or so pretty quick.”
He sounded out of breath and there was a quavering tinge to his voice.
“Want me to pull you up?”
“No, no. I’m fine. I’m going down now.”
“Okay. I’ll uh, be right here if you need me.”
Greg heard Jared’s boots scrape against the inside of the well and the rope groaned with the weight. He feared for his friend. For the danger in the well and the fact he was going down there, in the dark to look for the corpse of his mother. Bloated, water-logged and being feasted on by rats, it would be the last image he’d have of her. The courage of his friend staggered him. To have to live in that house under the terror of a drunken man and to believe that his own father murdered his mother and dropped her down a well like so much refuse. What would he do if he found her?
Leaves blew past him in a gust of wind. He jumped and a wet leaf stuck to his face.
“Gross.” He ripped it off and threw it on the ground. When he glanced up again, Trevor was walking in the field towards them. He was a distance away so that if Greg held his hand out he could squish him with his thumb and forefinger. Greg didn’t know if Trevor saw him but what else would he be doing out here? Checking on his son, maybe. Checking to see if he found the body. Greg shook and it wasn’t because of the cold. He ducked down and crab-walked to the other side of the well, being careful to keep what he considered to be a safe, not getting sucked in distance.
No answer. He peered over the lip of the well. Trevor continued towards them, getting closer, getting bigger and Greg thought, getting angrier.
“Jared! Your dad, I mean Trevor, Trevor’s coming.”
From the well, “What?” His question echoed and boomed like he was speaking through a tube.
“Trevor! He’s coming!”
“Shit! Help me up! Now! I gotta get out now!”
“Uh, jeez, man.” Greg wanted to pull him up but if he did that, he’d be clearly visible to Trevor and if he’d hadn’t seen him yet if he stood and started hauling on the rope, Trevor would definitely see him.
“I can’t! He’ll see me!”
“Why do you think he’s coming out here? He already knows we’re here! Get me out of here! Don’t let me be in here when he gets here, man!”
“Shit! Just wait a second!”
“What the fuck, Greg!”
Greg steeled himself to check on Trevor’s progress, his heart about to make a run for it from his chest and his eyes protruding from his sockets. His breath sounded harsh out of his cottoned mouth. He raised his head to see over the well and Trevor was gone. Where’d he go?
“I don’t know.”
“Get me out of here. My arms are starting to hurt.”
Greg scanned in a complete circle even though there was no way Trevor got around them. But people don’t just disappear, do they? He could have made it to the tree-line and was even now creeping towards them, carrying a beer in one hand and a hatchet in the other. He could be doing that right now, wearing a cheek stretching grin, the kind of smile that never reaches the eyes. No. The eyes were dead and pitiless black holes.
“Greg! Hurry up!”
Greg crawled to where the rope disappeared into the well. He placed a hand on it and a motor chugged to life in the distance. He jumped and saw a plume of dark smoke, stark against the grey of the sky and sighed with relief. Trevor hadn’t been sneaking up on them. He’d been walking out here to get the Harvester.
Still nervous of the crumbling well wall and the soft earth, he grasped the rope and leaned back and pulled. His feet sank into the earth and he pushed against it because he was sliding towards the well and he was convinced if he got too close he’d be sucked in. His arms burned and it felt like his forearms were pulling apart from elbows.
He grunted, “You almost out of there?”
Jared’s gloved hand appeared above the rim and Greg didn’t think he’d ever seen a better sight. He pulled harder and it seemed his arms would explode and then Jared was out and Greg fell into the cold mud. His shirt had hiked up under his jacket and when he fell the slick earth splashed on his skin. It surprised him, how cold it was and a yelp jumped out of him.
“Very manly scream you let out there,” Jared said. It was meant as a joke but he sounded tired and sad. And not the tired someone got from climbing a rope out of a well. Greg thought he was tired and sad in his soul and one kind word away from crying.
“Fucking mud is cold.” Greg stood and pulled his shirt and jacket lower.
Jared’s eyes watched Trevor drive the Harvester towards the garage. He said, “Where the fuck did you hide her, you bastard?”
Greg said, “You didn’t find anything down there?”
“You mean my mother? Did I find my dead mother down there? No. No, I didn’t.”
“What do we do now?”
“I don’t know. I don’t have a fucking clue. All I do know is, he can’t get away with it. I’ve put up with his shit for years. The way he treated me and my mother. Me and my mom talked about getting away from him, just her and me. I think she had a plan. Maybe, he found out about it. Fucker. He can’t get away with this. I won’t let him.”
Greg had never been afraid of Jared before. For the most part, he was a kind person. Jared hated bullies and wouldn’t stand for them. He’d save Greg from many a head dunking in the school toilet. Maybe it was because how much he hated his dad for being a bully and he couldn’t stand the mouth breathing kids at school who derived some pleasure from causing misery in others. The big dudes who looked like they could grow a full beard in grade nine. Jared gave anyone who wasn’t kind a very hard time. Jared was a big boy himself and had learned at a young age how to take a beating. And from the hard hands of his father, he learned where to hit to cause the most pain. He’d dropped a few boys in his time with one well-placed punch. No one messed with Jared and because Greg was his best friend, no one messed with him either. Jared never started a fight or picked on people. He only ever fought against bullies. Still, wasn’t Trevor the ultimate bully? This felt more like revenge rather than justice. Greg had never seen this side of Jared before. The side nursed and groomed by his cruel alcoholic father. The part of Jared he hid away, afraid to let the inner beast out of the cage. Anything to not be like his father. But now, Jared’s eyes appeared hard as flinty pebbles. A portrait of rage. A snapshot of bottomless anger. And it was turned towards Trevor. A current of unease crawled along Greg’s spine.