Licton Springs Review

Fear By Jenne Grinstead

Susan stares at the clock, watching the second-hand creep slowly around the face. She can hear Mr. Phelps droning on, something about every action has an opposite and equal reaction or some such nonsense. She idly doodles on her notebook, twirling her fingers in her hair. God… physics is so useless. And look at Mr. Phelps. What a freak. Susan sneers at his thinning hair and a half hearted attempt at a comb-over. Thick, light-brown, plastic-framed glasses sit crookedly on his nose, and his green-and-blue-striped shirt half tucked in. She sighs and looks at the clock again—only 2:40pm. Five minutes until she can get the hell outta this place. Her eyes flick to her teacher’s bald spot, which seems extremely shiny in the bright fluorescent lighting of the institutionally-white classroom. It’s no wonder East Carson High has such a low test average… with dorks like him teaching.

<p>The chalk screeches on the chalkboard, and she realizes he is writing their homework assignment on the board. Oh my god! We have to read two chapters AND do a lab worksheet?! What a bore. Susan closes her notebook with an irritated flap, and puts her books into her bag.

“Ah… excuse me, Miss O’Conner, but the bell hasn’t rung ye-,” Mr. Phelps began, but the bell went off in the middle of his sentence, and Susan made sure she was the first one out the door before he could finish. The hallways were their usual mass of writhing humanity, but Susan’s Physics class was close to the side entrance of the school, and she didn’t need anything from her locker, so she just dodged out the door.

“Heya Si, wait up!” she heard a nasal voice call out, and she broke into a near jog. Oh god, make that geek go away. Ever since he had to tutor me last quarter, he thinks he’s my friend. Ugh. “Susan!”

She saw the crosswalk in front of her blinking, so she made a run for it, getting across just before it switched. She looked back and could see Jim’s scrawny figure waving at her from the sidewalk. With a toss of her shoulder-length wavy hair, she turned and walked down the street. For the first time since getting out of the door, she realized it was a beautiful day, warm, but the sun wasn’t too overbearing, and some of the trees were actually starting to blossom. Finally! I can’t wait to go riding again. Winter is such a drag.

With thoughts of her gorgeous mare, Cinnamon, running through her brain, she very nearly skipped down the sidewalk, breathing in the air. She could actually smell how green everything was becoming. Susan loved being able to walk home, especially during spring when everything was so beautiful.

The sound of a low siren made her stop and turn. A cop on a motorcycle pulled into the center of the intersection in front of her, just as her next crosswalk signal came up. With a shrill whistle, he held up his stop sign. Oh what now! Just then she saw a hearse coming up the road with its usual accompaniment of a small, black limousine and a trail of cars behind it with flashing lights. Oh great… a funeral procession. Listen dude I’m sorry you’re dead but I needta get home!

Rather than wait, she decided to cut through the park a little bit down Laramy Road. She crossed the other way, going a little ways down the street, and just as the procession finished she jaywalked over to the other side, cutting into Wellwhether Park. Man… it’s been forever since I’ve been to this park! Even though it had been several years, the winding paths were as familiar to her as the hallways of her school. She knew every shortcut, switchback, and dead end in the whole park. Thick green grass like expensive carpeting grew everywhere, even fighting through the stone and dirt paths to poke out insolently. The center of the park was nearly perfectly flat. People would come here all the time during the summer to picnic, but to either side trees and brush flourished. Dirt paths fought their way through the stubborn undergrowth, and it seemed to be a waning battle. It was down one of these Susan headed, her own personal memory lane.

She giggled as she remembered bringing Scott Anderly here and kissing him behind the great big willow tree in the near center of the park. Heading down one of the larger side paths, she could hear cars rumbling by. High pitched giggling and a few hacking coughs up ahead stopped Susan short. Oh great, potheads already down in here. Not wanting to deal with them, she dodged down an almost grown over path. It didn’t seem quite as familiar as the main ones, but she should be fine. All of these paths connect back to the main park.

The path grew less and less clear the further she walked, and there were so many twists and turns she wasn’t sure which direction was right. She was getting hot, and her backpack straps had started to dig into her shoulders. Now she wished she had dropped some of her books off in her locker. Snap snap! Susan stopped and looked over her shoulder. Someone was behind her. She started walking faster through what was no longer a path but just brush.

Her back was soaked, her backpack pressing against her, the friction making her sweat. She heard Mr. Phelps lecture about friction and heat from last month, his droning buzzing voice seemingly like it was right behind her. SNAP! She broke into a run, branches scratching at her skin, her backpack bouncing against her. Sweat seemed to be dripping from everywhere, and all she could think about was how the noises behind her were getting closer. Whatever was following her was running too!

With her heart in her throat, she thought of her impatience with the funeral procession, and she felt a twinge of guilt. Oh god if I’d only waited like two minutes. A burst of pain shot through her side, and she gasped almost doubling over. A lecture from some P.E. teacher years past about proper stretching and warm-ups rang through her brain. Stumbling off to the side, she crouched behind a bush, gasping for breath. She tried to slow her racing heart.

If he didn’t hear her breathing, she knew he would hear her pounding heart. It’s so loud! Please, please, please let me be ok. I swear I will be more patient, and I won’t ever think like that about a dead guy again. Oh god! Holding her hand over her mouth to try and silence her gasping breath, she stayed as still as she could.

A nasal and familiar voice said from almost on the other side of the bush, “Susan? Where’d you go?”

It almost seemed as if her heart actually stopped beating. She stood quickly, “JIM!? It was YOU following me?” She saw the scrawny boy and his huge backpack, which seemed to be twice the size of his torso, only making him seem skinnier, standing there, holding a notebook.

“Yeah…uh…you forgot your notebook,” he held out the spiral notebook she had been doodling in during class. “I figured you’d need your notes for tonight’s assignment.”

Susan stared at the proffered notebook, filled with doodles and notes, but mostly doodles. She had been running terrified from Jim. Jim. Of all people to be scared of… Jim. She took the notebook silently, and heard voices moving nearby. The main path was nearly right in front of her. “Umm… thank you,” she managed, still surprised by the encounter.

“You’re welcome. Uh… can I walk you the rest of the way home?” he asked, although the expression on his face was less than hopeful.

Susan thought of the ramifications of being seen walking home with a geek like Jim, and suddenly, they didn’t seem quite so important.