While sitten a spell in the town’s barbershop, Tucker half listened to the conversation going on around him between his fellow old timers. With the mention of One Twenty-Three Simplicity Lane, Tucker’s mind drifted back to dark memories of his ‘youngen’ days in the town of Tamplation. Fourteen year old Tucker had been standing next to his best friends Fred, Pepper, and Harris on that particular day. Sixteen acres burnt that day. After all the years, Tucker could still smell the smoke and could still see sparks wafting across the sky.
Strange he thought now, how the four would eventually split into twos. Fred and Tucker remaining friends through college; while Pepper and Harris moving off on their own path. Sure they said hi to each other; nonetheless, for a while there, until Pepper and Harris joined the town’s police department, they rarely saw each other. He could never picture them as cops; guess he pictured them still running from the flames.
Another thing Tucker could still remember about that day was Fred making the comment about the consequences of failing the oath. He could also still visualize police officers Pepper and Harris lying dead on the ground in front of One Twenty-Three Simplicity Lane years later in 1965. Unlike Fred, Tucker got to see them first hand, as he worked a 16mm for the TV station in Fair Oaks. Tucker did not blame the Stedman, who would buy the house following the fire, and were living in the house when Pepper and Harris were shot. Nor did he blame the house…that is until after the Stedman had moved away and Fat Billy was killed in the attic.
Tucker listened to the conversation and grew increasingly uneasy. Again he recalled Fred’s pathetic pronouncement to Pepper and Harris. Tucker, educated as he was, nonetheless still held the oath they made at One Twenty-Three Simplicity Lane on the day the flames had chased them there.
The four young boys stood just to the south of the bone dry smoldering grass. Pepper had lit the fire by dropping the match they had used to light the cigarette. Tucker tried to put it out by peeing on it. That did not work, even with Harris’s help. Fred was too scared to spit, let alone take a wiz. The four had thought about running, however something magical held them in place.
When the smoldering grass burst into flames, the four jumped back in unison; pure curiosity had lost its draw. Suddenly, it was like the Fourth of July fireworks. Whoosh! Flames, sparks, and smoke rapidly engulfing the small shrubbery and vines along the fence line. The boys stood in fear watching; yet totally engrossed in the spreading flames. By the time Fred broke the silence—in but a whisper—“Dang,” the flames had spread a good fifteen feet across the fence line and were moving rapidly outward on both sides. Smoke was curling upwards, swirling around their bodies. Their eyes were tearing, and one by one they started to cough.
Pepper moved first; he turned around quickly and beat feet. Fred was next; the pee he was unable to make earlier was now running down his leg. Tucker and Harris followed in rapid succession. They did not stop running until they reached the stream. Looking back they saw the fire was racing after them. The fire reached the stream as the boys stone-jumped their way across.
Clearing the stream, the four went downstream; eventually reaching the pond. From there the boys ran to One Twenty-Three Simplicity Lane. No one was around. Panting, they sat on the ground. Fred was glad his fall into the stream had sufficiently hidden his self-induced wetness. Harris took out the pack of cigarettes. “You planning to set the house on fire Harris?” asked Pepper.
“Screw you Pepper!”
They discussed telling someone about the fire. No phone and the thought of punishment weighed heavy. About fifteen minutes later they heard a car approaching, so they retreated behind the house. Tucker taking the lookout position, peering around the edge.
“Who is it?”
“Wait Harris; too far to tell”
“You need glasses!” chided Pepper.
“Pepper…oh shit, it’s a police car!”
Tucker moved quickly behind the house. The police car came to a stop somewhere on the road in front of the house. The boys huddled as close to the house as they could without becoming part of the wall. Ten seconds, twenty; breaths held. They heard the police car turn around in the road and race back towards the direction the boys had run from. Officer Cal had driven up to check on the house when, in his rear view, he saw the smoke above the tree line.
The boys cautiously moved away from wall and looked in the direction the police car had gone. They just about loaded their pants. The smoke was heavy and sparks were dancing across the sky. “The whole place must be on fire,” stuttered Tucker.
They made a decision to get the hell out of the area. However first, Fred said, they needed to do a ‘death oath’. On penalty of death they had to keep their mouths shut. Pepper said he was not taking any oath of death.
“Dang Pepper, you have to,” Fred looked at Tucker, back at Pepper, “Pepper, who’s going to know? It’s just us and this house. Like the house gives a rat’s ass.”
Fred, in a solemn voice, “We swear an oath on the penalty of death and die if we talk.”
“OK,” Pepper laughing, “I swear to die if I tell.”
Harris reluctantly repeated the oath; followed by Tucker.
A large, deep black, crow lifted off the roof of the house and headed towards the rising smoke.
Tucker’s lost in memories thoughts were now in the summer of 1965; the Cookie Lady’s funeral. The four of them stood side-by-side near the casket; Pepper and Harris now policemen. Tucker jokingly asked Pepper if he had to confess his juvenile delinquencies on the police employment application. “No, thankfully.” Then Harris added that they had told old officer Cal one night about the fire; when Cal was telling them about things to look out for when the kids were out of school for the summer.
“Yep, Pepper and I ‘confessed’ over a beer. Didn’t we Pepper?”
Tucker was now mentally standing once again on the path leading to the front door of One Twenty-Three Simplicity Lane, a few weeks later in 1965, and officers Pepper and Harris were laying there waiting to be covered back up now that the State Police crime scene people had taken their photographs. That night Tucker would ask his wife, “Does evil bring heartache, or does heartache seek out evil?”
“You mean do bad things happen coincidentally, or is there a link?”
“I think there is a link. I think evil senses evil, and is drawn towards it!”
Tucker, once again in the present. He wondered about the coincidence of evil and was utterly glad he never spoke about the fire. And he always avoided One Twenty-Three Simplicity Lane.
(The Coincidence of Evil?, copyright, Steven S. Walsky, 2014, all rights reserved. The Coincidence of Evil? is adapted from the novel Simplicity Lane, copyright, Steven S. Walsky, 2007, all rights reserved. The Coincidence of Evil? and Simplicity Lane are works of fiction; to include the villages of Tamplation and Fair Oaks, Simplicity Lane, places described in the village, surrounding towns, events therein, and the people participating in the story.)