Read Streetlights Like Fireworks Online

Authors: David Pandolfe

Streetlights Like Fireworks (9 page)

“To the arrival of Psychic Spud!” Shakeesha says.

“To Jack’s issue!” Tohru says.

We drink to the toast, me blushing, then Shakeesha says,
“It’s so cool you’re here! Come on, grab a seat!”

Shakeesha gestures toward the collection of furniture,
which includes a futon sofa, two bean bags, one rocking chair, a stand-alone
hammock and a leather lounger with more scars and creases than a ninety year
old man. Shakeesha and Tohru take the sofa, Lauren settles into the rocking
chair and I stand there deciding between one of the bean bags, the hammock and the
geezer lounger. I choose the battered lounger and, naturally, can’t resist the
lever which raises my feet to face level and leaves me staring at the ceiling.
I check to see if anyone noticed me spill beer on my shirt but Shakeesha, Tohru
and Lauren are filling each other in on what’s going on in their lives. I
listen and learn.

“My friend, Antonio, was hanging out with us last week,”
Shakeesha tells Lauren. “And I totally knew something was eating at him. Baby,
I know Antonio and it’s not like he’s real good at hiding his emotions. Am I
right, Toe?”

“Totally!” Tohru barks.

“So, like, after a while Antonio says he’s been worried
about his mother. She just doesn’t sound right lately, he says. Well, Antonio’s
mother lives all the way out in Arizona so he hasn’t seen her in a while. So, I
do a reading. Sure enough, I get that she’s been light-headed and even getting
some… what do you call it again?”

“Vertigo,” Tohru says.

“Yeah, vertigo. So, I tell Antonio he needs to call his
mother and ask. Turns out she didn’t want him to worry. But Antonio gets his
mom to see a cardiologist and two days later they’re putting a stint in her
heart. Poor thing could have had a stroke!”

Shakeesha can tune into someone she doesn’t know like
that? I really want to know how that’s possible for her.

“Wow, that could have been bad,” Lauren says. “It’s a
good thing you talked to him.”

“You know it,” Shakeesha says. “Toe, tell Lauren about
that thing with you last month. What your grandmother told you.”

Tohru takes a pull from her beer and leans in toward
Lauren. “Okay, that one was pretty good. Remember I told you about how my aunt
was selling her house?”

“The same one your mother grew up in?” Lauren says. “You
said she wasn’t sure if she should.”

“Right, exactly. It made no sense for her to keep the
house anymore now that my grandparents are dead. The thing is, my aunt was the
rebellious one and never got along with her father. She and my grandfather used
to fight about everything, ever since she was teenager. So we figured maybe
there was some emotional baggage there. One night I was sitting here, just
letting my mind clear, and I heard my grandmother speaking to me. She told me
to tell my aunt to look in her bottom dresser drawer. That my grandfather left
something there he meant to give her.”

“Seriously? Cool,” Lauren says. “What was it?”

Tohru picks up her beer again and takes a sip. “An old
wooden box full of silver dollars. I know, it doesn’t sound like much. It
wasn’t worth a ton of money or anything like that. But the thing is, my aunt
told me after that one of her earliest childhood memories was sitting with her
father going through his coin collection. For her, it was this happy, loving
moment between the two of them. At the time, those silver dollars were as big
as her hand. She could still remember holding the weight of them in her palm
and they felt magical to her.”

“Does that rock, or what?” Shakeesha says.

“Oh, my God,” Lauren says. “I feel like crying.”

“I know!” Tohru says, making me jump. “My aunt knew that
my grandfather was trying to tell her that everything was okay now. That he
really did love her. After that, she was ready to move on.”

Tohru seems completely unfazed by the idea of interacting
with her dead grandmother. She’s so matter of fact about it while I’ve been
denying my own way less significant experiences for as long as I can remember.
She’s an interesting person, definitely.

Then, Lauren tells them about the reading she got from
holding Victor’s lighter and they’re totally riveted.

“It was really unpleasant,” she says. “And I could tell
from his eyes that I was hitting home. Wish I hadn’t been, to be honest. Not
the kind of energy you want to be around at all.”

“You okay, baby?” Shakeesha says.

Lauren runs her hand through her hair, pulling it back
from her face, then letting go again. “Yeah, I’m fine now.”

“You’re really good at the whole psychometry thing,”
Tohru says. “Remind me to have you check out this necklace I found at a
consignment shop last week. There’s just something about it.”

Lauren smiles. “Okay, cool.”

Once again, I think about that compass Lauren asked me to
hold. At the time, I got the feeling it was somehow important to her. What had
she been wondering about and why hadn’t she been able to get something off of

Suddenly, Lauren turns the conversation in my direction.
“Jack’s got a lot more happening right now than I do,” she says. “He’s been
getting his ass kicked on all fronts lately. So, we’re trying to figure out
what’s going on.”

Lauren’s comments have the effect of landing all eyes on
me. For a while, I felt pretty sure they forgot I was even there.

“Hang on, I don’t want to miss anything!” Tohru says. She
goes to the kitchen and returns a few seconds later with four more beers.
“Jack, what’s going on?”

I lower the geezer lounger and tell them, starting with
that first flash I received from the Telecaster until now. While I’ve gotten
used to talking about this kind of thing with Lauren, it feels strange to be
telling Tohru and Shakeesha. Despite what they’ve just been talking about, I
almost expect them to snicker and shoot looks at each other when I finish. But
they don’t, of course. Just the opposite. Especially, Tohru, who’s eyes have
kept getting wider.

“Oh, my God!” she says. “Do you really think it belonged
to Jessica Malcom?”

“Yeah, I think it might have,” I say.

“Come on, Jack,” Lauren says. “You totally

“Who do you think the ghost is?” Shakeesha says.

“No freaking idea,” I say.

“I told Jack you were a total Purge fan,” Lauren says.
“Talk about things lining up.”

“I know, right?” Tohru says. “They were awesome. Hey, did
you try getting anything off the guitar?”

“No,” Lauren says. “This isn’t about me. It’s about Jack.
And the guitar has already found the person it wants to talk to.”

Tohru and Shakeesha both nod thoughtfully, as if this
makes perfect sense. I’m not sure what to think but clearly that’s how Lauren

“Cool,” Tohru says. “We definitely need to check things
out tomorrow.”

I wasn’t sure what I expected but I just figured she’d be
on fire to get on this. “Tomorrow?”

“Not a good idea to open psychic doors when you’ve been
drinking,” Shakeesha says. “You might open the wrong kind.”

“And we’ve definitely been drinking,” Tohru says. “Who
wants another beer?” She doesn’t wait for an answer and heads off toward the
kitchen again.

While everyone seems to think rock musicians are all
about drinking and gobbling down drugs like candy, I’ve only tried weed once
before and I’ve never had more than a beer or two. I never really got into
either all that much. I know I probably shouldn’t have another beer but,
stupidly, I do. The music gets louder, Tohru changing it over from jazz to
rock. They have some pretty good tunes in the playlist, which cycles between
older stuff like REM and the Smiths to more recent songs from bands like Arcade
Fire and the Joy Formidable. The conversation starts drifting all over the
place and half the time we’re laughing our asses off about stuff I forget two
minutes later. But I do learn that Shakeesha and Tohru are art students at a
college here (which I should have guessed) and that Lauren sometimes imagines
herself being a school guidance counselor in the future (which surprises me

“Who would make for a better guidance counselor than
someone with a keen sense of intuition?” she says. “I mean, I wouldn’t just be
going through the motions, processing kids like it’s some sort of factory.
Maybe half the time I’ll get a decent sense of what they’re actually about.”

She has a point, definitely. It wasn’t something I ever
would have pictured before but I can see it now. Lauren would probably make the
world’s best guidance counselor. I’m smiling at the thought when Shakeesha
clears away the bottles and returns with even more beer. I’ve lost track of how
many I’ve had—and maybe being tired from a pretty long day factors in too—but I
definitely now understand what people mean when they say they were “wasted.” I
sit in my lounger, trying not to grin like a fool, looking at these beautiful
women surrounding me, thinking maybe, just maybe...

As more time passes and I continue to zone out, I start
making eye contact with Tohru, then with Shakeesha, while the music plays and I
do my best to add to a conversation I’m barely following, thinking why not
since Lauren already has the mystery boyfriend. But everything around me is
starting to fade. At one point, Shakeesha looks at me and says, “Sorry,
sweetie, it’s all cool, but we’re a thing.” Before long, she and Tohru walk out
of the living room together holding hands.

I don’t know how much time passes before Lauren puts a
blanket over me and lowers the recliner so I’m basically laying down. She turns
the music down and I hear her settle onto the futon sofa. I’m almost out when
she whispers, “By the way, there’s no boyfriend. But I’m guessing you can’t
hear me, right?”

I want to ask her why she said it last night. Why would
she lie about something like that? But I can’t seem to raise my head. A moment
later, there’s just the darkness.


It feels like three seconds later when Tohru’s voice blasts
through the room. “Good morning, travelers! Rise and shine!”

I groan and open one eye. Way too much effort. I roll
over onto my side and draw the blanket up to my shoulders, then over my head.

“Our man Jack looks a little worse for wear,” Shakeesha

I lower the blanket enough to squint in her direction but
the sun nearly burns out my eyeballs. “Can you guys maybe close the blinds?” I
draw the blanket up again and shut my eyes.

Someone yanks the blanket away. Tohru gazes down at me.
“I’ve seen healthier roadkill,” she says. “Lauren, what’s up with your friend

“He usually goes to bed early.” Amazingly, Lauren sounds
bright and chipper. She lowers her voice to a whisper. “His friends call him
Pajama Boy.”

I’m going to murder her once I regain use of my body.

“Hey, P.B., come out of that coma you got going on
there,” Shakeesha says.

“Still alive, P.B.?” Tohru says. “Give us a sign.”

A sign comes to mind. I stick my hand out and raise my
middle finger.

“We have a heartbeat!” Shakeesha says.

“P.B. lives!” Tohru cries, her voice nearly splitting my

I tell myself I can manage this and force myself to lower
the lounger. I sit up, wishing I had my Bono glasses but unfortunately they’re
in the van.

“You just need some food!” Tohru says.

“Exactly,” Shakeesha says. “And I plan to make us some
killer omelet-os!”

I’m not so sure about food but I am totally sure that I
won’t be drinking again anytime soon. Maybe never.

Half an hour later, we’re in the kitchen gathered at the
coolest breakfast bar I’ve ever seen. Concrete painted across the top with a
Doctor Who mural. Various faces of different doctors, the time machine TARDIS
portrayed spinning all over the place. And, of course, the companions. Nice. Then
there’s cheese omelets, bacon and orange juice and coffee and water. Maybe it’s
just because I’m someplace totally new, with people I never imagined meeting,
but I’m starting to bounce back already.

“Okay, here’s the deal,” Tohru says. “Shakeesha and I did
a little research this morning. And we’ll share with you what we know. But
first, you have to promise that you and the Potato won’t just go taking off.
Who knows when we’ll see her again?”

“This morning?” The idea amazes me.

“Yes, this morning, lightweight,” Tohru says. “What did
you have, like four  beers?”          

“What the hell? I’m seventeen.”

 “Point taken. Anyway, how about that promise?” She keeps
her eyes on mine like I’m in charge of this whole deal. Am I?

I nod. “Sure, I guess.”

“Okay, then. Well, you already know I’m a Purge fan.
Which means, obviously, I’m aware of the fact that nobody knows where Jessica
Malcom disappeared to. If no one knows that after all this time, then I got
nothing. Even my little angels aren’t whispering in my ear on that one.”

“What Toe means,” Shakeesha says, “is that we both pooled
our abilities and totally failed.”

“Oh,” I say.

Shakeesha spreads jam onto her toast. “Not to worry,
sweetie. That just means we had to resort to purely empirical research. Not
exactly my favorite flight plan, if you know what I mean, but we did come up
with something.”

“Trevor Harrison,” Tohru says, then waits for us to

I look over at Lauren but I can tell she has no idea

“T,” Shakeesha says.

Then I get it. “The bass player?”

“Exactly,” Tohru says. “Not too many people know this
because he went by just ‘T’ the whole time. I don’t know if he ever played in
another band but, if he did, he used a different name. Anyway, T’s name is
actually Trevor Harrison the Third. Seriously, in real life he has Roman

“I bet he had attorneys in his family,” I say.

Understandably, Tohru shoots me a quizzical look. When I
don’t add anything more, she says, “Not that I ever planned on doing some sort
of Purge manhunt or anything, but here’s how it worked out. The other
songwriter? There’s like forty-million women in the world named Michelle
Carter. The drummer, Brian Downes? Same deal. But there’s only so many Trevor
Harrisons the Third in the world, if you know what I’m saying.”

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