It has been quite a while, not since April 13, that I have updated anything on the horrific adventures in Mantorville, Quetzal County, Iowa. (Do you think that getting my job with the Census has stifled my creative energies? I do.) The whole story thus far is here. I may not have much to add today, but when Janet and I got back from Davenport, shopping, yesterday, I decided that I would put up a bit of actual fiction for today. And it was to the set of pages for “Mantorville” that I turned my attention.
If you recall, former high school teacher James Arkham, a longtime inmate at the Institute for the Criminally Insane, having been convicted for killing his superintendent and friend Howie Phillips, has for a few days finally been opening up about his crime to psychologist Joshua Symonds. Although unrelated to anything in his criminal record, Arkham has been hinting/indicating that two students, Edie Allan and Frank Long, both new to the Mantorville School District, were important to him in causing what eventually occurred. One important event was Frank Long being maimed (apparently with deliberation) by his own team during an early October football game.
We begin, for review, with a few paragraphs already presented…
from the STILL-Untitled Iowa Horror Story
Anyway, Frank. I haven’t explained, but he and I shared a bond — probably because we were both new in the area and definitely because we both felt like outsiders. Edie was part of all of that, too, but I don’t want to talk about her now. Both of them were in my Advanced Placement English class last period, and so it became somewhat natural for them to linger after school for at least a few minutes to talk about things. Of course, Frank had football practice once he joined the team, and Edie, as I told you, was managing for volleyball. So none of these little chat sessions lasted very long. Not then.
It was talking after school, for instance, when Edie told me about counting the memorials in the Roll of Honor, and it was after school about two weeks before the “accident,” when Edie wasn’t there, that Frank first revealed what he thought was going on.
Okay, so weʼre retreating in time. Again.
He asked me if I had ever driven around the county. I had gone to Arnhem on 54 and on through Mantorville to Bailey and Cross Corners out of 61. And I had driven the river road from Arnhem to Machen and then on up to Dubuque. And I had taken Q11 across from Mantorville to 61, too, by then, my only actual county road. But I donʼt think I remembered to tell Frank about that one then. In fact, Iʼm pretty sure I didnʼt.
Anyway, none of that impressed him very much.
“Nah,” he said, “I mean getting back in the country hereabouts.”
I admitted that I hadnʼt, and he laughed. “Me neither…” His words hung in the air of my room, pretty close and humid for what must have been the end of September, like I said about two weeks before his incident on the playing field.
“Me neither…” he repeated. “Not until last weekend. Saturday night.” And again nothing more.
You must have felt like I usually do talking with you, huh?
Finally, I asked him, “Did something happen last Saturday?”
He nodded, then looked down at me, sharply. (I told you he was pretty tall, didnʼt I? And I was sitting at my desk, him standing across from me. I remember that.) “Uh, Mr. Arkham, this is just between us, you and me, right? Because it, uh, it has to be. I mean, nothing goes any further, you know…”
“Well, Frank,” I said, trying to be the full professional, “there are things I have to report, you know. I canʼt keep certain things secret.”
He grinned. “Yeah, like abuse and that. Teachers and doctors, you have to report it. — Nothing like that. Donʼt worry.”
“…And there are… other things, too.”
“Yeah, well, I got this far, Mr. Arkham, letʼs go for it.” But he stopped and paced away from the desk. Finally, from thee other side of the classroom, he said, “I donʼt think anyone much cares around here anyway. They all did it when they were young, you know. And some of the dads buy stuff for the team…”
“What are you talking about, Frank?”
“Drinking.” He turned around to face me again. “The whole, team, Mr. Arkham. They go out drinking after the games. And on Saturday nights, too. All of them — us. Pretty much.”
“Ah, yes,” I hesitated. “That would, you know fall under the heading of things I should report…”
Now my pause hung in the air.
Frank grinned at me again. “But…?”
Grinned. Just like you are doing at me right now, Arkham.
“But I kind of figured that, Frank. I figured that was going on. Things people say.”
“So you are not going to report me telling you this?”
“I should, Frank. But considering some of those things people say are jokes Iʼve heard Mr. Davis making to the players…”
“Yeah, Rog is right in there with those other adults. Helping out…”
“Buying beer? Is that what you mean?” I caught him calling the principal by his first name, but that wasnʼt the important element. “Mr. Davis is buying booze for his playersʼ parties?”
Roger Dodger, such a good ole boy. Somehow I knew it. It just had to be true.
Frank looked at his shoes, a long way down from his head, for a while. “Hell, Mr. Arkham, heʼs right there at the parties. At least he was last Saturday night.”
“So you went to a team party, Frank? Where was this?”
“Snake Hollow. Itʼs way back in the boonies. Serpentine Creek runs through there. After a little waterfall down the cliffs on the east side, it meanders out through the valley and under the county road bridge, an old sucker.”
I knew the creek flowed past the town to the east and eventually joined Bear River somewhere east of Bear River Falls.
“They had a big bonfire in the hollow, not far from the falls and about five kegs for everybody. After the game I had Friday night, everybodyʼd been at me to go celebrate. And, well, I didnʼt want to be the odd guy, left out… you know how it is… Yeah. I was there. Sure. How else would I know, huh?”
“So you are telling me… why, Frank? Is this a confession? Are you reporting to me under the Good Conduct Rule? — If Mr. Davis was there, a part of it all, it wonʼt do much good for me to report you to him.”
“No. Nobodyʼd listen to anyone trying to nark on the team, Mr. Arkham. No. What I wanted to talk about is… —is what happened at that party…”
“What? Did something happen? Something bad?”
“Not just bad, Mr. Arkham. It was downright evil.”
Okay. So now that Iʼve written about a thousand words, I guess I should have called this post “Teaser leading up to A Weekend at Snake Hollow.” Oh, well. Perhaps posting this will get me to write some more.
(If only I could decide just what it is that happened at Snake Hollow that Saturday night…)