A big part of me wanted to run out, find Charlie, and confront him about all of this, but another part of me was scared, and another part of me wanted to excuse it all away. Maybe the love letters from Atchley were from some boyfriend named Ken, Charlie found them and hid them so no one would find out? Maybe he was just being a good big brother?
Maybe the next question would help answer…
What song does Charlie listen to in his truck on his way to school every morning?
I knew this one, but didn’t know it at the same time yet again. I remembered it from when Charlie would occasionally, and unhappily, give me a ride to middle school in the morning. It was one of those softer, acoustic songs on a metal record surrounded by heavy, pounding power chords.
Googling that song concept could have helped, but I knew another investigative way which actually might produce the answer sooner, but it involved going out into the dark and the fresh, pounding rain I heard beating on the tin roof of my shitty abode. It was worth it though.
Charlie’s old candy apple red Ford Ranger sat dormant in the garage/tool shed at the end of our muddy bog of a parking lot. I used to drive it every once in awhile when I needed to pick up something big or transport something, but that almost never happened anymore. I had only driven it a few times since my dad passed. It probably had gas in it from 2014.
The good news was I was so constantly scared and paranoid about my car breaking down that I went out to the garage/tool shed every other week or so and started the truck to make sure it still ran. It fired up about a week ago, so it should be fine to at least start and have the CD player work. I was almost certain that black disc which housed Charlie’s favorite morning song was still stuck in the little sliding crack and could answer my question.
A thick sheet of sideways rain found its way into the face of the hood of my raincoat as soon as I opened up the front door. Mother of fuck. I didn’t realize the storm had turned into such a bitch since the sun went down. I was assuredly going to get soaked in the little journey from the front door to the garage/tool shed.
I had nowhere I needed to be presentable though. It wasn’t like I was on my way to a debutante ball or something. No matter how cold and wet I got, I could just go back to the house when I was done, take off my wet clothes and warm up in a hot shower or by the heater in the living room. I was game to take on this challenge.
The path out to the garage/tool shed was hairy. The gravel of the driveway had long ago been smashed down into the gritty mud of the path, leaving an ice rink of funky-smelling mud which led out to my destination. It was a workout for me to traverse it. If it was a game of The Oregon Trail, I definitely would have lost an axle, maybe even an oxen.
But I made it. I was soaked, but I was in the safe-haven of the garage/tool shed with the smell of spilt motor oil and rusty tools tickling my nose. I tried the battery-operated light which gave the place light, but it was out. I was going to have to do this in the near dark.
I wheeled around to the driver’s side of the truck door, using my hands as my guide. I ran them across the grill of the vehicle until I was over at the side and rubbing the smooth plastic of the door handle.
Getting into the truck was a little more complicated than my car because it didn’t have a lift. I had to use my upper-body strength to pull myself up and in. It was very possible, but not easy at the same time. All this for a damn song title…yes, you need to understand that I am usually lazier than a lion in a zoo, but once I latch onto something, I am relentless as a college loan officer.
I was in the middle of my grueling climb into the seat when I heard the loose sheet metal of the garage/tool shed door slam shut across the enclosure. My heart dropped. I couldn’t have been more vulnerable at the moment and the shutting of the door also killed the little bit of light which had been coming in from the motion light on the side of the house outside. Everything was now entirely dark. I couldn’t even see the steering wheel which was just inches above my head.
It was just the wind though. It had to just be the wind.
I settled into my seat and located the keys in the ignition. Cranked them. The engine coughed a few times like an aging smoker before it roared to life and filled the little space it called home with an orchestra of man-made, gasoline-fueled noise. I flicked on the headlights to give myself some illumination while the engine settled in and rattled the dashboard while I hit play on the CD player.
The shine of light the headlights provided instantly cast a human-shaped shadow just inside the doorway. I screamed and locked the doors of the truck before I even made out what it was.
My heart pounded in my chest, almost the exact rapid pace of the speed metal which blasted out of the truck’s blown speakers. I had heard the wordless start of the song so many times, I knew the crushing melody by heart and sounded it out in my head while my eyes focused in on the shadow and slowly realized it came from Charlie’s old human-shaped punching bag thing which still rested to the right of the truck.
I took a breath and started skipping through the songs on the CD until I reached the one ballad on the entire thing and recognized the only Metallica song I ever liked.
Opening with some ominous acoustic guitar notes before plunging into a sing along type epic, I eventually identified the song and answer.
For your reference, here is what the section of the crossword where everything lined up, which would provide the overall word which the puzzle centered around looked.