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About In Blackness
As children, Lenny’s and Saline’s parents brought them to Southern California to escape the nightmares. But after their parents die in a horrible car accident, their adoption by longtime family friend, Busek, proves nightmarish in its own right. Busek is abusive to his son, Dustin, and does very little to hold the young family together. The trio of kids become friends and grow up as a family. Outwardly, they are unruffled by life’s events, yet as teens the emotional aftermath of Saline and Lenny’s parents’ deaths lingers and eventually catapults Lenny and Saline on individual journeys back to their old hometown.
Saline journeys with a small church group which has regular excursions to her old hometown in Lowery, Washington. She discovers the group is protecting a powerful secret that will change her life.
Lenny, on the other hand, becomes stranded in King City. There, he meets someone who unexpectedly and unknowingly guides him to a place in Washington where something might be waiting for him. Impulsively, he makes his way there and discovers that the simple world he has been living in is vastly different from what he could have ever imagined
Meanwhile, Dustin remains in Southern California and meets a group of youth who stumble upon the city's plan to replace the local library with a jail. In the process of this discovery they learn of one of the largest secrets society has ever kept, a secret waiting for them underground, in blackness.
About U. L. Harper
U.L. Harper is an after-school program Site Director in Long Beach, California. Over one hundred students attend his program. He previously worked as a corporate manager, and a journalist for a now defunct news agency in Los Alamitos, California. Newspapers are part of his writing background but he also dabbled in poetry. His poetry is published in The Body Politic chapbooks. He is the author of In Blackness, The Flesh Statue and the short story book Guidelines for Rejects. You can visit U.L. at http://ulharper.com/
Read the Excerpt
Death in the Family
Today, for a little while, the kids watched Dustin work in the backyard, “making it look like a yard” so Busek said. For one thing, the grass had to be cut. Secondly, fertilizer needed to be laid down to make the grass grow in the dry part of the backyard. Dustin had to get all of this started. Lenny and Saline didn’t need to help. Sally made sure of this. After a while, instead of working, Lenny and Saline went off with Dirty Larry into the area behind their house, if for no other reason, to watch Dirty Larry do Dirty Larry stuff.
Somebody had pushed an abandoned car into the area. It lay derelict, not down towards Gaffey but in the other direction, towards Bandini Street School.
“Wasn’t me,” said Dirty Larry.
The old Plymouth had faded paint, some rusted spots, and two flat tires. Outside of that it looked perfectly fine to most anyone observing. Larry didn’t think so. Apparently the windshield needed smashing. He found an eight foot long metal pipe and walked with Saline and Lenny back to the car where he began pummeling the windshield. The size and weight of the pipe made this task difficult. That and the fact that the windshield wouldn’t break.
Breathing heavy, Larry asked Lenny for help. “It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Lenny thought about it for a second. “I’ll be in the back.”
Saline bit her lip. “Lenny.”
“Real quick,” he responded.
Larry, with dirt from the pipe sitting atop his head and with his knees ashy with dust and his shirt covered in muck, offered the back end of the pipe to Lenny. Larry grabbed the front end, and together they ran the pipe towards the windshield, as if attacking castle walls. When they came within striking distance they attempted plunging the pipe into the windshield. They didn’t even scrape it, though they did get a good laugh.
When they were ready to attack it again, Saline joined in, holding the pipe between them. All of them rushed the castle walls, carrying on their shoulders the huge piece of rusty pipe that they could barely fit their third and fourth grade hands around. This time, when the pipe hit the windshield, it bounced off with a thud.
Hunched over and exhausted, Larry leaned on his knees. “They just break in the movies.”
“Let’s try one more time,” Lenny suggested.
Saline stared at the palms of her hands as if they were growing right before her eyes. “My hands hurt.”
As the boys discussed a better way to plow the pipe into the windshield, Dustin walked down the small hill to where they were.
Lenny smiled when he saw Dustin. “They let you out,” he yelled to him.
“They went to the store,” Dustin said, taking a good look at the car and then at the pipe Lenny held straight up and down. “Let me try.”
Excited by Dustin’s enthusiasm, they all grabbed the pipe. Lenny stood in front, Saline after Lenny, followed by Dirty Larry and Dustin. With the pipe, they all ran toward the car as fast as they could, yelling as if going into battle. Once again the pipe bounced off the windshield.
“Fuck,” Dustin said.
“I know,” added Larry. “It’s tough.”
“I don’t think they break,” Lenny said. “Has anyone ever even seen a broken windshield?”
Dustin responded, “I have.”
“Right now.” Then he took the pipe, hoisted it above his head, stepped back a few steps and swung it as if it were a huge baseball bat, down on the windshield.
The windshield cracked.
Larry got inspired. “One more time!”
They all grabbed the pipe, holding it above their shoulders and ran with everything they had towards the car. Finally, the entire windshield collapsed under their will. They cheered and high fived each other.
“Lenny! Saline! What are you doing?” Charles yelled this from the top of the small hill. “Oh my god, what are you doing?”
Busek appeared, gazing on with a straight face.
Dustin kicked the dirt. “Fuck.”
Grounded, the three were made to stay at home that night instead of going to the movies like the adults had planned. The adults still went to the show. If the kids needed anything they were to go next door to Larry’s house. Mrs. Tinsley would pop in, in a few minutes and do the babysitting thing. Until then she was still available next door. Usually they didn’t need babysitting. In light of today’s events they had one.
“I didn’t want to go to any movie anyway,” Dustin said. “I’ll see it later.”
“You’re lucky your dad didn’t hit you,” Lenny said.
“He won’t hit me; he’ll beat me. And I don’t care.”
Lenny sat on the living room couch, frustrated.
Saline sulked next to him. “There’s no way we’re going to be grounded for a month.”
Lenny repetitively patted the couch.
“What’s wrong?” she said to him.
“It’s not boring,” Dustin said. “It’s hungry. It’s your turn, Saline.” He referred to cooking dinner. According to Busek, whenever they were alone they were supposed to make their own meals. Recently that idea got pushed up a notch, in that the kids took turns making dinner for everyone.
Saline said, “Let’s wait for Mrs. Tinsley.”
“Why? It’s your turn, not hers,” Dustin said.
Apprehensively agreeing, she made her way into the kitchen. On the counter was a tall cup of water. She lifted it to make space for the pot for the macaroni and cheese.
In the kitchen with her, Dustin asked her to hand the cup to him. “I boiled that water.”
She handed it to him. “For what?”
“See if it tastes better. I just have to wait a minute.”
Saline proceeded in making the macaroni and cheese right out of the box. She boiled the water and dumped in the noodles. After she cooked the noodles, all the while stirring them so they didn’t stick together, she drained the water from the pot by putting them in a strainer. Next she placed the noodles back in the pot where she dumped a packet of powdered “cheese”. She then added a half a block of butter and some milk to the noodles and “cheese” and stirred. “It’s ready!”
Saline served the food for each of them, and they ate it in front of the television.
A few moments later, Mrs. Tinsley knocked. She let herself in the front door, slowly, almost suspiciously, as if she were actually sneaking in. “Don’t get scared. It’s me guys. How are things?” She had on her house slippers and a bright pink bathrobe with a beige trim. One roller in the bangs of her hair.
“Good,” Saline said.
“Good? Good. I see you’re eating. Listen I’m going to take care of some stuff. If you need me I’ll be next door. You guys know my number?”
“Yeah,” Saline said, not sure where to find Mrs. Tinsley’s number.
“Okay. I’ll see you guys later.”
They finished their macaroni.
Every so often Dustin checked to see if the water tasted different if he heated it for longer periods of time.
Saline asked him, “Why are you doing that?”
“Does it matter?”
“I don’t know. Why are you doing it?”
“Dad tells me I should learn to clean water because sometime soon we might not even have running water. You guys aren’t discipline enough to do it. I have his bloodline…so I’m just practicing. I bet if I heated it at warm instead of hot then it could still get clean. I’ll know if it’s clean water by how it tastes.”
“Can you tell?” she asked.
“So far, I can’t tell, no matter how many cups I drink.”
Hours later, Lenny went to the door and gazed out the window. “They’re not coming home.”
Dustin didn’t respond.
Saline shook her head.
A little while later, Lenny found his way to Mrs. Tinsley’s place, because where were their parents? At her door Mrs. Tinsley told him, “I’m sorry. I have no idea where they are. Here, give me a minute and I’ll come right on over, okay. Are you guys okay?”
“Yes, Mrs. Tinsley.”
“Good. Good. I’ll be right on over.”
A few hours later the kids still wondered where their parents were. They heard the front door open. Busek entered the house with Mrs. Tinsley and not their parents.
Saline quickly asked, “Where’s Mom and Dad?”
Neither of the adults answered.
“Where’s Mom and Dad?” Lenny said. He turned to look at Mrs. Tinsley who stood nearly motionless in her robe and slippers.
Busek closed his eyes and held his hand out like a crossing guard. “Now, stop. Hold on. Now, just listen.” He put his other hand over his eyes, as if hiding something, though really shielding nothing except the expression on his face.
“They’re not here,” Mrs. Tinsley said.
Drinking all that warm water made Dustin need to urinate. He did an awkward jog in place, all the while not speaking. He continued his little jog, quickly moving his feet.
“Stay seated, young man,” Mrs. Tinsley said. “You too, Saline. Have a seat. Dustin, what’s going on with you?”
Dustin moved around quickly in a small circle. “Nothing.”
“Well.” Busek removed his hand from his face, revealing glossed over eyes.
“Kids,” Mrs. Tinsley began, “your parents were in a terrible car accident.” She glanced at Busek. “I don’t know what to say.” She looked back at the kids. “Understand?”
A hairspray commercial played on the television. Your hair could stay in place, no matter the weather. “It’s not good,” Mrs. Tinsley said, biting her bottom lip.
Dustin stood still and turned his head at the wall, staring at it, expressionless with pursed lips.
Saline gazed hard at Busek.
Mrs. Tinsley still bit her bottom lip, looking up at the ceiling in thought. “I don’t know how to do this, and I’m not going to. I thought I could,” she said, staring at Busek, “but I can’t do this for you.”
Busek, who had his eyes closed, opened them wide and scanned Mrs. Tinsley and the kids.
“I’m not going to,” Mrs. Tinsley said again. When she took a long glance at the kids in the room, her mouth opened and sincerity spilled out. “Your parents died in that car accident. I’m sorry.” She whispered, “I’m so sorry.” She said it, clasping her hands together, as if attempting to keep them from shaking.
Saline ran over to Busek, opened her mouth and screamed, “You did this!”
He bent over to say something to her. Before he could say anything she slapped him. Out of reflex, he slapped her back so hard that she hunched over involuntarily, grabbing her face. Busek apologized to her, however, only in his head.
The whaling screams that erupted from Saline sent Mrs. Tinsley to her knees and by Saline’s side, petting her shoulders. When Saline began convulsing in tears, Mrs. Tinsley turned and left, emotionally defeated.
Lenny chomped down on his teeth.
Not being able to hold it any longer, Dustin pissed his pants.
Title of Book: In Blackness
Genre: fiction literature/ sci-fi
Publication Date: June 23, 2011
# of Pages: 286
Purchase at Amazon
This is so rich and insightful, Rebecca.
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