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Say Something ... Anything

Unrequited love brings out our most poetic instincts.

But when the words don't come, it's best not to let Phil Collins do the talking. 

Say Something ... Anything by Eric Beetner

“He’s back.” Rebecca inched aside the curtain with a single finger, trying to see but not be seen.

Her husband pounded the floor with bare feet on the way into the living room. “You gotta be fucking kidding me.” He showed no fear of being spotted as he jerked back the curtain to get a good look at the kid in the driveway next door. He could hear the music now, the same damn song.

“Seven days in a row,” Rebecca noted, her voice more fear than anger.

“I don’t even think she’s home,” Paul said.

Rebecca shrank away from the exposed window. She pulled her arms in tighter around her body as she watched the young man in the trenchcoat performing his nightly ritual, the boom box high over his head.

Paul let the curtain go and furrowed his brow. “This has gotta stop.”

“I spoke to Diane in the driveway day before yesterday,” Rebecca said. “She’s scared.”

“It’s fucking creepy.”

I’m scared.”

Paul turned to his wife and saw the fear in her eyes, her posture. This had to end. Tonight.

“I’ll take care of it.”

Paul went to the garage. He turned sideways to make it between the car and the bikes and stepped to the storage closet he assembled from Ikea just after they moved in. He turned the small key he left dangling from the lock, opened the flimsy door and reached in past the half rolls of Christmas wrapping and the old Halloween lights. He brought out his hunting rifle.

“Paul, what are you doing?” Rebecca called as he passed back through the house and out the front door.

“I’m gonna scare him off.”

Paul felt the cool dew on his bare feet as he marched across his lawn to where the kid stood freakishly still with his arms in a V above him, the tiny speakers on his box cranked high until they distorted. Always the same song. Always In Your Eyes. The more he played it – sometimes forty times a night – the creepier it got.

Paul remembered the kid’s name from one night when Diane yelled at him from her bedroom window, telling him to knock it off and go home. He just stood there until the tape ran out. A continuous loop of Peter Gabriel.

“Lloyd, it’s time for you to go.” He kept the gun down low, as unthreatening as a man with a rifle could be. It was a long range gun. A scope, barrel half the length of Paul’s arm. Made to hit a buck at a hundred yards. But it was all he had and a sensible man would be scared off by any gun.

Not Lloyd.

He turned to face Paul, the music now blasting directly at him. Paul saw his eyes. Dead eyes. Black. The kid’s face was a blank, a sculpture in stone. And the eyes didn’t show anything.

“You gotta . . .,” Paul had to swallow, the creepy kid’s stare unnerved him. “You gotta get out of here, Lloyd. She’s not even home.”

The song hit the familiar chorus. Lloyd continued to stare.

Rebecca yelled from her porch, an edge to her voice that cut through the crackling speakers. “Paul, get away from him!”

“Come on now, Lloyd,” Paul said. He lifted the gun a few inches as Lloyd took a step toward him. Paul edged back, then remembered he had the gun and stood his ground. Wind kicked up the kid’s trench like fluttering wings. The song got louder as Lloyd took another step.

“Go home,” Paul demanded. “Get out of here.”

With each step Lloyd took closer, the gun barrel raised another inch until it was even with Paul’s hip. To look through the scope now would be a waste. Lloyd was so close he’d only be a blur.

Rebecca screamed Paul’s name behind him. It got lost in the buzzing song growling from over Lloyd’s head. The dead black eyes moved closer.

“Get the fuck away from here,” Paul said. The silent stalking continued. Lloyd was on Paul’s property now. Shooting him would be fully justified.

“For fuck’s sake,” Paul said. “Say something. Say anything.”

Lloyd stepped off the grass and onto Paul’s driveway. Too close. Paul pulled the trigger and Lloyd bent at the middle, but the boom box stayed up. Paul fired again and Lloyd fell.

The box slid out of his hands as he hit, face down. The tape warbled, then continued on at a weird half speed. Slowing and speeding up, matching the uneven rise and fall of Lloyd’s chest. Then the kid went still, but the music played on.

Paul felt the cold in his feet. He heard the crying behind him from Rebecca on the porch. He listened to the warped song star over, the loop unfinished for the night. The worst part, Paul thought, that used to be our song.

Eric Beetner is the author of several novels including The Devil Doesn't Want Me, Dig Two Graves, White Hot Pistol, The Year I Died Seven Times. He is co-author (with JB Kohl) of the novels One Too Many Blows To The Head and Borrowed Trouble and the upcoming Over Their Heads. He lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts the Noir At The Bar reading series. For more visit