It is as if the house is settling at 02:15 every morning - when the room is dark, the noises are unremembered, and Eddie is asleep-now-awake enough to curl his toes back under the blanket.
Eddie wears thick gloves as he moves firewood under his terrace. He drops each piece a half dozen times before he risks tucking it under his arm. Spiders scatter after being dislodged from the bark of the last log he wants and he kicks the wood back toward the stock and picks another.
The radio buzzes from the open kitchen window, "It's Sad Synth Pop Sunday here on 97.9 so we'll be listening to the same bummer songs by Tears for Fears on repeat until someone calls in to stop me. Now, Pale Shelter."
Eddie was certain he bought a whole winter’s worth of wood when he moved in two weeks ago, but the seals on the doors are going earlier than his inspector had appraised; the window panes are perhaps thinner than they both realized. A fire constantly burns at his stockpile to eat away the draft in the house.
The logs wait to burn by the fire as Eddie cleans dishes from breakfast. Old songs get stuck in his head.
There he is again, kicking at Eddie's rocks and driftwood on the beach. Five or six nights a week, Eddie catches this guy as he walks the shore, skipping all the flattest stones and pocketing all the best shells. He walks carelessly - unashamed of his cargo shorts, and all his pockets, and his sun visor. He seems unaware of how loud is flip-flops slap against his heels.
Every night, the man will stop at the base of Eddie's beach stairs, gaze up toward the balcony, and wave. Even though it goads the guy, Eddie still flips him the bird. The guy has a bubbling, witch's brew sort of laugh that climbs all 80 steps up the cliff and slaps Eddie right upside the head.
It is a relief to have Stan come to visit as soon as Eddie reports the house is free of moving boxes. Sometimes, all the extra space creates a white static around the empty downstairs suite and main hallway. The feng shui furniture opens the living room in the same way deep mountain caves open - like jaws can open.
On his first night, Stan buzzes about the suite, lightened by the idea of having his own kitchen and bathtub isolated from the flow of the upstairs. Stan locks himself away in the flat to unwind and unpack soon after dinner and Eddie does not get a chance to wish him a good night.
In the morning, Eddie is still brewing coffee when Stan bangs all of his luggage up the steps.
Stan says, "It's too cold down there."
He stares down the steps for a second, and then reluctantly heads back to close the door before racing to retreat.
From the hall, he says, "Guest room?"
Eddie calls from the kitchen, "Second door on the right."
What is nice about Seattle is the weaving bus systems that deposit Eddie in front of his doctor's office in less than an hour. Stan is patient when Eddie tries to resist a lift to his appointment up to the mention of public transportation. He rented an SUV right off the plane and paid an arm and a leg to get the big car off the mainland and will happily do so again if it means he does not have to spend a second reviewing a bus schedule.
Stan parallel parks on a hill by the medical office buildings and feeds quarters into a meter.
"I heard the Gum Wall is pretty close," Stan says.
It dawns on Eddie that it is suddenly tense between them and that Eddie has not gotten out of the car and that these two facts are interconnected.
Eddie says, “Do you want to come in-”
Stan speaks over Eddie, "I'll go check it out while you go to your appointment. We'll meet back here in 45?"
"Ok," Eddie says, guilty and relieved and ashamed.
Right off the ferry is a ten mile road that stretches to both tips of the island. At the five mile mark, the beehive center of business includes a library, a pizza joint, a guitar shop, a theater, and a little grocery store that Stan pulls into for dinner ingredients and wine on the way home.
Inspired by the town decorations and the chill of the season change, Stan and Eddie sit on the porch as dinner cooks and carve pumpkins with the accompaniment of the Puget Sound waves and the fickle radio connection. Tonight, something by The Cure is playing. The host cuts in between ballads to complain, but the channel is turned low and the cloud cover is interfering with the clarity.
Stan laughs, "I never imagined you would move out on your own, let alone so far away."
"Oh, me neither. Trust me, I'm not happy. It's temporary."
"You're already planning to give up?"
"I'm homesick and this house is too big for one."
Stan looks back to the house, and the lit up kitchen, and behind that at the dark hallway and the curve to the downstairs.
He says, "Maybe you just need some company. You could rent out the downstairs flat."
"I'm not the biggest fan of the company of strangers."
"You could rent out the boat house."
A lawn, a cliff, and a set of old stairs stretch between the boathouse and the balcony.
"No one will bother you with all that space in between you."
"Somehow, people still manage," Eddie says. "Still, I won't be here long. My doctor will clear me and I'll come home."
Stan doesn't ask about the appointment even though Eddie gives it a generous pause. Stan has no questions over dinner, nor while they're warming up by the fire, nor as they retire to their separate rooms much later.
Close to three in the morning, Eddie creeps out to the living room to check the thermostat. He jumps when he spots a figure in a chair.
Stan is reading by desk lamp light.
Eddie says, "You're up?"
"I can't sleep,” he explains.
"No, go to bed."
Eddie turns the heat off auto so it will run continuously for the rest of the night, but still finds the tips of his toes exposed and freezing when he wakes up half an hour later. He shifts, burrows, and tries to warm up.
The boathouse is filled with the last owner’s keepsakes. There are boxes of dulling photos of a tall and lusterless family who look dead around their eyes. There are older toys and boating equipment from a time before OSHA, but nothing of monetary value. Eddie is disappointed that they find no treasure for as long as it takes Stan to point out that all they have to do is order a dump truck and sweep all the garbage out of sight and they will be able to salvage a whole new room.
By the time noon rolls around, Eddie has taken about a hundred too many trips up the cliff to the dumpster on the driveway. Stan called it quits earlier in the morning and brought down slabs of wood to pair with antique photo kindling. He watches the city skyline from fireside as Eddie's radio channel filters out the last notes of Tainted Love and then rubs off to static as the session ends.
Stan says, "Do you ever get people coming through your backyard?"
"All the time. None of the ocean views are fenced off so it's not like they're trespassing, but there always seems to be some jogger or vagrant walking through. The real estate agent warned me about the company, but I underestimated the locals’ tolerance for the weather."
Down the shore, there are old stocks of lumber and short cliffs with tree roots that gnarl out of the dirt. Beyond that, the stranger is in his ugly, yellow Hawaiian shirt and poking at the tide pool sand crabs with a stick. He’s walking their way.
Eddie says, “Speak of the devil.”
The man sees Eddie on the boathouse porch as he is walking up. His big, square glasses glint in the sun and he tosses his stick out into the water to wave his goofy wave.
When he is close, Eddie blurts, "Hey, are you homeless?"
The guy pauses - mouth open.
Stan flips through some of the photos and looks determinedly nowhere else.
"Am I homeless,” the stranger queries. "No, I'm not homeless. I just look like this. I guess."
“Oh, sorry. Did you know the family who lived here before?”
“What? Is that a segue way into a new subject? I’m not done having the first conversation.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“Oh! In that case, screw you.”
“Wait a fucking second.”
He says, “Do you fuck your mother with that mouth?”
Eddie says, “Get the fuck out of here, you bum.”
The man moves on - back to skipping stones and whistling. He still sends a wave over his shoulder.
“Come to think of it,” Stan says. “I might know a friend who is looking for a place to stay. She’d be able to put up with people like that.”
“Could she give me advice?”
“You’re categorized within ‘People Like That’, Eddie.”
“That doesn’t seem fair.”
Stan rolls all his luggage into the hall, mechanically checking and rechecking for his papers.
It is early enough that Eddie has refused to get dressed. Stan is in his suit while Eddie is still wearing boxers and a shirt - it should make him feel silly, but rather it brings back old memories of the dorms at NYU.
“I’m glad you’re settled in, Eddie,” Stan gives him a nostalgic and terse hug.
“Me, too. Thanks for coming.”
Stan pauses at the door, “This place looks good on you.”
“Don’t get used to it.”
Eddie helps him up the driveway to his SUV.
It is overcast when Stan drives away, which is not atypical for the area, but adds to the malaise. A syrup-thick melancholy comes with the goodbye and it follows Eddie well into the evening.
From the kitchen, Eddie’s radio is playing one of the songs that are in every older romantic comedy. Eddie dumps his clean laundry on his mattress and decides which of his shirts are worth hanging. He is singing just a bit - just the chorus.
Across the hall, the guest bedroom door closes politely.
“Sorry, Stan,” Eddie pokes his head out. “Do you have any laundry that-”
The house is quiet, except for the fizzling radio - the fading ins and outs of shitty 80’s synth pop. The noiselessness of the hallway is so artificial that Eddie waits for a laugh track, or for the heater to kick in, or for Stan to step out of his bedroom with his book in his hand.
There is so suddenly, so obviously, someone in his personal space that Eddie quickly - calmly - closes his bedroom door.
Floorboards settle a foot away.
Eddie steps backwards. The backs of his knees hit his bed.
A braver person might kneel down to look through the crack of the threshold, but Eddie is iron-locked at a half crouch, eye level with the door handle. The cranial pressure of considering the durability of just one door hits him like a headache. He retreats, stumbling to the bathroom, and slips the door closed and locked behind him. He leans into it with his full weight.
Far, far away, the radio fizzes louder and louder, then off.
“My name is Richie Tozier. I live down there a bit.”
Eddie looks up and the homeless asshole is pointing across the beach.
“Eddie,” he admits. “Kazbar.”
Eddie turns back to his piles of ‘toss’ and ‘keep’ - inevitably piles of ‘toss now’ and ‘toss later’. Breaking down the clutter in the boathouse is a monumental and unsatisfying task, but it beats sitting in the house.
Richie is saying, “You just moved in?”
“About three weeks ago. I’m still getting rid of some of the garbage from the last owner.”
"Where's your boyfriend?"
"He's not my boyfriend."
"Did you just scoff at the idea of dating your friend? Do you think you're too good for him?"
"You're a shitty friend," Richie says. "Any man would be content to settle for that stick in the mud. You would be so lucky as to land that tall, sunken-eyed drink of water."
"Oh, fuck off."
"There really is no gleam in that guy's eyes, you know, where the soul would go."
"I think I understand you."
"You really only speak because you love to hear the sound of your own voice."
Richie has his hips against the platformed deck where Eddie is kneeling. The high tide is swelling up and soaking Richie's flip flops. Unlike what Eddie had expected, his hair is not matted so much as curled. The color of his eyes is lost in the corkscrew of thick lenses, but his smile is attentive - with lots of teeth.
"I like to think of myself as a modern Socrates,” he says. “No one ever really knows what I'm saying, but you better jot it all down to build the foundation of a new intelligence for the masses once everyone gets on my level."
"If our society ever deems to look back on your life, it will be as a cautionary tale."
“Hey,” Richie says. "Do you want to go get a cup of coffee with me?"
The whole half a mile to the cafe, Eddie doesn't hear a word Richie is saying over the clapping of his wet flip flops. It is 'clap, squee, clap, squee, clap' all the way up the road. Eddie is twitching by the time they finally order their coffee and as they collapse into the chairs by the window, Eddie is thinking so loudly.
He's thinking, 'What is this fucking guy's problem?'
And, 'Is he serious right now with his fucking Tony Bahama button up and his fucking glasses?'
"So?" Richie is saying.
“Look, I slept in the bathtub last night. I’m not really swinging with the best of them.”
“Why the fuck did you sleep in your bathtub? Are you some sort of alcoholic?”
“Yeah. I’m a violent blackout alcoholic. I mixed a bunch of pills with a bottle of bourbon last night, as I do every night. Per routine, I slept next to my best friend, the toilet.”
“Now that’s my kind of party.”
Eddie says, “Yeah, you seem like the type.”
“The party type? If you say so.”
“Or are you too busy pacing across the shore all day?”
“I’m absolutely too busy, yes. As any businessman, I have my priorities, which would be walking up and down the shore.”
“Are you? A businessman?”
“Of sorts. I’m not homeless, like you said. Do you still think I'm homeless?”
“A little,” Eddie says. “It wouldn’t surprise me. What do you do for work?”
“Well, for a little perspective, my mom’s a surgeon and my dad’s an engineer. Both of my little sisters are doing something in physics, which I don't really understand. I rent kayaks on the beach.”
“The family business, obviously. Does that actually make any money?”
“It’s more conducive to the whole California summer, honestly. July tends to be profitable. It’s really all about the business model.”
Eddie says, “How many kayaks have you rented out since the first of October?”
“October? Uh, three. Not all at one time, of course.”
“Why aren’t you embarrassed,” Eddie says. “You should be embarrassed.”
“I worked at a broadcasting network for twelve years after college. I made good money, I bought a small place, and I commuted. The issue with commuting is that it gives you time to think, and getting on and off this fucking island is like two hours of sitting around doing nothing every day. Waiting for the ferry, loading the ferry, waiting on the ferry, waiting to get off the ferry. I sat in my car seething the whole way there and all the way back because I hated my job and all my coworkers so goddamn much.
“One day I said fuck it, and I took my pension and bought a fucking shack on the beach. Good for you though, for finding whatever job keeps you from blowing your brains out every night.”
"So you're just going to rent kayaks for the rest of your life?"
"I'll fall into something, eventually,” He says. “I get calls, but who knows. I like it here.”
“This is the best spot,” they sit on the theater stage and Richie’s loud voice bounds up to the balcony and back. “This is where they hosted improve club when I was in high school. It was the only place to make friends when I first moved here.”
“And the owner just lets you come and go like some stray cat?”
“They forget to lock the door and I know their schedule pretty well by now.”
“That sounds like criminal trespassing.”
“It’s symbiotic mutualism.”
“Parasitism,” Eddie corrects.
Richie stands theatrically, “When my love swears that he is made of truths, I do believe him, though I know he lies. That he might think me some untutored youth, unskillful in the world’s false forgeries.”
“So you come here to perform?”
“They bribe me with free admittance so I won’t perform.”
Richie says, “What?”
“Finish. I’ll keep it a secret if you will.”
Richie hesitates, licking his lips obtusely and glancing up at the rafters like all of his audience does not rest at his feet. He false-starts - speaking too softly before he clears his throat.
He says, “I, smiling, credit his false-speaking tongue, outfacing faults in love with love’s ill rest. Oh, love’s best habit is a flattering tongue. And age, in love, loves not to have years told. Therefore, I’ll lie with love, and love with me. Since that our faults in love thus smothered be.”
“That’s far too pretty for the likes of you. I can see why they don’t want you here.”
Richie laughs, and it echoes warmly.
“They’re showing Beetlejuice this weekend,” he says. “And I would be honored if you would allow me to take you on the least romantic date of your whole life.”
“That sounds like a mistake I’m willing to make.”
His doctor never looks at directly at him - never meets his eyes.
At first, this was a relief to young Eddie, who never liked the pressure of being perceived by an intelligent gaze. As an adult, it is rather obtuse act of rejection to sit in a waiting room for twenty minutes and then in the physical room for twenty minutes only for the doctor to spend twenty seconds checking boxes before he is off back the hall away.
It is a busy profession, Eddie understands.
“Doctor,” Eddie interrupts the doctor as he leaves.
The doctor stops to check his watch, “What is it?”
“I’m having trouble sleeping.”
“Take a sleeping pill.”
“I already have pills for sleeping that you prescribed me and they’re not helping.”
Eddie says, “I don’t think that will do anything.”
“Try exercising before bed. Go for a run,” The doctor says. “Is there anything else?”
“Nothing else, thank you.”
They are not even to the part of the movie where Betelgeuse has shown up, but Richie is doing the voice and quoting upcoming scenes so loudly that couples in the front row are shushing them. Eddie sinks down in his seat to hide from the worst date of his life behind a bag of popcorn. They are the only two people on the balcony - and maybe Eddie expected it to be the scene of a romantic night, but the last thirty minutes have been a lesson in corralling what is basically a large, overactive child.
He has seen Beetlejuice a dozen times - today is the first time he has ever dreaded the upcoming graveyard scene. He fears that Richie’s confidence will go nuclear when his muse appears on the big screen. Richie is kicked back, feet up on the balcony bars, sipping his soda and grinning. When Eddie leans out of his seat and into Richie’s space to scold him, Richie looks straight down at Eddie’s lips. All of Eddie’s words keep getting jumbled.
Eddie whisper-warns, “Richie!”
Richie drops his voice into an uncanny Michael Keaton as he speaks over him. He says, “Go ahead, make my millennium.”
Someone shouts from the floor, “Hey, asshole!”
Eddie shouts back, “I’m talking to him!”
“Tell him to shut the fuck up!”
Eddie glances down to meet eyes with a strong-jawed man - too many muscles for his own good.
“We’ll be quiet,” Eddie pacifies. He says to Richie, “You’re gonna be quiet. Are you trying to get some straight dude up here to kick our asses. I can’t fight, Richie. Clearly neither can you.”
“I can fight!”
Eddie gives him a sharp, head-tilted look. Behind Eddie, Betelgeuse rises from the dead in a whirlwind of punchlines and Richie is gone again, smiling up at the big screen.
He says, “You’ve seen The Exorcist, right?”
“Do you want to go back to your place after this and watch it?”
“I just said I saw it.”
“I mean, sure. I guess.”
On screen, Betelgeuse says, “I’ve seen The Exorcist 167 times and it keeps getting funnier every time i see it!”
Richie continues with him, “Not to mention you’re talking to a dead guy!”
And the guy on the floor shouts, “Shut your clown boyfriend up, you rat-faced fuck.”
“I got this, Eds.”
“You got what?” Eddie glances back.
Richie pops the lid off his soda.
“No, fuck. No, Richie. Richie!”
“Cool off, buddy.” Richie calls down the balcony.
When the man finally processes that he’s wearing Coca-Cola, Eddie is still a beat behind linear cognition - still peering over the edge and staring straight at him with a stupid, wide-open mouth.
“Not me,” Eddie says.
The man stands up and throws his popcorn.
“It was Richie. Richie?”
Richie is gone-and-now-back and racing from the exit to the stairs to grab Eddie’s hand and snap into a sprint saying, “Come on, Eds!”
Eddie does not take the stairs as fast as Richie, nor the curves of the hall as smoothly, but he manages to keep up long enough to make a daring escape into the alley behind the theater. With their backs against the brick, Eddie wipes sweat off his forehead and shakes nervously. Beside him, Richie is absolutely giddy.
“What the fuck are you laughing at!”
“I’m-,” Richie peers down the walkway. “Oh, shit.”
He has Eddie’s hand again, and he is racing. Eddie does not see whatever Richie saw, but he can definitely hear the shouting long after they lose sight of the building. For lack of a better hiding place, Eddie points their heading due south - toward the end of town and home. Out of breath, Richie and Eddie slow down when they get to the main road.
Eddie says, “What the absolute fuck. Are you fucking crazy? Are you legit insane? What sort of irresponsible bullshit was that! That dude was with his kids! And you were the one being loud, he had every right to yell at us!”
Richie throws his arm over Eddie’s shoulder as they walk, hand swinging at Eddie’s chest.
“If there was any justice in the world, you would be getting your ass kicked behind a dumpster right now! That guy was an asshole, sure, but so were you! I hope you honestly don’t believe you’re the good guy in this story.”
Eddie leans into Richie, pushing them away from the road. Richie pulls him closer, confusing Eddie’s commitment to not getting hit by a car for consent to the tightness of his hold - but Richie is warm and there is no use trying to escape such long limbs.
“I feel like I'm babysitting and I’m not even making hourly! This is insane, Richie. I shouldn’t feel like I spent the first forty minutes of Beetlejuice re-surviving middle school.”
When they get to Eddie’s place, Eddie still has so much to say. He does not hesitate to lead Richie inside.
“And what if that guy finds out who we were and presses charges? I’m pretty sure that could be assault. I’m not going to prison for you, Richie. I’m not even paying a small court fine for you. I won’t be bailing you out, either, so don’t call me. What the hell were you thinking?”
“He could get away with saying whatever he wanted to about me, but he didn’t need to call you names.”
Eddie stops at his bedroom door, “Are you fucking serious right now?”
Richie says, “Call it white knight syndrome. I can only sleep at night if I do something stupid trying to defend someone’s honor every single day.”
‘Oh my god,’ Eddie thinks as he slams forward. ‘He’s a fucking idiot!’
Richie jumps at his sudden lurch, and then dips in when he realizes that he almost misses the kiss - and he overshoots. He kisses the corner of Eddie’s lips and Eddie tip-toes until his arm can curl around Richie’s big, block head to pull him closer.
They kiss quickly - once, twice - and then Eddie unfurls away like petals in winter. Richie follows him dumbly, eyes closed and lips parted mutely. His eyebrows furrow when Eddie’s warmth disappears, but he licks his lips as if the taste remains. Eddie - so completely charmed by the dopey look on Richie’s face - kisses him one more tender time.
“You look-” Eddie starts and is stunted.
Richie lifts Eddie up with his hands under Eddie’s ass and holds him against the door until they are leveled at the same height.
“You look like a dork,” Eddie finishes - so close he is whispering against Richie’s mouth.
“Can I keep kissing you?”
“So long as you don’t do the voice anymore.”
“I’m the ghost with the most, babe,” Richie does the voice. He laughs when Eddie pushes off and slides down the wall, back to his feet.
“I won’t hear that shit again or I’ll lose it, Tozier.”
Richie kisses him, still laughing - misplacing many of his kisses. All the while, his shoulders are shaking and his hands are searching. Eddie blindly fumbles for the door handle at his hip - the logic being that if there is no door to push him up against, Richie loses his advantage. When they tumble into the room, Richie almost lands on top of him, but catches them both with his long, gangling arms. This sets Richie laughing again in his punch-upside-the-head way.
Eddie pulls Richie up by a fistful of his ugly shirt and they fall backwards to the bedside. They miss by a mile - caught up in each other’s limbs - and slide to the floor with the cushion of the bed sheets pulled down bedside them. Richie tosses the pillows out of his way and leans all of his body weight against Eddie - knees and thighs and chest. Richie’s hair falls into his face when Eddie takes Richie’s glasses and Richie squints dumbly down at him - his eyes are large, expressive, and bold. When Eddie puts the glasses on his own face it is like looking down the barrel of a soda pop bottle - Richie skews into orange and pale and dark brown.
“God, you’re fucking blind as a bat.”
“Who would have thought,” Richie says.
“How do I look?”
“I have no fucking idea.”
With the tip of his index finger, Richie pushes the glasses to Eddie’s forehead. Then, he bundles his hand into the bottom of Eddie’s shirt and waits for Eddie’s hand to join his and help him lift the shirt over Eddie’s head. The glasses get lost somewhere in the tangle, but Richie moves to Eddie’s belt without a pause. Eddie’s hips jolt up to accommodate Richie’s huge, foolish hands as they fumble.
The next kiss is hot and thoughtless - with Richie trying to get a word in edgewise as Eddie tries to dig into the weight above him.
“Eddie,” Richie chokes. “Is this okay? Are you good?”
“I’m good. Real good. It’s been a while, if I'm being honest.”
“You figured? Go fuck yourself.”
Richie snorts and drops his head on Eddie’s chest. Eddie tugs the back of Richie’s shirt over his head. It gets stuck on Richie’s chin and his hair as it folds inside out.
“No, no wait. This is my favorite shirt. Stop pulling it,” he laughs. “Stop, stop you’re going to rip it.”
“Shut up, you turd. Get naked. Holy shit. Fuck off.”
“Eddie, stop,” he’s lost with laughter. “Eddie, hold on. Dude, my shirt. Stop. Eddie.”
“I can't fucking believe I’m going to sleep with you. Oh my god, what is this shirt made from? Pleather? Fuck off.”
The shirt tugs free from Richie’s hair and Eddie tosses it away.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to sew buttons back on?”
“I will sew your goddamn button back on.”
“Do you have a sewing kit? What am I saying, of course you do,” Richie pinches the button off the floor and places it on the nightstand above them.
Eddie watches the distance of his curved shoulders and the line of his jaw - the way he pauses and hesitates sheepishly when he notices Eddie has frozen underneath him. When they meet back in the middle, it is with an electric spark and a surge of impatience - this eager and burning feeling of hunger that Eddie has never in his life felt with such vigor. When his fingers touch Richie, it’s like fire. The chill in the room recedes.
It’s not quite three in the morning and Eddie turns in the sheets to find the right side of the bed empty. The bathroom door is open a crack and Richie clinks around quietly in the warm light. It is such a soft and mild disruption that Eddie could easily fall asleep to it.
He closes his eyes and waits for Richie to come back to bed.
After a minute, the medicine cabinet door closes softly.
Eddie clears his throat, “Do you have a headache or something? I have Tylenol in the kitchen.”
“I wasn't in the kitchen for Tylenol,” Richie enters from the hallway with a plate. “I hope you don’t mind, but I was awake and you had bagels. Did I wake you?”
Eddie glances between him and the wedge of light from the bathroom, “Uh, no. No, but I’m awake now.”
Richie pushes open the bathroom door and shuts the bathroom light off - the room snaps into darkness. Eddie flicks on his bedside lamp and Richie crawls into bed next to him.
“I’m going to eat in your bed, do you mind?”
“I mind very much.”
“You still want to watch The Exorcist?”
Eddie finds his laptop and props it between them. After the video loads, he manages to distract Richie long enough to steal the other half of his bagel. He finds himself sharing Richie’s pillow - more so that he can keep an eye on the bathroom door than for Richie to have an excuse to wrap his arm behind Eddie’s head.
“Richie,” Eddie smacks his leg. “Wake the fuck up.”
Richie snorts as he comes to - his hair is a mess and his face is pressed with pillow lines. He rubs his eyes dumbly and fumbles for his glasses.
“Do you think you’re fucking funny?”
“Yeah,” Richie says.
“I really don’t. Do you have any idea how expensive your little joke is going to be? Get out of bed.”
Richie finds his glasses and his t-shirt as he stands - Eddie forgot how tall he is.
“My medications are expensive and there is no punchline worth whatever the fuck you did to my bathroom last night.”
“You’ve lost me, Eds,” he leans in for a morning kiss.
“I will take your fucking teeth out.”
“You have my full attention.”
Eddie says, “You made a mess in my bathroom and booby trapped my medications.”
Richie says, “I really don’t think I did.”
“All my pill bottles were uncapped and right on the edge of the shelf in the cabinet. When I opened the door they all fell out and scattered everywhere. It’s going to take forever to clean up, and who’s to say how much could have gone missing?”
“I promise you that I have neither the creativity nor the energy to participate in such an elaborate prank,” Richie says. “I was right here, asleep, the whole time. You can ask anyone.”
“There is no one else here.”
“Maybe we had an earthquake.”
“And the lids?”
Richie pulls his shirt on, and this time he is successful in ducking in for a corner-of-the-mouth morning kiss. He says, “I may not know shit about earthquakes, but I do know I can help you clean up the mess.” - and then as he enters the bathroom - “Jesus, how many fucking prescriptions are you on, dude.”
“It’s mostly different anti-anxieties, and antihistamines - and a couple of anti-emetics because the anti-anxiety pills make me nauseous. Well, and Almotriptan because I get these migraines - but it gives me dry mouth so I take this complex pill I found in a crystal store in Tucson once. Then there’s all my vitamins.”
Richie inspects some of the empty bottles, “What the absolute fuck is the difference between vitamin B6 and vitamin B12? How many different Bs could we possibly need?”
“We have to get all of these in the right containers.”
“I’m going to have to download a pill identifier app,” Richie clears a spot on the bathroom floor and sits among the tablets. He pulls out his phone. “Holy shit, no walk of shame will ever have shit on this morning after.”
Eddie sits on the side of his bathtub and self-consciously collects the bottles in a line along the porcelain.
“Oh, this is Xanax,” says Richie as he picks up a pill. “No way I could forget my friend Xanax. Do you have any adderall?”
“No,” Eddie says and Richie picks through a swept up pile of pills.
Eddie clears a spot by the toilet, “I’m going to have to clean all of these somehow.”
Richie blows on the fistful of Xanax he collected and then funnels them into an orange bottle, “Good to go.”
“That’s the Almotriptan,” Eddie points to the next pill Richie starts to collect. “I’ll get the B12s. They're the big ones. Yeah, those.”
“So, these are for your migraines?”
“What about these ones?”
“That’s my daily allergy pill.”
“It’s shaped like Fred fucking Flintstone, so would it rock your world if I told you that that is a Flintstone's multivitamin? You should be taking one a day, too. They’re good for your immune system.”
“Can I take this one?”
“Aw,” Richie says. “We’re sharing hobbies. What about this? I can’t find these on the app,” Richie inspects a small pill - not unlike a tin box mint in shape and color.
“It’s for my heart.”
Richie looks at him, “There’s something wrong with your heart?” He curls his hand around the little pill protectively.
“When I was a kid. I had a bad cold that kept me out of school for two weeks in third grade. My mom took me to a specialist and they diagnosed me with an abnormal heart murmur. It’s nothing serious so long as I take that pill everyday.”
“Wait, you went in for a cold and walked out with a diagnosed heart murmur? That’s crazy, they must have run so many tests. What a catch.”
“It wasn’t extensive,” Eddie clarifies. “That’s why we went to a specialist.”
“A cold specialist?”
“For your cold?”
“Look, my mom knew what she was doing.”
Richie says, “Because she is also a cardiologist?”
Eddie says, “Because she’s my mom, fuckhead.”
“And she knew you had a bad heart?”
“No, my heart was fine before that. Or so I thought.
"So, you're taking pills for a heart condition for which you had absolutely no symptoms? Why can’t I find this pill in the app?”
“That app is not an amalgamation of every god damn pill in the whole universe. This was still in the trial phase when I started on it. I’ve been with this doctor for almost thirty years and he knows what he’s talking about. I followed him all the way from the East coast when he moved because I trust him so much.”
“You followed him across the entire continent because he’s the only one you can get this mysterious pill from? Like in all of America?”
"It's not what it sounds like."
"Really? Because it sounds fake as fuck. It sounds like you're being fucked in the ass by a faux doctor who got his diploma out of one of those fucking claw machines at Denny's. You're a victim of the system, dude. You’ve been conned."
"And where the fuck did you get your MD? Fucking, University of Bo Bo the Dancing Clown?"
"Bitch, I made the Dean's list at UBBDC every semester by fingerbanging the biggest clown in town, your-!"
"If you say my mom-"
"I am going to drown you in the ocean if you don't start running."
Richie is laughing - maybe because Eddie looks dumb and red in the face, or he does not believe Eddie would kill him, or because this is as good a way to die as any.
"You don't know shit about me, or my doctor, or my pills. When you don't understand something you shouldn't try to fill the empty space in the room with shit knowledge. Just come to terms with the fact that you don't know dick and move on."
Richie glances down at the white-capped bottle.
He grins, his stupid glasses gleaming as he says, "If I swallow the whole bottle and I'm fine will you believe me?"
"Swallow nails, Tozier,” Eddie snaps his pills away. “Get the fuck out of my house, dude.”
Richie seems unfazed, but Eddie is raw and mean and angry. It does not matter that Richie whistles his way to the door, Eddie is molten to the core with embarrassment and anger. Instead of apologizing or rushing forward to demand one for himself, he allows Richie to retreat.
Beverly is Stan’s friends from back home and she sparks about a hundred questions in Eddie that he does not think he will ever ask. There are no happy answers to questions that begin with bruises on wrists and under contour.
Eddie only knows for sure that she only brought one bag into the house and that she does not have a car in the driveway.
“There’s a fireplace in your bedroom. It gets pretty cold at night, but I’m hoping I’ll get around to running into town for some sealant next week. The firewood is under the terrace on the side of the building.”
Eddie does to mean to appear nervous, but Beverly is very beautiful.
“You have a little kitchen of your own, but you are, of course, always welcome to come upstairs and use anything. Even the ingredients, or food, or whatever. You know.”
Most of the suite is the large, square living room that hosts the kitchen, couch, and TV. There are really no recognizable or warm qualities to the white walls or the furniture. Except for the TV, it all came with the house. Beverly does not seem to mind the older carpet or the stock photos on the walls. She pulls back the tacky curtains to reveal her sliding glass door, and porch, and her ocean-side view.
“It’s beautiful in the mornings, especially upstairs. I usually make coffee around six, and you're welcome to join me. I’ll leave you to settle in.”
She turns from the backyard, “Do you know him?”
The curtains pull back to reveal Richie slipping down across the backyard. He is wearing weather appropriate clothes, finally. Eddie was beginning to fear he did not own a jacket. Richie realizes that he has an audience just in time to lose his footing in the mud and eat shit. He is swearing under his breath when he finally kicks caked mud off his boots on Bev’s porch.
“Eds, listen. Can we talk?”
Eddie pulls the curtains closed. Beverly seems a bit uneasy and a bit amused.
“Your bedroom is over there,” Eddie continues.
“Eds,” Richie pathetically calls through the door. “Not that I give a shit or anything, but I want you to want to tell me more about you. I don’t want to not know things you want me to know. Even these things, which I don’t even really know about if I’m being honest.”
Eddie pauses, “What?”
“It’s just that, I know there’s more to know and I don't want you to think I don’t want to know. Even if I don’t really know, I want to at least know that I could know. I should know, I mean.”
“Wait,” Eddie says. “What?”
“What I’m trying to say is that I want to know more about you. I want you to want me to know more about you. I want you to know that me knowing what you want me to know is important. Do you know what I mean?”
"Oh my god, you're genuinely sorry," Eddie realizes. "Just say you're sorry."
He snaps the lacy curtains open.
"I'm not not sorry, I'm just saying that you were right. I don’t know what im talking about in regards to your bullshit, fake ass prescriptions and I shouldn’t back you into a corner about it. Obviously, it’s something you’re sensitive about.”
Eddie slides the door open.
He says, "What sort of backwards ass pageantry is this. You can admit I'm right, but not that you're sorry?"
"I have a condition."
"I'm sure my doctor has a pill for that."
Eddie taps the pad of his thumb onto Richie's chin where Richie has scratchy facial hair growing.
"I'm sorry, Eddie," Eddie says and moves Richie's chin in time. "Eddie, you are so smart and handsome and right all the time. I am sorry and I, Richard Tozier, believe this and am saying it out loud."
"You really have to do a Count von Count voice? You think I sound like Count von Count?"
Eddie's impression is pretty bad, "Can you count the mistakes made by Richie?"
It sort of pisses him off how good Richie's is, "One, one sexy mistake, ah ah ah!"
Beverly picks up her bag beside them, “I’m going to unpack and you’re not going to track mud on my carpet, but it’s nice to meet you.”
“I’m sorry, too,” Eddie says to Richie as he closes the door between them. Eddie shouts through the glass, “Let’s talk about it upstairs. I’ll meet you at the front door!”
Richie sighs and braves the muddy stairs leading to the side of the house.
Bev does come up for coffee in the morning, but she does not say a word about Richie or his half dressed state reading the cartoons on the back of Eddie’s paper.
It’s nice to have her join them at their square table by the window with her coffee.
She fits well in the spaces Richie clears as she takes the job post section of the newspaper and some jammed toast from the serving dish.
Bev is hitting the town with new friends and Richie has disappeared up the beach again, so Eddie winds up with a TV dinner for one on Halloween night. Eddie’s radio channel is buzzing with Monster Mash and intermittent interviews with the host and local teenagers bragging about their holiday heists. Eddie waits by the window with his casserole and his bowl of candy that the neighborhood kids had left untouched. He waits to see if he can spot Richie as he walks across the beach per routine.
The radio is barely coming in as the host says, “What’s the best place to trick or treat?”
And two kids argue, “By 188th, there are properties that own horses on the end and they leave out full sized candy bars.”
“No, you’re limiting yourself. You get four or five candy bars out of that, but then you've got 3 miles before you see another house again, worth it? No, it’s the art of quantity over quality tonight and there's no better spot than Cove Road. You’re walking away with a bit of everything.”
The host asks, "And what's the verdict on the party at Town Center?"
"Only kids and alcoholics go to that bullshit."
"Oh," enquires the host.
"Yeah, that's for little kids who still need their parents to walk them around and teenagers who want to get high behind the library. I have more important shit to do."
"You heard it here first folks: if you have a kid celebrating in town tonight, they're either right at your side or dying from a drug overdose by the dumpster shared by Dairy Queen and our local library. Now, to close off the show, let’s end the night with a very appropriate and very scary story.”
The channel garbles, is lost for a second, and then comes through clearly.
“Let’s begin on the top of a lonely hill, in the dark of a forgotten house by the sea. It’s Halloween night for a man who sits by the window. This man believes that just because all of his friends have left his home, he is completely alone. He believes that there is no one left in the house to watch him and he is wrong.”
Eddie stands and brings his dishes to the sink.
The radio says, “The man stands and brings his dishes to the sink.”
Eddie reaches for the coffee pot and a clean mug.
“The man wants another cup of coffee. He has brewed a fresh pot late into the evening in a futile attempt to stay up long enough that someone will come home and he won’t have to sleep alone in his restless house.”
“The man doesn’t know what he’ll do if he wakes up all on his own tonight, with the floorboards creaking and the house shrinking.”
Half expecting to see someone down the hall, Eddie flinches when he glances. The further hall light is on, and there are no unexpected shadows.
The radio says, “We both know you won't be all on your own.”
Eddie turns off the radio.
The radio says, “A noise in the basement draws the man’s attention.”
Startled, Eddie watches the lightless radio for a second. After a quiet heartbeat, Eddie pulls the cord. When the kitchen is silent for minutes, Eddie fills his mug with coffee and races back to the living room. As he is passing the staircase to the basement suite, he hears a cabinet creak - a door slowly opening at the bottom. Eddie stops at the top of the steps.
“Feeling brave,” the radio churns. “He goes to investigate.”
The basement door drifts, as if taken by a breeze.
“Eddie,” says the radio.
There is no time to turn around, but he feels what he does not see - a weight and a burning at his neck. Eddie lunges away and the heel of his foot slips on the edge of the top step. He drops his mug and hears it shatter when he is halfway down the stairs - tumbling and landing on his back, chest, arm. Ribs aching and head pounding, Eddie slams into the door and comes to a jarring stop.
He sucks in short, desperate breaths until his torso eases enough to allow a full gasp of air - then he groans and twitches his head and shoulders off the ground. The top of the stairs is a halo of warm lights above him, swirling and blurring as the darkness of his vision melds into the darkness of the basement.
Eddie picks his head up - doesn't know he had set it down again, doesn’t realize he had closed his eyes - and vaults onto his knees. He staggers to his feet and stumbles up the stairs and to the living room and out onto the porch. It is cold outside and the ocean is loud. Eddie sits on the balcony, unable to haul himself fully into a chair or back down the balcony steps. He watches the moon and the unsettled waves, waiting for the shadows on the beach to shift with a familiar figure.
When he finally spots Richie kicking rocks on the shore, Eddie is numb with the cold and the pain. He clears his throat twice before he can yell out to him, and it takes one more shaking breath to be loud enough.
Richie is close and warm - later, maybe by a minute or two. His hands are searching and cupping; he is cursing under his breath.
“Your arm,” Richie says. “That’s super fucking broken. Can you feel that?”
Eddie grits his teeth, “I can kind of feel it now, thank you! Thanks for pointing it out! Thanks for noticing! Can you get me to the mother fucking hospital fucking now? Fucking right now?”
“Fuck, hold on. I gotta run home. I have to get a ride. C’mon.”
“Oh fuck, Richie,” Eddie hisses as he is brought to his feet and manhandled into the warm sleeves of Richie’s coat.
Richie hauls him easily up the hill to the driveway - like Eddie is a bundle of firewood swinging off his shoulder - and then he is left on the grass by the driveway as his body aches. Eddie is left sitting on his ass as the pain begins to pulse and the cold starts to burn, watching Richie take off running like a fool down the road without a jacket.
Skidding to a stop and standing on his pedals, Richie returns with some twelve year old’s bicycle.
Eddie says, “What the fuck is that!”
"What thirty-year-old man owns a bicycle!"
"We could also use my skateboard if you're feeling risqué, you fuck."
"You're telling me that you are a fully grown ass adult and your only choice is to ride your bike or your goddamn skateboard into town?"
"My first and best ride will always be your mom-"
"Get your ass onto that BMX and start pedaling or I swear to God I will shove my arm so far down your throat that the pressure of your small intestine will reset my bones faster than a cast ever will!"
"Stop bitching and get on, Jeffery Dahmer. Before you pop a vessel."
Eddie is thankful to pivot most of his weight onto the pegs and the plank of Richie's sweaty back. It hurts just to lean - just to throw one arm around Richie's stomach and press the other tenderly between them. Each little shift of weight from pedal to pedal twists Eddie up with pressure and tension until he loses his conscious stream of 'fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck' to a haze of gray. Maybe he does vomit down Richie's back, but he manages not to fall.
Eddie wakes in a febrile state. The side of his face is plastered to his couch and he is covered in drool.
“There’s pizza,” Richie says above him.
“What time is it?”
“I don’t know. Late,” Richie stays close as Eddie careens to his feet and waddles to a spot at the kitchen table.
Beverly clears cards and game board pieces away. Richie brings him a plate. Eddie juggles a greasy slice of pizza with his good arm and it is not unlike trying to eat jell-o with a butter knife. His audience allows him to finish all but the crust before they both lean toward him.
“Eddie,” says Bev.
“What the fuck happened,” says Richie.
“Don’t fucking look at me like you’ve never tripped down the stairs before.”
Bev says, “You tripped?”
“Down the fucking stairs, yes. Did I get any painkillers?”
Richie says, “You can’t have anymore yet.”
“Fuck you. You know, this is all so much fun. It’s bringing back warm memories. I had a cast just like this when I was twelve. It’s the same arm, too. I came to class with a bunch of different colored Sharpies thinking everyone would sign it like they did for Andy Bennett, but two of Andy’s friends held me against the lockers in the hall and drew dicks on my forehead instead.”
Richie fucking laughs and Bev reaches behind her and into the kitchen junk drawer to dig out Sharpies. Richie snags the purple one and Bev is stuck with orange.
“Can I draw a dick, or would that be mean?”
Bev smacks the back of Richie’s arm. They huddle over Eddie’s cast and fight for the best real estate - Beverly wins the corner under Eddie’s thumb and Richie marks his ugly chicken scratch below the elbow.
It says, ‘Feel better, Eddie! - Beverly’.
And it says, ‘If you had been drinking your milk like I told you, this wouldn’t have happened. Love, Richie’.
“Let’s get your ass to bed before the painkillers wear off,” Richie helps Eddie stand.
Richie is tall and strong and not really paying attention to how Eddie is looking up at him. It is mostly the painkillers, but Eddie wants to sob on the hallway floor because Richie is so fucking tall and strong - and he is wearing one of Eddie’s shirts because Eddie had puked down his back, yet he had still written ‘Love, Richie’.
“Are you crying?”
“My arm hurts so fucking bad, you stupid bitch.”
“I’ll promise to wake you up for your painkillers if you promise me you’ll never fall down the stairs again.”
Eddie drops down in bed and as soon as Richie disappears into the bathroom. He strokes the dumb smiley face at the crook of his elbow as he fades off to sleep.
"You're fucking cheating. Who the fuck cheats at Uno? It's more embarrassing to be caught cheating at Uno than it is to lose."
Richie bends the corners of cards in his rush to cram them deeper under the sheets. He easily has a quarter of the deck tucked between the flat and fitted sheets, yet here he is claiming to be on the cusp of another victory.
"You're a sore loser," Richie chides as Eddie scoops their cards together. “This is rude. You’re a bad host. Can I go to bed now or do we have to play Scrabble next?”
“We’re not playing Scrabble.”
”You should have submitted an itinerary with my secretary so I could have prepared for extra curriculars. I didn’t apportion any brain cells for joining the midnight chess club. It’s - Jesus - it’s four in the morning and I would rather fucking die than watch the sunrise.”
Eddie rolls the cards on his nightstand until they square together in a neat pile. His clock blinks ten to three and the house is warm and content.
"I'm laying on a card,” Eddie says after he flips out the lights.
Richie tugs the card from under Eddie's thigh, "It's a green four."
"I can see why you'd toss that."
"It's essentially the pawn of Uno."
"Useless," Eddie agrees.
Richie flicks the card away.
“I have to go, Eds.”
“I’m opening up to you, Richie. This is prime real estate for an emotional connection between us. I’m trying to bond with you over a shared interest.”
“What’s the interest?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“Yay,” Richie rolls onto his back. “You know I’m late, right? Like, I told you that.”
“I’m sure all your queue of customers at the kayak rental shop can wait thirty minutes. Maybe if they wait long enough they will realize it’s forty degrees out and kayaking right now would be a death sentence.”
“Is that a fucking radio?”
Eddie props his little box on his nightstand. It is already dialed in to the right channel and the buzz of dead air comes before Eddie is back under the covers.
“It’ll start soon, don’t look at me like that,” Eddie warns.
"The surprise is a radio channel? Eddie, are you trying to surprise me with my own radio channel?"
Of course - the way that stupid voice can curve.
Eddie says, “You have a fucking radio show?”
"Yeah, that's me. I stole a bunch of broadcasting gear when I quit my job and read 'How to Be a Talk Show Host for Dummies'. I found all these old vinyl records in an antique store and I didn’t have anything better to do. I’m set up at the base of the radio tower at the end of the beach. That’s why you always saw me walking back and forth - I live on the other side of you."
"Why didn't you tell me about it?"
"I didn't want you to listen to it and tell me it was lame."
"Are you being open and vulnerable with me?"
"I didn't want to find out that you had no taste that early in the game because I still wanted to get in your pants and if you were some boring dork you wouldn't have stood a chance. I'll show you my setup if you promise not to cream yourself."
“I can’t make that promise,” says Eddie, already hopping into his pants. “Can I watch you do the show?”
“I’d be straight up offended if you didn’t.”
Eddie’s skull cracks against the floor, blow barely softened by the rug, and is reluctantly aware that it is the middle of the night. His bedroom door is open at his feet and the ceiling fan is spinning slowly overhead. The bed is more than an arm's length away and Richie is laying on his stomach snoring softly - not the cartoon snore, but the deep, REM snore with hands pressing into his cheek and drool down his lip.
"That's not fucking funny," Eddie smacks his foot.
"Huh," Richie croaks. "I'm always funny."
Eddie sits on the edge of the bed. The alarm clock blinks red and 02:15.
Richie curls towards heat until Eddie pushes him back to his side. Richie hums and tosses blanket folds in his direction.
"Come back to bed," he says. "I miss all your hard angles and the smell of your rotting cast."
"I'll put up with the bullshit and the pranks, but only between sunrise and sunset. Richie. Richie? Are you listening? Go close the door."
"Fuck off, loser."
"You opened it!"
"I'm naked and warm under these sheets, Eddie. I wouldn't get out of bed if the house was on fire."
It is iceberg cold out of the sheets and Eddie would not risk frostbite and pneumonia for the comfort of a closed door. He tucks into the heat, pressing his cold toes between Richie's warm thighs. Richie tenses and sighs and relaxes back into him.
Richie and Eddie share the sink as they brush their teeth, fighting for spit space and planning elaborate schemes to get toothpaste where it does not belong. Eddie rinses and collects his morning pills.
“I have to go to the city for a refill, do you want to come? We can get lunch on the way back.”
“I have work, and I’m not going to spend the afternoon travelling through downtown for some pseudo-doctor’s sugar pills,” Richie pauses. “But, oh boy, does a romantic lunch with you sound tempting.”
“You’re on thin ice, buddy.”
“We have food at home.”
“Yeah, but I have that thing with my dad tonight, remember? I’ll be in Bellevue until tomorrow morning. It would be a nice send off.”
Eddie leans back against the sink as he swallows one pill at a time. Between the B12 and the Flintstones, Richie crowds him.
“You don’t look so good, slugger,” he gently rubs the bottoms of Eddie’s dark eyelids. “Do I snore or something?”
“Yes, but it’s not that. I’ve been stressed lately, and this move took a lot out of me. I wanted to talk to my doctor today about something to help me sleep.”
“Yeah, maybe he can prescribe you some sleepy tea.”
“And if he says it fucking works, I’m fucking taking it. I would try just about anything to get a full night’s rest at this point.”
Eddie wakes up on carpet to the smell of Bev's perfume.
The basement suite's master bedroom has a long, sliding panel closet and a queen size mattress that casts bulky shadows. It is dark, except for the crack of light from under the bathroom door and the distant Seattle skyline. Every step Eddie takes creaks the floors as he sneaks back up to his room. There is no one home - no one to wake up - but it is a suffocating necessity that he be absolutely silent.
His lungs only completely fill when he is behind his closed bedroom door, but when he turns on the lights his chest falls. The bedding and his nightstand have been tossed through and strewn. The bathroom light is on and the vents are whirling. His toothbrush and shaving kit have been uprooted onto the tiles. His pill bottle has been opened into the sink.
He scoops the pills back into the bottle and counts them out across his palm.
Beverly - for a second he is sure it is her - is standing at his open bedroom door in the reflection of the medicine cabinet as he locks his pills away.
"Bev," he calls.
It is not even a real glance, just a quick look over his shoulder at the shape of a person - too tall, too lanky, too sick-skinny to be Beverly - as it surges toward him. On muscle memory alone, Eddie slams his bathroom door shut. He locks the door as the handle shakes.
He calls out, "Bev! Bev! Richie!"
He backs into the toilet. His arms catch in the shower curtain.
"Richie! Fuck! Fuck off! Fuck you!"
It is banging on the door - frame rattling, hinge splitting force - it is throwing its body against the wood.
And then it stops.
And it is so quiet that, for a second, Eddie feels foolish for yelling.
And Eddie can only sink back against his bathtub and watch the door handle - waiting for proof.
“I got offered a job in the city,” Richie says.
The backdrop is a song by Europe - and Richie sits back from the mic and pulls off his earphones to face Eddie fully.
Eddie says, “Oh.”
“I wouldn’t be moving. It’s really not a bad commute and I would only have to go in a couple of times a week.”
“What’s the job?”
“Narrating children’s audio books.”
“That sounds right up your alley, Tozier.”
“What?” Richie says, “You really think so?”
Eddie says, “Why do you sound so surprised? Can you imagine all the voices you could do for Puff the Magic Dragon and all those guys. The kids are going to love it.”
Richie pulls Eddie away from the records and close enough - close enough to pull down for a kiss. Eddie is immediately humbled by the sweetness of Richie’s touch and lost for breath when Richie’s fingers find the length of Eddie’s jaw and they move with unexpected veneration. It is a quick and new sort of kiss.
“You’re tense,” Richie says. “I didn’t realize how bad until you relaxed just now.”
“I’m stressed. I still haven't been sleeping.”
“Maybe it’s time to try the sleepy tea.”
“I,” Eddie starts.
Richie turns to flip vinyl and start another song. Eddie breathes easier without the pressure of Richie’s direct curiosity.
“I will believe you,” Richie says as he turns back. “You can tell me anything, Eds.”
“I’m too tired to fight for it, Rich,” Eddie says. “If you just brush it all away with a joke-”
“I’m fucking haunted,” Eddie says.
“I fucking knew it,” Richie says.
When Bev pokes her head in the bedroom door, it is late. She toes off her sneakers and leaves her purse in the corner of the room. Richie scoots over so she can sit on the edge of the bed.
“I know this is going to make me sound crazy,” She speaks very guardedly.
Richie says, “It’s not.”
Eddie says, “There’s something wrong with this house and I am so fucking sick of it.”
Bev flushes with relief, “You’ve seen it, too?”
Richie sits up and adjusts his glasses. Eddie is surprised that he takes her seriously enough to turn off his iPad in the middle of his Candy Crush streak.
Eddie says, “I think so. I don’t know what it is, but it’s like I can feel it. Especially at night.”
“I thought I was going insane,” Bev admits. “I couldn’t sleep downstairs. I would wake up every night knowing that there was something in my room with me, standing at the foot of the bed or right behind me. The first time, I thought it was just the stress of the last few months, but it kept happening.”
Eddie says, “I see it in the corner of my eye when I’m alone. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I got here. I’ll have these vivid nightmares and I wake up in strange places.”
“I watched this house go up for sale three times this year, and sit vacant for months,” Richie says. “I thought they found asbestos or lead in the paint, but the real estate agents would still come to make sure the place was clean. I thought all the rumors were to haze new tenants.”
“I never asked. Just that the place is evil, ghosts and ghouls. Run of the mill bullshit.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Hey Eddie,” Richie twists his voice childishly. “I know you just met me, but I’d love for you to sit through my PowerPoint presentation on why you're hundred thousand dollar beach front property is a huge loss and if the stress of a move doesn’t kill you the fucking evil entity in the basement will! Fuck off, what was I supposed to say. I was waiting for a city council member to knock on the front door and ask you if you needed any fliers for the farmer’s market or the home phone number of our local priest.
"I wasn’t going to say shit but then you were suddenly always so tired and pale; you act nervous at night. You look sick, Eddie. It didn’t all click together until Halloween, when you called me from the balcony. I heard your voice from the beach and I ran up the stairs. I saw you in the basement, sitting on the couch by the sliding glass door. It was so dark inside; I couldn’t make out anything but the shape of you sitting straight on the center cushion. It just clicked in my brain how weird it was to see you so calm after you had been screaming and I froze.
“I thought I was looking right at you, but then you called my name from the balcony upstairs. It registered all at once - this guy was too tall; he had to crouch in on himself. His arms and legs were so long he had to fold them up.”
Beverly says, “What did you do?”
Richie says, “I walked the fuck away. I went to Eddie. An hour later I remembered seeing it. I convinced myself it was all a trick of the light. Maybe it was, what do I know.”
Eddie turns away from the clock and meets Beverly's eyes in the dark.
When Richie snores again she smiles.
She says, "Should we wake him?"
Richie groans, "What? I'm awake."
They are packed like sardines into Eddie's little bed - Eddie, then Bev, then Richie at the end. For the first time since Eddie moved in, he is almost too hot under the covers.
Richie turns onto his back, "You know, I'm over here thinking up ideas, plans, and," - he blows some of Beverly's hair out of his face - "and I don't hear anything from your end so I'm just going to throw some dice into the mix and no one is going to judge me because we don't have any other ideas pending. Capiche?"
"Go ahead," says Eddie.
"This is a safe place," says Bev.
"Two words: Ouija board."
"Go fuck yourself," says Eddie.
"Fuck no," says Bev.
"This is a hostile work environment."
The house settles with crepitus.
An explosive pop of a door slamming closed echoes from the basement.
Richie swallows and says, "Spooky."
Six out of six of Richie’s kayaks go un-rented all day which is neither surprising nor interesting so Eddie hogs the heater and naps in Richie’s cot. For the most part, Richie spends his shift jotting down ideas in his little notebook or swiping his phone or eating entire sleeves of crackers. Eddie skids across a light sleep and turns in the bed to watch Richie interact with his environment - with his bookshelf or his box of kids magic tricks or his laptop.
He wakes and Richie is practicing sleight of hand magic - a deck of cards and an ace of spades that zips in and out of his sleeves.
He wakes and Richie is flipping through a book on poltergeists.
He wakes and Richie is burning the roof of his mouth on a Hot Pocket.
He wakes and Richie is prodding his phone into Eddie’s hand and saying, “Is this your doctor?”
Richie turns to the screen in Eddie’s direction and, sure enough, if the name on the top of the page was not enough, the photograph is plenty familiar. But, maybe it is not. The last name is spelled differently and his doctor’s hair does not fall over his face like that.
“I’ve been exchanging emails with this old guy who lives on the South End. I mentioned your doctor on the show last week and I have been getting all sorts of emails ever since. This guy in particular told me this horror story of being diagnosed with a heart condition at a very young age and his parents took him to this doctor off island that gave him a bottle of pills that would cure him. He took the pills until he was in his forties, convinced that if he were to miss a single dose he would drop dead. His parents sold their car, their business, and eventually their own home to afford these pills.”
“Take it up with the American medical system.”
“So one day, this guy wakes up with chest pain and thinks he’s about to bite the bullet. He’s convinced he’s milked the pills for all they’re worth and he goes to the emergency room to die, but when he gets there, he gets the whole cardiac workup and walks out of there with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. The dude had a panic attack and one EKG later, the doctors are telling him he fits a clean bill of health.”
“So, the pills worked?”
“Except, when the old man told his ER doctor the whole story, she demanded to know what sort of medication would have cured his bad heart. She takes the pills to the pharmacist and brings him the bad news: he had spent over a quarter of a million dollars in his lifetime on gel capsules filled with sugar and medical buffers. The pills were fake, Eddie, and when they looked back at his records there was no notes that he had a heart problem at all. He had been another victim of a long con.”
Eddie sits up in bed and takes the computer. His doctor - no, but it was uncanny - is posing for a photo under a headline about a disgraced surgeon, stripped of his license to practice medicine.
“This old man sent me this article. That’s a picture of one of the doctors he saw in the office over the years. These guys have been running a con for at least forty fucking years.”
“That’s not him,” Eddie says. “My doctor is shorter, and his chin is narrow.”
“This is your fucking doctor, Eds. I’d bet on it.”
“I’m tired, you’re tired. Don’t overthink this.”
“If you don’t listen to me, I’m going to go absolutely bananas.”
Eddie turns Richie’s phone over, “I don’t care. My pills help me. I’m not the same as this guy you met on the internet and I can take care of myself.”
“Eddie,” Richie sighs. “Fine, yeah. Whatever. Then if we’re not planning to expose a con man tonight, can we at least head home early and watch Ocean’s Eight over pizza?”
Eddie pulls on his jacket before he leaves his bedroom. His fingers are pale and shaking.
Richie turns into the blankets as Eddie leaves the room, and - and it would be so easy, (with a razor from the bathroom, with a knife from the kitchen, with…). He would be hard to overpower - but let him sleep and he would not see it coming (would not get his hands up fast enough...) - when he knew, when he woke and was bleeding and warm from it, his would blink up at him….
Bev - she would not fight - across the hall Eddie can see Bev’s bedroom door is open and she is shaking under her covers and he would not need a knife, a razor, the axe from the wood pile - she is so small and docile (and her hair is long - easy to hold). Her neck is thin and paper white.
Two surging emotions turn his stomach as he reaches the top of the basement stairs.
(At the bottom step, the door burrows open to expose the black cavity of the suite.)
Eddie is torn with impatient anger - like excitement - that bubbles in his guts and pleads his legs to hurry, hurry, quick, race down the stairs.
(He is late and he is going to miss it, but his lead feet will not move fast enough - will not tumble down the stairs to get there on time - to reach the violent quiet.
He burns with the anticipation - with the need to scream from as deep as his bones.
Then he is at the open door. (And he feels so welcome - so central and familiar.)
The stillness of the room is water thick and now the second emotion - recognizable and unexpectedly clear - quivers to the hazy surface. He is fucking panicking and sick with it. His hands are trembling.
(Images of Bev’s graying face below him flash in his head, and of Richie gurgling and choking and - fuck, did that happen? Did he do that?)
A man sits on the couch, facing Eddie. His limbs are long and crooked. He is bent up at odd angles to fit in his seat. Any facial features - if he were to have them - are lost in darkness. But, Eddie knows he is staring directly at him.
And his guest unravels. His legs stretch, his arms hang, and his head lilts almost at the ceiling. With those long legs, Eddie would expect him to come sprinting, but the stranger takes small steps closer. He starts on the far end of the room and stretches forward just a little bit, and a little bit more.
Then faster, the thing moves a bit more, and more, and closer. Eddie turns away, but he can hear the footsteps coming on the carpet as he jolts the handle on the basement door and tries to shake it off its hinges when it does not budge open. He pounds on the door with unfamiliar fists and screams with a voice that feels outside of himself.
The footsteps slow again.
It is right behind him with an imminent heat.
Eddie shrinks against the door, forehead against the cool wood.
Arms encircle him from the shoulder and Eddie strikes an elbow back, meeting nothing. He loses his balance with another weight - with Richie - and they tumble to the floor. Richie is wide-eyed and racing his hands over Eddie’s chest and cupping his face to hold him still. After Eddie short circuits between relief and confusion, he deciphers the details: the sweat and blood and snow and the grip Richie has around the back of Eddie’s neck.
Behind them, the sliding glass door is wide open and letting in the winter cold.
Eddie says, “You’re bleeding?”
Richie says, “Yeah. I fell down balcony stairs. We heard the door close. We couldn’t get it open.”
Richie shrugs at the door and then looks - into the suite and the shadows.
He says, “It’s about fucking time to explore Ghost Busters in the Yellow Pages.”
“This isn’t a good idea,” Eddie marks the evening with a jinx.
Bill is one of Richie’s friends from high school and he brought a haunting guide with him that he pulled off the shelves in the religious section of their local off-putting bookstore. Mike owns the bookstore, and he knows Bill who knows Richie and it is all rather complicated. Mike circles the perimeter of the room with a bundle of smokey sage and a small book of Latin verses, so Eddie supposes there are worse things to be than complicated.
The coffee table at the center of the room is adorned with lit candles and another dish of burning sage. Bill is flipping through his books and writing on a pad of paper in some mimic of Latin.
“It may not be a good idea,” says Bill. “But it’s something.”
“Oh. Good. As long as it’s basically happening at the bare minimum.”
Ben is one of Bev’s friends from work and he will not come all the way down the stairs. He reaches out to Bev cautiously when she steps further into the room - stops before his hand reaches her.
“Sage in the home should be enough,” Mike says. “We do not have to go any further.”
“But we should,” says Bill.
“It would be dangerous, but the best way to know if the sage worked is to confront the entity directly and see if it responds.”
Eddie says “Dangerous how?”
“There’s no saying what could happen. Sage is sometime unpredictable. It will cleanse your home or it will make the demon much, much stronger.”
Richie says, “And this was your big idea?”
“It’s all there is to do. Otherwise you just have to leave.”
“”And the Ouija board?”
“Part of the ceremony.”
“Which is a good idea?”
“Yes,” says Bill.
“Well,” says Mike. “It’s dangerous.”
Richie says, “I trust Mike. He owns a bookstore. Only smart people own books.”
Bill says, “Do I not own books, Richie?”
“Not enough. Not as much as Mike.”
Bev says, “It cannot hurt us when we’re together.”
“Because,” Richie stresses. “Because it’s limited by its upper body strength? Says who.”
Bev is the first and the bravest of them - she sits at the coffee table and offers one hand to Bill and the other to Mike. She says, “Let’s get this party started.”
Surprisingly, Ben is quick to sit in front of Beverly and offer a hand to Mike and his other to Richie.
“You’re lucky you’re handsome,” Richie takes his hand.
Eddie sits last and least comfortably between Bill and Richie. Richie squeezes his hand hard and comfortingly until Eddie settles. Eddie squeezes back, trying to convey gratitude or terror or anticipation from palm to palm.
Bill says, “Are you guys sure about this?”
Richie says, “We’re already holding hands and we would just look downright silly if we stopped now.”
Bill reads some gibberish from his book at a whisper and Mike announces, “Don’t let go of anyone’s hand no matter what. Don’t look directly into any of the candle flames. If a candle goes out, hold your breath as long as you can. If you hear a voice, don’t answer it.”
“Is it too late to go to the bathroom?”
“Figures,” Richie says.
Eddie knows that Bill has finished reading the passage from his book by the snap cold in the air - he opens his mouth on instinct, to fill the void in the room with noise before they are all consumed by the lack of it. When the room darkens, it is not the dimming of lights. Under the spell of a premonition or a hallucination, Eddie is sure the walls are dripping wet with the heaviness of the room. It is hard to breathe through, and something that is so allencompasing that Eddie wants to shield his body. He would draw into himself, but he is anchored.
He wants to pull inward, but he also wants - more than ever - to hold Richie’s hand.
Richie - it is hard to hear him over the rush of the wet - is so far away, “Eddie?”
It is Mike saying, “Don’t.”
And Bill says, “If you’re in the room with us, please communicate. You can move the pieces on this board to make words. Tell us who you are.”
“Guys,” Eddie begs. “I don’t want to do this.”
“He doesn’t want to do this, guys.” Richie says.
“It’s too late,” says Mike.
“Tell us who you are. Tell us what you want,” Bill says. “Whatever it is, it’s getting weaker.”
Eddie feels no weakness in the violence around him.
“Move the compass and tell us who you are!”
It is decaying - the silence and the dark - and there is a sensation of ears popping when it is gone entirely.
Bill says, “Make your presence known.”
But, there is nothing to know. It is gone. Whatever it was, it is not anymore.
Thrust instantly between fondness and annoyance, Eddie blinks awake too early to the sound of Richie and Bev locked in a - fucking Jesus - a Starship duet in the kitchen. He has almost tuned in to the lullaby and the smell of burning bread when his watch beeps.
Standing in the bathroom, it feels stupid to look himself in the mirror still holding his bottle of pills. Each little gel capsule has set him back almost a hundred dollars. He pours them all into his palm and looks down at the last ten. It is instant therapy to watch the pills swirl around the toilet bowl. It also helps to hear the power ballad down the hall overshoot the last notes of ‘It’s Not Over’ and then start the song over.
It snowed overnight and some of the white has stuck on the grass and balcony. The hallway and kitchen are warm with the help of the fire and the heater and all four stovetops on high as Richie blunders his way through a cooking list inspired by a continental breakfast from a three star motel.
"How do you fuck up pancakes," Eddie accepts a mug of coffee from Bev. "You just add eggs."
He cannot hear himself speak over the music. Bev is kind enough to turn it down as Richie threatens him with a plate of food.
Richie says, “Did you sleep well?”
“Better than you could possibly imagine.”
"I have to get ready for work," Bev announces. "Thank you for breakfast, Richie."
Eddie sorts through the food until he finds the most salvageable of the toasts. When he glances up, Richie has an impish look on his face - distorted behind his big glasses.
Immediately after Bev pulls the front door shut behind her, Richie says, “Any plans for the day, Good Looking?”
"How the fuck do I not know what you do for a living? Are you some sort of spy? A government agent?"
"No, well sort of. I do investigations."
"Oh," Richie kneels on the bed, over him - closer, closer. "Do you investigate murders? Are you a PI? That would be hot."
"I investigate insurance claims and report fraud to the IRS," Eddie says.
"Oh my god," Richie says. "That is literally the wrong answer. I didn't think there was a wrong answer but there really was! Look, look how soft my dick just got! We may never have sex again!"
"I can't fuck a narc! This isn't what Ice Cube meant when he said ‘fuck the police’!"
"You rent goddamn kayaks for a living! Who are you talk!"
"What if I'm inside you and all I can think about is if I'm prepared for the end of the fiscal year! Eddie, what's a 10-40A? Is it different than a 10-40? Am I doing my taxes right? How many dependents do I claim?"
"Richie, if you don’t shut the fuck up and start touching me, I'm going to freeze your assets until every IRS agent on the west coast has thoroughly and painstakingly audited any aspect your financial records I've deemed suspicious."
Richie freezes. He looks down at Eddie, down further, then back at Eddie.
"Fuck, we might actually be able to make this work,” Richie says. “Talk dirty to me. Tell me what you’re going to do to me when you find out I neglected to file my 2014 taxes."
“Richie, are you being serious? Hold on, do you remember what your gross annual income was at the time? Do you still have your W-2s? Did you make any large purchases? As long as you haven’t been contacted by the IRS, there won’t be a penalty fee.”
“God, that’s so sexy.”
“Hit the pause button, Tozier. Where do you keep your financial records.”
“What. The fuck.”
“This is really doing it for me and all, but do you think we can switch it up? Maybe you can pretend to be a data entry clerk and I’ll list a bunch of fucking numbers. God, Eddie. 41,232. Uh, 2,239. ”
Eddie sits up, pushing Richie back on his knees, “I could give you advice that anybody else would have to receive through a paid financial consultant. My IRS insider knowledge is irrefutably valuable.”
“This sex is so much better than actively being asleep. It’s even better than that time you made me watch two and a half seasons of Star Trek: Voyager with bathroom breaks that had to be preapproved.”
It's 02:15 in the morning.
Eddie blinks at the clock as he slides under the blankets, down the sheets, and out of bed. He drops stiffly onto the rug. The bedroom door is open at his feet. Pressure builds at one ankle, and it does not feel like a hand but it sickens Eddie to think of fingers when the weight begins to encircle. His whole body is tugged violently and suddenly toward the door. The rug tugs up his shirt and burns his back and then he is on smooth hardwood floor and it is like sliding over clean ice.
He is dragged, breathlessly, to his bedroom door by absolutely fucking nothing but the dark shadows in the hallway. He cannot catch a breath until he has all the fingernails of his one good hand locked around the door casing.
The tug o'war tears up Eddie's side as he tries to out muscle something completely unsubstantiated - hypothetical, in all honesty. His palms are sweaty and he kicks out at nothing. His fingers slip and it is like friction only exits for fucking with him in college physics. He is dragged so quickly to the open jaws of the basement staircase that he does not remember them coming until he already has his hand wrapped around the top step banister.
Richie comes running with his long limbs and strong shoulders and absolutely blind as a bat in the dark without his glasses. He fumbles for Eddie's hand and reaches further to lock under Eddie's arm, snaking himself around the trunk of Eddie's body.
He is right in Eddie's ear.
"What the fuck! Fuck!"
Eddie loses his grip on the banister and they both go tumbling three more steps closer to the basement door before Richie grabs the same post.
"Don't fucking drop me! Don't fucking let me go!"
"I got you!"
"If you let me go, I will haunt you so fucking bad!"
"Fuck! Hold on!"
"You'll think about this haunting fondly when ghost-me is through with you!"
Richie is braided around Eddie; he is a vice at his chest and waist. One of his arms is twisted up as an anchor, but Eddie can hear his sweaty palm against wood that is beginning to splinter.
At the bottom of the stairs, the basement is absent of light in a way only negative space can ever be. Eddie has lost a part of himself just for peering into it - a sudden grief overwhelms him. It is not the same helplessness of standing before his mother, but it hits him in all the same places.
A thought appeals to the forefront of his mind and he knows immediately that it is not his own.
Clearly - with a little, crooked voice - the thought says, "Let go, Eddie!"
The thought intrusively continues, "Hurry or you'll miss it!"
The darkness waits impatiently at the bottom of the stairs. It seethes and grits and shakes - it reaches out in subtle, angry waves on the tide of their shore.
It says, "Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, come, come! Come! Come! Stay! Stay! Stay!"
Then, it is very suddenly so, so quiet.
Eddie can hear himself shaking.
Richie's wooden banister cracks.
Eddie grabs another - just within reach.
At the center of his skull pounds, "Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!"
All the weight of Richie goes slack as his banister snaps and Eddie tenses to bare it on his last battered fingers when Richie sloughs down the steps.
It says, "Stay! Stay! Stay!"
Richie unwinds from Eddie at the last second and the momentum takes him 5, 4, 3, 2, to the bottom step and Richie reaches out into the darkness - gone, he is fucking gone - and comes back swinging the basement door shut.
The chanting is cleaved off immediately like the muscle has been severed.
Richie stands before the door, and releases the handle, and ebbs against the wall.
Eddie tucks his feet under him.
The door handle slowly twists.
Richie snaps, "Fucking run, Eds!"
Eddie reaches out and Richie obliges. Their fingers twist together in a knot and they bolt up the stairs two at a time together. Eddie reaches the top of the stairs before the chanting begins again. At the back of his neck, there is a burning sensation in his gut begging him to turn, turn, turn around.
The basement door is open and the shape - the not-person with the long limbs and the dark, twiggy fingers - is reaching up at them. It catches Richie's heel and he jolts straight down, face first, against the angular top step. Eddie might have lost his grip if he had not expected the fall, but levees the change in weight to launch Richie back to his feet.
Fuck the bedroom and the bullshit he has in the bathroom and Richie's jeans and glasses. Eddie bolts straight for the front door and the beautiful curve of the driveway where Richie's bike is still out on the grass.
Eddie pulls the bike handles into Richie - there is blood on his face and the cup of his hand that tried to hold his nose together.
"How do I look? Am I still sexy?"
"We can worry about this later!"
"Fuck, that sounds like a no."
"Let's triage! A broken nose or the gates of fucking hell at our heels! What's our priority! What's our number one!"
Richie shrugs. There is blood dripping into his teeth and perhaps there is not always a joke that can cover it all.
"Ninety percent of my charm is my sense of humor, anyway,” he says.
"And I guess no fucking demon would take that away," Eddie accuses.
Richie swings his bike out onto the road and Eddie wastes no time jumping on the pegs. Eddie presses fully against Richie and helps him steer away from obstacles and does not look back because he knows what he will see if he looks back. It will be a lot harder to live knowing there will never be any proof that anything happened.
He presses his cheek into Richie's shoulder.
The house patiently waits for them by the ocean shore.
"You can't go back," Ben says.
Everyone already knows this, but Eddie is not going to rip Ben a new one just because he is the first to voice it.
They have all been sitting at Mike's kitchen table for two-some odd hours watching the boys take turns trying to butcher Richie's nose back into place until Ben threw up and then Richie laughed and then threw up and Mike just took over. Mike reset Richie's nose but could not keep the hold without a butterfly bandage. Richie had dug into the first aid kit until he found dinosaur band-aids that neither helped nor looked cool around the bridge of his nose. He presses his beer against the bruising and saves all his smiling for when he knows Eddie is looking.
"I'll call movers before work tomorrow," Bev says. "I won't go back in there, not even for my stuff."
"I'm putting it up for sale tomorrow. Its beach front property and it'll sell in no time."
“Wait,” Ben says. "What if you sell it to a family with kids?"
Eddie says, "How about I just don't do that."
Mike says, "Or a newlywed couple."
"I'll scratch them, too."
"You can't let someone move into that house without knowing what they're getting into," says Bill.
"I'm getting rid of this fucking house, Bill."
"Get rid of it," says Bill. "But guys, we need to keep an eye on the family who moves in so no one gets hurt. If we ever see the signs that that thing is back we have to go in there and fight it. We have to promise we will help them."
"Hey, Billy. Suck my fat cock."
"Suck my big, fat schlong," Richie expands. "I'd eat your mom out before I take another step into that house to save some fucking stranger. If they don't know a demon screaming 'Get Out' when they see it then boo fucking hoo. I, personally, got the message and my ass is out. Hasta la vista, baby."
"We can't just leave the next family to suffer."
"Are you fucking French, now? Who is this 'oui'? I don't know what Immanuel Kant high you're riding with this sudden martyr complex, but I'm one of those all for one guys tonight. Take your blood bond and your brother pact to another circus, you fucking clown. My happy ending starts right now."
"You could just market it as a haunted house," Bev says. "All the attraction with none of the moral liability."
"Look," says Richie. "A loophole!"
Bill looks sort of pissed but mostly okay with it. He gets it; surely, he can emphasize. He does not have to be personally dragged down the stairs into the maw of Hell to sort out that this would be a fight not worth losing. Eddie is more than happy to pack the place up and move the fuck on if it is all the same.
Just in time, Richie says, "Eddie, what kind of place are we looking for next?"
Eddie is insistent, "One without any fucking ghosts."