“Hello, Andrew.”


“How are you feeling today?”

“I’m feeling well, thank you.”

“How did you sleep last night? I know the nightmares have been giving you trouble lately. You’re still experiencing them?”


“How often?”


“And last night? Did you have any dreams that you’d care to talk about?”

“We were on the railroad tracks. Kids, walking the ties. Barefoot, but we didn’t care about splinters. It was me and Nora and Chucky. Good ole Chucky. He was scared of the splinters, so he kept his shoes on. We walked for miles, down past Jenkin’s Creek, all the oak trees full green.”

“Is this a real place? The tracks and the creek?”

“It was. Not anymore.”

“They dug up the tracks?”

“They dug up the trees.”

“I see… What happened next?”

“Both Nora and I had been looking for old iron spikes. We found about three or four each. Chucky was just filling his bag with coal. We had a wager to see who could get more for what they found. We’d walked around there before looking for coal, but Nora heard about a construction supplier buying up old iron for double the price of coal. Two bucks a spike, I think. Chucky wasn’t convinced though and said the coal was the surest bet for a good payout. ‘No-semitty,’ he’d always say. Like Yosemite. He was into geography and things like that. What Nora and I knew about that stuff was just from what he told us. I wasn’t interested in all that, but it seemed important to Nora, and that meant it was important to me.”

“Did she like learning from Chucky?”
   “Nora always used to say, ‘Come on, Andy. Let’s go see what Chucky chucked up today.’ So,we’d go see. She loved it.”

    “And how did you feel about it?”

    “It was important to me because of her.”

    “You liked Nora? As more than a friend?”

“Almost everybody liked her that way. She was the prettiest girl in the county, and on top of it, she could do everything all the boys could do and better.”

    “But she was your friend out of everyone…”

    “She was. We used to go crawfishing, catching crickets and frogs, fighting spiders and turtles against each other. She could dig up twice the earth worms as anyone, including me. But Chucky showed her a geode one day. It was pretty neat, sure. But then he got a telescope and he showed Nora the moon and the stars.”

…it seemed important to Nora, and that meant it was important to me.”

    “How did that make you feel?”

    “She was my friend. I tried to not care.”

    “She chose to look for spikes instead of coal like Chucky. Did you feel like that meant anything?”

    “Sure. It meant she understood the value of a dollar better than Chucky. I’m surprised he didn’t decide to look for spikes, too, just because she was. He would never have looked for them just because of me.”

    “Well, who won the wager?”

    “Nobody won.”

    “Nobody won? You mean it was a tie?”

    “I mean nobody won. We never sold the spikes or the coal.”

    “Why not?… Andy… Can you tell me what happened?”

    “Nora sprained her ankle.”

    “And you had to carry her back? Leave the coal and the spikes?”

    “No. Nora sprained her ankle and Chucky wrapped it up in a bandage. He was like a boy scout except he wasn’t. He knew how to do all that like he was a paramedic. I didn’t know what to do. I was worried, but Chucky just stayed calm took care of Nora. When he was done and she stopped crying, she hugged him. For a long time. Then she thanked him with a kiss.”

    “How did you react?”

    “How would anyone react?”

“You’re not just anyone, Andrew. You’re you, and the way you reacted in your dream can tell us even more about you in real life. That’s all it really was, wasn’t it? Just a bad dream?… Andrew… Andrew, if you’re not willing to give me the full picture then you’re tying my hands to help you… Please, Andy…”

    “I took a spike from my pocket and drove it into her skull.”


    “I’ll never forget the look on Chucky’s face.”

    “Why did you kill Nora? She was the one you liked.”

    “I never said that.”

    “You said everyone—”

“I said that almost everyone liked her that way. Chucky did, but I didn’t.”

    “Then why did you murder her?”

    “It was Chucky that I liked. She knew it, too. But Chucky didn’t like me. He wasn’t a faggot like me. I’m not the one he opened the geode for. I’m not the one he showed the moon and the stars to. That was always for Nora. Always Nora.”

“How was that Nora’s fault?”

“She knew how I felt about him. She didn’t care. Nora never cared about anyone. That bitch got what was coming to her. Sometimes, I can still hear that railroad spike, the top of her skull popping like… like a wooden tire, and the blood was all over everything. Chucky was still kissing her before he even realized what had happened. The spike even got stuck for a second, and I had to put my knee in her back just to get the leverage to yank it out. It made this horrible screeching sound. Not like nails on a chalkboard… but like the screech of a fork on a dinner plate. Then she fell over. I remember her blinking up at me as her body spasmed. Then it stopped… I wish it could’ve gone on longer…

“Why so pale, doctor?… I hope I didn’t upset you. It was only a bad dream, wasn’t it? You said so yourself.”

“Yes… I did…”

“I’m sorry, what was your original question? I got completely sidetracked.”

“Um… how did you sleep last night?…”

“Oh, that’s right; I remember now. Yes, I slept very well, thanks. How about you?”



Studies In gray.