Hollowstone, June 2011

(c) Dennis R. Upkins


Funny thing about the truth. No matter how deep you bury it, it’s always there for someone else to uncover. I never shared with anyone about my time at Hollowstone Academy… until now. If there’s one thing Caleb taught me, it’s that there are some stories that must be told.

Caleb Warner. The centerpiece of this sordid saga. He was my roommate and best friend in the three years I attended Hollowstone. And while we weren’t genetically related, he was my big brother in the truest sense. Though a hellion, he turned out all right in the end. He certainly deserved better than what happened to him.

They say it never snows in Newton. However it did much of that since Cal’s funeral. I suppose that’s what is called irony. Heavy flurries descended upon the four of us as we stood at Cal’s gravesite. Father Michael continued his prayer while my roommate’s weeping mother buried her face into her fiancé’s chest. My grief and anger made me immune to the harsh winds.

Labored breathing and crunching snow indicated a late arrival. Turning around, my eyes widened in surprise when I spotted Vaughn Pope. Tossing his shaggy dark mane from his eyes, my classmate adjusted his thick wool trench coat. I stepped away from the gathering to greet him.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said, panting heavily. “I couldn’t get my car to turn over. Where is everybody?”

“This is it,” I said.

“You’re joking.”

“I wish I were.”

“They used to come to his parties by the hundreds.”

“I guess they couldn’t allow something as trite as a funeral to get in the way of their little luncheons. To be honest, and not that I’m not glad, but I’m surprised you came. I didn’t realize you and Cal were tight.”

“We weren’t. I went to a few of his parties but we never really hung out. My car broke down on the side of the interstate one day. He called me a tow truck and gave me a lift back to the school. We chatted about music and stuff. He always seemed cool.”

Vaughn glanced at the others present. “The parentals?”

“His mom and her fiancé.”

“Any news from the cops?”

I shook my head. “They think it was a stickup gone bad. They found his wallet a few yards from the body. It was empty. They dusted it for fingerprints. Nothing.”

“And this snow doesn’t look like it’s going to be letting up anytime soon.”

“Nah. Under other circumstances it would be beautiful.”

Father Michael continued to quote verses from the small leather Bible in his hands. That’s when I saw him. Beyond the headstone, Cal leaned against a tree. He flashed his trademark smirk.

“What the…” I muttered.

“What is it?” Vaughn asked.

“You see him?”

“See who?”

He was gone. Of course he would be.

“Never mind.”

The whirlwind of the past few months were finally taking their toll on me. All things considered, it was a miracle I hadn’t unraveled sooner.