Skeleton Crew

I wrote this for one of my creative writing classes back in 2009…

Skeleton Crew

When I first arrived here, it took some time for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. But even as I waited to gain a glimpse of my surroundings, I knew I was not alone.

On the contrary, it was so crowded I could hardly breathe (a mere figure of speech, since no one actually breathes in here). But on the whole it’s pretty boring: there’s not much to do apart from squeezing in and around a row of coats that haven’t been worn in years, swinging on the rod from which they hang, trying to find space among the piles of junk on the floor. And arguing, constantly getting on each other’s nerves. Take Frank’s Drinking Problem, for example. Occasionally he sobers up, but most of the time he’s stumbling all over everybody, stinking up the already stale air with fetid traces of alcohol. “Goddammit, Frank!” is probably the most common utterance in this closet.

When I first arrived, I was extremely disoriented. My only memory of life from before is a mélange of taunts and threats from my fellow high-school students. “Fag!” “Queer!” “If I catch you staring at me in the locker room again, I’ll kill you.” These and other phrases were ringing in my ears as I tried to figure out who, and where, I was. I don’t know how long things would’ve gone on like this if hadn’t been for Ted’s Affair With Doreen. Having been in the closet longer than anyone else, Ted is more or less in charge, mediating disputes and leading our interminable meetings.

Right away Ted recognized me as the new guy I was. “Well, well, who do we have here?” he inquired, his good-old-boy voice dressed in an air of pecking-order dominance. He glanced me over thoughtfully. “If I’m not mistaken, you must be Timmy’s Homosexuality. Welcome to the closet, Timmy.”

“Buhh…wyeah, Thimmy, gladda theeya,” Frank boisterously greeted me. He tried to shake my hand but missed, lost his balance, and fell onto all four of Norman’s Illegitimate Children, completely disrupting their game of bridge.

“Shit, not another one!” whined someone along the back wall. “It’s already too crowded in here. How fucked up can this family possibly get?”

“Pipe down, Thelma!” Ted shouted back. Since then I’ve discovered that Thelma’s Bulimia is usually very quiet, keeps mostly to herself. In fact, most of us would probably forget all about her if she didn’t yell out some obscenity every now and then.

“Don’t worry about her, kid,” Ted reassured me. “What’s important is that you get on board with the rest of us. We’ve got to have everyone’s cooperation if the plan’s going to work.”

Even more confused, I asked, “Plan? What plan? What are you talking about? And who the hell are these people? Why are we all in this closet?”

“Look, we don’t have a lot of time. It’s Thanksgiving, and any minute now the whole family’s going to start arriving for dinner. Assuming everyone shows, Patty and Robert may need to use this closet to store a coat or two. But we’ve got to be careful, because we might not get another chance for months.” He tipped his head in the direction of a couple glaring at each other in the far left corner. “Last Christmas we’d’ve made it out for sure, if Suzie’s Stint As A Prostitute and Andy’s Prison Time hadn’t started arguing.

“Anyway, here’s the deal, kid: We wait for someone to come open the door. Then I lodge one of these shoes into the space between the door and the frame. We give them a few seconds to go back to the living room, and then we slip out as quickly as possible.”

I was starting to catch on, and my interest was piqued. “And then what?”

Ted gave me a wink. “Then we find whoever created us—you head for Timmy, see, and I’ll look for Ted—and we reclaim our rightful place with them, out there in the open.” He smiled. “Exactly the last thing they all want to see happen. So, what do you say: are you with us?”

I nodded and settled in to wait, using the time to go over what Ted had just told me. He occasionally had to order somebody to quiet down, but eventually we all eased into a tense, expectant silence.

My musings were interrupted by the low whine of the doorknob twisting, the squeak of dry hinges unfolding. “Here we go,” Ted whispered feverishly as he nudged a scuffed brown penny loafer toward the open door. I couldn’t see much, except for a flash of coat being hung above my head.

“BUUUUUUUURRRRRP!!!”

The stillness was instantly shattered. Through the clothing I saw a blue dress and heels pause for a moment, kick Ted’s shoe out of the way, and hurriedly close the door.

“Goddammit, Frank!”

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