Tag Archives: Believe Me

“Believe Me” – Fiction by Jono Naito

Dreaming of the Astral Plane – Norval Morrisseau (Copper Thunderbird), 1995

A mysterious man reunites with an old friend in “Believe Me,” Jono Naito‘s eerie & alluring short story from our Spring 2017 issue.

{ X }

AN OLD ACURA PULLED INTO THE DRIVEWAY in early November, during the last of the cold rains. I had my hand down the drain of a hot tub. I was out at my late uncle’s place, which I rented to rich types from the city. The deck was broken, the wires frayed, the roof peeling back with each passing year, but I would still come up the mountain to fix it. I liked the long breaks though, when no one was there, where I could be by myself for a week or so. A water-proof headrest floated in the leftover tub water. Being there was my purpose, at the time; I thought it was all I had. I stepped around the rusted metal furniture to watch the unexpected visitor, dangling my dripping arm far from my body. The car pulled away, leaving a man with a black coat and two hard leather briefcases. Facing me, I could see it wasn’t a coat, but a robe. It took a moment, but I realized the person was somehow Nathaniel Sharp.

“I need a place to stay,” he said, at a distance.

“Do you have a reservation?”

“Rules are prisons.” He hadn’t outgrown his familiar tone. His face was thickened by age, though the eyebrows, twisted over like the touching of two bent river-reeds, those were his. In grade school Nathaniel had little, round spectacles and carried notebooks with him wherever he went. The former was still perched on the tip of his raven’s beak nose, and at least one journal dangled from his hand. My body shivered in the wind as he approached. We were both the same age, but what thinning hair I could see made me second-guess the time. It had been twenty-five years since the tenth grade, when he left school without saying a word. It couldn’t have been that long already, I thought, I was still fairly young. Nathaniel, standing quietly before me, removed his hood.

“LaFarge gave me your info. He said you had a place up here. I have money.” He pulled a clod of bills from his pocket, aligning his eyes with mine. LaFarge was the one guy I still knew from school.

I took and unfolded the cash. “Why do you need a place?”

“I just do. Just for a few days. I have news, quite the news, but I can’t share it with you. Not out here.”

He looked at the trees around us, holding the suitcases closer to himself. When we were young he thought himself a wizard, and, for some time, so did I. I became worried, quickly, that he still thought this.  “What’s in there?”

“My equipment,” he said. “The standard, everything I need to continue my work.” He looked at the cottage wall. “It is nice here. Isolated. You must like it very much.”

I nodded. It had been awhile since a friend had to lean on me for help, and I couldn’t, at that moment, think of a way to say no. “Front door’s unlocked,” I said. “Loft bedroom to the left. You can set up there.”

Nathaniel nodded and put a hand on my shoulder, the edge of his thumb resting on my clavicle. It was strange to be touched. He smiled that same, child-wonder smile.

“It’s good to see you, Ford. I have much to show you.”

He left me in the chilled air and went to the front door. I considered changing my mind, but as I unfolded the bills I saw they were hundreds, quite a few of them. Money was money. Moving about inside I heard the suitcases, percussive. I returned to the hot tub, dipped my arm deep, and pulled on the valve to drain it.

{ X }

I sat on my couch and stared up at the loft. Nathaniel had fallen asleep quite abruptly, one boot visible. The scent of incense settled on the room; lavender, a smell that I used to adore for its ability to cleanse a space of bad energy. My phone shook on the table; it was, perhaps, a new tenant, finally messaging me back. Or junk email. In both cases I didn’t get up, and instead I continued to watch the single boot like a television for the next half an hour, wondering how long he’d be like that. As if he heard me thinking, Nathaniel eventually grunted and got up.

He maneuvered himself down the steps, hood back, exposing the edges of tattoos extending from his ears, down under the collar of an undershirt. He sat in the armchair by the wall, and looked out the window, licking his lips in silence. His socks were not matching; I could see under the hem.

“I finally did it.”

“Did what?”

He untangled the robe at his feet, hiding his socks again. He looked out again.

“It’s incredible.” He ran his fingers through his hair, almost like he was removing a toupee. “We spent all those years, and now I can do it.” I began counting the rings on his left hand. “Are we alone?”

“Yes,” I said.

He leaned forward. “I can do it, Ford. I can get into dreams.”

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