American Sweetheart

This is a short story I began writing for my Creative Writing class at University. It’s also my first attempt at writing a murder mystery, which I am hoping to continue writing in further depth allowing myself to develop the plot and characters. 

‘In the summer of my 13th year I fell out the tree dad told me not to climb. I didn’t climb it because I was the type of kid who enjoyed climbing trees. I climbed it because I saw what looked like an American Goldfinch amongst the branches. Seeing as I was only three birds short of having a full collection of all those native to New Jersey, I took the risk. Dad would later roll his eyes at my explanation for disobeying him and mutter what sounded like ‘why can’t you just be normal’ under his breath. We never truly saw eye to eye, me and dad. He was always a man’s man who’s hobbies included fishing, football and sharing a beer with the guys. I was the opposite.  He loves me, sure. I’m his son after all. But he never got me. Pam used to say it’s because my IQ was a lot higher than his.

Arriving at the hospital, the first thing I noticed was the smell. A mixture of old people and antiseptic with an undertone of bleach. I don’t remember much about what the doctors said about my head injury. All I remember thinking about was the goldfinch I missed. Three stitches and an ice cream cone from a friendly nurse later, I was excused. Before we left dad insisted on discussing my injury further, leaving me alone with my thoughts in the waiting room. Everything in the hospital appeared to be different shades of grey, including the people. Dull pieces of art were lazily hung up on the walls for, what I assume, was an attempt to brighten things up. This place served depression cold. That’s when I heard the voice that would change everything. ‘What happened to your head?’ I turned to see a girl around my age sat two seats down. A mess of blonde curls sat on her head which appeared to be streaked with reddish hues complimenting her otherwise pale face. I wondered why she was here as she appeared to look healthy. ‘Well? Do you talk?’ she spoke again. ‘Oh um, I fell out of a tree. I was – um- looking for a bird and I fell – so um yeah‘  Her brown eyes scanned my face and she burst into an infectious laugh. I couldn’t help but notice how her eyes weren’t the boring kind of brown. They were the kind that melted into rays of gold when the light hit them. ‘Bird watching!? That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard! You’re funny’ I was mentally prepared to ignore this girl and drown out her mean words, like I usually do with people. She continued ‘It sounds pretty neat though! I’m in here cos my mama is a nurse and I’m waiting for her to finish her shift and take me home. Say, you look awful familiar’ For some reason, despite the fact I was silent throughout most of this conversation, she kept talking. ‘Oh where are my manners!? I’m Pam by the way. Pamela Judith Scott but only my ma calls me that when she’s angry,’ She stretched out her pale hand which held a homemade friendship bracelet. I mirrored her actions. ‘M-Michael.’ ‘Michael what?’

‘Clark! Mr Clark could you please answer the question?’ My attention was drawn back to the present by the overweight lawyer in front of me. His pug like face looked irritated at my lack of response. I muttered an apology and the case proceeded. ‘Mr Clark, once again I ask you where were you on the night of July 16th 1969?’  ‘Jenna Dunn’s party, sir. We were celebrating the moon landing.’ The fat lawyer interrogating me had beads of sweat visible on his bald patch every time he turned to face the jury. If Pam was here she would laugh at him and probably call him a fat phony. She’d say he didn’t really care about the murder, only about the pay check he’d get if he won the case. Thinking of Pam made me smile; something I hadn’t done in a few months. When something big hits the timeline of your life, it squeezes into the middle and splits it in two. From that point onwards you think of your life in terms of the before and after it happened. For me there were two big wedges in my timeline. The day I met Pam and the day Pam died… (To be continued) ‘