Let It Be
Mary pulled her pad to her chest and glared at the intrusion. An older guy, leaning over the fence behind her, smile a little too wide. “Yeah.” Eff off, creeper. She pulled one leg up.
“Okay. I just like art. Can’t draw for crap myself.” He shrugged and walked away, stealing one last glance over his shoulder.
She looked up — her nephew Adam was on the highest level of the jungle gym, tearing around with the other first graders. He saw her and waved; she waved back and he dived head-first into the tube slide. He’d burn off a bunch of energy, while she made ten easy bucks and had some time to work on her drawing, and her sister Kim would have a peaceful evening for a change. Everybody wins. She was working on the beast’s outstretched claw… she knew it was holding something, but what? There will be an answer, she thought, and stared across the playground to the pond beyond the fence. She pushed her hair back and thought some more.
The image of the creepy dude wormed back into her mind, and she nearly flung her pencil. “Asshole,” she growled, and flipped to a blank sheet. Without thinking much about it, she sketched the creeper on his back; the front end of an SUV loomed over him. A few more details suggested themselves, and she added them: the jogging track crossing, backstop fence in the background, planter with flowers. She looked it over and did a double-take: under the creeper, the words LET IT BE were repeated several times. She had no memory of writing that.
“Huh,” she grunted — but suddenly she realized the beast was holding an orb. No, a huge eyeball, big as the soccer ball rolling across the playground, with a slit pupil like a cat’s. She checked the time on her phone, and made sure the alarm was set for 6:30, then dived into her drawing.
After strapping Adam into his booster seat, he gave up whining about having to leave the park and picked up his toy F-16. He made whooshing noises as she got in a long line for the exit. The best thing about being sixteen was being able to drive. It got her a long way from her crazy-bitch Mom and the fights she picked with her and Dad. She sort of hoped Dad would divorce the hag so she could move in with him.
“Sh— oh no!” she gasped. Someone was flat on the crosswalk; the cop assigned to the park had his patrol car off to the side, lights flashing like a rave with extra weird drugs. As she drew closer, she realized the guy on the pavement was the creeper. A big white Expedition stood with a crushed grille, and the driver — a woman whose hairdo was wound way too tight — was arguing with the cop: “I was supposed to get my daughter from soccer practice ten minutes ago! Am I liable for every jogger who comes popping out of nowhere?”
Mary gave the scene a goggle-eyed stare — all the details in her sketch were there. “Too weird,” she breathed, and scooted away for her sister’s house.
The slap of thunder, shaking the classroom floor, matched Mary’s mood. That bitch Amber seemed to go out of her way to make life miserable for Mary. Always talking smack, “accidentally” knocking stuff out Mary’s arms, you name it. Thank God it was study hall — maybe she could get her act together before next period. Her U.S. History assignment was done, so she opened her sketchpad. The beast was almost finished, but again she flipped to a blank page and started drawing: the school, torn open by a force unmeasurable. Debris everywhere, cars overturned. A funnel cloud dwindled in the distance. From under one car, a girl’s hand, wearing a big class ring. And that repeated LET IT BE, snaking under the arm and around the hand.
Her stomach turned a flip, and she hustled to Ms. Larson’s desk. “Need a bathroom break,” she whispered.
Ms. Larson nodded. “Hurry, okay?”
Mary returned the nod and ran to the girls’ room. She closed the stall door behind her and stared at the toilet, taking deep breaths —
The alarm went off, three short barks, over and over, nearly drowned out by a constant rumble. Tornado warning, she remembered, and crouched in the corner between the toilet and the wall.
They found Amber under a car in the parking lot. Her friend Heather said she’d cut Sociology to take a smoke break outside.
Mom was on a drunken rampage. Dad hadn’t come home from work, and wasn’t answering his cellphone. Mary had slipped her sketchpad under the dresser, maybe the one safe place for it. Mom would fling her drawers everywhere, but she was too lazy to move something that heavy.
From the sound of it, she was now tearing the kitchen apart. Mary pocketed a flashlight, grabbed her sketchpad, and opened the bedroom window. The roof of the screened-in porch was just below, fortunately; from there she could drop to the deck and get away. She’d done it before.
Dad left her. And me too. What a shit! she thought. Was this the way things would always be? Disappointment punctuated by hours of Hell on Earth? Mom would be so apologetic in the morning, and maybe she’d even mean it, but it would happen again.
The house next door was foreclosed, its empty patio a welcome retreat. Mary opened the sketchpad and shone her flashlight over the beast. It was tearing itself out of the ground, ready to render its sentence on the world. The drawing was almost done. Almost. She picked up her pencil:
LET IT BE, LET IT BE, LET IT BE, LET IT BE. There will be an answer.