visuals by rhoda penmarq
The walls are beige and the sofa is green; it’s the strangest room you’ve ever seen.
There’s a picture of Mom above the sofa in a brown wooden frame – it’s older, as she has been gone for a long time.
No matter how close or how far you are from the picture it never quite comes into focus.
Mom is a blue dress, blonde hair, a smile.
The rug is orange.
Hap Dixon is lying on his stomach on the rug, playing a board game with Aunt Bea.
Aunt Bea moved in after Mom was gone.
Aunt Bea has lived in the house for a long time.
There is a spinner on the board game; Hap spins the spinner.
Whenever Hap spins the spinner, Bodie the dog looks up from where he is sleeping on the orange rug.
Then he puts his head back down.
Hap smiles and moves his playing piece seven spaces.
Across from the green sofa, near where Hap and Aunt Bea are stretched out on the orange rug, there is a television set in a big brown console.
It looks like wood, but it’s not wood.
If you pick at the surface the stuff that looks like wood will come off in your hand
If you pick at the surface Dad will become cross.
The television is off.
Dad sits in a chair by the front window, opposite the kitchen.
He is smoking a pipe and reading the paper.
Dad’s hair is gray.
Aunt Bea’s hair is white.
Hap’s hair is yellow and it sticks up in the back from wearing his baseball cap.
Bodie’s hair is brown and white.
Suddenly a high-pitched pinging sound comes from up the stairs.
Hap jumps up.
He says, Oh boy!
The shortwave set!
Then he runs for the stairs, behind the wall which abuts the big, brown console television.
The carpet on the stairs is orange.
Bodie leaps up and follows Hap up the stairs.
Dad lowers his paper and shouts after Hap, Don’t be up there too long!
Your Aunt’s dinner will be ready soon.
Hap shouts back down the stairs, I won’t, Dad!
Aunt Bea and Dad exchange knowing looks.
Dad returns to his paper and pipe.
Aunt Bea places the board game back in its box and goes into the white and yellow kitchen, opposite Dad’s chair, across the living room.
She peers into the oven and murmurs satisfactorily.
Hap and Bodie enter the attic.
The attic is dark and brown.
It looks like wood, and it is wood.
Hap kneels down in front of the shortwave radio by the window.
He depresses the button on the microphone base and says, This is HDWXY 1, over.
Bodie lays down at his side.
There is no response.
Again, Hap says into the microphone, This is HDWXY1, over.
This time there is a response.
The high-pitched pinging sound returns, and it is followed by a man with a low voice.
The man says, YANKEE OSCAR UNIFORM CHARLIE ALPHA NOVEMBER NOVEMBER
Hap scrambles for the pad and pen he keeps by the shortwave set.
Hap writes down everything the man says.
The high-pitched pinging sound repeats, and then the man with the low voice repeats everything he said the first time.
Then the high-pitched pinging sound transmits again, and then there is silence.
When he is done transcribing, Hap looks down at Bodie.
Oh boy, Bodie!
I think this is a message!
Hap takes the first letter of every word in the transmission, and then arranges them in order.
The message reads: YOU CANNOT PUT ON THE DEVIL MASK
Hap says, Jeepers, Bodie!
I think this is a clue!
Then Aunt Bea calls from downstairs, Hap Dixon, time for supper!
Hap looks downcast at Bodie.
Gosh darn it!
We’ll have to come back to this after supper.
Hap rips the page off the pad, stuffs it in his pocket then goes down the stairs.
Bodie follows without enthusiasm.