Wormwood Tales are stories written by the Wormwood creative team, designed to tell stories before, after and around our central tale. These stories may contain clues to the mysteries of Wormwood. Or they may not. We’ll never tell.
We hope you enjoy.
Wormwood Tales: Deidre Comes To Wormwood
By David Accampo
What brought Deidre Frost to Wormwood was:
The Wormwood Diner was just off the freeway, North and East of San Francisco as the gradual rise into the mountains began.
She had enjoyed San Francisco, but it was not Boston. She had loved Boston. She had loved Boston, and she had loved Kyle Fitzgerald. But now Kyle was dead and Boston was the cemetery in which he was buried, or perhaps more accurately, which had buried him.
What brought Deidre Frost to Wormwood was: an exit sign, followed by a gas station sign, followed by a sign that read, “Wormwood Diner.” The sign had a hole in it, plastic shattered by a well-placed rock, undoubtedly thrown by an angry and hormonal teenager. It made the sign look like this:
Wor wood Diner
What brought Deidre Frost to Wormwood was: an empty stomach and the promise of chili. At least, that’s what the hand-written paper sign in the window had declared. “Special Down-Home Chili.” Deidre felt that she could use a little down-home cooking. Boston had started to feel like a home until it hadn’t. It might have been Kyle, but she feared it wouldn’t have mattered. Deidre didn’t like to stick around for too long.
The cities, they buried her.
Towns were better. Towns had plenty of secrets, but they didn’t scream out at you. Small towns were best. The folk there seemed a little less cagey, a little more comfortable in their own skin. It was that kind of thinking that allowed Deidre to let down her guard.
On the other hand, it was hard to stay down on the farm, wasn’t it? From her carnival days, town to dusty town, the teeming masses piled out to meet her, unfurling their grubby, calloused hands. She told them everything they wanted to hear. That was her gift, after all, telling you exactly what you wanted to hear.
She told Kyle what he wanted to hear, but it wasn’t for his money. She told him what he wanted to hear because she wanted to hear how it sounded. And eventually, she began to believe it. It had been easy to skip over her life as a fortune teller. You just say that were a secretary or a massage therapist. No one does a background check (well, except that detective in Tulsa), and no one expects a woman to have a long-lasting career.
It was the Wolf who drove her from the city and back into the wilderness. She might have considered that to be irony if she was the type to consider such things. She wasn’t. It was the Wolf who bared his fangs. It was the Wolf who stole Kyle from her. He had followed her from a town, the name of which she had long forgotten. She had clung to the cities in recent years, despite the noise and also because of it. It had been harder for the Wolf to track her in the city.
What brought Deidre to Wormwood was: the freeway, which was long and gray and sustained its invaluable trajectory, which was: away, away, away.
It’s easy to run in a convertible sports car and a wide-open freeway.
The chili wasn’t special, nor was it down-home. Actually, it simply wasn’t. Miguel, the Mexican man who apparently ran the diner by himself, walked from behind the counter and slowly peeled the taped sign from the window after she placed her order. He walked back behind the counter, crumpling the sign into a ball. He dropped it into an unseen wastebasket.
“No chili,” he said. “Chili’s all gone. You want a hamburger? You want a burrito? You want chicken parmesan?”
Deidre settled on the down-home chicken-pot pie, which she suspected had never seen an actual home at all. She ordered a diet cola, which was flat. She didn’t complain.
What happened in Boston was: Kyle.
It wasn’t difficult for Deidre to find a lover. They had always been easy to come by. Her transitory nature had made lovers a necessity, and her insight made them a convenience. It was easy to tell who would make a good lover. She would read them all, and if they fit the profile, she told them their fortune was to meet an exotic woman from a faraway land.
Deidre found it easy to take a lover. But to find a Man, now that was difficult.
What happened in Boston was: Kyle was a Man.
Kyle was an investment broker, whom she met at a bar on Newbury street. He was with his friends, also brokers, but he drifted from the pack. He loosened up his tie. His hair was mussed. He ordered a beer from the bartender and winked at her.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello,” said Deidre. She waited for him to speak. His next words would tell her everything she needed to know about him.
“You know,” he said, addressing her while dropping bills on the counter for the bartender, “In retrospect, most people will go back to Born to Run or Born in the USA for the Boss.” He smiled at her and took a drink from the green beer bottle. “And it’s completely understandable. Because we mostly go back to old music for nostalgia, we look to nostalgia to capture the upbeat memories. However…I go back to Nebraska. There’s something about the bleakness of humanity that just reminds you of what it means to be alive. I know that probably sounds trite, but I take a song like ‘Highway Patrolman,’ and I think to myself, ‘Self…is it possible that you might look the other way for your brother?’ And the answer is ‘Yes, I just think I might.’ And then…” the man paused for dramatic effect, “…and then I don’t feel so alone. Because someone, at some point, wrote a song about it.”
He paused again, and Deidre realized that the jukebox had been playing “Thunder Road.”
“My name’s Kyle, by the way.”
Kyle had thrown Deidre completely off her game.
What happened to Kyle was: the Wolf.
No, that wasn’t exactly true. Deidre had already begun Kyle’s slow evisceration without ever meaning to. They dated briefly before Deidre moved into his apartment in the Back Bay. Kyle lavished her with gifts, but they weren’t generic gifts. Deidre had been given rose after rose, and they no longer impressed her. Kyle’s gifts were almost as intuitive as Deidre herself: a kite on a breezy spring day, an original song performed unexpectedly at a piano bar, a ridiculous “umbrella picnic” on a rainy weekday after she had felt cooped up by the stormy weather. Deidre had repaid this kindness by dissecting him, slowly, in excruciating detail. She didn’t know why; she took no pleasure in the act. Yet she picked at him like a scab, his need to please, his trouble with intimacy, his defensive posturing. She pushed and pushed, and eventually, she pushed him away.
And then the Wolf had found him.
What brought the Wolf to Boston was: Deidre’s scent, which was lilac and smoke and sweat.
This part she could only imagination: Kyle at a bar, his friends trying to cheer him up, trying to set him up with the waitress. The Wolf slinks in, sniffing the air. He is stooped in stature, but powerful – there is a spring in his step. His wild mane of black hair calls the attention of the patrons, as does his rumpled suit. He looks each one in the eye and they quickly turn away. And then he catches it: lilac and smoke and salty sweat. The tip of his tongue darts from his pursed lips. He locks his gaze on Kyle. He sits down and orders a drink. He pays with a small fistful of wadded-up bills. And he drinks. And drinks. He does not leave.
At closing time, Kyle leaves, stumbling slightly as he walks. He stops to piss in an alleyway, wishing he had used the bathroom one last time in the bar. He leans against a cold brick way, urine splashing on his shoes. He doesn’t see the shadow of the Wolf silently padding behind him…
Deidre saw the police photographs. She identified the body. A police detective called it a bizarre wild animal attack, and she knew he was right, after a fashion.
What brought Deidre to Kyle was not money. Deidre had money. She had always found money easy to come by, and thus had little use for it. Kyle lavished her with gifts, he did not spoil her; she had her own means. And when it was time to leave Boston, when Kyle’s remains were interred in a small cemetery, when she had quit her secretarial job and emptied her bank account, she took Kyle’s sports car (not because she needed it but rather because he did not), and she left the city behind. And as she left, she heard highways collapse and buildings crumble and streets fold into themselves until she was sure that the entire city had been swallowed up and removed from the face of the earth. And then there was only the freeway and the thrum of the engine purring: away, away, away.
What happened to Miguel was: the Wolf.
Deidre returned from the restroom and realized that the diner was very quiet. She had been the only patron in the middle of the day, but still. Too quiet. Her head ached and she knew what that meant. Her temples began to throb.
She didn’t want to look in the kitchen.
She didn’t want to call out.
She couldn’t leave.
What happened inside the Wormwood Diner was: carnage.
Deidre slowly peeked over the counter. She slowly crept into the kitchen. She stopped when she saw Miguel’s legs, prostrate, in a glistening pool of dark blood. She did not look further. She knew that the Wolf had found her, had followed her scent all the way from Boston and Providence, through Harrisburg and Louisville, down to Topeka and Santa Fe, up from Los Angeles and San Francisco, all the way to this small roadside diner. She knew there was no escaping this man. This man who had once upon a time been her Man, before she discovered that he was a beast.
Deidre ran from the diner, the door chimes jangling as she slammed through the door. In the parking lot, she noted that the tires on her car had been slashed. She spun around, half expecting to find the Wolf in mid-leap. The door to the diner undulated mildly and was still.
She walked slowly back to the road that connected to the freeway. A car was approaching.
A small sleek British car rolled up the dusty road. She recognized the model, a Morgan Plus Four…probably early 50’s if she were to guess. A man named Allan had introduced her to his obsessive love for the Morgan some six years earlier in Raleigh, and for a moment, she felt this might have been a cosmic effort to prepare Deidre with some kind of foreknowledge. The small, low car coasted to a stop. The ragtop roof was pulled into place. She could see the car had two occupants. The first man, who was bald and wearing tee-shirt and blue jeans, emerged from the driver’s seat. What was more interesting was the old man who did not step out of the car. Half-cast in shadow, he appeared to be dressed in an old-fashioned suit. His lips were pursed, his eyes hidden behind dark, thin-rimmed glasses. He watched her silently and without the slightest movement.
The bald man eyed her warily, and then scanned the diner. “Phineas,” he called to the man in the car, “Where?” Deidre noticed the bald man had a large tattoo across his chest, because the edges of it crept up from his collar and down from his shirt sleeves.
>From the car Phineas raised one gloved finger and pointed to the diner. Deidre turned slowly, felt as if the entire world was turning slowly, too slowly.
The Wolf stood behind her, licking his chops. He growled at the man and smiled, baring his fangs.
The tattooed man shouted. The Wolf shouted back. Deidre heard none of it. The world was too bright and too still and too empty and then it suddenly flared back into life as the Wolf sidestepped around her, circling the man warily in the small dirty strip on the side of the road, just outside of the Diner’s tiny unpaved parking lot.
What happened outside the Wormwood Diner was:
FIGHTFIGHTFIGHTFIGHTFIGHTFI stab FIGHT
The two men scuffled on the side of the road, the slight breeze kicking up yellow clouds of dust. The Wolf pulled back, standing up, catching his balance. Deidre saw the dark stain on his dirty white shirt. Sunlight glinted off of the wet metal in the tattooed man’s hand. His knife.
The Wolf stared down at the stain spreading beneath his tan jacket. He seemed oddly unsurprised by the wound. He looked down, looked at the tattooed man, looked down again, and then looked at Deidre.
“Huh,” he said. “Is that silver?”
And then he collapsed.
The tattooed man walked to her. He held the bloody knife out.
“Lieutenant Bradley will be here soon,” he said to her. “He’s a good guy. He’ll know it was self-defense.”
The tattooed man was offering her the knife.
What happened outside the Wormwood Diner was:
RELIEF fear EFRELIEFRELIEFRELIEFRELIEF
RELIEFRELIEFRELIEFRELIEF fear EFRELIEF
The tattooed man returned to the Morgan and started the engine. He pulled slowly around Deidre, so that the old man in the passenger seat rolled just past her. As he did, he gave Deidre an almost imperceptible wave of his gloved hand. She thought she sensed the slightest smile creep across his thin lips.
And then the car pulled away and continued on down the small country road.
Deidre had a bag full of money and a car with no tires. Wormwood had a diner with no owner. The Wolf was dead. There was no need to run. And, she noticed, her headache was gone.
A car appeared in the distance. It looked like an old Crown Victoria with a light rack. That would be the lieutenant.
What happened to Deidre in Wormwood was: she found, for a while, a home.