Steven Shinder

Lemons Loom Like Rain

“Are you a sitting duck?”

Stagmantel turned his head around, revealing his stoic stone-like face. It looked like dirt, and his demeanor seemed very cold. The antlers still stuck to his head. The glowing eyes were unnerving.

This has gotta be a mask, Peyton reasoned to herself.

But the muscle movements in the face made her second-guess.

“Sitting is a hobby of mine, but I do not mind moving around these parts whenever I feel like it.”

“Does the school know that a weirdo like you hangs out here?”

“The Landlord and I have an understanding. I don't interfere with the school's affairs, and the school does not interfere with mine.”

“What are your affairs?”

“It is just the one, really. We are a bit private about it though. You and I have only just met, and it may not yet time for you to be in the know. A newcomer such as yourself needs time to adjust. Take all the naps that you can. You may find that they will help you catch up to the logic of this place.”

Peyton thought she saw a slight smile, but then she reasoned that it must have been some confirmation bias. She still had so many questions.

“Where are you from?” she pressed on.

“From the top.”


“We will take it from the top once you are ready to know.”

“What's your aesthetic?”

“That is enough questions for now. Run along and rest.”

Perplexed, Peyton stepped backward toward the tunnel, partially expecting Stagmantel to rise out of the chair quickly and give her a jump scare. But he just remained on his minimalist throne, overlooking the park and its redwoods as ducks waddled around him.

Going back through the hedge tunnel, and trying not to step on any incoming ducks, Peyton still had many questions. But she knew that Stagmantel was reluctant to give her answers. Going back down the hill, she could see the club members still lying on their bedding. A few were napping. Others were simply staring up at the sky. Gertrude was among the latter group. She turned her head to Peyton as she got closer.

“Where'd you go?” Gertrude asked.

Peyton pointed up at the hill.

“Notice anything unusual up there?”

Gertrude sat up and looked in the direction to which Peyton pointed. After a few seconds, she shook her head.

“No. I don't see anything.”


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