Words will keep us together

Fiction, musings and all things writing by Gregory T. Janetka

Run Home, John Doe

Part I – The Boy

There is a boy who follows me around.  I do not know his name, even though he has told me it at least a hundred times.  Perhaps I need to clarify – he has told me a name at least a hundred times, as it changes with every meeting that we have.  I surmise him to be around seven or eight years of age, but the eyes he has are not his own.  His blond hair is well trimmed, with hints of amber underneath.  He is well clothed and, so it seems, well taken care of.  Normally he is alone, and so it was when we first met.

After having quite a day, I was relaxing in my favorite armchair, with a well-worn copy of The Little White Bird to keep me company.  In the middle of a sentence I heard what sounded like a tree branch being blown against my front door by the wind.  As there are no longer any trees in the vicinity of the door (and no wind that day), I decided to investigate.  Opening the door I found the aforementioned boy staring at me.  After a moment of silence, he said “hello,” wiped the soles of his shoes on the mat, and proceeded to enter my home.  Dumbfounded, I simply watched as he went directly to my favorite armchair, picked up my company, and proceeded to finish the sentence I had been on.

He looked at me, put the book down, and said, “What do you want to do?”
Regaining myself, I uttered, “What do I want to do?  Perhaps first of all I’d like to know your name.”
“I-van,” he said, greatly emphasizing the first syllable of the name (and so it would be his name for the rest of the day.  With all of the names he would use thereafter, I noticed that he always emphasized the first syllable, and never repeated the same name on a different day.)

I continued, “Well, it is very nice to meet you Ivan, I am Mr…”
“What’s that?!?”  He was pointing into the shadows.
“Oh, in the corner there?  That is my cat, his name is Ashworth.  Why don’t you two meet?”  I proceeded to roust the gray feline from his slumber, and present him to my new acquaintance.
“He’s so fat!  I shall call him ‘gray-ee’!” (As it is with most children, he did not understand the cat’s given name, and thus substituted his own.  While it may have been simple, it made sense out of nonsense for him.)

Normally, Ashworth does not take to strangers, but the boy and him got on rather well together.  I watched as they played in silence, “gray-ee” nuzzling the boy’s legs and such.
The boy then announced, “I must go, I will see you later!”

And so it was that he took his leave.  Closing the door, I picked up Ashworth, him taking up residence on my lap as I resumed my earlier position in order to continue on with my reading.

A few days passed uneventfully pleasant, and it was then that I decided to take a stroll through the neighborhood.  For once one gets away from the bustle of the streets, there are very agreeable paths nearby.  I took to one of these with only my thoughts in tow.

Having just finished my supper, I thought there would be nothing better for me than the open air.  It was a serene evening, the kind of sort that is able to transport you to events long passed as if they had just occurred.  I looked at the slowly darkening sky and smiled.

I passed many homes in my walk, but never once did another soul cross my path.  Turning the corner near what appeared to be a mockup of an English garden of old, I heard a voice – “Hey mister!  How’s it going?”  It was the boy again.  He was sitting along the path I toed, apparently searching for something, and so I inquired, “Have you found it?”
“What’s that?” He replied, dumbfounded.
“You know, whatever it is that you are looking for, have you found it?”
Smiling up at me, he said, “Why should I want anything?  I have all I shall ever need.”

“Silly child,” I thought.

He then invited me into a game of marbles, something I had not partaken in for quite some time.
“You shall perhaps have to remind me of the rules, Ivan, for I have not played since I was your size.”
He stared at me perplexedly.
“My name is Mi-chael.” he said.
“Oh, I do apologize,” I replied, tipping my hat to him. (I figure now that his names were all part of some game he was playing, for he did love his games so.)

“Michael” began instructing me in the way of the game.  Amazed by how much I had actually remembered, I found myself getting rather excited to play.
Very proudly he stated, “Okay, now is the best part – it is time to choose our marbles.”
As I watched his hand emerge from his coat pocket, I was more than a bit confused to see bottle caps, toy soldiers, rubber balls, and the various things that a boy will pick up along his trials, emerge.  With his pockets emptied, nary a marble was in sight.

He placed them all in front of me, “You get to pick first.”
Quite unsure of how to conduct myself at this point, I took what appeared to be a piece of pyrite – fool’s gold.  He then chose a thimble, and we continued on until the mountain of the pieces were evenly divided.  All of the rules which he had previously explained, (that is, the actual rules for playing marbles), were immediately thrown out the window as he began making it up as he went.  Finally getting a hold on this practice, I followed his lead, and so with each successive turn we wrote the rulebook.  The end result was great fun, but the resemblance to marbles was non-existent.

As I ran out of creative counter moves long before he would, Michael declared victory, and was extremely proud of himself.  With this defeat, we took our leave from each other – I continuing on my walk, with him falling back into the deep gardens.

Part II – The Gentleman Who Loved Dates

It seemed that everywhere I would go, the boy would find himself there as well.  I often wondered if he was without family, and perhaps lived at the orphanage nearby.  Every time I had seen him, he had been alone, but I do not believe an institution as respected as the Merrick Home for Children would allow those under their care to simply run about town as they pleased.  My inclinations began to veer more and more towards a rich parentage who, for whatever reason, simply did not pay attention to their offspring.

I had gone into town to purchase the new offering from Dr. Frederick Treves.  It concentrated on the work he had done with some of his exceptional patients, and had been hailed as the most engaging literary offering in quite some time.  Before taking myself back to my favorite reading chair, I decided to control my excitement and purchase the rest of the goods which I knew to be on my list at home.  This mainly consisted of a trip to the grocer’s.  It was on my way home from there that he happened along my trail.

“Well, hello lad.  And what is your name today?”
Ig-natius,” he said with a puzzled look,  “same as it always is.”

This time he was not alone.  Alongside him was an older man, perhaps around 70, but appearing in fair and amiable condition.  His gray hair and mustache carried an air of distinction, which contrasted with the simple tan cardigan he wore to keep his bones warm on this summer afternoon.

Without any introduction or acknowledgement from himself or the boy, the gentleman turned to me, smiled, and said “That’s a great hat!’’ Nodding to himself in approval of what he had just said, he concluded his thought, “looks good on you.”  I thanked him for the compliment, corrected him in that the praise should go to my friend who had given said hat to me, and continued on my path home, with them now as apparent companions for the trip.

Noticing my armful, the gentleman struck up a conversation with the obvious, “I see you have been to the grocer’s…”
Courteously, I answered, “Indeed I have.  This seemed a lovely day for the exercise.”  I attempted to show him the possession I was most excited for, but he appeared wholly uninterested.  His attention had become fully focused on my consumable goods, especially the bottle of Canadian Club.
“You must be sure to date them!”
Taken aback, I thought perhaps I had misheard him –  “Pardon me?”
“Date them, you must date them – so that you know when you have purchased them and how long they have lasted for…Oh, and the price!  You should always put that on as well.”
While I believe my face had retained the same appearance of common pleasantry, my mind attempted to slow down and push aside the coarse words which came into it.  I noticed my step had gained in speed.  Ignatius seemed to observe this as well (he is rather perceptive for a young one), and brushed off the gentleman, saying, “Oh, don’t worry about him, he dates everything – hey, when did we meet?”
The man proceeded to pull a small brown leather book from his right cardigan pocket.  It appeared to be older than the man himself.  Quickly leafing through the series of dog-eared pages, he declared, “June the fifth, seven years ago.”  The man’s face was one who was sure of himself.
The boy smirked, “See? He keeps track of every date.”
I was perplexed, and queried, “Come old boy, what purpose does this serve you?”

The gentleman stopped, and the two of us followed his lead.  His eyes met mine and showed me the seriousness of the remark I had just thrown off.
He began, “ To what purpose?  My good man, the concept of time is man’s greatest creation and I will use it to the full extent of my powers!  It lets us know who we are, where we have been, and how much longer we have to go on.  I ask you this, on what else other than time does everyone in the world agree on? Nothing.  To make friends with time is to exist, to be recorded, and remembered.”
The look on his face was one rarely seen – I imagine it was much like Baum’s when he would awake in the middle of the night to write on his walls.
The gentleman continued, “Would you really desire to exist without dates?  Without time?  Numbers are magical creations.  They are grounding, solidifying, satisfying.  Without them I don’t know if I would ever have existed. They can be counted on, they are unchanging, and infinite.  Thus, sir, I implore you, for your own sake, to date your newly acquired groceries when you arrive home.  I assure you, the benefits will be innumerable.”

Somewhere during the middle of the man’s proclamations we had apparently began walking again, for it was at this point in time that I had come to where my path home veered off the main to the right, and they straight ahead.  The man smiled, shook my hand, and said, “I really do love that hat!”  The boy told me to wish “gray-ee” well.  With that I bid them good day.

Placing the book beside my favorite chair, I had unpacked my groceries onto the kitchen table.  The sound of the felt tip across the masking tape seemed to echo through my home, “June 24…June 24…June 24…”

Part III – Eyes Across the Dock

It was Sunday – the only day of rest, and so the most glorious of the week.  It began in a lovely fashion with tea and biscuits, followed by reading the latest work from Thomas Parke D’Invilliers in the sun.  I know of no more pleasant way to start a morning.

Ashworth, who had joined me on the balcony, desired my attention greatly.  When I looked to see what was so necessary for us to share at that precise moment, I found my sister coming up the walk with her daughter, Elizabeth.
“Oh dear,” I thought, “She shall want me to look after her little one on my only day of freedom.”
Reluctantly, I followed Ashworth down to the front door.

Upon opening it I was greeted by Stephanie’s fist, inches from striking my face.

“OH! I am sorry!  How are you brother?”  She appeared rather frantic.
“Good morning to you.  I am just fine.  Good morning Elizabeth.”  She did not acknowledge me.
Stephanie went on, “I must go into town, can you look after her please?  Reggie was called away again.”
“I suppose that would be possible.”
Relief washed over her face.  “Oh wonderful!  I’ll see you both later, I shall be back before dark!”

And with that it was the two of us.
Elizabeth was tolerable, as far as children go, but I wished I had at least been given fair warning of this new charge to be in my care for the day.

I knelt down to her level.  “Elizabeth, dear, is there anything that you would like to do today?”
Since she had been born, the young girl had seesawed between shy and exuberant.  She now stood just inside my home, her shoes staring straight back at her.
“Well…if there is nothing you’d rather do more that stare at the ground, have a good time.  I am going to go out for ice cream.”
At the notion of this her blue eyes engaged mine for the first time in recent memory.
Her voice, which was normally nearly inaudible, perked up –  “Oh please Uncle, may I come with?”

And with this extensive bout of convincing, we were off to Morgan’s corner drugstore.
Once our journey had begun, she was struck with silence yet again.  I would catch her looking up at me out of the side of her eye.  Unsure of her desires, I fully embraced the silence we existed in.  As we passed the deep gardens, a thought arose in me.  I extended my right hand out, and after a brief moment, I found it fully accepted.  We continued on in silence, but she was now wearing a prominent smile.

Arriving at Morgan’s, I allowed Elizabeth to enter first, as I knew she would enjoy the bell that rang upon its opening.  Sitting down at the counter, the soda jerk, who appeared to be perhaps a year or two older than Elizabeth, took our orders.  The crack of his voice was the first to penetrate my ears since we had begun our adventure.

After the lifetime that it takes for children to make the momentous decisions that will thereafter alter their lives in innumerable ways, she decided on chocolate.  With sprinkles on top.  I had vanilla.  Achieving our ill-gotten gains, (her mother would certainly not approve), I convinced her we should take in the warm summer sun.

We were enjoying our treat on the bench outside of Morgan’s when I heard a voice cut through the silence once more.  It was not a crack this time, but more akin to a raindrop descending a window pane.
“How’s it going?” The boy exclaimed.  I had not noticed his arrival, and he now appeared in front of us, this time with a different companion beside him.
“This is my friend, Jodie.”

I took her in with an attempt to show the rising of my eyelids to an unnoticeable degree.  I am quite sure I failed. This young lady that escorted him was absolutely gorgeous.  Long, golden blond hair sensuously curved around her face, catching rays that gave a comforting illumination to her.  Her dress was simple and reserved, but the odd bruises on her neck stood in stark contrast to the ease she appeared to carry with her.  She flashed a smile and sat down.

With introductions all around, Elizabeth joined the boy, who was already sitting on the sidewalk, and shared her ice cream with him (including sprinkles).  Jodie and I shared the bench.
After a moment, Jodie spoke, “He thinks highly of you, you know,” motioning to the boy.  “He made us come, because he knew you would be here.”
I noted a slight accent that I could not place, but the thought disappeared as she finished her statement.
“But how could he possibly…”
“I love to watch over him, we have such fun.”
“Yes, I imagine you do…tell me, does he have any parents?”
“Oh yes, they’re lovely people.”
I was ill prepared for this statement, “Really?  This whole time I thought he was an orphan.  He has never spoken of them once.”
“I suppose he doesn’t feel the need to around you.”
“A curious boy indeed…”

Jodie cocked her head to the side the way Ashworth does when he is attempting to understand the situation before him.  Bringing it back to center upon seeming to answer whatever question it was she had posed to herself, she proclaimed, “You remind me of Nick, you know, from West Egg.”
I attempted to figure out how to react to this compliment, but decided it futile.
“Thanks,” was all I could say.  I was not sure it was a compliment after all.  I hoped it meant I was the one constant, able to survive the chaos around me.  But I knew that was not true, and I let it fall away.

Following that, we engaged in a healthy discussion (which I suppose was actually just Jodie asking questions and mostly answering them herself).  I could not get myself to look away from her eyes.  They were surely attractive, but it was not that – they were not hers – just like the boy.  I enjoyed our conversation none the less – just as I enjoy any time spent around beautiful members of the gender.
Besides her eyes, though, I was also distracted by the boy.  It appeared that he had engaged Elizabeth as much as Jodie had me – with the exception that Elizabeth was able to drop herself for the time being and simply exist.  I had done no such thing.

The boy came over, stood in front of me, and smiled.  It appeared to be a gesture without want.  He said goodbye, and Jodie followed suit.  Elizabeth sat next to me once more.
“Uncle, I really liked Sa-muel…”  She had accentuated the name, just as he had always done, leaving me uneasy.   “…can we play together again?”
“Perhaps…I am really not sure.”

Watching her dispose of her ice cream cup, I realized I had lost track of mine.  Scouting all about the area, it was no where to be found.  I had not even tasted a bite.

Elizabeth presented her hand to me, and we proceeded to walk home.

Part IV – Red

The lazy summer continued on unabated.  This one seemed to have more sun in its young career than the last five or so years.  I do enjoy it – there are certain smells which only the summer breeze is allowed to carry, and yet there are few activities which I partake in that normally go along with the season.

Upon attempting to figure out more occasions to increase my time out of doors, I realized that it had been much too long since I last enjoyed swimming in the lake.  It was about a half an hour drive from my home, and so I decided that in order to make it worthwhile, I should make a day of it.  Since I am accustomed to rising early, there was plenty of time for me to pack up my things and still set foot on the sandy soil by 10 am.

Forgetting that school was no longer in session, I found myself surrounded by the shrill pitch that only innocent children can make.
“No bother,” I thought, “I shall simply confine myself to the less attractive part of the lake and set up residence there.”
While changing into my bathing clothes, it came to me that I had not seen the boy in over a week, and the scene set here seemed to occasion his return.  Emerging from the small tent that had been set up for this purpose, I scanned the horizon, but no familiar face met with mine.
With a half-hearted shrug I took the humid air into my lungs, and slowly proceeded into the water.  The sun had warmed the lake to a depth fair enough that the water was at first little of a refreshing experience whatsoever.  As I waded deeper, however, I was able to enjoy the full splendor that something so simple and basic as a body of water can induce.

It was a rare occurrence when I allowed myself to truly relax.  I often did things which people will refer to as “relaxing,” but they normally were not for me.  I mean to say that I enjoyed them, but never did I fully allow them to be “relaxing.”   Here, however, was one of those rare circumstances where I permitted myself to disappear, placing my existence solely in the hands of the world around me.  And it was wonderful.
I had floated out far enough that the children’s shrieks were all but inaudible.  The only clear sounds were that of the wind and my breath escaping.  It was comforting to know that, although invisible, both existed at this moment.  I drifted further out.

Perhaps an hour had passed.  Surrounded by water, I had allowed time to remove its clutches from my heart, and thus I had no clear idea what the hour had gotten itself to.  The sun out here had a way of making everything pure – there was nothing that it could not touch.  With a renewed sense of self, I slowly floated back to shore.
With each inch of the depth of the water receding, the voices increased in clarity and volume.  Setting foot on dry land, there was no avoiding them.  As the sun had just about reached its apex, it did not take long to dry off.  Changing back into my regular clothing, I decided to take the walk into the city.  Without the normal sense of purpose on as blinders, the landscape appeared to unfold everything it had to offer onto me.
Strolling the streets and alleys, it did my heart good to see all ages converging in the warmth, forging relationships with each other and their surroundings.  Continuing down a few blocks I arrived at one of the many parks built long ago as a counterpoint to the harshness of the original city.  It mainly consisted of an untouched grassy area, which this day had been filled up with chairs, and a gentleman speaker on a stage.  This peaked my interest and I decided to invest some time in him.
The man was in old dress and appeared to be attempting to sell a product of some sort.  The sign behind him said, “RAY CARTWRIGHT – THE MAN WITH THE CURE FOR ALL YOUR ILLS.”  After listening a short while, I realized he was selling snake oil as a panacea.  Only…only he must be an actor, and this had to be a production…yes, that was it, it was a recreation of the shysters from out West.  With this realization, I took a seat in the back row to enjoy the show.  I was enthralled – the man was good and it was a pleasure to watch.
“He has got it down pretty well.”  I turned to my left and noticed an older lady speaking to me. She continued, “I saw the real thing more than a few times, and this is as close as you will get without having been there.”  I nodded in recognition and refocused my attention on the stage.
But again she spoke, “Everyone calls me Red, due to my red hair, and this is my friend Ste-ven.”  The way she pronounced it, I knew it must be the boy.  He leaned forward from the seat to the left of her,  waving to me.
“Hello again…Steven.”
He smiled.  “Hello.”

The speaker concluded, “Ladies and Gentlemen I thank you for your time…and your money.  I would love to talk to all of you at length over in the Virginia City Saloon, just over yonder.  And if by chance any of you kind folks would like to buy me a beer, I certainly would not turn down the hospitality.”
Red acknowledged both of us in turn and said, “Come on, lunch is on me.”  With that I followed her and the boy to the western themed saloon across the street.
The table we were seated at had a checkerboard painted onto it.  There were no checkers to be seen, however, with the exception of two crimson ones sitting on the side, stacked on each other.

The saloon had a stage show of sorts – jugglers, magicians, dancing girls, that sort of thing – though none of them had the air of authenticity or entertainment value of the gentleman we had just watched.
We enjoyed our meal and drinks with little conversation, the show garnering the majority of our attention.  During an intermission we each regained eye contact again, with myself having some difficulty wading through the myriad of similar shades of brown.

Red spoke, “How about a game?” gesturing to the checkerboard.
“But there are no checkers.”
“You just have to look for them.”  And with that she pulled out a hidden drawer from her side of the table.  With a smile, and knowing eyes, she continued, “See?  Now do you want to be black or red?”
“Well, I suppose it would be more fitting if I were black.”
“Alright,” handing over the pieces, “there you are then.”

Steven watched intently as Red defeated me one game after another. He appeared to know from the outset that I had no chance against her.  The boy then spoke for the first time since we had begun playing, “Gee, you’re just not very good at games, are you?”
For all of the times we had spent together, this was the first occasion I felt anger towards the boy – to be sure, he was correct, but one often finds discord with hearing the blunt truth.
Controlling myself I turned to him, “I certainly have been out of luck lately.”  Seeing my calm breached, Red changed the subject – “What is it that you normally do with yourself?”
I was glad for this easy transition, “Oh, I dabble in many things…my main job is with my town, but I enjoy politics, music, writing…actually I have had an editorial printed in a recent paper – would you care to see it?”
I produced the paper from my belongings.  It was perhaps a demonstration in vanity, but I had not had anyone to show it to, and thus it stayed with me.  Watching her face as she read it, the reaction did not appear as I had hoped.  It having been Flag Day the other week, the article I penned dealt with the Pledge’s author being a socialist.
She handed the paper back to me, and there was silence as she searched for the desirable reply.  With a noticeable shift in body language, she carefully said, “It is well written, but what is the point?  Why waste your time on this?”  I was taken aback, and attempted to relay my position to her, but the discussion we engaged in went nowhere.  With us both slightly upset, the stage show had resumed, and we broke contact once more.

A slapstick comedy team was sending laughter through the entire place, but all I heard was coughing – it was coming from Red.  They had been the last act for the lunchtime crowd, and afterwards most patrons began filing out.  I looked over at Red, and she appeared much more frail than I had noticed before.  Her eyes had a distance to them that had not previously existed.  She proposed one more game of checkers, and I took her up on the chance to redeem myself.

When I took her last piece, the boy’s mouth was agape.  I was shocked myself.  She had beaten me so whole handedly, and now with the tables turned, I had no sense of the satisfaction that I had thought would occur.  It was not that she allowed me to defeat her, just that she did not have the strength to beat me once more.

With this hollow victory, we parted ways.  I watched them disappear into the recesses of the city as I followed the path back to my automobile.  The shrieks of the children coming from the lake were as loud as ever .
On my drive home, the only thing I could do was sing the main song from the show over and over again.  It had not had lyrics, but from the sound of it, I figured it originally did.

Ashworth met me as soon as I set foot inside of our home.  After feeding him, I felt the exhaustion of the day rush over me.  Ambling to my bed, I laid down and listened to the sounds of birds coming in through my window.  I fell asleep.

Part V – Home

Sitting here, reflecting on the days passed of this summer, it appears that all movements have ceased.  I fear my musings have created an incomplete picture of the boy.  Do not misunderstand me – he remains a mystery – but there were many great times we shared that I have not mentioned.  There is nothing to conceal in these meetings, they simply had become the normal order of things for me for that period of time.  It is only when these days have passed that we can see the wonder in what we have considered routine.

Normally he was alone and devoid of much to say.  Thus, there is not a great deal of these times that can properly be put into words.  Sometimes they were awkward, but normally the silence between us took on an air of comfort.  It was as if there was no need to speak.  There was an understanding which simply existed in the ether surrounding us.  On occasion he would appear, follow me wherever it may be that I was going, and leave – all without saying a word.

Many days were passed in this fashion.  The initial flood of questions which would arise regarding any and all aspects of the boy slowly tapered off into nothingness.  I posed a few to the individuals who found themselves in his company, but I never asked any of the boy himself.  In the beginning I had often planned out my line of interrogation, but once we came together the questions seemed rather irrelevant – all that mattered could not be translated.  We existed.  And that was all.

Games of chance were a recurring subject for him, and I would obligingly take part – on the losing side, of course.  Other times found us inventing histories for the people and creatures who crossed our path.

Nothing momentous ever occurred.

The events of our days were ordinary, bordering on what must have appeared to be mundane for those removed from whatever the situation may be.  Much like the weather, his appearance became an expected part of the day – but that did not mean either lacked the ability to surprise.

The evening air carried the scent of fading leaves as Ashworth and I sat on our balcony – him enjoying the lightning bugs and I a dog-eared copy of E. Becker’s masterpiece.  I must have been fully absorbed by the work, for I had not noticed the boys’ arrival at my front door until I heard the knock from below as its volume intensified.

With a lightness of being that defied my years, I answered the door.

There he stood, concurrently looking both at and through me.
“I came to give you these,” he said, holding out four newspapers.  I had no subscription.
He continued, “Thanks for playing, I’ll see you later.”

As he was running off I called out to him, “Hey, what is your name today?”
I could see him cup his hand to his mouth, but what reached my ears was simply Un-pronounceable.  Finding Ashworth at my feet, we proceeded to watch the boy recede into the distance.

Taking the papers into the dining room, I turned the switch in order to examine these gifts.  But it did not light.  Believing the bulb to have burned out, I proceeded upstairs to the bathroom in order to procure a replacement.

Turning on the bathroom light, I realized that I still had the papers in my left arm.  Placing them on the counter beside the sink I unfolded the first newspaper.

Although it was the front page,  the paper was practically blank.  The single headline read, “Beloved Husband, father of two, and grandfather of five dies.”  Below that in smaller text, it continued, “Said to be a renaissance man, the Gentleman was 97 years of age.”  That was it.  Dumbfounded, I quickly threw open the rest of the pages, only to find them completely blank.  Staring at the front page once more, I noticed a date in the upper right hand corner – thirteen years ago.   Yet the paper showed no outward signs of having reached such an age.

Putting it down I began to search for the aforementioned bulb, but quickly found my attention acquired by the second newspaper.  The simple headline sufficiently conveyed its’ point, “Woman, 19, found slain.”  Below that, in smaller text, it continued, “Victim’s body discovered in alley on Southwest Side.”  Again appearing brand new, the paper had a date six years prior.  Searching through the rest of the pages was as fruitless as the first had been.

Immediately casting it aside for the third newspaper, I was met with the headline, “Wife, Mother of one, adored grandmother of three disappears.”  Below that, in smaller text, it continued, “Loved ones hold out hope and continue the search.”  This daily declared itself five years old.  I didn’t bother with the rest of it, but attempted to snatch up the fourth paper instead.   This proved difficult, however, as Gray-ee had snuck in and was sitting on it, his head cocked slightly to his right, staring at me.  Slightly cocking my own head to the right, our eyes met and for a moment neither of us moved.

With a prolonged blink, Ashworth stood and moved beside the discarded papers, his eyes remained fixed.  The last gift the boy had given to me had no headline, and no text whatsoever. Slowly flipping through each individual page, I found, as expected, a complete and utter lack of content.

Carefully stacking this atop the others of its kind, I looked up and was confronted with my eyes watching themselves.  With a silent motion I flipped the switch off.  Yet the light remained.

My feet began to feel exceptionally light.

– May 2008


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