Kyle grabbed the shirt of Purvis. “How do you know my son is coming?!” asked Kyle. It wasn’t the reaction Purvis hoped for, but it was the one he expected.
“Manny Marlow. Said your kid came to his house looking for you,” replied Purvis, trying to breathe through his tightened shirt collar.
“And Manny told him!?”
“Your kid did that thing to him. You know when he looks at ‘em and people do what he wants.”
“He could only do that to animals.”
“Well, apparently he’s a lot stronger now. And Manny said he seemed real angry.”
Kyle released Purvis’ collar, and walked across his once green lawn, now covered in areas of dead, brown grass. “Figures. I give that kid something that people would kill for and he’s angry. Ungrateful little fuck.” Kyle let out a slight cough. “Well, there’s only one thing I can do.”
“I’m getting the fuck out of here, and I suggest you do too.”
“What are you talking about, Kyle?” asked Purvis.
You remember how those animals would all start getting sick after he did that thing to them. I imagine that’s what he plannin’ on doing to me … anyone else who gets in his way.”
“Oh, shit … Manny.”
“Manny is as good as dead, and if you don’t want to end up like him, I suggest you get the fuck out of here,” said Kyle as he started towards his house, leaving Purvis with his arms at his sides and a mix of fear and confusion on his face.
Purvis had finally left the yard after standing there for almost twenty minutes. Kyle saw him leaving through a dusty, cracked window in his attic. Dust was caked on stacks of cardboard boxes, old Christmas decorations, and hardened rat turds. Kyle told himself “essentials only,” but knew that there were some non-essentials that he couldn’t part with. He walked over to a stack of boxes, tripping over a small shoebox on the way. The shoebox fell open, revealing several photographs.
One picture stood out to him, because it showed something that Kyle hadn’t seen in almost thirty years–Johnny with a smile on his face. Kyle had his arm around Johnny as they stood by the old oak tree that grew in yard behind their first home.
Kyle remembered that day well…
“Hey, Kyle,” called Johnny from the backyard of his old two-story home in western North Carolina. Johnny was wearing an old Ramones shirt from the first concert he ever went to. He and Kyle had to search forever for a kids’ size, but after they found it, Johnny never quit wearing it.
Kyle stepped outside, and onto the perfectly mowed lawn. Kyle had looked a lot better in his thirties. Clean, full head of hair, and eyes that were bright, instead of sunken in. He was holding a warm cup of tea. “What’s going on, son?” he asked.
“Look.,” replied Johnny as he pointed to the sky.
Kyle looked up to see a blank sky, devoid of any clouds or birds. “I don’t see anything, boy.”
“No, in the tree.”
Kyle looked up and saw three squirrels stacked on top of each other’s shoulders like three kids in a trenchcoat. Kyle dropped his tea. “Di…did you make them do that?”
“Yup,” Johnny said with a huge smile. “And watch this.” Johnny sang the first verse of America the Beautiful.
Kyle could feel his body start to get warmer and warmer with each word his son sang. It was as if he had taken a shot of whiskey on an empty stomach.
From sea to shining sea…
The squirrels paused for a moment, as if in a daze, then leapt from each other’s shoulders, and climbed down the tree. They ran up Johnny’s legs, causing him to laugh from the tickle of their furry feet. They stopped on the tip of his head and started to chirp. “Isn’t it cool, daddy?”
Johnny noticed his dad staring with eyes wider than he thought his eyes could open. “It…it worked?” Kyle stared for a few more seconds, then started to cry.
“Dad, what’s wrong?” Johnny asked. “Did I do something wrong?”
Kyle walked over to Johnny and wrapped his arms around Johnny’s head, causing the
squirrels to fall, and run back up the tree. “Oh my god, boy, you …. you are going to be something amazing.”
The front door opened, causing Kyle to come out of his daze.
Kyle climbed down the stairs to a woman in her late 50s entering the front door. She was tall, pretty, and her hair was pale brown, like coffee with too much creamer.
Kyle stared at her, arms at his sides, and eyes to the ground. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Get the kids. We have to go.”