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Michael White Potter

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About Michael White Potter

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    52
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    Male
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    Gay
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    Indiana
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    Traveling teaching video games writing reading

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  1. There are men everywhere, voices on top of voices, I can barely hear my own thoughts. I put my arm around Tod’s shoulder pulling him closer, “why are you trembling?” I ask him, whispering in his ear. “I’m not,” he claims with a small whine in his voice. “You are too,” I tell him, “it’ll be ok,” I tell him, not sure if I believe that myself. “We got to go now,” a tall and intimidating man says as he picks up a duffel bag. “Why are they all dressed in black?” Tod asks. “Jack and Tod,” Mary says all of a sudden, causing me to jump a little. “Come with me,” she demands as she gets up from the desk and putting the phone down in the cradle. I just stare at her as she approaches us and squats down in front of us, “you poor dears,” she starts, “you must be so scared, but it’s going to all right,” she claims, “let’s get you two out of here,” she says as she takes my hand in hers. Pulling back and holding Tod closer, I say in a timid voice, “I don’t want to go in there,” as I look at the closed door. “It’s ok,” she says trying reassure me, “there is a nice lady on her way over here to take you some place safe,” she claims with a small fake smile. “Why can’t you take me?” I ask, almost crying. “I have to go and,,,,” she starts and then suddenly stops, “I ummm, have to arrest some bad guys,” she says, “it’s too dangerous for you to go,”she informs me. “But I don’t want you to go,” I say as Tod starts to cry, “Shh,” I say to Tod, “be a big boy and don’t cry,” I say trying to control the situation. “Jacks right,” Mary says, “big boys don’t cry,” she informs him, “just come to the back room with me until Mrs Snider gets here,” she tells as she pulls me to my feet. Giving up I allow her to pull me to my feet , but I never let go of Tod’s hand. Slowly I follow behind her until I see the door to the back room and then plant my feet into the carpet and refuse to go any further. “NOOOOOO!” I scream at the top of my lungs, not caring who is staring at me. I drop Tods hand and bolt towards the door. “STOP HIM,” I hear Mary yell, but it doesn’t register with me, all I can think of is if I go into that room, I’ll surely die. Running as fast and hard as I can, I dart between all the men, who have a look of puzzlement on their faces, ignoring everything, I make a mad dash for the door and before anyone can stop me I’m opening the door and running down the street, looking for a place to hide. I hear a yell behind me as I see an alley way and disappear into the shadows. I don’t stop running until I see a space under a building and dive into it scraping my knees in the process. Out of breath I scramble to the left of the hole I just jumped through and hold my breath the best I can and listen as I hear footsteps come running down the alley way. I close my eyes and stay as silent as I can as the footsteps get closer and I start to hear voices. “I saw him come this way,” a man says. “This is a dead end,” the other one says, “you must have been mistaken,” he informs the other man. “That little brat is going to cost us the bust,” the first man claims. “He’s only a kid,” the other man states, “let’s get back before we miss all the action.” “What about the kid?” the first one asks. “We looked for him, is it our fault he disappeared?” The second man asks, “he’s just some stupid run away anyway,” he claims, “he’ll come back when he gets hungers,” he says. Petrified with fear I strain to hear anything else and soon I am rewarded by footsteps getting softer and softer as the men get farther and farther away. Laying perfectly still, I listen as I’ve never listened before, after what seems like forever, I slowly open my eyes and see the under side of a building, I’m laying on dirt and it smells like mold and dirt. I take a chance a look around and my new surroundings moving my arms and legs a little because my legs have fallen asleep. I can’t sit up completely but manage to shift on my side and start to crawl very slowly to the opening I jumped through. Looking out I see it is after dark and I don’t see anyone around. After a few minutes, I carefully poke my head out and breathe fresh air, nothing has ever tasted so good., encouraged, I pull myself all the way out and attempt to sit up, leaning up against the wall I just sit there. “Why did I run like that?” I say in a whisper to myself, “I’m in big trouble now, Mary is going to be really mad at me,” I say as an after thought. Looking all around I see I’m in an alley and since there is only one way out, I start walking that way. “Ouch!” I say under my breath, looking down I see my pants are torn and I am bleeding, sitting back down I peel away the edges of my pant leg and look a the wound. “How did that happen?” I ask myself as I examine it more closely, “I guess I didn’t make a clean get away like I thought,” I say laughing to my self under my breath. Hearing a sound I look up and see a woman staring at and I try to smile as i tense up. “Are you alright young man?” She asks, concerned. “I,, um,, just fell and skinned my knee,” I say in a timid voice. “Well you better get along home and have your mom get that cleaned up before it gets infected,” she states plainly as she turns to leave. “WAIT,” I say quite loudly, “ I mean,errr,,,can you,,, ummm,,, help me up?” I ask putting on my best smile for this lady. Turning back to me she smiles and says, “yes of course dear, you are quite a sight, where do you live?” She asks as she takes my arm and helps me to my feet. “Not far,” I say, grateful for the help. “Well I’m going to take you right to your front door,” she states and I suddenly realize that the only home I know is back there, I freeze. “Umm,,, that’s ok,” I say panicking now, “I feel better now, I’m sure I can make it on my own,” I claim trying to stand on my own. “Nonsense,” she says, “it’s no trouble,” she says as she looks both ways down the street, “now which way is home dear!” She inquires as she looks me in the face. “Umm,,, it’s just over there,” I tell her and pointing back to the red door, “why did I run away like that?” I say in a whisper, before I realize I said it out loud. “What was that young man?” She asks me. “What’s your name!” I ask as a way to change the subject. “Oh, my word,” she says, “where are my manners?” She says blushing, “why I’m Mrs Snider, I would shake your hand,” she says, “but I’m afraid to let you go, you might fall again,” she says with a chuckle in her voice. “I’ll be alright,” I claim as I almost fall, “it only hurts a little bit,” I claim, looking at her with a big smile. “Do I know you?” I ask. “I don’t think so dear,” she says, “now where did you say you lived?” “Ummm,, just over there,” I say pointing it the direction of the red door, the only place I really know. “Well come on then,” she says and puts her arm around my waist. “I can go from here,” I protest. “It’s ok dearie,” she says, “my appointment can wait, I have to take care if you first,” she says as we slowly make our way down the street. “I’m Jack,’ I tell her, “nice to meet you,” I say, trying to remember my manners. “Jack?” She says with her eyebrows raised, “I was just going to meet a boy about your age named Jack and his brother,” she says, “do you have a brother named Tod by the way?” She asks in an excited voice. “No, I don’t have any brothers,” I say sheepishly, “but I know Tod,” I say a bit more brightly, “he’s a really cool kid, but sometimes he can be a pain in the back side,” I admit. “I see,,,” she says trailing off. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask, starting to feel nervous. “Well what I mean is,,,what happened? and is Tod ok, is he out here too?”she asks as she starts to look around. “I don’t know,” I stammer, “I got scared and ran off because I thought,,, errr,,,” I stop in mid sentence, not sure why I got so scared. “It’s ok dear,” she says in a soothing voice, “we will get to the bottom of this real soon,” she says with a serious look on her face, “image letting a mere boy run around the streets to get hurt like this, someone is going to answer to me by golly,” she says in a firm voice. “Please don’t blame Mary,” I say apologetically. “Nonsense,” she says, “it’s not your fault,,,” she starts to say, but I interrupt her. “It is too my fault, really it is,” I insist, “I ran,,,” I start to explain, but I am cut off by her words. “I’ll get to the bottom of this, just you wait and see,” she claims, “now let’s get you into the headquarters and see about that leg,” she says as we approach the red door. “I didn’t mean to,,,” I start to say, but stop, not sure what I was going to say and just look up at her with tears starting to firm on my face. “Shhhh,,,” she says in a gentle tone of voice, “no one is going to be in trouble,” she claims, as she opens the door to and empty office. Looking around it looks much like it did before, but without all the people, “where did everybody go?” I ask in wonder. “MARY?” Mrs Snider calls out. “Back here,” comes a familiar voice from the other room. “Well I found a friend on the way over here,” Mrs Snider says, “and I would like to have a word with you if you don’t mind,” she says as she helps into a chair. Mary comes out of the back room with Tod in her arms, as soon as Tod sees me, he squirms out of Mary’s arms and comes running to me. “Where did you go?” he asks, “I thought you left me forever,” he says, “why did you leave me,, you said you would never leave me, I don’t want you to go,,”” he is rambling and I have to put my hand over his mouth to get him to stop asking everything in his mind. “It’s nothing,” I say, “I’m back now, so stop your blubbering,” I say in a playful tone of voice. “I need a first aid kit,” Mrs Snider says as she comes over to me and squats down in front of me to examine my leg, “he gone and really scraped up his knee,” she says with a frown on her face. “There’s one in the filling cabinet,” Mary says as she moves to retrieve it. “Now, young man,” she says directly to me, “let’s have a look at that leg of yours.” Pulling the rip apart and looking inside, “let’s get these pants off,” she says as she helps me stand. Tensing up I do as I’m told, thinking I knew it was just a matter of time, I go thru the motions of removing my pants and then start to remove my underwear, but I am stopped by Mrs Snider. “You can keep your underwear on,” she says and I stop, not sure what is going on. “Oh,,, OK,,” I stammer and just sit down feeling ridiculous, but not sure what is expected of me. Taking the first aid kit from a Mary, Mrs Snider pulls out some gauze and a couple of tubes of something and proceeds to clean the wound. “Owwww,” I complain , “that hurts.” “Now just hold still,” Mrs Snider says as she does too good of a job of ripping my skin off, I see that Tod has taken my hand and is squeezing it very tightly or am I squeezing his tightly, I’m not sure, but it feels right in any case. “What did you think you were doing Jack?” Mary asks, “why did you run off like that and where on earth did you go?”she asks, “we looked all over for you, you gave me quite a scare,” she says in a softer voice. ‘I don’t know, I just got scared,” is all I can think to say, looking down at my hands I say in a timid voice, “I promise not be be bad again, really I promise,” I say pleading to her with my voice. “Don’t you have somewhere to be Mary?” Mrs Snider asks, looking up at her. “Well yes,,,” she starts, but the stops and thinks a second, “they can get along without me I think,” she says, “I think I know two boys who need me more than some silly swat team,” she claims, “besides, all the fun is probably over by now anyway,” she admits. “Well, make yourself useful,” Mrs Snider says, “call the paramedics, this boy need stitches,” she insists, as she continues to rip my knee apart. “I need my knee,” I claim, “please stop, I can’t take it any more, I’ll do anything you say,” I claim thru tears and some crying. “Shhh,,,” she says, “I’m almost done, you’ve been a very brave boy,” she claims. “I don’t want to be a brave boy, I just want you to stop,” I say as I start to struggle to get away. “Hold him Mary,” Mrs Snider says as I almost get away. Arms are wrapped around my chest as Mrs Snider continues to tear my skin from my knee, I afraid to look at what is left of my knee. “There all done,” Mrs Snider says, “now that wasn’t so bad?”she asks. I dare to open my eyes and through tears I see a white bandage wrapped around my knee, “it was too, that bad,” I claim, my sobs subsiding. “I’ll go make the call,” Mary says as she gets up with a grunt, “you are one strong boy Jack,” Mary proclaims as she heads over to the desk and picks up the phone. “Now, will someone please tell me how this happened?” Mrs Snider asks with raised eyebrows. “I,,,, um,,, guess I cut my knee under a house?” I ask more than state the fact. “Ok, that’s a good start, but why were you under a house?” Mrs Snider asks me. “It was the only place to hide.” I say as a matter of fact, I thought that was obvious. “I see,” she says slowly, “and why did you have to hide?” she asks me, now looking intensely in my face. Looking down at my hands I mumble, “I don’t know.” “You don’t know?” She says as more of a statement that a question. I just shrug my shoulders. “Well I can see you have real chatter box here,” she says to Mary, “maybe you can tell me what’s going on here?” she says now looking at Mary who is on the phone. Holding up one finger I hear her saying her name and my name over the phone and wonder what she is doing, is she calling the cops?, no that’s silly she is the cops, maybe she’s calling,,, the paramedics, that’s right, that’s what she said, but who are the paramedics?, and what do they want?, this is all so confusing, I’ve never met people like this before. I wonder if I’m in trouble, it doesn’t seem like it, I didn’t even have to take everything off, so I guess I’m ok, I hope. I look around to see that Tod is still holding my hand just looking at me with sadness in his young eyes, it makes me feel good, but in a way I’ve never felt before, I squeeze his hand and try to smile, I don’t know why, but I want him to be ok. Putting down the phone Mary says, “they will be here in a few minutes.” “So spill the beans,” Mrs Snider says, “what happened here and how did Jack end up under a house of all places, I came over as soon as I could,” she says. “I don’t know,” Mary admits, “it all happened so fast, I was just taking the boys into the back room, when all of a sudden Jack screams out NO!!, and ran out the door like the devil himself was after him,” she says blushing a little, “we ran after him, but he is fast and disappeared out of sight,” she says, “we had the operation so, I stayed back to take care of Tod, hating myself for allowing Jack to be out there by himself,” she claims, “I didn’t know what else to do so I just waited, figuring that I could go look for him after you got here, I couldn’t just leave Tod alone.”she admits. “I’m old enough to stay by myself,” ‘Tod claims, “Henry leaves me alone all the time,” he admits. “I see,” Mrs Snider says, ignoring Tod’s comment. “The men should be back any minute,” Mary says, “I think it will be better if we take Jack and Tod to the back room,” she says pointing to the back. My face flares with fear and I squeeze Tod’s hand so tight that he lets out a whimper, I hardly even notice, “I’m ok out here,” I say as my eyes go wide with fear, I knew I was in trouble and this proves it, I think to myself as I try to figure a way out of it. “Jack are you ok?” Mrs Snider asks me with concern, “you look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she claims. “Please don’t make me go in there, there aren’t any windows in there, I’ll be good I promise,” I says as tears and sobs escape me, “I wont ever run away again, I’ll be a good boy,” I claim, “I’ll even do that thing everyone likes, I promise,” I claim as I start to blubber, “I’ll,,,,,m do,,,,,please,,,l no,,,,” I say as the crying takes over,,,, “Shhhhh,” Mrs Snider says as she hugs me in a different way than anyone has ever hugged me, “we don’t have to back there if you don’t want to, l promise,” she says. Looking at Mary, she says, ‘go outside and tell the men to wait out there until the paramedics get her and attend to Jack.” Lifting my chin with her hand gently, she says, “it’s going to be ok, I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I won’t let any one hurt you ever again, can I ask you something Jack?” She says timidity. I just nod my head, unable to say any words. “What happened to you?” She asks slowly. “Nothing,” I manage to say and not being able to look her in the face, but looking at Tod instead. ‘Tod,” she says looking at him, “why don’t you go in the back room, Mary can get you a snack,” “NO,” I scream, “don’t go back there,” I say a little softener and start to cry again. “Ok,, ok,” Mrs Snider says, “Mary please take Tod outside with you and wait for the men,” she says, looking at me, ‘is that alright Jack?”she asks and I just shrug. “Come on Tod, we can watch for the swat team to come back, you can see all their gear and funny hats,” she says when Tod looks unsure, taking his hand she leads him outside and the room gets very quiet as they close the door behind them. Turning to me Mars Snider looks at me with a strange but nice look in her face, “let’s start over,” she says, “I have been told that you have come to live with your uncle Henry, tell me about him,” she says. “He’s not really my uncle,,,” I start to say as the front door opens, making me jump a little. Men in white uniforms come in and carrying black bags rush over to me and start to look me over, “how are you feeling?” One of them asks, followed by lots of other silly questions. They remove the bandage and Mrs Snider is pushed aside as they poke and prod me in every way possible. I’m dazed and stunned and just sit there and I hear them say, “we need to take him in, he’s going to need stitches and that cut cleaned up properly,” the second one says, “where are his parents?” The first one asks, “we will need authorization to care for him.” “I’m his guardian, until his parents can be located,” Mrs Snider states plainly. “Good enough,” the first one says and heads back out the door, “I’ll be right back and disappears out the door. “Now Jack,” the second one says, “we are going to transfer you to the hospital, nothing to worry about,” he claims and my face gets red and scared. “The hospital?” I question, “I don’t want to go,” I claim, “I’ll be fine,” I say trying to avoid going there. “It’s ok,” Mrs Snider says, “I’ll be with you the whole time,” she claims. “Why does everyone keep saying it’s going to be ok?” I ask, “every time someone says it will be ok, it’s never ok,” I say softly. “How did this happen?” the man asks. “He was hiding under a house,”Mrs Snider informs him. “He’ll need a tetanus shot,” the man says. The other man comes back with a gurney and together they lift me onto the bed, Mrs Snider is right there by my side. The belt me down and start to wheel me outside and I see Tod with Mary and a lot of other men milling about as I come out the door, “Tod,” I say as he looks horrified at me, “can he come with us?” I ask. “No, but he can come see you later at the hospital,” Mrs Snider tells me. “Take care of Tod,” I say to a Mary as I’m put into the back of the ambulance and then the doors are closed and Mrs Snider and the man are back there with me, the man is busy taking my blood pressure and temperature and all sorts of things and Mrs Snider is just trying to stay out of the way, she has look in her eyes that hurts my heart, I’m not sure if I should say anything or just be quite while the man works, so I just lay there, wondering what exactly is going on. The next thing I hear is a siren and the ambulance takes off driving down the street, I feel safe and warm, but it’s a strange feeling, like this is the way it’s supposed to feel, but who’s to say? Everything is happening so fast, I can’t keep up, I take one final look at Mrs Snider, who I barely even know before everything goes black. I’m floating in a fog on the edge of a vast ocean. There is no ship or land anywhere, but I’m not afraid. I hear a familiar voice in the vastness if the fog calling to me, but I can’t seem to find where it is coming from. I know that voice, but I can put a name or face to it, it’s a very sweet voice and seems to be saying, “I’ll never stop looking for you.” Strange, I think, it’s not the hateful voices from all my life, it’s a caring voice, almost like I’m wanted, but this is after a dream and anything can happen in a dream,,,,right?,,,
  2. “Shhhhh,,,,” Mary says in a firm but soft voice as I continue to struggle and starting to cry, “it’ll be ok, I promise “ she claims. “YOU LEAVE HIM ALONE,”Tod yells as he jumps on Mary’s back trying to recuse me and Matt is trying to reach Tod and tackle hm. “Ohhuuuccchhh!” Matt screeches as a knee strikes him in the groin and he goes down with a red face cradling his balls, Mary has managed to fold me in her arms tightly as I begin to give up and slump with my face in her chest and sobbing, I just sit there sobbing into her chest and completely giving in as I hear a loud thud as Tod slips and falls on Matt who screech’s again in quite a bit of pain. “A man opens the door and freezes,”what the,,,” he starts as he rushes over to help Tod up, who has begun to cry as well, “are you all right?” he asks squatting down and grabbing the boy by the arms. We must look quite silly I think and start to laugh and that turns into a stream of laughter which soon spreads to Tod, who begins to giggle and giggle, soon Mary is laughing as well, Matt is still on his knees doubled over in pain with tears streaming out of his eyes. “What is so funny?” The man asks as he too begins to laugh. “Who would have thought laughter could be so contagious?” I think as my tummy starts to ache. “I,,, dooon’t knooow,” I say between bouts of laughter. I suddenly bolt upright as I realize that there is a strange man standing over me holding Tod’s hand and staring at me intently. I am no longer laughing.”whooo,,,, are,,,, you?” I ask in a timid voice. “I’m Mr Zackery Schmitt, young man, but you can call me Mr Schmitt,” he says, “and will someone please tell me what the he,,,” he says and changes his mind, “I mean, can someone please explain the meaning of this?” He asks out of breath. “That woman was trying to hurt Jack,” Tod claims and starts to wiggle out of Mr Schmidt’s hands, “I have to protect him,” he states as he continues to struggle. “Now that’s quite enough young man,” he tells Tod, “let’s all get up off the floor and have a seat and,” he says, getting frustrated, “and will someone please explain just what is going on?” he asks, as he points Tod toward a chair and moves over to help Matt to his feet. Mary gets up and smooths our her shirt and gets up slowly still chuckling to her self, taking me by the hand she gently helps me to stand, “do you feel better,” she asks in a small voice that only I can hear, looking at her I just nod once and move closer to her. Matt starts to pick up the chairs and papers that are strewn across the floor when the radio on the desk squawks, “this is Captain Cook,” the voice says, “come in Chicken coop over,” and the radio goes silent. Matt rushes over to grab the mike and dropping the papers, “this is chicken coop,” he responds, ‘go ahead Captain Cook.” “Peter Pan is on the move, I repeat , Peter Pan is on the move,” he says as the radio once again goes silent. “Roger that,” Matt says, “keep an eye out for Wendy and do not approach, I repeat, do not approach,” Matt says as he puts the mike down. “What games are these adults playing,” I think to myself, “Peter Pan?” I ask in an interested but perplexed voice. “We have to move now,” Mr Schmitt says, looking at Tod and me, completely ignoring me,“ will they be ok by themselves?” He says now looking at Mary. “I don’t think so,” she claims, “I better stay with them,” she says with what seems like disappointment in her voice. “But you’ve been working on this case for over five years,” Matt says. “I know,” she says, “but some things are more important. “Well we have to go now, if we ever hope to catch Peter Pan,” Matt says as he gets up and grabs a pistol from the desk drawer, “come on Zack,” he says, “we have to fly,” and putting the gun in his holster under his arm rushes to the door, “are you sure?” He asks Mary. “I’m sure,” she says, “now hurry up and go before Peter Pan flys away,” she commands him and turning to me she gives me a wink. With my eyes really big, I ask, “did he have a gun?” “Yes he did, he’s a police officer as well,” Mary informs me. “Cool,” I say, relaxing a bit, “do you have a gun too?” I say, looking her up and down trying to see if I can see it. “Yes I do,” she informs me, “would you like to see it?”she asks me, a smile crossing her face. “Yes please,” I say with a wide grin on my face as well. “I wanna see it too,” Tod says jumping up from the chair he was sitting on, almost knocking it over in the process. “Careful sweetie,” Mary says as she attempts to slow Tod down, come with me,” she says to us both and walks to the door in the back of the room. Tod follows her and I hesitate as she opens the door the the back room, “ummm,,” I stammer, “maybe I can just wait here and you can bring it to me,” I say, starting to back away. Turning, Mary looks at confused and says, “it’s ok, it’s just my office” she informs me and steps aside to show me the open door. Peering into the room, I see there is a desk with two chairs and a lamp on the desk. On the wall I see a bulletin board with papers tacked to it, a computer sits on the desk with papers all over in piles here and there. Curiously I take a small step closer and look more carefully at the room. A clock is on the wall and a filling cabinet against one wall. A trash can sits on one side overflowing with balled up papers. “Do I have to go in there?” I ask with fear on my face. “No you don’t have to,” she claims, ‘but that’s where I keep my firearm,” she informs me, “and I bet Tod isn’t afraid of going into my office,’ she says as she looks at Tod. “I’m not afraid,” Tod says as he puffs out his chest. “I’m not afraid either,” I say in a timid voice, trying to sound brave, “I just don’t feel like going in there,” I say backing even farther away, “who wants to see some baby gun anyway,” I say, not sure if I’m trying to convince myself or Mary. “Ok Jack,” she says, “why don’t we all just sit down in the chairs out here and we can talk,” she asks me as she motions to a set of chairs in the corner of the room. Hesitantly I nod my head and slowly sit down, never taking my eyes off Mary, not sure if she a bad guy or a good guy. Mary sits down with Tod on one side and me on the other, I notice that she has a smell around her and I find that I like it, “to begin with,” Mary begins, “I won’t let anything bad happen to you or your brother,” she claims. “He’s not my brother,” I say, almost in a whisper. “Oh,” she says, “I just thought,” and then seems to change her mind and asks, “do you have any brothers or sisters?” “Not anymore,” I say weakly. “I do,” Tod says and then looks at me in a strange way. “So you two are just friends?”she asks as she takes our hands in hers. “Yeah,” I say. “We are too brothers,” Tod claims. “We are not,” I insist, “I’ve only known you a few weeks, “I admit. “Yeah, well I know,” he admits, “but Henry said we were just as good as brothers,” he says sheepishly, “I mean I know we are supposed to be cousins, but,,,” he trails off seemingly confused, “I mean if Henry says it, it must be true, right?” He asks unsure of himself. “Where are you two boys from?”she asks as she squeezes my hand gently. “I’m from home,” Tod announces in a confident voice. “No stupid,” I say before I can stop myself, “she means where is home.” “I know,” he says sheepishly, “I used to be from Texas, before,, umm my parents lost me and didn’t come to look for me,” he explains. “I’m sure your parents are looking for you,” Mary tells him, “but maybe they don’t know where to look?’ She asks more that says. “I guess,” Tod says under his breath. “My home, if you can call it that was in Michigan,” I tell her embarrassed, “but I don’t live there anymore, I’m on my own,” I inform her with a stern face, “you can’t make me go back, if you do I’ll just run away again, if I survive that long,” I say as an after thought. “I see,” Mary says, “well we wouldn’t want that,” she says with a weird look on her face. “So Tod, can you tell me your last name?” She asks looking hopeful. “Taylor,” he says, “do you really think my parents really are looking for me?”he asks with a new hopeful look in his young face. “Well,” she says, “let’s see if I can find out,” she says as she gets up and walks over to the computer, “let’s see,” she mumbles as she starts to type on the computer. Tod looks at and me and I just nod and so he gets up and slinks over behind her to see what she doing. I look at the door and consider trying to sneak out while she is distracted, but the remembering that Henry is probably looking for us, I decide not to, I’ll just wait and see what she does, “maybe the cops are not the enemy,” I think to myself as my mind starts to go back in time, remembering the way things were at home. I’m in a dark room, a much early time, I was small and scared. I can’t see anything and it smells like mold and trash, I wake up on the hard floor, not knowing how I got here, I call out, but there is only the sound of my breath to sooth me. A creaking comes from somewhere above me and dust falls on my face and arms, making me jump afraid that spiders are crawling all over me. “WHAT’S ALL THAT NOISE DOWN THERE!” I hear someone from above yell. I stay silent only listening and holding my breath, “how did I get here?” I say to myself in a whisper, “I’m going to be in so much trouble when I get home, I’m not supposed to be out this late,” I continue to talk to myself as I realize I’m not alone, there is someone else breathing and I am filled with terror as I try to see anything, but it’s all black. “Creeeeeekkkk,” I hear from above me, someone is walking around above my head. “Who’s there?” I whisper and wait for a response, when nothing happens I try again, “who’s there?” I say a little louder. “Shhhh,,,” says a small frightened voice, “please don’t misbehave, it’ll be bad for us,” says the voice. “What do you mean?” I say in a whisper, “who are you?” I ask, “where are we and how did we get here?” I say starting to feel frantic. “Be quite,” is all I hear in response before the room is flooded with a blinding light. “What’s all that racket down there?” I hear a voice from somewhere behind and above me. “Nothing, “ the boys voice says,” we will be good,” is his only response. Looking around as my eyes adjust to the light I see I’m in a basement with another boy about there or fours years older than me, “I want to go home,” I say with as much courage as I can muster. “You’ll do as your told,” the mans voice says, “you only speak if talked to,” he commands, “the boss will be here soon and I wouldn’t want to be you if I have to give him a bad report,” he threatens. “I don’t care,” I say definitely, “my dad will kick you butt, if you don’t let me go right now,” I threaten. “You are a sassy boy,” the man says, “I’ll let the boss deal with you, but for now SHUT THE FUCK UP,” he commands and throws something very hard at me and hits me in the head and all I see are stars and then the room goes black once again. “You really did it that time,” the other boy whispers to me. I start to cry and fell my forehead. “Shhhh,,,,” the boys says to me, “it’ll be ok, you just can’t ever cry,” he claims, “it’ll be worse for you and me if you do,” he claims as I feel an arm go around my shoulder, causing me to jump and screech in surprise, “it’s only me,” the boys says as he try’s to put his hand over my mouth. “Jack?’ I hear Mary saying, “are you with us?” “Ummm,,, What did you say?” I asked, wondering what that memory was, “was that just a made up story in my head” I say under my breath. “What was that dear?” Mary asks leaning in closer to me. “Ummm,,,, it’s nothing, “what did you want?” I ask rudely. “I just wanted to tell you that I found Tod’s parents, come take a look,” she says as she takes my hand to lead me to the computer. I let her lead me keeping an eye on the door as I cross the room, looking at the computer screen I see a picture of a much younger Tod and my eyes go wide, “I was right after all,” I mumble. “Right about what?” Mary asks me perplexed. “I told Tod that his parents probably didn’t even know where he was, that’s all,” I say. “That was very smart of you,” Mary says causing me to beam with delight. “They have really been looking for me this whole time,” Tod proclaims, “You mean Henry lied to me?” he says getting excited now, “I get to go home, “he says and then stops and looks at Mary with big eyes, “can Jack come live with me?” He asks with wonder on his face, “I just know my dad will say yes,” he claims, “Jacks’s parents are really mean to him,” he informs Mary, who looks sad. “Jack has his own home,” Mary starts to explain, “Butttt,,,” Tod starts to say. “It complicated,” Mary tells Him as she puts a finger over his mouth, “let me see if I can find out where Jack is from,” she says as she starts to type again making the printer start to print out copies. “Now for you Jack,” she says and turns to look me in the eye, “where are you from and what’s your last name?” she asks me. “Umm,,, Michigan,” I say in a very small voice, looking down at my feet. “Ok,” she says, “that’s a good start, can you tell me your last name?” She asks hesitantly. “Are you going to make me go back if I tell you?” I ask him n a trembling voice. “Not if your parents are unfit,” she claims, “I won’t let anyone else hurt you, and that’s a promise,” she informs me. “Ok,” I say hesitantly, “my last name is,,,, Woods,” I say in a whisper, as if just speaking his name will summon him. Mary eyes get really big and she says, “do you mean, the Henry Woods?” “What do you mean?” I ask as I stare at her. “Umm,,, never mind,” she tells me as she starts typing furiously on the computer, “why don’t you go sit down next to Tod, this will take a while,” she says in a nervous voice as she attempts to block my view of the computer screen. Backing away slowly I ask her, “do you know my dad?” “That’s not important,” she claims, “let me see what I can find, it’s probably just a coincidence,” she claims as she concentrates on the computer, her fingers flying across the keyboard at lightning speed. I sit down next to Tod and he takes my hand and leans into me and whispers, “did she find your parents?” “I don’t know, but I hope not,” I admit to him. “Jack,” Mary says to me after a few minutes, “I need you to come look at something,” she says as she’s starting at the screen, “Tod, you stay there,” she commands him. Getting up I cautiously walk over and look at the screen. “Is that your dad?” Mary asks, pointing to a picture on the screen. I step back away from the screen as if he might reach out and grab me, I nod slowly and continue to walk backwards, feeling terrified. “It’s ok Jack, he cant hurt you,” she claims, “you don’t have to worry, I’ll never send you back to him,” she claims. Starting to cry I try to say, “do,,,you,,, promise,,,?” “I promise,” she claims, “but,,, it says here he doesn’t have any kids,” she says under her breath, “are you sure he is your dad?” Mary asks me in a strange tone of voice, like she doesn’t believe me. “Yeahhh,” I say, not sure what she means. “Well let me see if I can find anything else out,” she says in a low voice, reaching into her purse she takes out some change, “here, why don’t you go to the vending machine and get you two something to drink.” Taking the change, I say, “come on Tod, let’s get a pop.” As I make my way to the machine, I keep an eye on the computer screen as long as I can, curious about what she’s talking about. ‘Hey!” Tod says, “watch where you’re walking, you stepped on my foot.” “Opps,” I say, “I didn’t mean to, what do you want to drink?” “Grape soda,” he says as his face lights up, “it’s been forever since I had a grape soda,” he claims. “Here,” I say to Tod, handing him the soda and start to go back to the desk. “Aren’t you going to get a pop?” Tod asks me while he opens the soda. “I’m not thirsty,” I tell him and put the change in my pocket, thinking that if I have to make a run for it, I might just need something other than a pop. The radio comes to life and I jump out of my skin, looking at the door, just knowing that Henry is busting in, he’s not of course, “Peter Pan has flowed the coop,” the voice says on the other end. Mary picks it up and says, “never mind, return to the coop,” she says, “we have a situation here,” and puts the radio down. “I can’t find anything on you Jack,” Mary says in a whisper, “where did you come from?” She says to herself. “I’m telling you the truth, I promise,” I say to her in response. “I know you are dear,” Mary says, now looking at me, “I recall you saying something about staying with your uncle?” She asks and gets up to walk over to me, squatting down in front of me she asks, “can you tell me where his place is?” “Way out of town,” I say, “it’s in the woods,” I inform her. “I see,” she says, “can you remember the way to get out there?” “Ummm, it’s by a tree and a long dirt road,” I say trying to think of any land marks and realizing that I have no idea, “there’s a train track close,” I say, remembering how I got there, “I came here by train,” I say trying to explain. “I don’t know of any train stations around here,” she says as she starts to get up. “I didn’t get off at a train station, I just sort of,,,,fell off the train, after it stopped,” telling her the way I remember it. “You fell off a train?” she asks astonished. “Yeah, the cable I was standing on, sort of broke and so the train man stopped and I sort of fell off,” I say innocently, “I didn’t mean to break the train, I really didn’t,” I claim. “So,,,, Henry is not really your uncle then?”she asks. “No, he just insisted that I call him that, I told you that already,” I say, “he helped me, when I was alone and looking for a place to stay and fed me, but he was not very nice and made me wear,,,” I start to say and suddenly stop talking as I realize what I was about to say, “it’s nothing,” I finish and look at the door, thinking that maybe it would be a good time to make my exit. “What did he make you wear?” Mary asking me. “Girls clothes,” Tod says all of a sudden. “SHUT UP,” I almost scream at Tod and see him shrink back against his seat and I feel bad for doing that to him, but I’m so embarrassed by what he revealed that I just keep looking around and pretend that I’m not hurt by what I did. “Can you remember anything else about where you have been living?” she asks, ignoring what Tod said. “They didn’t have electricity or anything, it was like living on Little House on the Prairie,” I inform her. “What about the time I met you in town,?”she asks, “where did you go?” “To a strange office,” I say, “it wasn’t like this place,” I say and falling silent. “An office?”she says, “but not like this?, how was it different?” She says grabbing a note book. “Well they had a stage and costumes,” I say as Tod just stares at me in fascination, “they took my picture and then the man got mad at me and sent me into a room in the back where there was a bed and more costumes,” I say. “WOW,” Tod proclaims, “did you get to try on the costumes?, I bet that was fun,” he says and a smile crosses his face. “NO!” I almost scream and take a breath, “I mean no, I didn’t have to try on the costumes.”I say more calmly, “why did that freak me out so much?” I think to myself. “Do you know where this office was?”Mary asks as she is writing on the note pad. “It’s close to here,” I tell her, “I don’t really know, but I remembered when you told me where you lived, it was on the same street, I even looked down the street and thought I saw your door,” I say, trying really hard to think of something useful to tell her. Getting up she heads over to the computer and starts typing, “you’ve been a great help Jack,” and picks up the radio, “everyone return to the coop, never-land has been located,” she says and puts the radio down. Typing into her computer, she asks me, “can you remember anything else?” “Ummmmm,,,,, 12th Street and main, I think,” but I’m not sure, maybe it was 10th and main,” I say unsure, “or was it 12th Street and maple?” I don’t know,” I say, “why is that so important?” I ask curiously. “We have had your dad under investigation for quite a while, but have not been able to uncover anything we can use against him,” she informs me. “Investigation?” I ask with wonder. “Your dad is a bad man,” she says, “if he is your dad,” she adds as an after thought, “but never mind that,” she tells me as the front door opens abruptly, I look over in that direction getting nervous again, but stopping myself from jumping. “Don’t get comfortable,” Mary says, “I think I have never-lands location,” she says proudly, “when all the teams are checked in, we move,” she commands the man, picking up the phone she makes a call while turning her back to us. “I need social services,,,,” I hear Mary say in a whisper and then can’t make our much of anything. “What’s going on, where is never-land and is Peter Pan coming?” Tod asks all excited. “Never mind,” I tell him, “never-Land is a very bad place and you never want I go there,” I tell him sternly, realizing something I can’t quite explaine. “Well I want to go,” Tod proclaims as more men come bursting through the door. I just look at Tod like he has lost his mind, “why are you looking at me like that?”he asks innocently, “is your dad really not your dad?” he asks curiously, “who is your dad?” He asks, “maybes you dad is looking for you, I mean your real dad,” he says as he starts to ask even more questions. I reach over and put a finger to his lips, “shhhh,” I say softly, “something is going on and I dint think it is good,” I admit to him, “we need to be ready to run if Henry or my dad comes through that door,” I inform him and he gets a very scared look on his face. “Ummm,ok” he says hesitantly, but what about my parents ?”he asks me with wide puppy dog eyes. “I don’t know,” I admit, “but I promise I will help you find them no matter what,” I say, really wanting to mean what I say.
  3. Tod comes rushing outside as we pull up in the pickup, “You’re back” he proclaims in a loud and joyful voice, “ I thought I would never see you again” Tod claims, as he embraces me into a bear hug. “Ummm, yeah I’m back,” I say confused, “where else would I be?” I ask as I look at Henry. “Don’t pay him no mind,” Henry says to me, “You have always been my favorite,” he claims, “Shut up you little shit!” Henry yells as he raises his fist in a threatening way towards Tod. “YOU LEAVE HIM ALONE” I scream and level my eyes on him and move between Tod and him, determined to protect Tod at all costs. “I,,, would,,, never harm a hair on his head,” Henry says pointing to Tod, “ Please be sure to remember that if your dad asks,” he mentions, “Look kid, I didn’t know who you were,” he stammers, “I treated you good, right?” he pleads, as he looks at me with wide eyes. “Tod, we have to get out of here,” I whisper to him as I get close to him. “What do you mean?” Tod asks in a hushed voice, “We tried that before and you almost died,” he says in a hushed tone of voice with fear in his voice. “I know,” I say, “this time will be different,” I tell him with confidant and turning to Henry, I demand. “I want you to take me to the closest truck stop,” looking at the ground as a way to avoid his face. “Of course,” he says, “but don’t you want to wait here for your dad?” he asks with a sense of tension in his voice. “My dad,” I say, thinking that there is no way in hell I want to go back to him, “he told me to get away form you,” I say hesitantly, “if you do as I say,” a little more confidently this time, “I will tell him that you were just babysitting me and that you treated me like a king,” I claim. “I guess,” he says looking me in the eyes, “but, he told me to keep you with me and not to let you out of my sight?,” he questions, looking confused, “I’m not sure, maybe you need to stay here,” he says as his face tightens. “Look,” I say, “if my dad shows up right now, I will be forced to tell him what ever comes into my mind,” I say plainly, “and what is in my mind is what we did last night and that Tod had a bad dream last night,” I say embellishing a little, “but, if I’m not with him right away,” I say hedging, “I would have time to think up something else up,” I say, looking him in the eyes, “and if he was to ask Tod,” I say calmly, “well I have no idea what he will say,” I say matter of factify, “so, if he was to come with me, he would also have time to,,” I say looking Henry in the eyes as I reach my hand over for Tod to grab, “So what do you say, Henry?,” I ask with a hesitation. “Fine,” he says with a waver in is voice, “but you better not be joking with me, if you are just messing with me, I’ll fuck you myself,” he threatens me. Looking down I say quietly ”I’m not,” and look up at him trying to convince him of something, “Please just let us go,” I say in a pleading way. “Go in inside Donna will get you something to eat,” he says with a distant look in his eyes, “I have to think, things over,” he says as he walks away towards the woods. Holding on to Tod’s hand I head into the house, “come on Tod, let’s go get something to eat,” I say as I drag him behind me. Donna sees us come in and asks, “you’re back?”with surprise in her face, “well never mind, are you hungry?”she questions as she starts to open the ice box, “how was the trip into town?” “It was weird,” I say, not sure how much to say. “I didn’t think I would ever see you again,” she claims as she gets a jar of jelly out of the ice box and opens the cabinet and removing a jar of peanut butter. “What do you mean?” I ask, confused, “why wouldn’t I come back?” “Oh never mind,” she tells me, “sit down and tell me all about it.” I decide to tell her everything and start to explain everything that happened. “We went to a country store and I played chess, well sort of, the man got mad at me cause he said I couldn’t play chess, but he asked me to play and I was playing, but he said I couldn’t, but I was,” I try to explain, “I mean I was, I didn’t know what he was talking about and then I said something that made him mad, and I don’t know why he got mad, and then Henry, err I mean uncle Henry came over and scolded me and told the man he can come here and I would apologize to him, or something,” and then we went to a weird place with a stage and all sorts of costumes and toys,” I say pausing just long enough to take a breath, “they told me to stand on a stage and took my picture and then he looked at a computer and got all upset,” I say, starting to talk even faster now, “then he sent me into an office and they had a bed in there, I didn’t know they had beds in offices, I guess they must work lots and lots if you need a bed in the office,” I say, “and there were more costumes and toys in there as well,” I say, now out of breath. “Shhh,” Donna says, “catch your breath before you pass out,” she says as she lays a hand on my hand and sits down in front of me, “where is Henry now?” She asks looking past me at the door. “He’s just walking around outside,” I say, not sure if that’s important or not. “Why did they get upset?” Donna asks me, “they never get upset,” she says as an after thought. “Something about my dad,” I admit, I figure that she will soon know everything anyways, “my dad is coming here to get me, and I can’t go back,” I say as tears start to well up in my eyes, “I just can’t,” I say, almost to my self, “anyway, uncle Henry acted all weird,” I say, “he seemed afraid of my dad,”I claim, “and he should be afraid of him,” I inform her, “he will surely kill me if he can,” I claim. “I won’t let that happen,” Donna claims, “is your dad James Woods, by any chance?” She asks with fear in her voice. “Ummm, yeah,” I say hesitantly, “how did you know?” “Henry works for him,” she admits, “well sort of,” she claims, “you see, Henry is sort of like a broker,” she starts to explain and then seems to change her mind, “is James coming here?” She asks with alarm in here voice. “I think so, but I can’t be here when he does,” I plead with here. “Who is James and why is he coming her?” Tod asks, obviously confused, “is he going to take Jack away?” He asks in a small voice, “I don’t want him to go away like all the others, “ he says, starting to cry. Ignoring Tod, Donna asks me, “when is he going to be here?” “I don’t know,” I admit and reach for Tod’s hand, “I asked Uncle Henry to let me and Tod go to a truck stop, before my dad gets here,” I say in a very small voice, “do you think he will,” I ask in a timid voice, “he just has to,” I say under my breath. “I doubt that dear, Henry is too afraid of Mr. Woods,” she claims, “you see your dad is a boss of bosses,” she claims, “and has very powerful friends in high places,” she informs me, “no, we have to figure out a different plan,” she says in a whisper, “whatever we decide to do it has to be our secret,” she says in a very serious, but hushed voice, “looking me in the eye and then looking Tod in the eye, “promise me, both of you that everything we talk about from now on,” she says in a whisper, “will be only between us,” as she looks at both of us, waiting for an answer. “I promise,” I state, “cross my heart, put a needle in my eye,” I say as I do indeed cross my heart with my finger. Tod just says, “I promise,” and crosses his heart the same way I did. “Good,” Donna says, “now I have to think,” and gets up and walks over to the window, looking out and ignoring us. Looking at Tod I ask, “how long have you been here?” Tod gets a confused look on his face and just says, “Are you going to leave me!” He says as he starts to cry. “No,” I say trying to sound confident, “I’m going to take you with me,” I say, trying to believe it myself, “we will travel the highways and bi-ways of the world,” I claim, “no one will ever hurt you or me ever again,” I claim, and as I’m telling this to Tod, Henry bursts into the kitchen. “I just got off the phone with Mr. Woods and he has instructed me to take you to the studio and wait there for him,” he says in a confident voice, “he will be here in the morning and has really missed you Jack,” he says, “he’s been so worried when you got lost and has been looking for you every day,” he informs me, “he was very happy I was able to find you and take such good care of you and he is going to give me a big reward when he gets here,” he says proudly. Looking down at my hands I say in a low voice, “that’s great,” I say with no enthusiasm, “I can’t wait,” tears starting to fill in my eyes as I realize there is nothing I can do. “Henry,” Donna suddenly speaks up, “don’t you think we should take Jack shopping and get him some really nice clothes? we wouldn’t want Mr. Woods to get the wrong idea about his favorite bo,,,,,, err I mean his son, would we?”she asks him, with eyebrows raised. “You are right as always my dear,” Henry says, “come on Jack, we have some shopping to do,” and starts to take me by the hand. “I think you will need a woman’s touch in this shopping,” Donna claims, “if you want to make the best impression on Mr. Woods,” she says looking innocent. “I know what you’re up to Donna,” he says as he looks at me for some reason, “I’ve noticed the way you two look at each other and the hushed conversations you have that suddenly stop whenever I enter the room,” he says in his all knowing kind of way, “I can guess what you two are plotting,” he states with a stern look on his face. “Why, what ever do you mean?” Donna asks, with a little hint of fear in her voice, “I just thought,,,,” “I suppose that you will want to buy Tod a new set of clothes as well?”he asks,“you are using this as an excuse to buy Tod some new things,” he says, interrupting her mid sentence, “you always have been a tricky woman ever since I acquired you,” he says as his face get red, “errr,,I mean ever since we met,” he corrects himself. “For Tod?” She asks more than she states, “yes, of course,” she stammers, “that’s just what we have been plotting for,” she says stumbling over the words, “is that ok?”she asks sheepishly. “You could always melt my heart, my dear,” he says now looking and smiling at her, “I guess I can’t blame you for wanting to look after Tod like that,” he says looking at Tod, who looks even more baffled, “he is ours after,” he claims, “but I don’t want any more of this plotting between the two of you from now until tomorrow,” he says and looks back at me, “do you two understand?” He asks in a threatening voice. “Yes sir,” both Donna and me say at the same time. “Am I getting new clothes?” Tod suddenly asks, with a smile crossing his face, “can I get a bike too?”he asks with glee, “Jack can teach me how to ride it and I’ll be extra careful,” he claims. “We will see about that,” Henry says, “we have to hurry if we are going to go shopping,” he says as he starts for the door, “your dad is really worried about Jack,” he claims as he walks out the door. Looking at Donna I ask, “do I really have to go back home?” “Not if I have anything to say about it,” she states. “Is Jack going to live here with us forever?” Tod asks enthusiastically. “Tod,” Donna starts, “we don’t have much time, please just keep quiet and everything will be ok,” she tells him, “now we have to hurry before Henry starts to get worried,” she claims as she urges us out the door. Henry is waiting in the pick up, looking impatiently as Donna climbs into the cab, I climb in the back with Tod, helping him up and whispering, “I’ll take care of you, don’t worry, “as I climb in and sit next to him, the truck lurches toward and Tod falls in my lap and I just hold him for a few seconds before I push him back to his sitting position, leaning close to him I say into his ear, “when we get to town, we are going to make a run for it,” I say in a hushed voice, “you keep by my side no matter what happens, I would rather die than go back to my dad,” I claim and look him in the face to see if I can tell what he is thinking. “But,,, what about Donna?” He asks. “I think Donna is going to help us if she can,” I inform him. “That’s not what I meant,” he says in a raspy voice, “Henry can be mean and if we runaway and if he knows that Donna helped us, he will kill her,” he says with tears in his eyes, “I know because I over heard him tell her that once, when I was listening when they thought I was asleep,” he says, eyes getting really big, “I wasn’t snooping,” he says as an after thought, “I couldn’t help over hearing.” “I didn’t think you were snooping ,” I inform him, “I don’t want Donna to be hurt either, but there has to be a way,” I tell him as I look up front and see Henry looking at us in the review mirror, I bolt upright and sit facing the side of the pickup, “he’s looking at us, act normal,” I say as I pretend not to be talking to Tod. Tod freezes and says in a loud voice, “see I told you Henry is a good guy,” and turns to look at the side of the truck, trying to do as I’m doing. Glancing at the back window I see that Henry is watching the road again, “that was close,” I say to him, “we have to be careful if we are ever going to get away,” I tell him, “do you know where your parents are?”I ask as I eye the back window. “They don’t love me,” he says with a down cast face. “How do you know?” I ask curiously. “Henry told me that if they really did love me, why have they not ever looked for me?”he asks and starts to tear up. “Where are you from?” I ask. “Texas,” he claims. “Do you know where Texas is?” I ask. “Ummm, you know, Texas,” he says thinking really hard. “Could you get there if we ran away?” I ask, wondering if I can get an idea into his head. “I would take a bus?” He says unsure. “Well if you don’t know where Texas is, maybe your parents don’t know where you are?” I ask, “don’t you think that might be the case?” I say as a question. “I never thought of it like that,” he admits, “but your parents hate you and are mean and ,,,” he says as he trails off. “Not all parents are like mine,” I say, trying to convince him of something, “I’ll help you find out,” I say confidently, “you can’t trust Henry,” I inform him, “he’s evil and we need to get away from him as soon as we can,” I say into his ear. “Ok,,,,” he stammers, “but I hope you don’t die this time like last time,” he says with sorrow in his voice. “I didn’t die,” I claim, “I just got hurt, and I got better as you can see,” I tell him as I raise both my arms out for him to inspect. “So what are we going to do?”he asks me. “I don’t know yet,” I admit, “Just keep close to me no matter what and act normal,” I instruct him, “everything will be ok,” I say in a way that I hope sounds confident, “and don’t worry about Donna,” I tell him, “she can take care of herself,” I say, wondering if that is true or not. The truck comes to a stop in front of a store and I look around and see a street sign that tells me we are on Main St. “look over there,” I whisper to Tod, “you see that red door?” I say as I point to his left. Looking over to his left he says, “yeah.” “If anything happens to me, you go there and knock on that door and ask for Mary,” I tell him in a hurried whisper, “she will help you find your parents, she is a on of the good guys,” I inform him, “but it’s a secret,” I say under my breath, hopefully I’m leading him in the right way. “But,,” he says as Henry gets out of the truck and starts to walk this way. “Shhh,” I say as I gently grab his small hand. “What’s all this talk about?”Henry asks as he stands in front of us. “We were just talking about,,,” I stammer, trying to think of anything, “Pokémon,” I say suddenly, “yeah, that’s it,” I say as I get up and start to get up, “I have to go to the bathroom,” I say as an after thought. “Well I’m sure they have one inside,” Donna says as she walks up behind us, causing me to jump, “let’s go you two, we need to get the shopping done,”she says as she Lifts Tod into her arms and sets him on the ground, jumping down I follow her and Henry into the store, thinking that if I made a run for it, I know I could get away, but then thinking of Tod and Donna, what would happen to them if I did and resolve not to try anything yet. Walking into the store I see it’s just a normal sort of place with racks and racks of clothes. “I’m going to take Jack to the restroom,” Donna says and takes me by the hand and starts to walk away to the back of the store, “you two start to look around,” she tells them, “come with me,” she says to me and pulls me along away from the other two. When we are out of ear shot, she says in a whisper, “I’m going to try to distract Henry and let you sneak out the back,” she informs me. “But,,,” I start to say. “Shh,” she says and puts a hand over my mouth, “this may be your only chance,” she informs me. “I can’t leave without Tod,” I inform her as I push her hand away, “I promised him,” I state. Arriving at the restrooms she looks at me in the face and then grabs my chin, forcing me to look at her, “I know you care about him,” she admits, “I do too, a lot,” but I don’t think I can distract Henry enough for both of you to get away,” she admits, “I know your dad and he is a very bad man,” she tells me, “I used to live with him when I was a little girl and then I was sold to Henry as his wife,” she informs me. I look at here and get a very confused look on my face, “I can’t be sure, but I suspect that James is not your real dad,” she confides in me, “so you need to save yourself,” she says as she pushes me into the restroom. Standing in the bathroom, my mind is spinning, what,, or,,,how does,,, I mean,, what? Looking around I see a window with frosted glass and go over to it, but it is closed tight and I know I’ll never get out that way, pausing and listening I don’t hear anything, so I open the door a crack and peek out. I don’t see anyone and open it even more. Looking all around I can see a door in the back and start to sneak that way, I’m just about to open the door when a man steps in front of me. “May I help you young man?” A store clerk says. “Ummm,,” I stammer and almost pee my pants, “I’m here with my Uncle?” I say as a question. “Well he is not back there,” the man states plainly, “let me show you to the front of the store,” he says as he offers his hand and taking it I allow him to lead me, thinking as we make outer way to the front, “I hope Donna is not mad at me.” “Ahhh, there you are Jack,” Henry says, “where have you been?”asking as he eyes the man. “He seems to have gotten lost,” the man says in a obvious tone of voice, “may I help you find something?”he asks Henry. “Yes,” Henry says, “I want to buy these two boys some new clothes,” he informs the man as he looks at me and Tod. “Very well sir,” the man says, “what sizes are the two boys?” He asks Henry, looking me and Tod up and down. “I’m not sure,” he admits. “Henry,” Donna says, “this is really a woman’s job,” she says plainly, “why don’t you go get that chicken wire you said we needed and let me pick out the clothes for these boys,” she asks as a statement. “I don’t know,” he admits, “I’m not sure that is a good idea,”he says looking unsure. “Well if that’s the way you want it ,Henry,” she says in a sarcastic voice, “I’m sure this man won’t think any less of you for doing a woman’s job,” she says, “these are modern times after all,” she states plainly. “Ummm,,, maybe your right,” he stammers, “clothes shopping is really a woman’s job,” he says and adds, “now get to it woman, I will give you an hour and you better get both of these boys a full set of clothes by the time I get back, or so help me,,” he says trailing off and looking as mean as he can. “Yes sir,” she says in a timid voice as he walks out the front door, turning to the clerk, she says, “ I need to converse with my nephews, I’ll call you when we have decided on what we want to see,” she tells him as she smiles. The clerk just turns and walks to the back of the store and pretends to be busy, all the while watching us. “Now’s your chance,” Donna says to me, “he won’t be gone very long, so you and Tod have to disappear and hide,” she says walking us to the front door, looking out she informs us, “the coast is clear, that chicken wire is all the way across town,” she informs us as she opens the door. “But what about you,” Tod and I say at the same time. “Never you mind about me,” she tells us, “I know how to take care of myself, now out the door, the both of you,”she commands and pushing us out the door, she closes it behind us and we hear her saying something to the clerk. Looking around I take Tod’s hand go straight for the red door, “come on,” I say, “we haven’t a second to lose,” as I start to run down the street and we are soon standing in front of the red door and just staring at it like it is made of poison. “Aren’t you going to knock,” Tod asks me looking up at me with his puppy dog eyes, “I can do it if you want me to,” he says in a whisper. “No it’s ok,” I tell him, “I was just catching my breath, “I want you to know that no matter what happens after I knock,” I say stuttering a little, “I’ll always take care of you, I promise,” I claim. “I know,” he tells me and leans in and hugs me around my waist, making me feel all weird, but a good weird. “Now cut that out,” I tell him and knock on the door very lightly. Standing there staring up at the big door, I wonder if this is the right thing to do, nothing is happening and so I knock again, this time a little louder. The door swings inward and a tall man is staring down at me, “well?”he says, “what can I do for you?” He asks with a scowl on his face. Stepping back I stammer, “ummmm,,, is Mary here?” I ask in a timid voice, “she told me to tell her if,,,umm,,, I found any homeless people,” I claim as I look around to see if Henry has come back and seeing that the coast is still clear, I look back at the intimidating man. “She is out on assignment,” he informs me, “but she should be back soon,” he informs me as my heart breaks, I do t have time, I think to myself as I prepare to make a run for it. “Why don’t you come inside and wait,” he says as he opens the door wide for us. “Ummm, I don’t know,” I say, not sure what I’m supposed to do. “What’s you name?” He asks me. “Ummm,,I’m Brian and this is ummm,,”I start to say and get interrupted by Tod. “I’m Tod and this is Jack” Tod informs the man. “So you’re the famous Jack,” he says with a smile, “Mary said you might be coming by soon,” he informs me, “she told me to welcome you with open arms,” he says as he does indeed open his arms wide, “come in,” he says and steps aside as Tod just walks in the door. Looking around one more time I decide that I have no choice and step inside as he closes the door behind, but not before looking around himself and that somehow makes me feel a little bit better. I look around and see desks and chairs, it looks like an office. “Have seat,” the man says, “I’m Sargent Bigsbee, he informs us, “I work with Mary, kind of her right hand man,” he tells me, “are you two hungry?” He asks looking us up and down. “I am,” Tod says. “Umm,, sure I say,” trying to be polite, “are you in the army?” I ask with wonder in my eyes. “No,”he tells me, “I’m a police man,” he informs me as my face gets red and my anger flares. “How could she do this to me,” I think as I get even more angry and scared all at the same time. “I’m not going back to my dad,” I insist, “and if you try to make me, I’ll,,,” I start to say and stop talking as I’m not sure what I’ll do, “I’ll kill myself,” I say finally with determination in my voice. “Slow down Jack,” the sergeant says, “no one said anything about you dad,” he reminds me. “But you’re the cops,” I remind him, “that’s your job to put kids back home no matter what, right?” I ask a little confused. “Well that depends on lots of different things,” he informs me, “look,” he says, “I don’t know what’s going g on here,” he admits, “when Mary gets back, I’m sure we can figure all this out,” he claims, “in the mean time,” he says, “why don’t you two just sit there and I’ll get you both something to eat, do you like hot dogs?” He asks with a big smile. “Yes please,” Tod says, I just nod and sit down in the chair to think over what he said. When he goes into the other room, I eye the door and lean over to Tod and whisper, “let’s get out of here,” I say in a whisper, “I don’t trust him or the cops,” I admit, “they will make me go back with my dad,” I tell him in a firm voice. “But you said you liked Mary?” He says in a question. “I know,” I say hesitantly , “but I didn’t know she was a cop, she said she worked at a mission,” I inform him, “she lied,” I add for emphasis. “How do you know she’s a cop, maybe she does work at the mission,” he states, “maybe she only help the cops,” he says, “and besides the cops are the good guys?, Right?” He says Raising the end of the sentence as if we’re a question. “Ummm,,, ok, “ I say after a short pause, “I guess we can wait till she comes here and we can ask her ourselves,” I say giving in. The sergeant arrives and gives each of us a hit dog and chips as well as a can of Coke, “thanks” I manage to say as I take the offered food, Tod just takes and digs in without saying a word, “he says thanks too,” I say as I nudge Tod’s shoulder, but he just ignores me and keeps eating as he looks all around. Going back to a desk, I see the sergeant lift a radio from the desk and say into it, “sparrow to eagle, come in eagle.” “This is eagle, go ahead sparrow,” says a female voice from the radio. “This is sparrow, the chicks have come home to roost,” he says in response, “I repeat, the chicks have come home to roost.” “This is eagle, that’s a big 10-4 sparrow,”the voice responds, “hunting season is almost over, I’m out of film, please have a role ready for me in 10, eagle out,” the female voice says and the radio goes silent. Looking over at me the sergeant says, Mary will be here in 5 minutes,” he informs us and I’m baffled by that radio call. “Are you a hunter?” I ask with a dazed look on my face. “Sort of,” the sergeant says with a wry smile, “you see we hunt bad guys and put them away so they can’t ever hurt any one ever again,” he claims, “eagle is Mary’s call sign and she told me she will be here in just 5 minutes,” he tells me. “But I heard her say 10?” I say confused. “That’s right you did,” he admits, “but we always talk in code, just in case the bad guys over hear us talking,” he says and smiles. “So does that,,,,make,,, me a bad guy,,,?” I ask timidity. “You?” He asks, “of course not,” he says with a chuckle, “why would you think that?” He asks. “Well,, “ I say, “you were talking in code,, and you said you only talk like that in front of bad guys,, and,,, well,,,” I say, not wanting to complete that thought. “Oh,,” he says, “ummm,,, that’s not what I meant,” he says, face turning red, “the bad guys can tune into our radios and listen, so we talk like that in case someone is listening on the air, not here,” he says, “if the bad guys were here, we would lock them in a holding cell in the back and it wouldn’t matter if they overheard us or not, because we would already have them, you see?”he says pointing to a door in the back. “Ohhh,” I say, wondering why I didn’t get that myself. “Would you like to see the holding cells in the back?”he asks me as he starts to get up. I shrink back a little and shake my head as Tod says “I would,” “NO,” practically scream at Tod, “I mean,” I say more calmly, “no thank you,” I tell the sergeant as I grasp Tod’s hand and give it a warning squeeze, Tod looks at me questionably, but shakes his head remains silent. Sitting back down the sergeant says, “that’s ok, not much to see anyway,”with a disappointing look on his face. I sort of feel bad, but there is no way I’m going anywhere near a holding cell, it sounds like a trick to me, at least out here I can always make a dash for the door, I think to myself as I move closer to Tod and put my arm around his shoulder and realize that he is shaking. “Shh,” I tell Tod in a whisper right into his ear, ‘I’m here for you buddy,” I say in a soothing tone of voice, “It’ll be ok.” Mary bursts through the door causing my to jump to my feet and throw myself in front of Tod and bear my teeth, “STAY BACK” I scream at the top of my lungs, before I realize that’s it not Henry or my dad, shrinking back away, I sit back down and hug Tod and start to cry, this is too much for me and I can’t stop myself and then Tod is crying with me. “Shhh,” I hear a soft voice and a pair strong of arms around me, “it’s ok, let it all out,” Mary says in a soothing voice, “it’s ok to cry,” she reassures me and Tod, I just ball and ball and hug Tod so tight I feel like I will never let him go, I try to stop crying and I find I can’t and eventually give up and just cry till I can’t cry any more. Wiping my eyes after what seems like hours I look up at Mary who is still holding us, I say “I’m,,,,, sorrrry,,,I couldn’t,,,, help it,” I say with hiccups in between words. “Do you feel better?” Mary asks as she runs her hand through my hair, I only nod and look at her waiting for something. “I’m glad you came,” she says, “it takes a very brave boy to ask for help,” she says as she takes my hands in hers and looks me in the eye, “what’s your name?” She asks, “and who is this?”she says as she looks at Tod. “I’m jack and that’s Tod,” I say mentioning over to Tod, “say hi Tod,” but Tod only stares down at his hands, “he’s shy around new people,” I explain. “Where do you live?” She asks me in a gentle voice. “With Uncle Henry and Aunt Donna,” I say, “I thought you knew,” I say in wonder, “do I have to go back to my dad?” I say, my eyes getting wide in fear. “You mean Henry and Donna are your aunt and uncle,?”she asks with a confused look on her face. “Them?” I ask, “heck no, they aren’t my real auntie and uncle, they just want me to call them that,” I say as if it’s obvious. “So your dad sent you to stay with them?” She asks. “Are you a police woman?” I ask, a little bit confused. “Yes,” she admits. “You lied to me,” I accuse, as my face tightens up. “I am undercover, working in this town to uncover a criminal organization,” she informs me. “But you lied to me and now that you caught me, I’m going to die when you send me back to my,,, dad,,,” I complain as I start to tear up once again and start to pull away. “No one is going to hurt you,” she claims. “Tod,” I say, “we have to go,” I say in a panic as I start to get up and Tod looks at me and jumps up with fear in his face. Mary stands up and wraps her arms around me as I struggle to get away. “It’s ok,” she says, “you are safe here,” she soothes me, “I won’t let anyone hurt you or Tod,” she explains, “and I won’t let your dad do anything to you or your brother,” she claims. As I struggle even more Tod jumps in and starts to fight her as well, “a little help here Matt,” she calls as she tries to wrestle the both of us into submission.
  4. It’s dark when I open my eyes and peer around, how did I get here? I wonder as I sit up, my head is pounding and I all comes back to me. I throw off my covers and realize I’m naked,,, “what the heck,” I say with a sore throat, “where are my clothes?” I ask in a whisper. Getting up I feel a little woozy and steady myself against the wall for a minute, I head to the closet and see it is empty the dresser drawers are empty as well, “great, just what I need,” I say as I try the door, it’s locked, “the window,” I say to myself as I head that way. It’s locked as well, going back to the door I start pounding and yelling, “LET ME OUT!” I keep yelling until, I hear someone on the other side opening the lock and rush back and jump in bed, I hide under the covers. “You are awake,” I see, Henry says with a sly smile on his face, “I’m very disappointed in you, that’s no way for a young lady to act,” he says as he closes the door behind him. “I’m a boy,” I insist, “you should know if anyone does,” I accuse. “Just because you may have started life as a boy, does not mean you will remain a boy,” he says with a knowing smile, “but never mind about that right now,” he says, “you defied me and you need to be punished,” he says as glares at me, “and since you insist on trying to run away,” he says, “I need to make sure you won’t try again,” he says, “if you don’t have clothes, I’m sure you won’t get very far,” he says, “and you are much more pleasant to look at,” he says with a smirk. “That’s not fair,” I protest. “You should have thought of that before you tried to kidnap our boy,” he says in an accusatory voice. “I didn’t try to kidnap anyone,” I claim. “Poor little Tod,” he says I a sorrowful voice, “you have him so confused about everything,” it’s going to take weeks for him to recover,” he informs me with a shake of his head. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO TOD,” I yell at him, feeling more brave than ever, “you better not lay a finger on him or I’ll,,,,,” I try to say as my voice fails me. “I didn’t do anything to that little shit,” he claims, “but,” he says in an intimidating voice, “if I do lay a finger or hand on him, well , that depends on you,” he says and just looks at me in a sarcastic way. “What do you mean?,” I say confused, my voice barely above a whisper. “It’s simple,” he says with a dramatic hand gesture, “from now on, “ he explains, “I won’t punish you, I won’t even go looking for you if you want to leave,” he says opening the door, “go ahead, be my guest,” and points down the hallway, I’ll even give some clothes, your Auntie would never allow me to let you go around nude anyway, “ he informs me, “but just know this, “ he says with a scowl on his face, “Tod will be punished severely,” he says and puts a hand on my shoulder and squeezing extra hard, “do you understand?” He whispers in my ear. My blood runs hot and I’m tempted to take a swing at him, but one look in his eyes and I know Tod will suffer, so I just nod my head in defeat, “I hate you,” I say under my breath. “That’s ok,” he says, “they all do at first, you will come around like all the others,” he informs me, “well most of them do,” he says as an after thought. “Others?” I whisper, in shock I stare at him with new horror. “Never mind about that,” says and stands back, “for now go back to sleep and in the morning I’ll have some fresh clothes and a hardy breakfast waiting for you,” he says, “now that this,,,, ummm,, incident is over, we can go back to being a loving family,” he says an leans down and kisses me in the top of my head, “you should know,” he says in soft and soothing voice, “this hurts me more than it does you,” he claims, “I love you and it’s for your own good,” he says as he gently puts his hand on my head and ruffles my hair. “I’ll never love you” I say in a weak but forceful voice, pulling my head away, regretting my words as soon as I say them, but not able to take them back, I just stare at him defiantly . “I know,” he says in a understanding way, “that will change in time, “he claims, “now get some sleep, we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow,” he says as he leaves the door an inch open and walks away down the hall. “What have I done?” I say under my breath, “my folks were never as evil as this man,” I say as I try to figure out what to do. “I could run to town and tell the cops on him,” I say into my pillow, “let them send me back, I don’t care,” I say as tears fill my eyes, “but what if he kills Tod while I’m gone, it’ll be all my fault,” I sob, not knowing what to do and just give into the crying. Standing alone on the beach I look at my ship and want nothing more than to just walk away from everything, but then I remember poor Tod and how I have totally put him in grave danger, ”where are you?” I yell to whoever is listening. I can’t make myself start to walk, I have a responsibility to Tod and I can’t leave him, but maybe I can take him with me, we could go to the ship together and sail away for ever. I look around and I don’t see him, I have seen him here before so I call out to him, “TOD!” I yell as loud as I can, but get no answer. I drop down to my hands and knees and start crying. “Shh,, it’s ok,” I hear a familiar voice come from out of the darkness beyond the beach, “I’m coming for you,” it says, “don’t give up, I will find you,” the voice promises. “BJ?” I ask in a small weak voice, but I get no answer. “Wake up sleepy head,” I open my eyes and see Tod standing at the end of my bed holding a pile of clothes, “dad told me to tell you to get dressed and come down for breakfast, he has a surprise for you,” he says excitedly. I look at him and my heart fills with sorrow, “I’m sorry Tod,” I say as sit up, “I should have never come here,” please forgive me,” I say while looking into his eyes. “It’s ok, “ he says with a smile, “I’m glad you came,” and drops the clothes on the bed a turns to leave with a confused look on his face. “I’ll be right down,” I tell him, “and tell my uncle I won’t cause any more trouble, I promise,” I add as he closes the door behind him. I get out of bed and see the clothes, they are boy clothes and I’m shocked, even the underwear is boys. I’m overjoyed as I get dressed in regular clothes and feel close to happy as I head down the hall to see what awaits me in the kitchen. “Well there’s my boy,” Donna says, “ she says as I enter the room, “see Henry,” she says turning to him, “I told you he would happier as a boy.” “I know, I know,,” he says as he gives me a wide grin, “but you know he has to be taught, the difference and when to be a boy and when to be a girl,” he says and winks at me, what does that mean, I wonder as I start to sit down. “Well enough of this chit-chat,” Donna says, “breakfast is on the table, we don’t want it to get cold,’ she commands us as she starts to serve everyone. “I have a surprise for you young man,” he says with smile, I’m beginning to hate his smile, “you are going to go into town with me this morning,” he says with pride, “it’s about time you had proper clothes, don’t you think?” He asks me. “Ummm, I’m,,,” is all I can say, I’m still shocked by the change of attitude in him. “Well?” Donna asks, “what do you say to your uncle?” She asks as she looks at me in a weird way. “Ummm thanks?” I say, not sure what I’m supposed to do. “Well eat up,” Henry says, “I’m going to show you around town, so everyone can see how handsome you are,” he says with pride. “Can I go?” Tod asks, hopeful. “No,Tod,” Henry says, “this time , is just the men,” he informs him, did he just call me a man?, I think as I eat pancakes and bacon, what is going on here? I thought I was going to have to nude forever and locked away, but now he is being nice? Why? I want to ask, but I don’t dare, all the defiance gone out of me. “Do you mean boy clothes?” Is all I can think to ask. “Well yes of course,”Henry says with a knowing smile, “you know how to wear girls clothes now, so it is time to learn how to wear boy clothes,” he states plainly. “But,,, I already know how to wear boy clothes,” I insist, “I am a boy after all,” I remind him. “We shall see,” is all Henry has to say on that subject, “now finish up breakfast while I got get ready,” he tells me as he gets up and kisses Tod on the top of his head, then proceeds to kiss his wife on the mouth, he makes his way to me and gives me a shoulder hug and leans down and whispers in my ear, “I love you son,” and straightens up and leaves the kitchen, that’s a strange thing to say, I think as he leaves. “Donna?,” I say, “err, I mean auntie, can I ask you a question?,” I ask tentatively. “I think you just did,” she says with a smirk on her face, I just look at her not sure what she meant, “go ahead sweetie,” she says and chuckles. “Why is Henry, err I mean my uncle being so weird today?” I ask in a small unsure voice, “I mean, he’s,,,,different?” I ask, “isn’t he mad at me and Tod for running away yesterday?” “He gets like that dear,” she says as she takes my plate away, “the thing you have to realize about Henry is that as long as things go smoothly, he will be your best friend, but if not,” she starts to say, “well, just don’t let that happen,” she warns me, “I reminded him that your are just a young boy and need time to acclimate to your new life,” she explains , “he wanted to chain you up in the shed till winter, “but I wouldn’t hear of it,” she informs me, “that’s such a cruel thing to do to a boy, “ she claims, “i told him to give you another chance, so be a good boy,” she instructs me, “I don’t know if I can stop him if you keep misbehavIng,” she says with frown on her face. “What’s akla,,,mate,,?” I ask. “It means to get used to something,” she informs me, “now never you mind about all of that,” she says, “be a good boy and don’t make your uncle wait for you,” she says as she takes Tod’s plate to the sink, “run along,” she says and turns to Tod,,” me and Tod will be just fine here by ourselves today, won’t we Tod?” She asks and Tod just nods his head watching everything going on,” as she starts cleaning up the breakfast dishes. Leaving the table I whisper to Tod, “I’ll be back, I promise,” but he just looks at me with sorrow in his small eyes, almost like he is going to start to cry anytime now, I give him a hug and whisper in his ear,“it’ll be ok, I know the rules now and I won’t let anything bad happen to you,” not sure how to do that, but sure as hell going to try. The ride in his old pick up is a bumpy and loud ride, but not so much that we can’t talk on the way. “Jack,” he says all of a sudden, causing me to jump, “you love Tod, don’t you?” He asks me and pauses for me to answer. “No,” I say, “I would never do anything to him,” I claim, “ “So you don’t love him?” He questions. “No,” I claim, “I would never do things with him like my,,,” and stop, still unwilling to tell on my parents, “I mean I like him and all, but not like that.” I try to explain. “I see,” he says and taps his fingers on the steering wheel, “so ,if I were to,,,, “ he pauses and then goes on, “lock him in the shed for a week with only bread and water, you would be ok with that!” He ask briefly glancing at me. “NO,” I exclaimed,“why would you do such a cruel thing?” I ask in disbelief. “That my dear boy, is up to you,” he states plainly with no hint of emotion,“ I feel like I can trust you, that’s why I’m talking you to town,” he explains, “your auntie thinks it’s just what you need right now and I hope for Tod’s sake she is right,” he tells me as he makes a sharp turn, causing me to slide closer to him, “you will need to be on your best behavior today,” he commands me, “remember that you are my nephew come down from Michigan for the summer visit,” he informs me, “you know all about Michigan right?,” he asks and glances down at me. “Yes sir,” I respond, not sure where he’s going with this. “Well only speak if you are spoken to and then keep any answers short,” he instructs me, “if you are unsure what to say, look at me and I’ll give you a sign,” he says, “if I scratch my face or ear or nose or anything,” he says, “then you don’t answer that question and come over to me,” he instructs me, “do you understand?” He asks, taking his eyes off the road to look at me, I just nod my head, “Say you understand,” he commands me. “I understand,” I say in a monotone voice. Turning his attention back to the road he says, “good and remember Tod, is counting on you, don’t think for one second that your aunt can protect him,” he informs me, “I only give in to her to make her happy,” he explains, “everything I do, is my decision, although she often thinks she talks me into things,” he claims, “just remember that and we will all be much happier, especially Tod,” he warns. “Yes sir,” I say not looking at him, just staring out the window, “please just leave Tod alone,” I say still not looking at him, he does not respond and we are silent for a time. It feels good to be wearing regular clothes again and I run the hem of my T-shirt through my fingers and ask in an unsure voice, “uncle?” I say, “can I ask you a question?” I venture to say. “Go ahead young man,” he responds. “Did you kidnap Tod?” I ask and shrink back as far as I can next my door, looking at him not sure how he will react, but needing to know the answer. He says nothing for a long while, just driving and looking forward, finally he turns to me briefly before looking back at the road, “that’s a mighty dangerous question you have there,” he says in a tone of voice that seems to be threatening and forgiving at the same time, I’m not sure what that means, “Be careful what questions you ask, “he warns me, “you might just get the answer” He says, glancing at me briefly one more time and then looking back at the road. I decide not to say anything else about it, “how far is town?” I ask, changing the subject. “Oh, it’s not too far,” he tells me, “the folks that live there are some what strange, they can be cold and distant to folks they don’t know,” he informs me, “they don’t take kindly to strangers,” he says, “so just mind your, “P’s and Q’s” around them and you will be just fine,” he tells as I see the town come into view, not much of a town really, I think as I take it all in with one look, a country store of some sort, a broke down down warehouse and a lot of weeds. “Where am I? I say,” still looking around at the dump. “It’s the town of thrives,” he says with a grin, “actually I don’t know the official name,” he says as he turns in to a parking place, “this is just one part of it,” he says and gets out, I try to open my door, but it won’t open. “Here allow me,” he says from the outside and opens it easily, “that handle has been broken for years, been meaning to get it fixed,” he says as I climb out. He walks into the store and I follow close behind him, it’s dusty inside and there are several tables set up against one of the walls and men are sitting around playing chess, “Hey there, Henry,” one of them says as we walk in, “who have we here?” He asks looking me up and down, by this time everyone in the store is staring as me, I feel self conscious and look down at my feet and I’m reminded that I’m not wearing any shoes or socks, embarrassed I look up and stare at the ceiling. “This is my cousin,” Henry says with pride in his voice, “he will be staying with me until his folks sort out some problems back home in Michigan,” he claims. “A city boy, out here?” another man says, “ “He ain’t a city boy,” another one says and points at my bare feet, “city boys always wear them shoes,” he remarks “He ain’t a country boy,” a third one proclaims, “I can tell just by looking at him,” he insists. “He from a small town,” Henry says “And I need to get some supplies,” he says looking at a very large man, “we gots work to do back home and don’t have time to shoot the shit,” he tells them all and starts walking up and down the isles, “Jack, why don’t you go stand over there in the corner and don’t touch anything,” Henry commands me as he starts picking things up and looking for a basket, puts this and that in it, “he’s a clumsy one, that one is,” he says just loud enough for everyone to hear. “So you are staying with your uncle?” A skinny man asks. “Yes sir,” I say, watching the board. “Do you play?” He asks. “Yes sir, my daddy taught me,” I respond. “Hey Jim-Bo” the skinny man says, “move you fat ass and let the boy have chance,” he says and starts setting up the board. I look over to Henry,, but he’s ignoring me, so I sit down, “I’ll try,” I say as the fat man gets up grumbling under his breath. After the third move the skinny man says, “you don’t know how to play,” and shoos me out of the seat. “Oh,,,” I say disappointed and go back to watching, “you didn’t even give me a chance” I say under my breath. “What did you say?” the skinny man asks with an angry look on his face, I freeze and look at Henry for help. “Never mind,” Henry tells the skinny man, “he’s just a boy, Roger, if you want to come by the house on Saturday, I’m sure he can make amends,” he reassures him, looking at me and giving me an angry look. “What did I do,” I ask to myself and think, what does he mean, “make amends?” as Henry rushes me out of the store. “What were you thinking?” Henry asks me once we are back in his pickup. “What did I do?’ I ask innocently. “You never talk back, didn’t I tell you to only speak if spoken to?” He scolds me. “But,,” I start to protest. “If you say another word I’ll slap the,,,” and stops talking, “no,” he says, “I made you a promise,” he reminds me, “I’ll not lay a hand on you,” he says with a wicket grin, “but I can’t say the same for you lover Tod,” he says and starts the truck. “You leave hm alone,” I say forcefully, but not loud. “That my dear boy, that is entirely up to you,” he says with glee in his eyes, “now,” he says, “I have a few people I want you to meet and don’t misbehave,” he warns me, “you do as your told and no more back talk,” he commands me, as we drive off I wonder how I’m going to get out of here and save Tod at the same time, I’ve never been responsible for someone before and I don’t like it, but I can’t just leave him, I’m thinking he tells me. Breaking me out of my thoughts, he says, “wait here,” as he gets out of the truck, I look over and see he has left the truck running, he is walking away towards a house and is soon out of sight behind some overgrown bushes. “I could just slide over and drive away” I say to my self as I start to move, but then I think of poor Tod, I promised to get him out of here with me and stop half way across the seat. I swear I can hear a voice whispering to me, “but you promised,” in an accusatory way, and I slide back over and cry into my hands, silently as I’ve taught myself to do. A loud knocking draws my out of my self pity, “Hey?” A woman says through the closed window, “are you alright?” Rolling down the window I respond, “yeah, I fine.” “You don’t look fine sweetie,” she says with a sad face, “why are you crying?” She asks putting her hand on my arm. “I’m not crying,” I claim, “I just got something in my eye taking my arm away and wiping my eyes, looking around and not seeing Henry in sight. “We’ll cheer up young man,” she says, “your new here, aren’t you?” She asks. “Yeah, I’m staying with my uncle fir the summer,” I inform her, as I’ve been told. “Well I’m Mary,” I run a local homeless shelter over on the other side of town,” she informs me, “if you see any homeless people, send them my way,” she says with a smile. “Ummm, ok,” I say, “where do I send them?” I ask, “I mean I’m not homeless,,, I mean it’s obviously I have a home,” I say starting to ramble, “do you just help homeless people or do you help others?” I ask looking around and seeing the coast is still clear. “Sure,” she says, “what kind of help were you asking about?” She asks and raises her eyebrows. “Oh I don’t know,” I say hedging, “I mean if say for example,,,,” thinking how to ask, “a person needed help because,,ummmm,, maybe someone is being forced to do,, ummm, “ I say, starting to get real nervous, “I don’t know, maybe they just need help,” I say, losing my nerve, “I was just wondering, I mean, aren’t there people who have more problems than just being homeless?” I ask and looking all around, if Henry shows up and sees me talking to this lady, Tod will pay the price, “umm, I’m doing a school paper on problems of the world,” I claim. “Oh, I see,” she says in a low voice, “do you know someone like this?” She asks with a friendly face, but a low voice. “Me?, no,” I claim, “I’m not in trouble,” it’s just a school paper,” I remind her. “Oh, of course not,” she says, “well we offer a wide selection of helpful services and we can be very discreet,” she tells me. “What does discreet mean?” I ask. “It means, that we help some people in secret,” she says, “that way if someone is in Trouble or if that someone is in danger,” she says, “like a kidnapping victim or being mistreated, we can step in and help without anyone knowing,” she informs me, “so if you see or know someone like that,” she says in a whisper, “all you have to do is tell them to go to the corner of 2nd and Main Street and Knock on the red door there and you will be safe there,” she tells me as puts her hand gently on the window sill. “Well I’m not in trouble and I don’t know anyone like that,,,” I say slowly, “but if ,,I find someone,,,, like that, I’ll be sure to tell them, ummm,,, where was that red door again?” I saying, trying to sound interested, “I mean just in case, so I tell them the right way to go,” I claim, still looking around and see Henry just walking around the bushes. “Main and 2nd street,” she says says in a whisper, “so you don’t know where the post office is?” She asks in a loud voice. “Ummm, I,,,” I stutter. “Who’s this?” Henry asks and turns to look at the lady, holding out his hand, “I’m Henry Smith,” he says, “I’m young Jack’s uncle,” looking my way as he says, “is everything alright?” He asks looking at the woman now. “Oh everything is fine,” she says, “I was just asking your nephew if he knew where the post office is,” she says, “I’m new here and have gotten a bit lost is all,” she claims, “he told me he’s new here like me, so he has no idea, can you tell me?” “The post office is way on the other side of town,” he says with his eyebrows raising, “this is the bad part of town,” he informs her, “how did you end up here?” He asks slowly. “Oh dear me,” she says, “forgive me,” she says, “I’m Mrs Jones,” extending her hand and shaking his hand, I work with the missionary across town and God sent me looking for souls to save,” she informs him, “do you know that God loves you?” She asks and puts a big smile on her face. “I’m a Baptist, born and bread and I would appreciate it if you don’t try to fill my nephew’s head with all your God stuff,” he says and turning away he gets into the truck and starting the truck, “roll up your window, Jack,” he commands. Rolling up the window, I hear Mary saying, “God Bless you,” and Henry asks me, “what was that about?” as he drives away looking into the review mirror. “Nothing,” I say, “she seemed nice, wanted to tell me all about Jesus,” I claim, “I don’t know anything about him,” I inform him. “Well I don’t like it,” he says, “the next time I don’t want you talking to anyone if I’m not there, do,, you,, under,,,stand,” he says in a harsh tone of voice. “Yes sir,” I say looking at the side mirror and seeing Mary waving at me, can she help me or will she just get Tod locked in the shed till winter? I wonder as I look out the front window and stay silent. “Bible thumpers,” he says with disgust in his voice, “always trying to brainwash you,” he claims, “say two words to them and you’ll never get rid of them,” he claims, “we still have a few people to meet today and I don’t want you to ever bring up God or Jesus, ever,” he commands. “I won’t,” I respond half heartedly. “I won’t,,,,what?” He asks looking at me briefly. “I won’t sir?” I ask, not sure if that’s right. “That’s better,” he tells me, “don’t forget.” “Yes sir, where are we going now?” I ask him in a low tone of voice. “Oh just some business,” he says, “have you ever wondered what I do for a living?” “You’re a farmer,” I say as if it’s obvious. “No son,” he says and chuckles, “I’m a broker,” he informs me, “do you know what a broker is?” He asks as we turn a corner right onto Main Street, noticing the name and looking for second street. “Ummm,, you break things?” I say, distracted and unsure what that is. I hear laughing and wonder what I said wrong and look down in disgrace, “a broker is someone who buys and sells things like stocks and bonds, or others properties,” he says, “I’m a broker of sorts,” he informs me, “but I deal in ummm,,, harder to acquire items,” he says. “Like what?” I ask “Well,” he says, “the objects I trade in are,, very hard to get, it’s not like you can run to the store to buy,” he tells me, “just know I buy and sell objects,” that’s all you need for now.” He tells me, as we drive up to a three story building on the corner of Main Street and 12th street, I notice that Mary lives just a few blocks from here, I hope and I look down the street , but I can’t see any red doors. Getting out, he comes around and opens the door for me, “let’s go,” he says and takes my hand and glancing around as we make our way to the door, it’s not red. He knocks a complicated number of times and a speaker comes alive, “what do you want?” The voice says. “I’m here to buy a pizza,” Henry responds and waits, the door clicks and we enter into a lavish entrance chamber. “We don’t sell pizza here,” the man behind a desk says. “then I have a pizza to sell you,” he says waits. “I’ll buzz you in,” the man says as he looks me up and down with a grin on his face, “looks like that pizza is gourmet,” he says as he sends me an air kiss and says, “go right in,” and watches me as we enter the inner office, I wonder why everyone seems so wired. A fat man in a business suit greets us at the door and shakes Henry’s hand, “Hello Henry,” he says cheerfully, “that’s a nice boy you have there,” he says as he looks me over, making me feel self conscious, “I think he will do and goes behind a computer desk and starts typing on the keyboard, I take a moment to look around, there is a plush chair in front of the desk and paintings on the wall, looks expensive to me and the people in the pictures are in different scenes, some look like they were Roman warriors with spears and swords, but instead of men, they were all boys in Roman dress and others were boys in different places, like by the pool side and in a cage, strange, that makes me wonder what sort of game that must have been. The next thing I see is a stage, but it is empty, made of some shinny wood, spot lights above my head and the ceiling is higher than normal, I want to ask about it, but afraid I’ll get Tod into trouble, I wonder if they have plays in here, but if so, where does the audience sit?, I wonder as I keep scanning, there are cameras set up and microphones so, maybe they film tv shows here, there are Roman columns along the walls and different weapons and shields,, “Jack?” Someone is speaking to me. “Uhh, yeah?” I say, and then remembering, “I mean, Yes sir,” and turn to see the man behind the computer is asking me something. “I thought you said he was ready?” The man asks Henry. “He is, he’s just overwhelmed, is all,” he explains and slaps me across the head, I shrink away and rub my head, but I keep my protest in my head. “Ok,” the man says, “I’ll need to get a picture of you, just a face shots for now,” he says. “Please get on the stage, boy,” the fat man says. I look at Henry and he nods at me and I go stand on the stage feeling silly and unsure. The lights all come on at once. “Ok,” the fat man says, just look natural,” he says and moves around the desk and picks up a camera, how do I look natural? I wonder as he starts to point it at me. “Turn your head, lift your chin,” he commands, “that’s good, the camera loves you and keeps clicking away, “ok, that’s enough for now, “he tells me, go stand by Henry,” he tells me as he plugs the camera into the computer, “so, Henry, tell me again where this boy comes from?” “He’s from Michigan,” is all Henry says. “This is interesting,” he says to Henry, “I think you better explain this to me,” he says and looks at me intently, “Go wait in the back room” The fat man commands me and points to a door in the back, I look over to Henry, he gives me a nod and I open the door and see a bed and a couch as well as I dresser and whole rack of clothes. I walk over to the couch and sit down, the door is closed behind me and I’m left alone. “It smells funny in here,” I say to myself, “it’s to quite in here,” I say a little louder, why am I here? I wonder, “I thought we were going to get some regular clothes“ I say as I think, maybeI I am here to pick out some from the rack, I get up and go look at them. There seems to be all sorts of clothes there, all different sizes, most look like som sort of costumes, I see a pirate costume, a pilot and a doctor’s costume as well. About half way through I see dresses as well, a princess costume, a fairy and what looks like a wedding dress, I hope I’m not supposed to pick one of those, I think , as I notice that behind the rack is a big box of what looks like toys, there are toy swords, helmets, teddy bears and all other sorts of stuffed animals and a magic wand, a few princess crowns and and an assortment of face masks. Most of it looks very babyish. “What is all this stuff for?” I say under my breath. I see another rack with all sorts of strange things, some plastic things, shinny and dull things some with twists and and some straight, picking one of them up and looking at it, trying to figure out what it’s supposed to be, if it’s a light saber, it’s not a very good one, putting it down and picking up a set of rings, all different sizes, some skinny some wide, they feel heavy and make a clink sound when I shake them, putting them down and picking up something that looks like a bazaar padlock, it has straps and holes, stranger and stranger, dropping the thing I make my way back to the couch even more confused I notice that there are cameras in here as well, “they must make tv shows here too?” I say as I examine the cameras, bigger than me and lots of buttons on them, lifting my hands I’m about to start pushing buttons when the door opens causing me to jump and the camera sways, but does not fall, thank God, I jump back like I just got caught stealing, I freeze for just a second and quickly jump to the couch and sit down, like nothing is happening. “JACK!” Henry yells at me, “why didn’t you tell me you are a wanted boy?” He accuses, I just look stunned and keep staring at him not knowing what he is talking about, “how did dad find me,” I think, I never thought he would even look for me, “Ummm,,, what do you mean?” I say stuttering a little. “You ran away from “James?” He asks. “James?” I asked, “Thant’s my dads name, but how,,,” I say, confused, how does he know my dad, I wonder as I try to understand what is going on, I do know for sure I’m in big trouble and I don’t know what I did. “We have to go now,” he says and grabs my hand and drags me out the door, the fat man is very mad and staring at me with a hateful look on his face. “I don’t want you to come back here until you return the stolen property and apologize to James,” he says, “and you better hope he forgives you,” and points to the door, “NOW GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE BOTH OF YOU,” he yells at us and Henry rushes us out the door into the reception room and out the door and quickly jump into his truck. Henry is looking all around and muttering to himself, getting in the truck he looks at me and raises his fist and starts to hit me, but then in mid swing he changes his mind and hits the dashboard making me jump and move as close to the door as I can, feeling for the handle I try to open it and remember that it won’t open from the inside. “Now,” he says as he jams the gear shift into reverse and pulling out, “you are going to tell me everything, “ he demands, “where did you come from and how did you find your way to my house?” He asks, as he puts the truck in gear, peeling out on the road, “well?” He demands. “I’m from Michigan,” I say, feeling terrified, pushing myself closer to the door, I look at him with wide eyes. Taking a big breath, he says I a more calming way, “I know you are the personal property of James,” he informs me. “Property?” I say, not understanding, “I didn’t steal anything when I ran away,” I say innocently. “You don’t get it do you Jack?” He asks in a softer tone, looking out the window I shake me head, unable to say anything, what does he mean, property?, I think as he keeps talking, “James has been looking for you,” he tells me, “has he been looking for anyone else?” He asks looking at me briefly. “Anyone else?” I ask, “Tod,” he says, “you dope,” is he looking for him a as well?” He asks with anger in his voice. “Tod?” I say looking at him. “I knew it,” he says, “when you showed up like you did, I knew it was a set up,” he claims, I live in the middle of nowhere for a reason,” he states, “there’s no way you just happened to just wander into my lap,” he claims, “but I never thought James was the one setting me up,” he says in a low tone of voice, “you were sent her by James to find out if I had Tod?” He accuses me, “this is bad,” he claims, “ this is very bad,” he says more to himself, “I’ve been good to you right?” He asks in a sympathetic voice. “Yes sir,” I say not sure what’s going on here and what about Tod, what does he have to do with my dad, I think as I try to read this man. “Ok Jack,” he says in a clam voice, “we need to make a deal,” he suggests. “A deal?” I ask with uncertainty. “I need to return you to James ASAP,” he claims, “and Tod will need to go back as well,” he says as an after thought, “oh, this is bad,” he says to himself, “please tell him I didn’t know you were his and I didn’t know who Tod was either and that I treated you fairly,” he says. Looking out the window I wonder what happened and why is he sending me back home,. “Please don’t make me go back,” I plead with him, still looking out the window, “he will kill me or sell me,” I start to plead my case as I see Mary standing on a corner and watching me, I raise my hand up to the window and start tracing a word, “help” and then wiping my hand over the window and look at her to see if she understands, I doubt it because all she does is wave at me and mouths something I can’t understand. “I’ve got to think,” he says, “we are going back to the house, don’t say anything about today,” he says, “to Donna,” he adds, “is that clear?” I just stay silent and watch Mary disappear in the distance and wonder what he’s going to do to Tod, “please don’t hurt Tod,” I say getting my courage up, “lock me in the shed,” I offer as the truck drives even faster. “You don’t have to worry Jack, I was only teasing about that,” he says, “I would never do that, you know that right Jack?” He asks in a soothing voice, we are both silent as the truck bounces down the road out of town, giving me a chance to think as I stare out the window, wondering what’s happening and how does Henry knows my dad?
  5. “Is my brother awake?” I ask, hopeful. “No sweetie,” the nurse says as she puts a thermometer in my mouth. “Hwookk,is he,” I try to say with the thermometer in my mouth. “Shhh,” the nurse says as she holds my wrist, “no talking and hold that under you young,” she commands me as she looks at her watch. “Hmmm,” she says as she drops my wrist and writes something on a clip board, taking out the thermometer and looking at it says, now what did you ask,”she says as she make a face and writes something else down. “I said, how is my brother?,” I ask impatiently. “There is no change,” she informs me, “you have a slight fever, how are you feeling?” She asks while tucking my blankets in. “I’m fine,” I say and wiggle back and forth, “that’s too tight,” I complain, “it’s making me hot,” I inform her. “You need to keep warm,” we don’t want that fever of yours to get worse,” and tucks me back in, “now stop fussing,” she commands, “the doctor will be in to see you in a few minutes,” she says. “Please tell the doctor that my brother needs ice,” I insist, “lots of ice, otherwise he will never find his way home,” I claim. “Well,” she says with a weird look on her face, “I don’t know about that,” she admits, “but you can tell the doctor yourself,” she says as she starts to leave. “Wait!” I say, “when can I see my brother again?” I ask, needing to see him desperately. “You don’t need to worry about him,” she informs me, “he has some of the best doctors in the state looking after him,” she says proudly, I am not reassured and it does not make me feel any better, I wonder why grownups always never want to tell us kids anything useful. “I have other patients to look after, just push the buzzer if you need anything ,” she tells, “but don’t abuse it,” she commands me, “you are not the only little boy on this ward,” she reminds me and walks out the door closing it on the way out. I wiggle back and forth and get loose from the covers and throw them aside, “wow, it’s hot in here,” I say to the empty room, looking around not much has changed and I reach for the remote control and pause, right next to it is the dreaded letter. “Why did I ever write that cursed thing” I say under my breath. “Hello young Chad, how are we today?” The doctor asks as he comes into the room and taking the chart from the end of my bed. “I’m fine,” I say, don’t know how you are,” I respond trying to be funny. “I’m very good,” he says glancing at, “thanks for asking,” he says with a wink. “Why does everyone keep winking at me?” I ask before I can stop myself. “Oh,” he says, “do they?,” he asks, without a wink this time. “Yes they do,” I respond, ‘I don’t mind, I was just curious is all,” I say, not sure if it bothers me or not. “Well young Chad,” he starts, “ sometimes grownups think young boys like to be winked at,”he explains, “I can tell them not to if it makes you uncomfortable,” he says to me and gets a strange look in his eyes. “It’s ok,” I tell him, not wanting him to be mad or whatever, “are you my brothers doctor too?” I ask him. “Who’s your brother?” He asks me as he looks over the paper work in his hands. “Chris,” I tell him with hope in my voice. “Ummm,” he says and seems to think it over, “no, I don’t think so,” he admits, “I can find out and tell you if you like,” he claims. “Can I see him?” I ask, “how is he doing?, is he going to be ok?,,,,” I start rattling off questions and he stops me with a hand gesture. “Slow down,” he commands me, “I’m not his doctor, but I’m sure he is in the best hands possible,” he says, “we have some of the best doctors in the state here,” he says proudly,” but that doesn’t make me feel any better, “I’m here to check on you,”he informs me as he takes out his stethoscope and lifts my shirt, “breath in deeply and hold it,” he says and puts a very cold stethoscope against my chest making me jump. “That’s really cold,” I complain. “Oh, sorry,” he says as he keeps listening, “be still and take deep breaths,” he commands me and moves it to different places across my chest. “Well that sounds good,” he proclaims, looking at me face and feeling my forehead with his hand and consults his chart, writing something down, he feels my neck and writes something else down. “What are you writing,” I say trying to see the clip board he writing on. “Oh just some doctor stuff,” he says as he clips it on the foot of the bed, “you have slight fever, I’m going to prescribe you something to try to get it to come down,” he says, “have been having any stomach pains?” He asks as he fells my belly, pushing here and there. “No,” I say, “but they won’t let me eat anything,” I say. “They won’t let you eat?” He says look at me now concerned. “No,” I say, “they are starving me,” I claim and make puppy dog eyes. He looks at my chart again and says, “I see here you are getting the Pedi-sure prescribed and all the supplements ,” he confirms as he looks at me. “Yeah,” I say, “but that’s not eating, it’s drinking,” I admit, “I want to eat real food, not a shake,” I complain, “but t does taste pretty good, it’s just not the same,” I claim. “You were in a coma for a long time and we have to be sure your body is ready for solid food, “he informs me,” I put on a sad face and he adds, “I’ll see what I can do,” he promises and returning the chart he tells me, “drink as much water as you can,” and turns to leave the room. “What about my brother.” I ask real quick before he can run away. “I’ll see what I can find out,” he claims and then leaves the room closing the door behind him. I lean over to the end of the bed and take my chart and open and read it, it makes almost no sense to me, I can see my name and stuff I know already,, but the rest is gibberish, placing it back I push myself back up to my pillow and grab the remote and start to turn on the TV and stop, wondering if I want to see what I saw the last time I turned it on. I just stare at the remote in my hand unsure what I should do. “Hi Chad,” a new nurse walks in and sees me holing the remote and asks, “do you want me to show you how it works?” “I know how it works, l say irritated, “I’m not stupid,” I say in a angry tone of voice. “Sorrrry,” she says, “someone is grumpy this morning,” she states and hands me a little cup with pills in and commands me to take them. “I don’t have any water,” I point out and she pours a cup of water from the pitcher on the bed side table. “What’s this” I say as I take the cup, holding it in my hand examining the pills. “It’s medicine to make you feel better,” she claims, “don’t give me any trouble, or I’ll have to give it to you in a shot,” she threatens me. “Fine,” I snap and take the pills, “but if this is poison, my mom will sue you and you’ll get fired,” I say as I slam the cup down on the side table. The nurse says something under her breath and picks up my chart appears to study it for a minute before putting its its place, “that’s what I thought,” she says under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear. “What?” I snap, “what does it say there?,” I ask, “I read it and it’s only gibberish,” I admit. “You are not allowed to read your chart,” she informs me. “What?, ,Why?” It’s my chart,” I protest. “Because that’s the rules,” she claims. “What did you mean,” I ask, starting to get angry, “that’s what I thought,” repeating her words from a minute ago. “You’ll see,” she says with a smirk in her face and takes the empty cup and walks out of the room and closes the door behind her, leaving me staring intently at the closed door fuming. “Why did I get so mad?” I ask myself waiting for an answer I know will not come. Picking up the remote I turn the TV on to see Donald Duck and watch as he is driving his silly looking car and soon I am engrossed in the show. I find myself getting sleepy and try as I might, I’m unable to stay awake, the remote drops from my hand and clatters to the floor with a clatter, the channel changes to a news station, but I don’t notice as I drift off to sleep. Christmas music is playing from a hidden speaker and I’m constructing an I-phone, a pink one with sparkles, this is a hard job, the sparkle fall off so easy and you can have just a pink phone, not from Santa, I think as I work. “Chad!” I hear from an excited voice, “you came back!” Ben proclaims and gives me the biggest hug ever. “I never left,” I claim as I stare at him like he has lost his mind. “Ummm,,,yeah you did,” he claims, “I’ve never seen anyone return once they are gone,” he states plainly. “I,,,, umm,,,” I start and stop realizing that I was gone, I think, it’s getting confusing, “oh yeah I guess I did,” I stammer, “I almost forgot,” wondering how I could forget and then questioning here , was I home?, I ask myself in my head. I look down at my hands holding the sparkly pink I-Phone, “now how does this thing work?” I as in a whisper. “Don’t you know?” Ted asks, “I didn’t think you were gone that long,” he claims, “you better go see Santa,” he informs me, “he’ll know what to do,” he claims and points to the door. I get up and walk in a trance, “I know I’ve made this walk before, but,,,,” I say under my breath, opening the round door I know what I’m going to see and sure enough, there are gum drop lanes and candy candy fence posts everywhere. I see the great tree standing well over a hundred feet high all decked out in Christmas decorations, I stare in awe as I walk down the land to Santa’s house, I know before I get there it will be a gingerbread house with the smell of all things sweet and good, but this is not real, or is it? I think to myself as I knock on the door. I wait and hear nothing, I open the door slowly afraid I will see an empty desk with a mug on it and an elf will step out from behind it and call me a young elf, but no one is there, pausing I close the door from the cold?, is that right? I hear a sound from behind the door on the other wall and slowly approach it tentatively. “Buy,, why can’t I?” I hear a small voice from behind the door. “COME IN CHAD!” I hear a loud but familiar voice from behind the door calling to me. “Hello?” I say weakly as I open the round door. “Yes,, yes,,” Santa says, “come in before you let the cold out,” and gestures me sit down in front of the massive desk. “CHRIS!” I proclaim excitedly, “it’s me Chad,” I say and then hesitate when I see him just staring at me, “what’s the matter little brother, cat got your tongue?” I ask. Chris turns and looks at Santa, “is he new?” He asks with a confused look on his face. “Christopher, this is your brother,” Santa informs him, Chris looks from me to Santa and back again, looking at me intensely, “I,,,,,don’t think,,,,,” he stammers, “is he an elf in training like me?” He inquires, “ahhhh,, now I remember,” he states, and I get excited. “YOU REMEMBER!” I proclaim loudly making Chris cover his ears with his small hands, I don’t remember his hands being so small, I think as I look him over and further realize he’s a lot smaller than he used to be. Chris step back and hides behind Santa, “I don’t like him,” he tells Santa in a hushed voice, “he is too loud,” he complains. “Christopher,” Santa says with a kind and gentle voice, “we talked about this many times since you got here,” he reminds the boy, “Chad is your brother, he came here before you,” he starts to explain once again, but Chris interrupts him. “I don’t have a brother,” he protests, “I’m like all the elves here, “ he whines, “all the Elves here are my brothers and sisters ?” He asks more than states, “I have to go, “he claims as he jumps up from the chair and rushes out of the room like he is on fire. I watch him run away and am stunned, not believing what I just say, “Santa?” I ask, “why am I here?,” and how did I get here?,” I ask in a loud voice and suddenly put my hand over my mouth, “I am loud,” I say through my hands, “an elf didn’t visit me this time,” I admit. “Hmmm,,,,,” Santa says as he fingers his beard, “this is quite perplexing,” he admits, “I’ve never seen this before, but it is a big problem,” he confesses, “we can’t have strays popping in and out of here like popcorn,” he admits. “Hey,,,,!!” I screech as I feel myself getting lighter and lighter, starting to float to the ceiling, “what’s happing?” I ask as I float farther and farther away, the ceiling seems to be getting taller and taller, “WHAT DO I DO?” I yell at Santa, he looks so small from how high I am, this is impossible, I think to my self as I feel a soft cushion under my back. “Ice is not the answer,” I hear a distant voice say as I feel my weight return,. “Time to wake up Young Chad,” says a voice from over me, I open my eyes and see a tall lanky man staring down at me, “that’s right,” he says, “you are ok,” he says softly. “Where is Santa and where is Chris,” I demand as I starry to come fully awake. “Santa?” says the lanky man, “Christmas is still two weeks away,” he informs me, “I suppose he’s at the North Pole,” he tells me, “your brother is, I’m happy to say is in good shape,” he informs me, “the doctors tell me he is expected to make a full recovery after his accident,” he says with a fake smile on his face. “I want to see him,’ I demand, “he’s my brother and I have a right to see him, it’s in the constitution,” I claim as I start to sit up, intending to go find him this second. “Not so fast young Chad, can I call you Chad?” He asks me, as if I have another name. “Ummm,,,,yeah,” I say, wondering who this weird man is, “what else would you call me?” I ask as I stare him in the face, “did you see Santa?” He didn’t answer my question,” I state plainly. “No, I must have just missed him,” he says with an amusing look on his face, “but since you brought up Santa, maybe we can talk about him,” he asks, “would that be alright?” “I’m not aspoosed to talk to strangers,” I inform him. “Supposed to,” he corrects me, “su-posted-to,” he reiterates to me. “Appossed to, supposed to” I say, “who cares, “you’re still a stranger,” I remind him sarcastically. “Forgive me Chad,” he says with a frown on his face, “I’m doctor Wise,” he tells as he offers his hand to shake, I automatically take his hand and shake it, “wow that’s quite a grip you got there,” as he pretends to cringe with pain, I just roll my eyes. “I’ve never met a doctor like you before,” I tell him straight out, “are you my brothers doctor?” I say with hope in my voice. “No, I’m your doctor,” he says, “I’m a psychologist,” he informs me, “do you know what that is?” he asks. “Ummm,,” I say thinking, “are you going to give me a shot?” I ask putting my arms under the covers. “I’m not that kind of doctor,” he tells, “I just want to talk with you and get to know you,” he says, hedging, “I thought we could be friends, and share our feelings and concerns,” he tells me and just looks at me like I’m supposed to say something, I just sit there and look at my hands under the blanket for a minute. “Ok,” I say, after a while, “do you know where people go who are in a coma?” I ask him, still looking down at my now uncovered hands. “No,” he admits, “why don’t you tell me?” He asks me in a steady voice. “The North Pole?” I ask rather than say, I take a quick perk up to see an unreadable expression on his face and quickly look back down. “I see,” he says, “tell me more about the North Pole,” he says in a sweet voice. “I,,,,,was,,,at a the coma for a while,” I say slowly, pausing to gauge his reaction and looking up at him for a second and then back down at my hands as I play with the blanket, “my brother is trapped there and I’m the only one who can rescue him,” I say with a trembling voice.” “I see,” he says, “what did you do at the North Pole?” “I made I-Phone, mostly,” I claim, “sometimes we sang songs and danced around the great tree,” I tell him, gaining confidence, “we had eggnog and cookies and cake for our meals, “ I say, getting excited that someone is finally listening to me, “the work was hard, but I liked it and no one ever got cold or sad,” I say, “except when I did,” I confess, “I forgot my mom and my brother, but then I started to remember them and then I started to get really cold,” I tell him, talking faster and faster, as if the words couldn’t wait to leave my lips, “that’s when I came back here,” I explain, “but that was before I found out that Santa kidnapped me,” I say staring him in the face as I twist the blanket in my hands, “well he didn’t kidnap me really, well he did, but it’s only cause I said he could,” I try to explain, “so he did and he didn’t,” I say, “but now he has my brother, but he’s not been kidnapped he’s sort like a stow away,” I say starting to confuse myself, “anyway, like I said, he has him, but he doesn’t have him,” I say, “do you know what I mean?” I ask, finally stop to catch my breath, now looking at him with the blanket all twisted up in my hands. “I see,” he says in an even tone that I can’t figure out, “and how can you rescue him?” He asks holding his hand out to me, I reach out and take his hand tentatively and his touch is warm and rough. “I think I have get him cold so he will realize that he is not an elf and will want to come back,” I say and he squeezes my hand gently, “and the stupid doctors won’t let me pour ice on him like he needs,” I tell him as my eyes start to tear up, “can you make them freeze my brother so he will come back,” I plead, now starting to cry and unable to say anything else, he leans over and gives me a hug and I collapse into his embrace and just sob uncontrollably and all he does is comfort me. “Shhhh,” he coos,,”it’s ok now,” he reassures me, “it’s ok, you are safe here in your bed,” he reminds me, “nothing can hurt you hear,” he says as I slowly stop crying and pull away to wipe my eyes, looking at him I just sniffle and wait for him to say something. He hands me a Kleenex and says, “you we’re very brave just now,” he says, “not very many people would be able to show the courage you just showed me,” he says, ‘I would like to ask you a few questions if that’s ok,” he says, I nod my head and he asks me, “Chad, what do you remember about the accident?” He says as he holds my hand. “I look down and start to cry, “it wasn’t Chris’s fault, I told him to,,,,” I start to say, it can’t go on, I’m starting to cry because I realize I’m the one who told him to go out side and play in the nude, so I bury my face in his chest and cry, unable to speak any more. “I want you to know something that’s very important,” he tells me as he lifts my chin to look into my eyes, “none of this was you fault or your brothers fault,” he claims, “it was just an accident,” he says in a soothing voice, “an accident could happen to anyone,” he says trying to sooth me, I don’t know if I can believe him, he doesn’t know what happened like I do, but it’s too hard to tell the truth right now, I think as I look at his eyes trying to read them, “I heard about what happened in intensive care yesterday,” he admits, “and I understand and I’m going to tell the doctors to let you go visit your brother later today,” he says as my face brightens up, “but you have to promise me,” he says in a firm voice, “you will let the doctors do what they are trained to do and if your brother needs ice or blankets, you let the doctors decide what is best,” he tells me firmly, “can you do that?” He asked me as he continues to hold my chin, forcing me to look deep into his eyes. “Ummmm,,,” I mumble as I try to control my emotions, I try to nod my head, afraid to try to speak. “I need to hear you say it, “ he demands. “Yes,” is all I manage to squeak out. “Good,” he tells me, “I’m proud of you Chad,” he praises me, “I’m going to talk to your doctor and your brothers doctor as well and make the arrangements,” he promises, “I’ll try to set it up for this afternoon,” he claims, “but it might have to be in the morning, depending on the condition of your brother,” he informs me, “do you want me there?” He asks me. “Yes,” I say without even thinking, “doc?” I say, “where is my mother?” I ask. “Your mother is in a facility downtown,” he informs me with a frown on his face, “she is just being questioned about the accident,” he says very carefully, “you don’t need to worry, I’ve spoken to her and she sends he love and wants more than anything to be here with you and your brother,” he tells me, “they won’t let her come for a visit, yet,” he says “she has a team of people working to allow her to come for a visit and I’m confident that she will be here real soon,” he claims, “she asked me to tell you that she loves you and wants you not to worry about her,” he confides in me, “she told me to tell you, just work on getting better so that when you get out you and your brother can go home and have Christmas dinner,” he says in a sad voice. “Tell her I love her and I miss her and that I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to,” I say, starting to tear up again. “I’ll tell her,” he promises me, “she is proud of you and how you saved his life,” he tells and it stuns me, “now get some more rest, you have been though a very trying time and need to get your strength back,” he says and gives one final hug before standing up, “I need to go talk to the doctors so we can see about your visit,” he says with a wide smile. “Doc?” I say as he starts to leave, “can I ask you one question?” “Sure Chad,” he says and turns dark to face me. “Why is my mom in jail?” I ask looking at his feet. Pausing and looking very sad he says, “We think it is all a misunderstanding, the team of lawyers are working non stop, trying to clear it up,” he claims, “I would suggest you don’t watch the news because they are telling lies and you don’t need to hear that,” he tells me. “Ok,” I say softly, “thanks for telling me,” I say, “no one ever wants to listen to me,” I explain, “they look at me like I’m crazy or something,” I admit. You are not crazy,” he tells me, “now I really have to go or I might not be able to find the doctors,” he says and gives me a pat on the head, “it’ll be ok,” he says as he heads out the door. I’m left alone once again with my thoughts, “that doctor was not so weird as he seemed at first,” I say to the empty room, “mom, where ever you are I hope you are ok,” I say in a small whisper, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get you thrown into jail, if I could take it back I would.” The tv is off and I don’t remember turning it off, I wonder if that mean nurse came and turned it off, I look around and I don’t see the remote anywhere. I could push the panic button, as I’m beginning to think of it, but the nurses here are all so mean, I better not, I think as I start to get up. I try to stand and my legs give out and I fall to the floor and hit my head. “Chad?” What are you doing here?” Ben says, “you shouldn’t be here,” he says, you have to go back right now,” he pleads looking every way at once. “Where am I?” I ask as I realize I’m back at the North Pole and it’s freezing. “You know,” he says, “now go before it’s too late,” he says and pushes me outside. “What the heck?” I say as I’m shoved out the round door and it slammed behind me, my teeth have started to chatter and I my feet hurt and I notice I’m still in my hospital gown. I start to panic and try to move, but I can feel myself freezing in place, “MOMMY!” I yell, “Mommy!” I say a bit softer and start to cry, but the tears start to freeze running down my cheeks. “YOU!” Hateful voice comes from someone behind me, I want to turn, but I’m frozen in place, “you think you can come back and steal my joy, just when I was starting to be happy?” The voice says, it sounds familiar, like Chris’s voice, but that’s impossible, he would never say such hateful things to his own brother, I think as the voice keeps going, “you be gone,” he demands, “don’t you ever come back or I’ll let you freeze and we will use you as a may pole,” he threatens. “I don’t know how to be gone,” I claim, trying to sound out the words without moving my lips because they too are frozen. “Here let me help you,” he says and I feel a dull thud on the back of my head. “Code blue,” I hear as bright lights suddenly flood my vision and I see a nurse standing over me. “Oh dear, are you ok?,” she asks, “SOMEONE CALL THE DOCTOR QUICK,” she yells as she puts her hands all over me feeling for something. “I’m ok,” I try to say, but all that comes out is, “immm,,,kk,,” “Shh,” the nurse says, “don’t move, “she commands, “what on earth were you thinking, you should have called a nurse for help,” she scolds me. “Thegy,,rr,,ennn,” I say and then everything goes black.
  6. It’s midnight by the look of the room, it’s so dark I can barely see the fluffy curtains blowing in the breeze. Something woke me up but I can’t tell what, I was in the middle of a strange dream that I can’t quite grasp. “Jack?” Comes a small quiet voice. “Tod?” I respond, “what are you doing here, you know you’ll get into trouble if you get caught,” I say in a whisper. “I know, but I’m scared, I had a bad dream,” he admits. “All right,” I say, “come over here and tell me about it.,” I tell him as I lift the covers so we can protect each other. “Do you want a hug?” I ask him opening my arms as he climbs into the bed. We just lay there for what seems like an eternity until he turns and whispers into my ear, “I’m scared,” he confesses. “What are you afraid of ?” I ask as I play with his hair. “I don’t know,” he says, “why did you ask me if my dad ever touched me?” He asks with wide eyes. “It’s not important,” I tell him not sure what to say, if no one here has ever done anything, I really need to get him out of here, I think. “Have you ever been to town?” I ask as a way to change the subject. “No,” he says, “daddy always just goes alone, momma can’t even go with him,” he claims. “You need to go back to bed,” I tell him, “if Henry finds you here, he will be very mad,” I inform him. “Ok,” he says in a small voice, “promise me you will protect me if daddy gets mad, he can be really mean,” he claims. “Shhhh,,” I say while hugging him from behind, “it’s not so bad here,” I try to explain to him, “at least we have a roof over our head and plenty of food to eat and no one ever hits us or,,” I stop myself and gently push him to his feet, “now get to bed before he finds you here,” I tell him, “we can talk more tomorrow,” I inform him. “But,,,” he starts, but I interrupt him, “Go to bed,” I say whispering and urging him to go to bed, I’m getting really worried we will get caught and if that happens, I have an idea of what Henry is going to want, “that’s enough,” I say a little bit to forcefully, “please, just go to bed, I promise we can talk again tomorrow,” I plead with him as I’m looking behind him and all over. He slowly shuffles out of the room looking down and glancing over his shoulder as he walks down the hall. I feel bad, but I feel more afraid than ever. Hiding under my covers I wait and listen for any kind of sound. I’m not afraid of the boogie monster or the the creature under the bed, they can’t hold a candle to real life monsters. “It’s not that bad,” I whisper under my breath, “Tod will get used to it, I mean some kids really like this life,” I say to myself, trying to talk myself into that idea. “I just have to teach Tod the rules, so he doesn’t have to go through what I’ve been through,” I say under my breath, I ponder all this as I slowly drift away to sleep,, “Michael?” A voice from the other room yells, “are you in bed bed yet?” “I’m asleep,” I say in a fake sleep voice and hold a giggle in as I cover my head under my SpongBob blanket. “You better be young man, I don’t want to hear anything else from you or Ted,” she says, “it’s late and you two have to get up early to go fishing with your dad,” she reminds us. “I told you to be quiet,” I tell Teddy under my breath. “Me?” He says, “you are the one who is being loud,” he says in a whisper, “have you ever been fishing?” Teddy asks me, “I’ve never been and I hear you can get bit by the fish when you first catch them, so we better be careful,” he claims. “Ahh, that’s stupid,” I tell him, “fish are dead as soon as you take them out of the water,” I claim. “No they’re not,” he counters, “my brother told me they can bit off your finger if you get too close,” he says with a note of seriousness in his voice. “Your brother is stupid,” I inform him, “he’s never been fishing, so how would he know?” I ask with a smirk on my face. “He has too,” Tod claims, “he went fishing at Boy Scout camp last year,” he proclaims. “Well my dad would never let that happen,” I say with a slight hesitation in my voice, “we better get to sleep now,” I tell him with a sleepy voice and a big yawn. “I’m not sleepy,” Toddy tells me as he too yawns, “I want to stay up all night and watch the sun come up,” he tells me, “my brother says if we do it means we are guaranteed to catch one fish for each hour we stay up,” he claims. “Cool,” I say, “I bet I can stay up later than you,” I brag. “I bet you can’t,” he says and reaches over and starts to tickle me and I tickle his back and soon we are wrestling on the bed and then end up on the floor, giggle and laughing we are making quite a ruckus and mom bangs open the door, making us freeze in mid struggle, looking up at her we both point to each other and say at the same time, “it was him, he started it.” “THAT’S ENOUGH,” my mom forcefully says in not quite a yell, but still a very loud voice, “Toddy,” she says as she points to the other side of the room, “take you sleeping bag over there and Michael, you get into your bed,” she commands us, “MOVE,” she demands when we both just sit there. We quickly start to move and run into each other and fall down and get tangled in each other’s bodies and start to laugh until we hear a growling coming form mom, that stops our antics and we untangle ourselves and head to opposite sides of the room, as I pass Toddy I look at and point at him and mouth the words, “be quiet,” and he does the same thing. Soon I am in the bed and Teddy is in his sleeping bag with only his face looking out. “Goodnight boys,” my mom says, “if I hear one more peep out of either of you,I’m calling Teddy’s dad and let him deal with both of you,” she says as she states to close the door. “Peep,” I say in a very soft tone of voice and giggle just a little bit. Mom just looks at me and points her finger at me and then does the shushing motion and closes the door to a crack, I can barely see Toddy in his sleeping bag I whisper “good night, don’t let the fish monster bite you in you sleep,” I say in a teasingly tone of voice. “Don’t be stupid,” he says, “you better be quite or my dad is going to kill you,” he reminds me, and that makes me shut and and snuggle under my spongbob blanket and am soon asleep. “Don’t let that monster bite you,” I tell Toddy as he holds up a 5 inch fish twisting on his line. He jumps back as the fish flips and he shrieks and falls over the edge of the boat we are fishing from. The next thing I see is my dad jumping over the side of the boat and the boat tips and I lose my balance and I find myself under water, the water tastes dirty and I can’t see or say anything. “Where am I?” I ask to no one in particular, “HEY!” I yell, “is there anyone there,” I say as I try to sit up, I realize I am tied down, “what the,,,?” I say under my breath. I look around and start to get really scared. “You are awake finally,” I hear a voice from somewhere outside my range of vision, “struggle all you want,” he claims, “you now belong to me,” he informs me and it scares me so much I start to cry out loud not caring who hears me, I just want o go home. “I want my mommy,” I blubber, “please let me go, I have to pee,” I claim. “Well go ahead and pee,” he commands me, “I’m not going to ever let you go,” he threatens me and as he comes into my vision I can see he is an average looking man with an evil looking grin on his face, “would you like to see what happens to little boys and girls who don’t do as they are told?” He asks, as he lifts the biggest knife I have ever see, “this baby is sharp enough to split your pubic hairs into two,” he claims, “do you even have pubic hairs?” He asks as he moves his knife down to my groin. “AHHHHHHHEEEEEE,,Don’t,,,,, let me go you bastard,,,,” ,,, “I’ll kill you,,,, “,, NOOOOOO!” “Hey Jack, wake up,” I hear as hands are grabbing my throat and squeezing the life out of me, “shhh,, it’s only a dream,” I hear as I struggle to get away, “I’ll do as I’m told,” I say as I come fully awake and look around for an escape. “It’s ok,” Donna tells me in a soothing voice. “Where am I?” I ask as I look around a bit confused, “where’s ,,,, that man?” I ask as the dream fades away into just a shadow of a memory. “What man is that?” Donna asks me. “No one,” I reply, “is it morning?” “No it’s still the night,” she tells me, “go back to sleep, everything is ok,” she instructs me as she kisses me on the forehead, “go to sleep my little boy,” she sings in a sing song voice and I slowly drift back to sleep. Tod comes bursting into her room, or I guess my room. “hey wake up sleepy head,” he commands as he jumps on the bed, “daddy went into town early this morning and mom has breakfast on the table,” he tells me as he jumps up and down shaking me awake. “Cut it out,” I complain, “can’t you wake people up like a normal kid?” I ask as I cover my head with my blankets, he just jumps up again and lands right on top of me and squeals with delight. “Come on, we have to hurry,” he complains, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” he claims, “besides I want to go play outside,” he tells me excitedly, “Mom says you can have the day off from you chores and are allowed to wear a pair of dads old sweat pants, so you don’t have to look like a girl,” he informs me as I slowly look out from under the covers hopefully, “but we have to hurry because it’s a secret and when dad gets home you will have to run inside and get changed really fast so he wont know,” he informs me. “Ok,” I say as I drag myself out of bed and look at him to see if he is teasing me, “your kidding?, right?” I ask with my eyebrows raised. “Come on,” he says, “we have to eat fast so we can play, daddy will only be gone a few hours,” he says as he tears out the door heading down the hall. I get up and see there is a pair of grey sweat pants on the door of my bed as well as an old black t-shirt, “wow, I never knew a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt could ever look so good,” I say to myself as I grab them and start to get dressed. I walk in to the kitchen a little hesitantly and look at Donna to see her reaction, she just looks in my way and says in a cheerful voice, “sit down, I have pancakes and bacon all ready,” she points to a chair and I sit down not making a sound, “what’s the matter?” She asks, “cat got your tongue?”she says with a smile on her face. “I didn’t think I was allowed to wear regular clothes,” I say in a whisper, “Tod Said it was ok?” I say more as a question then a statement. “That’s your uncle’s idea, “she informs me, “I always thought it was ridiculous and unnatural,” she informs me, “your uncle will be gone till around noon, I will call for you, so listen for me and don’t go too far, your uncle will have a fit if he comes back and see you in his clothes.” “He’s not my uncle ,” I whisper under my breath as I nod my head. “It’s ok,” she says, “I know the change can be hard, you will come to accept us soon enough,” she claims. I realize at that time, I’m captured like a caged rat, if I ever want to leave I will need to go soon and start to plan an escape. “Can I go play now?” I ask as I look towards Tod, who has a mouth full of pancakes. “Make sure you don’t get too dirty, if you uncle knows you were wearing his clothes he would tan your hide,” she warns me. I leap up from the table almost knocking my chair over and grab Tod’s hand and drag him outside, ‘come on, let’s go,” I say urgently. “Hey, I wasn’t finished,” he says with a mouth full. “Yes you are,” I scold him, “we have to go now,” I say and think to add, “before uncle gets home,” I wink at him as I pull him out the door. “You kids be careful out there and stay out of trouble,” Donna says as we slam the door behind us. “Ouch,” Tod says as I drag him all the way across the yard past the out house. “Not so hard, you’re hurting my arm,” he complains. I pull him behind the out house and turn to look him in the eye, squatting down and putting my hands his shoulders, “we have to get out of here,” I tell him in a hushed voice. I look around and I don’t see anyone around, turning back to him I ask, “do you know which way is town?” “I think it’s way over that way,” he says pointing up the road, “but it’s like 100 miles, we could never walk that far, no one could,” he claims, “you have to have a car or something,” he says and before he can say anything else I’m pulling towards the road. “STOP,” he whimpers, “the wolves will get us,” he says as his face turns white, “I’ve seen them, “he claims, “or heard them,” he admits, “but they will eat little boys like us, Dad says so,” he proclaims, “and besides, no one can walk that far,” he complains. I stop and look around listening for what seems like a long time, “I don’t see or hear anything,” I tell and start to pull him a little slower this time, wondering if there really are wolves in the woods. “I saw wolves on the TV once, but they lived in the mountains and it was always in the snow,” I tell him, “so I think they hibernate one only come out in the winter,” I say trying to reassure him and build up my courage at the same time, “it’s not a thousand miles,” I say and get interrupted by Tod. “It’s a hundred miles, not a thousand,” he corrects me, “and that’s too far anyway , no one can go that far,” he says as he digs his feet in and stops me. “Look,” I say exasperated, “Henry and Donna are evil people and they have been abusing you from the start and now they are abusing me,” I inform him. “They are not abusing me,” he claims, “they are nice,” he says in a small almost practiced tone, “they love me, my real parents never ever loved me,” he claims, “if they did, then why have they never come to take me back?” He asks with tears in his eyes, looking down he says, “I hate them,” in a whisper. “Hey,” I say in a gentle voice as I lift hie chin and look him in the eyes, “I won’t let anyone hurt you,” I claim not knowing if I can actually do that, “I promise we will find you parents and then we can ask them,” I say, not knowing what else to say, “but we can’t stay here, I know all about wolves,” I claim in a voice that I hope has confidence, “I’m practically an expert, I can even talk to them, they are my friends,” I say reassuringly. Looking at me whit a sparkle in his eyes he asks, “really?, do you promise and hope to die, stick a needle in you eye,” he asks with wide wonder in his face. “I promise, cross my heart and hope to die,” I say secretly holding my hand behind my back and crossing my fingers. Tod suddenly wraps his tiny arms around my waist and hugs me as tight as he can manage. “But we have to go now,” I tell him, “it’s the only chance we have,” I claim, “I can’t very well run away in a dress,” I remind him and start to giggle thinking about how silly that would be, a boy in a dress and a little boy running down the street, this causing Tod to start to chuckle and soon we are both laughing and almost fall over each other because we are still hugging. “Get off me fag,” Tod says in a playful way, this makes me suddenly stop laughing and push him away forcefully , Tod steps back a step or two and just looks at me with a worried look on his young face, “I’m sorry he says as his eyes fill up with tears, “I didn’t mean it, I promise, you’re not a fag,” he says through silent sobs, “I don’t even know what fag is, but I’m sorry, I’ll never say that again,” he promises. “It’s ok,” I tell him trying to make my face look normal, realizing that I’m not sure what normal is. “I’m not mad,” I claim, not sure if I am mad or not, “will you come with me?” I ask in a hesitate voice, knowing if he says no I won’t be able to just walk away. “Ok,” he says in a shaky voice, “but I can’t leave without my coat,” he claims, “I have to go get it,” he insists with a dread look of fear in his eyes. “I’ll buy you another coat when we get to town,” I claim, not know how I can buy him a coat, but knowing if we go back, we may no be able to get away. “My mom gave me that coat,” he confuses, “I caaannnn’ttttt, I just can’t,” he says with tears filling his eyes and begins to sob. “Shhh,” I coo, “we can go get it,” I say reluctantly, “we have to be fast and careful,” I tell him, “Donna can’t suspect that we are leaving,” I inform him. “I’ll be careful ,” he claims, “I can sneak in the back and be out in a jiffy,” he informs me. “Do you know what will happen if she catches you?” I ask him in a whisper. “No,” he admits, “she’ll get mad?” He questions. “No,” I start to say and then decide to say, “I mean yes she’ll be mad and she will lock you and me in the shed till Henry gets home and then he will take a switch to your back and beat you with in an inch of your life,” I claim, hating myself for embellishing the truth, but he has to be scared so he makes no mistakes. Tod’s eyes go wide and the fear I see on his face, breaks my heart as I remember getting almost the same story from my dad back in Michigan so many years ago, strange I think as I recall, why would my dad tell me that, I am trying to remember that time more carefully when I feel Tod touching my hand. “Jack?” a small voice says, “please don’t cry,” he says with a tremble in his young voice. “I’m not crying,” I say as I wipe my eyes, “I just got something in my eye,” I claim, “come on,” I say, “we have to hurry,” I say as I take his hand and start for home, when did I start to thinking of the cabin as home?, I think as I lead Tod back the way we came. Walking down the road I see that Donna is on the front porch sitting in a rocking chair knitting something and sees us walking up, “hi boys,” she say cheerily, “how’s the escape plan going?,” she asks with a wry grin on her face. I freeze and just stare at her, how could she know? I think as I slow down to a shuffle and stare at her trying to think of something to say, Tod is squeezing my hand so tight I think he might break my wrist. “What,,,, do,,, you,, mean?” I say slowly as I stop in my tracks frozen with fear. “Well I thought you two might be playing a game,” she confesses,” my brothers, God rest their souls,” she says as she make the sign of the cross over her face, “they were always pretending to me escaped convicts, running from the sheriff, or some such thing,” she states plainly, “ I swear, those brothers of mine were always pretending to be escaping from something or another,” she claims. “Oh,,” I say, relived, “no we were,, ummmm,” I studded, trying to think of something good to say so she would not figure out that is exactly what we were doing, trying to escape, “playing explorer,” I claim, “you know like Lewis and Clark?” I say with a shaky voice. “Well whatever you two are up, remember not get dirty,” she reminds us, “and when I call be sure to sneak in by way of the back door and get changed as quickly as you can,” she tells me, “just put those clothes you have on now in the hamper in the hallway, your Uncle never goes in there, that’s woman’s work,” she says with a scowl on her face, “I will,” I claim, “Tod was thirsty and wanted a drink of water,” I say as I push Tod forward and whisper in his ear,”go inside and sneak out the back door and be quiet about it, don’t let Donna see you,” I warn. “Oh let me get you two boys some fresh squeezed lemonade,” she offers as she starts to get up. “NO!,” I say too loud, “I mean, I’m not thirsty,” I say in a more calm voice. Donna looks at me, a question in her face, “it’s ok,” she says and looks at Tod who looks away really fast, “you would like some cold lemonade, wouldn’t you Tod?,” she asks as he starts to say something, but I squeeze his hand and he just shakes his head. “Can you show me how to knit?” I say, my heart racing and sweat running down my face. “Well sure honey,”she says with pride in her face, “come over here and sit next to me and I’ll show you how it’s done,” she beams as she pats the seat next to the rocking chair, I quickly move keeping Tods hand in mine till we are at the porch, “Tod go and get that water,” I say in what I hope is an innocent voice, “and be sure to wash your hands before you get the drink,” I says, hoping he will just go and not say anything else, to my relief, he practically runs into the house right past Donna, who doesn’t seem to even notice him. Sitting down I look at the garment in her hands, avoiding her face and ask, “so how does the yarn hold together?” I ask trying to mask my true thoughts. “Well you see it’s really quite simple,” she says as my mind and ears tune her out, “all you need to do is,,,,” I look over to the side of the house and listen for any sound whatsoever, but hear nothing, Tod has to be careful, I think, if she figures out what we are planning, she might just do what I told Tod. “Jack?” A voice says from a long way off, “are you listening to me?” Donna says. “Oh, yeah,” I claim, “that’s really cool,” I say not knowing what she just said. “Yeah,” she says, “I can see something is on your mind,” she states, “what is it child?” she asks me with eyebrows raised. “Ummmm,” I say, “it’s nothing,” I say, “what is yarn made out of?” I ask as a way to change the subject. “What’s yarn made of?” She asks with disbelief. “Yeah,” I say, “is there like yarn tree or something,” I ask widening my eyes extra big. “Oh child,” she says with a laugh, “where did you go to school?”she questions. “I was home schooled,” I claim. “Yarn doesn’t come from a tree, you silly boy,” she teases, “it comes from the store of course,” she tells me in a serious way. “Oh,” I say still listening for any sign of Tod, what’s taking him so long, I wonder as I try to think of something else to ask, “where does the store get the yarn from,” I say, not really caring. “Oh, you know,” she says, “they have their sources.” “Oh,” I say once again, “I want to work in a store when I get bigger, so I’ll know where all that stuff comes from,” I say. “You are such a funny boy,” she tells me and goes back to knitting. “I think I heard Tod out in the back,” I say, starting to get up, “we are playing hide and seek and it’s his turn to hide,” I say as I start walking around the cabin. “I thought you said you were playing explorers?” She asks while putting down her knitting. “Oh, yeah,” I say, thinking fast, “we were, but now we are going to play hide and seek,” I say, backing away, ready to run as fast as I can into the woods. “Well you boys have fun,” she says as she returns to her knitting, “make sure you listen for me,” she reminds me. “I will,” I say as I run around the house. “That was close,” I mumble to myself as I see Tod just leaving out the back door with a bang. I look around like I have just been caught stealing and say,“geez Tod, can you make any more noise?” I chide him, he just looks sheepishly at me and shrugs. “Never mind,” I say in a whisper, “let’s get going, Donna is still playing with her yarn. I head right to the woods out back and Tod stops me, “we aren’t going in there are we?” He asks with big wide eyes. “We have to,” I inform him, “Donna is our front and she can’t see us leave,” I say as I take his hand and start to pull him towards the woods. “But what about the wolves?” He asks with a shaky voice. “I told you they are all hibernating right, that means they are all asleep,” I say trying to reassure him, “so you have to be very quiet so you don’t wake them up, ok?” I ask as I gently pull him along. “Can’t we just go down the road like before?” He asks while he pulls in the opposite direction. “No, we can’t,” I inform him, “it’s not even a little bit cold,” I inform him, “Donna will see you have your coat,” I inform him, “what are you going to do then?” I ask him. “I’ll say I’m cold,” he says. “Yeah, good one,” I say sarcastically, “and then she will think you are sick and put you to bed,” I chide him, “then you will be stuck here for the rest of your life,” I say in a harsh tone of voice and think this little kid needs to grow up. He just looks at me like he might run to Donna and tell her everything, “ok,” I say, “if you want to stay here all alone,” I say bluffing my way through to him, “I’ll just go alone and you can tell Henry,” I say and then think of something better, “or should I say your DAD, where I went and let him LOVE you,” I say with an evil grin on my face, turning away I pretend to walk away, but hesitating and waiting for him to give in. “Ok, ok,” he says,” I’ll go, but the wolves had better really be asleep,” he says in a weak voice, “I’ll never speak to you again if your lie if to me,” he threatens. “They are,” I say reassuringly, “let’s go before Henry gets back, we have waisted too much time already,” and with that settled, we walk slowly into the dark woods hand in hand, both scared of different things, “it’s not far to the road,” I tell him, “I came through these woods when I first got here,” I tell him in a confident voice, “I didn’t see any wolves then,” I remind him, trying to convince myself at the same time. We walk for what seems like hours and there is no sign of the road or anything for that matter, as we walk we are both silent and looking all around, Tod is looking for the wolves and I’m look for Henry, when Tod says, “I’m tired and thirsty,” as he looks at me. “Didn’t you get a drink of water when you went to get your stupid coat?” I ask, then realizing that was mean. “IT’S NOT A STUPID COAT,” he practically yells at me and drops my hand as he is stalking away from me. “I’m sorry,” I say, “it’s not Stupid, I’m just mad at?,,,” and stop talking and putting a finger to my lips, I listen intensely and hear nothing, I could have sworn I heard something. “Who are you mad at,” Tod asks me in a too loud voice,” I rush over to him and jump on him and dive for cover as I hear footsteps somewhere out in the woods. “Be quiet,” I whisper, “I think Henry is looking for us,” I say in a whisper as I cover his mouth with my hands and peer out through the bushes. I can feel Tod’s hot breath on my hand and his heart beat rapidly beating in his chest. We stay like that forever just waiting and looking when I see a set of legs about 20 feet away just standing in a bush,, they are Tod’s shoes, I would know them anywhere. How did he find us I think as I try to figure out a place to run to. I carefully look left and right and see no where to run to. “We need to make a run for it,” I whisper in Tod’s ear, “on the count of three,” I tell him softly, “run as fast as you can to the left,” I say as I prepare to run, “one….two….three” I say and dart off to the left and Tod darts off to the right. “BOYS,” I hear a booming voice yell, “YOU HAVE NO WHERE TO RUN,” he says as I hear him start to run as well, I run like hell itself is after me and before long I’m deep into the woods no longer able to hear the running footsteps, I stop to catch my breath falling down behind a bush and realize that Tod is nowhere to be seen. I look all around and whisper as loud as I dare, “Tod?,,,,where are you,” and wait, but I get no response. “UMPH,” I hear, followed by a thud and crying, I freeze trying to determine which way the noise is coming from., looking all around all I see are leaves and trees, so I just listen and whisper as loud as I dare, “Tod?” And I hear nothing, then I hear a whimper and a yelp and then a muffled cry, I can’t take it anymore, I jump up from my hiding place and yell, “YOU LEAVE HIM ALONE YOU BASTARD, ILL KILL YOU, “ I threaten. “There you are you little faggot,” Henry says as he grabs me by the neck choking me till my vision starts to go dim. I hear someone saying “PLEASE DON’T HURT HIM, I PROMISE I’LL BE GOOD,” Tod begs, “I promise,” in between sobs. I struggle and struggle, but it is no use and soon I am, falling and falling, down a deep dark well, where all the light is slowly fading. “This is not so bad,” I say as the darkness seeps in, “I thought death would hurt more” I say to anyone who is listening, “I’m just going to go to sleep now” I say as I give into the darkness, my last thought is, “I hope Tod got away” and then I’m in total darkness, but it’s not scary like you would think. I’m float down softly on a shore of a great ocean and I can see my ship just waiting for me, beckoning me. There is nothing holding me to this desert shore so I start to walk on the water and feel the most calm I have ever felt in all my young life, a little more than half way across I hear something behind me and I turn back to see Tod standing on the shore looking at me. “TOD,” I yell joyfully, “you made it,” I say and see that he is just standing there yelling something at me. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” I yell, cuffing my hands around my mouth. “You promised to take care of me,” he claims, “you said I would be alright, why did you leave me?” He asks in an accusing voice, the waves start to rise and fall and I’m no longer feeling calm and I want to run to him, to make him understand that I didn’t leave him, he is right there, all he has to do is walk on the water, but he is too afraid., I think and decide at that second to go to him and I start to run and fall flat on my face and begin to sink into the waves. “H,,,E,,,L,,,P,,” I scream as I taste the bitter salt water fill my mouth and lungs, I try to swim, but it’s no use, I feel myself getting weaker and weaker, then a hand appears out of the darkness like a beacon in the night and pulls me with great strength to the shore. I struggle to my knees and It is Tod’s had that has saved me. I stare at him, tears in my eyes and say, “you saved me, how?” I ask astonished, then he changes to a beautiful woman who just smiles and points to the darkness behind herself and fades away. I look at the darkness and see nothing for a while and soon I see a dim light in the distance. I start to get up to go see and stop, I remember the last time I followed a light like that, it got me killed, so I hesitate, unsure what to do. “Come back to me,” I hear a young boy’s say, “who are you?” I say in a whisper, but I can’t hear anything else. I get up in shaking legs and slowly start walking towards the light and it gets brighter and brighter. It keeps getting brighter and brighter that soon the darkness is all gone and as I open my eyes I see I am on a bed with Tod hovering over me with tears in my eyes. “What happened?,” I ask him in a raspy voice. “I’m sorry,” he says, “I didn’t know which way was left,” he confesses. “What?” I ask completely confused, “I’m not feeling very good,” I say as I close my eyes, “tell mom that I can’t go to school today, I’m sick,” I say in a slurring voice and promptly fall into a deep sleep.
  7. It was a cold day and school was canceled due to snow, I should be happy, but since dad has to work, I have to have a baby sitter, I’m 9 years old for peat sake, I think as I wait by the door. soon there comes a knock and I’m quick to open it and I see a rather small man standing there. I blink, he is smaller than me and then my dad walks up behind me and I turn to say something, when I’m distracted by something out of the corner of my eye. I turn to look and see the little man is not little after all, he’s a normal size man. “What the F,,,” I say, almost cussing. “This is Jack,” my dad says, “he’s from the babysitter service, “Tod was not available,” he informs me. “But,,,,” “he was,,,“. “little,” I squeak out. “Nonsense,” Jack says, “how can I be little like you young man?” He says with a twinkle in his eyes. “Well I hate to rush out, but I’m running late,” he says as he puts on his coat, “you be a good boy and do everything Jack tells you,,” he says sternly, “oh forgive me,” he says to Jack, “this is young Robert,” he says as he points to me. “His brother Nick is still asleep up stairs,” he mentions as he pushes past us. I stand there staring at this man, I know,, he grew, I think? I look him up and down looking for any sort of device to explain it. “I know you?” I say thinking that I have seen him somewhere before. “You might, young Rob, you might,” he says with a wink. “How do you know everyone calls me Rob?” I ask, eyebrows raised. “I know all the good little boys and girls,” he says with a smile. “Girls are yucky,” I tell him with a frown on my face. “I agree, but little girls are just as important as boys,” he claims, “aren’t you going to invite me in, young Rob?” He asks. “Oh,,,” “I forgot, please come in old Jack,” I say with a wide smile. “You can call me Jack,” he says as he seems to float through the door. “Just Rob, not young Rob,” I tell him closing the door behind him. “Ok, just Rob, now where is your Christmas tree,” he says looking all around. I giggle because he said I “just Rob,” and that’s very funny “we don’t have a tree,” I say looking down, “my mom died last year on Christmas Eve and ever since then we have been a sad family,” I say. He lifts my chin and looks deep into my eyes and says, “we are here to change that.” “We?” I ask, “I don’t see anyone else here,” I tell him as I look around, thinking maybe this man is crazy and strange. “Oh I’m not crazy or strange,” he claims, “and I know exactly what your thinking,” he informs me, “so don’t try to fool me,” he states. “Whaaat?,” I stammer, “how,,, did,, you,,” I start to say. “Know what you were thinking?” He finishes my question, “I’m an elf don’t you know?” He asks with a surprised look on his little face. I just then realized that he is only 7 inches tall. “Cooooool,,,,,how did you do that?” I ask looking up and down and all around, there must be some sort of trick going on here, maybe a mirror or something, I think to myself. “It’s no trick and there are only the mirrors in the bathroom,” he tells me, now if you will kindly go wake up your brother, and make it quick,” he says as he starts to jump up on the sofa, “ we don’t have much time, much to do,, much to do,” he says as he eyes everything in the room. I race up the stairs with my heat beating out of my chest with excitement. I fling open the door to our room and leap on my brothers bed. “NICK,,, NICK,,,” I scream at the top of my lungs, “WAKE UP, WAKE UP,, THERE’S AN ELF DOWN STAIRS,” I yell in a night pitched voice. “Whaaaat?, “ he says sleepily, “it’s not Christmas yet, is it?” He asks in a hopeful way. “No, silly,” I say, “but there’s a real live elf downstairs,” I claim, “I saw him grow and shrink,” I tell him, “you have to come see,” and I jump off the bed and tear downstairs afraid he might be gone. “Ahh there you are Just Rob,” he says looking up from a big red bag on the floor. “Where did that come from?” I ask looking all mystified. “Direct from the North Pole, of course,” he says with a nod, “Prancer was just here and made a special delivery,” he claims. I run-to the window and think I can still see something in the sky, “was that,,?” I start to say and just stare with my mouth open. “Prancer,” he finishes for me again, “he said to say sorry, he couldn’t stay any longer, he is urgently need in Hong Kong,” he claims with a jump and a kick. “Awwww,,,” I proclaim, “I wanted to pet him.” “Holy,,,,, Cow,,, “ Nick screeches, “you are an,,,” he starts to say pointing and jumping up and down. “An elf?” Jack states, “”I’m glad at least one boy in this house recognizes me,” he says looking at me, “after all The times you came to visit the big guy at the mall every year, I was always there by his side,” he says, “now,,” he says” “we have much work to do and not much time to do it,” he claims, “your dad will be home in just 7 hours,” he informs us, “so where is your tree?” He says, “Rob tells me you have not gotten it yet?” He asks Nick. Nick is staring at the red bag on the floor and seems to get it right away, he points and says, “it’s in the bag?” He questions with pleading eyes. “Very good Nicholas,” Jack says, “can I call you Nicholas?” He asks him, “I am rather fond of that name, that’s the big mans name, don’t ya know?” He says with a giggle in his voice. “Hey, that’s right,” he proclaims, “that is my name,” he says as he dances around the room. Jack opens up the red bag and gets a sad look on his face, “oh my!” He says with sadness, “it seems Prancer has forgotten to pick out a tree, whatever shall we do?” “I knew it was too good to be true,” Rob says sadly, “dad always says if it’s too good to be true,,,,” “Hush,” Jack says interpreting me mid sentence, “be careful what you say around me,” he tells us in a hushed voice, “things can come true, if you really believe them to be true,” he says in a whisper, “even bad things,” he warns. I put both my hands over my mouth and stay silent looking between Jack and Nicholas, “sorry,” I say, “I’ll be more careful,” “See that you do, Just Rob,” he says very seriously, “now where were we,,,?” He asks us both, “ahh yes, the tree, you have to have a tree,” he claims, “Just Rob, why don’t you come over and see if you can pick out a tree,” he says holding the red bag up, “there has to a tree in there somewhere,” he says as the bag sparkles. “But,, that bag is,,,” I start to say. “NOOOOO,,,,,!” Nicholas screeches, “you can’t say that,” he says very loudly, “you have to believe,” he says as his face turns red as he realized he just yelled at me. I cover my mouth with my hands and start to giggle, “ops,,” I say, “I almost forgot,” I admit, “let me look,” I say as I reach for the bag. “It’s a lot lighter than I thought,” I say as I take the bag from Jack. It seems to get bigger as I hold it and I open it up and look inside curiously, as I reach inside I feel branches and quickly pull my hand out grasping as hard as I can and before my eyes an enormous tree spills out on the carpet. I fall back and land on my butt, I hear laughing from both Jack and Nicholas. I look at them and start to laugh with them. “Ok boys,” Jack says, “we need to decorate it now,” who wants to pick out the decorations?” He asks as he holds up the bag. We both raise our hands and rush the poor elf who disappears under two rambunctious boys. “Ughhhh,,,” I hear from a small voice, “get off me,” I hear as I move away looking down at the elf. “Ops,,,” I say, “sorry, I forgot you were so small, did we smash you?” I ask as I start to giggle. Nicholas starts to laugh and soon Jack is laughing as well, “you think that’s funny?” He asks, not serious at all, “well it won’t be funny if the tree is only half decorated when your dad gets home,” he claims. “Yes it would,” Nicholas and I say at the same time and start laughing together once again. “Well never mind,” Jack says, “let’s get to the decorating,” he says with a smile on his face, “carefully this time,” he says with a wink. We spend the next hour or so decorating the tree and it looks magnificent, “now for the rest of the house, “ Jack says. He looks around the room and says, ”now where did I put my machine gun?” He asks with a sly smile on his face. We both start to look around and it occurs-to me, he doesn’t have a machine gun and that an elf would never come armed. I think about this as Jack looks at me and nods his head, “I found it,” I say as Nicholas looks at me from under the coffee table, I raise my arms and make a POW, POW sound and before I know it, I’m shooting streamers of red gold and all the pretty colors out my fingers. Nicholas crawls out from under the coffee table and joins in and soon even Jack joins in and before we know it the entire house is so full of Christmas colors we can’t even see the floor. “STOP,” Jack says in a commanding voice, we both stop mid aim and the streamers coming out of our fingers dwindle to nothing, “that’s quite enough,” he says, “we must leave some ammo for all the other boys and girls.” “Awww, just a little more,” we both say to him. He looks around at the mess and simply says, “MAY YOUR CHRISTMAS BE MERRY,” in a loud and booming voice and everything starts to swirl and spin and all the colors are mashed together, before long it is a Christmas wonder land in the living room, a perfect decoration. “WOE,,, I mean wow,” I say as I stare in fascination, Nicholas is just spinning around trying to see everything all at once and keeps going faster and faster and soon falls over on his butt laughing all the way. “Right,” Jack says, “I guess my job is done here,” he proclaims as he starts for the door. “Wait!” I plead, “it looks really nice and we had ever so much fun, but what about dad?” I say without hesitation, “he is really sad,” I say, the excitement wearing off, “how can we be happy if he is sad, isn’t there a way we can make him happy too?” I ask crestfallen. Jack stops and turns and looks directly at me and says, “well there might be a way,” he says very slowly, “but it will take a lot more work and a sacrifice,” he says with a warning in his voice. “I don’t care, we will do anything,” I say for the both of us, “Christmas will never be happy if dad is sad,” I say with conviction, “isn’t that right Nicholas?” I ask him, or rather tell him. “Yeah,” he says, “I don’t even want any presents or a tree or anything if dad is sad,” he proclaims, “I’ll give anything to see him happy like it used to be,” he claims. “Ok, just so you both agree,” Jack says in a very serious voice. “WE DO,” we both proclaim together. “So,,,, shall,,, it,,,be,” Jack says in a strange voice and the he promptly disappears. We both stare at the empty space where Jack was just sitting with open mouths. I’m the first to speak and just simply say, “what happened?” As I look around our shabby house and realize that the tree and the decorations are all gone. There is not a clue that Jack was ever there. “Where did Jack go and where is the tree and all the pretty stuff?” Nicholas asks. I realize what we said, I rush over and cover his mouth, “don’t you realize what we said,” I ask him and he has a blank look on his face, “we said we would give up the tree and our presents and all the decorations if dad would be happy?” He still looks at me blankly, “we gave it all away, no tree, no decorations and no presents,” I tell him with a heavy heart. He looks down at his feet and begins to cry softly realizing what we said and remembering Jacks warnings. “It’s almost time for dad to come home, let’s wait for him in hall way,” I say as I lead him by the hand. Just as we get to the door it opens and in walks dad. “Merry Christmas, my darling boys,” he says merrily, “what’s with the long faces?” “Jack is gone and the tree and the decorations,,,” I start to say and Nicholas interrupts me mid sentence, “It’s nothing,” he says in a whisper, “we were just playing,” he claims. I stare at him thinking dark things in my mind when I hear a bell jingle from somewhere out side and see a small man in the distance. “Well you two need to get dressed right away,” he proclaims in a happy voice, “we have much work to do and not much time to do it,” he says with a wink. I look at Nicholas and he looks at me, “hurry up,” he says and with a smile. We run up stairs and get dressed as fast as we can and rush back downstairs and see dad smiling at us from the hallway, “I have some news boy,” he says as he leads us to the old station wagon, “I got fired today, but it’s ok,” he says with a smile and a wink, “I just know something better is just around the corner,” he claims. I look at him and start to say something, but Nicholas puts a hand over my mouth and shakes his head and I stay silent. “I know you will find the best job in the world,” Nicholas says and winks at me. I smile a knowing smile and look to see dad humming a Christmas tune. “Jingle bells,,, Jingle bells,,,,,,” we all start to sing and as my heart fills with joy, I realize that as long as we are all happy, it doesn’t really matter if we have a tree or presents colorful decorations or anything, as long as we are together and happy nothing can ever compare. We are headed out to find a Christmas tree and a few decorations and maybe a present or two, but I wouldn’t trade this Christmas for all the riches in the world and as the song comes to an end I hear a small voice in the background say, “may your Christmas be merry.” I look at Nicholas and he looks at me and we both start to laugh and laugh and soon dad is laughing as well.
  8. A short Christmas story about a special elf that saves Christmas for a sad family.
  9. Hi everyone, I love this site, I have always had stories in my mind. I have never thought to write them down, now thanks to this site, I am able to write them down and I love writing. Thanks for being here and helping me.
  10. Thank you for the words of encouragement. I cannot promise that life for Jack will get better, even I do not know the full story, when I sit down to write, the story writes it self, it comes out in gush of words that are the story. I don’t have an outline or end game. This is not a true story, but it is almost a parallel of my childhood. I say that because I was never a runaway, but spent much of my early years in foster homes, some good some bad. I felt like I was trapped with no one but my thoughts and observations to keep me company. That being said, I apologize if the details are alarming or disturbing. I didn’t want to upset anyone with the subject matter, I just felt it is a story that needed to be told, even if only for myself. I hope you will endure through the rough times, I cannot say how it will end, except that I am a well adjusted adult. Thanks for reading and I how to see more comments as Jack’s life unfolds.
  11. As I walk into the house, Donna is standing at the kitchen table with her back to us, “it took you two long enough,” she says as she is washing her hands. “It was cold out there woman,” Henry says, “I had to examine this boy, he has some cuts and bruises that need tending to,” he tells her as he pushes me towards her and leaves the kitchen, I stumble across the kitchen floor and almost fall, Donna catches me at the last minute. “Don’t worry, Jack,” she tells me, “don’t let Henry scare you, he’s more bark than bite,” she says as she turns me around and looks me over from head to toe. “Looks like you got some cuts and scrapes,” she informs me, “sit down in the chair and I’ll be right back,” she says as she leaves the kitchen. I sit down and wonder what that was about, Henry was real nice outside and didn’t treat me bad, so why did he shove me so hard, I almost fell down?, I wonder as I notice that I’m being watched by little eyes from the hallway. “Hey there,” I say to the boy, “what’s you name?” I ask not remembering what his name was. “Tod,” comes a soft barely audible voice of a scared child. “I like that name,Tod,” I tell him in a friendly voice, “that’s a strong name,” I say trying to reassure him. “It’s ok, “ I tell him, “you can come out,” I coax. He slowly steps out into the doorway and with one hand in his mouth and the other behind his back, just looks at me, unsure what he should do. “Come over here,”I tell him as I raise my hand to beckon. He walks slowly towards me until he is standing just out of arms reach, still looking at me. “My name is Jack,” I tell him in a soothing voice. “Where did your clothes go?” He says as he continues to stare at me. “Your dad took them,” I say, “he says they are too ripped up and I’ll need to get some other clothes.” “You shouldn’t be naked,” he says in a scared voice, “at least not in the kitchen and when mom is around,” he informs me with a worried look on his young face. “It’s ok for now,” I tell him, “your dad says he’s getting me some clothes now and besides, your mom has to tend to my scrapes and stuff, I promise I won’t go around naked after this,” I tell him and that makes a smile cross his face. He walks a little closer and says, “he’s not my dad, not for real,” he admits. I put both my hands up and he walks into my arms and I hug him tightly. He feels warm and I start to cry, but just a little. I bury my face into the top of his head and let the tears flow out in small amounts. Tod pulls away and looks at me, “What’s the matter,” he asks with concern on his face. “Nothing,” I whisper to him as I wipe my eyes, “I just had something in my eye.” “You were too crying ,”he says in a whisper that I can barely hear. “Ok,” I admit, “but please don’t tell anyone, it’ll be our secret,” I say as I hear Donna coming. Tod just looks at me and puts his finger across his lips and the smiles as Donna walks into the kitchen. He jumps at the sound of her and runs around the table and hides behind it, peeking over the top as if that was a good hiding place. “TOD,” she scolds him, “I think you are supposed to be in bed.” “I got thirsty, and wanted a drink of water,” he claims as he’s still looking at me. “Well get some water and then it’s off to bed for you young man and I better not see you up again till morning,” she says with warmth in her voice. After he’s gone to bed, again, she looks at me and says, “Now let’s have a look at you.” I stand up and put my hands on my head, as that’s how I was taught to do. She comes over and lowers my arms and gets her first aid kit out and starts to clean my scrapes and feel my chest and all over my young body, asking me all the while, “does this hurt,” she put white stuff on me and puts a few bandages here and there, it stings a little, but I don’t make a sound. Henry comes in while she is fixing me,“Jack,” he says with a guarded look on his face, “you are much bigger than our boy and none of his clothes are going to fit you,” he says with in a clipped voice. He looks at his wife and shrugs, “we can’t have you just running around naked as a jay bird, so,” he says with a lively voice, “you will have to wear theses for now,” he informs me as he hands me a dress. I just stare at the red dress on the table and with a finger touch it like it is radioactive. “Ok,” I say resigned to do as I’m told, “I’ve never worn girl’s clothes before, but it’s ok, I’ll do what ever you say,” with a frown on my face. “Now don’t look like that,” Henry says, “it’s just temporary until I can get into town to buy you some proper clothes,” he informs me with a smile on his face. His wife is frowning at him and shaking her head very slightly at him. He sees her disapproval and says, “it’s the best I can do, Donna, unless you want him to run around naked until I can get to town,”he says with a fake frown on his face. I wonder why he had a dress and wonder if there is a girl asleep somewhere in the house, I want to ask this, but am afraid I might get hit if I ask too many questions, so I just sit there wondering where I am. “Well I don’t think it’s proper for a boy to wear a dress,” she tells her husband in a disapproving voice, “can’t he just put on one of your T-shirts?,” she says, “I’m sure that will be big enough to cover him until, you can get to town?” “And have my T-shirts stretched out and destroyed,” he says in a disgusted voice, “besides you know how hard it is for me find a comfortable T-shirt?” “Yeah, yeah, I know,” she says sarcastically, “all you shirts have be just right or you’ll never wear them.” “It’s all settled then,” he says as he claps his hands together just once, “now try that on Jack, so I can see if it’s a good fit or not.” I stand up and pick up the dress and look it over trying to see how it goes on, I slip it over my head and let it settle on my shoulders, it feels weird and I know I look really stupid. My face is on fire, and I’m looking down not looking at anyone or anything. Henry is behind me adjusting the dress and zipping it up in the back, he spins me around and steps back to admire his handy work. “Well,” he says, as he looks me up and down, “you do make a very fetching little girl,” he teases. I look down and try not to let the tears come, bad things happen to boys who cry, a thought that is always in my head. “DON’T tease him Henry,” Donna scolds him. “I’m sorry,” he claims, “he just looks so darn cute and he reminds me of our Becky,” he admits, “shorter hair, but with that blond hair and his blue eyes,,,” he trails off as he looks at me with lust in his eyes. “Well never mind that now,” Donna says, he can’t sleep in a dress,” she states, “I hope you don’t expect him to sleep in the buff?” “No of course not,” he says and I notice he has another garment in his hands, “here, put this on,” he says as he tosses a white night gown with a rose print at me. “Remember,” he says, “this is only temporary, I’ll go to town tomorrow and see about getting you some proper clothes,” he reminds me. “Do you know what size clothes you wear?” “I don’t know,” I say as I’m trying to take off the dress, “small I guess.” He sees me struggling and unzips me and lifts the dress over my body and helps me put on the night gown. “We can figure that part out tomorrow,” he says and gives me a pay on the butt, “we all need to get to bed, you can sleep in Becky’s old room,” he says as he looks at his wife for approval, “will that be ok Donna?” He asks in a hushed voice. “I guess that will be ok,” she admits, “all her stuff is still in there, so it’s a bit girly, we can put her stuff in the attic tomorrow,” she says reluctantly. “Come with me,” Henry tells me and takes my hand and leads me down the hall, “you will find all her clothes in her closet and dresser, you can wear anything you like.” “Where is Becky?” I say as he leads me to her room. “She passed away 4 years ago,” he tells me with a tremor in his voice, “her room has been a shrine since she left us,” he informs me, “it’s about time that shrine comes down.” “That’s so sad,” I tell him, not knowing what else to say, “are you mad at me?” I ask. “What?,” he says, “no, what gave you that idea?” “I don’t know,” I claim, “I just thought,,, I did something wrong.” “No, you were the great,” he tells me, “remember, man to man stays between us,” he says with steel in his voice. “I know,” I say, “I can keep secrets very good, I’ve had to keep secrets all my life.” Her room is all frilly and pink, there is a canopy bed and stuffed animals all over the place. The dresser is covered with bottles and all sorts of girl stuff. He closes the door and opens the dresser looking in one of the drawers, he takes out a pair of panties. “Here put these on,” he says as he hands me a pink pair of butterfly panties. I just look at them and get a pit in my stomach. I hold them up and stare at them. Holding them by one finger, I wonder if I can even fit into them. “I’ve never worn this kind of underwear before,” I inform him, “they won’t even fit me, can’t I just go without underwear?” I plead, hoping he won’t make me. “Well I think they will fit,” he claims, “you have to at less try.” I just stand there trying not to cry and turning the panties this way and that way. Maybe if I look confused, like I don’t know which way they go, he will just forget this ridiculous idea. “Oh for Peats sake,” he says, “here let me show you,” and grabs the panties out of my hand and pushes my nightgown up over my head and tells me,”lift your foot,” and proceeds to put them on me. I freeze and don’t make a move as he dresses me. “Stay still,” he orders me, and steps back as I stand there with the nightgown above my head. “There now that was not that bad,” he says as he lowers my nightgown. “Time for bed,” he says as he starts to leave the room. I turn to get into bed and I feel hands on me and I’m soon in my special place again. I’m standing on the beach as usual, but this time I’m in a two piece bikini. I look down and am horrified to find that I’m no longer a boy. I look at the ship on the horizon and it seems even farther away. I start to walk out on the waves, but I am soon running. “JACK?” I hear my name being called. I’m back in her room and just standing there when I see Donna standing in front of me asking me questions. “What?” I ask, “I didn’t hear you.” “I said why are you just standing there, you need to get to bed.” I look around and see I’m standing all alone, where did Henry go? I wonder as I look all around. I turn around and get into her bed and Donna tucks me in and says in a whisper, “things will get better, you will see and don’t worry about the dress and girl stuff, it’s only temporary and I’ll never tell anyone,” she says and kisses me on the forehead. I’m laying there looking at the ceiling wondering what BJ is doing, I remember his face, such a kind face. He treated me good and I thought he liked me, but why did he have to call the cops on me? Didn’t he realize that if I ever get sent home, I’ll be killed or worse? Is it too much to ask that adults listen to kids? I mean, I know I’m young and I don’t know everything, but no one believes me. I sometimes wonder if I’m to blame, maybe,,,,, I could have called the cops on my parents, but if they didn’t believe me or my parents told lies about me? Who would they believe a boy or an adult? The adults of course. Why did you have to betray me BJ? You promised me you would not turn me in unless I said so, and the first chance you get, you called the cops, like I’m the criminal. Crying into my pillow to muffle the sound I hear or really feel someone in the room. I turn over really quick and see Tod standing there in the doorway. I look at him and he looks sad, “want to sleep here tonight?” I ask in a whisper. He slips in the room and stands by her bed until I pull the covers away and he crawls in and I cover both of us up and hug him to my chest. I cry into his back and I can feel him sobbing as well, this somehow conforms me and we just stay that way . I’m drifting off to sleep,”Jack?, are you asleep?” I hear a small voice ask. “No, I’m just laying here,” I say in a whisper. “Can I ask you something?” He asks very quietly. “Sure,” I tell him. It is quite and all hear is his breathing, shallow with in and out breaths. I’m almost asleep when he finally gets up the courage to ask his question. “Did you come here to rescue me?,” he asks in a whisper, “I prayed like Momma taught me to.” He admits. I am shocked, but make no response. I am thinking over what this boy has said and decide to ask him a question. “Why do you need rescue?” I ask him quietly whispering into the back of his neck. “It’s a secret,” he informs me, “I’m not allowed to tell.” “I’ll tell you my secret if you tell me yours,” I tell him while rubbing his shoulder. “This is not really my home, I think I was kidnapped,” he informs me in a secret whisper only I can hear, “what’s your secret.” He asks just as quietly. I have to take a minute to think of how much to say, “if this is not your home,” I ask him, “where is home?” I ask as I squeeze him just a little bit tighter. He thinks about this for a long time and just when I think he fell asleep, I feel him start to shake ever so slightly. “He’s a man that I thought was a nice man, but he’s not,” he claims. “He said he had a puppy that needed my help, so I went with him to help the puppy,” he says, “but I never saw a puppy, he says he is going to get me one, but that was a long time ago,” he says and starts to play with my hand, “I’m from a long way away and just want to go home,” he says in a sad voice, “I don’t want a puppy anymore.” “How long have you been here?” I ask him. He keeps playing with my fingers and just shakes his head. “I miss my mommy,” he says and starts to cry. “Shhhhh,,” I tell him and gently kiss him on his head, “we are going to get out of here soon,” I promise without knowing exactly how we are going to do that. As I think about all this I wonder if there is a GOD and if there is, why does he hate kids like us? “I ran away from home and I think I might have really hurt my parents really bad,” I admit, “you are the only one who knows,” I tell him as I look at the top of his head. He turns around just enough to see into my face, “we’re they bad, your parents ?” He asks me while staring with wife eyes. “I don’t know,” I admit, “I used to think so, but I don’t know, they made me do things that I didn’t want to do and punished me if I didn’t do things.” I tell him. “I was bad, so maybe it was me and not them,” I say getting more confused over everything. We are both silent for a while and Tod turns back around with his back to me and plays with my fingers again. “If your parents are bad, then I’m glad you hurt them,” he says and lays his head on my chest. I don’t know what to say to that so I stay quiet and listen to him breathing in and out. We stay that way long into the night. I start to remember my dreams or memories, it’s sometimes hard to figure out which is which. I think about what he said and my mind drifts to BJ. I can’t understand why I keep thinking of him, he betrayed me, but I can’t seem to forget him. I wonder what he’s doing and where he is. Is he looking for me? I’m not sure how long into the night I lay there, but soon I fade away……. I’m sitting in a school room, it’s familiar to me and I’m passing a note when the teacher sees me and call my name,, “#$&&$#@&,l” what is that you have there? I quickly hide it under my butt and look at her. “Well?” She demands. “I don’t have nothing,” I say. “Come up here right now young man,” she commands. I start to get up and the note falls to the floor with a loud swoosh and a click as it hits the floor. I pretend not to notice and head to the front. “Didn’t you forget something?” She asks me as she looks at the note on the floor. I bend down pretending that I never saw that note and picking it up I go to the front of the class. I’m in a van and I’m scared, I don’t know how I got here. It is bumpy and makes a loud rattle as we bounce down the road. I’m crying and blubbering when a man from the front seat yells at me, “ SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU LITTLE FAGGOT,” then he throws a lunch box at me and it hits me in the stomach, I’m laying on the floor with a woman over me who puts a rag in my mouth and everything goes black. I’m covered in blood and looking at my hands, they are a deep red and I’m crying someone is on the floor, but I don’t know who. I’m getting chased by the Green Lantern. He catches me and puts me in a cage and makes me get naked and then I’m tied to a table and aliens are doing experiments on me. “AWWWWWWWW HELP,,,HELP,,,,” I scream out in my sleep… I feel hands shaking me, “wake up Jack,” I hear a voice, soft and soothing.I open my eyes and try to get away. “He’s coming to get me,” I proclaim loudly. “Shhhhh,, it’s only a nightmare,” Donna soothes. My eyes shoot open and I start to jump up to run somewhere, but Donna holds me in place as she soothes me. “You’re safe,” she says. She’s looking me in the eye and asks, “do you want to tell me about it?”I look at her loving face and just shake my head. “Well why don’t you get up and get dressed, breakfast will be ready soon, and get Tod up as well,” she says as she pats Tod on the head. “It looks like you two are getting along just fine,” she says with a wink. I shake Tod who looks at me with sleepy eyes. “Is it morning yet?” He asks as he rubs his eyes. “Yeah,”I say as I start to get up, “Donna was just here and says breakfast will be ready soon, come on, let’s get going.” He slowly gets up and we head to the bathroom to take care of the morning call, we head to the kitchen and on the way there I wonder what today is going to be like. “Don’t tell on me,” Tod whispers to me as we head to the kitchen. “I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine,” I tell him in his ear. He giggles as he walks into the kitchen, “that tickles,” he says as he rubs his ear. Donna and Henry are already at the table when we both sit down. “So I hear you two slept together last night,” Henry says with a weird look on his face. I just look at him and don’t say anything, because I don’t know what to say. “Well that is not to happen again, you have your room and Tod has his,” he says in a stern voice. “What’s the big deal?” Donna asks him with her eyes raised. “Because it’s not right Donna,” he says with irradiation in his voice, “Tod has his own room and,,,” he says pausing to get his thoughts together before going on,”it’s not right, she needs her own room,” he says and then realizing what he just said amends his statement, “l mean he has his room.” He looks at me and then continues, “I mean we are making a room for you, so you should be grateful, you should have your own room is all I wanted to say, “he stammers. “Is that right?” Donna says with a confused look on her face. “It’s ok, I say I don’t mind if Tod wants to come sleep with me sometimes,” I say hesitantly, “he just got scared last night is all,” I try to explain , “he misses his,,,” I stop mid sentence realizing that I almost spilled the beans, “misses his sister,” I say looking at Donna, who looks at me with surprise in her face. “His,,,, sister,,,,?” He says with a strange look on his face, “right,,,,just don’t let it happen again,” he says with a quick look at Tod who looks down at his plate. “Who wants pancakes and bacon?” Donna asks a little too loud. “I’ll take a whole stack,” Henry says and lifts his plate in the air. The room is still as Donna serves us all breakfast. “So Henry are you going to take Jack into town and get him some proper clothes,” Donna asks as she is pouring Henry some coffee. “I thought I would, but then I remembered that I threw out the rages he was wearing and all he has is the girls clothes,” he says with a wave of his hand, “I wouldn’t want to introduce Jack to the village in a dress,” he says. He looks right at me and says, “do you want to go with me in a dress to town?” He waits for me to answer and I am not sure what the right answer is, so I just slowly shake my head. “I didn’t think so,” he states, “I’ll just go to town and buy him boy clothes, what sizes do you wear Jack?” He asks as he looks me up and down. “I,,,, ummm, I don’t know,” I stammer, “my mom always just had lots of clothes for me to wear,” I state. “He looks like a small size,” Donna says, “how old are you Jack?” She asks me as she too looks me up and down. “I’m 9 years old,” I say as I look down at my night gown as if that would answer everything. Just tell the Matt at the mercantile, that you need clothes for a 9 year old boy, I’m sure he will be able to figure it out,” Donna says, “and if he asks, just tell him we have my nephew visiting for the school year,” she adds as an after thought. “I know dear,” he says with an irritated voice and an eye roll, “this is not my first rodeo.” I look back and forth between both Henry and Donna, trying to follow everything that is being said. “Jack?” Henry snaps his fingers, “look at me when I talk to you,” he says sternly, “you will need to call me Uncle and call Donna Auntie,” he says. He looks at Donna for approval, she nods and he goes on, “if the townies discover you are a run away, they will arrest you and throw you in jail until your parents come to get you,” he threatens, “do you want to get arrested?” He asks. “There’s no reason to scare the boy,” Donna says as she looks at me and smiles, “I’m sure Jack doesn’t want anyone to get into trouble, do you Jack?” She asks with a smile on her face. “No mam,” I say firmly, “I can call you guys Auntie and uncle,”I say as look at them both. “Good,, now that we have that settled,” he says with a smile he turns to Donna, “since she,, or I mean since Jack only has dresses for now, please find some girls work around the house till I get back from town,” he says with a sly smile on his face. “I’m sure I can keep him occupied till you return, my dear sweet husband,” she says as she clears the dishes from the table. “Tod, why don’t you go get dressed and start you chores and Jack, go put on a dress,” she says in an apologetic voice, “remember it’s only temporary for now. I follow Tod to down the hall and see him disappear into his room and close the door and wonder what kind of house this is. I enter her room and close the door and head over to the closet, there is nothing but dresses, some short and some long, I open the dresser and only see undergarments, but no pants. I’m still looking over everything when Henry just walks in and looks me up and down while closing the door behind himself. “You know,” he says with a smile on his face, “you do make a very pretty girl, I wouldn’t mind if you stayed a girl,” he admits, “it would save me some money on clothes and we can tell, everyone that your name is Jacklyn,” he tells me, “you can pass as a girl, no one would have to know,” he looks at me and raises his eyebrows. “If you don’t mind,” I say in a small voice, “I want to be a boy and I wouldn’t know how to be a girl,” I quickly say, “I might mess up and make a mistake,” I claim as I look at my feet and waiting to see if I will get yelled at or hit. Nothing happens for what seems like a long time and I dare to peek up to see him looking at me with intense eyes, I quickly look back down to my feet. He lifts my face to his and kisses me on the mouth, “you are a smart boy,” he says, “and you are right,” he admits, “if you made a mistake or if someone did notice, it would cause all sorts of problems,” he states,” if that happened, I would have to,,, ummm,” he stops and says very slowly, “fix the problem,” he threatens. “I won’t make a mistake,” I insist, “I am really good at knowing my place,” I claim, as I secretly wonder how he would fix it, I sneak a look up and see kindness in his eyes and venture a small smile and wait shuffling my feet back and forth. “I’m sure you do know your places,” he says satisfied, “now let’s see what we can find you to wear,” he says as he pulls the dresser drawer open all the way, “theses should do good,” he says as he holds a pair of stockings and a pair of pink and white panties with unicorns on them, he tosses them to me as he heads over to the closet and looks through the dresses till he finds a pink and white dress with a big bow and a red satin belt. “That will look Devine,” he says with a wide smile. I start to get undressed, but he stops me, “no, surprise me when I get back from town,” he says, “it’ll be better if I can see the finished product,” he says with lust in his eyes as he walks away, “one more thing,”he says right before he closes the door, “don’t tell your Auntie I picked out the clothes, it was all you dear,” he says and closes the door. I stand there afraid to move, I’ve never dressed as a girl and I feel really weird about this and briefly wonder if I can make a break for it, just run away, but then I remember the promise I made Tod and besides, do I really want to run away as a girl? I decide to just get dressed and wait for my, “uncle”, to come back from town with some clothes. I head down the hall and see Auntie in the kitchen. “Hi” I say brightly. She turns around and takes one look at me and grabs her heart, “oh dear, you about gave me a fright,” she admits, “you do look almost exactly like ,,” but then she trails off, “never mind,” she stays, ‘come here and let me get a good look at you.” I hesitantly walk over and stand in front of her for inspection. I look down and fidget as I wait for her to start to laugh at me. “Please look at me,” she commands, “it’s considered rude if you don’t look at someone when they are talking to you.” I look up and see she is not laughing at me and I gain a little confidence. “Now,” she begins, “what can you do?” She asks, “can you wash dishes or dust, can you sew or perhaps you can cook?” She says hopeful. “I can clean up the house and do the dishes, I don’t know how to sew, but I can learn,” i claim. I keep looking at her and tell her “I can draw and I can play the piano and sing songs,” I says with pride in my voice. I look at her not sure what to expect and wait. “Well in that pretty dress, I can’t have you cleaning or washing dishes, it would ruin it, but there is a piano in the parlor, maybe you can sing me a song as I work, the radio broke ages ago,” she tells me, “and your uncle has never bothered to fix it,” she points the way to the parlor. “Follow me, “she commands me and I walk behind her out of the kitchen feeling really strange in a dress. ‘here you go,”she says as I sit down, my dress gets all bunched up and she says, “not like that Jack,” and commands me to stand up, “ like this,” and guides my hand to the back of my legs, “a lady always folds her dress under her,” she says, “I know you are a boy, but when you are in a dress, you will need to act like a girl or you might show more than you want to,” she says with a wink. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I do as she shows me. I play and sing many songs through out the day till my uncle gets back, auntie praises my singing and playing abilities. As soon as I hear the old car drive up I race out to greet him and run up to him all excited. “Did you get my clothes,” I ask jumping up and down, “I can’t wait to put on some real clothes” I say as I look in the back seat, but the back seat is empty, “are they clothes in the trunk?” I ask as I walk to the back of the car. “Jacklyn,” he says, “,,umm I mean, Jack,” they were out of your size clothes,” he claims, “I had to order them special,” he says in a proud voice, “they will be here next week and they cost a fortune,” he claims. My face drops and I just look at him intently. “Hey, don’t be like that,” he says cheerily, “it’ll be a game, and it’ll save you from having to work out in the mud and dirt,” he claims. “Im sorry, but there’s nothing I can do,” he claims, “so did you help your auntie today?” he says changing the subject. “Yes,” I say, perking up a little, “I sang for her while she did her housework,” I admit. It really was a pretty easy day, I think as I follow my uncle in to the house. Tod comes running up and leaps into his dads arms and wraps his little legs around him and starts telling him all about a frog he found in the creek out back, I feel sad because I would have liked to go play outside with him today, but I couldn’t get her dress dirty. I wonder why they only have pretty dresses, where are her every day clothes? Tod looks over at me and gets a strange look in his eyes and then whispers to his dad, “who is that dada?” He asks while hiding his face in his chest. “That’s Jack,”he says, “but I think when he is in a dress, we should call him Jacklyn,”he says with a wink to the boy, “what do you think partner?” He asks while ruffling the boys hair. He giggles and says,” ok dada,” and looks over to me and says, “Hi Jacklyn,” and waves at me. I am stunned and just stand there unable to move. I look down and see the dress with the white stockings and realize that I really do look like a girl in this dress, only thing missing is the long hair. That night after dinner, I sing for everyone while I play Bridge over Troubled waters and we all have a good time because I really love to sing love songs. Tod dances around the living room and my auntie and uncle dance as I watch out if the corner of my eye. I feel like maybe I might actually be a part of a real family and I smile to myself as I sing “Red River Valley. We spend the entire evening singing and dancing and way too soon, it seems, it’s time for bed. “Time for bed, Tod you go run and get ready for bed,” Henry tells him, “and “Jacklyn,” you need to get ready for bed too and remember, you two are not allowed to sleep in the same bed as Tod,” he reminds us, “boys and girls should never sleep together unless they are married.” I almost say that I’m not a girl, but one look at uncle Henry tells me that would be a big mistake, so I open my mouth and just close it and head to her room, or I guess I have to start think that it’s my room now. I try to close the door, but uncle Henry puts his hand on the door and steps in, closing the door after he enters. “You look very beautiful,” he says as he spins me around to get a good look at me, “I can’t wait to get you out of that dress and into your night gown,” he admits. I know what’s coming next and I go away to my special place and see the ship, it is a lot closer this time and I know I can walk just a few steps and I’ll be there, but as soon as I feel the sea breeze in my hair and the sand on my feet, I hear a distance cry from somewhere off the coast. I look and see a tiny island I never saw before, when did that show up, I wonder. I strain to see what it can be. There are palm trees and a small figure waving at me, I can make out the voice and it yells “come play with me,” I turn and stare at the ship and the island and am torn between them. I start going to the island and suddenly the tiny island is on fire and the boy on that island is screaming in terror and I know it’s a boy now because I recognize that voice, it’s Tod. I have only just met Tod, but I feel like I have known him all my life. I try to scream at him that all he has to do is walk to me, but he just screams and runs around in circles. I have to get to him and start to run across the waves, but I have to stop short, sharks are infesting the ocean and I can’t get to him. I’m panicking and looking everywhere for some way to get to him. He sees me and starts to walk my way intending to walk across the waves right through the sharks. “NO!” I yell at him, but he doesn’t listen and as he walks into the waves I see a great white shark swim right for him, I look around and suddenly I’m holding a spear and I throw it as hard as I can intending to kill the shark, but just as spear is going to hit the shark, it dives and the spear sails over and hits Tod right in the chest, he just looks at me with such admiration that my heart breaks as he falls down to the beach and Looks at me questioning. I start to run to him and I hear a familiar voice behind me and see that same figure telling me not to go. I am suddenly back in her room and uncle Henry is getting dressed and telling me that I’m a good girl and to get some sleep, I look around to see a lantern and I feel my hand reaching for it, thinking if I hit him in the head, would it kill him, but I only turn it down to low and get up and put my night gown on, uncle Henry leans over and kisses me on the lips and says, “good night sweet heart .” He walks away and turns at the last minute and asks me, “if you want Tod to be able to sleep with you, all you have to do is ask,” he says, “I will be happy to supervise the two of you,” he says with a wink as he closes the door softly. I wonder what it means to be supervised by him, I have an idea and I don’t like that idea, I feel like I have to protect him. I have to Fiona way to get Tod off that island. I get a many chances to talk to Tod alone and he’s afraid and does everything he’s told to do. A few times he didn’t do what he was told and was locked in the shed for hours. “Has Tod ever touched you?” I ask him one afternoon. “What do you mean?” He asks. “I mean down there,” I say pointing to his groin. “No,” he claims, “but before you came I had to wear dresses once in a while,” he tells me with a down cast face. “He said when I got big enough I could wear them all the time,” he admits, “but now I guess you get to wear them, he’s never going to bring you the boy clothes, you know?” He tells me, “he wants a girl,” he says in a whisper. I have to decide if I should just get used to this house or leave. I look at Tod and wonder if I can take him with me, so far I’ve kept uncle Henry away from him by offering to do even more than I had ever done before, but how long will that last?
  12. I must have fallen asleep, when I wake up, a nurse is looking down at me and says, “ welcome back,” with a pleasant smile on her face, “ you gave all quite a scare for a while there, how do you feel?” She asks as she has her hand on my wrist. “I’m thirsty,” I say with a scratchy voice. A doctor comes in holding a folder and looks into my eyes with a flashlight and asks me,” how do you feel?” “I’m thirsty,” I say again, it hurts to talk I wonder what happened. He looks at the nurse and says something to her in a whisper, “ let him,,,,.. and don’t ….,,” he says so low I can’t hear everything he says. He smiles at me and pats my hand and says, “you’ll be fine, the nurse will bring you some ice chips,” he says as he leaves the room. “What happened?” I croak, wow why is my throat so sore, I realize. “You had an little accident,” she informs me, “your mom can’t come down to see you right now, but I’m sure she would want to if she could,” she tells me, “I’ll be sure to call her and let her know you are back from the North Pole,” she tells me with a wink. “What did you say?” I ask, “did you say the North Pole?” I ask disbelieving what I heard. “The North Pole?” she says and smiles, “heavens no dear, I said When you are out of the woods, as in you’re going to be just fine,” she insists. She hands me a glass with ice chips and tells me, “go slowly, you don’t want to choke,” she warns me, “you had a tube down your throat for quite a while so your throat will be sore for a while, try not to speak much,” she tells me, “now try to get some rest, if you need anything just push that button,” she says as she points to the button. I lay there eating ice chips one at a time and wondering what happened, did I dream all that? It seemed so real, I can still taste the eggnog. I find it hard to keep my eyes open and as hard as I try, I can’t stay awake and soon I am dreaming again. There’s some commotion in the room and I barely open my eyes to see two men hovering over me. “Whaaaa,,,” I try to say and clear my throat and say more clearly, “what happened?” One man looks at me and then at the other one and shrugs and says to me, “you were in an accident, how much do you remember?” I think for a minute and say, “ummm,,,, I was playing outside with Chris and he fell?,,,I think,” I say uncertainly, “and then we went inside and,,, and,,,” I say, trying to recall what happened, “an elf came and made a deal to save Chris and we went to the North Pole, not Chris, just me,” I say with a concentrated look on my face, “but he lied to me, is Chris ok?” I ask him, suddenly remembering he might be dead. The men look at each other and then at me, “son, you and Chris have been in a coma for the last month,” he informs me, “you woke up last night, but he is still in a coma,” he says with fake sympathy on his face. “We don’t know when he will wake up, but don’t worry about him, he is in the best hands,” he tells me with some pride in his voice, “right now just concentrate on getting better and get plenty of rest, the nurse will be here to get some breakfast in you,” he says and they both start to leave. “Ummm,, doctor?” I say,,, “where is my mom?,” is she ok?” I ask afraid something might have happened to her as well. The doctors look at each other and hesitate for a minute before saying, “she’s umm..,, not,, well what I mean to say is,,,” he stammers. “Someone will be in to talk to you all about that,” the other doctor says, “just know she is fine, no need to worry,” and quickly before I can ask or say anything else, they rush out the door. I am left laying there trying to figure things out, what happened to Chris? Where is my mom and why is she not here, is she mad at me, does she hate me?, I wouldn’t blame her, I hate myself. I push the button for the nurse and when she doesn’t come I push it again and again…. The nurse shows up finally and says to me , “you only have to push it once,” she says irritated, “just have a little patience, now what do you need young boy?” It feels strange to be called young boy, but I dismiss that feeling and look at her with sleepy eyes. “Is Chris ok and where is my mom?” I ask with tears starting to form in my eyes, I just know something bad has happened and no one will tell me anything. “Chris?” She asks. “My brother, Chris,” I say, “they said he was in a coma,” I say hesitantly, “is that somewhere close, can I see him,” I say, “ he must be scared to be all alone.” “Oh,” she says, “I am your nurse,” she says, “I’ll have ask about your brother, he’s not in this wing.,” she informs me, “but I’m sure he’s fine and your mother,,,, ummm,,there will be someone here in an hour to have a chat about,, ummm her,, umm is there anything you need from me?,” she asks me with a weird look on her face, is she scared or something?, I wonder as I shake my head no. She quickly leaves, but right before the door closes, she tells me, “please don’t keep pushing the call button, it only takes once,” and the she is gone and I’m all alone again. I find the tv remote and channel surf for a while, as I searching for something, anything to keep me distracted, I come across a news story and see my moms face on the tv screen, I turn up the volume and I hear this, “the grand jury is due to meet this morning to determine if Nancy Gilmore will be brought up on charges of child neglect and endangerment of her two young children who were found almost frozen to death just last month the front yard of her Denver home,” the report continues, but I turn it off, not wanting to listen any more. Neglect?, endangerment?, what do they mean, she wasn’t even there, I was in charge, so if anyone should be in trouble it should be me right? I think to myself. I have to let someone know, I push the call button again and this time, I wait, I don’t want to get scolded again. As soon as the nurse walks I start telling her, “my mom wasn’t even there,” I say all at once, “I was in charge, I should be in trouble, not her,” I try to explain. “Shhh,” she coos, “nothing is your fault, just calm down,” she says as she puts her hand on my hand and looks me in the eye, “ a man is coming to talk to you and he will explain everything now your breakfast is almost here ,” she says as she raises my bed, “ I saw the food lady next door so you’ll be eating soon, just forget everything for now, here I’ll put some cartoons on for you,” and takes the tv remote and turns on the tv and I briefly see my mom’s picture on the screen again, she quickly turns to the Disney channel, “there watch some Duck Tails,” she says, “you like Duck Tails right?,” she asks, and leaves me alone wondering why no one will tell me anything. My brother in a coma? Where is this coma? Somewhere in this hospital or another hospital?, maybe it’s a different kind of hospital? Could it be he’s in the North Pole,?, maybe that’s what the grown ups call the North Pole? It’s just so confusing. My thoughts are interrupted by breakfast lady coming smiling and singing Jing Bells, I remember that song was a real hit up north and it makes me smile and join in and sing along with her, “well someone’s in a good mood,”she says cheerily, we have, umm, let’s see,” she looks at a clip board, “ahh you are lucky, you get the deluxe breakfast of eggs bacon, toast with strawberry jam and a tall glass of milk,” she says with a wink and places a glass of something in from of me. I look at her in disbelief and say, “did they put it all in a blender?” “Sort of,“ she claims, “ this is a shake, full of everything a growing boy needs,” she says with a wink. I wonder if she has a tick because she keeps winking at me, I don’t say anything cause it would be rude, I just take the shake and smell it. “It smells funny,” I say with my nose wrinkled up. “Now drink it all up she says, it’s good for you.” That means it’s going to taste really bad I think to myself as I drink it. “It’s not bad“ I say, “but can’t I have some real food, you know like real eggs and bacon?” I ask with what I hope are puppy dog eyes, it always worked on my mom and this reminds me of my mom and makes me a little sad, so I ask, “is my mom here?” “I don’t know dear, I just feed the hungry children of the world,” and gives me another wink. I want to ask her why she keeps winking or if something is in her eye, but I let it go. “You enjoy the rest of your day and I’ll see you for lunch,” she says with a smile and leaves me to eat, or rather drink my breakfast, at least it’s not that bad, I think as I drink it slowly and watch Duck Tails. There’s a knock on the door, but before I can say anything a man in a dark suit walks in and says, “how are we this morning?” “I’m just fine,” I tell him, not sure how you are, I think, but don’t say that. “Who are you?,” I ask. “My name is Jack Black and I’ve been assigned to your mothers case and I would like to ask you a few questions if you feel up to it young man,” he informs me. “What is going on here,” a female voice from the door says. I look past Mr Black to see a slightly over weight woman standing with hands on her hips scowling at Mr Black. “I’m Mr Black,” he says offering his hand to shake, “I just have a few questions for young mister Gilmore here,” he say gesturing to me. “You know you can’t just barge in and talk to him like that:” she tells him in a harsh voice, “he’s a minor and you have to go through me or my office, did you do that?” She asks, and before he can yes or no she answers her own question, “ no you didn’t, now if you don’t mind I need to talk to Chad privately, I’m sure you know the way out,” she gestures to the door and stares him down. “I’m sorry miss,” he says and drops his hand, at the door gives me a smile and a wink as the door closes, geese what’s with everyone winking at me?, I wonder as I stare at the closed door. “I’m miss Jones, and I’ll be your case worker until this whole mess is cleared up,” she say with a smile, “now I know you must have a million questions, but let me start and tell you what I can, then you can ask me anything, OK?” She asks me in an inviting tone. I don’t know what to say, so I just sit there with Duck Tails playing in the back ground. “Let me turn this off,” she says as she turns the tv off. “Hey, I was watching that,”. I complain. “There will be time to watch cartoons later, but we need to talk right now,” she says seriously, “there are a lot of things going on and I need you to be strong for your brother and your mom,” she says as she looks at her clipboard, “I see that your dad is not in the picture?” She asks. “He left us along time ago, I don’t really remember him much,” I say, not really caring one way or another. “Ummm, yes, I see that,” she says as she writes something down, “now then, how much have you heard about everything going on?” She asks me. “My mom is in trouble because of me, and my brother is in the North Pole, like I used to be?,” I say uncertainty. “The North Pole?” She asks curiously. “Yeah you know,” I say as if it’s obvious, “the coma,” I explain , “the doctor said I just came back yesterday from the coma and I was in the North Pole with Santa and his elves, I didn’t see Chris there, but it’s a big place,” I inform her. I look at with questioning eyes wondering why this is so head for her to admit, maybe it’s a secret or something. “I see,,,” she says as he she writes something on her clip board again, “what’s the last thing you remember before you went into a coma?” She asks. “Playing outside, cause it was a snow day, they canceled school,” I tell her trying remember it clearly, “we wanted to build a snow castle, Chris got really cold so I took him inside and gave him a bath,,, “ I claim, I don’t want to admit I let go outside in the buff, “then he got sick and an elf showed up out of nowhere and promised to make him better,” I say. “An elf?” she questions me. “Yeah, he was like 5 or 6 inches tall and he did make Chris better,” I claim. “I Went with him to the North Pole and made I-Phones for Santa, you know for his nice list?,” I ask her. She has this weird look on her face and I don’t what that means, but I don’t like it at all. “I guess he took him to the North Pole too,” I say obviously. “Chad, listen to me now, this is really important, can you do that,” she asks me with a serious face. “Sure,” I say a little bashful. “There is no Santa,” she claims, “the North Pole is not real either.” I stare at my hands not sure what to say, did I just dream it all and if I did where is this coma place me and Chris have been? “But then where is this coma place me and Chris have I been this whole time?” I question, “I remember helping all the elves and Santa make I-Phones,” I tell her with a completely serious face. “Chad, your brother is on the 5th floor in the intensive care unit, he is in a coma,” she claims, “do you know what that is,” she asks. “Yes, it’s the North Pole, what the grown ups call the coma,” I say, “I remember being there and the doctor told me I got back yesterday,” I say starting to cry now because she won’t listen, “my brother needs my help to get away from Santa and his evil elves, he’s just a little guy,” I say as I keep looking at my hands not wanting to look at her in the eyes. “Chad this may be hard to understand, but you and your brother have both been very sick and you almost died,” she says with a tear in her eye. She wipes her eyes with a Kleenex and says, “ your doctor said I could take you to see Chris after we finish our talk, but I think we need to go up there now,” she tells me as she pushes the call button for the nurse. I look all around the room not sure what I expect to see, maybe some sort of answers, but all I see is the room, a TV, a chair, monitors IV’s going into my arm, just normal stuff. I look back at her and just sit there in a daze. The nurse comes in and the two ladies talk for a minute and then the nurse leaves. “Chad the nurse is getting a wheel chair, you are going up to the 5th floor in style,” she says trying to make me smile or something. When I don’t say anything for while, she says, “it’ll be ok, the doctors tell me your brother is doing well, he’s just not awake yet, but they are positive he will wake up soon.” I’m getting excited now and start to sit up and feel woozy and fall back down, “what’s wrong with me, I felt just fine a second ago, I say dazed. “Take it easy Chad,” she says, “you have been off your feet for a month already, you are going to be weak,” she informs me. The nurse shows up with a wheelchair and helps me into it, I’m so weak, I can hardly believe it. The nurse pushes me down the hallway and to an elevator with my IV on wheels next to me, this is strange, I think as look around at my environment. “Will I have to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” I ask afraid to hear the truth. “No,” the nurse says, “maybe another week give or two and you’ll get you strength back,” she says with a wink. I can’t stand it any longer and before I can stop myself I ask her, “why do you people keep winking at me?” And then cover my mouth and say, “sorry,” not sure why I’m apologizing, except it seems rude. “It’s ok,” she says, “it’s just something I have always done, does it bother you?” She asks. “No I just was wondering was all, no one ever winked at me so much before,” I claim, I can’t believe I said that, my mom would be so mad, that’s right my mom. “Why is my mom not here, is she with my brother in the coma place?” I ask. “Let’s not talk about that right now,” Mrs Jones tells me. We arrive at the intensive care unit and it looks like the other hallway, exempt there are a lot more windows looking into rooms with beds and all sorts of wires and computers. “Well hello Chad, welcome back, you are looking good,” she says looking me up and down. “Back?” I ask, ”I don’t remember you or this place,” I say as I look around for something familiar. “I am not surprised,” she says, “you were in a coma after all, I’m just happy to see you up and around,” she claims, “how are you doing?” She asks. “I feel weak and I got dizzy when I first sat up, but I’m ok now,” I admit. “Well that’s normal, it’ll pass and soon you’ll be back to your old self,” she says with a smile and a wink. What’s with all the winking? I wonder, maybe it’s some sort of job requirement or something. “Now Chad, your brother is still sleeping and he you might not recognize him, he will look different and will be hooked up to different machines, but don’t let that scare you, he’s still in there and many think people in comas can hear you, so say good things to him,” she tells me to prepare me. “Keep your visit short and don’t be scared, he is doing very well,” she claims, “he just didn’t wake up as soon as you,” she informs me. I’m wheeled in to his room and see a boy laying very still with a tube in his mouth and beeping in the background. He has an IV just like me, but that’s not Chris, it has to be Ben, “Ben?” I say just above a whisper. “That’s Chris,” Mrs Jones says, “remember the nurse said he might not recognize him at first, let’s get you closer so you can see him really close up,” she says as she pushes me closer. I hold my breath and tentatively reach my hand out to take his, I stop just inches away unsure and look at Mrs Jones questionably, she nods her head and I touch his hand. He is cold and I remember it’s never cold at the North Pole until you are ready to come back, that warms my heart so I turn to Mrs Jones and whisper, “he’s going to come back soon,” I tell her with determination in my voice, “you always feel the cold on your way back, don’t worry, he won’t be long now,” I say to her as she gets a confused look on her face, but she just nods her head. “Chris,” I say in a weak voice are you there you little fart?,” waiting for him to say, “don’t call me a little fart,” but he doesn’t even move. I look at his face and it’s blue, “why is his face so blue,” I ask, never taking my eyes off his face, “is it because he can feel the cold now?” I ask anyone who wants to answer. “He’s not cold, I promise you,” the nurse says, “he can’t feel anything right now, he just sleeping.” “But he has to feel the cold or he will never return to us,” I claim with much conviction, “don’t you understand,” I plead, “he has to be cold, he just has to,” and I start to cry. “ WHERE IS THE ICE MACHINE,” I scream, “WE NEED ICE, he has to be cold or he will never come back to me and it’ll be all my fault,” I say, my voice trailing off as my crying takes over. The nurse comes up and try’s to sooth me but I get even more angry and push her away, “why won’t you listen, we have cool him down, you don’t understand, I have to do this, I’m his only hope to save him,” I say uncontrollably, I’m starting to have trouble breathing, I can’t get enough air and I feel like I’m going explode. The nurse does something next to me and I start to get tired, “no,,, I say in a dwindling voice,,, no,,, let me go get ice, we need ice,,,,,,” I say as I fall asleep . “What happened?” I hear myself saying. “Welcome back,” I hear a familiar voice, “ I didn’t expect to see you again,” he says, “usually when one of us leaves it’s forever, but I’m glad you are back, Christmas is just around the corner and there is tons of work to do,” he claims. “Where’s Chris, I have to se him right away,” I demand, “it’s a matter of life and death. “Who’s Chris?” Ben asks. “My brother,” I say with impatience. “But I’m your brother,” he proclaims, “I’ve always been your brother.” “No your not,” I say, and see the hurt in his eyes, “this place is not the a North Pole, it’s a place called the intensive care unit of a hospital,” I inform him. “You’re lying,” he accuses me and then jumps down off his bed and starts to cry. I feel bad but I don’t have time for this right now, I’ve got to find a Chris before it’s too late. I run outside and am freezing as soon as I’m outside, “oh no,” I say to myself, “it’s too late I’m already feeling the cold.” Still I have to try and run as fast as I can to Santa’s house and begin banging on the door, not caring that everyone is looking at me. “Open up you kidnapped my Brother,” I yell at the top of my lungs. The door opens with a thud and I rush inside almost stepping on an elf in the process. I know where the big man is and make a beeline for his door, I don’t bother knocking, I just slam open the door and rush in and see Chris standing in from of Santa looking shocked. He looks to me and then to Santa with a confused look on his young face. He looks smaller than I remember, is he turning into an elf already? I wonder. “Chad,” Santa say clearly, “I knew you would return,” he claims, “I saved your job and you can return to life here without any problems,” he states as if I’m here to stay. “I’m not here to stay, I’m here for my brother,” I state plainly. “Your brother?,” he asks with a questionable look on his face, “we are all brothers here, don’t you know that by now?” He asks. “I mean Chris,” I say and point to him, “ he’s right there, how long have you had him?” I ask accusingly. “Had him?” He asks in a confused voice, “he has just arrived and is here on his own request,” he claims. “Oh like me?” I say, “did you promise to save my life if he agreed to be your slave too?,” I accuse. “Slave?,” he asks, “nonsense young elf”, he says. “And stop calling me an elf, I’m a boy and you know it,” I claim. “Ahhh, I see now,” Santa states, “so you have not returned,” he admits, “ I don’t know how you got back here, but it’s time for you to return,” he says and presses a button on his desk I had not noticed before. “Not without my brother,” I command. I feel sort of funny as the room gets all fuzzy and I feel like I’m getting sucked up to the ceiling and I see Santa and my brother watching me as I float away, “Chris, I’m sorry, I was a terrible brother,,, “ I say as I float farther away. “Feel the cold dear brother,,, remember feel the cold,” I say as I float up and away from the gingerbread house. I bolt upright in a hospital bed and see a nurse standing beside my bed with her hands on my chest, “shhhh, “ she coos, “it’s ok now, just relax, the we just gave you a slight sedative to calm you down,” she claims. “Where’s Chris,” I demand. “Your brother?, he’s still in intensive care, but he’s fine, just sleeping there’s no need to worry,” she reassures me. The doctor comes in and looks me over and asks, “are you ok young man? You gave us quite a scare there,” he states, “I’ve never seen anyone react like that,” he claims. “I want my mommy!” I demand, “ I want my mommy,” and keep says it as I lay back down, I keep saying it over and over again. “I’ll see what I can do,” the nurse says, but I don’t really pay attention to her as she leaves the room quietly. I start to cry quiet tears and wonder why this is happening to me. Why did I let Chris go outside, why didn’t I just insist he get dressed up all warm, he was my responsibility and I let him and my mom down, I just want to say sorry and explain what happened. I can’t even do that cause she hates me and won’t come see me because I killed Chris, he will never come back from the North Pole and the evil Santa, I wish I could go back and bring a machine gun and make Chris come back. The nurse comes in and I pretend to be asleep, she walks around and looks here and there, handling my IV and feeling my wrist and forehead and writing things down and then leaves. I realize that I’m all alone in the world now and that I better toughen up if I’m to survive, or maybe I can find my way back to the North Pole and live with my brother and be happy, even if I do forget him, I’m thinking as I start to drift off to sleep. I shake myself awake, this is no time to sleep, I have to do something, but what, I think. The so called doctors don’t know what’s going on and it’s up to me to save my brother or join him, I decide. I feel someone gently shaking me and calling my name. I open my eyes and realize I must have fallen asleep. “Wha,,,what’s going on?” I ask with a shaky voice. “It’s me, Sant and Chris needs your help,” he claims. That wakes me up and I sit bolt up right almost banging my head into Santa’s head. “Is Chris ok?” I ask. “He is just fine, but I don’t think he wants to stay,” Santa says with a smile on his face, “he’s like you and he wants to stay, but he is causing problems,” he tells me, “he wants to come back, but he is afraid.” He looks at me and sighs, “I am going to let you in on a secret that only I know,” he claims, “this secret if it got out would destroy Christmas for all the world, so I have to ask that you tell no one what I’m going to tell you now, do you agree?” He’s looking deep into my eyes and I consider if only for a moment, “yes, I agree, but this better not be a trick like the last time,” I tell him. “Oh no tricks, just the truth,” he promises, “and the truth is just between us, for Christmas’s sake,” he starts out by telling where he came from, “I was a boy a long time ago, I had a mum and a dad, I was very happy until one cold and stormy day,” he says with sadness in his face, “there was an accident, my carriage got stuck in the snow crossing a stream,” he recalls, “my dad did all he could to free us from the half frozen waters,” he tells with tears in his eyes, “he was not able to free the carriage, and it soon became obvious that we were stuck for good, we had to stay there till spring,” he says and sits down on my bed to rest. “We set up camp and made a fire, we spent the winter hunting and gathering,” he says remembering it more clearly now, “my dad and mum told us stories and played games with us, me, my three brothers and my baby sister,” he tells me with pride, “I was the second oldest, you see so it was my responsibility to watch over the younger ones when my dad went hunting, my older brother always went on the hunt with my dad,” he says with eyes getting a bit older looking as he tells his tail. “Then one time dad went on a hunt I was asked to come along and as you can imagine I was thrilled and almost jumped with joy to be able to on my first hunt,” he says with sadness in his voice, “ it was just me and my dad, we tracked a deer in the woods not far from our camp, when out of nowhere a wolf came out of the underbrush so close I could smell his foul breath,” he says as he stops and wipes his brow, “well I froze and not just from the cold, I was completely frozen with fear, I had a rifle, but I might as well have been naked for all the good it did me,” he says in an embarrassed voice.” He stops for a minute and I can see he is trying not to cry, “my dad got attacked and just stood there in fear, I didn’t run or yell or anything, my dad screamed and shot his gun, “ he recalls with sorrow, “ and that brought me out of my stupor, I raised my rifle and took quick aim and shot the wolf in the head, killed it with one shot,” he tells me with blankness in his eyes.” “That sounds scary,” I tell him, “so was your dad ok?,” I ask him feeling what he must feel. “Yes and no,” he tells me, confusing me a little, “you see and elf showed up and asked me they same question that your elf asked you,” he says with a small frown on his lips, “and as you can guess, I agreed just as you did young young Chad,” he reveals to me. “So you were tricked too?” I ask astonished, “but then if you know how it feels to be tricked, why did you trick me?,” I ask more confused than before. “I was not tricked and neither were you,” Santa informs me, “you see your memory of the events that brought you to the North Pole,” he admits with what seems like fear in his voice, “were forgotten, because at the North Pole, there is not sadness, or there is not supposed to be any sadness,” he informs me, “and the only way that is possible is to forget your past life, the good, the bad and everything else,” he admits with a heavy heart. “But why would you want to ever forget your family and friends and everything?” I ask him curiously. “Well you see if you don’t remember the past, then you will not miss your loved ones,” he states, “otherwise how could you ever be truly happy?,” he asks and just looks at me. “But I don’t want to forget my mom and especially not Chris,” I tell him wanting to break down and cry. “That was the problem with you and your brother,” he informs me, “you two are stronger than I ever was,” he tells me, “you see at some point in life at the North Pole, everyone there has a choice to make, stay there and be happy forever or return to your world with all the pain and live that comes with it,” he tells me with much sadness in his heart. “I decided to stay at the North Pole to avoid the pain because I knew was to blame for my dad getting killed and felt I could not face that,” he admits. “I decided that I should die in his place, so I stayed and was happy all the time,” he tells me in a jolly voice that suddenly that changes into a sorrowful voice, “I didn’t die in this world, at least not right away, I was sick with a fever and lasted several weeks until I decided to stay up north, “ he tells me. “I still missed this world so I Figured a way to travel back here using magic, but when I got back here I found out that all the pain comes back and I was over come and went to explore the houses of this world,” he explains “I saw the misery and sorrow and decided that I could help the kids of the world,” he tells me in a happy mood. “Is that when you became Santa?” I ask feeling excited. “First I had to go back to the North Pole and figure out how to do the impossible,” he says, “Because you see, I didn’t want to just help one or two kids or even a thousand, I wanted to help all the kids of the world,” he says with some pride. “How could you ever help all the kids, it must be like a million or more even,” I say with eyes wide. “Yes, that was the big problem, I was only one boy, I was not yet at that time the man I am today,” he reminds me, “I had a whole bunch of elves who like me left the other world behind for total happiness, each for their own reasons,” he tells me, “some had sad things in their young lives, some were abused or neglected, and many other reasons, but all of their own free will,” he tells me, “no one was kidnapped as you suspected. “But,” I start to say and Santa holds up one finger, and I open my mouth to say something, but stop and wait my mouth hanging open. “But,” he says, “your brother did not make any such deal with the elves , he got here another way,” he tells me. Closing my mouth I think of what this means, was I tricked or,,? Finding my voice again I say, “but I still don’t understand, if Chris didn’t make a deal with the elves or with you, why is he at the North Pole?” “That is the question,” he says with a satisfied look on his face, “I can see you are starting to understand young Chad,” he says with glee. “But I don’t understand anything,” I try to tell him. “I can’t stay much longer,” he tells me, “every minute I’m in your world,I get sadder and sadder, the only way to combat the sadness is to bring joy to the world,” he tells me, “I can only manage to stay in this world for short intervals or risk losing my ability to return up north, and if that happens Christmas will be over for the entire world,” he tells me with a heavy heart, “but I’ll be back, when I have had a chance to charge up my jolly meter,” he says with a wink. “Keep strong and never give up on your brother, no matter what anyone tells you,” he says as he fades away like the morning fog, the last thing I hear is “HO-HO-HO,” and then he is gone. “Well it looks like he’s awake,” the nurse says as she walks into my room, “and how are we feeling this morning?” She asks me as she feels my wrist. “Santa came to me this morning,” I tell her excitedly. “Wow,” she says, “that’s great, what did you ask him for?” “Ask him for?” I ask confused, “I didn’t ask him for anything, “He asked me to help Chris,” I tell her.
  13. I was up and all ready for another boring day in the 5th grade. I had put off my homework till this morning and was trying to divide 25 into 2314, what a stupid task, I thought as my mom walked into my room. “Chad darling,” she says with a tired look on her face, “school has been canceled because of all the snow, so you will have to take care of your self and your brother today,” she tells as she turns to leave, “There’s 20 dollars on the table in the hall for you on your brother, order a pizza for lunch,” she says with a distracted look on her face, “you two are on your own for breakfast,” she says from down the hall. I know the drill, my brother Chris can be such a big pain in my ass, I think to myself, loving that I can think all the bad words I want. I drag myself away from my homework that never got done and prepare myself for the day taking care of my baby brother, well he is almost 5 years old, but still, he can be such a baby. “I DON’T WANT TO GET DRESSED,” Chris yells from down the hall. This is going to such a great day, I think as I hurry up and get my coat on to go see the snow, the first snow of the year! “CHAD,” my mom yells for me from my brothers room, “ come in here.” “COMING ,”I yell back, as I hurry and zip my coat running to my brothers room, as I enter my brothers room and stop as my mom almost runs over me as she is leaving his room. “There you are young man,” she says, “I need you to get your brother dressed, I’m late for work and don’t have time to deal with him.” “But mom,” I plead, “I was going outside to see the snow.” “The snow will still be there,” she informs, me as if I don’t know this already, “be a good boy and help your brother, then you can go play in the snow and make sure you feed him and that he wears his coat and gloves,” she says, “and don’t get into trouble, Chris do what your brother says, he’s in charge till I get home,” she says and walks away with a smile on her face. I hear the front door close and I know this is going to be a great day. I turn to see my brother jumping on his bed totally naked. Geese, I think, he has no common sense. “Get down from there and let’s get get you dressed so we can go outside and make a snow man,” I tell him thinking he will surely want to go play in the fresh snow. “I don’t want to get dressed, it’s so much more fun to just go naked,” he says as he starts laughing. “But you have to do what I say,” I inform him in a strict voice, “Mom said so.” “Moms not here,” he reminds me. “Fine I say,” calling his bluff, “if you want to run around like Adam all day I don’t care,” I say figuring it’s easier this way, it works for mom. “Really?” he says, looking excited. “Sure, if you want to, but your going be very cold outside like that,” I inform him. I figure he will get dressed seeing the logic but, instead he jumps off the bed and runs down the hall naked as a jay bird to the kitchen. He is such a baby, I think as I follow him to the kitchen, taking off my coat and gloves as I go. “I want pancakes,” he whines. “You’ll eat what I give you,” I tell him what I hope is a firm voice. “Awww, you never let me have anything I want,” he complains. I ignore him and get the Fruit Loops and milk and sit down to breakfast. “Aren’t you cold, sitting there in your birthday suit?,” I ask while I eat as fast as I can. “Nahh,” he says with a mouth full of cereal, “besides now if I make a mess, I’ll clean up a lot easier than those stupid clothes,” he reasons and with a big smile on his face as he takes a spoon full of milk and dumps it in his lap and laughs. “CHRIS,” I say exasperated, “ why would you do something stupid like that,” I chastise him. He gets a hurt look on his face and before he can start balling, I say, “it’s ok, don’t cry,” and I get up and get a towel to clean him up. As I start to clean up the mess I say to him, “we can go build a snow fort and have snowball fights and have lots of fun, mom won’t be home all day and she left us a whole 20 dollars for lunch!” “Really?,” he says getting excited now, “I want to build a snow castle, with a moat and everything!” “Yes we can do all that and more, now let’s get you dressed,” I tell him hoping he stops this foolishness. “Awww do I have to get dressed?” He asks in a whinny voice, “we don’t even have school,” he informs me, “and besides you promised,” he says as he makes that puppy dog face. “OK, look,” I say, “if you really want to build a snow castle in your birthday suit, go ahead, but don’t come crying to me that you’re cold,” I have a big smile on my face knowing he is in for a BIG surprise. “I’ll get out coats,” I tell him. “No, you said I could go nakie,” he reminds me. “Well ok I’ll get my coat then,” I tell him, smiling and trying not to laugh. He stands there tapping his foot and his hands on his naked hips. “Hurry up already, geeze,” he complains “we will never get outside, you should go nakki too,” he says. He’s bouncing up and down looks very cute, the little shit is alright, I think as I watch him while I get all bundled up for the cold. I can’t wait till I open the door and watch him freak out in the snow. “Time to go, are you ready?” I ask him, trying to draw it out and build up his excitement. “YES,” he screams as he jumps up and gives me a big hug. “Hey get off me you Fag,” I say in a teasingly sort of way. “What’s a fag?”he asks curiously. “Never mind,” I say, “let’s go,” I say as I open up the front door and stand aside and just watch, this is going to be good, I think. He runs at full speed and leaps into the air like Superman and dives head first into the nearest snow bank and goes all the way in up to his waist, only his bottom is sticking out of the snow. He doesn’t move for a few seconds and then he starts to struggle and I hear a muffled cry of “help, I’m stuck.” My little brother always clowning around, I think as I walk over and grab him by the ankles and tug. “Owww, that hurst” he complains, “be careful,” comes a muffled cry. “Ok, hold on a second, you are really wedged in there,” I say as I try to figure out how get him out. “Well hurry up, it’s really cold in here,” he says in a shaky voice. “I told you not to go outside in the snow naked, but you wouldn’t listen, now look at you,” I say as I try to think fast. “How do I get you out of there,” I ask myself under my breath. “What did you say?” He asks me in his muffled voice. “Nothing,” I say, “ maybe I should call the fire department,” I say teasing him. “NO,” he screams at me, “ mom will kill me,” he sobs. “Don’t worry I won’t, i was just kidding,” I tell him trying to reassure him. “I’m going to grab you by the waist and you push with your hands and then we can get you out,” I tell him confidently. “On a count of three,” I tell him,,, ONE…TWO….THREE,” and give his waist a big tug. “Damn, you are slippery,” I say before I realize I used a bad word. My Hands slip down his waist and I am barely able to get a grip by lots of pressure on his lower tummy and tug with all my might. He pops out and we end up all tangled up. “Uggggg,,,,, get off me you fag,” I say as I realize that his ding-a-ling is right in my face. We slowly untangle our selves and he is laughing really hard and that makes me laugh and soon we are both doubled over hardly able to breathe. “Stop it,” I say, “do you still want to build a snow castle in the nude?” I ask him. “No,” he says sheepishly, “I want go inside I’m freezing,” he says with chattering teeth. “Ok come on then,” I say and take his hand and we go inside. I look around and see Tom our neighbor is watching with eyes as big as watermelons. I should say something, but what?, I think, but decide to just ignore him and head inside. Once inside I get out of my wet clothes and say we need to get you into the tub, it’ll warm you up,” I tell him. “I want go out and play,” he whines. “Bath first,” I insist. ”Fine,” he says reluctantly, “but then we get to go outside?” He asks with big eyes looking at me. “Yes, outside and play then,” I tell him, “but you have to get dressed.” “Ok,” he agrees, and we head up stairs to get him in the tub. I’m running the bath and he is shivering so I put a towel around him and rub him all over to warm him up. I think to myself, maybe I shouldn’t have let him go outside naked, but how was I to know the little fart would jump into a snow bank? He’s in the tub finally and his teeth have stopped chattering and now he has a runny nose, he looks like he getting sick. “Are you ok?” I ask him getting really concerned now. “I don’t feel so good,” he admits. “I’m sorry,” I tell him, “I should have never let you outside naked.” I think I’m going to be in big trouble when mom gets home. “Promise me that you won’t tell mom I let you go outside naked?” I tell him more than ask. “I won’t, but can we still go out and play?” he asks with a small voice. “I think we better get you in bed,” I tell him with concern in my voice. “I want to watch TV,” he says. “Ok, you can lay down on the couch,” I tell him, “ I’m getting your PJ’s, stay here, I’ll be right back,” I say as I run down the hall and find his Pjs. I get him settled on the couch with the remote and go to the kitchen to make some chicken soup, mom always makes that for me when I’m sick. I find the canned soup and make it nice and hot and realize that I have not heard the TV or anything from the living room. “Chris?” I say in a loud voice, but get no response. I forget the soup and run back to the living room and see Chris asleep on the couch. I feel his head and he is really hot. Shaking him I say” Chris, Chris, wake up,” but he doesn’t respond. Oh GOD, I think he’s dead, what do I do? I collapse on the floor in front of him and start to cry. I hear a voice through my tears and turn to see a little man staring at me. How strange, I think. “Who are you?” I ask more confused than ever. “I’m a Christmas elf,” he says with a toothy grin. “My brother is dead and I don’t know what to do,” I tell him through sobs, “and it’s all my fault,” I admit. “Nonsense child,” he says “he’s not dead and nothing is your fault,” he tries to reassure me. “He’s,,,he’s not?” I ask hesitantly, while I look at my brother laying still on the couch. “He is only sleeping and will wake as soon as I tell him to,” he claims. “Chris,” I say loudly and shake his shoulders. “Well what are you waiting for, tell him to wake up,” I demand. “Not so fast,”he says, “ there is the question of payment, nothing in life is free,” he informs me. He looks at me in a queer way, like I should know this. ‘Didn’t you parents ever teach you that basic lesson?” He asks in a weird voice. “I don’t have any money,” I say almost crying. “Money?,” he asks, “what do I want with money?” He says in a sarcastic way. “I will give you anything I have, what do you want?” I ask in a timid voice. “Will you really give anything?” He asks in a very serious tone. “Yes,” I proclaim in a strong voice. “Ok,” I’ll agree to those terms,” and offers his tiny hand, “shake on it he says” and spits in his palm and just looks at me waiting. I shrug and spit in my hand and shake his tiny hand. His hand is so tiny I am afraid I might crush it and when he lets my hand go I see his hand is completely covered with my spit, but I notice the spit is absorbed into his hand. He then walks over to Chris he leaps up on the couch because he is only 3 inches tall. “Chris,” he says in a soothing voice, “time to wake up now, you slept long enough,” he make a gesture over Chris’s head while chanting,”adfhygbbnj,,,,,fghhjjhgg,,,,,” and steps back. I rush to my brother’s side and shake him and again calling his name, “Chris, ,Chris,,, wake up”, I say, “please don’t be dead,” I plead, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for you to die,” I say as I’m crying. Chris wakes up and sad, “ I’m not dead, I’m hungry, can you make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” He looks at me and gets scared, “what’s the matter, don’t cry,” he says in a small voice, “I won’t be bad anymore, please don’t be mad.” I give him a big hug and ask, “you’re ok?, really?” “Get off me you fag,” Chris says and starts to laugh and that makes me laugh. After I stop laughing I look at him and say, “you don’t even know what a fag is,” and we both start laughing all over again. I look around suddenly remembering the little man, but he is nowhere to be seen. “What are you looking for?” He asks while he looks around as well. “Nothing,”I say as I feel his forehead, “ you seem fine to me,” I tell him. “Why wouldn’t I be fine and why am I in my Pjs?” He asks, confused. “Don’t you remember, you went out side to play in the snow in your birthday suit and got sick,” I say concerned. “Don’t be stupid, I would never do that, stop teasing me,” he says, “I’m hungry.” “You’re always hunger, come on let’s go eat you little fart,” I say as I give him a noogie. Nothing else special happens that day and I soon forget the little man, maybe I just made him up in my mind, I think, or at least until later that night when I’m awaken by a tapping on my head. “Whaaat?”I say irritated. “Time to pay up, or forfeit,” I hear a voice say. I bolt upright in bed looking all around. That was some dream I think to myself. I lay back down and once again a tapping on my head, “who’s there?,” I ask, not really expecting to get a reply. “Do you remember our deal?” The voice answers. “Why can’t I see you?” I ask while looking all around. “You will see me if you look,” the voice says. “I don’t see anyone….,” I say, but then I do see something or someone. “Do you remember our deal?” The voice asks again. “Yeah, I do” I respond, “what do you want, I’m tired.” “Come with me of your own free will,” the voice says. “I can barely see you,” I say. “Just hold your hand out and repeat after me,” the voice says. I hold my hand out feeling foolish and then I feel a warm hand on mine, “I go with this elf of my own choosing and my own desire,” I repeat the words and suddenly I’m not in bed anymore, I don’t feel dizzy or anything, I’m just not there anymore. “Where am I?” I ask, confused. “You are at the North Pole,” the little man says as he sits in the palm of my hand, “where did you think you were, the moon?” He says in a funny voice that makes me giggle. “How did I get here and why am I not cold, there’s snow everywhere,” I ask looking all around. I find myself standing in a clearing of snow and other little men running around and children like me dancing and playing. There is the largest Christmas tree I have ever seen, I get dizzy looking up at it, it must go up for miles, I think. There are hundreds of Christmas presents under the tree. “Wow,” I say, “you mean Santa Clause really is real and his elves and his slay, where is his slay, and can I meet Santa and,,,,,,” “Hold on there Chad,” he says, “take a breath, one question at a time,” he chuckles, “you’ll hyperventilate. I look into my hand an see the little man just sitting there with a big smile on his face, waiting for me to catch my breath. I finally take a deep breath and he continues, “you got here by magic, only the magic of a child can get you here,” he tells me. I start to say something but he holds up his tiny hand to my mouth. “You have been brought here because you failed to take care of your brother, he almost died and you should have known better,” he tells me cruelty. I start to feel sad, but suddenly it does not seem to matter, I am scared that I could feel this way, but then almost as soon as I start to feel anything negative, I feel good. “What’s happening to me ?,” I ask, “why can’t I feel anything except happiness, I mean I guess it’s ok, but it’s weird is what I mean.” “You are here because you are here and can be no other place except where you are,” he says in a mysterious voice. “What is that supposed to mean,” I say irritated, but then find I am no longer irritated. I feel like I have work to do, I think. “ I need to get to work, so much to do, so little time,” I say in a voice that I hardly recognize. I look down at my hands and is it my imagination or have my hands always been this small?, I wonder and then quickly dismiss that foolish idea. “Show me my work station,” I tell the elf in my palm, is he getting bigger?, I wonder as I set him gently on the ground. “Very good young Chad,” he says, “follow me,” and walks off to a little house. I’m told to make I-Phones and I-Phone accessories. “Umm,” I start, “how do I make,,,,” but then stop myself, realizing that I know exactly how to make them, it’s easy a little magic here and a little love there and presto, an I-Phone. I quickly get to work thinking only happy thoughts. A whistle blows after several hours, but it feels like only 10 minutes have passed. “Hi there,” I say as I walk over to the break area, “ I’m new here, I’m Chad,, I think,” strange my name seems weird, almost like it’s not my own, I think as I grab a mug of egg nog. “I love this stuff,” I say as everyone stares at me. “What?” I say, wondering what’s up. “It’s just that you are so big,” a elf says. “Shhh,,” another says as she puts her finger over her mouth, “you know we can’t talk about that, not here,” she says in a hushed voice. “Break times over, everyone back to work,” comes a voice over the loudspeakers. I head back to make more things for good little boys and girls and have a second to think, what was that about me being big?, oh well never mind, too much, too much to do, too little time, “hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work I go,” I sing to myself. Hmmmm,,now where did I pick up that song? I wonder as I quickly get into the swing of things. “BUZZZZZZZZZ,,,,BUZZZZZZZZZ” I hear from somewhere, “where is that coming from?” I ask myself. I look around and see a candy cane that is lighting up with the buzzing sounds. “Oh that’s right,” I say to myself, “how could I forget!, it’s the Santa phone.” I pick it up and say “hello?” “This is dingle,” says the voice on the other end,” I need to see you in my office right away.” Then he hangs up, strange, I think, who is this dingle elf anyway?” Well no worries, I better go see what he wants, I think to my self as I make my way out of the cottage. I get half way to dingles office before I realize that I have never met him and have no idea where his office is. “Am I losing my mind?” I say to no one in particular, as I continue down the gummy drop lane. There’s something about gummy drops that I used to know, I think. “Didn’t some I knew love gummy drops?” I ask myself. It’s on the tip of my tongue, Chris?, but who’s that?, I just can’t quite remember, oh well maybe it’ll come to me later. “Hello?” I say as I open the ginger bread door to the head elf’s office. There is no one here, there should be someone here, I was sure. “I’ll be right there,” I hear from a voice from behind the desk, “I look but I don’t see anyone, anywhere. “I’ll just sit down then,” I say, “I’ve been working all day, busy, busy, ya know with the big day coming up so soon.” A tiny elf walks around the tea cup and surprises me, I jump out of my seat and almost screech. “Sorry I didn’t mean to scare you young elf,” he says. “Oh it’s ok, I was just surprised, I didn’t see you th,,,,,,wait,” I interrupt myself, “ what did you call me?,” not sure if I head right. “Young elf,” he says, “that’s what you are, aren’t you?,” he asks, eye brows raised. “Ummmmm, I’m not a elf, I’m a boy, I think,” I say unsure of even that. “Nonsense, young elf, where did you get such a ridiculous idea,” he say with a hint of irritation in his voice, “ have been talking to Prancer again?,” he asks, “I’m going have talk with him, he is such a jokester, but this time he has gone too far.” “Prancer?,” I ask perplexed, “ no I haven’t been talking to anyone except the other elves,” I say. “I do recall that Jenny said I was really big, but that’s all,” I say hesitation in my voice. I pause just looking at him and waiting on know, “am I’m big?” I ask starting to worry that something is not quite right “Never mind,” he says flatly, “hows work going?” He asks, changing the subject. “It’s good, I’m ahead of schedule and feel happy, come to think of it I’m always happy?,” I ask more than I say. I think for a minute and then before I can stop myself, I say,” are you happy all the time?” “Of course,” he says like it’s the most normal thing in the world, “why wouldn’t I be?” He says as he is looking me over from head to toe. I think about it for a minute and I don’t know what to say so I just say,”I don’t know, but it feels like I’m forgetting something very important,” I confess. “Pish paush,” he says, “ everything is as it should be, unless,,,,”, he says and stops before he goes on, “no that’s not possible, never mind,,” he says. He thinks for a minute and then says, “head home and get a good days sleep and we will see you yesterday,” he says and then waves his hand n a go away gesture. I turn to leave and I stop, my hand on the door knob, “what did you just say?,” I ask, “did you just tell me to get a good days sleep and you’ll see me yesterday?” I ask, thinking this is all backwards. “What?,” he says, “don’t be silly young boy, I have way too much work,” he tells me, “I don’t have time to chit chatter with the likes of you,” he says sharply. “ you are dismissed,” and walks away behind the tea cup. “That was strange,” I say to myself, “I know tomorrow is not yesterday and that I should be sleeping at night, I think?” I’ll have to give this some more thought, I think to myself as I walk to my home that’s not my home, “wait,” I say to myself, “there it is again, that feeling that something is not right, or is it?”I question myself. Did he call me young elf and then later call me young boy, I wonder as I walk along the gummy drop lane. “Boy, it’s starting to get cold, I must have forgotten to put on my coat, I think without even realizing that I never needed a coat before. “Mom I’m home,” I say as I open the door to a gingerbread house I live in. “Mom?” I say louder, I wonder where she is. I hear several voices as I walk into the kitchen and for a minute I see a boy all bundled up in blankets with a blue face and men all standing around him and murmuring back and forth. “What’s going on here,” I say as the door shuts behind me. Ben looks up from his pudding and says “welcome home Chad.” “Oh hi Ben,” I say hesitantly, not sure where I know him from. “I have had the weirdest day every,” I say, looking around at the kitchen I’m in, it’s not my kitchen, it’s made of candy and ice cream fountains, this should be weird, but the wired part was that other kitchen I thought I saw, I must have over worked today I think to my self as I sit down on a toad stool. “Who were you calling to when you came?” he asks. “My mom, isn’t she here?” I say as I realize I don’t have a mother, elves don’t have mothers, do they? Be gets a strange look on his face and says, “You know we have forget all that nonsense stuff from when we used to make up stories as young unns, I need to get some air, I’m going out to the great tree,” he says, “why don’t you join me?”he asks me. “Yeah, that’s what I need some fresh air, the smell of all those wet clothes is enough to drive me crazy,” I say as I turn to head to the door. “Chad?” Ben calls to me, “are you doing ok?, there are no wet clothes here,” he informs me with a worried look on his face. I turn around to tell him I’m fine when I suddenly see a boy in his place, a blond haired 5 year old boys with a smile that would melt anyone’s heart, I run to him and plead with him not to play outside in his birthday suit. “Chris, NO, you can’t go out there, PLEASE, PLEASE, DON’T GO,” I beg holding him as tight as I can. “I won’t ever call you names again and I’ll never be mean to you again, in fact you can be mean to me if you like, just don’t go out side,” I say as I collapse on the floor. I open my eyes and see a curtain and a brown ceiling. I try to sit up and something is holding me in place. “HEY!” I yell. I wait for a little bit and try again, “I SAID HELLO?” a little bit less forceful, a elf stands next to the bed, he is a bigger elf than I usually see. “Well I see you are awake,” he says. “Well DUH,,,” I say sarcastically, “what happened?” I ask. “You collapsed in you home.” He informs me while looking at a clip board. “Wait, where is my home?” I ask confused, “ my real home or my,,, ummm,, North Pole home?” I ask uncertainty. “Oh dear me, oh dear me,” he says as he runs out of the room. “Come back, why am I tied down,,, “ I say to myself, realizing that I’m once again alone. I have some time to think and I remembered something about Chris, was that his name? I’m not sure but didn’t he freeze outside?, no that’s silly no one freezes outside, right? I wish someone was here to answer my questions. “Chad?” I hear a pleasant voice calling to me, it’s familiar, but who is it? “It’s me, you friend ,Ben, remember me?” he says in a quiet voice. I look up and see my elf friend Ben, “Ben, oh thank GOD you’re here,” I say relived at last. “I’ve had the most terrible dream,” I tell him. “I dreamed that I froze to death or was it someone else, anyway,” I say, “I know that sounds weird and everything, I mean no one gets cold or ever freezes, but it was so real,” I tell him and realize I’m crying. “Chad,” he starts, “I need to tell you something,,” “No, don’t say it, whatever it is I don’t want to hear it, I just want to be happy again, I can’t take the pain,” I say interrupting him, “you don’t know what’s it like, to feel like that, I should have been the one that died it was all my fault,” I say through tears. I burrow my face in my hands and weep uncontrollably. Ben puts his arms around my shoulder and it feels nice, but…, “Ben, can I ask you something ?” I say, “and be honest with me, are we elves?” “Of course we are, but I don’t think we started out that way, I mean I was just here, kinda like you I guess,” he admits, “oh no, I’m sorry please don’t say anything I wasn’t supposed to say that, I’ve always been so stupid,” he tells me with a look in his eyes, of fear? “I have to go, the big man is coming and I don’t want to be here when he gets here,” and as he is leaving he says,” get better and remember no matter what, I’m always your friend,” he says as the door swings shut. The door creeks open slowly and a shadow appears over my chest, I look up and see an out line of a very large man. He looks scary, but also not scary and I’m unsure how to react. I just lay there completely still and close my eyes, maybe if he thinks I’m asleep he’ll go away. “Chad,” he says in a husky voice, “I know you’re awake.” He waits and I keep my eyes shut, after a short while he says “ OK, you can just listen for now, I know what you are going through, I’ve been there myself,” he admits, “and it can be very scary and confusing.” “Wh,,who ,,, are,, you?” I say afraid he might be my worst nightmare. I try to sit up but I’m still tied down. “I’m Santa of course, but you already know that, we met only a month ago,” he says like it’s really true, and in a strange sort of way I believe him. “You look like I’m crazy,” he says in a half joking, half serious voice. “Wait a minute, are you says that Santa kidnapped me?”asking him, not wanting to believe such a thing. “Well yes and no, you are here so if you look at in that way, then yes I kidnapped you,” he admits, “but since you volunteered to come here then I didn’t kidnap you,” he says, “ now do you understand?” He asks. “Oh sure that makes it as clear as mud, thanks for everything,” I tell him sarcastically, “ you kidnapped me, because I would never have agreed to go with an old fart like you, heck, you don’t even look like Santa,” I say with full convection. “If you say I kidnapped you then maybe I did, but I didn’t kidnap you at first, you volunteered, but you are here so maybe I did and maybe I didn’t,” says in a sing song voice, “ the only thing I can tell you is you are here and not there and that is a fact,” he says in his irritating way. “Why won’t anyone give me straight answers and if I’m not kidnapped, why am I tied to the bed?” I ask with my eyes narrowed. He looks down at me and says,” your not tied to the bed young boy,” he says happily, “what ever gave you that idea?,” I pull my arms up as hard as I can and almost fall out of the bed, the only thing that keeps me from falling is Santa catching me, “careful there, Chad, I wouldn’t want to to fall,” he says with a smile on his face. “Hey, “ I say, “how did you do that, I was tied to the bed just a minute ago,” I claim. I know I was tied down, but I’m not now, what is he try to do drive me crazy, I think. “Chad, you wrote a letter to me about 2 months ago,” he claims, “do you remember?” He asks as he opens his coat and withdraws a folded piece of paper. I stare at it horror, I’m afraid of that piece of paper, I tremble looking at it. “Get it away from me,” I want to scream, but my voice seems to be stolen from me, because all that comes out is a whisper. He hands me the paper and steps back. I stare at the letter knowing what it is even before I open it and read. “I don’t want to read this,” I tell him, “ take it back,” I say as I hand it to him. He refuses to take it. “Go ahead and read it,” he tells me in a serious tone of voice, “ it’s what you wanted,” he tells me straight up. I read it slowly and look up at him with horror and start to speak, but no words come out. “Why?” Is all I can manage to say as I break down and cry. “There are some things that are out of even my magical hands,” he says with much sorrow in his voice.
  14. A young boy visits the North Pole and discovers it is not what everyone says it is. He finds dark mysterious forces and the real secret behind Santa and the elves. He could never have imagined the North Pole could be like this, will he ever be able to look at Christmas the same again?
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