Page 54 - WCM 2022 Winter
P. 54

 “Have you seen Kyle?” she asked as she walked toward me. “I thought I heard him over here.”
“Yeah, he was just here looking for you,” I replied. She looked tired, haggard. She might have been pretty, if not for the haunted look on her face, and the deep bags under her eyes.
“Just missed him I guess.” She sighed, and turned back to the house.
“Um ... I love your garden. It is absolutely breath- taking,” I stammered awkwardly.
Samantha smiled, her eyes so sad. “Plants are life,” she stated. “Life is love. You tend to the things that you love. What else is there in life?”
It was a little profound to say the least. The secret of life summed up in a few simple words. The woman turned to leave.
“Hey!” I called out as she walked away. She stopped and turned back to me with a questioning, expectant look in her weary eyes.
“Uh, are you OK?” I asked her. It was a spontaneous question that just came out of me. She paused and then nodded, a tiny forced smile on her thin lips.
“I’m fine,” she finally answered, “thank you.”
“If you need anything, just give me a holler,” I told her. “I’m ... handy with things. Machinist.”
“Thank you,” she said again softly, and turned back to the house. I watched her reach the door and go inside. This was by far the longest conversation I had ever had with the woman. And I felt so bad for little Kyle. It was obvious that he was neglected.
The black flies were unbearable that year. Every year is a lousy year, really. Those little flying teeth always ruin spring, but that year they were particularly horrid. They made the annual yard clean-up truly intolerable for everyone.
My house had scads of huge oak trees growing along the road, and the lawn was completely covered with their leaves. If not cleaned up, they would surely kill the grass. Something about tannic acid. That’s what my landlord told me, anyway; I’d never had a yard to clean before. I braved the black flies as best I could while trying to get the yard in shape. They were unreal. I had maybe a twenty minute window before they became too horrid to bear. There was nothing that would deter them. I covered myself in DEET, all to no avail. It actually seemed to make it worse, as if they liked the taste of it. A human A-1 sauce.
As I attempted one of my frontal assaults on the leaves and black flies one weekend morning, I saw Kyle, again playing with his cars in the dirt. I watched him
out of the corner of my eye as I raked frantically, maybe ten more minutes until the swarm fully engulfed me.
Then something odd struck me: the kid didn’t seem to be bothered by black flies at all. I stopped raking and studied him. Already the hoard had arrived to drain me of my lifeblood. The endless number of them was starting to actually interfere with my vision. Yet here was this child, playing in the dirt with his cars (blue truck crashing into the red car), completely unaffected by them. I swatted in vain at the tiny airborne leeches as I made my way across the yard to him.
“Hey little dude, how’s it going?” I asked him.
Kyle looked up at me. “Hey Thomas.” There were no black flies around him. None.
“What’s your secret?” I inquired. He stared at me blankly. I clarified. “The black flies. They’re eating me alive. How can you even stay out here?”
Kyle shrugged. “I dunno. They don’t like me I guess. They used to bite me terrible. But ever since the accident ...”
I didn’t press him. This was something so far out of my element that I didn’t dare. Finally, I just said, “well I’m jealous. Let me know if you figure out your secret.”
The boy nodded solemnly and went back to his cars, crash-crash, in his Skrillex t-shirt. I watched for a couple of seconds, swatting the flying fanged parasites, and then curiosity got the best of me. The question just blurted out of my mouth.
“What you got going on there, little buddy?”
Without looking up, Kyle responded, “This is Crash Mountain. Crashes happen here. All day every day. Over and over.”
With that statement, his hand smashed the blue truck into the red car one more time. The red car was pushed off the embankment of the miniature road and rolled down the hill. Kyle’s fingers helped it flip dramatically. It came to rest on its roof.
It was disconcerting to watch, and the black flies had become unbearable. Frowning, I retreated to my house.
It went on like this for half the summer. The boy and his mother were like two marbles rolling around one another. Kyle was eternally smashing his cars on Crash Mountain, and Samantha was always laboring in her gardens. And they always seemed to be looking for each other - it was weird.
And then one night ... one night ... I will always remember it. Maybe mid to late July. The weather was angry, but off in the distance. There was thunder and lightning off to the north, but in Paris, the night was
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