General, Ramblings

Post-NaNo: Looking to the Future

It’s been almost one month since I finished NanoWriMo, and the first draft of my novel, The Garden and the Graveyard.

That feels good to say.

But in all honesty, although it is a huge personal accomplishment, in the long term, not a big deal. I plan on writing many more first drafts, and seconds, and thirds…

During my absence this December I have continued to write. Short stories, mostly. It’s felt good to empty my head and work without a deadline for a while, but it’s about time I get back to it. I wanted to keep my eyes away from the story so that I can come back at it with fresh eyes, and a red pen in hand.

I hope to have finished my first round of revisions by the end of January, and send copies to one or two of my most trusted readers (you know who you are). Depending on the feedback I get, and how I’m feeling about the story, I expect to do one more final draft, before I publish it as an ebook for purchase.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about publishing, and how I want to go about doing it, and I haven’t come up with any concrete solutions so far. Right now I’m thinking I’ll be doing a mix of publishing my ebooks on amazon, and setting up an online store for my short stories.

With all of these aspirations of self-publishing, I’ve decided to move my blog here from worpress.com to wordpress.org, so that I can have more control over my work, and more options as I look to the future. I’m still in the process of setting up my domain, and figuring out how to move all of my content there, while keeping my subscribers (I won’t leave you all behind, I promise).

I’m hoping to get everything up and running by the time the new year rolls around, but that may be a bit optimistic. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.

Until then, stay in touch, and don’t abandon me. I know I’m not the most consistent when it comes to posting new content, but I’m getting better at it. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff with makeshift wings, and I’m too scared to take the plunge for fear of falling.

Now, take a deep breath.

Here’s to the future.

And jump.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Sequentials

NaNoWriMo: Day 19

I had never been treated like that before. Sure, I had been spanked, I assumed all kids had, and the spanking put a fear in me, and made me listen more closely to what I was told, and be careful not to defy my parents in loud or annoying ways. But this was different than a disciplinary spanking. I hadn’t done anything wrong, or deserving of any real punishment. Maybe a stern talking-to, but never anything so violent. My own mother had been turned against me. She never would have hurt me like that before.

After a while the pain subsided, and I sat on the floor, and thought about what I could do. Ms. Cleary couldn’t help me. I was by myself, and completely alone. If I did nothing, nothing would change.

I had to get out of that house. If I could somehow escape without my uncle noticing, I could make a break for Ms. Cleary’s next door. Then she would know what to do. Then she would help me.

I waited in my room, and played the part of the defeated child. I laid down on my bed, and read my book, and I was quiet as a mouse. I did not try to leave, and I did not so much as sneeze. Dinner time came and went, and I was certain that my uncle was testing me, waiting to see when I would cave, and come out, demanding food. My stomach gurgled and clenched, telling me to eat, but I ignored it. I was not going to let him win this waiting game.

Dinner time came and went. I could smell what my mother had cooked, but I couldn’t pin down exactly what it was. It smelled like so many delicious things. I waited another hour. I could no longer concentrate on the words on the page. All I could think about was food. Greasy cheeseburgers and golden-brown french fries, piles of mashed potatoes and pounds of spaghetti. My mouth watered. I could not wait any longer.

I opened my door and crept out into the hallway. The television was on, and I could hear explosions and gunfire. Some action movie, probably. My uncle was still sitting on the couch. There was a pile of cigarette butts laying on the ground, and the air was hazy. My mother sat curled up next to him on the couch, her head resting on his shoulder. She looked up as I entered the room.

“Sweetie?” she said, raising her head. “What do you want?”

“I’m hungry. Can I have some dinner?” I tried to look as sad and remorseful as I could, and kept my head down, eyes lowered, and clasped my hands behind my back.

My uncle spoke up, “You’re too late. We already ate. You don’t just get to eat whenever you want to in this house. We eat together, as a family.”

“I’m sorry,” I managed. I had to force the words out. “I thought that I was still in trouble, and not allowed to have dinner.”

“You are,” he said. “And you wouldn’t have been. But I’ll tell you what.” He stood up, and stepped into the middle of the living room. “I’ll let you have some dinner. All you have to do, is come here and give me a hug. Ask for your dinner again, and call me dad.” He smiled at me, but I could see that his eyes were still hard as steel. They twinkled, turning his innocent smile into a callous smirk.

He knew what he was doing. I had missed lunch too, and my body was screaming out for food. I knew that I had to lower his guard, to make him think that he had won. So I walked over to him, slowly, and I did a thing that made me want to cringe and run away. I hugged my uncle. He crouched down to my level, and embraced me, squeezing me hard against his soft flesh.

“Can I have dinner now? Dad.”

He stayed crouched low, released me from the hug, and held my shoulders, looking me in the eye. “Yes you may, son,” he said. “But there aren’t any leftovers. I ate them all. You’ll have to go make yourself a sandwich, or some cereal.”

“Okay.” My legs felt like jelly.

My uncle stood up again, and returned to the sofa. “Oh,” he added. “Don’t forget to wash the dishes from supper. There are pots and pans that need scraping, too.”

I turned and went into the kitchen. I wanted to punch something. I wanted to take those dirty pots and dishes and smash them on the floor with a great clanging sound until they all broke. My hands were clenched into fists, and my fingernails dug in my palms until I could feel them cutting into my skin. I placed my hands on the counter, and took some deep breaths, arms stretched out and leaning, face staring down at the linoleum floor.

Again, hunger was the thing that moved me to action. I opened the cupboard, grabbed the bread, and fixed myself yet another peanut butter sandwich. I grabbed some grapes from the refrigerator, a jar of peanuts, and poured a glass of cold milk. I didn’t even take my food to the table, but stood there at the counter where I had prepared it, and inhaled the sandwich as fast as I could. I hardly tasted any of it, but soon enough, it was all down.

It is amazing how much clarity a full stomach brings to the mind. I instantly regretted calling my uncle dad, and hugging him as well, but there had been no other way. I could have pleaded to my mother I suppose, but she would have denied me as well, with one word from my uncle. But at least now I was fed, and I could think more clearly. I knew how I was going to escape.

I took my dishes to the sink and put them in with the rest. Then I turned on the faucet all the way. The gushing water filled my ears, and splashed loudly in the metal sink. I put the stopper in the sink, and squeezed dish soap into the slow-rising water. Between the noise of the running water, and the sounds coming from the TV, they would never hear me leaving out the back door.

The biggest risk would be the moment I left. The back door was next to the dining room table, and could be seen from the couch in the living room. I would have to somehow sneak out without being noticed by either my uncle or my mother. The TV would give me an advantage. Their eyes would be glued to it. But I was not sure how perceptive the boggart was, or if he suspected me to try anything.

I decided to play it safe. There were still some dishes left on the table, and when I went to pick them up, I stole a glance into the other room. They were both sitting there, as they had been, staring at the screen.

They hadn’t noticed me looking. Now was my chance. I left the dishes on the counter, and creeped toward the back door. I turned the handle. It was locked, and made the infuriating clicking sound that all locked doors shared. I turned raised lock on the handle, unlocked it, and slowly pushed the screen door open. It usually squeaked, unless you either opened it either very fast, or gentle and easy. I chose what I thought to be the safer road.

The door had opened just enough for me to stick a foot out, when I heard a voice behind me.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” It was my uncle’s voice, and I knew that when I turned around he would be standing right there. So I didn’t. Instead I bolted out into the back yard, slamming the door behind me, hoping to hit him with it and slow him down.

I heard him yelling something at me, but I was already heading straight toward Ms. Cleary’s tall wooden fence. The door slammed, and then I heard it open a second later, and then slam again. Then I heard my uncle moving in the yard behind me. It wasn’t dark yet, and he could see me clearly. There wasn’t anywhere to hide.

As I approached the fence I realized that trying to climb it would be impossible. I would not get halfway up before my uncle pulled me down again. I turned my head from side to side, trying to decide which way to run. To my right was the hedge, tall and thorny and dense. To my left at the back of the yard was our own smaller, metal fence. I could hop over that, if I could reach it.

Left it was. I veered away from Ms. Cleary’s wooden fence. My uncle was right behind me, but hadn’t expected the sudden change in direction, and fumbled for a moment. I blew past him, sprinting as fast as I could.

Our yard wasn’t that big, and I reached the fence in a matter of seconds. My breath was coming in gasps. I put both hands on the top bar of the fence, and hiked a leg up and over. I paused at the top, one hand still holding onto the rail, in between the folded wires that poked up, and glanced back.

My uncle was sprinting towards me, moving faster than a man his size should be able to. He was charging like a rhino on a warpath, and I had to get down and away, quick.

I hopped over the fence, and was yanked back by a tugging on my sleeve. It was caught on one of the wires on the fence. My uncle was still running, very close now. I panicked, and yanked at it, trying to rip the cloth. I couldn’t get it loose. I started trying to take it off, but was at an awkward angle. My eyes welled with tears.

My uncle slowed to a trot as he reached the fence, breathing heavily. Then he reached a hand over, and grabbed my arm like a steel clamp, and I knew that it was all over.

Sequentials

NaNoWriMo: Day 12

I tried talking to my mother. There had to be a way out of this. “I don’t want him to come over tomorrow,” I said. “I was going to go play with Clara next door again.”

My mother frowned. “I thought I told you you weren’t going over there again. Not after what they let happen to your hand.”

I held up my hand for inspection. It was still wrapped in the gauze, and I began to take it off. “No, it’s all better now, see? Ms. Cleary fixed it.” It had improved in the little time since Ms. Cleary had taken out the heartstone. The swelling had gone down significantly, and while it was still slightly pink, it no longer looked infected or abnormally discolored.

My mother leaned down to look at it. “Hmm,” she said. “It isn’t swollen anymore, that’s good. Keep the bandage on honey.” She wrapped the gauze back around my hand. “I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that a dirty leaf helped it more than standard first-aid. It’s only better now because I took that gross thing off, so you’re welcome.”

I thought about just taking my chances, and telling her everything that had really happened then, but I remembered what Ms. Cleary had told me, and knew that she was right, and trusted in her. My mother would not believe me. She, like almost all of the adults I knew, was certain that she already understood everything about the world, and was incapable of having her foundations shaken, especially by a little boy, and most especially when that little boy was her own son.

“And what do we say, when someone does something nice for us, even if we don’t appreciate it?”

“Thank you,” I said.

She nodded. “And that’s exactly what you’ll say to your Uncle Martin tomorrow. He’s taking the rest of the week off from work. Just so he can help you build your treehouse. That’s how nice he is being to you, so you make sure and thank him.”

“Okay,” I said. “I will.” I would not. I would not thank him, not ever, because I knew that the thing that was coming over tomorrow would not be my uncle. And I would not let him in, when he came, and he would be stuck outside all day, where he could  never come inside to get me.

“You’d better be. And I don’t want to hear any stories from him about you being naughty. You two had such a good time together today, I’m sure you’ll have even more fun tomorrow.”

“Can I go play outside, please?” I asked, It was only eight o’clock, and it was still light out. The sun wouldn’t go down until sometime after nine. Considering how nice my mother was trying to be to me that night, I was near-certain that I could get away with staying up a little past my bedtime, so long as I stopped arguing with her.

She smiled at me. “Of course you can,” she said. “That’s what summer nights are for, go get some fresh air.”

I went out the back screen door in the kitchen, and into the backyard. Ours was about the same size as Ms. Cleary’s, but enclosed by a metal, chain-link fence half as tall. Between the two fences was a narrow strip of grass that ran into the hedge in the front.

The yard felt both larger and smaller than Ms. Cleary’s garden. There was more space to roam around, enough room for a swingset or vegetable patch if we wanted, but there was nothing in it now. Only bare grass with a few trees scattered about, in a perfect rectangle of a yard. I could see everything that was in it, and that was what made it seem small, and boring. Over the high wooden fence next door I could see the tips of flowers and plants and trees, and I remembered what it was like in that garden. The tangle of wildlife was like being in a jungle, you couldn’t see the borders of the fence, and it seemed like it could just go on forever. That was what I really wanted to play and explore in.

Instead, I walked along the edge of our fence, kicking at dirt and looking out across to other yards. We had one tree, a smallish maple, that looked good for climbing. I went over to it and hoisted myself up and onto the first branch, shoes scraping against the bark. The evening air was cooling, and pleasantly warm, and I climbed into the middle of the tree, where many branches sprouted from, and joined into one. I sat there, and picked at leaves and tiny branches, until the fireflies came out.

I loved catching fireflies. It was my favorite outdoor summer activity. While I was still sitting in the tree, one flew over, and landed on my arm. I watched it crawl along, moving toward my hand, and remained perfectly still, so as not to disturb it.

The firefly’s wings were black, and closed to resemble a shell like a beetle’s, with a thin yellow stripe running down the middle. Its head was red, and it had long antennae, that twitched and probed as it inched forward. It wasn’t lit up, the butt a pale yellow. I wondered what made them shine, had seen children at school smashing them with shoes, scraping neon green smears across the pavement, but I didn’t want to have to  kill them to find out.

I cupped a hand over the firefly, and trapped him in a closed fist. Then, I jumped down from the tree and went back inside, found a glass mason jar, and plopped the insect in. That was one. I looked out at the yard again, and saw flickering yellow bulbs, blinking in hesitant rhythm.

The chase was on.

I left the mason jar in the grass, and was running around in the yard like a maniac, arms flailing, trying to grab as many fireflies as I could at once. I knew this was not the best strategy to go about, but it was how I always began. It was like a ritual dance. This was how they were meant to be chased. The wind tore through my hair, and there was not a thing on my mind except the swarm of lightning bugs all around me, and it was good.

I ran out of steam shortly, and slowed to a walk, panting in the night air, which now felt warmer for all the running about. Then I went about with the easy way to catch them. I walked slowly around the yard, in the general vicinity of a cluster of them, and I let them come to me. Fireflies were friendly and trusting, far too trusting for little boys, who either wanted to squash them across the ground or in their fingers, or trap them in jars and keep personal nightlights until they all died. I was one of the latter, but felt no shame because of it. In my mind, this is what fireflies were made for, though I tried not to let mine die.

I managed to grab three or four of them, before the others became suspicious and flew away, and I went over to my mason jar. I had to be careful not to let the one that was already in there out, blocking it from leaving with the same hand that ushered the new ones in.

I caught eight more fireflies before my mother called for me to come back inside. It was getting darker now, and the sun was low in the sky, threatening to dip down below the horizon in just a matter of minutes. I put the last couple lightning bugs in the mason jar, closed the lid tight, and brought it with me inside. I showed it to my mother.

“Very nice,” she said. “Are they going to keep you company tonight?”

I nodded, and went down the hall to my room, and placed the glowing mason jar on my nightstand. Then I went through the normal, not yet monotonous routine of getting ready for bed, putting on my pajamas, and brushing my teeth, and making sure to go to the bathroom so that I would not wake up in the middle of the night.

That night was hot. My mother had mentioned that a heat wave was coming on, and that it would only get hotter as the week wore on. She came in my room to tuck me in bed, and when she left she turned off the light and set the overhead fan on, so that it blew around the hot air, creating a nice breeze, so that it was no longer like another blanket that I could not escape from. I lay in bed with only a thin sheet covering me. Both the sheet and my pillow were cool on my body and head.

I turned onto my side, and faced the my makeshift nightlight. The light from the jar pulsed and glowed, and flickered as the thirteen fireflies I had captured fluttered about, some trying to escape and pushing against the glass, others crawling along the side or bottom of the jar, lights extinguished.

I knew that tomorrow I would have to deal with larger problems and scary situations. I knew that my imposter uncle would be coming over, and that he would try to come into my home and do whatever it is that boggarts did to people. Whatever it was, I did not want to find out. But I trusted Ms. Cleary and Clara, and I remembered everything that they told me.

But right then, while I lay watching the fireflies in my jar and my eyelids drooped, I didn’t much care about the troubles that tomorrow would bring. I let myself forget about such things, and worried my mind with only the things that any other boy my age would be worrying about while watching fireflies in a jar.

I wondered if my fireflies would live throughout the night, and I hoped that I would wake up in time to let them safely out again.

Sequentials

NaNoWriMo: Day 10. 1/3 of the way there, woot!

Chapter 6

I ran home, and then past it, changing my mind at the last second. I did not want to sit inside by myself and wait until my mother came home to tell someone what had happened. I couldn’t. Instead, I ran around the hedge and over to Ms. Cleary’s house. I did not knock on the door, and it was not locked, so I just opened it, and went inside.

I closed the door behind me, and it made a resounding thud.

“Ms. Cleary?” I called out in a weak, quiet whimper. “Clara?”

There was no answer. I wondered if they were perhaps out for the day. But then why would they have left the door unlocked? I decided that they had just not heard me properly, and walked down the hall, searching for them.

The floor of the hall was hardwood, and covered by a red and gold ornamental rug that stretched down the middle. The rug itself was made of velvet, and it had woven into its design borders within borders of interlocking rose petals, the stems of which wove through and around each other. There was a pattern to it, that repeated, and divided up the rug into neat, twelve-foot sections, each with a small rosebud in the center. It was hard not to look at, once I noticed the intricacies of the craftsmanship. Staring at the each center was like looking down at a great Matryoshka doll from above, except if I looked too long, the borders in the peripheries of my vision seemed to rotate and slide, and it made me dizzy to look at, so I looked away and kept walking.

I took the first left, and stepped off of the rug and onto plain hardwood, tried the door to the right that I saw, a big oak one with a round bronze knob. but it was locked. I continued down the hall, noting that there were no pictures on the wall, only the aged blue wallpaper. I tried the next door, and it opened.

I was in a great library, and bookcases stretched up to the high arched ceiling, easily two stories tall, and I wondered again how Ms. Cleary managed to fit so much space into such a small house. I was sure that a room like this would never fit in my own house, which was roughly the same size and shape on the outside.

A voice behind me snapped, “What’re you doing, snooping around like a thief?”

Ms. Cleary was standing behind me when I turned around, as I knew she would be. I narrowed my eyes at her. “Are you a witch?” I asked.

She blinked, taken aback. “Bit of a rude thing to go about asking someone, don’t you think? Especially if it’s a someone who’s fed you sweets, and helped mend you when you were near broke and crying. Witch! Pah! I’d take a witch, sew’er mouth shut, and still be able to feed her her own bubbling stew. What makes you think I’d be one o’ them?” Her voice slipped into a bit of an accent, as she talked, one that I could not place.

I shrugged, and pointed into the room, and made a broad sweeping gesture with my other hand. “This. All of this. Only witches with spells can make things like this happen.”

Ms. Cleary ushered me out of the library then, and shut the door. She balled up her hands into fists, and stuck them on her hips. “I’ve told you before, I like my space. Besides, I have a lot of books, and I need the room.” She struck an imposing figure there, standing above me. “Just because you can’t explain something, don’t mean there’s any sort of witch nonsense going on. I know more about this world than you, or your mother, or anyone you’ve ever known or met. Trust me on that one, boy.”

At this point I was near tears again, and snot oozed down my nose. “My uncle is dead,” I blubbered. There were cracks in the dam.

A look of concern replaced the previous one of indignation, quick as a flash, and she was no longer the towering, frightful witch-like figure. Now she looked grandmotherly, and kind. “What now, boy? Speak up, go on. Your uncle’s what?”

“He’s dead,” I said again, and reached forward to hug her. She opened up her arms and enveloped me in the warmth of the knit sweater she was wearing. I stuck my head into it and closed my eyes, and wished that I could just disappear, so she couldn’t see me crying.

“Shh,” she said, softly, and rubbed the back of my head. “Shh. What happened.”

“We went back,” I said. “To the place with the stones. Me and him. The raven came back. It tried to get at me, but it couldn’t. Then it went for him and he fell on his head. And there was blood.”

Ms. Cleary grabbed ahold of both of my shoulders, and knelt down to look me in the eye. “Son,” she said. “I want you to tell me exactly what happened. Don’t leave a thing out.”

Her eyes were serious, and her grip on my shoulders was a bit too tight for comfort. I told her how we went to McDonald’s first, and about the treehouse and the drive to the graveyard. She didn’t stop me, or ask me to jump ahead, even though I knew what part she was specifically asking for. I told her how the raven had appeared and been unable to touch me, and how I felt the silver coin and that it was warm. She nodded at this, unperturbed, and then I described how the bird had flown into my uncle, and disappeared.

Ms. Cleary closed her eyes then, and opened them again soon after, in what looked to me like a long, slow blink. She stood up and hugged me. “Your uncle isn’t dead, boy. I’m afraid it may be a little worse than that.”

I didn’t know what she meant by that. In my mind, nothing could be worse than being dead, or having someone you know and care about die. Once someone was dead, they were gone forever, and you could no longer see them, or talk with them, or watch movies or eat cheeseburgers with them anymore. There just couldn’t be anything as bad as that.

“What do you mean?” I asked, although I was afraid of what the answer might be.

“That wasn’t just a raven. It was a boggart in disguise. Wretched little spirits are always trying to worm their way into people’s lives. I suspected something was amiss when you mentioned the fairy ring. Should’ve told you not to go back there, but I thought the charm’d be enough to keep you safe.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “What’s a boggart? What’s a fairy ring?”

A voice down the hall said, “The fairy ring was the circle of grass, with the stones.” It was Clara. “The veil between our worlds is thinner there, and it was the only place he could so much as touch you.” She walked towards us, eyes on her grandmother. “This is bad, isn’t it?”

“Yes dear, quite,” said Ms. Cleary. “Come on, let’s get out of the hall and into the kitchen, and we’ll go through all this over a cup of tea.” She took my hand, and led me back to the main hall with the red velvet rug, and down to the kitchen, where she put on a kettle of water to boil, and we all sat down at the round wooden table.

“But I don’t understand,” I said. “If he could only hurt me in the fairy ring, why did he fly at me and try to get me? I was standing on the outside of it.”

“Maybe he was just trying to scare you,” Clara offered.

“No, no,” said Ms. Cleary. “They’re all cowards and scavengers, they are. He wouldn’t attack without a good reason.” She was bustling about the counter, opening cupboards and grabbing mugs, and teabags, and honey. Once everything was all laid out she came to sit down at the table. “Hmm. Let me see your hand,” she said, “the one he bit.”

I unwrapped the gauze from around my hand, placed the bandage down on the table, and straightened my arm out to her, palm up. My hand was more swollen than it had been before. Ms. Cleary grabbed it, and stuck her face down as close to it as she could, her nose brushing my fingertips as she peered at the bitemark.

“Something still in there,” she muttered. “Cheeky, little, bugger.” She reached into her pocket and produced a small but sharp knife, with a thin, wicked curve to it. She looked at me and smiled warmly. “This won’t hurt a bit,” she said.

That was precisely what adults always said, before it hurt a great deal, and I did not believe her. I closed my eyes tight and waited for the pain to come. I felt an uncomfortable sensation, of something moving underneath my flesh, like a worm squiggling around just under the skin. Then it was gone.

“All done. you can open our eyes now.”

I did, and Ms. Cleary was holding what looked to be a small stone, or a marble between her fingers, which were covered in dark, and sticky blood. She was smiling.

“He thought he was clever,” she said. “He thought he could pull one over on us, well he was wrong.” She stood up with the tiny ball, that sparkled and gleamed, grabbed a glass jar from the countertop, and plopped it in with a tinkling sound, and fastened the lid.

“What is it?” I asked.

“That,” Ms. Cleary said. “Is the piece of himself the boggart left inside you, to come back for later.”

Sequentials

NaNoWriMo: Day 3

Chapter 2

“Moving?” I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, hoping I was still dreaming. “But why?”

My mother’s hair was up in a brown knot on top of her head, and her face sagged from some unseen weight. She sipped her coffee calmly, but her fingers twitched a rapid beat on the side of her mug. She gave me a look full of exhaustion and annoyance, the same kind of look she used to give when I would refuse to touch a dinner she had painstakingly made. I was afraid of that look.

“Because,” she said, setting the coffee mug down.  Her fingers continued to twitch. “Because we both need a change. This house holds too many memories for us, and I’ve decided it would do us both some good to get a fresh start. Plus, we’ll be nearer to your Uncle Martin.”

“But I like it here. I don’t want to leave.”

“It’s already been decided. Now I don’t want to hear any more of it.”

“What do you mean?” My heart skipped a beat. I certainly hadn’t decided anything.

My mother took a deep breath. She was sitting at the table and had her chair turned sideways, so it was facing me, and she leaned closer to me and reached for my hands, holding them in her own. “Honey, I already signed the lease. We’re going to leave as soon as we can, hopefully before the weekend is over. I have to go back to work Monday. Your uncle is coming to help pack boxes and move.”

It was then that I took a good look around the kitchen. There were some boxes on the counter, and plates wrapped in newspaper. I ran out of the kitchen and into the living room, where more boxes greeted me. I wanted to wake up in my treehouse. I closed my eyes and pinched my arm and wished that I would just wake up because this had to be a nightmare.

My mother was calling for me from the kitchen, but I ignored her and ran up the stairs to my bedroom. I let out a sigh of relief, seeing that my possessions had been left untouched. My stomach dropped again, a second later, when I realized that I would have to pack everything I owned: my books, and legos, and miniature cars, into their own little cardboard boxes, and tape them up and stick them in the car and leave this place forever.

I went over to my bed and flopped down face-first on the mattress, burying my head in the pillows. My eyes began to sting, and I tried not to cry, but they came anyway. Soon my pillow was wet and I was sniffing back snot and trying to pretend that none of this was happening. It was dark and soft with my face in the pillow, and I couldn’t see any boxes.

Eventually I stopped crying, and just lay there. I heard my mother opening the door, and could tell that she was just standing there, trying to tell whether or not I was asleep. I tried faking it, but then couldn’t hold back a tickle in my nose and sneezed.

“Bless you,” she said.

I turned over on my side and faced the wall. My eyes were open now, and I stared at my Buzz Lightyear covers. To infinity and beyond. Buzz Lightyear was never afraid of new things, and I decided that I would try to not be afraid too.

The bed sank a little, and my body tilted slightly, telling me that my mother was sitting on the side of my bed next to me. She put a hand on my back and rubbed it. Then she started humming; a simple melody that had calmed me down and put me to sleep when I was younger, and now, made me remember that I loved my mother, and didn’t want her to go too.

The humming trailed off after some time, growing fainter and more repetitive, until she stopped altogether.

“It won’t be so bad,” she whispered. “We’re not moving cities, and you’ll still be able to go to the same school, so you won’t be leaving your friends. We need this…I need this, okay?.”

I didn’t answer. She waited a few moments before leaving, and soon I could hear her downstairs, moving dishes into boxes.

That was Friday, and over the course of the next two days I managed to pack all of my belongings into a dozen different-shaped boxes. Going through my treehouse was the hardest, but my mother told me that Uncle Martin could take it down and put it back up in the yard of the new house, if I wanted.

I tried to change my perspective, to look at the move as exciting and new and full of possibilities, but underneath all of that was the dread and the anxiety of leaving my father’s house behind. Saturday evening, after seeing that all of my things were packed and ready to go in the morning, my mother gave me back my Zelda cartridge, and I spent the rest of the night battling my way through the first dungeon, determined to catch back up to where I had left off.

On Sunday morning my Uncle Martin pulled up to the house at eight o’clock in a big U-Haul, and brought a box of doughnuts, coffee, and a bottle of chocolate milk for me. I ate a custard-filled long john and a sprinkled cake doughnut, and then we were making trip after trip out to the big cave-like U-Haul and stacking boxes on top of one another. My mother helped Uncle Martin move the bigger furniture, the couch, the beds, and the kitchen table, which I helped with.

When the U-Haul was full we loaded up the white station wagon too, with the smaller boxes of dishes and clothes. I pulled my uncle aside after stuffing the last box in the trunk, and asked him about my treehouse. He asked me to show it to him, and we went around the house and into the backyard.

Uncle Martin looked up at the treehouse and scratched his head. He was a big man, with heavy looking arms, and a heavier belly that made him look stocky and strong, not fat. “Well,” he said, “to be honest, I’ve never built a treehouse, or been much of a handyman. Your father was always better with his hands than I was.” He took a deep breath and cleared his throat with a rumbling cough. “How about we leave this here for the next family, and try after you’ve gotten all moved in. How’s that sound, bud”

“That’s fine,” I said. I was lying. It wasn’t fine, and didn’t sound very good to me at all. I liked my treehouse, and wanted all of it exactly the way it was. But Uncle Martin was speaking in that voice adults sometimes use when they’ve already made up their mind, and I knew that he wouldn’t listen to me if I told him how I really felt.

Uncle Martin drove the U-Haul, while I went with my mother in the station wagon. I got to sit up front, because the back seats had been lowered to make room for more boxes, and I rolled the window all the way down, past where the back ones would go, and stuck my hand out to rise and dip in the moving air.

It was only a fifteen minute drive to the other side of town, and when we turned on to Sunny Lane, and I saw the fence at the end of the street, I groaned. I imagined myself in the horrible future of this new life, kicking a ball at that fence by myself because I had nothing better to do.

“There’ll be other kids your age,” my mother said, as if reading my mind. “I’m sure you’ll make friends.”

We pulled up to a small, single-story house near the end of the street. The front yard was small, with only one twig-like tree standing in the middle of it, supported by a thin wooden post. Hedge-like bushes sat short and squat underneath two windows, and connected to one long hedge that separated our new house from a blue one of similar style next door. A big oak tree with low branches, perfect for a treehouse, sat just on the other side of the hedge.

There was a girl in the tree. She looked to be about my age, maybe younger, and she was sitting on one of the higher branches and swinging her legs through the air. Her hair was raven-black and long, braided into a ponytail that rested over her front. She wore blue denim overalls and a red shirt, and she was watching us as we moved our boxes into the house. When I lifted a hand to wave at her, she blew a bubble of gum and popped it over her face so it stuck to her nose. I lowered my hand, turned to grab another box, and felt her eyes follow me as I took it into the house.

My new room was smaller than my old one, and it took some thought to get everything the way I wanted it. I didn’t have enough room for my lego table, so we ended up putting it in a spare bedroom that my mother told me could be my new playroom, if I wanted. Since I doubted my uncle would ever get around to building me a new treehouse, this served as a decent consolation. I put my legos, comic books, and telescope in there, as well as a beanbag chair that had before sat unused in my old room. I figured the new location would give it a second chance, and maybe I would start using it.

It took me the rest of the day to get all of my things unpacked and sorted. My room now looked like a smaller, more cramped version of what it had been before.

I left my room to go and explore the rest of the house. My room was the first in the narrow hallway, with the bathroom and master bedroom on one end, my playroom in between, and the living room out the opposite side. In the hallway just outside my door was a square of trim, with a wooden cover and a tiny loop of a string dangling from the center. I ignored it and walked through the living room and into the kitchen/dining room, which was really just a large kitchen with our table sitting there in the middle of it. Uncle Martin and my mother were sitting at the table with glasses of wine and an open bottle between them. They both looked up as I walked in.

“All finished?” my mother asked.

I nodded, wondering when my uncle would go home. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him. I just hadn’t completely forgiven him for not so much as mentioning my treehouse again. I don’t think he ever intended on building it, or even trying for that matter.

“Good. Listen, I spoke with the neighbor next door, Ms. Cleary, she’s a sweet old lady, really, and she agreed to watch you for the day tomorrow. Her granddaughter Clara is staying with her for the summer, so you’ll have someone your age to play with.”

“Okay,” I said. I wasn’t so sure how much I’d like her, or if we could be friends. I remembered the way she stared at me in the tree, with almost dead eyes, and popped her bubblegum, and I hoped that she wasn’t mean.

My uncle leaned forward and tousled my hair. “That’s a sport,” he said. His cheeks were flushed red, and he smiled with his whole face, his eyes forming little sideways crescents.

“Sweetie, why don’t you go and play your game for the night?” my mother said. “Your uncle and I still have some things to talk about.” She kissed me goodnight on the cheek and my uncle patted me on the back, and I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth and climbed into bed with my Gameboy.

I played for several hours, and made my way through two whole dungeons until my eyelids began to droop. I saved my progress and turned off the light, laying there in my bed in an unfamiliar room.

I still hadn’t heard the big U-Haul truck move, or seen the headlights pass over my window and down the dead-end street. As I drifted off to sleep, I heard muffled voices, and then a loud laugh in the night, and I imagined my Uncle Martin’s big red face getting redder.

Sequentials

What Did You Expect?

As far as first impressions go, Debra was not impressed.

The guy seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. He waited for her shocked reaction which never came, and frowned in obvious disappointment when her eyes merely flicked in his direction before returning to her novel. The fluff of white hair on his head looked to have the consistency of a truffula tree. His skin was almost the same color, a translucent hue that made Debra think of vampires and basement dwellers.

He blurted out something about being the moon and how they were destined to be together. When she didn’t respond he continued. “Haven’t you felt like you’re just waiting for the right person to meet? I mean, let’s face it. Greg didn’t turn out to be much of a keeper, did he?”

Debra set her book down. “You’ve been spying on me.” It wasn’t a question. Lunar deity or not, it was an invasion of privacy.

“Well, spying is a bit harsh, I’d say. I’d prefer ‘hidden admiring’.”

You’re the one that’s been watching me. “You’re the one that’s been giving me goosebumps for no reason.” She jabbed a finger at him with each accusation. Nearby conversations fell to a whisper, ears hoping to get their daily dose of drama.

“Er, well. Isn’t that sort of, you know, old-fashioned and charming?” He gave a weak smile.

Debra stood up. “No. It’s creepy and weird. Stop watching me and get a life.” She scooped up her book and turned to leave.

“Wait!” the moon said, pushing back his chair. “Aren’t you even, like, a little curious?”

When she looked him in the eyes she saw right through him, and he didn’t look like the moon at all. Just a sad and lonely man desperate for companionship.

“No,” she said, and walked away, leaving the moon as it will always be.