Note: This story takes place in two time periouds, the kid's youth and their adult age, so it may flash back from time to time. It starts out at the future, though.
The sky was gray, it was always gray this time of year, when the cool winds of the North came down and brought cool rain that swept the island. The ground is like a sponge; I am walking across the beaten path into my past. It’s a weekend I have been both looking forward to and dreading since I walked through the old, beaten doors of South Pointe High School ten years ago-it is my ten year reunion. I have been here ever since, taking care of my parent’s house. Of course I left after school but this place, it calls you wherever you are. Its name finds you in the wind like some eerie battle cry. I know it will find them and bring them back, the group that became the most popular group at South Whidbey, the cool group at every high school that stands out like royalty. The rare and much admired popular folk with the jocks and their girlfriends. The group that I grew up with, that I watched from a distance, through a Loner’s eye.
Its funny what happens when you leave a place that was so fluent in your memories, in some ways it stays the same, just how you remembered it. All the summers were spent at this place. I wonder if any of them missed it or have thought of it when they graduated and moved on? Sure they did, and I know I will see them at the reunion in four days. I am digging now, right under the stone we put here nineteen years ago, it was our time capsule. Nothing fancy, just a Tupperware container, and as I look at it, I can feel this place in that time, our time of innocence, days that were long without end.
The stump is still here, a weather withered white remains of a Douglas fir, the initials of all of us are still here once done with Peter’s knife. Rain is starting to pour and the living sponge I am standing on grows thick and saturated. A true motif to the feelings I have for my past and its people coming back to find me.
Sunlight shown through the trees, it was summer and the forest floor was silent except for the morning birds chirping their greetings. A single Doe stepped gracefully out of the woods to nibble on some grass when its head shot up and looked behind it, just as two BMX bikes crashed into the clearing.
On the bigger bike was a large boy about ten, wearing a tank top and shorts pumping his big legs as he held a water pistol in his hand. The other bike had a tall for his age slender kid, wearing shorts and a bright orange t-shirt, trying to keep pace with the crazy one holding the water pistol.
“Peter,” Sonny cried, “I am falling behind here”
“Then peddle faster,” Barked Peter, “I am almost got it.”
The deer though had gotten far ahead of both of them and giving up on the deer the boys headed out from the cool shelter of the trees to the blazing heat of the asphalt on the main road.
“What was the point of that?” Sonny asked.
“The same point of this” Peter said this and sprayed a jet of water in Sonny’s face.
“You dick” he yelled.
Peter just laughed and rode ahead.
They rode down into the small town of Freeland passing the grocery store, a Radio Shack and coming to a stop in front of the bakery. There was a boy and girl there with twin red bikes, they weren’t twins though, the girl was Erin and the boy was named Travis and ever since Kindergarten-perhaps preschool they were always together. Now they were sitting in front of the Towson Bakery eating hot Danishes. Erin was a total tomboy, she wore a ponytail in a backwards hat and had on midnight blue Lee Jeans and a t-shirt and looked on with coal brown eyes. Travis was muscular for his age and had eyes like twin ocean tide pools-light blue and calm.
“What’s the plan for today Pete?”
“Sonny and I are going to the stump-we are all going to camp out, got a new kid in town.”
“A new kid?” Erin asked, her dark eyes alert with interest.
“Yeah a new kid,” Peter insisted, “Lives out right by the stump, with his mama and his grandpa.”
“What his name?” Asked everyone by Peter, followed by laughter.
“Chad” Peter said, “His name is Chad…”
“Chad!” said Melissa. “Help me out here.” The young mother handed her son a heavy bag of groceries.
The boy shuffled a bit and headed into the house mumbling to himself.
An old man with silvery spiked hair stepped out of the house that had a spectacular view, and looked at his daughter.
“Hey sweet cheeks” He said, as her face turned bright red.
“I hate it when you call me that.” Maureen Nadeau replied.
“I hate it when you don’t come around for a few years.” Her father said, his silver hair glistening in the afternoon sunlight.
Chad set down the heavy bags of groceries and proceeded over to the bay windows. It was an amazing sight. In the distance, there were the jagged, partially snow capped Olympic Mountains, by the base of them was the pine rainforest, and at the base of that were the cool waters of the Puget Sound. Chad went outside and took a breath of the salty sea air.
“Dad!” gasped Maureen. “I forgot how beautiful it was!”
The old man lit a cigar and sat in one of the Cedar rocking chairs on the deck.
Bill Ivanhoe had gotten a call from his daughter only weeks before. Her loser husband had ran off leaving his daughter and grandson practically homeless, and with his wife dead of fifteen years his house could use the extra company. He had gone down to the True Value and bought some Fire Engine Red paint for Chad’s room careful not to make it too toddlerish, and converted the den into another bedroom. The old house would be less empty and lonely and the old man couldn’t look more forward to it.
Maureen put some salmon on the grill and the smell was delicious. The Father, Daughter and grandson watched an orange June sun melt over the Olympic Mountains.
“I’ve missed the sunsets Dad.” Maureen said roasting a marshmallow over the glowing coals of the grill.
“Yeah, they’re nice. The schools are nice too, you need to register the boy tomorrow.”
“Dad, its only June.”
“I know, but things are done differently on the island.”
Maureen smiled back at him, “Aren’t they always?”
Chad sat alone in his room. He and his mom had just driven 3,000 miles across the country, and it had been a long journey. Yet his father remained on his mind, the person who just disappeared one day. The man who wasn’t there and who Chad knew would never return. He began to cry. Chad hated crying his dad had told him only babies cry but the eleven year old lay in his bed and cried himself to sleep.
James and Jessica
They both recognized the sound, glasses being thrown around and shattered, loud yelling, cursing. They would both like to say that it came from the television, that such a horrible sound would be contained to the make believe world of some family drama on Lifetime. Yet the reality went on in the Faulkner house, it was a nightly ordeal and it was happening right downstairs.
“Who drank the last of it?” yelled Tom.
“You did you stupid fuck!” his wife Donna yelled back.
“Oh I’m stupid fuck am I? Who goes out and makes the money you lazy cunt!”
“DON’T CALL ME THAT TOMMY!”
“Awww...Donna don’t like that…she doesn’t like being called a lazy cunty-wunty”
To prove this, Donna cold-cocked her husband right in the nose, and he cried out in pain.
Upstairs, ten-year-old Jessica sat on her bed red-faced, her hands firmly on her ears, crying softly.
Her eleven-year-old brother James’s eyes glistened but he refused to cry.
“Where?” she asked through her sobs.
“We are going to the stump,” he answered, grabbing his backpack and a flashlight.
“It’s so dark out though,” she cried.
Just then there was the sound of glass breaking from downstairs and then they heard their mom screaming in rage. Their only escape was climbing down the roof, and riding their bikes under a full June moon in the dark woods cool air rushing into their faces. Yet James peddled faster, it was the only way to numb the pain within.
At the stump, Peter was making a fire, and not having any luck. Yet Erin being the tomboy she was, assisted and soon enough little amber flames started seeping out through the cracks of the wood. Peter grabbed some hot-dogs from the little cooler he had strapped on his bike. Smirking he held it down by his crouch.
“Hey Erin, you want a hot dog?”
“Oh please,” Said Erin sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
Travis laughed, “Peter its never going to get that big-keep dreaming”
There was a knock at the door. Maureen put down the laundry she was folding and answered the door. There was a girl there wearing jeans and a tshirt with a White Sox cap her brown pony tail sticking out the back. Next to her was a stocky boy, both were about Chad's age.
"Can I help you?" Maureen said, firm but friendly.
"Yeah," Said, Erin "Er, we were wondering if Chad could come into the woods with us we are having a camp out."
"Well its late, and I don't know you kids,"
"Mom! C'mon let me go!" Chad said from behind her, equiped with a sleeping bag.
"No, its dark, and-"
"Maureen," She hated to be overuled, especially by her father, "Let the boy go, he has gotta grow up sometime."
Maureen just shrugged and Chad walked right past her, she cleared her throat, and Chad rolled his eyes and gave his mother a kiss. Peter and Erin both smirked.
The air smelled almost sweet, the last of the twlight long faded, gave away to the beautiful stars twikiling in their ambiance.
"Chad is your mom always that strict?" Said Peter.
"No she is just, weird like that, ever since my Dad left."
They were walking on a trail through the woods now, the night was silent, except for the crunch of twigs under their feet.
"What happned to him?" Asked Erin
"Oh well he met someone, look, I don't want to talk about it."
Erin seemed taken aback for a second but simply frowned.
"Did he meet some dude?" Peter said as Erin smacked him on the back of the head.
"I said, I don't want to talk about it."
"Yeah," Chimed Erin, "So shut up Pete!"
Peter smirked and soon they saw an orange glow eminating from the edge of the wood, they had reached the stump. From its shilloute, the Stump appeared to Chad as a small, twisted, mountain protruding from the ground.
"Everybody this is Chad, Chad this is everybody" Said Peter very causually.
Chad looked around and felt like he had intruded on a secret society for they all stared back at him with blank eyes, yet there was another girl there who introduced herself as Jessica, rather her brother introduced her James, she seemed really upset about something. As if she didn't want to be there. After the introductions were over Chad had been inducted into the the group like he had always been a member. They were all fascinated he had once lived in New York City. Yet he still kept his guard up when it came to his father. Jessica quiet and sat looking at the fire motionless. Chad didn't understand what was wrong with her. He tried not to focous on her, but everytime he did he noticed at the last second before she turned away there was a hint of a smirk.
It was well into the early morning hours that the fire had slowly burn itself out and was smoldering with a faint glow, Peter was snoring loudly, The rest of the boys and Erin were asleep, only Jessica and Chad were awake. Chad looked up at the stars, he had never been able to see this from The Brooklyn Heights. It was sheer magic to him the way all those stars just seemed mix, some brighter than others, some clustred together like silvery bands of The Milky Way.
"There Beautiful." Whispered Jessica.
"Yeah, awesome." He replied.
"I don't like my Dad either." She whispered,
Chad was caught off guard, "I like my dad!"
"You don't talk about him, does he swear?"
"Yes, but so does my mom and grandpa"
"Yeah but does he yell? and throw things? and h-h-hurt your mom?"
Jessica burst into tears hiding her sobs under her pillow to muffle the sound.
"No, why do you ask that? What about your Dad?" She pulled head from under the pillow and looked at him knodding.
"Don't t-tell James I t-told you, he'd be mad"
"I wont." Chad promised. She moved her sleeping bag towards him, "What are you doing?" "I'm Cold" She said.
"Aw Jessica, if the guys wake up and see this well, I'll never hear the end of it."
"Oh please Girls don't have cooties!"
With the young duo secretly snuggled together, and the last of the moonlight retreating from the stump, they both fell asleep.