On a summer afternoon Kyzer alone in his room.  It was maybe three o'clock; Kyzer was eight.  He lived all alone all day in the summer; both his parents worked.  In the morning, after they'd gone rushing out the door, late, always late, he'd sit eating his bowl of cereal in front of the tv.  After awhile he'd get up and go to the kitchen and get that all cleaned up, wiping down counters and dealing with the dishes, then sometimes he'd go outside and weed the garden, maybe water it; maybe he'd have some other little job around the house he'd be expected to do too.  If he worked hard at it he could get all that done quick enough and sometimes it was even fun, taking care of things, watching things grow, tending the crops, as he liked to think as he looked down at the plants, for he liked to pretend he was a farmer, and that each plant he looked after, whether it be bean or carrot or melon, represented an entire field of the same, and that altogether his garden would be enough to feed the whole town.

Sometimes after that he'd read.  He'd wander out into the backyard and lie in the hammock, head hanging over the side so he could look down at the book flopped open down in the grass, or maybe he'd sit on the steps of the porch, hunched up, knees drawn together, staring down at his lap.  Or he might go to his room.  His room was large with a small alcove off to one side where stood his desk and a few shelves of books with some books on it and also some models, some rocks, a praying mantis' old eggcase and a dead butterfly or two.  But the main part of the room was a big rectangular box with orange curtains at the window; occasionally these rustled or fluttered, thereby marking the passage of some passing breeze – and the room breathed sunlight.  The walls were tan but the carpet was brown, flecked through and through with gaudy threads of red and orange that glistened when hit by streaks of sun.  The air was warm; he could hear the sound of the television set he'd left on downstairs.  Sometimes in the afternoon he would take the yellow summer blanket that lay folded at the foot of his bed and wrap it around his head, letting the bulk of it fall back from his face to trail behind him.  Two flaps of the blanket he held tightly under his chin to keep it in place.  He liked to walk around his room that way sometimes, slowly; he didn't imagine himself to be anyone special, didn't even pretend that the bright yellow blanket was hair, precisely.  He just liked to feel the weight of it pulling back on the skin of his face, the bones of his neck, as it dragged against the carpeted floor.

Or maybe in the afternoon he'd drag out his beanbag chair and sit on it in a special way.  The chair was as big as he was, and it was also yellow.  It was big and yellow and round and covered in a smooth cool vinyl with seams running down its sides, and it was full of not beans of course but tiny balls of styrofoam that made it very soft and cuddly to sit in.  But sometimes instead of sitting in it he got on top and straddled it.  Then he'd look all around him and pretend that it was a giant egg he was sitting on, and that he was waiting for it to hatch.  What would come out he didn't know.  A giant bird he supposed.

Or sometimes Sam came over.  After his morning chores were done, during one still, uncomplicated moment of a summer afternoon, the phone might ring, and it might just be Mum of course checking up on him or it might be Sam, asking if he could come over or could Ky come to his house.  When Sam came over they usually played games for awhile, card games or puzzle games, and the summer when they were eight they sometimes made a game of rolling down the stairs in sleeping bags.  The sleeping bags, part of a whole stack kept for use by Ky's family when they went on camping trips, were made of a slippery green fabric that zipped up the side, padded on the inside and lined with thick flannel.  And the game was to make your way down to the very bottom of the sleeping bag, zip it all the way up, then slowly begin to push and slide and slither your way out the bedroom door, across the landing to the top of the stairs.  You might feel the first lip of the first stair with your hands or arms or even your feet, but you never knew quite when that might happen.  Sometimes you'd be rolling inside the skin of your slithery bag and you'd begin to drop before you had time to reconcile yourself to it; either way you were soon enough rolling thumping bumping bouncing down the stairs, hoping you wouldn't crack your head.  And as soon as you got to the bottom and crawled back out you wanted to climb to the top of the stairs and do it all over again.

After they'd done that for awhile they'd probably go over to the woods which was very big to the two boys and close by.  And the woods, once you'd been swallowed inside it, was everything, it was green and brown and black and orange and yellow, and sometimes blue or purple or rose.  It was dirt and bark and fallen trees.  The air was thicker here, and the light in it took on the color of the leaves, and when they got to the bottom of the ravine where the creek was it had more bugs in it too.  They spent most of their time in the woods turning over rocks, looking (like spies) to catch ants and worms and beetles in the act or, when they were down by the creek, for sandy-colored crayfish darting backwards, pincers up and ready, for the glistening flash of a salamander with its expendable tail.  Sometimes they might just sit for a few minutes and talk or think.  At a certain point there was a path that led back up the side of the ravine; it came out at the end of a short cul-de-sac where Sam lived.  One time Sam was standing a little ways up the path and Ky was standing down below him with his back turned, and suddenly he heard a zipping sound and he looked over his shoulder and saw that Sam had his weanie out and was trying to pee on him.  He jumped right back and managed to get out of the way of most of the spray but there was a thin dark streak on one side of his leg.  Ky shouted at Sam and asked him what he'd do that for, and Sam laughed and said he didn't know why and still he was squirting water and trying to pee on him.  Ky told him to stop it and Sam finally did, but he was still laughing when he zipped himself up and he was still laughing when he ran up the side of the ravine.  Ky stayed down at the bottom by himself for awhile until the streak of pee on his pants had dried some, then climbed the path up onto the street.  He wanted to find Sam, he wanted to yell at him some more.

Sam wasn't there; the street was deserted.  The air was dry up here after the woods, almost dusty on his tongue, and the sky was very bright.  Ky stood outside Sam's house, scowling up at it, but he didn't want Sam to think he wanted to see him, so he didn't wait; he turned around and went home.

It was at the end of this cul-de-sac where, sometime later that summer, some of the older boys of the neighborhood started teasing Ky.  He's be down there playing at Sam's house, maybe they'd be throwing a ball around or riding their bikes up and down the street and suddenly these older boys would come by.  And Sam would run inside his house but whether Ky ran towards the house or towards the woods, and he'd tried both many times, he never escaped, was always trapped.  He was the one they wanted; after that first time they ignored Sam.  First they might stand in a ring and bounce him back and forth between them, then maybe a couple of them would grab him and pick him up; they'd hoist him high up on their shoulders and carry him up and down the street – then they'd break into a run.  This was scary but it was almost a kind of fun.  Then they'd put him down and a couple of the other boys would pick him up, one grabbing his feet and the other holding him by his hands, and they'd walk him over to the edge of the ravine like that and begin to swing, slowly, they'd begin to swing him back and forth, back and forth, up and down and higher and higher, and no matter how many times they did it he always thought that this would be the time they'd really let go and he'd go flying over the top of the gully, go sailing flying falling bumbling crashing tumbling down and down over rocks and tree roots to the creek below . . .  Then they'd let him down and set him on his feet again and they always got a big laugh out of the way he wobbled and then suddenly they'd go swarming off to see what other trouble they could get up to – and Kyzer would be left standing there feeling dazed, feeling the strangest mixture of anger and excitement churning inside him . . .

Then followed the days of exercise.

~ END ~