The Shadows of Indian Summer by Kevin Lazarus – Part 2

(Continued from Monday – from The Dark Side of Carthage Falls – the Anthology – by Kevin Lazarus)

Gathering what courage I could, I took a few steps closer to the head of the trail, and knelt down near the opening. As I lifted the branches and looked down the path, to where it bent in the undergrowth, I noticed something—how overgrown the path actually was. All of sudden I felt Brett’s hand against my back as he pushed me. “Common!” he taunted. “Are you going or what?”

Somewhere between that moment and my decision to take that first step—I looked back over my shoulder. To my surprise, standing there on the sidewalk behind Brett, was this pretty little blond girl that I knew from school—watching us. She stood there staring at Brett with disgust and at me with worry. She said nothing, but just shook her head.

Brett looked to see what I was looking at and when he saw her, he pushed me down on the ground. “Ignore her!” he snapped sharply. “She doesn’t know anything!”

Embarrassed, I watched as Carly frowned and walked away. I watched her until she was well out of sight. Brett looked pleased when I nodded to him, agreeing to go. Was I just being silly? It was just an old dirt path, I thought. So what, about the old house! So what, if it all looked a little scary—it was time to stop being a baby!

As Brett held out his hand and helped me back to my feet, we pushed back the limbs and ran into the old orchard; reckless and wild, two boys on some misadventure—disappearing into the undergrowth. The earthy smell of decaying leaves hung heavy in the air filling my nostrils with a very real sense of being alive.

Somewhere deep in the heart of this decrepit forest we came upon an old beat up tractor, red paint pealing away, rust blanketing most of it. Mired by tall weeds and partially covered with vines, it appeared as if it had been in this very spot forever. Without saying a single word, Brett immediately climbed one of its massive tires and briefly surveyed our surroundings. Once he was sure that we were alone, he plopped down into the driver’s seat and grabbed the steering wheel. He laughed delighted that he’d finally revealed to me one of his great secrets, his hidden world. “Com’on!” he yelled, “I told you this is a cool place. There’re all sorts of things around here to do—and no one’s gonna care!”

I took hold of one of the many ridges on the tire jutting out like large paddles, and pulled myself to the top of the tire. Brett pretended to drive the massive machine, gurgling and sputtering from between his lips a sound that I suppose was his idea of a motor. “Hey,” he suddenly yelled, “we’re moving—you can’t sit there!”

For only a moment I questioned what Brett was doing—believing I was too old for this kind of childish activity. But as I watched him, something inside of me said “why not?” And then I did something completely out of character for me. I jumped from the tire to the metal platform behind him, and grabbing onto the back of his seat—started pretending too. I held my head back as if the high wind from our high speeds was batting away at my body—blowing through my hair. Captivated by Brett’s willing imagination, I was instantly transported to his pretend world. Playing with such enthusiasm, that little had to be explained and somehow—we knew what each other was thinking.

Hours passed as the shadows moved and morphed around the old orchard trees transforming them into something less inviting; full of dark places that grew with the setting of the sun.

I was the first to notice, aware only because of my already disturbing experiences with nighttime in Carthage Falls. Every muscle in my body stiffened as I looked around at the surrounding trees and then back at Brett, as he continued to play with reckless abandon, unaware of the time. A horrible feeling swelled in the pit of my gut as I realized that I didn’t want to be there in the middle of those old dead trees anymore! I wanted to leave the orchard—and now!

I tugged on Brett’s shirt. And at first, he shrugged me off. But then I tugged again until he finally stopped and looked at me. Pointing towards the last rays of evening light, he got my meaning and the two of us jumped down from the tractor and lit out for home.

(TO BE CONTINUED: Part 3 of Shadows…, Friday November 11, 2011)

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