All children live in danger. Childhood is the pale horse era of life; the first rite of passage before the terrible high school years which, if you survive them, prepare you for the next rite, which is even worse. Manual labor or college; both denigrating. But back to childhood.
It was the early 1970s. I must have been about eleven. That would have made my sister Patsy about nine, but maybe closer to ten. There was an expansive wooded area not a far hike from our house built at Binkley St. and Olive Rd., but neither one of us ever went too far into it because it was infested by middle school pothead dropouts and maniac rapists who were supposed to be in high school but weren’t. But one hot Summer day Michael, the big boy who lived across the street, asked me and my sister if we wanted to go and see the graves he had dug for his two younger siblings. Wow! How could we pass this up? So we followed the giant down a sandy path pretty far back into the wet-smelling scrub oaks, and there, in a grassy opening, were two shallow graves, perfectly carved, perfectly rectangular--neither one deep enough to bury a squirrel in. Call me crazy, but the idea that Michael had dug graves to begin with, and then had invited me and my sister into the woods to see them, suddenly gave me a few chills.
“Those are nice,” I said, avoiding the behemoth’s darting black eyes. My sister was already on her way back out of the death-trap. I turned to follow her.
“Where you goin’?” Michael asked me.
“Oh, just headin’ back out this way is all,” I said as I whipped out my homemade nunchucks and performed a dazzling display with them.
“You pretty good with them,” Michael said. “I’m gonna kill my sister an’ brother tonight an’ bury ‘em in these here graves. Then I’ll just have one brother left.”
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
“Yes I will only have one brother left!”
“No, I mean, I don’t believe you’re gonna kill Scott and Elise.”
With that Michael pulled a butcher knife out of his loose khaki pants. The blade was rusty, and I shivered. “You don’t believe me?” he said, an evil smile playing about his lips. “I know my brother pulled a pocketknife on you. An’ I know my sister was mean to you an’ got you in trouble with my mama.”
“I still don’t believe you,” I said. I wasn’t sure how to let him know that though I didn’t think murder was appropriate for the situation, I appreciated his desire to sequester my opponents. I didn’t want to be his murder accomplice. By this time I was back out on Faith Lane with my sister Patsy. The three of us walked back to our houses together, I told my daddy about what happened, and it wasn’t a week later that the ex-gang member’s mother moved her family back to Brooklyn. To this day I’m not sure whether Scott and Elise were with them. I was too scared to go back in the woods to find out.
Skadi meic Beorh was raised on the Florida-Alabama line in a town called South Flomaton. A writer and storyteller by trade, he is the author of the poetry collection Golgotha, the novella The Highwayman's Tale, and the forthcoming story collection A Crazy Child Called Pinprick. He presently lives with his wife Ember on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.