Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Good to be Afraid -- 03, October


The boy bolted through the fields, dashing corn stocks out of his way, stomping them under foot, smashing through untended weeds. Aphids fled his rampage as he charged through the rows. He was racing towards apprehension, a fear that began when he looked out the rear window after school. He tried to tell himself it was just too far to see, but even as he ran he was sure-- the scarecrow's pole had been vacant.

He's mad, he's mad, he's mad, the boy thought to himself-- not just a thought: Knowledge.  He knew for sure. The boy hadn't shown up for their meeting last night-- he had shirked his responsibility to help the scarecrow in his duties, and now, He's mad!

Sunday morning, he had piled into the car with the rest of the family on their way to church. He was sure it was just going to be another long boring day-- this one even longer than usual as he anticipated going to help his new friend with whatever he was up to that night. But, after the priest began talking, things had changed. His sermon was about just one subject today: Hell. He went on and on. He described it with intricate detail, as one who was personally familiar with the location. He talked about punishment, and he talked about consorting with the unsavory.

Consorting, the boy had thought. He thought about Jack with his ember from the Devil's own fire. Jack had certainly consorted with the Devil, and that's what he was doing now. Consorting.
He had ridden home in dejected silence. For the most part, for the rest of Sunday, he had stayed away from the back of the house. He didn't even want to be tempted to look out the rear window-- even though, during dinner, avoiding the view entirely was impossible, and the scarecrow stood then. It was completely alone, and the wind was whipping its oversized flannel shirt around.

He went to bed that night missing his friends, but what the priest had said was scarier than anything he had seen the last two nights.
Then came school Monday morning. He wanted to talk to someone about it, anyone at all. In fact, it didn't even have to be his problems, he just wanted to talk, period. He raised his hand for every question in class, but was never called on. During lunch, he even made an attempt to see the guidance counselor. Unfortunately, today she was out of her office.

On the school bus trip home, he had made up his mind. He was fully resolved that he would talk to the scarecrow about it. Maybe he could make things clearer. He always seemed like an honest sort, and maybe, even if he was dishonest, the boy would be able to tell, and that would put things to rest once and for all.

But then, upon returning home, there was the absolute horror of an empty garden.

He's mad, and it's my fault. He told me I didn't have to come, but it was my responsibility.

He continued smashing his way through the corn now, and at last erupted into the clearing where his post stood, abandoned. The scarecrow had never left during the day before. The boy kicked it once, angrily. 

 To be safe, he decided to walk up under the water tower, just in case, but it, too, was vacant. He momentarily considered climbing it for a better look around, but grampa's rules made him think that was a bad idea. He even followed the path of their previous night's walk to the fence by the road and looked around. He looked up the road to where Jack had shown his pumpkin's light on Saturday night. Now, in the daylight, the boy couldn't understand how it ever held so much wonder for him. He knew exactly what lay up that road: More fields, farms, and eventually the town square. Somehow, covered by night, illuminated by the ember's glow, it had looked like something special.

The boy slowly returned home and went to his bedroom. He tried to focus on watching something on TV, but today the shows seemed as boring as the advertisements, and he found himself looking out his back window again and again, just in case. Once the sun fell, he resolved to shove the bed against the rear window, and there he lay until he fell asleep, propped on his stomach, staring out at the field. Once it was fully dark, it was impossible to even see the scarecrow's post, but he kept watch, just in case. In time, it began to rain, and then the boy fell asleep.

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