Friday, October 7, 2011

It's Good to be Afraid -- 07, October


Friday night, school was done for the week, and William had to pay his dues locked in front of the living room TV with the rest of his family. Time ticked away slowly as one sitcom bled into the next. His sister annoyed him with tales of what the younger kids were up to in first grade.

With a whole weekend ahead of him, mom leaving for work early in the morning and his sister dropped off at a friend's house, the boy knew this was his best chance to find the scarecrow. Every night's search had been met with failure, but he only failed when he gave up and went home. This time, there was no going home until he found him.

As the last show ended at 10 pm, his sister bolted off the couch, headed for the bathroom. Once she was gone out of sight, he slunk off the couch and began to head for the hallway.

“Where you going, Will?” His mother asked.
“It's bedtime,” he told her. He was almost out of the room when she said something that surprised him.
“Is anything wrong?”
“No, I just. . . school wore me out today,” he answered.
“You've been looking kind of ragged,” She responded, “Is something going on at school?”
“No, nothing is going on at school.” 
With that, he disappeared around the bannister and headed up stairs. Since she was suspicious, he knew he would have to wait until she went to bed before he snuck out. Her concern was surprising to him, and he felt some guilt about going out without telling her anything, but he had a friend he was worried about now, and there was a lot of ground to cover on the way to town.

He had checked out a book from the school library today. It was on town history, small and mostly useless, but there was a detailed map in the back. It was hand-drawn and crude, but it gave him an idea of the layout while most other maps reduced his town to a pinprick.

He was going out with so much equipment now, he had gotten to the point of dumping out his school backpack every evening and stuffing it with supplies. He had a flashlight taken from the basement, spare batteries, a glowstick and now the map. This time, he was also packing some snacks into his school lunchbox.

He stashed the gear below his rear window and began the wait. It was 10:45, and his mother would be in her room by now. She would be up by 5 in order to go to work on time, and this was already a late night for her. It would still be a little while before she was unconscious, so he took the map back out of his backpack and began to study his route.

As much as he didn't want to admit his fear, he had no desire to go across the stone bridge again, so his route took him far to the south, paralleling the river through several fields. Just past the Presswood's field, the river took a turn and went under the road. The boy was familiar with that pass, and it was below a sturdy concrete bridge with only a narrow pipe for the water to pass through. Nothing very big could be living in a small pipe like that.

Beyond the river, he knew he could track back toward town by going through, appropriately, the cemetery. On the other side of the cemetery was a church. The boy figured if he picked up anything nasty in the graveyard, he could hide from it in the church. And, just maybe, if he was really lucky, he would find the scarecrow in the cemetery. It seemed a likely enough place for Jack and him to have work.

William placed the map back into his backpack. He didn't have a compass, but he was planning on guiding himself by landmarks, and it may well have been too dark at any given time to see a compass, anyway.

Now it was 11 pm. His mother was asleep for sure. The night outside was calm and unusually warm for October. The boy pushed the backpack out the window ahead of him, then followed it. Outside, once he was on the ground, he pressed into the field, walking toward the southern road.

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