The afternoon is warm and sticky and the wind and the trees breathe music into the air. Squirrels chirp at each other from across the road, and the sun strikes bright against the pavement. I’ve lived on this street for years. All my years. The trees play the same music, the squirrels laugh among the branches, the sun endlessly strikes the road. I drive a little silver car; the edges of the windshield are always blurred with dust, a product of leaving the thing outside. I remember when it was fresh and new and smelled like leather and freedom.
I drive the same strip of the road every day. Music rings in my ears, my hands relax against the wheel. I pass a moving truck, and my eyes stick to the house as my car rolls past. God, it’s the Clarks I think. Miss Clark was my elementary school principal. I’d known Braden and Jenna all my life. I used to play in their yard, and climb the palm tree in the centre until my hands hurt, and Braden would wait at the bottom of the tree in case I fell. He always told me he wanted to be a banana doctor, then he’d make this face where he sticks his bottom lip out and scrunches his nose and says “Let me take a look at your fruit ma’am.” It cracked me up, I’ll tell you.
As I pass the house, I see Mrs Clark smiling at some new guy. Her hair is grey and curls in all sorts of ways, and her mouth is naturally downturned. Her eyes are dark circles. The man is smiling all bright at her, as though he doesn’t know he’s young and fresh and superior. His hair is dark, shiny, and slicked back. He looks… alive I can’t help but think. As I move on I tell myself he doesn’t deserve the place.
I return my eyes to the road, thinking about Jenna and Braden and poor Miss Clark when a man on the sidewalk catches my eye. I wave at him; he smiles and waves back. His name is Jack but my brother and I call him Mr Terak. Beside him walks an old dog: Charlie. For a moment I watch a young dog dash along the grass, running at full speed after a ball. He reaches it, grabs it in his muzzle, then promptly rolls over in the grass, trying to slow himself down. Mr Terak laughs as I run over to Charlie and make sure he’s okay. The dog just drops the ball and smiles at me, so I throw the ball again, and Charlie is gone.
I watch Charlie from my car window, and Mr Terak throws a different ball. Charlie trots after it the way old dogs do, as though he doesn’t know death is at his heels. I turn a corner and Mr Terak and his dog are gone.
I turn the air in my car down; the sun seems hotter today. I pass a house with an open garage and swerve my car around some sort of cart in the road. Wow, I think, slowing my car. I had something just like that when I was a kid. A RipRider 360 they used to call it. You would ride the thing as fast as you could and turn, the wheels would spin, and you’d be sent into the road spinning like a top. Mine was blue and plastic, and the sticker had been ripped halfway off. I smile. I miss that thing. The one in the road is red, and the edges are made of metal, and I’d bet a million dollars it spins faster than mine did.
The shade of the trees covers the sun and the branches of the trees look grey and dead. The world around me grows a shade darker. I pull into my driveway and put the car in park. As I step out, a group of kids walks by. I’ve never seen them before. They’re half my height I think. They’re half my height I think again. God, they’re half my height.
“Are you okay sir?” one asks. He’s holding a coca-cola, and he holds it as though it gives him power. I wipe my eyes and smile at him.
“You guys new here?” I ask in return.
“Yes, sir. My brother and I just moved across the street.”
“That’s awesome,” I say. My chest hurts terribly and I can barely breathe. I turn and can feel the kids’ eyes burning into the back of my neck. Heading back to my house, the ghost of a “For Sale” sign waves in the wind, and the engine of a moving truck a million years away grows nearer. I run through the front door, knowing full well death is following.