mikidemillion

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The Taking of the Square – 5th Section

In fiction, Random Posts, Story, The Taking of the Square, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Work in Progress on May 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Here’s a link to the 4th Section:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/the-taking-of-the-square-4th-section/

*

*

It didn’t make sense to Maddie.  For the past six months she and Adam had been spying on old man Johnson, hoping to peek at the rocketship he’d been building, the one hidden inside his garage for years.  Now Adam was spending his free time with TG, yes, the toilet girl, old man Johnson’s daughter.

“I told them to meet us here,”  Sharon says, turning all the way around, staring directly at Maddie from the center of Square Three.  “They said they would.”

Maddie bends, tightening the tie on her sneaker.  Outwardly appearing nonchalant, inside her thoughts swarm like mosquitoes in the dusk.   Sharon’s words bite a thousand bites but Maddie refuses her the satisfaction to see her scratch.  From behind, someone taps her shoulder.  Maddie snaps her head to look back, afraid to see who she thinks it might be.  Her eyes relax with recognition.

“Oh, Arthur, hi.”

“Hey Maddie.”  He steps back while she lifts her legs over the cement border to face in his direction.

“Not playing?”

“Nope, ” Maddie rubs her hands together, and slaps them on the leg of her jeans to remove playground dirt.  “Ready to leave.”

“But the playground doesn’t close for two hours.”

“Yeah, well, I’m thinking of going to the horse farm.”

“All the way over there?”

“On my bike,” she says.  “It’s not that far.”

“I’ll race you.”

Arthur runs toward the sidewalk where dozens of bikes stand upright on kickstands or lie flat on the grass.

“Not fair,” Maddie shouts from her seat on the cement.  She leaps up, running.  It feels good to run.  It releases the mind to nothing but the feel of pulling muscles.

Arthur is the fastest runner in the entire school.  One time Maddie almost beat him in a race around the ball field but at the last minute her legs gave out.  Behind them the rest of the class was only halfway the distant around the field.  From that day they’d bonded a sort of friendship.

Arthur’s head-start to the horse farm opens a whole length of sidewalk block between them.  He doesn’t even look back as he pedals, holding tight onto both handlebars with his rear lifted over the seat for speed.  Maddie scrambles to a group of bikes, searching for the familiar dark blue fender of her bicycle.  It’s no where.  She  looks up.  Arthur has not slowed, he’s almost two blocks away, nearly to the railroad tracks.  Maddie views all the bikes, her eyes move slower over each one.  It’s not here.  Maddie’s face flashes hot and she knows those girls took it.  Playing a prank on her.  She will go back to the Four Square and… she slaps her forehead, now she remembers.  She walked here.

Arthur is out of sight.  Maddie laughs.  “You win,” she tells him in her mind, and laughs again.  He’s so competitive he probably won’t notice until he’s at the horse farm.  She can’t wait to see him at school on Monday and hear what he says.  Oh, how it makes her laugh.

The baseball fields stretch ahead of her, two blocks of mostly dark green grass.  She feels like running.  Running forever.  Maddie slips off her sneakers and runs across cool bumpy sidewalk with shoes in hand.  She slides onto soft grass.  The balls of her feet press deep into the grass, it feels cold on this cloudy day, and she is propelled forward by force of muscle and pure emotion.

What has happened to her?  She’s acting strange, even she knows it.  She feels confused inside.  Like she has no control over how she will feel one minute to the next.  A train approaches, the engine chugging a chain of rail cars behind it more than a block long.  Maddie runs faster.  The train tracks, in the distance, parallel to the edge of the baseball fields, on her left, guide the engine head-on past Maddie.  The ground shakes underneath her bare feet.  The clanking and bounce of metal rolling along rails thirty-some yards away drowns all other sound.  But through the noise, racing uppermost in her mind, is the thought of Adam.  And she’s unsure why.  Days before she didn’t think twice about him.  He’s a neighborhood friend, who likes to spend time with her spying on Johnson.  Someone to rocket hunt with him.  That’s all.

She slows her pace near the outer edge of the baseball field.  The train has stopped.  It blocks the sidewalk in the direction home.  On this end of the field younger kids are playing baseball.  Maddie sits behind the ball fence to watch and wait.

The train sits for a long time without moving.  Maddie moves closer to the crossing and sits on the sidewalk to put her sneakers back on.  From spaces underneath the train cars she sees others have been stuck on the other side as well.  Cars are lined up and there are legs walking back and forth and bike tires with riders’ legs leaning to one side with one foot on pavement.  Something catches her eye two rail cars down from the crossing.  A blur of fur rushes forward, passing under the train.  People shout from the other side.

Maddie doesn’t breathe until the dog appears on her side, safe, the train behind it remains at a standstill.

“Ranger!” Maddie yells, surprised and angry.  He could have been killed.  Ranger bounds over to her at the sound of his name and Maddie grabs his collar.  “Stay!”  She holds him with both arms and leans forward to see if Adam knows where he is.  “Don’t you dare move!” she says when Ranger pushes against her shoulder as if ready to play.  “I mean it!” Maddie tightens her hold.

Adam, crouched to the ground, peers underneath the stopped train.  Adam bends to a crawling position.  He doesn’t appear to have seen her yet, nearly two car lengths away.  Maddie wants to wave both hands so he’ll look in her direction, but no way will she let go of Ranger now.  What if he runs underneath the train again?

The train cars flinch, metal connectors bump backward in succession from rail car to rail car.  The engine has moved forward and it takes a moment for the cars behind it to respond.

Finally!

Maddie glances again to Adam.  Her heart stops.  He’s crawled forward, near the edge of track. He’s turned to the right, unmoving, staring at the wheels of the train.

“Get back!” Maddie yells.  Is he crazy?  She loops her fingers around Ranger’s collar so she can half-stand.  Adam’s not going to crawl under, is he?  The train is ready to move. Can’t he see that?  He should know better than to guess how long before the wheels will advance.  Does he think he can get to the other side ?  Why would he do that?

She tugs Ranger, hoping to move him closer.  Maybe Adam will see them and know Ranger is safe with her.

Maddie drags Ranger around a blue station wagon in the line of cars stopped at the crossing.  She hurries, anxious to peek under the train again.  She pushes Ranger to sit and bends, looking for Adam.  What she sees is TG pulling Adam by his arm, forcing him to back away from the train.

Maddie, relieved, nearly collapses at Ranger’s side.  More than anything, she wants to scream at Adam.  What was he thinking?  She practically had a heart attack watching him.  What is wrong with him?  And she could give TG a big hug right now.   At least she has some sense.  Maddie feels a twinge of appreciation for her.

The train cars lunge forward  several inches.  The train creaks as it begins to move.

And it hits Maddie like a freight train.  That’s why he did it.  Her blood races.  She is sure of it.  Adam was trying to show-off for TG.  That’s exactly what he was doing.  And here she is, holding his dog, keeping Ranger safe, while Adam’s goofing off on the other side to impress some girl.  Playing chicken with a train.  All for TG.

Maddie’s lungs expand, feeling like they’ll burst.  She holds Ranger closer.  And when she buries her head in fur, what bursts are a million tears.

*

NEXT TIME: Is this the end of Maddie and Adam’s friendship?  What will she do?  How will he react?

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Ride the Storyline Express – with Bad Boy and Backpack

In Don't Read This - It's Personal, fiction, Random Posts, Ride the Storyline Express, Story, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique, Writing - Work in Progress on May 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm

What’s the Storyline Express?  Here’s the link to where it started:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/writers-block-ride-the-storyline-express/

*

Another ride along the mikidemillion route

Here’s another happenin’ on the mikidemillion route:

Years ago my alarm went off at 4:00am sharp every weekday so I could be at the bus corner to catch the 5:00am bus.  Let me tell you, no one is up and moving at that hour unless they get paid for it.  I had to be in the office before the stock market opened so I waited on the quiet corner by 4:50am just in case the bus came early.  Not fun, but necessary.  An older woman showed up most mornings to catch the same bus.

She was feisty and mouthy.  I liked to see her while at the same groaned inside when I did.  She was much older than me and, as I’ve noticed in most close-to-retirement agers, seemed to ‘take no crap from no one’.

Me, not so much, a bit meek around people I don’t know and not fond of chatting to everyone I meet.

I don’t think this woman was chatty, it was more like she carried on the conversation in her head out loud.  I just happened to be there to hear it.  But she did talk directly to me at times.

“Oh, you have herpes!” she’d said once, before her usual morning hello.

She’d stunned me into silence.  The confusion on my face must have been obvious.

“On your lip,” she pointed to a newly forming cold sore.

“That’s not herpes!” I told her.  I most surely did not have herpes and was not going to let this old lady publicly claim I did.

“Oh, yes it is,” she said, almost sounded happy about it.

“I really don’t think I’ve had herpes since I was a kid.  Been getting cold sores on and off my entire life.”   It was the first time I was really mad at her, and resolved to stop participating in conversations with her.  She didn’t seem to notice.  Kept on talking.

Later, I found out that she was partly right, that the herpes simplex virus has been identified as causing cold sores. Most of us carry this type 1 or type 2 virus.  Normally, it’s dormant but when it becomes active, it begins on the lip or nose and causes a cold sore.

Cold sore or no cold sore, I listened to this woman’s work problems every morning, how she always spoke her mind and told the boss exactly what she thought.  It was something she did everyday.  Part of the normal routine when working with people she considered idiotic.

One thing I knew, this was a tough old bird, as they say.  I was secretly relieved that she was not in my workplace.  But I respected her commitment to stand up for herself.  I began to enjoy her little discussions with herself in the mornings.

Don’t misunderstand me, she did not talk like a lunatic.  She was intelligent and independent.  I think that maybe she didn’t have too many people to talk to in her life anymore.  She’d mentioned a few times that her daughter visited once in awhile but I had the sense she felt neglected by her.  I was someone who was a perfect vehicle for a sounding board.  Captive audience, didn’t say much back, and, as the weeks wore on, was actually interested in some of what she had to say.

When she didn’t show up one week it surprised me that I really did miss her.  When it extended into the next week I worried.

Finally, there she was, walking along the darkened sidewalk to the dimly lit corner where we waited for the bus.  I smiled when I saw her.  But her walk wasn’t brisk and purposeful as before.  She said hello and seemed sullen.  She didn’t speak.

“How are you?”  I said, the first time I’d ever initiated the conversation.

“Not good,” she said after a pause.

My heart dropped. “What’s wrong?”

And she told me the story.

The bus had been crowded when it’d stopped at the corner.  As usual, everyone congregated at the front of the bus so there was no room for new passengers to get on but the aisle-way in the back of the bus was clear.  She’d forced her way onto the bus, knowing there was room in the back, and asked people to move back.

Some complied but a young man with a large backpack blocked her way.  She couldn’t get past him.  She asked several times for him to move his backpack out of the way.  He didn’t.  She increased the volume of her voice, letting him know she’d like to get by.  Still no response.  Then she tapped him on the shoulder.  Several times.  He finally turned to look at her.  She asked again that he move.  He leaned left and she had just enough space to get by him.  No sooner had she stepped past he pushed her.  Hard, on the back.  She lost her footing and tumbled to the floor of the bus.  Hard, on her back.

And there she lay.  She knew she was hurt, but no one offered assistance.  The people on the bus let her lay there for minutes until a lone young man knelt and put out his hand to help her.  The only one to ask if she was okay.

That’s when my morning companion started to cry.  Tears came to my eyes as well.  She wiped her eyes and said, “You know, I’m not crying because of what that guy with the backpack did to me, but what makes me cry is that one act of human kindness I felt from the man who helped me up.”  She stopped, deep in thought.  “Someone I didn’t even know.  Isn’t that strange?” she said, “how we accept all of the horrible things in life as that’s the way it is but when someone shows they care it touches the deepest emotion.”

The Taking of the Square – 4th Section

In fiction, Random Posts, The Taking of the Square, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique, Writing - Work in Progress on April 25, 2010 at 6:08 pm

The Taking of the Square by mikidemillion

Draft – 4th STORY SECTION

*

Link to 3rd story section

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/the-taking-of-the-square-3rd-section/

*

Maddie knocks on the door.  In her mind she sees Adam’s smile, how it stretches across his face.  What is taking him so long?  Her stomach flutters when the door pushes open.  She steps back.  It takes a moment to adjust to the sight of a yellow and blue print dress.  Adam’s mother holds the door edge, her hands covered in bright yellow rubber gloves.

“Hi, Maddie.”  Mrs. Noble has a warm smile.  “My, you’re early today.  Adam’s not here.  He’s at the bicycle shop with his father.”

Maddie doesn’t know how to respond.  She’d been hoping to see Adam since the early hours of the morning.  With that in mind she remembers to ask, “And Ranger?”

“Why, yes.  You knew he found Ranger?”

“Not really, but I thought I saw Ranger last night,” she pauses, then adds, “from my window.”

“You saw him?  How funny.  He was on the porch this morning.  So, Ranger came home last night?”

“Yes,” Maddie doesn’t know what else to say.  She half-turns, then stops.  There is something she wants to know. “umm, did Ranger have anything on?” she says, turning to look at Mrs. Noble.

Adam’s mother raises her eyebrow, “Whatever do you mean?”

Maddie’s face flashes hot.  “Nothing,” she says,  lowering her head.  “I thought I saw something.”

She feels Mrs. Noble looking at her.  When Maddie peeks up, Adam’s mother has a confused look on her face.  “I was half asleep,” Maddie offers and Mrs. Noble smiles.  Then she claps her yellow hands together.

“Wait one minute.  I almost forgot.” She moves to the interior of the kitchen and returns to the doorway.

“Here,” she says, extending her gloved hand with opened palm.  Maddie’s heart skips.

“Adam said if I see you to give it back and say thank you.  That it worked.” She hesitates a minute.  “Not sure what that means, but here it is.”

Maddie grins.  “Thank you,” she folds her fingers around the rock and holds it tight.  “I know what he means.”

Maddie skips along the sidewalk with her lucky rock safe in the pocket of her jeans.  She stops two blocks away, when she reaches the sidewalk where she’d drawn her hop-scotch board the day before.  It looks different with clouds in the sky.  The pink outline not as bright.  She can’t sit and wait for Adam to return.  It could be hours.

At home her mother suggests ‘If you’re bored, why not go clean your room’?  Oh thanks mom.  After lunch Maddie walks to the schoolyard.  In the Spring, the school opens its playground early afternoons on weekends.  Although the school grounds are always open, the playground isn’t officially open until a green wooden box, big enough to fit five kids, has been pulled onto the school grass and unlocked.  Inside are badmitten sets, baseball bats, volleyball nets and all sorts of balls, including the gigantic red rubber ball they all use for Four Square, available to anyone who adds their name to the equipment sign-up sheet.

Only two kids are playing in the corner courtyard when she arrives, the area where four equal-sized squares have been painted, in perfect even-yellow-lines, on the cement.   The two eye her suspiciously when she steps to the first square on the game.

“Friend or foe?” one little boy asks.

“Friend,” she lies.

She hits the ball just hard enough to make it look like the kid fumbled it himself.  Maddie moves to square two but allows the little boy to stay in three.  It’s not like there are dozens in line waiting to get into the game.  They all stay in the game no matter who goes out.  Two more kids join them, one goes to square one and the other stands next in line.

The new kids are older and the game becomes brisk.  Maddie moves to the top square, the Server Square, or King Position as some call it, and stays there for much of the half-hour.  The line grows and the competition is fierce.  Maddie hits the oncoming ball off the side of her hand by accident and it lands outside the second square.  She drops to the end of the line and waits her turn, advancing closer to the first square every time someone is called out.

Some players group together, forming alliances, to hold onto the power position by working as a team.  The person in the fourth square position starts the game and calls the plays.  If the ball is to go to counter clockwise, or can only be passed by using one hand, the Server is the one who calls it.  The speed of the game is controlled by the fourth square position, who can announce from the start to keep the ball moving at a slow pace.  The person can also change the pace once the ball enters their square again, and call out ‘fast game’ at any moment.  It’s a standard trick to slam the ball unexpectedly at someone they want out of the game.

To hope to dominate as King, one has to follow the dictates of the person in power and wait for the opposition to fumble.  To get to be the King requires concentration on the ball and readiness to react quickly to changes.

Maddie follows the ball around the playing area with her eyes.  She bends her knees, the ball travels the square low and fast.  Two older guys from the Junior High School are in the third and fourth square positions.  That’s fine.  She’s content to stay in the second square and stay in the game.  They seem to like her game play and the three of them play off each other to get rid of whoever steps up to the first square.

A new kid gets lucky and bumps off the King.  Maddie moves to third.  The new King makes eye contact with her to work together and get rid of the second square.  He bounces the ball a few times and Maddie crouches to prepare for anything.

“Friend or foe?” the new King asks square one.

“Foe,” a girl says.  Maddie looks up in surprise.  The girl glances at her then in a show of excessive haughtiness turns her attention to the King.  Maddie looks behind her at the next person in line and sees Sharon.  Her two classmates ignore her.  The girl in square one, Kim, spreads out her arms in a show of readiness to deflect the ball.

Maddie hasn’t seen them since that day at the Johnson garage.  It seems so much time has passed but was it only yesterday?  The King bounces a slow ball into Maddie’s square.  She gently taps it back to him.  They share it, back and forth, for a few minutes.  Maddie waits for a signal to a showdown.  They speed up the passing of the ball, enough to ensure they won’t miss it but it’s a set-up for the big play.  The King motions with his eyes to the second square.  Maddie acknowledges with a look and slaps the ball to bounce sideways, so close inside the corner of the second square the kid doesn’t even reach for it.

Sharon smiles at Kim when she steps into square one.  Neither look at Maddie.  The King plays the ball again to Maddie.  They bounce it to each other for awhile.

Sharon folds her arms.

“I saw Adam about ten minutes ago,” she tells her friend.

Maddie’s eyes lose their focus on the ball for a second.  She taps it back to the King.

Sharon dips and positions her arms to receive the ball.  She looks directly at Maddie.  “He was with that Johnson girl.”

Maddie’s vision goes inside, she hears the ball bouncing but sees nothing.  Her eyes feel wide.  She tries to hide it by blinking.  The ball bumps off the toe of her sneaker and flies high and out of bounds.  Maddie doesn’t care, her mind processes what Sharon has said.  Forgetting to go to the end of the line, she sits instead on the low cement wall that borders the sidelines of the playing area.

She hears giggles from the Four Square area but it sounds far away.

*

NEXT TIME: Why is Adam with Julie?  Will Maddie find out what really happened to Ranger?  Find out next time!

The Taking of the Square – 3rd Section

In fiction, Random Posts, The Taking of the Square, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Understanding Style and Technique, Writing - Work in Progress on April 11, 2010 at 7:22 am

The Taking of the Square by mikidemillion

Draft – 3rd STORY SECTION

*

Link to 1st Story Section:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/the-taking-of-the-square/

Link to 2nd Story Section:

https://mikidemillion.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/the-taking-of-the-square-2nd-section/

Maddie steps back and peeks around Adam’s shoulder.  The small door of the garage flings wide and the Johnson girl is pushed from behind through it.  Black gloves disappear off her back.  She blinks at the sunlight.

“The dog’s not in there,” she says.  The door pulls shut and she glances back as it latches.

Adam moves closer, he twists to bounce a look off Maddie, his eyes dark and mouth forming, “Wh-“.   The girl motions him to go back.  He stops without retreating.

“I checked,” she tells him and holds her hand out as if to keep him away from the garage.

“Come on, Teagee, it’s my dog,” Adam’s words plead.  The girl’s face reacts first to what he calls her, looking surprised and she looks beyond, like she’s trying to figure out what he’s said.  Then she meets his gaze and her eyes soften.  She appears unprepared for what she sees.

After a moment, eyes still on him, she says, “Julie.”

“Julie?” Adam hesitates, “but Madd-,” he glances back at Maddie, looking confused.

“My name is Julie.”

Maddie, inserting herself near Adam’s shoulder, thinks she’s protecting him but realizes the moment she does it that she’s interrupting something.  Something she can’t explain.  She looks at Adam but he doesn’t notice and Maddie feels a warp in time and space.  Like she’s tumbling through it and it’s a rough ride.

It feels like everything has changed.

“She said your dog’s not here,” Mrs. Johnson says from behind the screen door.  Adam turns his head.

“Yes.  Thank you, Mrs. Johnson.”  His voice sounds formal and shaky.  Adam turns again to Julie.  “If you see Ranger will you let me know? ”

“His name’s Ranger?” Julie is soft spoken.

“Yes,” Adam puts his hand on Maddie’s shoulder and guides her toward the street.  “His name’s Ranger,” he tells Julie, looking back at her.  “I’m down five blocks, the third house from the corner.  White.”

“I know,” Julie waves, her hand barely moving, and smiles at him as he goes.  A weak smile, but it bothers Maddie when she glances back to see it.  Adam’s spirit seems to lift.

“Thanks,” he says at yard’s edge and jumps across the ditch to the street.

The screen door to the house closes behind them and Adam tugs his battered bike upright.  He tries rolling it but the front fender clanks and the back tire slides on the ground with no rotation.  He struggles to get it on the street.

“Looks like you’re not going to the playground,” the girl says, still leaning on the handlebars of her bike, watching from the middle of the road.  Her friend, Sharon, has joined her.  They ignore Maddie.  Sharon pulls the handlebars of her bike to jerk the front tire to the right.  The other girl does the same.  Sharon pushes off on her foot and pedals in the direction of the school.

“We’ll be there if you want to come by later.”

Adam puts his hand up to acknowledge their leaving but acts distracted.  Like he’s thinking about something.  “I don’t know how I’m going to get this bike home,” he says, “I might need help with it.”  He looks back at the Johnson house.

Maddie swallows a strange feeling, caught off-guard by it.  Like she’s threatened somehow.  Like she has to act quickly.  She grips the right handlebar of Adam’s bike and pushes forward.  Adam helps her, pushing from his side.  The bike’s back tire squeaks and skids along the road but the bike moves between the two, easier than expected.

“We can push it up one block then I’ll go back and ride my bike to catch up, and do it again for the next block.  It won’t take too long.”

“Sure.” Adam looks again at the Johnson house.  Maddie glances over, wondering if he’s searching for a sign of Ranger, but sees Julie standing in the window, watching them.  Adam takes a long look back at the house.  Maddie has to think fast.

“Maybe Ranger’s at your house already.  We can check when we get there.”

It works.  Adam’s eyes turn again to her and he looks hopeful.  “You’re right!  Let’s go.”

They reach Adam’s yard close to dinnertime.  “Ranger!”  Both yell it several times.  Adam leaves his bike tipped sideways on the lawn and races to the back of the house.  Maddie listens for barking sounds but hears nothing.  Her bike has been left on the previous block and on her way to retrieve it her feet move as slow on the pavement as the back tire of Adam’s broken bike.

Adam is standing by his bike when she returns riding hers.  “Not here,” he says without looking up.

“He’s probably somewhere around the neighborhood.  He’ll show up soon.”

“Yeah.” Adam pulls his bike closer to the house.  He, too, moves slow.  Maddie’s heart dips, she can only imagine how it must feel for a boy to be missing his dog.

“I’ll watch for him,” Maddie says.  She tries to sound upbeat.

“Okay.”

“I have to go eat dinner now but I’ll look first thing in the morning.”

“Okay.  Thanks.”  Adam drops his bike at the side of the house and for the first time looks up at Maddie.  She’s not sure, but their interaction feels different.  Almost like she’s lost importance.  Like he doesn’t care if she does or doesn’t look for Ranger.  Like she’s just another kid in the neighborhood.

It’s a strange feeling.  So different than earlier that afternoon when he’d asked her, as he usually did, to go with him to try to get a look at the rocketship.  It was as if they’d somehow gone up into space and on re-entry landed slightly off the mark, not quite where they’d lifted off.

In the evening Maddie closes her eyes but late into the night still stares at the ceiling.  So many thoughts, so much has happened, but the one thing keeping her awake is an uncertainty over the changed friendship with Adam.  What’s wrong?  Why does it keep her awake?

Maybe if she looked out the window in the direction of his house.  Maybe it would settle her mind.  The room is dark.  She stumbles on a shoe, stops and listens, making sure her parents haven’t woken, then stands in front of the window and lifts a curtain edge.  The night feels cool outside the pane of glass.  Her breath leaves a cloud when her face presses against it.  She drops to her knees to lean her elbows on the window sill.  The tree in the yard sways in the wind.  An aluminum can rolls on the street.  It takes a minute to adjust her eyes to the darkness outside.

She watches for a long time, staring at nothing, at times looking up at the stars.  Lids heavy, she jerks her head up when it nods forward.  The moon has moved higher in the sky and further west, now barely visible from her window.  She rubs her eyes and pulls the sleeves of her pajamas to cover her arms.  She hugs her arms close, feeling their warmth.  She could be much warmer buried in her blanket with head cradled on a cushy pillow.  sounds heavenly.

With palms flat on the window sill, she pushes up, preparing to stand.  Her eyes close and she waits for a moment before opening them.  Like leisurely long blinks.  Too tired to stay open for long.  She pushes to stand and blinks again, a long moment with lids closed, then open.  They stay open.  Something is moving on the street.  Something shiny and low, moving at a medium pace.  It passes under a street light and flashes silver.

Maddie’s eyes widen.  That’s him.  “Ranger,” she says aloud.  He trots underneath the next street light.  The silver glints again.  He’s going in the direction of Adam’s house.  Maddie cups her mouth to stifle a shout of excitement.  Her eyebrows pull together then lift high.  On Ranger’s head is a small triangular hat made out of silver material.  Like aluminum.  Like he’s on his way home after a trip into space.

NEXT TIME: Why is Ranger wearing that hat? What’s Adam going to say about it?  Will Maddie be able to sleep again?  Find out, next time!