Evan, Dad said.
Evan blinked and looked at him.
Are you sure youre okay?
Oh, sorry, Dad. Yeah. I feel
... He didnt feel that good right now.
His head was starting to hurt. Fine. He
placed a final forkful of Dads homemade Hungarian
goulash into his mouth and washed it down with the
milk that tasted like dirt. He could feel Dad still
watching him. It made him nervous. The pills. Yeah,
thats what he was feeling, and it wasnt
good. All hed wanted was to stop feeling so
bad all the time ... so-sad-so-mad-so-bad-so ... so
Dad cleared his throat again. So
is she still seeing ... uh ... Mr. Tygart?
Yeah. Swallow food.
Get out of the chair. Make the excuses. Apologize.
Got to do it. Get out of here. Meet Kent. Ask him
exactly what was in those pills. Evan felt as
if he were a rock being skipped across a pond. He
pushed back from the table and stood. Time to get
out while he could. Im supposed to meet
... some of the guys at the theater for a movie, Dad.
Id better leave now if Im going to get
there in time. His voice caught, held, vibrated,
but Dad didnt act like he noticed. He just acted
disappointed. Hed probably rented a movie for
tonight. He was always trying to do stuff like that.
Then he would sit and watch Evan instead of the show.
Mom said that was one reason she divorced himbecause
he suffocated her.
Do you need a ride downtown?
Evan shrugged. Its only
Dad slumped in his chair. Well,
then. Ill see you when you get home. Hurry back
after the movie, okay?
Sure, I will. As Evan
grabbed his jacket and pushed his way out the front
door, he felt a tingle spread down his back and into
his legs, slowly, like cold pancake syrup. He did
not like these pills.
* * *
It was starting to get dark, so six-year-old
Levi Drake had turned on every light in the house.
And now he sat next to his little brother, Cody, on
the couch in the front room, waiting. They hadnt
turned on the television, because the rules were no
TV when Mom couldnt sit and watch it with them.
Mommys not home yet,
Cody said, scooting closer to Levi and pressing his
head against Levis arm. We go find her.
Itll be okay. She told
us never to leave the house by ourselves. Shell
come back soon. Levi hoped Cody wouldnt
start crying. Cody was only four, and he threw tantrums
when he didnt get his way, especially when Mom
Does Mommy have fur now?
Levi looked down at his silly little
Cody nodded. She runned away,
like the werewolf.
What werewolf? Mommy isnt
Cody nodded again, and his eyes got
big. Uh-huh. Cartoon werewolf.
Oh. That Saturday morning
werewolf cartoon was Codys favorite show. Levi
liked it, too. He was a nice werewolf who ran away
when he started to grow fur so nobody would see him
and bashed the bad guys and saved the children. I
dont know, Cody. Maybe she is.
We can eat when Mom gets back.
She would come back any time. Levi knew it. He turned
to look out the window and saw that the cars driving
along the street had their headlights on. He hoped
she would be able to find her way home in the dark.
Would she get lost?
Levi had tried to stop being afraid
when Mom left them alone, but this time shed
looked so scared, and she was breathing funny. Cody
was right. She did sort of look like that werewolf
did on cartoons just before his face grew hair. When
Levi had asked her if she was sick, she hadnt
even looked at him, just jerked open the front door
and ran outside. She hadnt heard him when hed
called her. Maybe she really was the werewolf. Maybe
she was out there right now, saving other little children
from the bad guys.
When she had left before, she had
always come back later and said she was sorry, and
cried, and told them she thought she was just having
bad dreams that scared her when she woke up. She never
told them what the dreams were about. She always said
everything would be okay. But if she really thought
that, why did she cry?
Cody patted Levis leg. Can
I have soup?
Ill get you some crackers,
and then when Mom comes, we can have soup. Levi
squeezed Codys arm and slid from the couch.
Cody climbed down, too, and followed
right behind him. You cook soup, Levi.
No, Mom doesnt want us
to turn on the stove when she isnt here. Ill
get some cheese. You like that, Cody. Cheese and crackers.
Levi got some slices of American cheese out of the
fridge and used a step stool to reach the crackers
in the cupboard. But when he opened the cupboard door,
he knew Cody was going to yell. There were all the
cans of soup stacked on top of each other, right next
to the HiHo crackers.
Cody caught his breath, getting ready
for a long squall. Soup! I want soup, Levi!
You cook soup! His voice grew so loud Levi wanted
to cover his ears with his hands.
Cody, I cant
Soup, soup, soup! I want soup!
Shut up, Cody! Levi turned
around and almost fell off the step stool. Shut
up! ShutBe quiet! Cody knew Mom would
get mad if she heard him say shut up.
Cody shouted louder. I want
soup! Im hungry! He banged his fist against
the cabinet door below the sink and stomped his foot.
Levi couldnt take the screaming
anymore. Okay! Ill get you some soup!
Just be quiet!
Cody kept banging and stomping, but
he stopped shouting. Levi was hungry, too. Where was
Mom? Why didnt she come back? If she were here
Cody wouldnt be this way.
Levi grabbed a can with the noodles
on the front picture and set it carefully on the counter.
Then he pulled the box of crackers out and set that
beside the can. He had to do everything just right.
Mom always made him be real careful when he worked
with her in the kitchen. He climbed down from the
stool and opened the cabinet door where Mom kept the
pots. He pulled out the one she always used to cook
the soup and closed the door.
Cody stopped the banging and ran
across the kitchen. I can help!
Levi jerked the pot away and said
in his meanest voice, No, Cody! If you touch
anything, I wont feed you!
Cody looked at him in surprise for
a moment. Then his lower lip stuck out and big tears
filled his eyes. A long moan grew in his throat and
burst into a loud cry that went through the kitchen
like a car horn. Levi tried to ignore the wail as
he reached into a drawer to get the can opener and
opened the can. It was hard to concentrate with Cody
screaming behind him, but he kept trying.
The lid came off and Levi poured
the soup into the pot, only splashing a few drops
out onto the floor. He reached up and turned the knob
on the stove to the place where Mom always turned
it. He heard a click, click, click sound, but
nothing else happened. He turned it off again, told
Cody to be quiet, and then turned the knob back on.
Click, click, click, but no
fire. And Cody kept screaming. Levi climbed onto the
first step of the stool and turned the knob a little
farther ... just a little bit, and then once again
... and a big whoosh of flames licked out at him.
He stumbled backward and fell from the stool.
Mama! he shouted as he
landed with a hard thump on the floor. It knocked
the air out of him, and he couldnt catch his
Cody stopped crying.
Click, click, click.