The Man Who Walked Through Walls: Book One, Chapter One, Part One.

 A child’s pin wheeling arms are a symphony of bike rides and cherry floats and bottle cap collections and downhill races on the cans of misappropriated garbage can lids. A child’s laughter is a warm concerto of honey-glazed innocence, rebounding off the cool blue walls of summer’s stage.  Children, unlaced shoes landing soft-soled on chalk racing strips, compose soft violin and piano instrumentation from land-lost postage stamps and battling robots, freckled dolls and rain-warped cardboard boxes. They live within the music the soul seeks when the child inside has long since perished on the craggy and dim shores of responsibility and deadlines, late fees and appointments.
 Bright red like valentine satin, hemmed by a sharp seam of winter diamonds, the glove twittered, animated by a freezing fear that filled his gloves with a warm numbness.  Roggie was nine but his gloves were new, a gift left under the dehydrated tree shedding in his house by the bold windows overlooking the canal.  The canal, a long mean length of channel almost always empty of its purpose, was currently frozen, iced over by a mean snow and torrent of freezing rain.
 Roggie stood precariously on the ice, shivering under three layers of dark clothing he’d worn for nearly two years, caught in the quickly melting space between retreating day and advancing night. The vacuum of dusk. He felt his hand-knitted cap slip across his sweating crown, and began a slow pinwheel under the carousel of constellations. A laugh lightened by nervousness ebbed from his throat and out in the cavern of night, carelessly bounding off the graffiti glazed, high concrete walls.

 He should have headed homeward, taking his time to inspect the rubble scattered throughout. The antique motorcycle, Florida orange with rust, tires bound up in some forgotten summer swell. The busted dishwasher, dropped from where and into there, split like a hurled melon far past its ripened prime. And the ancient computer, its tear of entrails tightly would around an exposed rebar spike, a tangled seaweed mess of strangled technology.  He laughed. Poor computer! They, him and the boys, had wanted to use the parts, clean them, and build a robot of their very own, one that could deal a hastened rebuttal to recess bullying at the hands of Mutch.

 Mutch was a classmate with an eggplant head larger than his frame warranted. He had big hands, sewn onto rocky wrists and slim but tough forearms. Mutch liked to punch trees to impress the easily impressed girls. They would giggle when he would beat a knot loose from some elm, or punch an oak’s bark in a steady staccato of meaty thumps. Mutch never laugh. He squinted and he punted a football or he bunted a shoulder to free some child’s lunch change like he was shaking down an isolated vending machine, but he never laughed.

 “I’m freezing to death here, what’s taking them so long”, he thought, still caught in his slow star waltzing pinwheel. The dizziness was making him drunk, and the cold was farther from his mind but never far enough to forget how his eyes ached with teary chill.

 All of them, Roggie, Darp and Fertheton, all of them hated Mutch. They despised his wide shoulders and hunched approach tightened by a lip line that advertised a business that dealt both the supply and demand side of Mutch’s schoolyard economics. Give or take. Give me your change or take, for free, no cost, gratis, a barrel of beating that would bruise teeth. Much to their regret, the robotic defender never materialized and Mutch never regretted his micromanaging of their pockets.  
“Come on, guys, get what you got and let’s go”, Roggie said with a steady whine and backbeat of gasping cold air that made his tonsils ache like freezer burn. He wanted to leave the stretch, get back to his room and toys, and stale comic books that bled magical worlds from torn pages glossed smooth from overused hours of boredom.

 By now, the boys had stopped pulling, and started sawing back and forth in motion that resembled seamen arguing with a troublesome quarry. They had begun the night with a slide down the side from the flattened permafrost above, into the canal. They were in search of junk for their scrap projects: refitting Tonka toys into knee-riding war machines and bicycles into post-apocalyptic scouts.  The night had failed to deliver even the most modest of success. They had located a discarded inner tube for a ten-speed girl’s bike riddled with the bullet holes of rubber decay, and a rusted copper pot that looked like it had once served Caesar’s final meal before the knives fell. Nothing of use.

 He stood still. Roggie stared into the panoply of silent notes above him until his eyes watered. Only the salt of his tears kept his eyes from icing over, and his vision blurred as if he’d felt the quick fists of Mutch instead of starlight. He slumped. He straightened. Roggie expelled in a plume of raw ash and bellowed:

 “I’m going home, toads. I ain’t got all damned night and I am not wasting it on you saperoons!”  His lung nearly collapsed from the cold while his heart unhealthily paused, as if considering the merit of another brick of breath.  Damned winter, he thought with a thin guff.

 Darp wiped the frost from his glacially thick glasses, removed them in an awkward slide of the arm, and squinted at Roggie. “Are you still here? Man, I’d thought you beat back to your home. Not like you doing any of the work or anything”, he said with said with a ruddy chortle and a nose crusted with snot. Darp often played the group jerk and relished the role with deserved pleasure of leader.
 “Naw, I’m waiting for you goons to get that crap outta the hole. You had me stand here, remember?” Roggie’s freckles, if any eyes could see them, burned hot red. He felt like his face was on fire, both from the cold and from humiliation. He hated Darp calling him out. He had wanted to help, but Darp had insisted he stick back, leave the work to the ‘men’, not that any of them would see a razor for another four or five years.  Darp was the oldest, eleven but still lost in the sunlit land of childhood. For the briefest of moments, watching the leader replace his goggles and return his bare hands to the lodged whatever, Rog wondered if the oldest boy would ever find adulthood.

 Darp flicked back to Rog. “No offense, man. Just stand there and keep on your peeps. We’re almost done.” The barehanded boy smiled crookedly, a sharp shrapnel of moonlight ricocheted off his uneven teeth, and Rog mirrored the gesture, wavering mechanically cold on the ice. Whatever, he thought with an unseen smile, but instead he replied nonchalantly: “Just hurry up!”.

 Throughout the brief exchange, Fertheton never ceased hemming and hawing, silent and consumed by his current task. The middle child was also the smallest, a devout follower and a boy that enjoyed more lazy cannonballs, flipping baseball cards with his bike spokes and chasing the ice cream man with a battered dollar bill than the hectic tedium of building miniature war wagons and wandering lonesome sweltered back woods.  He was ‘laid backed’.  Reclined, and often more than not, boring in a fantastic way that only summer sometimes demands of school furloughed little boys.

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