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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Kids
- Theme: Science fiction stories
- Subject: Novels
- Published: 02/04/2019
Robbin' In The Hood (All Chapters)Born 1947, M, from Oceanside, United States
Robbin’ In The Hood
The first time I stole anything using my powers, I was seven years old. It was my friend Benny’s Darth Vader doll. I say doll, because you couldn’t really call it an action figure. It was too big, and made of a soft, shiny, vinyl-like plastic. If you squeezed its left boot, it made the aqualung-like breathing sounds Darth Vader is so famous for.
Benny and I been hanging out in his bedroom when he showed me the doll, which was why I was probably thinking about his room when I decided I wanted to play with it myself. The next thing I knew, there was a whoosh, and I was lying on a shag rug instead of the hardwood floor of my room where I had been coloring only a moment before.
Staring wide-eyed at the floor where the coloring book had been then at the walls, I realized immediately I was in Benny’s bedroom and not my own. How could this be?
Standing up, I listened for sounds of anyone else inside the apartment. Nothing. I guess I was lucky, because it turned out neither Benny nor his parents were home at that moment. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t freaking out by what had just happened. Or maybe it was because of my age that I accepted it with no problem. But whatever the reason, instead of making a beeline for the door, I put the blue crayon I had been using to color with calmly in the pocket of my jeans then went over to Benny’s toy box and lifted the lid. Spotting his Darth Vader doll on top of the other toys, I snatched it up, and hugged it to my chest.
How was I going to get back to my room, which was two floors above this one, without anyone seeing me, or even worse, without my mother catching me?
I thought for a moment or two then suddenly the answer came to me in a flash … at least, I hoped it was the right answer.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I pictured my room with all my Star Wars and Spiderman posters and all my coloring stuff. The next instant, I heard a soft pop, and felt a slight pull to the side as if a giant vacuum had tried to suck me into its hose. When I opened my eyes, I found myself back in my room, standing next to my bed.
Smiling, I sat down on the floor and began playing with Darth Vader.
Ten minutes later, my mother came into the room to call me for supper.
The moment the door opened, I knew I was in trouble. She knew I didn’t own a Darth Vader doll. She also knew Benny did, because she had been the one running the church raffle when Benny’s father won the toy.
Her soft but sharp brown eyes got kind of squinty as she looked at me and asked in Spanish, “Where did you get that doll?”
What was I going to say? There was no way I was getting out of this one. I knew I was busted.
With a feeling of dread creeping up and over my shoulders like an army of ants, I kept my eyes glued to the floor and shrugged.
“Did Benito give you that toy to play with?” my mother asked.
Again, unable to think of a good excuse, I shook my head while continuing to stare at the floor.
“You took that from Benito, didn’t you?” I heard her say.
Without looking up, I nodded.
That’s when she announced to me in her remarkably calm but authoritative voice, “After supper, you’re coming with me to Benito’s apartment, and you’re going to give him back his doll.”
Although the idea of giving up the toy hurt, I knew I had no choice.
At least, she didn’t ask when and how I had gotten it.
That would come later.
The next time I stole something that way was a couple of months later on a Sunday evening, right after supper. I was in my room sketching, when I heard the sound of a TV commercial seep through my room’s poster-covered walls. The commercial was advertising the new dark chocolate candy bars that Marvel was selling through local comic book stores. I decided right then and there I wanted one.
Putting aside the colored pencil with which I had been drawing, I stood up. In the short while since I’d made my first journey to Benny’s bedroom, I’d been practicing, making other short hops from one part of our building to another. I’d gone from my room to the roof, to the basement then back to my room. It wasn’t easy. I had to really concentrate to form a clear image of the place I wanted to go to before I could hop there. This time, I formed a picture in my mind of the interior of a nearby comic bookstore I knew. With a tiny “whoosh!” I found myself standing in front of a rack of comics. Luckily for me, the store had closed early because it was Sunday.
Forgetting about the possibility that someone might see me, I sauntered over to the front counter by the cash register and grabbed not one, but five of the candy bars then hopped back to my room. My one mistake was in trying to hide the extra four bars inside my underwear drawer.
Of course, my mother found them, but she didn’t say anything. That was the creepy part. All week long, I kept expecting her to “drop the other shoe on my head,” so to speak, but she never did. Instead, when mass was over the following Sunday, she and I stopped outside of St Michael’s to talk to Father Carmel.
The middle-aged priest greeted us with his usual politician-like smile.
“David,” he said in Spanish, “how are you doing?”
“Great,” I replied, also in Spanish, while totally unaware of what was about to happen.
“Bueno, bueno,” he said to me, still smiling then suddenly, his expression changed. “David,” he said, his eyes looking at me as if they were both tired and sad at the same time, “your mother tells me you may have stolen some candy bars.”
Holy, molely, I thought! She told him!
Fear nibbled at my stomach, and I began to feel a little queasy.
Glancing first at my mother then at Father Carmel, I saw that neither of them was smiling, but also neither of them looked particularly mad. They just seemed to be waiting to see if I would admit to my crime.
With my eyes focused on the concrete stairs behind where Father Carmel was standing, I nodded. What else could I do?
“You realize,” I heard Father Carmel’s gentle but firm voice say to me from above, “that stealing is a sin?”
Of course, I knew stealing was a sin. It was one of the Ten Commandments—part of the whole Catholic list of rules and regulations we were supposed to follow.
“So you know what might happen to you if you do it again?” he said.
I looked up at him and nodded. “God might punish me?”
“That’s right,” said Father Carmel, smiling again. “And to keep God from punishing you, what must you do now?”
I thought a moment. “Give back the candy bars?” I replied. I was hoping that was the right answer, even though I knew it was going to be impossible.
“That’s right,” said Father Carmel, nodding.
“But I can’t,” I told him.
He frowned. “Why not?”
“Because, I don’t have them anymore. They’re gone.”
I was sure my mother had thrown away the candy bars the moment she found them. Instead, I heard her say, “I have them.”
Surprised, I looked up at her. The expression on her face had not changed, but, even so, I had a feeling I knew what was coming next.
“When we get home,” she said in her usual calm but firm voice, “I will give you the candy bars, and you and I will go together to give them back to the person or persons you stole them from.”
Hanging my head in shame, I replied, “All right.”
Before we left the front of the church, Father Carmel gave me five Our Fathers and five Hail Mary’s to say for penance, even though I hadn’t received communion yet. That didn’t make any difference. Mom made sure I said them anyway—once before we went to the store, and again before I went to sleep that night.
Of course, being a kid of seven with a super power like teleportation (although, at the time, I didn’t know what to call it), the temptation to use it for personal gain was too great to pass up. That’s why a few weeks later I found myself stealing again, even if it meant I could receive a cosmic spanking. This time, I decided it was more for Benny’s sake than my own.
I was lying in bed in the dark one night thinking about what Benny had said earlier that day.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a real basketball instead of this thing,” he grumbled, his chubby fingers holding the ball we’d been using as if he wanted to throw it away.
Up till then, we’d been shooting hoops with a large rubber ball that was really a dodge ball, and not a regulation basketball.
“We need the real thing,” he said.
“We sure do,” I agreed, as the first thought about stealing one entered my head.
That night, I waited for mom to go to sleep, then slipped out of bed and put on my jeans and a sweatshirt with the hood up. Then standing next to my bed, I formed in my mind the clear image of the interior of the sports store that sat across from our elementary school.
When I got back with the ball, I immediately drew all over it with magic markers to make it look used.
Even though it was all marked up, Benny was ecstatic. “Where did you get it?” he asked, looking at the ball as if it was a bunch of dollar bills he was holding in his hands.
“I found it behind one of the washing machines in our basement,” I told him.
He believed me with no problem, but mom was a little more skeptical. That’s why I told her it was Benny’s. “He’s letting me play with it for a while.”
She looked at me for a long moment, then continued with her laundry. But I couldn’t help but feel she knew I had lied to her, just like other times when I brought home small toys or comic books, and told her that I had found them, or that Benny had leant them to me. She would look at me kind of squinty-eyed and I was sure she knew I was lying.
Then came the day she saw the baseball glove I had stolen. This time, she came straight out and accused me.
“You stole this, didn’t you?” she said grabbing my arm and squeezing it with her tiny but strong fingers. Her grip was so tight, it was like being squeezed by a wrench.
She didn’t appear her usual calm self. I was shocked to see her whole face pinched with anger. “Tell me!” she ordered.
At that moment, I was afraid of my mother. This was not normal for her, that’s why I kept staring at her small, oval face, while her fingers continued to squeeze my arm.
“Ouch!” I squealed, trying to pull free.
“Tell me the truth,” she said again.
Although her fingers didn’t release my arm, her grip did relax a little.
Finally, I knew I had no choice, so I nodded and said yes.
She released me and stepped back. “You’re just like the rest of them,” she said in Spanish, sounding really disappointed.
I knew what she meant by the rest of them—people in our neighborhood who had gotten into trouble with the police. There were a lot of them. We lived in a poor section of the city. Many families had one or more members who had been in trouble for one reason or another—including Benny’s father.
“I’m not like them,” I tried to tell her.
“Yes, you are,” she said, looking at me even more sadly than before.
That’s when I decided to show her my power.
Looking back now, I realize it was crazy, but I was seven at the time. I wasn’t thinking like a grownup. I thought she’d be happy with my ability. Instead, I scared her silly and that’s when the truth came out about my origins.
“You understand what it means to be adopted?” she asked once she had calmed down.
We were in the living room. She was sitting on the couch, having practically collapsed onto it after she saw me disappear then reappear again. I had hopped into my bedroom to drop off the baseball glove then returned to the living room, holding up one of my colored pencils for her to see.
Instead of being excited, her eyes got as big as baseballs and she began making signs of the cross, while mumbling in Spanish a prayer against evil I’d heard other women from our neighborhood chant.
That’s when I began to feel frightened and I pleaded, “Mom, don’t be scared, please!”
Something must have clicked in her head, because her eyes suddenly went soft again and she said to me, “I’m not scared.”
And that’s when she explained about my being adopted.
“But you said dad left before I was born.”
“I know what I said,” she replied, sounding almost like my teacher in school trying to explain something to me, “but this is the truth. I took you in and you are my son—and that’s all you need to worry about.”
Not really, I thought. I had all kinds of questions, for instance, “Does that mean I’m not really Hispanic?” I asked, suddenly feeling as if someone had ripped off one of my arms or legs and tossed it away.
“You might not have been born Hispanic,” she said, “but the moment you came into my life, you became Hispanic—at least in my eyes.”
I couldn’t believe it. I’d always been kind of light-skinned and fair-haired, but I just thought it was normal. But now she was telling me I wasn’t really Hispanic! So if I wasn’t born Hispanic, then what the heck was I?
Suddenly, I heard her say, “We found you outside of St. Michael’s church.”
I looked at her. “Who’s we?”
“Father Carmel and I.”
My eyes got big. “He knows I’m adopted?”
Mom nodded. “Not only does he know, he helped me through the whole process.”
Suddenly, I felt as if I were in an elevator going up and down. But it wasn’t just my stomach that was moving, my whole body felt weird. Then the thought hit me. “You said I was found outside of St. Michael’s.” She nodded. “Does that mean someone just left me there?”
“We found you in a wicker basket.”
“You mean, like Moses?” I said.
She smiled. “Yes, just like Moses.”
I didn’t know whether that made me feel better or not. Because either way you put it, I had been dumped—left on the steps of St. Michael’s like some unwanted toy.
I looked at mom. “Didn’t my other mother want me?” I asked her in Spanish.
Her eyes got all soft again and she replied in Spanish, “I’m sure your mother and father loved you very much.”
“Then why did they leave me there?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’m sure they had a good reason.”
She shrugged again.
I thought what reason could they have for giving me away?
After a moment, I asked her, “Do you think they’ll ever want me back?”
In my mind, I was going back and forth between being afraid they might never want to take me back, and fearing they would, and I’d have to leave my mother.
She looked at me and frowned. “I don’t know,” she said then suddenly stood up. “But now that I’ve told you about your adoption, we have to go see Father Carmel right away.”
My stomach dropped. “Why?”
“Because he has something to give you and I’ve got to show him what you can do.”
The idea of showing my power to Father Carmel scared me. I didn’t know why for sure, except I knew he was going to be angry with me once mom told him about the baseball glove.
What happened next though was not exactly what I had expected.
“David, you must never allow anyone to know what you can do, or see you do it!”
That was Father Carmel speaking. He seemed really determined about this. It was after mom had suggested I demonstrate my ability to him by retrieving a candle from the altar.
Putting aside the baseball glove, which she had insisted I bring with us, I hopped from where we were in the back of the empty chapel to the front. Then after grabbing a candle off the altar, I scoped out a spot in the aisle next to the last row of wooden pews and returned then handed the candle to Father Carmel.
His eyes had gotten as big as mom’s, and that’s when he insisted I never show anyone what I could do.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because,” he said, looking at me very serious like, “if anyone sees you do it, they’ll want you to do it for them, too.”
It didn’t dawn on me right away what he was talking about, which was why I smiled and replied innocently, “What’s so bad about that?”
Father Carmel frowned. “Do you want them to turn you into a thief?” His voice had risen, and I could see the anger in his eyes. I felt my cheeks turning red and I looked down while shaking my head. Of course, it was already too late; I was a thief.
That’s when mom said to him, “Stealing is one of the reasons we’re here.”
Uh, oh, I thought, here it comes! And then she told him about the baseball glove, and about the other things she suspected I had been stealing. Father Carmel looked at me as if I had robbed Heaven itself. But before he could say anything, mom spoke up.
“You don’t have to scold him,” she said, looking at me as if I was a little puppy that had just done a no-no on the rug. “He already knows how sinful he’s been, but that’s not the only reason we’re here. I told him about being adopted and that you have something to give him.”
Father Carmel turned to mom. “You mean the bracelet?” he said.
Mom nodded. “Yes, the bracelet.”
The bracelet was the first real connection I had to my origins. It was also the first thing that got me into trouble. Well, maybe not the first, but it did cause me some problems.
It looked like it was made of the same type of metal as mom’s stainless steel pots and pans she used for cooking. The bracelet’s main part was a flat oval with a triangle etched into its surface, and the number 23 etched into the center of the triangle.
My eyes got big when I saw it. Father Carmel had taken the bracelet out of a narrow, blue, felt-covered jewelry box that he kept in his office. Later, I would wonder why he’d been keeping it in his office at the church instead of mom’s office, especially since she had been the church secretary for years.
“Can I touch it?” I asked him. I was looking at the bracelet like it was some kind of expensive toy.
“Sure,” said Father Carmel. He handed it to me.
I stared at the bracelet’s solid-looking links and oval, while turning it over and over and examining it as if I could find all the answers to my questions etched into its surface.
“Go ahead,” said Father Carmel, “put it on.”
“Will it fit?” I asked him.
“It should,” he replied, “it’s been growing along with you.”
At the moment, I was too busy being fascinated by the bracelet to realize what he had said.
Slipping it on my left arm, I immediately felt a strong buzzing sensation in my wrist.
“Whoa!” I said, yanking off the bracelet and dropping it onto his desk as if it had just bitten me or something.
Father Carmel frowned. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
My face turned red again. “I don’t know,” I said, looking at the bracelet while my heart beat inside my chest as if I’d just been on some scary ride. “It buzzed me,” I told him
“What do you mean, it buzzed you?”
“I felt a buzzing in my arm.”
Father Carmel looked at mom, then the both of them looked at the bracelet.
Then after a moment, Father Carmel said, “Go ahead, try it on again.”
I didn’t want to. The buzzing had really scared me. I shook my head.
“Go ahead,” urged Father Carmel gently. “I’m sure it won’t harm you. After all, it’s yours. You were wearing it when we found you.”
Not sure I believed him about it not harming me, I picked up the bracelet with my thumb and forefinger then began to slip my left hand slowly through its ring of links. As it moved past my fingers, I felt the buzzing begin, but only for a second, then it stopped. When nothing else happened, I pushed it further onto my wrist. It felt perfect; not too tight or too loose.
“It must have been awfully big,” I said to Father Carmel, admiring how it looked on my arm, “if I was wearing this when I was a baby.”
“Not really,” he said.
I looked at him. “Why not?”
“That’s one of the great mysteries surrounding your appearance. When your mother and I found you, you must have been but a couple of weeks old. The bracelet was just a tiny thing back then—no wider than your arm. But over the years, it has grown just as you have grown.”
Even at seven years old, I knew that stuff made out of metal didn’t become bigger like people or animals. But instead of being freaked out by the fact that my bracelet had grown along with me, for some reason, it seemed to make me feel kind of special—like maybe my bracelet and I were connected in some way by magic?
“David,” said my mother, interrupting my wonderful thoughts, “no one must ever learn about your bracelet. That’s why I want you to leave it here with Father Carmel.”
Anger rose in me. “That’s not fair!” I said to her, “It’s mine! Why can’t I keep it?”
“Because,” replied Father Carmel gently, “if anyone sees that bracelet, they might ask you about it. And even though you know you’re not supposed to tell them, you might accidentally say something about your adoption, or about what you can do.”
I felt tears form in my eyes. “Please can I keep it?” I begged. “I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
“No,” said Father Carmel shaking his head. “I’ll keep it safe for you right here in my office, the same way I’ve been doing since we found you.”
I kept thinking, there’s got to be a way for me to keep it, but I couldn’t come up with anything, so after a while, I slipped it off my wrist and handed it back to Father Carmel.
Sadly, I watched him put the bracelet back into its blue, felt case then put the case back into the closet where he kept his priest’s robes. After that, he turned to me and said, “Now, about this baseball glove of yours.”
First, he made me give him the glove. Then he said to me, “I’ll bring it back for you.”
That was a relief. At least I wouldn’t have to go with mom and face the people who owned the store, and tell them I had stolen their glove. But then he made me promise never to steal again. “Remember, what you’re promising me,” he said, “means you’re saying the same thing to God.”
An image formed in my mind of me standing in front of God, who was this giant person with a beard and eyes that were staring at me as if I had just done something really, really bad.
I shivered all over.
After making me promise, Father Carmel told mom to make sure I said ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys for penance, as well as suggested that maybe I should also say the Rosary along with her.
“Aw, mom!” I complained. “I don’t have to say all that, do I?” If I did, it would mean I’d have to repeat several Apostle’s Creed, along with a number of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, not to mention the Glory Be, and the Fatima Prayer.
“Yes, you do,” she replied, as she cupped me gently on the back of my head. “It will give you something to think about the next time you’re tempted to steal.”
And it did. I stopped thinking about stealing for a while, and instead, started thinking about my bracelet. I had several questions about it, like where did it come from? Who had given it to me? And why did it grow like a person grows?
Even though I had only seen the bracelet once, the image of its silver oval with the triangle and number 23 etched into its surface stayed on my mind like a tattoo. No matter where I went, or what I was doing, the image of my bracelet followed me around like a lost puppy. I couldn’t get rid of it even when I tried.
Finally, I stopped trying. Instead, I let it take over. I saw myself wearing the bracelet everywhere. I even dreamed about it. Eventually, I decided it was wrong to leave it just sitting in Father Carmel’s office like an old piece of candy. I should have it with me. After all, it was mine, wasn’t it? So why couldn’t I just take it back? It wasn’t like I’d be stealing from anyone. At least that’s what I thought.
Unfortunately, mom didn’t see it that way.
“OK, hand it over,” she said after coming into my room.
I put down the No. 2 pencil I’d been scteching with and looked at her. “Hand what over?” I asked, trying to seem all innocent-like.
“You know what I’m talking about—your bracelet.” I continued to look at her while still trying not to appear guilty.
“Father Carmel told me it was gone from his closet. There’s only one way that could have happened. You must have taken the bracelet out of his office.” She folded her arms in front of her chest and stared at me with accusing eyes. “What did we tell you about stealing?”
“I didn’t steal it!” I protested. “It’s mine.”
“That doesn’t make any difference,” she said, “it’s still stealing.”
I could have tried to argue with her, but before I could think of what else to say, she came over to where I was sitting leaning against my bed, and snatched my sketchpad right out of my hands.
She looked down and saw what I had drawn—the bracelet on my wrist. That’s when she said to me, “Because you took something you weren’t supposed to, even after we warned you, I’m grounding you for two weeks. No TV and no drawing.”
The no drawing part hurt me even more than the no TV. I’d been spending a lot of time trying to draw pictures the way they did in comic books. I thought I was getting really good at it, but now, she was taking that away from me.
“If I can’t watch TV or draw,” I said, “what can I do?”
“You can read your bible more for one thing,” she said. My stomach did a nosedive. “You can also read the books I bring home for you from the library.” Again I felt my insides drop.
We had been through this before. Mom knew I liked reading comic books a lot better than the story books she picked out for me at the library, which was why her bringing me books to read was going to be a real pain.
“What about Benny?” I asked. “Can I still play with him?” I was hoping she’d say yes. He had even more comics than I did.
“Not until the two weeks are up,” she replied.
“Darn it!” I moaned, thinking it was going to be a long two weeks. But not as long and boring as I first thought, because both of us had forgotten, for the moment, that the following Sunday, I was supposed to receive my First Holy Communion. My mother was going to have a party for me afterwards. Some of the people from our neighborhood had been invited, including Father Carmel and Benny.
I got really excited the Saturday before, because mom had agreed to let me wear my bracelet under my white shirt. I could barely sleep that night just thinking about it. I was still thinking about my bracelet, even as the twenty of us receiving communion for the first time walked in two rows down the aisle to the front of the church to receive the wafer (or the body of Christ) on our tongues.
As I approached one of the rows of pews in the middle of the church, I felt a strong, familiar buzzing begin in my wrist. Without thinking about it, I grabbed my shirt where the bracelet was underneath and began rubbing my arm. At the same time, I noticed a girl wearing a blue blazer, and sitting at the end of one of the rows, also rubbing her wrist.
My eyes got really big. Did that mean she had a bracelet, too?
All kinds of thoughts went through my mind as I continued to shuffle with the others toward the front of the church. By the time we had all lined up in a row in front of the altar, the buzzing in my wrist had stopped. I had quit rubbing it by then, too, but I continued looking over my shoulder trying to see if I could spot the girl.
I must have been doing it a long time, because suddenly, I felt a nudge against my left arm. When I turned around, I saw it was the boy standing next to me. He was giving me a “what are you doing look?” Feeling embarrassed, I turned forward again, but the image of that girl rubbing her wrist stayed with me.
After mass, I tried to spot her again, but couldn’t. She wasn’t anywhere around. Disappointed, I walked with mom the three blocks back to our apartment then let the excitement of my First Holy Communion party put her out of my mind for a while.
Having a First Holy Communion party is like having a birthday party; people give you gifts. One of the presents I received was a kid’s bible. This one was newer and had more pictures than the one I had been using. Other stuff I received was a combination dress shirt and pants, coloring books, money, and even a set of rosary beads. But the most surprising gift I got was from Father Carmel. He had given me back the same baseball glove I had stolen.
I looked at him with a question bursting to be asked, but before I could ask it, he said to me, “It’s because you’re a very special child, David, even if you don’t always follow God’s rules.” I felt my face turn red.
Benny seemed excited about the glove, too, but what excited him even more, I think, was the amount of cash I had received.
“Will you look at that!” he said in Spanish as he stared at the three twenties and four fives I had gotten along with cards from people at the party. “You can buy a whole bunch of comics with that much money!”
“Never mind comic books,” I heard my mother say also in Spanish. I looked up at her. She had stopped next to us. She might have been facing Benny, but I think she was really talking to me. “He’s going to use some of that money to buy stuff for when he goes back to school.”
“Aw mom!” I said, but I knew there was no use arguing with her; she had made up her mind.
The rest of the summer went pretty much as usual. I hung out a lot; played a lot with the kids from the neighborhood, including Benny; went to the local Boys & Girls Club a lot; saw movies there a lot; read a lot of comics; played a lot of games, both indoor and out; went swimming a lot; ate a lot of arroz con leche (rice pudding) with ice-cream; drew a lot of pictures; but the one thing that was different (besides learning that my birthday was really the day I had been found) was I also practiced my ability to teleport a lot— mostly at night while mom was asleep.
I’d hop from rooftop to rooftop, keeping out of sight while checking out the city and beyond. It was fantastic! I felt like a famous explorer or something. The only problem was all that hopping from place to place, stopping and trying to memorize what each rooftop looked like and where it was located, made me hungry. I could have taken snacks with me, but mom didn’t buy the type of stuff I liked most. So, more than once, I found myself teleporting into a store and picking up a Ring Ding, or a dark chocolate candy bar, or a bag of corn chips.
Yeah, I suppose, you could call it stealing, but it wasn’t like I was taking anything really expensive. Besides, an explorer has to keep up his strength, doesn’t he?
Eventually though, my exploring days came to an end. School was about to start and that meant I would have to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to check things out, especially when it came to one particular person.
School started two days after Labor Day. Both Benny and I were in third grade together, but in different classrooms. He had Mrs. McMillian. I had Mrs. Prouse.
Mrs. Prouse was younger than Mrs. McMillian and reminded me a lot of the women I’d seen working in the cosmetic sections of big department stores. She always had on a lot of makeup and smelled really nice.
Maybe it was because of how she looked and smelled I decided I wanted to draw a picture of her, which was what I was doing one day during recess when I heard someone next to me say, “Looks like a monkey.”
Glancing up, I was amazed to see the girl from St. Michael’s—the same one I had seen rubbing her wrist the day of my First Holy Communion ceremony. She looked about my age, had curly blonde hair and was wearing a long-sleeve blue shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, and a pair of jeans. Standing next to my bench, she was looking down at the picture I had drawn on my sketchpad.
Before I could say anything, she asked. “Who is that supposed to be?”
“Mrs. Prouse,” I told her.
She smiled, “Oh, yeah? You made her look like a monkey.”
Forgetting my surprise for the moment, I said a little annoyed, “No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did,” insisted the girl. “Look at her eyes. They look like they’re popping out of her head.”
“She looks that way because she’s surprised,” I tried to explain.
I had drawn Mrs. Prouse looking up at the viewer the way I had seen it done in comic books.
“What is she surprised about?” asked the girl.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. She’s just surprised.”
“Well, that don’t make sense,” she remarked as she sat down on the bench next to me.
“I suppose you can draw better?” I said, not thinking for one second that she could.
“I might,” she replied, then grabbed the No. 2 pencil out of fingers. “Give me your pad,” she said, “and I’ll show you.”
Annoyed again but curious, I handed her my pad then watched in awe as she began to sketch a bunch of quick lines that immediately suggested Mrs. Prouse standing by her desk with the green board behind her. It was amazing! She had barely filled in any spaces, yet with just a few lines, she was able to draw a whole picture.
“Wow, that’s great!” I said, continuing to stare awestruck at what she had drawn. “How did you even know what she looked like?”
She handed me back my sketchpad and pencil. “Simple;” she replied, “she’s my aunt.”
Again I stared at her surprised. She didn’t look like Mrs. Prouse. Mrs. Prouse had black hair; this girl had blonde.
“What else can you do?” I asked, even though I didn’t really mean to ask any questions at that moment. It just sort of popped out.
She replied quickly, “I’m really strong. Watch.” With that, she stood up and grabbed the edge of the bench opposite of where I was sitting and lifted it at least five or six inches off the ground.
Both the bench and its legs were made of cement.
After she put down the bench, she stood with her hands on her hips grinning. Amazingly, no one else had noticed her do it.
Suddenly, a thought popped into my head. “You’re adopted, aren’t you?” I said.
She looked at me surprised. “Yeah, how did you know?”
Before I could answer, the bell rang ending recess. We had to return to our classrooms. That’s when I discovered she was in Mrs. McMillian’s class.
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about her—not only because of how well she could draw, but also because of what she had done with the bench—not to mention the fact that she might be adopted like me.
After school, I met up with Benny as usual. We’d been walking to and from school together ever since the beginning of second grade. Luckily, it was only about five blocks from our apartment building.
As we walked, I asked him, “Who’s the girl in your class with the curly blonde hair and the really blue eyes?”
“You mean Rickie Conners,” he said.
“Rickie Conners?” I replied, surprised. “That’s a strange name for a girl.”
“Yeah, ain’t it?” agreed Benny.
We had walked a little further when I said to him, “She wasn’t in school yesterday.”
“You’re right about that,” he replied, “she just started today. I think her dad is some kind of scientist or something.”
Up ahead, St. Michael’s loomed like a huge stone statue. Luckily for mom and I, the church was directly between my school and the apartment building where we lived. This meant that, if I needed to, I could hang out at the church until mom got off work then we could walk to the store or home together.
“You think she’s from our street?” I said to Benny as we reached the edge of the block where St. Michael’s stood.
“Not her,” he said, “She’s from Ninth Avenue.”
“Whoa!” I said, impressed. Ninth Avenue was this area along side the city’s giant park where a lot of really rich families lived.
“So she’s rich, and talented and super strong,” I said more to myself than to Benny.
“What do you mean super strong?” he asked.
“You should have seen it!” I told him. “She lifted up one of the benches on the playground!”
Benny’s eyes were bugging. “But those are made of cement!” he said astonished.
“I know,” I replied.
He laughed. “What is she, Superman’s cousin?”
“I don’t think she’d be going to our school if she was,” I said half-jokingly, but that started me thinking…
…Which I continued to do for the rest of the day and night. I couldn’t help it. Rickie Conners was amazing! Not only could she draw like a grownup, but she could lift a cement bench like The Hulk, and I had seen her rubbing her wrist in St. Michael’s at the same time I had been rubbing mine. Did this mean she had a bracelet, too? And if so, did hers have the same number on it? I had to know, but how to go about asking her? Do I go right up to her and ask her if she has a bracelet, or do I just kind of let it come up as we talk?
The next day, I was still trying to think of a good way to approach her when she came up to me first and said, “Why did you tell Benny Gonzalas that I could lift a cement bench?” She seemed a little annoyed.
Glancing over to where Benny and a couple of the other third-grade boys were shooting hoops, I told her, “He’s my friend.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have.”
“Why not?” I asked curious.
“Because now he wants me to lift a bench for him, too.”
Hearing her say these words reminded me of what Father Carmel had said to me: “If someone sees you do what you can do, they’ll want you to do it for them, too.” I didn’t know why for sure, but suddenly, I felt as if I had done something wrong.
“Don’t you want people to see how strong you are?” I asked her.
She lowered her eyes and shook her head. “My father doesn’t want me showing off.”
I looked at Rickie Conners. A sense of something I couldn’t explain filled both my stomach and my chest.
“So why did you show me?” I asked her.
She hesitated a moment. “I don’t know,” she said with a shrug. “It just seemed okay to do so.”
Once again, I stared at Rickie Conners, who was looking everywhere else but directly at me. That’s when I decided to ask her, “Does your bracelet have the number 23 on it?”
Her head snapped up, and her marble blue eyes opened wide. “Hw…Hw…” I watched her trying to say the word how, but before she could get it out, we were interrupted by someone shouting in Spanish, “Get the ball!”
When I turned, I saw a basketball rolling fast along the pavement in my direction. Scooping it up, I checked to see who had spoken. That’s when I saw Benny waving his hands. “Toss it here!” he said in Spanish.
I rolled it back to him, then turned around to talk to Rickie Conners again, but she was gone. Hugh? Where did she go?
Curious, I looked around. That’s when I spotted her walking back toward the school building all by herself. My first thought was she’s going to get into trouble; she didn’t ask any of the field monitors if she could go back inside.
I should stop her, I thought, but before I could do anything, Benny ran up to me and said, “Come on, let’s take on these guys together, you and me.” He handed me the basketball.
While I tried to decide whether or not to go with him, I turned around once more to look for Rickie Conners. She had almost reached one of the open doorways.
“Okay,” I told Benny, but even as I dribbled the ball and passed it to him, part of me still wanted to run after Rickie Conners and stop her.
The next day, it rained during recess, so we didn’t go out to play. That meant the only chance I’d get to talk to Rickie Conners would be after school, but that didn’t work out either.
Before I could get to her, I spotted Rickie, wearing a shiny red rain slicker. She was getting into a really big dark blue car that looked like a limousine. Wow, I thought, I guess her family really is rich!
That night, in my room, I got the idea for how I could ask her questions without really asking her—at least not in person. The next day, I handed Mrs. Prouse a sealed white envelope.
“Mrs. Prouse,” I said, “could you give this to your niece, Rickie Conners, for me, please?”
Her eyebrows scrunched together as she took the envelope. “I guess so,” she said, sounding a little unsure. “What is it?”
“Stuff I drew,” I told her. “I know Rickie is a good artist. I thought she might like to see these.”
Mrs. Prouse’s expression changed to a smile. “Yes, she is a very good artist.” she said… “and so are you.” I felt my cheeks turning red. “I’m sure she’ll enjoy whatever you drew for her.” Then she put the envelope on top of her desk.
Pleased, I went back to my seat. Unfortunately, it rained again during recess, so like the day before, we had to stay in doors.
After school, I missed Rickie Conners once more by mere seconds. All I could do was watch her climb into her limousine-like car. This was probably for the best anyway, I thought after a while. At least I wouldn’t have to lie to Benny about why I wanted to talk to a girl instead of walking home with him. But as it turned out, I got the chance to talk with her anyway—and a lot sooner than I had expected.
That night, I was in the living room watching TV when someone knocked on our apartment door. When I looked through the peephole, I was stunned to see Rickie Conners standing in the hallway. She was still wearing her rain slicker.
I opened the door and said to her, “What are you doing here?”
She replied, “I got the pictures you drew for me. I wanted to thank you.”
“Come on in,” I said.
After she did, I closed the door and asked her, “Did you walk all the way here in the rain, or did you get a ride?”
Before she could answer, mom came out of the kitchen. “Who are you?” she asked when she saw the girl.
“Rickie Conners,” Rickie replied smiling. “I go to the same school as David.”
“That’s nice,” said mom. “Did you just move into our building?”
“No,” replied Rickie. “I live on Ninth Avenue.”
“That’s a long way to walk in the rain,” said mom, sounding surprised.
“I didn’t walk,” explained Rickie Conners. “Frank drove me.”
“Who’s Frank?” I heard myself say.
“He’s our live-in chauffeur,” she replied.
Wow, I thought, they even have a chauffeur! I wondered if he was rich, too?
While I was thinking, Rickie Conners said, “On the picture you drew of your bracelet, you asked if I had a number 23 on mine? I don’t. Mine has the number eleven.”
With that, she pulled back the sleeve of her rain slicker and showed me her arm. Sure enough, on her wrist was a bracelet that looked a lot like mine, but with the number 11 etched into the middle of the triangle instead of 23.
Behind me, I heard mom gasp and mumble in Spanish, “Dear mother of God!” I could also imagine her making the sign of the cross.
Staring at the bracelet, my eyes bulging, the only thing I could think to say was, “Where did you get that?”
“I’ve always had it,” Rickie replied, “ever since I was a baby.”
“And it has gotten bigger at the same time as you have gotten bigger,” I said to her.
Now it was Rickie’s turn to look surprised. “Yeah, how did you know?” “Because mine did the same.”
For a few seconds, neither of us said anything, then I heard mom say, “I’ll get your bracelet for you.”
Turning, I watched her disappear into her bedroom where she’d been keeping my bracelet in her bureau. Once she left, I turned back to Rickie and asked her, “How did you know where I lived?”
“You forget,” she said, “Mrs. Prouse is my aunt. She told me.”
At which point, mom returned with my bracelet.
“Here,” she said, handing it to me.
After slipping it on my arm, I turned and started to walk toward Rickie. I wanted to hold my bracelet next to hers to see if they were exactly alike.
I never got the chance.
As I came within five feet of her, a familiar buzzing began in my wrist. Without thinking about it, I stopped and began rubbing my arm around the bracelet. That’s when I noticed Rickie Conners doing the same thing.
We must have had the same thought, because we both looked at each other then tried bringing our arms together. The buzzing sensation in my wrist got worse. I pulled my arm back and the buzzing started to disappear.
“Whoa!” I said. “That was weird!”
“It sure was,” agreed Rickie.
“What’s wrong?” asked mom.
I turned to her. “We both felt buzzings in our arms.” She looked at Rickie Conners, who nodded in agreement. “It must be our bracelets,” I said.
Mom looked confused. “What does that mean?” she asked.
I shrugged. “I don’t know for sure, but whoever made our bracelets, did something to them so that we’d know if there was someone else around like us.”
“Like what?” asked mom.
“Mom,” I said, “Rickie Conners is adopted like me, and she can lift cement benches like the Hulk.”
Mom looked stunned. “What does that mean?” she asked.
“That means she’s really strong—like super strong like in the comic books.”
“That reminds me,” said Rickie. “The other pictures you drew. What were you trying to tell me? You didn’t write anything in the dialogue bubbles.”
“I didn’t have time,” I told her. “I had to go to bed.”
“So what were you trying to draw? It looked like magic.”
“It is,” I said, as I picked out a spot behind her and hopped to that spot. “Behind you,” I said.
Rickie Conners spun around just in time to see me disappear again.”
“No, over here,” I said, having reappeared where I’d been standing before.
Rickie’s blue eyes started to bug out, and her jaw dropped open like a broken hinge. That’s when I hopped into my bedroom.
After I came out of my room, both Rickie and I stood at opposite ends of the living room, staring at each other, and not saying anything for a moment or two.
Finally, mom broke the silence by asking Rickie if she wanted something to drink? “We have soda, or you can have Coolaid.”
Rickie turned to mom and said, “That’s okay; I have to go.” Then she turned back to me and said, “But I would like something from you.”
I could feel my eyebrows scrunching together. “What do you want that for?”
“I told Frank that I needed to come here, because you had drawn a bunch of stuff for me in your sketchpad. If I don’t come back with it, he’ll ask a lot of questions, and then my parents will find out.”
“Why, where are they?” I asked.
“They went to a museum party with my dad’s boss. Normally, Frank would have driven them and I would have been left with the babysitter, but they went in my dad’s boss’ car. That gave me the chance to come here and show you my bracelet.”
I looked at Rickie Conners, and felt a kind of strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. It was both a good feeling and a bad feeling. Good, because she had wanted to come here so badly she had lied about it. And bad because, she wanted to take away my sketchpad. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give it to her.
She must have been reading my mind, because she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll give it back to you tomorrow in school.”
That made me feel a little better, but there were still other questions I needed to ask, such as, “Do you know who your real mother and father were?”
Rickie Conners’ blue eyes looked down. “No,” was all she said.
So I said to her, “Did your adopted mom and dad find you in a basket?”
Now, she looked confused. “No. Why would you ask that?”
“Because I was found in a wicker basket outside of St. Michael’s,” I told her.
Rickie looked surprised. “My parents got me from an orphanage,” she explained.
I don’t know why that made me feel better, but it did.
“So can I have it?” asked Rickie.
“Have what?” I replied.
“Oh, yeah,” I said then used my special power to hop into my room and hop back.
“That’s neat,” said Rickie, as I handed her the sketchpad. I had already taken off my bracelet and left it on my bed. “I wish I could do that.”
I looked at her surprised. “Why would you want to be able to teleport?”
“Because that’s a neat power to have. All I can do is draw really well and lift things.”
“That reminds me,” I said to her. “How long have you been really strong?”
“Since last year when I turned seven.”
I smiled thinking we even got our powers at about the same time.
“And how much can you lift?”
Rickie shrugged, “I don’t know for sure, but once I bench-pressed my father’s barbells.”
“And how much was that?”
“Two hundred pounds.”
You could have knocked me over with a sneeze from a mouse. “Two hundred pounds!” I almost shouted. “No way!”
Once again, I heard mom say in Spanish, “Dear mother of God!” And I had to agree with her. There was no way anyone would believe a third-grader— especially a girl—could lift two hundred pounds. It just didn’t seem possible. But then neither did the fact that I could teleport seem possible. For sure, this made us something more than just third-graders, but what exactly, I wasn’t sure.
At this point, Rickie Conners turned to leave. As she opened the door, she said to me, “I’m glad your mom found you.”
“So am I,” I told her.
Then she walked out and closed the door.
“Well, aren’t you going after her?” mom asked.
“To escort her down the stairs.”
I looked at my mother sideways. “Mom, she can lift two hundred pounds. I think she can take care of herself.”
Mom frowned. “I don’t care if she can lift the Empire State Building, gentlemen are supposed to escort girls.”
I rolled my eyes. “Okay,” I said. Then hopped into the hallway just outside our door. I know I was taking a chance. Someone might have seen me appear there, but mom had told me to walk with Rickie Conners down to the front door, so that’s what I intended to do. Of course, being an eight-year-old, I hadn’t thought first before I jumped.
I caught up with Rickie just as she reached the landing below ours.
“My mom said I should walk with you to the front door,” I told her.
Rickie’s forehead wrinkled a little, and she said to me, “You don’t have to do that. I think I can take care of myself.”
“That’s what I told mom, but she insisted that gentlemen are supposed to do that for girls.”
Rickie smiled. “Are you a gentleman?” she asked.
I could feel my face turning pink. I shrugged. “I don’t know for sure. I think I am.”
Continuing to smile, Rickie Conners said, “Okay, you can come along with me.”
Side-by-side we went down the stairs together. When we reached the front door to the apartment building with its huge frosted pane of re-enforced glass, I opened the door and held it while Rickie stepped out onto the front cement stoop. It had stopped raining, but still felt wet and icky.
When I looked out at the street, the same big blue car I had seen at school was double-parked in front of our building. There was a man standing near the front of it. He was tall and looked like he might have a lot of muscles. He was also wearing a dark jacket and pants, a white shirt, and a dark tie. On his head was a small flat-looking cap with a bill. That must be Frank, the chauffeur, I thought.
When he saw Rickie, Frank opened the back passenger door for her.
Before starting down the front steps of our apartment building, Rickie turned to me and said, “Thanks for the sketchpad. I’ll see you in school tomorrow.”
“Same,” I replied then watched as she scrambled down the front steps and hopped into the car.
Frank closed the door then turned, but didn’t walk around to the front of the car. Instead, he stood looking my way for a moment. Our eyes met.
Sometimes you hear grownups say he or she made me feel uncomfortable. That’s what I felt at that moment. There was something about the way Frank, the chauffeur, was looking at me with his dark eyes and Italian-looking face that made me feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t tell you what it was exactly; it just did.
Then after what seemed like a long time, Frank stopped looking at me, and walked around to the front of the car and got inside. Immediately after the car started, it rolled away. I watched until it turned the corner and disappeared, at which point, I turned to go back inside. I could have teleported back up to our apartment, but something told me that would have spooked mom too much, so I climbed up the stairs the old fashioned way. But when I got into the apartment, I was the one who got spooked.
“I want you to go over to St. Michael’s right now and tell Father Carmel about that girl,” mom said to me as soon as I walked in.
I turned and looked at her shocked. “You want me to walk over to St. Michael’s by myself in the dark?” I said. I couldn’t believe she had asked me to do that.
“No,” she said. I felt relieved. “I want you to do what you just did in front of that girl and see if Father Carmel is in his office.”
Again I looked at mom, my eyes bulging. “You want me to teleport?” I asked her.
She nodded. “If that’s what you call it.”
I looked at her still in disbelief. “Why do you want me to tell Father Carmel about Rickie Conners?” I asked curious.
“Because, he’s the only one besides me who knows about you. He should also know about her.”
I wasn’t sure if I totally agreed with mom’s answer, but I did it anyway. After I teleported back, I told her Father Carmel wasn’t in his office, or his room at the church. That’s when she said to me, “I’m walking to school with you tomorrow, but first, we’re stopping at the church so you can tell Father Carmel everything you know about that girl.”
For a moment, I felt my stomach do a hiccup. “I’ll be late for school!” I told her. They didn’t like it if you were late. They made you write “I will not be late for school” at least fifty times, and they even made you count every one so they’d know whether or not you had written all fifty.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “After we talk to Father Carmel, I’ll go with you to school and explain why you’re late.”
And that’s what we did.
The next morning, mom walked with me to the church. Benny was more curious than unhappy about having her along.
“Why you going to church?” he asked.
Before I could think of what to tell him, mom said, “It’s grown-up business.”
I could tell by his expression, Benny didn’t like that answer, but when a grown-up tells you it’s grown-up business, as a kid, there’s not much you can do, so leaving us, Benny went off to school by himself while mom and I went inside St. Michael’s to find Father Carmel.
We found him in his office putting on his priest’s robes. He was getting ready for morning mass. Talk about surprised to see us. Mom never got to work this early.
Before he could say anything, mom held up her hand. “I know, I’m early, but David has something to tell you.”
I looked from mom to Father Carmel and suddenly felt the same as the day I had to explain about the baseball glove I had stolen. I was sure he was going to be mad at me again. Instead, after I told him all about Rickie Conners, Father Carmel seemed more worried than angry.
“How many other people know about what she can do?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I don’t know, but she did say her father doesn’t want her to show anyone how strong she is.”
“That’s very wise,” said Father Carmel nodding.
“Why don’t you want people to know about our powers?” I asked him, even though he had already said that if people knew about me, they’d want to turn me into a thief.
Father Carmel replied, “You know about mad scientists, don’t you?” I nodded. “In your comics, what do the mad scientists usually do?”
I thought a moment. “I don’t know … They try to take over the world? … They blow things up?”
“And they try kidnapping the super hero so they can steal his or her powers.”
I was impressed. I didn’t know Father Carmel knew that much about what went on in comic books.
“Well, that’s what could happen if too many people find out about you two.”
I swallowed hard. That was one story line I hadn’t thought about—a mad scientist kidnapping me and maybe shooting his ray gun at me, or trying to cut me open like a frog.
Suddenly, I realized Father Carmel had been talking. “What did you say?” I asked him.
“Do you think you can get this girl to come and see me?”
I looked at him surprised. “I don’t know. I guess so, but why?”
“Because I need to talk to the both of you together.”
My mind was churning with questions, but before I could think of which one to ask, mom said, “I’ll meet David and Rickie after school. She’ll probably be more likely to come along if I’m with them.”
I wondered if Frank, the chauffeur, was going to like that?
“Good,” said Father Carmel, as he looked at his watch. His eyebrows shot up. “Oh, it’s late. I should have started mass five minutes ago.”
As he turned to leave, mom said to him, “See you later.” Then she and I left for school.
When we got to school, mom told Principal McCallister the reason I was late was because she and I had to talk to our priest. Mr. McCallister nodded while he listened. He probably thought it was something really important if it meant that we had to talk to a priest about it. In my case, he was right.
After mom finished explaining to Mr. McCallister, he gave me a note to give to Mrs. Prouse. Then mom left and I went to my classroom.
At recess, I went straight up to Rickie Conners as soon as I spotted her.
“My mom made me tell our priest about you,” I told her.
Rickie’s blue eyes opened wide. “Why did she make you do that?”
“Because Father Carmel knows about what I can do and she felt he should also know about you too.”
Rickie shrugged. “I guess that’s okay.” She sounded unsure. She was probably thinking about the warning her father had given her.
“He also wants to talk with us together,” I told her.
Again she looked surprised. “Why does your priest want to talk with me? I’m not even religious. Is that okay?”
I shrugged, “I guess so.” But then I wondered, “Don’t you believe in God?”
She nodded. “I do, but my parents and I don’t go to church much.”
“How much is much?” I asked, even though I thought I was sure I knew what the answer would be.
Sure enough, she replied, “Every once in a great while—Christmas, Easter.”
Bad, bad, bad according to my mother.
“But you were in church the day I was making my First Holy Communion,” I said to her.
“That’s because we were there for my cousin,” she replied.
“Oh,” I said, nodding then asked her, “So can you come and meet with Father Carmel and me?”
“I guess so. When?”
“How about today after school?”
Suddenly, she looked worried. “Today!” she exclaimed. “Ah … I’m not sure.”
“Frank will be there to pick me up and drive me home. He won’t know about my going with you.”
“Don’t worry,” I told her. “My mom is going to meet us after school. She can explain to Frank what we’re doing.”
Again Rickie looked a little worried. “She’s going to tell him we’re going to meet your priest?”
Before I could answer her, Benny showed up.
“What are you two talking about?” he asked.
I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth, so I said, “How to draw pictures.”
“You already know how to draw,” he replied.
“Yeah, but she can draw like a grownup. She’s going to show me how to do it too.”
“Neat,” he replied, then said to me, “Come on, let’s go play dodge ball.”
Before I left, I said to Rickie, “See you later.”
“Same,” she replied.
But even as I started to follow Benny, the thought struck me, what were we going to tell him about what we were doing?
Mom took care of that.
She was waiting for me when I came out of school. Benny saw her at the same time I did.
“What’s your mother doing here?” he asked in Spanish, as we came up to her.
Mom must have heard him because she replied, also in Spanish, “I’m taking Rickie Conners and David to get ice cream. She’s going to help David with his artwork, and so this is my treat to her.”
I stared at mom amazed. That’s what I had told Benny on the playground—that she was going to help me with my drawing. Could my mother also have a special power like reading minds?
“You’re going to get ice cream?” said Benny, sounding and looking all excited. “Can I come, too? I have my own money.”
I thought, mom, he can’t come; what about Father Carmel? But then mom shocked me by saying yes. So all three of us started off to find Rickie.
We found her standing next to her big blue car along with Frank, the chauffeur. Rickie was smiling. Frank was not.
As we approached, I saw Rickie look from mom to Benny and back. She continued to smile even though she was probably wondering why Benny was with us?
When we got up to her and Frank, Rickie said, “I told Frank that I’m going with you to buy ice cream, but first, we have stop by your church for a moment.”
Huh, I thought? Did I just hear what I thought I did?
Rickie continued. “Frank is going to wait here at the school until we get back.”
I continued to stare at Rickie Conners, trying not to look too dumbstruck. Had she just also told a lie about getting ice cream? What was going on here? Did everyone come up with the same idea on their own?
This was freaky!
“I’ll take good care of them,” mom told Frank, the chauffeur.
“I’m sure you will,” he said, his voice sounding deep and gravelly.
Along with his big voice, Frank, the chauffeur, was tall. In fact, he was so tall, it was like standing next to a giant. He towered over mom and us kids.
As we turned to leave, I looked back over my shoulder and up at Frank. Once again, our eyes met and once again, an uncomfortable feeling went through me. What was it with this guy? Why did he make me feel so strange?
Oh, well, forget about him for a while, I thought. We were going to get ice cream! Of course, there was still the question of what to do with Benny while Father Carmel talked with Rickie and me?
Once again, mom took care of that.
When we got to St. Michael’s, mom said, “I’ve got to go inside a moment.” Then she turned to Rickie and said to her, “Why don’t you come with me to meet Father Carmel?”
Knowing I was supposed to be included, I started to walk toward the main front doors of the church, but stopped short when mom said, “David, while we go inside, why don’t you stay out here and keep Benito company.”
Hugh? I thought, looking at her and feeling totally confused. Wasn’t I supposed to go with Rickie so we could talk to Father Carmel together? But here was mom telling me to wait outside?
I looked from her, to the church doors, to Rickie. Finally, I just shrugged and said okay.
After mom and Rickie went inside, Benny and I sat on the top step outside the church to wait.
“I hope they don’t take too long,” said Benny, sounding a little disappointed. “I’m itching to get my hands on some ice cream.”
“Didn’t you already have an ice cream sandwich for lunch today?” I asked him. I knew Benny bought ice cream sandwiches almost every day for lunch.
“Yeah,” he replied. “So what about it?”
“So you’ve already had ice cream once today and you want more?”
Benny grinned. “You can never have enough ice cream,” he said. I guess I had to agree with him. It would be kind of neat to be able to have ice cream any time you wanted.
After that, we sat in silence for a while.
The first time I looked at my wristwatch, five minutes had passed. Eventually, five minutes turned into ten, then fifteen. Just as I was about to suggest to Benny we go inside and find them, the church door opened and mom and Rickie stepped out.
“It’s about time,” I said to mom as both Benny and I stood up. “What took you so long?”
I realized as I said it, I shouldn’t have asked that question, but mom had an answer ready for me anyway. “Rickie was asking Father Carmel some questions about becoming Catholic.”
I stared at Rickie surprised. “You want to become Catholic?” I asked without thinking. Then I thought, how stupid of me. Mom only said that so Benny wouldn’t ask any questions, but he did anyway.
“Aren’t you Catholic already?”
“Not really,” she said.
Then to my relief (and probably mom’s), Benny said, “Can we go get our ice creams now?”
“Yes,” said mom.
The one good thing about living where we did, everything was close by. Stores, shops, restaurants were everywhere around us. For instance, the ice cream shop was on the next street behind the church. A lot of times, people went there after mass to buy themselves ice cream, even in winter.
Mom and I got our favorite—a Nutty Buddy cone. It was a cone of vanilla ice cream, covered by a thick hard shell of chocolate with chunks of peanuts embedded in the chocolate. Rickie got a cone with two scoops of ice cream—vanilla and strawberry. Benny got a banana split. Mom helped him pay for it.
Since it would be hard trying to eat ice cream and walk at the same time, especially while carrying schoolbooks, we decided to hang out at the shop until we finished.
“I hope your chauffeur doesn’t get mad at us for taking so long,” I said to Rickie between bites of my cone.
“He won’t,” she replied, sounding as if she was really sure he wouldn’t. That was good I thought as I continued to eat.
Before long, mom, Rickie and I finished our ice creams while Benny still had a little ways to go with his, so mom said, “Benito, why don’t you stay here and finish your desert. I’ll walk with David and Rickie back to the school.”
With his mouth full of ice cream and his lips all smeared with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, Benny nodded then continued stuffing himself, while the rest of us got up to leave.
Once we got outside, I breathed a sigh of relief and exclaimed, “It’s about time!” Then I turned to Rickie and asked, “So what happened? What did you and Father Carmel talk about?”
“Your priest asked me some questions then had me show him how strong I was.”
“How did he do that?”
Rickie replied, “He made me lift one end of his desk.”
Whoa! I thought, as I pictured Father Carmel’s desk in my mind. His was one of those really old desks, very long and wide, and made of really heavy-looking dark wood—the kind of desk you just knew weighed a ton.
“Was he surprised?” I asked her.
“So what were the questions he asked you?”
“He asked if my mother and father knew how strong I was?”
“I already told him that your father didn’t want you showing off.”
“What else did he ask you?”
“He wanted to know if I knew the name of the orphanage where my parents got me?”
Rickie shook her head. “Mom told me it isn’t there any more. It closed down a long time ago.”
I didn’t know why for sure, but hearing that kind of made me feel a little sad.
“He also asked me if I had one of these?”
Pulling what looked like a half sheet of white paper from her math book, Rickie handed it to me. I stopped walking so I could look at it. Mom and Rickie stopped walking, too.
“I’m sorry, David,” I heard mom say. I looked at her, wondering what she was sorry about. “I totally forgot about this. Father Carmel and I found it in your basket along with your bracelet, but that was the only time I saw it. He’s been keeping it in his office ever since.”
I looked down at the sheet of paper, which I held propped against my schoolbooks. It had large type on it that looked as if it had been printed. I read the words slowly to myself.
Take good care of this child. He is very special. As he grows, he will develop extraordinary abilities, which he will use for the benefit of society
or its … I pointed. “What’s that word?”
“Detriment,” said mom.
“What does that mean?”
“It means you might do bad things.”
I felt kind of funny as I thought: a person with super powers who might do bad things—just like in the comic books.
I stared at mom. She must have been reading my mind.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “I don’t think you’re going to do anything really bad. You’re a good Catholic boy…at least, most of the time, anyway.”
Again I felt kind of funny. I knew she was talking about all the stuff I had stolen.
There were more words. I continued reading.
The bracelet is his. It will grow along with him and will be his connection to others of his kind. Make sure it stays with him.
“Others of his kind?” The words ran around inside my skull like a mouse inside a cage. Did that mean there were other kids besides Rickie and me who were adopted and had super powers?
I looked sideways at Rickie. She hadn’t said anything while I read the sheet of paper.
“Do you have one of these notes?” I asked her.
Her blue eyes found mine and she shrugged. “I don’t know, but if I do, my parents haven’t showed it to me yet.”
I glanced back down at the paper.
“Maybe I should talk to Father Carmel,” I said. I. didn’t know why for sure. It just felt as if it was the right thing to do.
“You can’t,” said mom, surprising me.
I looked at her. “Why not?”
“He’s gone to the hospital to visit a friend of his who’s sick.”
Feeling slightly frustrated, I asked, “So, what do we do now?”
Mom replied, “For now, we escort your friend back to her chauffeur and then we go home. You have homework to do, and I’ve got to get supper ready.”
“Ah, mom!” I moaned. Homework and supper were the last two things I wanted to think about.
Instead, I wanted to keep thinking about the note. Did it mean I was going to get even more super powers than just teleportation? And even if it didn’t, who were the others it talked about?
All the way back to Frank, the chauffeur, my mind was buzzing so badly, I hardly said anything to either Rickie or mom.
Finally, after we reached Frank, I said my goodbies to Rickie. “See you tomorrow at school,” I said to her while trying to seem all happy and stuff.
“Same,” she replied returning my smile with one just as big and probably just as make believe. Something told me her mind was probably buzzing just as much as mine was.
It was then that mom and I started our walk back home together.
After a block, she said to me, “You seem awfully quiet.” I felt the warm press of her hand on top of my head. It felt good. “What are you thinking about?”
“Everything,” I told her in Spanish, but didn’t say what I was really thinking about. Instead, as we reached the front of St. Michael’s, I said to her, “I’ll see you back at the apartment.” Then I turned and hurried up the steps of the church.
“Where are you going?” I heard her call to me as I reached for one of the door handles. “I told you he isn’t there.”
Ignoring her, I pulled open the door then slipped around it and felt the familiar sucking sensation as, in the next instant, I found myself back inside my bedroom.
Mom arrived home about ten or fifteen minutes later.
“David!” I heard her call.
“I’m in my room,” I replied, as I put down my baseball glove on top of my Spiderman bedspread and walked into the living room.
“Why did you leave me?” mom asked after I entered the room.
I didn’t know what to tell her. I had come to a point while we were walking where I decided I wanted to be alone so I could think.
Mom watched me and waited, but still I had no answer for her.
Finally, with the silence between us stretching like chewing gum, I asked her the question that had been bouncing around inside my head like a ping pong ball. “Mom, where did I come from?”
Her black eyebrows rose and her brown forehead wrinkled. “To tell you the truth, David,” she said in Spanish, “I really don’t know.”
“Do you think Father Carmel could tell me?” I asked, also in Spanish.
“I don’t see how,” she replied, “but you could try and ask him.”
“I want to do just that as soon as he comes back to St. Michael’s.”
“He probably won’t be back until sometime after 7 tonight.”
That didn’t make me feel very good.
She must have sensed this because she smiled and said, “I’ll tell you what. After supper, I’ll try calling him and see if he’s back yet.”
“And if he is?” I asked.
“Then you can do that disappearing thing you do and go see him.”
Although that made me feel a little better, I couldn’t help but think that 7 o’clock was taking an awful long time to get here.
Finally, it arrived, and mom made the phone call.
Luckily, Father Carmel had just returned. Mom told him over the phone that I wanted to talk with him. He must have said something to her about me coming in the next day, because she insisted, “No, now, tonight.” Then she nodded and told me it was OK for me to go see him. She said, “He wants you to go directly to his room in the church; not his office. He’ll meet your there.”
“Okay,” I replied, then hopped to Father Carmel’s room.
A minute later, I heard a knock on the door. “Come in!” I called.
Even as the door opened, and I saw Father Carmel standing there, I felt kind of funny I was telling him that it was okay for him to come into his own room.
“David,” he said, as he closed the door. He was wearing his black priest shirt and pants and white collar around his neck. “Why don’t you sit down.” He motioned toward the bed. Then he pulled a wooden chair away from the wall and put it on the rug facing the bed.
After he sat down, he said to me, “Your mother says you have something on your mind.” He moved around in the chair as if he was trying to get more comfortable. “I suppose it has to do with the note I gave to your friend?” he said. I nodded. “So what do you want to ask me?”
Suddenly, I felt unsure. I knew what I had wanted to say to him, but the words stuck in my mouth like pieces of hard candy. I had to try really hard to get them to come out.
“Father,” I said hesitating . . . “where did I come from?”
He sighed and rubbed the strip of grayish hair that circled his balding head. “David,” he said, sounding a little sad, “I couldn’t even begin to tell you for sure.”
I felt my stomach drop.
“But I do have a theory.”
Suddenly, I felt excited again. I leaned forward.
“In your comic books, what do mad scientists do?”
I frowned. “You already asked me that question.”
“Not exactly the same one,” he said, holding up his hand. “I’m not talking about what they do to the heroes or heroines. What kinds of things do they do for work?”
I thought hard for a moment.
“They do experiments . . . ?” I said.
Father Carmel smiled and nodded. “That’s right! They do experiments.”
“That’s what I think you and your little girlfriend are—the results of an experiment.”
I felt my face turning red. Not only because he had called Rickie Conners my girlfriend (that was for big kids), but also because he said we were the results of an experiment. What did that mean? Were we created in a laboratory like some monster?
I looked at Father Carmel. “Father,” I said, feeling a tiny knot of fear press against my stomach, “are Rickie and I freaks?”
His eyebrows shot up and he actually looked hurt. “Oh, my goodness, no! Of course not!”
“Then what are we?”
Father Carmel hesitated. “You are two very extraordinary children who have loving parents and very exceptional abilities.”
“How do you know Rickie’s parents love her?” I asked him.
He frowned. “Well … I really don’t know for sure, but they must. She seems like a really nice person, and you don’t get that way unless you have people around you who love you and strive to take care of you the best they can.”
I looked down. “I guess so.” But now I had to ask him the other question that had been bothering me. “Do you think I even had parents?”
Father Carmel looked at me as if I had just asked him whether or not God used toilet paper when he went to the bathroom? “What do you mean?” he asked, frowning.
“You said Rickie and I were the results of experiments. Does that mean we aren’t really people?”
Again his forehead wrinkled. “You are both as real as anyone,” he said in a gentle but hurried voice.
“Then how were we made?”
He sighed. “David,” he said, “I have no idea, but that is not what you should be asking yourself.”
I looked at him curious. “No?”
“No. What you and your little friend should be asking yourselves is how can we help society?” He leaned forward. “You two have extraordinary abilities—abilities that, like the note says, can be used for the betterment of mankind, or his downfall.” He sat up. “I would hope that between your mother and I, we taught you enough about how to be a moral person.”
I knew moral meant good, and I was glad he thought of me that way, but I had to ask him, “What about Rickie? Do you think she is a moral person?”
“That, my son, you’ll have to find out for yourself.”
“How?” I asked him.
He thought a moment. “You could start by meeting her parents. I’m sure by now she has told them all about you, so they shouldn’t be surprised.”
“And after that?” I asked him.
“And after that what?” he said.
“What else can I do to find out if she is good or not?”
Father Carmel gestured with his hand. “Maybe … hang out with her more,” he said. “Play games or sports with her. See how she reacts in different situations. That ought to tell you something about what kind of person she is.”
I wasn’t sure about the playing sports with her part. She was, after all, a girl. I didn’t think she would like doing all the same stuff we boys do, except, of course, drawing pictures. At least we had that in common, which gave me a good excuse to hang out with her.
But that’s when I stood up. “Thank you,” I said to Father Carmel. “I have to go.”
I think my sudden movement caught him off guard. He blinked a couple of times as if he had just been woken up, then stood, too.
“Oh … Is there anything else you wanted to ask me?”
“No,” I told him. He seemed disappointed. “I need to get home and finish my homework.”
“Okay,” he said, as he reached for the chair to put it back where it had been against the wall. “Well, I guess I’ll see you in church on Sunday.”
“See you Sunday,” I said, but by then, I wasn’t really paying much attention. Instead, I was imagining the inside of my bedroom so I could hop there.
When I got back, I spotted Mom through the open doorway, sitting on the living room couch, looking very intently toward my room while holding a mug of tea in her hands. I knew it was tea, because I could see the tag from the teabag hanging down the side of the cup.
As soon as I stepped through the open doorway, she asked, “So, what did he say?”
I told her what Father Carmel had said about Rickie and I being the results of experiments.
I guess that didn’t make her feel very good, because suddenly, she put down her cup of tea and came over and hugged me. “Oh, David, my son,” I heard her say, her cheek pressed against the top of my head, “you must feel awful.”
Actually, I didn’t. For some reason, my plan to see if Rickie Conners was good or not had me more excited than worried or anything else, for that matter.
Then I heard mom say, “I don’t care what anyone says, you’re still mi hijito (my little boy), and you always will be.”
Then she pulled away and looked me straight in the eyes. Hers were half filled with tears.
An uncomfortable feeling began creeping up my spine. “I want to meet Rickie’s parents,” I said to her quickly so I could try, for the moment, to forget about how weird she was making me feel.
She nodded. “I think you should.”
“I’ll see if I can get a ride home with her tomorrow,” I told mom.
“Then I’ll tell Mrs. Hanover not to expect you home right after school.”
Mrs. Hanover was an older neighbor friend of mom’s who had no husband, and who often looked after me until mom got home from work. I’d either hang out in her place and watch her soap opera stories with her, or she’d check in with me at our apartment to make sure I was doing my homework, or to see if I wanted anything to snack on. Her favorite snack, the one she brought me more than any other, was peanut-butter and cream cheese on Ritz Crackers with jelly. A lot of times, she’d include pieces of carrots, so that she could say it was healthy for me. Healthy or not, it tasted pretty good.
The next day at recess, I walked up to Rickie Conners to tell her I wanted to meet her parents. But before I could even get the words out, she said to me, “My mom and dad want to meet you.”
Great, I thought, as I said to her, “I was thinking the same thing.”
I looked at Rickie. For some reason, her curly blonde hair seemed brighter than usual. I wondered if she had just washed it, but then realized what a dumb thought! We were in school. How could she have just washed it?
“What are you going to say to Benny?” she asked, interrupting my thoughts.
Suddenly, the light around her hair seemed to grow a little dimmer. “I don’t know,” I replied. “He’s going to want to know why I’m going home with you and not walking with him.”
For a moment, Rickie looked surprised. “Oh, you’re coming with me and Frank?”
Suddenly, I felt as if I had said something wrong. “Is that Okay?” I asked her.
“Yeah, sure,” she replied smiling.
“Then I’ll see you after school,” I told her, but couldn’t stop wondering what I was going to say to Benny.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry about that. When school got out, Benny told me he wouldn’t be able to walk home with me; his father was going to pick him up and take him to buy new sneakers. To be honest, his sneakers were looking a little ratty these days.
This left me free to meet Rickie and Frank, the chauffeur, by their car.
Even before I reached the car, I could see Rickie and Frank standing by it waiting. Once again, when Rickie saw me, she smiled. Frank did not.
“Okay, let’s get going,” said Rickie, after Frank had reached over and opened the back door for her. She climbed in first then I got in.
It was the first time I had ever been in a car with two back seats! One was facing forward; the other was facing the back of the car. You sat on either one with your feet in the middle between them.
“What kind of car is this?” I asked Rickie, as I sat down next to her. I put my schoolbooks on the floor between the seats.
Before she could answer me, Frank replied, “It’s a Cadillac.” Then he closed the door, and went around to the front of the car. After he got in and started the car, we drove off.
Ninth Avenue was only a couple of miles away, so I knew it wouldn’t take very long to get there. On the way, I looked out the window and was surprised when I recognized a couple of buildings. These had rooftops I had hopped to during the summer.
“So, what does your mom think about meeting my parents?” Rickie asked me.
I turned from the window to face her. Once again, her hair seemed to shine brighter than it should have.
“Oh, she was all for it,” I said. “She was just a little sad, because Father Carmel thinks we are the results of an experiment.”
Rickie’s blue eyes got big with surprise. “Did he really say that?”
I nodded, then felt as if something was crawling on my neck. When I reached up to knock whatever it was off, I caught sight of Frank’s dark brown eyes looking at me from the front mirror. Tingles of something went up and down my spine, especially when I realized, he could hear every word we said.
Was that Okay? I guess it was.
Turning back to Rickie, I asked her, “Does that make you feel scared?”
She shook her head.
“Good,” I said.
Then she surprised me by saying, “When I told mom and dad about you, they said almost the same thing your priest said.”
Now it was my turn to be surprised. “They also think we were part of an experiment?”
Rickie hesitated. “Not exactly, but they did say we might have been …” She was having problems trying to come up with right words … “genetically enhanced,” she said at last.
“What does that mean?” I asked her.
She shrugged. “I don’t know for sure, but that’s what my dad said.”
“Speaking of your dad,” I said to her, “what does he do?”
“What do you mean?”
“What kind of job does he have?”
But before she could answer, I heard Frank’s deep voice reply from the front seat, “He’s a Bio-engineer.”
“What’s that?” I asked him.
“It’s a type of scientist who tries to help people be better than they are.”
I frowned. That didn’t make sense to me, so I asked Rickie, “And what does your mom do?”
“She works for a foundation.”
Once again, I had no idea what that meant, but that wasn’t what was bothering me. What had me wondering was would either of Rickie’s parents be home? It was still only the middle of the afternoon.
“Mom will be there,” she replied after I asked her. “Dad had to go to a conference.”
Then I noticed something funny. She was smiling at me, as if I had said or done something stupid. “What’s so funny?” I asked her.
“You’ll see,” she replied.
She was right. When we got to her house, boy did I see!
After she opened the front door, and all three of us went in, I took one look at the person standing in front of me and asked surprised, “Mrs. Prouse, what are you doing here?” Of course, I had totally forgotten that she was Rickie’s aunt.
“Not Mrs. Prouse,” she replied smiling, “Rickie’s mother.”
I turned to Rickie.
“They’re twins,” she said, once again grinning at me as if I was the target, and she had known it was a joke all along.
I looked back at Mrs. Conners. Rickie was right. But even though her mom did look a lot like Mrs. Prouse, I could still see tiny differences. Her mom seemed a little skinnier than Mrs. Prouse. Plus, her eyes were more green. Another thing that was different was, instead of a dress like Mrs. Prouse always wore to school, Rickie’s mom had on a man’s suite. At least, I think it was a man’s suite. Both the jacket and pants were a dark blue with very thin, very hard to see stripes, while underneath the jacket, she had on a white shirt. Good thing, she wasn’t wearing a tie, or else I’d think for sure it was a man’s suite.
“So, you’re David,” she said in a voice that sounded slightly different than Mrs. Prouse’s—maybe a little deeper. I nodded. She motioned toward the couch. “Why don’t you sit down.”
I looked at the couch. It was kind of white and tan at the same time. It made me a little nervous. I was afraid if I sat on it, I might get it dirty. She made me feel better though when she said, “Don’t worry, you won’t get it dirty.”
Huh, I thought, how did she know what I was thinking?
Finally, I decided, it must be okay to sit on the couch, so walking over to it, I plopped down with my schoolbooks on my lap.
Mrs. Conners sat in a big stuffed chair near one end of the couch, while Rickie sat in another stuffed chair, which faced the other end of the couch. In between the chairs was a squat wooden table made of light-colored wood that had a low vase filled with different colored flowers sitting in the middle of it. The flowers were all shiny and stuff, as if they were made of plastic.
Suddenly, I realized Frank wasn’t in the room any more. Somehow he had left without me seeing him leave. But before I could ask about him, Mrs. Conners surprised me by saying, “Rickie says you can teleport?”
Huh, I thought as I glanced over at Rickie. She nodded
“Show me,” her mother said, surprising me again. I hadn’t expected her to ask me to do it right away. Maybe later after I had gotten to know her better.
“Go on,” insisted Rickie, “show her.”
“Okay,” I said, putting down my books on the couch then standing up. “Where to?” I asked.
“Anywhere,” said Mrs. Conners.
I looked toward a spot on the tanned rug near the front door, then felt the slight pull as I found myself standing in front of the door with its shining white surface. It looked really new—like just about everything else in the room.
Turning around, I scoped out a spot on the floor near where Rickie was sitting and hopped there. When I reappeared, I was facing Rickie, who was smiling at me like she had just watched me win a race.
“Excellent!” I heard Rickie’s mom say behind me. “You’re really fast.”
“Thank you,” I said, as I returned to my seat on the couch.
“Some people might have taken a long time to figure out where they wanted to go, but you knew right away.”
I guess she was giving me a compliment, but I wasn’t sure. Then I got another surprise when she said to Rickie, “Honey, why don’t you take David upstairs and show him your room while I get us something to drink.”
Once again, my eyebrows kind of jumped up. Girls aren’t usually told to show boys their rooms. Maybe other girls? But I wasn’t going to argue. I’d been curious about what her room looked like ever since we first met. Now, I was going to find out.
I stood up. So did Rickie’s mom.
“You can leave your books on the couch,” she said.
After I did, I began to follow Rickie up a set of carpeted stairs that led to the second floor.
“Where’s Frank’s room?” I asked as we climbed the stairs.
“He has a room next to the kitchen,” she replied. So he did live with them!
“Where does your father keep his barbells?” I didn’t know why I asked her that. It just seemed important at the moment.
“They’re down in the basement,” she replied.
An image went through my mind of an old cement room with cold floors and a damp, dirty smell.
“Must be cold when he works out,” I said to her.
“No, it’s really nice and warm,” she replied. I made a disbelieving face, even though she couldn’t see it. I was behind her on the stairs, but she must have realized what I was thinking, because she went on to explain, “It’s got a rug on the floor and wood on the walls, and you can turn up the heat.”
I was impressed. “Neat!” I said.
Her room was the first one on the right at the top of the stairs. My immediate thought was how girly it looked. She had one of those beds with the four posts that hold up a top over the bed. The covers were all flowery-looking and there were even a couple of rag dolls, both a boy and a girl, sitting up at the head of the bed against the pillows.
The walls were painted a very light pink, but what caught my eye the most were all the pictures hanging on the walls. Some were in frames; some were just tacked to the walls.
“Wow!” I said as I stared around at all the pictures, which for sure had to have been drawn by Rickie Conners. They all had that sketched with a few lines look about them, and yet, every one of them felt complete. Definitely, I was going to have to ask her to show me how to do this.
“Is this your father?” I asked, pointing to a picture in a wood frame on the wall next to Rickie’s bed. The picture showed Rickie, her mom and a man. It was the kind of picture they take in department stores, but it didn’t look like a photo; it looked as if it had been painted by someone who wanted to make it look like a photo.
Rickie looked at the picture and smiled. “Yep, that’s my dad, alright.”
I couldn’t help it. I found myself staring at her father. There was something familiar about him. Then it hit me! He looked a little like Frank, the chauffeur! Was Frank her uncle?
“Why does your father look like Frank?” I blurted, without thinking.
Rickie replied, “He does not.”
“Yes, he does,” I insisted.
“No, he doesn’t.”
“He sure does to me,” I told her.
“Well, he doesn’t to me.”
There was something in her voice that made me think I had better stop saying that, so I turned away from the picture on the wall and noticed, for the first time, the closed drapes on the wall opposite. They went all the way down to the floor.
“What’s behind those?” I asked pointing.
She stepped over to the drapes and pulled on a cord along side them. When the drapes opened, they revealed a set of glass and wooden doors instead of a window.
“Where do those lead to?” I asked her, again without thinking. Then I thought, what a dummy I am! Even an eight-year-old can be pretty sure that a set of doors in an upstairs bedroom had to lead to either a fire escape or a balcony. Sure enough, after she grabbed one of the door’s handles and pushed, I could see a balcony on the other side. Perfect for the plan I had in mind, which, unfortunately, never happened, but other things did.
The balcony was made of wood and painted white, like the rest of the house. It faced the house next door. Luckily for me, there were no windows or doors on the second floor of that side of the other house—only windows below. That meant, if I hopped to Rickie’s balcony, probably no one would see me, especially since the balcony’s railing would probably block me from their view.
The railing went up to about Rickie’s and my chest, and was made of all these curved up and down posts that were really close together. The posts kind of reminded me a little of bowling pins. Not that I ever went bowling; that was for big kids who had a lot of money. But I had seen bowling pins next to the bowling balls in the same sports store where I had stolen my baseball glove.
“Do your parents have a balcony, too?” I asked Rickie, even though I couldn’t see one.
“No,” she replied. “They gave me the room with the balcony, so I could play with my dolls on it when the weather gets warm.”
Somehow, I couldn’t quite picture Rickie Conners playing with dolls. At least not someone like her who could lift two hundred pounds; but then again, I kind of forgot, even though she was really strong, she was still only eight years old like me.
“So what do you think of my mom?” Rickie asked me, interrupting my thoughts. She sounded really curious.
I shrugged. “I guess she’s okay,” I said, but couldn’t stop myself from picturing Rickie’s mom in front of my room at school writing stuff on the green board … “As long as she doesn’t give me homework,” I added.
“She won’t do that,” said Rickie, as she walked back over to the doors that led to the balcony. “Come on, let’s go down stairs and see what mom has to drink.”
I took one last look around, trying to remember what the balcony looked like then followed Rickie back down stairs and into the living room.
Mrs. Conners had already come back into the living room by the time we got there. She was carrying a tray that had three glasses of soda on it and a bowl of potato chips. She put the tray down on the low table between the two stuffed chairs.
Where did the flowers go I wondered as I looked around? I couldn’t see them anywhere. Oh, well.
“I hope you like Coke,” she said as she handed me a glass. Rickie grabbed her own. “It was all I had,” she added.
“Fine,” I told her, as I sat on the couch next to my schoolbooks. I reached over and grabbed a couple of chips out of the bowl and munched on them then took a sip of my soda.
Immediately, my nose wrinkled. I couldn’t help it; there was something funny about the taste of that Coke.
Rickie’s mom must have noticed the look on my face, because she asked, “What’s the matter?”
I felt a little embarrassed. I didn’t want to tell her I didn’t like it, so instead, I said, “Nothing really. It just tastes different.”
Mrs. Conners smiled. “That’s probably because I bought it in a health food store. It’s a new brand.”
I took another sip. Once again, my nose kind of twitched.
“It tastes okay to me,” said Rickie, having taken a large swallow of her drink.
“Would you like something else to drink instead?” Rickie’s mom asked me.
“No, that’s fine,” I said to her. “I’ll drink this.” I took another sip and immediately followed it with several chips.
“So what does your mom do?” Rickie’s mother asked me. I looked at her slightly confused. I would have thought Rickie had already told her.
“She works for Father Carmel at St. Michael’s,” I said.
“Is that your priest?” she asked, as a yawn stretched my mouth wide open. I was surprised to find myself suddenly feeling tired.
“Yes,” I said, nodding as I took another sip of my soda and ate more chips.
Another yawn followed. Only this time, my eyes kind of closed for a couple of seconds.
“And what about your father?” I heard Rickie’s mom ask.
For some reason, even though she was speaking directly at me, her voice seemed to come from somewhere else in the room. Once again, I felt a little confused. Hadn’t Rickie told her mom about how I was found outside St. Michael’s in a basket?
“I have no father,” I said to her. “It’s just me and my mother.”
This time, not only did my eyes close, but my head felt like it was loose on my neck and wanted to fall forward.
I heard Rickie’s mom say, “You look tired.”
With my eyes shut, and the rest of me wanting to lie down really, really bad, I replied, “I am.”
After that, I don’t know what happened exactly. All I know is when I opened my eyes again, I found myself flopped across my bed with my legs hanging down the side.
How did I get here, I wondered? Of course, that was a stupid question. I must have teleported, but how, if I was half-asleep?
The first thing I did was sit up and look around to see if I could spot my schoolbooks anywhere. Nope, nowhere—not on the bed, or on the floor, or even on the little desk I use to do my homework, or to sit and draw in my sketchbooks. So where were they?
Then it hit me! They must still be at Rickie’s.
Reaching up to rub some leftover sleep from my eyes, I felt a funny feeling on my right forearm just below where it bends. It felt almost like when the doctor hits you with his little hammer to test your reflexes. There was a slight buzzing sensation there—not exactly the same as I had gotten from my bracelet, but close. In fact, it was somewhere between a buzz and an itch.
Rubbing my arm on top of my light blue jacket where I felt the itch, I stood up.
“Whoa!” I said almost falling over. I had to reach out and hold myself up with my hand on my bed. I must still be sleepy.
Standing still for a second or two, I waited until I was sure I was steady then walked into the living room.
“Mom…” I called, not too loudly. No answer. Then I looked at my wristwatch. Another hour before she’d be home.
I wondered if I should call Mrs. Hanover and tell her I was here? But then, I remembered my schoolbooks and decided I’d better call Rickie instead.
She answered after the second ring.
“Where are you? Are you alright?” she asked, after I said her name and she realized who was calling.
“Yeah,” I told her. “I’m home in the apartment.
“Good,” I heard her say.
“By the way, did I leave my schoolbooks at your place?”
“Yes,” she said then asked, “What happened?”
“What do you mean?”
She sounded worried as she explained, “You fell asleep sitting on the couch and dropped your soda.”
Oh, God, I thought, her mother’s couch! “Is your mother mad at me?” I asked, picturing Rickie’s mom with a really, really angry expression on her face.
“No,” Rickie said. “You don’t have to worry about that. Both the couch and the rug have stuff on them to keep them from getting stained.”
I breathed a huge sigh of relief then asked what was really a stupid question, because I already knew the answer, but I asked anyway, “Did Frank drive me home?”
“No,” Rickie replied. “After you dropped your soda, mom sent me into the kitchen to get a sponge and some cloths, but when I got back, you weren’t there any more. She said you had disappeared.”
“Yeah,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck. “I must have teleported back here to my room.”
“You can do that?” she asked.
I frowned at the phone. “You know I can teleport.”
“No, I mean, you can teleport while sleeping?”
I shrugged, even though she couldn’t see it. “I guess so,” I said then I asked her, “Can I come and get my schoolbooks, now?”
Rickie replied, “I can have Frank drive them over to you, if you want?”
I had to chuckle. “How about if I just teleport over there and get them myself?”
“Oh, yeah,” Rickie replied, then added, “I’ll leave them on my balcony for you.”
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll be there in a few minutes,” then hung up.
My books were right where she said they’d be—on the balcony outside the doors to her room. Her drapes were closed so I couldn’t see inside, but I didn’t think she was there anyway. It didn’t look like the lights were on.
Bending over to pick up my books, I noticed something strange. There was light shining on them. It wasn’t very bright, because it was still the afternoon, but I was sure the light was coming from somewhere directly behind me.
Looking over my shoulder, I found myself wondering what the heck was going on? I didn’t see any light bulbs burning, or anyone with a flashlight, so where was the light coming from?
When I turned around again, the light had disappeared. That was really bizarre, I thought, as I grabbed my books and stood up then hopped back to my room.
When mom got home, I told her most of what had happened. She got a worried look on her face. “I’m taking you to the doctor’s,” she said in Spanish.
I felt my stomach drop. “Why the doctor?” I asked, also in Spanish.
“Because,” she replied, “boys your age aren’t supposed to fall asleep like that. There might be something wrong with you.” I rolled my eyes. She didn’t like that. “Don’t make faces,” she scolded. “For all I know, it could have something to do with all this disappearing stuff you’ve been doing lately.”
“Ah, mom!” I moaned, but who knew if she was right or not?
She looked at her watch. “Too late to call the doctor’s office now,” she said, “I’ll do it tomorrow while you’re in school.”
Oh, great, I thought, one more thing to worry about while I sit in school and try to concentrate.
The next morning, I was so busy thinking about having to go to the doctor’s, I almost didn’t noticed that Benny was still wearing his ratty old sneakers instead of new ones.
“I thought you were getting new sneakers,” I said to him, as he walked with his head down, his eyes on the sidewalk. I waited for him to say something. When he didn’t, I asked, “So doesn’t your mother want you to wear them?”
He finally looked at me and replied, “I don’t have them.” He didn’t sound happy.
“Why not?” I asked.
He stopped walking. So did I. He said to me kind of angry like, “Because my father lost the money he was going to use to buy them for me.”
I was both surprised and sad. “What happened? Did he drop it in the street?”
Benny hesitated then shook his head. “No, a man said my father owed him money, so he took whatever my father had on him.”
I was shocked. “Who was this man?” I asked.
“He was a bookie,” replied Benny.
I knew about bookies. They were grownups who allowed other grownups to bet on sports, such as basketball games, or baseball games, or football games, or hockey. If the person who bet won, then he’d get money. But if he lost then he’d owe money to the bookies. Benny’s father must have owed a lot of money.
While I was thinking, Benny started walking again. So did I.
“So what are you going to do, now?” I asked, as I walked along side of him. He shrugged. “Is your father still going to get you new sneakers?” Once again, Benny just shrugged.
We continued walking, but neither of us said much. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out the best way to help him. Finally, I decided there was really only one way. Unfortunately, neither mom nor Father Carmel was going to like my idea. That’s why I decided I’d better not tell them. But even if I could keep that a secret, there was no way to keep mom from finding out about the other thing that happened. How could I? It took place right in front of her. Really freaked her out. Did the same to me.
It happened later that evening. I was in my room sitting up in bed, reading a couple of comics I had borrowed from Benny when the power went out. Happened a lot in our building. Whenever it did, my room always ended up being really dark, but not this time. This time, there was a bright glow everywhere.
…AND IT WAS COMING FROM ME!
My hands, my arms, even my chest (I wasn’t wearing a shirt) were all glowing like light bulbs!
I froze like an ice cycle in winter. I tried calling my mother, but my mouth wouldn’t work right. “M—m—m—m!” was all I could say. So instead, I just sat there too scared to move, because if I did, I was sure I’d feel all kinds of pain.
The seconds ticked by during which I stayed as still as a rock. Finally, after a minute or so, I shifted my legs and arms just a tiny bit to see what would happen. What do you know? I could do it … and with no sharp pains, or even throbbing.
When it finally hit me that I wasn’t going to be hurt if I moved, I slid off the side of the bed and stood up. Still a little freaked though that there might be some pain if I moved too much too quickly, I began to shuffle like a stiff-legged C3PO toward the door.
“MOM!” I almost shouted, as I stepped into the living room.
At that moment, she came out of the kitchen holding a flashlight—which she dropped the moment she saw me, and made the sign of the cross several times.
“Oh, my God, David!” she screeched, her eyes as big as baseballs. “What happened to you? You’re glowing!”
The thought just kind of popped into my head, almost without me thinking about it. I said to her, “I think it has something to do with my abilities.”
“But…but how?” she stammered.
We stared at each other for a long time. Finally she asked, “Can you turn it off?”
Again I shrugged, but then remembering how when I first discovered I could teleport, I did it by closing my eyes and thinking about the place I wanted to hop to. So now, once again, I closed my eyes and thought about turning off the light from my body.
Mom said right after I closed my eyes, the light around me just kind of blinked off. “It was like someone had flipped a switch.”
Good, I thought as my heart, which had been beating inside my chest really fast, began to slow down.
Suddenly, the power came back on. That’s when mom, first picking up the flashlight, came over and hugged me.
“Oh, mi hijito, mi hijito,” she said, while still holding on to me. Then she let go and stepped back. “You’re still going to the doctor’s,” she said in Spanish, while looking at me straight in the eyes.
“But why?” I asked her in Spanish, even though I was sure I already knew what her answer was going to be.
“Because, what is happening to you is not normal,” she said.
“I know, but…” The idea had been in my head even before I started glowing. “I don’t think we’d better tell the doctor about my being able to teleport, or about me turning into a walking light bulb.”
Mom frowned. “Why not?”
“Because,” I said to her, “I don’t want to end up in a cage.”
“You’re not going to end up in a cage,” she replied, trying to sound like a mom.
“Oh, no?” I said. “You’re forgetting what Father Carmel told me and Rickie.”
“And what’s that?”
“If people find out about us, they’re going to want to study us. That means, they’ll put us in cages like mice.”
I could see from mom’s expression she was wondering weather or not I was right.
Finally, her forehead unwrinkled and she said, “Okay, we won’t say anything to the doctor.
“Good,” I said, breathing out a huge sigh of relief.
“But you’re still going,” she insisted.
Ignoring her, I said, “Okay, but now, I have to go practice.”
“Practice what?” she asked.
“Turning my lights on and off.”
And that’s exactly what I did.
Going into my room, I closed the door and turned off the light. Standing in total darkness, I shut my eyes and tried to imagine I was glowing again. It worked! When I opened my eyes, a bright glow filled the room. Closing my eyes once more, I thought about the light around me turning off. Again, it worked! So, for the next few minutes, I continued to close my eyes and practice turning myself on and off.
Then I remembered that before, when it happened, it was while I was reading a comic. That meant, of course, my eyes had been open. So trying to concentrate the way I do when I teleport, I tried turning my light on and off without closing my eyes. It worked!
Great! Now, all I needed was some more practice.
After another several minutes, I wondered if I could turn on only a part of my body, say like my hands instead of everywhere.
Closing my eyes again, I tried to concentrate on just my hands. When I opened my eyes, I saw that only my hands were glowing like two screwed on light bulbs.
Practicing some more, I was able to turn on light in just my arms and just my chest. Finally, I worked at being able to make my light dim, or get really bright.
Wow! I thought afterwards. This is almost as neat as being able to teleport. Wait until I tell Rickie! Which is what I did the next day during recess.
She said out loud what I had thought to myself. “Wow!” she exclaimed, her blue eyes looking at me all excited like. “Do you think I could do that too?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. You already have two powers: you can draw like a grownup and you’re really strong. The note said I might get more than one power. I guess this is it.”
Rickie looked disappointed for a moment, then she smiled and said, “You’ll have to show me how it works.”
I smiled back at her and said, “Okay, tonight.”
But first I decided I wanted to show Father Carmel my new power. I figured mom would have told him about it already, but I wanted to show it to him in person. So after school, I sent Benny on ahead of me, then went into St. Michael’s to find Father Carmel. He wasn’t there yet, so I hung around until he showed up a half-hour later.
I was in his office doing my homework when he came in.
“What the heck!” I heard him say.
I looked up from my math paper and saw Father Carmel standing in the doorway, staring at me, his eyes bulging.
I’d been sitting at his desk with the lights off and just the glow from my head allowing me to see my homework.
“Your mother told me about it,” he said, closing the door real fast and turning on his office lights. “But it’s different when you see it in person.”
I turned off the glow from my head.
After he hung up his coat and hat, he came over by his desk and stared down at me like I was some kind of freaky science project or something.
“Does it hurt?” he asked.
“Nope, not a bit,” I told him smiling.
Father Carmel sat on the corner of his desk. “When did it happen?” he asked.
“Last night,” I told him, “but I think it’s been happening without me knowing it.” That’s when I told him about Rickie’s hair looking brighter a couple of times, and about the light on my books on her balcony. I had thought about all this the night before while still awake.
“Can you control it yet?” he asked. I nodded. Then Father Carmel sighed a heavy sigh. “You realize you must keep this a secret, too?” he said. Again I nodded. “No one must find out.”
“Except Rickie Conners,” I said to him.
He hesitated before finally agreeing. “Except Rickie Conners,” he said.
Of course, she already knew, but I didn’t tell him that.
Before I left, I asked him the question that had been bothering me since last night when all this began. “Father Carmel, do you think these are the only things that are going to happen to me?”
He scrunched up his mouth and looked as if he was thinking real heard. “You know, David,” he said, “I truly don’t know, but I hope so.”
“Why?” I asked him curious.
“Because,” he said, putting his hand flat against his chest. “I don’t think my heart could take too many more of these surprises.” Then he smiled. I smiled back, because I realized he was just joking with me.
Collecting my books, I said to him, “Tell my mother I went home.” And then, I teleported to our apartment.
When mom got home, I told her that I was going over to Rickie’s to show her my new power.
“Will her parents be there?” she asked.
I shrugged. “I don’t know.” Why do grownups always worry about parents being around?
“Well, call her first and make sure she knows you’re coming. Don’t just pop in on them unannounced. You’ll scare them half to death.”
So that’s what I did, but not until after we ate. Mom reminded me it would be darker then. “You can show her how bright a light bulb you have become.”
“Ah, mom,” I said smiling. Like Father Carmel, she was joking with me, which was great, because it meant she wasn’t scared any more.
After we ate, I called Rickie and told her I’d be right over to show her my new power.
She sounded excited. “Oh, great!” she said. “Can mom watch too?”
Suddenly, I felt kind of funny. The last time I showed her mother how I teleported, I fell asleep and spilled soda on her couch.
“Does your mother have to see me right now?” I asked.
“Why, what’s the matter?” Rickie asked. She didn’t sound mad, only a little disappointed.
“Having grownups around when I do my stuff always makes me feel a little nervous.”
“You didn’t seem nervous when you showed my mom how you could teleport,” she said.
“I know but…can we keep it to ourselves for now?”
“Okay,” she agreed.
“Great!” I said. “I’ll be right over.”
I told her I’d meet her on her balcony then went into my room to get my jacket.
When I arrived, she was already there on her balcony, hugging one of the rag dolls from her bed. That surprised me. I thought they were only there because she was a girl, and that’s what girls do—have dolls on their beds. To see her hugging it wasn’t exactly how I thought of Rickie Conners.
“This is Milly,” she said, holding up the doll for me to see better.
“What’s the other one called?” I asked. I was talking about the second doll, the boy doll that I had seen on her bed.
She looked confused for a moment then smiled and said, “Oh, you mean Harold.”
A few seconds later, she asked, “So are you going to show me how you glow?”
“Yeah, but first, you want to close your lights?” I was talking about the outside lights that were on the wall next to the balcony doors. There were three large bulbs, all bundled together, and looking like metal and glass Hershey Kisses.
“Okay,” she said then reached inside the open door to her room and found the light switch. The outside lights on the balcony went off, as well as her bedroom light, leaving us standing in maybe not complete darkness, but almost.
So, she wouldn’t get scared, I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on bringing both my hands and my head to full glow, but very slowly.
“Wow!” I heard her say after a moment or two.
When I opened my eyes, I found Rickie Conners staring at me, her own eyes sparkling like blue marbles in the glow from my head.
I smiled. “You like?” I asked her.
With her mouth hanging open like a broken door, she nodded. Then after closing it, she asked, “Can you just turn yourself on and off like that?”
It was sort of a dumb question, but I didn’t say anything. Instead, I just nodded then concentrated with my eyes wide open until the light around my hands and head blinked off.
“Wow!” she said again.
Standing there once more in the dark, I asked her, “Would you want to go for a ride?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
This was something I’d been thinking about for the past few days—bringing someone along with me while I teleported; and what better person to ask than Rickie Conners?
“Well, it’s like this,” I said then went on to explain my idea.
“Wow!” Rickie Conners said for the umpteenth time.
I laughed. “You seem to like to say that a lot, don’t you?”
She nodded, but didn’t reply. Instead, she continued to stare down at the city, which was all lit up like some kind of giant Christmas store display.
We were standing on the rooftop of one of the city’s taller buildings. It was where I had hopped to several times. I liked the view. It was amazing! Below us, lights of bright whites and reds were crawling around the streets like glowing roaches, while the windows on the buildings reminded me of lights on a Christmas tree.
“It’s beautiful,” I heard her say.
I looked sideways at Rickie and smiled.
Suddenly, Rickie Conners hugged herself as if she was cold. She probably was since she wasn’t wearing either a sweater or a jacket. I knew she should have put on at least one or the other, but I didn’t say anything before, because I didn’t want to sound like a grownup being a nag.
“You want to go back now?” I asked her.
She turned and looked at me nodding.
“Okay,” I said, opening up my arms so she could step onto my shoes once more.
That had been the main part of my plan. I thought the only way I could give her or anyone else a ride was if they stood on my shoes facing me with their arms wrapped around me.
“I’m ready,” she said, her mouth close to my ear, her blonde curls tickling the side of my face. Luckily for my toes, she wasn’t very heavy.
I nodded then concentrating hard on trying to move the two of us instead of just one, I felt the familiar sideways pull (a little more gooey than normal) as, instantly, we found ourselves back on her balcony.
“That was fun and weird at the same time,” she said with a smile after she let go of me and stepped off my shoes. “Can we do that again?”
“I don’t see why not,” I said, having turned on the light in my head once more so the both of us could see better. “But we’re going to have to be careful,” I said.
“Why?” she asked.
“Well, my mom isn’t going to want me sneaking off every night with you to hop all over the city. She’ll say we both have homework to do, or we have to go to bed early because it’s a school night. And then there are your parents. They might not like it either.”
Rickie Conners frowned. “Well, that’s not fair.”
“I know,” I agreed.
“So when can we do it again?” she begged in a hurry.
I could see she was all excited and wanted me to give her an exact answer, which I didn’t think I could, so instead, I just blurted without thinking, “How about Saturday night?”
Rickie’s eyes lit up. “Great!” she replied. “I’ll be waiting.”
Oh, great, I thought. Now for sure, I’ll have to show up. In the mean time, I said, “My mom told Benny that you were going to help me with my drawing. Would you?”
“You mean show you how to draw like me instead of like in a comic book?”
I nodded. Her smile got bigger. “Yeah, sure,” she said. “Bring your sketch book with you to school tomorrow, and we’ll do it together during recess.”
“Great!” I replied and then teleported back to my room…
But not before feeling something really strange.
It felt like someone had been watching us. But that was crazy, I thought! No one even knew we were there, and besides, I didn’t see anyone.
Sitting on the edge of my bed, I kept thinking about it. The whole thing kind of made my shoulders twitch a little. But after a while, I decided I was just being dumb and pushed it out of my head. Besides, I had more important stuff to think about, like tomorrow being Friday. First, Rickie was going to show me how to draw like she did. Then after school, I had to go with mom to the doctor’s. I just hoped I didn’t have to get any needles. They always hurt like heck.
Unfortunately, I did get a shot—in fact, two. The doctor said the second was vitamin-B. He said it would give me more energy—like I really needed it. Of course, that was after he stuck me with the first needle, which he used to take some of my blood. Boy, talk about feeling like a pincushion!
On the way home from the doctor’s, mom asked me how school had gone that day. That’s when I told her about how Rickie and I spent all of recess sitting on a bench in the playground while she tried showing me how to draw like she did.
“How did you do?” mom asked.
“Not so good,” I told her. “Rickie is a much better artist than I am.”
“You’re really good, too,” she said, and I could tell she meant it.
“Yeah, but not as good as she is.”
“Everyone has things they are good at,” she said. “Look at you. You can…” Suddenly, she stopped. She must have realized what she was about to say out loud, which was something I know I didn’t want to happen. We were riding home on a crowded bus. Not only did I not want any of the people around us to hear that I could teleport, or glow like a light bulb, but any one of them could easily have been a mad scientist in disguise. If he or she heard mom talk about my abilities, they might try following us home. And then, I’d have to worry about being kidnapped and put in a cage, and having all kinds of terrible things done to me.
Just thinking about it made me shiver.
I finally relaxed once mom said, “Well, you’re good at some things, just like Rickie Conners is good at others.”
“I’ll agree,” I said, as the bus continued to carry us closer to home.
The rest of the ride, we didn’t talk much, which was good because it gave me time to plan what I was going to do for Benny.
I had not forgotten about his ratty old sneakers.
Of course, it really wasn’t much of a plan. I already knew the type and brand of the sneakers he wanted. I had been with him in the store when he picked them out. All I had to do was set my alarm clock for some time early the next morning, while it was still dark then hop to the store, grab the sneakers, and teleport back to our apartment building. At this point, I planned to leave the sneakers on the floor outside his family’s apartment door with a note saying the sneakers were for Benny then ring the doorbell and hop back to my room before anyone could answer the door. Easy, right?
It didn’t occur to me I might get caught. Well, I didn’t get caught in the way the robbers on TV get caught. I didn’t get put in handcuffs and brought to jail, but I did get spotted by a policeman.
The first thought that went through my mind when his flashlight shined through the store window and hit my face was huh? In the next instant, I found myself standing on the same rooftop where I had brought Rickie Conners the night before. How did I get here I wondered? I had not thought about that building, or anywhere else for that matter! I just found myself there. It was really weird!
Standing on the gravel and metal rooftop in my hooded sweatshirt and pajama bottoms and slippers, I shivered, and it wasn’t from the cold. In all my rooftop trips I had made during the summer and even before that, no one had seen me when I teleported; but now, not only had I been spotted, it was by a policeman! We knew many of the cops by sight who patrolled our neighborhood. Would he recognize me, too? And if he did, would he try to arrest me? Just the thought of that made me shiver even more. That’s when I decided I’d better just hop back to my room, and forget about Benny’s sneakers for the time being.
But what I couldn’t forget about was my promise to Rickie Conners. How was I going to hop over to her house without mom finding out about it?
All during religious instructions (we had them every two weeks on a Saturday), and later while hanging out with Benny, I tried to come up with a plan I could get away with. Fortunately, mom herself gave me the opening I was looking for.
It turned out, just before supper on Saturday, she told me she had an emergency meeting with the people from church who were going to help her plan the next raffle. She’d be leaving right after supper. Originally, their meeting was supposed to be Monday, but a couple of the grownups couldn’t be there Monday, so they decided to have their meeting this evening.
“You want me to have Mrs. Hanover come over and stay with you?” mom asked.
“No, that’s okay,” I told her trying to make it sound like it wasn’t a big deal. “I’ll be OK by myself. Besides, there’s a movie on TV I want to watch.”
“Okay,” she said, but didn’t sound one hundred percent convinced. “I’ll just let her know I’m going to be out for an hour or two in case she wants to bring over some of her famous cracker snacks.”
Ah, mom, I wanted to say but didn’t. If Mrs. Hanover was going to come over with snacks, I wouldn’t be able to teleport with Rickie around the city until Mrs. Hanover left, and I knew Rickie was waiting for me to show up.
Instead, I just shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly at my mother and said, “Whatever.”
Then my mom said what every mom says to their kids just before leaving them alone, “Now, remember, don’t open the door to anyone you don’t know.’
This time, I did say it, “Ah, mom!”
Like I really had to worry about someone trying to rob our place. I could probably rob him if I wanted to. Could you imagine the look on the robber’s face if I teleported right in front of him? I’d bet he’d drop his gun and maybe even faint! Boy, wouldn’t that be great!
Except it wasn’t a robber who came to our door a few minutes later. It was Mrs. Hanover with a tray of her cracker snacks.
“Your mom told me you were going to be home alone for a while. That’s why I decided to bring you a snack,” she said, handing me the round foil-covered tray after I let her in the door.
“Thank you,” I said to her just as the phone rang. I put the tray of crackers down and ran to answer the phone. It was Rickie Conners. She wanted to know when I was coming over?
That’s when I said, “Sorry, my neighbor, Mrs. Hanover, just came by to bring me some snacks. Mom had to go out for a while.” I glanced at Mrs. Hanover, standing in the living room in her flowered print housedress and black sweater. She smiled at me. “I think Mrs. Hanover is going to want to watch television with me until mom comes back.”
That’s when I heard Rickie Conners say over the phone, “Oh.” It was just one word, but I could tell from the sound of it she was really disappointed.
Then to my surprise, Mrs. Hanover said, “No, not tonight.”
I said into the phone, “Wait a minute.” Then I turned towards Mrs. Hanover and asked, “You’re not staying?”
“No, I have another woman friend coming over in a little bit. So, you can watch whatever you want on TV by yourself.”
“Great,” I replied, smiling, then said into the phone, “Mrs. Hanover is not staying after all. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
“I’ll be waiting,” I heard Rickie say over the phone. She sounded excited again.
Mrs. Hanover looked at me and smiled. “Was that your girl friend?” she asked after I put the phone back. I could feel my face turning red. Girl friends were for grownups, not eight year-old boys.
“Just a friend from school,” I told her.
Mrs. Hanover nodded and smiled. “Your mother told me you had a young friend you were interested in.”
I didn’t know what she meant, but I nodded anyway.
That’s when Mrs. Hanover turned to leave. “I’ve got to be going,” she said as she reached for the doorknob. “I’ll check on you later to see how you’re dong.”
“Okay,” I called to her then watched as she stepped out into the hallway and closed the door.
Now that I was alone, I picked up the tray of crackers and carried them into the kitchen. Before putting the covered tray into the refrigerator, I snatched a couple of the sandwich-like cracker snacks off the tray and ate them. Boy, were they good! I’d have to have the rest later after I got back.
Unfortunately, I never did.
“David, stop, you’re making me dizzy!”
It was Rickie Conners. She was complaining because I wouldn’t let her off my shoes before hopping to the next spot.
I was just fooling around, hopping from rooftop to rooftop without stopping. I thought it’d be fun giving Rickie a real fast ride, but I guess she didn’t like it. “Okay,” I said, remaining where we had just teleported to.
Rickie Conners let go of my jacket and stepped off my sneakers. She hugged herself a moment, but this time I knew she wasn’t cold; she was wearing a thick jacket.
“I told you we didn’t have much time,” I tried to explain. “Mrs. Hanover said she was going to check in on me. We have to get back before she does, or else mom will be mad.”
Rickie stopped hugging herself, and instead, leaned forward with her hands on the knees of her jeans, almost as if she was about to puke. I hoped not.
“Yeah, but you could have let me see what was around us first before you took off again.”
“Sorry,” I said, as she straightened up and looked around.
“So, where is this place we’re at?” she asked.
It was one of the rooftops I had teleported to during the summer. It wasn’t exactly in the best part of town, but it was on a direct line with Rickie’s house.
“It’s just a rooftop I know,” I told her.
Rickie walked toward the edge to look down. Suddenly, she turned around and leaned forward again. “Oh, wow! I must still be dizzy.” She was blinking her blue eyes a lot, and looking like she was trying not to be sick.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, feeling a little funny. What had I done to her? Could teleporting too much make someone sick? I never felt anything bad.
“I’m still feeling a little weird,” she said, while still bent over staring down at the black rooftop.
“You want some ginger ale?” I asked. “Mom always says it helps settle your stomach when you don’t feel well.”
“Where are we going to get ginger ale up here?” Rickie asked.
“We have some in the refrigerator back home,” I said. “I’ll hop back and get it for you. You wait here.”
“Okay,” she said, nodding, but did not look up.
Thinking about the space in front of our refrigerator, I appeared in front of its bronze-colored door. Inside the fridge, we had three bottles of soda—two cokes and a ginger ale. Pouring some of the ginger ale into a glass, I was just about to put the bottle back and close the door when I spotted the tray of Mrs. Hanover’s cracker snacks.
Why not, I thought?
Except, I never got the chance to give any of them to Rickie. Why? Because when I got back to the rooftop, she was gone!
I thought she’d be right where I had left her, or at least, looking over the side of the building and down at the street, but there was no sign of Rickie Conners anywhere.
Putting down the tray of crackers and the glass of soda, I stepped around the roof’s entrance to check the other side of the roof. No Rickie there either.
That’s when my stomach began to feel funny, like it does before I have to see the doctor, or the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. Where had Rickie gone? What had happened to her? Was she lost? But then I shook my head. That was a stupid question. How could she get lost standing on a rooftop?
The word made the fear churning in my stomach leap up into my throat. Had she fallen off?
Running to all four sides, I looked down at the sidewalks to see if I could spot her anywhere. No sign of her.
So, where was she?
“Rickie,” I called not too loudly at first, “are you here?” When I got no answer, I said, “Come on, stop fooling around.” Still no answer. Finally, I just shouted, “Rickie Conners, where are you?” I didn’t care if anyone besides Rickie heard me. I figured I could always hop away before they showed up.
I listened for a moment. The only sounds were some rock music coming from somewhere nearby, and traffic sounds from the streets below, but no Rikcie Conners.
The scared feeling in my throat had reached my mouth. It tasted like … boiled spinach. I wanted to gag.
Where had Rickie Conners gone? Had she teleported somewhere by herself? But that was stupid, too. She already had two powers: she was really strong and she could draw like a grown-up. Somehow, I didn’t think she’d get a third power right away.
So where should I look for her next?
And then the thought hit me like a rock. Of course, where else? At her house!
It was really weird. When we left her house to go teleporting, the lights were on in her bedroom and also downstairs. But now, as I stood in the dark on her balcony, there were no lights on anywhere.
Imagining the space near her bed, I found myself standing in total darkness. Turning on the light around my head and hands, I looked around her room. The only things I could see in the weird white-light from my body were the furniture and the pictures hanging on the wall.
Remembering what her living room looked like, I felt the sideways pull, then found myself standing next to the low table with the flowers on it.
“Rickie,” I called quietly. No answer.
I was tempted to shout her name, but something made me stop. I didn’t know what exactly, except I kept picturing Frank, the chauffeur, rushing out from his room and yelling at me.
“Rickie,” I called again really low. Still no answer.
I guess the only thing left for me to do was jump back to my room and hope that Rickie would call me and tell me where she was. But before I did that, I teleported to the top of the Stellar Building where Rickie and I had stood together the other night looking down at the city. She wasn’t there either.
When I arrived back at the apartment, the phone was ringing. I rushed to answer it.
“Rickie?” I said after lifting up the receiver.
“No,” replied a familiar voice on the other end.
“Oh, Mrs. Hanover,” I said, as my stomach felt like it had dropped several inches.
“David,” she asked, “where have you been? I’ve been ringing and ringing.”
“I heard,” I lied. “I was in the bathroom.” Of course, I didn’t say what I was doing in the bathroom. But Mrs. Hanover must have thought I meant I was doing number two, because when she said the word, “Oh,” it sounded as if she was a little embarrassed.
“Well, I just called to make sure everything was okay. Is it?”
For a second or two, I didn’t know what to tell her. I wanted to say I had lost Rickie Conners, but she didn’t know about our abilities, so I didn’t think that was such a good idea. Instead, I said, “Yeah, everything is fine. I’m watching a scary movie on TV and I just finished eating all your snacks.”
“No wonder you were in the bathroom,” I heard her say.
For some reason, that made my own face prickle with embarrassment.
“Well, tell your mother I called, and I’ll see you during the week.”
“I will,” I said then hung up. Then I dialed Rickie Conners’ number.
I was thinking I should go back to the rooftop where I had left the crackers and soda to see if Rickie was there. She might have returned from wherever she had gone, but then I heard a key turning in the apartment door lock. Mom was back. So soon?
I hopped back into my room and grabbed my sketchbook and pencil, and sat on my bed making believe I was busy sketching.
“David, you here?” mom called in Spanish.
I turned to look through the open doorway. “Of course,” I replied, also in Spanish. “Where else would I be?”
Mom appeared in the doorway, looking at me. She shrugged. Then when she noticed my sketchbook, she said, “I thought you were going to be watching a movie?”
I felt my ears get warm. “I was,” I lied, “but it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, so I decided to draw for a while.”
“Let me see what you’ve drawn,” she said, coming towards me with her hand out.
I handed her my sketchbook, all the while my stomach tightening like a fist. Did she know I had gone teleporting with Rickie? Was she trying to catch me in a lie?
She looked down at the comic book-like panels I had drawn earlier in the evening before supper. “Even if Rickie Conners is a great artist,” she said sounding really sincere, “you’re wonderful, too.”
“Thanks,” I said, smiling as my stomach settled down.
Mom left my room for a moment, then returned holding out a white paper bag. “I’ve brought you a doughnut from our meeting,” she said.
“Thanks,” I told her, “but I’m not hungry.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “You’re not?” she asked. She sounded really surprised. She knew how much I loved doughnuts.
I nodded. “I ate too many of Mrs. Hanover’s cracker snacks.”
“Okay then,” she said. “I’ll put the doughnut in the refrigerator for you. You can have it tomorrow.”
I nodded, but got worried again when I thought she might notice that one of her glasses was missing and it wasn’t in the sink. I should have teleported the garbage down to the dumpster. That way, if she asked about the glass, I could have said I had broken it and thrown it away.
Luckily for me, she never noticed, but later that night, while in bed trying to go to sleep, three questions kept playing over and over in my head. The first was what had happened to Rickie Conners? The second: was she okay? The third: was I in trouble, and if so, how much?
The next morning while mom was in the bathroom getting ready for church, I dialed Rickie Conners’ number.
Still no answer.
All during mass, I kept thinking about how much trouble I’d get into if Rickie’s parents ever told mom about what had happened. Except I didn’t know what had happened. Was Rickie lost or hurt? Was she in a hospital somewhere?
I felt like I should tell someone about Rickie disappearing, but who? I didn’t think I could tell mom, and I couldn’t tell Father Carmel either; he wasn’t the priest saying mass today. Father Hanson was.
In church, I leaned over and quietly asked mom where Father Carmel was?
“He had to go away for the weekend,” she whispered. “He’ll be back on Tuesday.”
Good, I thought. By then, I should know for sure what had happened to Rickie Conners.
At least, that’s what I had thought.
Come Monday morning, I didn’t see her, or Frank, the chauffeur, or their car. And when it came to recess, she wasn’t on the playground either. So after spending most of recess shooting hoops with Benny and some of the other kids, I went back to my classroom and asked Mrs. Prouse if she knew where Rickie was?
For a moment, she looked as if she was trying to remember something. Then she said, “I think her mother said they were going to a doll show.”
I frowned at Mrs. Prouse.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Rickie didn’t tell me anything about a doll show.”
“Well, that’s where they were going.”
“When did they leave?” I asked, thinking it must have been Sunday.
Again, Mrs. Prouse looked as if she was trying to remember something important. “I think they were flying out Friday night. Yes, that’s right, it was Friday, because they called me from the airport.”
“That couldn’t be,” I started to say, but stopped when Mr. McCallister, the principal, showed up in the doorway. Both of us looked, as he motioned for Mrs. Prouse to come over to him.
“Excuse me,” she said then got up from behind her desk and walked toward the door and out into the hallway.
Shaking my head, I went back to my seat, but couldn’t stop thinking about what she had said. It didn’t make any sense! How could Rickie Conners have left Friday night if she was with me on Saturday?
I guess I was just going to have to wait until I got a chance to talk with her and find out what really happened.
Unfortunately, when I did, I got an even bigger surprise.
“What happened?” I asked Rickie the next day after I spotted her on the playground.
“When?” she replied.
“Saturday night,” I said. “Where did you go?”
“I was at a doll show with my mother.”
“No, you weren’t,” I said. “You were with me on a rooftop.”
“Rooftop!” she exclaimed, looking at me, her blonde eyebrows all bunched together. Suddenly, a light came on somewhere. “Oh, wait a minute,” she said, looking as if she finally understood. “You’re David, aren’t you?”
I frowned at her. “Yeah, so?”
“So you’re the one I helped the other day when you were trying to draw a picture of your teacher.”
“Huh?” I said, staring at her with my mouth open. She was talking about the day we first met like it was only a few of days ago. What about everything that had happened in between?
Before I could say anything, one of the girls Rickie had been standing next to said to her, “Come on, let’s go jump rope.” Then they left to join some other girls who were already turning the rope.
I just stood there watching her walk away. I was too stunned to move. What had just happened? Could an eight-year-old suddenly stop remembering stuff?
I continued to watch Rickie for a little bit, then walked over to one of the benches on the edge of the playground and sat down. I had to think. This was just too weird.
I was leaning forward with my head down almost to my knees, trying to make sense of what had happened when I heard a grownup voice close to me ask, “Are you alright?”
When I looked up, I saw that it was one of the elderly playground monitors. She looked worried.
“I’m okay,” I said to her. “I’m just feeling a little funny.”
Actually, I was feeling a lot funny. In fact, my brain felt like it was floating in space somewhere. Not only did Rickie Conners not remember Saturday night, she barely seem to remember me. I wondered if she even remembered how special she was?
“You want to see the nurse?” the monitor asked.
I shook my head. “No, I’m alright. I’m just going to sit here a little bit.”
“Okay,” she said then left.
I continued to sit for a while watching Rickie and wondering what the heck had happened to her when I decided I just had to try and talk with her again. So, getting up off the bench, I went over to where Rickie and a couple of girls were waiting in line for their turns to jump rope. I tapped her on the shoulder of her jacket. She turned to face me. “Do you know what teleporting means?” I asked her.
Once again, her eyebrows scrunched together and she looked at me like she was confused. “What does that mean?” she asked.
Now for sure, my brain felt like it was tumbling in the wind.
“Come on, Rickie,” I heard one of the girls turning the jump rope call. “It’s your turn!”
Rickie didn’t even say goodbye. Instead, she ran over to the middle of the turning rope, and began hopping up and down like an expert.
It was just like they say in the movies, or sometimes in the comics. The rest of recess went by in a blur. I mean, I remember parts of it, but not all of it. The next thing I knew, I found myself back in the classroom trying to concentrate on my school work, but that was almost impossible with my thoughts jumping around all over the place like they were.
That’s when I decided right then and there I was going to teleport over to Rickie’s balcony and ask her again about Saturday night? Of course, I’d have to wait until after she got home first. Until then, Benny and I did our normal walking home thing together.
When we got back to our apartments, I put down my schoolbooks then picked up the phone and called Mrs. Hanover to tell her I was home. She asked if I needed any more snacks, but I told her we still had some left over from the night before. She had stopped by with a plate and had coffee with mom.
“Well, enjoy them,” she said. “And I’ll be here if you need anything.”
What I needed was someone to tell me why Rickie Conners couldn’t remember Saturday night.
Hanging up the phone, I thought about her balcony and instantly found myself standing there. But instead of knocking on the doors to her room, I just stood staring at the closed drapes on the other side of the glass and wondered if she was even in her room? And if so, what should I ask her? Should I ask once again about Saturday night, or should I just show her how I teleport?
While I was trying to make up my mind, I suddenly felt that creepy tickling on the back of my neck feeling again—like someone was watching me.
Turning around, I stared at the house behind me, but couldn’t see anyone. Then I looked right and left. Still no one. I was thinking I might be crazy when I suddenly heard someone sneeze. It was really loud, and really close. The next instant, I found myself standing on the rooftop of the Stellar Building. I was shaking like a frightened puppy. Not only had I been startled by whoever had sneezed, but that meant someone had seen me disappear. Would they tell on me? Would they try to come after me? So many thoughts went through my mind at once, I couldn’t keep up.
I stayed until I stopped shaking, and my breathing slowed down then after I decided that it was okay and no one was going to come after me, I teleported back to the apartment.
Once there, I did some homework for a while then sketched until mom got home.
Then while she was trying to get supper ready, I asked her, “Mom, what could make someone forget?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“If you had a friend, and they suddenly couldn’t remember who you were, what could make them forget you?”
Mom’s eyebrows shot up and her brown eyes got big. “Did something happen to Benito?” she asked in Spanish. She sounded worried.
“No, he’s okay,” I assured her, also in Spanish.
She frowned. “Then who are we talking about?”
“Rickie Conners,” I told her.
Again, mom’s eyes got big. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. “Was she in an accident? Did she fall down and hit her head?”
I shook my head. “Not that I know of. She just can’t seem to remember anything from between now and the first day we met.”
Mom frowned. “Sounds like she has amnesico,” she said.
“Amnesia!” I exclaimed, my own eyebrows jumping up like kangaroos. “How would she get something like that?”
“Do you think Father Carmel might know?”
Again, mom just shrugged.
“Can I ask him?”
For a moment, she looked as if she were trying to make up her mind. “I guess so,” she said, “The next time you see him, you can ask him.”
“No, I mean right now,” I said.
Mom thought a moment then replied in a hurry, “Yes, but first, we’re going to have supper. Then you can go see Father Carmel.”
“Okay,” I agreed, but thought it was going to be awfully hard to have to wait until after we finished eating.
“So what did he say?” Mom asked me after I had gotten back from St. Michael’s.
“He agrees with you,” I told her. “He also thinks she has amnesia.”
Mom, who was sitting on the couch drinking a cup of tea, said more to herself than me, “I wonder what would make an eight-year-old get amnesia?”
I didn’t say anything, because I was thinking about the other stuff Father Carmel had said. He thought that someone close to her had made her forget.
“What do you mean close?” I asked him.
“Close,” he replied, without actually explaining it.
That’s when it hit me what he must be saying. “Are you telling me her chauffeur gave her amnesia?” I asked. I couldn’t believe it.
“No, not her chauffeur,” he said.
Father Carmel looked at me as if I had just asked him a really serious question about Heaven. “Her parents,” he said very calmly.
My mind felt like it was tumbling again. “Her parents!” I almost shouted. I couldn’t believe it. “But how? Why?”
He shrugged. “There could be any number of reasons, but the only one I can think of at the moment is that they don’t want the two of you hanging out together.”
“Why not?” I asked. Again, he just shrugged.
It didn’t make any sense. I wasn’t a bad kid. Why would her parents not like me? After all, it wasn’t like I made her do anything wrong. We just went for a little ride around town on top of roofs of buildings. But now, Rickie wasn’t able to remember, and Father Carmel thought it was her parents’ fault.
“But how could her parents give her amnesia?” I asked him.
He shook his head. “I have no idea.”
I thought a moment. “Father, do you think they might try to give me amnesia, too?”
Father Carmel looked as if he was trying to think real hard about something. His forehead was all wrinkly. “It’s a possibility,” he said, “which is why I would suggest you stay as far away from her as you can.”
“But how can I do that?” I told him. “Not only is she in the same grade as me in school, her aunt is my teacher!”
“I’d still say avoid her at all costs, if you can.”
Which is what I tried to do over the next few days, especially after mom talked to Father Carmel and ordered me to stay away from Rickie Conners. It was real hard though. She was special to me. I didn’t want to loose her as a friend. And yet, every time I looked at Rickie, or thought about what Father Carmel and mom had said, I’d find myself glancing over my shoulder to see if anyone was going to try and attack me.
By Friday, when nothing happened, I began to relax a little, and tried to go back to being just a normal eight-year-old kid again. And it might have worked if Benny had not complained about his sneakers.
It was after school on Friday. We were walking home when Benny said, “I feel like I’m wearing clown shoes with these sneakers. They’re so darn big, they practically flap when I walk!”
He was talking about the black high tops his parents had bought him at the second hand store. They were really big—like grownup sneakers.
“I wish I could have just kept my old ones,” he complained.
“But they were real rat jobs,” I said to him.
“I know, but at least they fit.”
And that’s when I started to think; maybe I could try again to get him the pair of sneakers he really wanted. Yeah, I know. Both mom and Father Carmel would have said it was stealing. But it wasn’t like I was going to keep them for myself! They were for Benny, and he really needed them!
Like before, I waited until real early Saturday morning, then teleported to the same store I had hopped to the last time. I hoped the pair he wanted was still there, or else, this was going to be a wasted trip.
Turning on light in just my fingertips, I began to look for them, At first, I couldn’t find them anywhere. Then just as I was about to give up, I spotted them sitting on the same shelf as the girls’ sneakers. What were they doing there?
Relieved, I grabbed the box, then started to get up from where I’d been crouching when I saw a shadow or shape of some kind move outside the window of the store. Startled, I fell back onto my rump then turned off the lights in my fingertips. Not again, I thought, as I sat there as stiff as a statue waiting to see who would show up. Would it be another cop?
Seconds ticked by while I continued to watch the window. Nothing happened. Then suddenly, I saw it again. Something moved in the darkness outside.
This time, I thought about it first, then teleported to the top of the Stellar Building. I figured that if it had been a cop I had seen, he would never find me up there.
…So why was I still feeling as if someone was watching me? It was creeping me out.
Instead of teleporting straight back to our apartment building, I hopped to several other rooftops first, hoping I could get away from this creepy feeling.
Finally, it faded, and that’s when I teleported to the hallway outside the door to Benny’s apartment. I left the box of new sneakers and a note saying who they were for. Next, I came back to my room and tried to go back to sleep. But every time I closed my eyes, I saw images of policemen trying to put handcuffs on me. I kept telling them the sneakers were for Benny and not me, but they wouldn’t listen. Eventually, the images faded and I managed to nod off.
The next thing I knew . . .
“Wake up, sleepyhead,” I heard mom say. She sounded as if she was standing right next to my bed. “It’s almost eight O’clock.”
Eight O’clock! I thought, without opening my eyes. Too early! I needed more sleep. I felt like I had just closed my eyes only a minute ago.
“Come back later,” I mumbled, as I wriggled further under the covers.
Mom shook me. “Come on, get up. Benny just called all excited about something. He says he wants you to go down to his place right away. He has something to show you.”
Even dead tired, I couldn’t help but smile. I knew what he wanted to show me.
Slowly, I pushed the covers off and rolled out of bed. Then slipping on my sneakers and hooded sweatshirt, I shuffled half asleep down to Benny’s apartment. You should have seen the look on his face when he showed me the sneakers. You would have thought someone had just told him he could have all the free ice cream he wanted for the next year! He was grinning like it was Christmas.
“So who do you think left them outside your door?” I asked. He’d already told me about finding them by the door with the note. Of course, no one had recognized my handwriting; I had printed the note with my left hand.
“Dad thinks it must have been one of the guys from his shop.” His father worked in a mechanic’s shop where they fixed cars. “They knew I needed sneakers and that’s what the note said.”
It sure did, I thought, as I continued to watch the look on Benny’s face. And that’s when I began to feel really, really good about what I had done. Yes, it was against one of the commandments—thou shall not steal. Both mom and Father Carmel would have been mad. But look how happy it had made Benny feel!
And that’s also when the other idea came to me. Could I do the same for someone else?
All day Saturday, I kept thinking about it, and thinking about it, and finally, I came up with the perfect answer for who I could make happy.
Because the next day was Sunday, and I didn’t have to get up early like I normally do for school, I figured I could make my first trip that night. So, once again, I set my alarm clock for real early in the morning, then stuck it underneath my pillow, so when it went off, mom wouldn’t hear it.
Just before I fell asleep, I planned what I was going to do and where I would leave the stuff. The grocery store on the corner had everything I needed, except the blankets. I’d have to get those somewhere else.
Early the next morning, while it was still dark, I stood on the rooftop of a warehouse looking down on First Avenue, searching around to make sure no cops were anywhere in sight. Once I was satisfied the coast was clear, I grabbed the basket of deli food and the rolled up blankets I had stolen, and teleported down to the sidewalk where several bums lay sleeping, some under blankets, others curled up on large pieces of cardboard.
For whatever reason, there were no streetlights on this side of the road, which made the people lying on the sidewalk seem mostly like lumps of dirt in the darkness. Looking at all the sleeping bums, I wondered if they were really as bad as mom and others said they were, or were they just people with a lot of bad luck who needed someone like me to help them?
It was cold standing there in the dark on that smelly sidewalk in just my pajamas, sneakers, and sweatshirt. But at the same time, I felt a warm feeling spreading through my stomach and chest. I was going to be like the Good Samaritan in the Bible—I was going to help the helpless!
I put the plastic carry basket filled with a couple of loaves of “Wonder Bread,” packets of ham and cheese, plus jars of mayonnaise and mustard, and plastic knives and forks on the sidewalk between two of the sleeping bums. Then after unrolling the stack of blankets, I stood up. That’s when I heard a deep man’s voice really close to me say, “Disappear, David! Hurry, a police car is coming around the corner!”
I sucked in my breath as I looked down the street. Sure enough, I saw the lights of a car turn the corner, and start coming slowly down First Avenue towards where I was standing. A spotlight shining from the side of the car was creeping along the sidewalk and wall of the building like a giant white spider searching for bugs.
My stomach felt like a block of ice had been dropped into it, both because of the cop car, and because of the voice, which ordered me again to disappear.
“I am,” I replied without thinking then did the same thing I had done the night I gave Rickie her ride. I jumped from rooftop, to rooftop, to rooftop really quick, finally stopping on top of the Stellar Building.
I don’t know why, but I felt slightly out of breath, or was it because I was so scared? Not only had I almost gotten caught again by the cops, but I was hearing voices—at least one voice anyway. And that’s when I heard it again above me say, “You sure are a hard one to keep track of.”
My head snapped up, and my eyes got big as I stared at the sky above me, trying to see who had spoken. And that’s when I finally saw him—coming slowly down out of the sky, as if he had been behind an invisible curtain. First, I saw his shoes lighted by the lights around the edge of the building, then his pants, then his dark jacket with his arms folded across his chest, and finally his face…
“Superman?” I said, totally blown away as he came to a soft landing on the rooftop in front of me.
“No, I’m afraid not,” he replied smiling. I felt disappointed. “There is no Kryptonite, or X-ray vision, or speeding bullets. Only what you see when and if I want you to see it.”
I continued to stare at Frank, the chauffeur, still too stunned to do anything but ask him, “If you’re not Superman, then who are you?”
He continued smiling. “I’m just another S.E.E.K like you.”
“Seak?” I asked.
He spelled it for me, “S-E-E-K. It stands for Super, Enhanced, Experimental, Kid.”
I pointed to him, “But you’re not a kid!”
Suddenly, his expression turned serious. “No, you’re right about that, but I was the first.” And with that, he pulled back the sleeve of his chauffeur’s jacket and showed me the bracelet he was wearing on his strong grownup-looking wrist. It was just like mine and Rickie’s, only with the number “one” showing in the triangle.
“I was made to grow up faster so I could keep an eye on all you S.E.E.Ks.”
“Why, how many are there?”
“In all, thirty.”
“Thirty!” I exclaimed, the number surprising the heck out of me, but then I realized it kind of made sense, since the number on my bracelet was 23.
I thought a moment. “And all of us have super powers?” I asked him.
“Why do we have super powers?”
“Because it’s part of the experiment,” he said.
“What experiment?” I asked, thinking that maybe Father Carmel had been right after all.
“Have you ever heard of Roswell?”
I shook my head, no.
“Roswell, New Mexico is a town where in 1947, a ship from outer space crash landed.”
“You sound like Mrs. Prouse, my teacher,” I said to him.
He ignored me and went on talking. “But Roswell wasn’t the only one. There were other crash sites; and in each one, scientists found information written in an alien language that they believed would make them really smart if they could figure out what it said.
“It took them many, many years, but once they did, they discovered they could use the information to create humans with extraordinary powers.
“To some scientists, this would have been enough, but it would have also meant keeping all their creations in cages for the rest of their lives.”
That thought alone made a shiver run through me.
“Instead, they decided on another experiment. They wanted to see what would happen if they allowed their creations to interact with the rest of the world. So, they left many of you in hospitals and in orphanages to be adopted.”
“Is that what happened to Rickie?” I asked him, forgetting for the moment what she had told me.
“No, her parents specifically requested her.”
“But how did they even know about her?”
“Simple,” replied Frank, the chauffeur, “her father was one of the scientists, and her mother worked for the same group.” My eyebrows shot up. So that’s how they knew about her!
Frank went on to explain. “Mrs. Conners couldn’t have kids, so she asked to be allowed to adopt one of the S.E.E.Ks.”
Even though he was a grownup, what he said made me angry. “If her parents wanted Rickie so much,” I said to him, feeling my fingers tighten into a fist, “then why did they give her amnesia?”
He crossed his arms in front of his chest again. “Oh, so you figured that out, have you?”
“No, Father Carmel did.”
“He’s your priest, isn’t he?” I nodded. “How much does he know?”
Rickie’s chauffeur looked down at me and asked, “Does anyone else know?”
“Mom knows . . . and so did Rickie until you gave her amnesia.”
“Not me,” he insisted, “her parents did.”
“And are they going to give me amnesia, too?” I asked him.
He looked at me a moment then replied, “Not unless you try and force their daughter to remember.”
“And what if I do?” I asked him. I wanted so much to help Rickie be like she was before.
He looked down at me the way I’d seen Principal McCallister look at third graders who had gotten into trouble. “Then steps would have to be taken,” he said.
“What steps?” I asked, but never got an answer. At that moment, to my surprise, he began to rise slowly up into the sky. He was leaving? Frantic, I shouted, “Wait! I have more questions!” But he didn’t wait. Instead, he continued to rise like a balloon, getting faster and faster by the second until finally, he disappeared.
I stood there for a little while staring up at the sky, hoping he’d come back, but when he didn’t, that’s when I began to feel a little bit stupid, so I teleported back to my room.
Like the day before, it took me a long time to fall back to sleep. Once I did, I dreamt about Rickie Conners.
In my dream, I was standing with her on the playground at school. We were all alone. No one else was around.
I asked her more than once if she knew who I was? She kept shaking her head, no. In frustration, I grabbed her around the waist, and tried to teleport her away somewhere, but it didn’t work. Even though I could feel the sideways pull, we stayed right where we were.
At that point, I saw Frank, the chauffeur, running towards us. He yelled, “Stop! Don’t you dare go anywhere with that girl!”
Letting go of Rickie, I turned and tried to run away, but my feet wouldn’t move. The next instant, I felt Frank’s big hand grab my shoulder and spin me around. That’s when I found myself staring up into his angry dark eyes.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He yelled, his voice as loud as thunder. I was so scared, all I could do was stand there and shake. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to go near her?” Still scared stiff, I shook my head. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to do something about that,” he said.
“Do what?” I asked, but before he could answer, I woke up.
Darn! I thought, as I opened my eyes. I really wanted to know what he was going to say next. But I guess it wouldn’t have made much difference anyway, because at that very same moment, mom walked into my room and said, “Come on, get up! We have to go to church.”
I groaned, mostly to myself. I didn’t really want to go to church; I was still tired, and still thinking about my dream, but I got up anyway. Then, after I took a shower and got dressed, I came into the kitchen to eat breakfast. But even pancakes swimming in butter and syrup couldn’t stop the images in my dream from swirling around inside my head. Even in church, instead of paying attention to what Father Hanson was saying during mass, I continued to think about my dream.
When we got home, I told mom I was going to lie down for a little while to rest.
For a moment, she looked at me worried. “Aren’t you feeling well?” she asked in Spanish.
“I’m just a little tired,” I replied, also in Spanish. “I didn’t sleep all that well last night.”
“I know what this is about,” she said.
I felt my stomach drop. “You do?”
“Yes, this is about Rickie Conners, isn’t it?” I sort of half nodded. “I told you not to go near her.”
“I haven’t!” I insisted.
“You shouldn’t even be thinking about her.”
“But mom! She was my friend! I can’t help it.”
She shook her head. “Just go rest,” she said. She seemed a little bit upset.
Instead of arguing, I went into my room and laid down on my bed with my hands clasped behind my head.
After a couple of minuets, mom came to the doorway, and said in a more mom-like tone of voice, “I’m going to the supermarket for a short while. Are you going to be all right until I get back?” That was sort of a dumb question, but I nodded anyway, then rolled over and pretended to go to sleep.
Waiting for a few minutes after mom left, I rolled out of bed and stood up. The first thing I did was picture the balcony outside Rickie’s room. The next instant, I found myself standing there, facing the two wood and glass doors that led inside.
I know this was a dumb move, since anyone could have been on the balcony when I showed up, but I didn’t care. I wanted to see Rickie.
If I thought about it, I could have just teleported inside her room, but for some reason, instead, I reached for the doorknob like a normal person. That’s when I heard Frank’s deep grownup voice behind me say, “I warned you about this kind of stuff.”
How did he find me?
Whirling around, I found myself staring up into his angry dark eyes, just like in my dream. “I wasn’t doing anything!” I said to him in a hurry.
“Then why are you here?” he asked.
My mouth hung open while my brain tried to come up with the right words, but nothing seemed to want to come out. So instead, I closed my eyes for a split second and pictured the area beside Rickie’s bed. After feeling the sideways pull, I found myself standing on her little oval rug. The room was empty. No Rickie.
Before I could think of what to do next, I heard the doors to the balcony open and saw the curtains being shoved aside as Frank, the chauffeur, bulldogged his way into the empty room. He didn’t look happy.
“What are you doing?” he whispered angry-like. “Get out of here!”
“No,” I heard myself say, defiantly.
Rickie’s chauffeur looked at me surprised. Even I was shocked that I had talked back to him. That’s when Frank’s large hand grabbed my arm. Maybe it was because he had surprised me by moving so fast, or maybe it was because his vice-like grip was making my arm hurt, but the next thing I knew, I was standing on top of the Stellar Building . . .
And so was Frank!
I looked at his hand still holding my arm, then up at his face. I could see he was just as surprised as I was. How had I done that? I didn’t know I could teleport someone just by grabbing their hand, or, as in this case, them grabbing me.
Next, I saw his surprise disappear, and he looked angry again. “I told you to leave her alone, didn’t I?” His voice was as harsh as it had been before, but this time, he didn’t whisper.
I nodded, then watched as he let go of me, and folded his arms in front of his chest again.
“Why don’t you want me to see her?” I asked him.
He thought a moment. “Because it’s what her parents want.”
“None of your business,” he said, sounding more like one of my friends than a grownup.
“Then I won’t stop,” I said to him, folding my own arms in front of my chest. For an instant, I felt like Superman facing off against a King Kong.”
Frank, the chauffeur, looked down at me, his forehead all wrinkled. After a moment, he said, “If you’re going to be like that, then I’m going to have to do something about it.”
“That’s what you said in my dream,” I told him.
Instead of asking me what I meant, he said, “Stay away from her. Don’t ry to be anything but her classmate. Don’t call her. Don’t write to her, and don’t try to remind her of what she was before.”
“Why not?” I asked him.
“Because, I said so.”
I’ve always hated it when grownups say that. Why don’t they just explain what they mean? We kids can understand.
“And if I don’t?” I said to him.
He didn’t answer me. Instead, he began to rise slowly up into the air. But instead of shooting up into the sky like he had earlier, he just simply disappeared (Poof!) like magic. That’s when I heard his voice as if from far away call, “You’ll be s-o-r-r-y!”
I found out the next day.
It happened after school. Once Benny and I had reached St. Michael’s, I sent him on ahead alone, while I went inside to find Father Carmel.
Instead, I found mom sitting at her desk, holding some papers in her hands. Except, she wasn’t looking at the papers; she was kind of staring off into space.
“Mom!” I called as I walked into her office.
I don’t know whether it was my voice or what, but she flinched, as if she had been startled.
“Oh, David,” she said, blinking her eyes and looking like someone who had just woken up.
“Is Father Carmel around?” I asked, as I came over to the side of her desk and put my schoolbooks down on the chair beside it.
Her forehead wrinkled a little, and she looked as if she was trying to remember something. “I think so,” she said slowly. “At least, he was here a minute ago.” She tilted her head slightly to one side, as if she were listening to some really low music. “Now, what did he say he was going to do?” she said more to herself than me.
Ignoring her, I went over to the door that separated her office from his and looked inside. He wasn’t in his office, but the lights were on.
“I’ll just go inside and wait for him to return,” I told her.
Instead of asking me why I wanted to see Father Carmel, she said, “That’s fine. You do that.” Then, she went back to staring, this time, at the papers in her hands.
That’s when I should have guessed something was wrong, but I was too busy trying to think of what I was going to tell Father Carmel to worry about mom at that moment. Instead, I sat in the chair next to his desk to wait for him. A couple of minutes later, the outer door to his office opened, and he walked in.
“Oh, David!” he said, looking all surprised to see me. “What are you doing here?”
Standing up, I said to him, “Father, I have to talk to you about Rickie’s chauffeur.”
He stopped and looked at me frowning. “Who’s Rickie?” he asked.
That’s when I felt the first explosion of fear tear through my stomach.
And that’s also when I remembered Frank’s last words to me, “You’ll be
I stared at Father Carmel, the fear continuing to burn through my insides like a fire in an abandoned car. I said to him, “You know, Rickie Conners? The eight-year-old girl who can lift up your desk all by herself?”
Father Carmel’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, I don’t know if any eight-year-old girl would be able to lift up my desk,” he said.
While he was talking, he came around to the area behind his desk, and after pushing aside his chair, began opening and closing drawers. “Father,” I asked, “what are you looking for?”
He stopped and stared at me a moment. “I’m not sure,” he said.
That’s when the other thought hit me like a brick, and I asked him,” Father, have you ever met anyone who could teleport?”
He looked at me strangely for a moment then said, “You mean like on that T.V. show? … What is it? … Star Trek?”
“I don’t think there’s any such thing,” he said, and continued to open and close the rest of the drawers in his desk.
And that’s when I felt the second explosion blow apart my stomach and chest.
Quickly, I turned and walked back into mom’s office, and asked her, “Mom, do you know who Rickie Conners is?”
Like Father Carmel, her eyebrows scrunched together and she replied, “No, who is he?”
My mind felt like it wanted to explode along with the rest of my body. Tears began filling my eyes like water in a bathtub. Running, I shot out the door to mom’s office and into the hallway outside. I didn’t care if there were any other priests or nuns around; I immediately teleported to the top of the Stellar Building. That’s where I stayed for the next hour while the misery and guilt poured out of me like a waterfall, and I continued to cry until I couldn’t cry any more.
I was sick. I felt like I had a big hole inside of me.
Once more, I had been cut off from everything I knew. This time, it wasn’t just my nationality that had been taken away from me. It was the special connection I had with the people closest to me: Rickie Conners, Father Carmel, and mom.
What was I going to do? I was all alone with no one to turn to, except maybe …
Looking up into the sky where dark clouds had begun to form, I clasped my hands together and prayed, “Dear God, please tell me what to do?”
After that, I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . and then I saw it—a surprisingly late in the season flash of lightening far off in the distance. It was followed several seconds later by the low rumble of thunder.
A smile spread across my eight-year-old lips. I couldn’t help it. As miserable as I felt, I knew that the thunder I had just heard was God’s answer to my prayer. Like Moses, he was telling me not to give up.
“Don’t worry, God,” I found myself whispering to him, “I won’t.”
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