Ninth Night – Prologue and Chapter 1

Prologue

Two kites flew over a stretch of sandy beach on the coast of Oregon. One was yellow and red, with an orange tail snaking behind in curving twists. The other was green and blue with three tails flapping in the wind. Both were shaped like diamonds and hung over the waves.

A young boy gripped one spool, and a girl the same age held the other. It was a sunny day, but the wind kept the children in hats and long sleeves.

“Look how high they’re going!” said the girl, pointing a pink mitten toward her kite.

The boy stood next to her, shielding his eyes from the sun with his free hand. “I wish they could go higher,” he said, sounding unsatisfied as he gave his spool another turn, watching intensely as his kite rose higher.

“Be careful,” the girl cautioned. “You don’t want to lose it.”

“I know what I’m doing,” said the boy.

The two kids stood together, backs to the cool breeze, as sand blew off their legs. Everything was going wonderfully until a gust of wind caused their kites to buzz in the air like a pair of giant bees.

The girl was able to handle the extra strain on her line because she hadn’t let all of her string out. The boy was not. He’d let out all but the last turn of his spool. With the next burst of air the spool turned for the final time. Both children held their breaths as the knot at the end of the line snapped.

“No!” shouted the boy, who was forced to watch his kite sail over the ocean. He lost sight of it as if disappeared behind a wave. The boy stared into the wind for a sign of his kite, whimpering. Deep down he knew he would never see it again.

A long silence passed before the girl put her free hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry,” she said, sounding heartbroken.

“I got that kite for my birthday,” moaned the boy.

The girl reeled in her kite. Then she rubbed the back of her crying friend. “It’s going to be okay,” she said. “Everything will be alright.”

“No, it won’t!” he spat. “My parents are going to get mad at me for losing my kite.”

The girl smiled at her friend. “You can have mine,” she said, holding out her kite with two hands.

“What?” the boy sniffled, rubbing the tears from his cheeks with his sleeves.

“You can have my kite,” she said. “I want you to have it.”

The boy asked, “Really?”

The girl stuck out her chin and nodded. “For real.”

“But you won’t have a kite,” he said innocently.

“That’s okay,” said the girl. “I bought my kite with my own money. My parents won’t get mad. I want you to have it.”

The boy scrunched his face at the girl. “I don’t know,” he said. “You sure?” he asked.

The girl gave her friend an exaggerated nod. “I’m positive,” she smiled. Leaning forward, she handed him her yellow and red kite.

“Thanks,” he said, eyes lighting up. “But only if you take this,” he added, digging into his pants pocked. He pulled out a sand dollar he’d found early and handed it to his friend.

“Thank you,” the girl said, gazing at the sand dollar as if it were made from a diamond. “I will keep it for always,” she said, watching the boy with twinkling eyes.

The boy spent the rest of the day flying his new kite, while the girl kept her new sand dollar close to her heart.

 Chapter 1

“Why aren’t we there yet?” Carson asked.

His twin brother, Kyle, said, “Yeah. Mom said we would get there by 7:30, and it’s already 8:00.”

“I have to go to the bathroom,” whined Carson.

“We just stopped,” said Liam, glancing at the pair of six-year-olds in the rearview mirror. His little brothers were quite the comedians. They were intelligent, part of the gifted program at school, but too smart for their own good if you asked Liam.

“We may be a little off course,” admitted Liam. “We’ll be back on track in no time.”

“Why don’t you use the GPS like mom does,” Carson said. “She never gets us lost with it.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t,” Liam said, checking left and right for a familiar road to get him back on track.

“Haven’t we driven past this gas station already?” Kyle asked, tapping a toy car against his window.

“Three times,” said Liam. He breathed deeply before speaking again. “Should we pull over?”

“No,” said Carson.

“I thought you had to use the bathroom?”

“I’d rather go at grandma’s house,” Carson answered.

“Uh-huh,” Kyle said, “grandma’s house!”

Liam’s face heated up. His brothers talked to him as if he was the one in the back seat. But using his phone’s GPS was not an option. Besides the fact it meant conceding to his brothers, Liam had lived on the Oregon Coast for more than half his life. Yes, the last time had been in sixth grade, but that didn’t matter. This was his maiden voyage to his grandparent’s house with a driver’s license, and he would get there without outside help.
Twenty minutes later, Liam recognized the road. He turned west, heading toward the Pacific Ocean. He finally reached the sign he’d been searching: Welcome to Cannon Beach!

“We’re almost there!” shouted the twins, clapping.

Liam turned off the Oregon Coast Highway, still heading west. He passed new houses gleaming in the sunlight, and others in need of fresh paint. When he reached South Pacific Street, he pulled up to a grey and white two-story house with a two-car garage. Liam breathed deeply, letting the memories of this place wash over him.

“Grandma!” Carson cried.

“Grandpa!” Kyle shouted.

Sure enough, two people with grey hair shuffled across the driveway to greet them. His grandmother wore a silky blouse and blue pants. His grandfather wore cords and a button up shirt. Liam turned off the engine. He was the first one out of the car, seeing as his door didn’t have child locks. He was caught in a bear hug from his ninety-five pound grandmother.

“You made it!” she cried.

“How was the drive?” Grandpa Davidson asked at the same time.

“Fine,” Liam lied.

Before anyone said anything else, he was distracted by a loud banging sound coming from the rear window of Liam’s car. Grandpa Davidson turned to wave to the twins.

“We didn’t forget you guys,” he said to the boys.

Each grandparent took a passenger door.

“Liam got us lost!” the twins shouted in unison.

Liam said something unpleasant under his breath about his own flesh and blood. He helped his grandfather unpack the car, while Grandma Davidson led the twins inside.

“How many U-turns did you take?” Grandpa Davidson asked Liam once they were alone in the driveway.

“Three,” he shrugged.

Arms full of bags, Liam followed his grandfather through the garage and into the house. The twins used the restroom. Then they joined Grandma Davidson in the kitchen. Both were drooling as they watched her set previously buttered pieces of bread onto a frying pan. The pan sizzled. Grandma was making her famous grilled cheese sandwiches. The smell of cheesy goodness filled the room. Liam’s stomach rumbled.

“Your parents called,” Grandma Davidson said once Liam and his grandfather had finished with the last bag. “They made it to London without a hitch. They have already visited the Westminster Abby and London Tower. They also said they’ll call you in the morning.”

“What are they doing now?” Carson asked.

“I don’t know,” his grandmother said as she cut an oozing grilled cheese sandwich into four triangles.

“I bet they’re kissing,” Kyle said as he made the cow shaped saltshaker do battle with the pig shaped peppershaker.

Raising an eyebrow at his grandson, Grandpa Davidson asked, “What makes you say that?”

“They’re always kissing when they think no one’s looking,” Carson said, completing his brother’s idea as if he shared a brain with his twin.

Everyone laughed as Grandma Davidson flipped the last sandwich onto a plate. She served the twins. Then she turned to Liam and her husband. “Would you boys like a sandwich, too?”’

“Of course,” said Liam.

“Yes, love,” said Grandpa Davidson.

Grandma Davidson nodded. While she worked, Grandpa Davidson got everyone some soda to drink from the extra refrigerator in the garage. When he returned he asked Liam, “How did your finals go?”

“I got two A’s, two B’s and a C,” said Liam.

“As long as you tried your best,” his grandfather said.

“I did,” Liam said. “I’m just praying my junior year isn’t as intense. I’m not holding out much hope, though.”

“What are your friends doing this summer?” Grandpa Davidson asked.

“Josh is playing summer baseball,” Liam explained. “Trevor is working at church camp.”

“Liam should have gotten a job,” Kyle announced.

“What makes you say that?” Grandpa Davidson asked.

“He’ll just sit around watching movies and playing guitar all day long, here,” Carson said.

With a mouth full of grilled cheese sandwich, Kyle added, “And, if Liam had money, he could buy us chicken nuggets whenever we wanted them.”

The twins smiled, clearly enjoying the amount of attention they were getting from their grandparents.

“Liam is not going to spend his entire summer sitting around,” said Grandpa Davidson.

“Are you going to make him vacuum?” Kyle asked. “Because I want to do that. It’s fun.”

Grandpa Davidson couldn’t hold back a smile. “No. Liam is going to help me put in a new deck.”

“Can I help, too?” Carson asked, raising his hand.

“Me three,” Kyle insisted, trying to raise his hand, too.

“Absolutely,” Grandpa Davidson said. “You two can be grandpa’s little helpers.”

Grandma Davidson finished two more grilled cheese sandwiches. She cut both into triangles and handed them to Liam and Grandpa Davidson on a plate.

Liam bit into his sandwich. He groaned happily as a piece of cheese stretched from his bottom lip to his triangle. “These are perfect,” he said, still chewing.

After polishing off the sandwiches, Grandma Davidson led the twins upstairs to unpack. They would stay in Uncle Maddox’s old room. Liam would sleep in his dad’s former room. His parents usually claimed his dad’s room, causing Liam and his brothers to share his uncle’s room. This year would be much less cramped.

Grandma and Grandpa Davidson hadn’t kept his father’s boyhood room like it had been all those years ago. Its walls were painted a soft grey, and the bedspread and pillows appeared new. Old pictures hung in black frames, clustered together with a uniform randomness.

Liam unpacked his things, transporting handfuls of clothes out of his suitcase and filling drawers. He leaned his guitar case in the corner. After placing his toiletries in the hallway bathroom, he joined the others downstairs.

His grandfather was sitting on a leather recliner, flipping channels on a remote control. He was watching sports highlights. Liam sat on the sofa staring through the wall of windows. Outside blue skies stretched out in every direction, and the 235-foot tall monolith rock formation, Haystack Rock, stood out on the shore like some enormous stone giant.

“You can never get used to that view, can you?” Grandpa Davidson asked, no longer watching television.

Liam shook his head slowly. “Nope.”

They stayed there, gazing out at the crashing waves as a ship sailed north, almost too far out to see. There was something about the water that always made Liam smile. The serene moment lasted until his brothers stomped downstairs.

With big, sad eyes, Kyle begged, “Can we go to the beach now, please?”

“Please,” Carson pleaded, his hands pressed together as if praying.

“What do you think, Grandpa?” Grandma Davidson asked with a raised eyebrow. “Can we?”

Grandpa Davidson turned from the wall of windows, showing the two eight-year-olds a very serious face. “Well,” he said, rubbing his stubbly chin. “I don’t know. What if we get attacked by the monster jellyfish that ate the little old lady last week?” he asked.

“Grandpa!” Kyle said, stomping and laughing. “There’s no such thing a monster jellyfish.”

“What about the sea ogres that stole my friend’s left socks?” he asked, acting very concerned.

“Those aren’t real either,” Carson said, giggling so much his eyes shut.

“Okay,” Grandpa Davidson said, not sounding convinced these creatures wouldn’t be there to scare them. “If you promise to protect grandma and me.”

“We will,” Kyle and Carson said together.

“Would you like to join us, Liam?” Grandma Davidson asked after her husband and the twins ran off to the garage to gather sandcastle construction items.

Liam nodded.

The four Davidsons spent the next two hours exploring tide pools, splashing in the cold ocean water, and building sandcastles. The sandcastles, sadly, were attacked by two creatures, which mysteriously looked like a pair of soon to be first graders. Grandma Davidson announced it was time to head back. Carson and Kyle pouted, but the promise of hot chocolate before dinner changed their minds.

Liam followed his brothers from a distance as they attempted to smuggle live crab back to the house. He had been quiet for most of the return trip, but with the twins around no one else noticed.

If you had watched Liam carefully, you would have seen his eyes darting back and forth towards the house next door to his grandparent’s place. The neighbor’s house had cedar siding with a flat roof and a wraparound deck. Mark and Judith Jones lived in it, with their daughter, Penelope.

Liam first met Penelope when they were both five-years-old. Grandpa and Grandma Davidson had invited their new neighbors over for a welcome to the neighborhood dinner. Liam and his parents were invited, too. He couldn’t recall what they ate that night, but he’d never forget playing underneath the dining room table for hours with Penelope.

After checking on the Jones’s house for the tenth time, a blue car drove over the rutty road. “Hey,” Grandma said, turning to wave at Liam. “The Jones are back!”

“Really?” Liam lied, pretending not to have noticed.

Liam tried to keep his attention focused on a group of tourists snapping pictures of Haystack Rock. His concentration lasted twenty seconds. He peeked at the Jones’s house out of the corner of his eyes. Liam didn’t see anything, guessing they were parking in their garage.

At this point they were almost at Grandpa and Grandpa’s house, but instead of going inside, everyone veered onto the Jones’s deck. They knocked on a set of French doors. A moment later Mr. and Mrs. Jones emerged with greetings and hugs.

“Look who’s back,” Grandpa Davidson announced, pointing to Liam and the twins.

“It’s so good to see you,” Mr. Jones said.

“I can’t believe we get to have you back for another summer!” Mrs. Jones said, waving.

Mr. Jones and Grandpa Davidson shook hands and talked, but Liam wasn’t listening. Instead, Penelope emerged. “Hello, Liam,” she said, smiling.

His face flushed, blaming it on all the eyes locked onto him and Penelope. “Hello, Pen,” he said, giving her a wave. “It’s good to see you.”

Penelope Jones wore a pair of overhauls, a t-shirt, and a pair of sandals. She was medium height, with a big smile and bright blue eyes.

The adults talked, and the twins chased a rabbit through the Jones’s yard, giving the two old friends some time to catch up. “How have you been?” Penelope asked, twisting back and forth, as if she were nervous.

“I’ve been good,” he said. “You?” he asked.

“Good,” Penelope said.

“What have you been up to?” he asked.

Penelope paused. “Since our last email, I finished three sculptures, and four paintings.”

“That’s amazing,” Liam said.

“I hear your parents are touring Europe,” Penelope said.

“For their twentieth wedding anniversary,” Liam said. “They’ll return after the 4th of July.”

“Why, Penelope,” Grandma Davidson said, interrupting, “you get more beautiful every day. Did you just get your hair cut?”

“Yes,” Penelope said, her hand going to her light brown hair hanging over her shoulders. “Yes, I did. I can’t believe you noticed. I only had it trimmed.”

Liam squinted, trying to see what his grandmother had spotted in less than five seconds. He couldn’t see any difference in her previous style of the past three summers, no matter how long he stared.

“Well,” Grandma Davidson said. “It looks great. Doesn’t it, Liam?”

The back of Liam’s neck caught fire. “Yes, it certainly does,” he said, fighting off the urge to glare at his grandmother for cornering him into the complement.

Penelope’s voice grew softer. “Thanks, Liam. That means a lot from you,” she said, looking at him through her brown bangs. “Say, Liam, Chloe is having a bonfire at her house tonight. You should come. Everyone would love to see you.”

Chloe was one of Liam’s classmates when he lived in Cannon Beach. She was also Penelope’s best friend. “You can stay out as long as you’d like,” Grandma Davidson said, a little too eagerly.

Liam watched his grandmother out of the corner of his eye. He turned to Penelope and said, “Sounds good to me.”

Penelope clapped her hands together. “I’ll pick you up at 8:00 pm.”

“See you then,” Liam said.

Penelope gave him a little wave.

“We’ll get out of your hair,” Grandma Davidson said to the Jones family.

Everyone said goodbye, and as they walked between the two houses, Kyle said quietly, “Does that mean Penelope and Liam are going on a date?”

“Yup,” Carson said, raising his eyebrows up and down. “Now they can get married and live happily ever after.”

Liam pushed his little brothers. “Knock it off.”

Kyle and Carson giggled, but obeyed.

As Liam walked to his grandparent’s house, he tried to come up with a solution that would stop his grandmother from acting so strangely whenever Penelope was around. If his mom were here, he’d ask her to talk to Grandma Davidson. He smiled at that thought. Never mind. His mother was worse than his grandmother about Penelope and him.

Verve Stones – Prologue and Chapter One

Prologue 

“This will be the last one, General,” droned a faceless man.

A guard with mud-colored eyes and a dazed expression on his face brought the last prisoner into the dungeon. The prisoner was barefoot, wore tattered rags for clothes, and had a foul bag slung over her head hiding her tangled black hair. The guard guided the woman to a thick, iron chair in the middle of the room and shoved her down. He tied the prisoner’s wrists and ankles in place with strips of leather.

The faceless man removed the soiled bag from the prisoner’s head. He then slammed a metal stand onto the stone floor at the prisoner’s feet. The collision of metal and rock created a shower of sparks causing the prisoner to recoil and cover her eyes, as if the dark room had been flooded with a bright light.

“At last,” said the general, securing his sword to the stand.

As the prisoner’s gray eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room, she couldn’t help but notice the uniquely shaped sword before him. The blade had three edges and was shaped like a star. Beneath the blade rested a black crossbar with a leather handle bound with silver thread. The blade’s capstone, set in the pommel, was a green gem of unprecedented beauty and pureness.

The prisoner was scared and, yet, curious. She surveyed the numerous bookshelves that filled the walls of the gloomy chamber. Each was full of moth-eaten scrolls and dust-covered books piled high in no particular order. The prisoner then noticed five rectangular tables in front of her. Each was covered with a variety of gems, tools, and scientific devices. She quickly whispered a silent prayer, pleading not to be part of any strange experiments.

Over the years in the dungeon, the prisoner had seen her family and friends dragged from their cells and into this secret chamber. None ever returned. She had imagined the room to be more splendid than this dungeon laboratory. How thankful she felt that her husband had been spared this fate.

The faceless man grabbed a large, iron goblet from the nearest table and, with the help of the guard, filled the prisoner’s mouth with purple ooze. The prisoner fought to no avail as the fiery potion coated her throat. She convulsed against her restraints, coughing and gagging. She came to rest hunched forward, almost lifeless. Unable to move her body, but fully aware of her surroundings, the prisoner stared vacantly through her new, mud-colored eyes.

The general cracked his knuckles and got into position for the final time. The faceless man and the guard exited the dungeon. After closing the door, an intense green light radiated from beneath. Once the light faded, and a soft thump resonated from inside, the general’s associates reentered the room. They lifted their superior’s limp-but-breathing body from the floor, unhooked his sword from the metal stand, and carried him up the many stairs to his private quarters; leaving an empty room in their wake.

Chapter One 

The man had no face. He wore a long trench coat with a hood that hung to where his eyes should have been. Instead of skin, I saw emptiness, as if someone had erased his features. And he was standing behind a blue minivan across the street from my house.

I’d stepped out my front door and there he was, staring at me. He made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I fumbled for the silver key in my pocket. I found it, but immediately dropped it because my fingers were shaking. I picked it up off the porch and quickly locked the door behind me. When I turned around again, the faceless man was gone.

The feeling of being watched made my skin crawl. I found my bike on its side in the middle of the lawn. As I pedaled towards the blue minivan, I couldn’t shake the thought of the faceless man jumping out and grabbing me. But he never did. The only thing behind the minivan was a couple of dandelions growing through a crack in the sidewalk.

I headed to my best friend’s house. Alex and I met when we were seven, and over the next seven years we’ve become inseparable. He only lived a few blocks away. I cut across the neighbor’s yard and down a trail through the woods. I rode over some dirt humps and around a high-banked turn. I rejoined the street at the faded salmon-colored mailbox. It used to be yellow, but I broke the old one during Alex’s ninth birthday party.

A boy in a blue football jersey and jeans said, “Hey, Spoon, you made it.”

Spoon isn’t my real name, of course. It’s Ethan Spooner. With a last name like Spooner, it didn’t take long to get shortened.

I skidded to a stop and said, “Sorry I’m late.” I kept quiet about the faceless guy. I didn’t want Alex to make fun of me. “My mom said I couldn’t leave the house unless I’d finished two chapters of the assigned reading.”

“But it’s only Monday,” said Alex, looking at me sideways.

“That’s exactly what I told her,” I said, getting off my bike. “But you know how she gets about me putting things off.”

Alex nodded. He was seated in the middle of his driveway, with the guts of what appeared to be an old weed whacker scattered around him. He touched the copper end of a red wire to the post of an old car battery. “What do you want to do today?” he asked, making a spark.

“You’re going to electrocute yourself again,” I said, watching a twinkle of pleasure in his eyes.

“This thing is mostly dead.”

“Right,” I said. I thought about his previous question. “We could kill some aliens.”

“I’d love to, but we can’t,” said Alex, grabbing another wire, this one black. He touched it to the battery’s other post. Nothing happened. His lips pressed together into a frown. “We broke the console.”

“What happened?”

“We were playing the new racing game this morning,” he explained. “I won three games in a row. I let my brothers know how great I was. They tackled me, and the console got kicked in the process.”

This kind of thing occurred a lot with Alex and his two brothers.

“Now what are we going to do?” I said, happy to see him disconnect the wires from the battery’s posts.

“I have just the thing,” he said, smiling wolfishly.

Within an hour I was crouched in a lookout, which was nothing more than a few hunks of plywood nailed between two thick branches, way up in a Douglas fir tree. Being thirty feet in the air gave me a perfect view of the combat zone. Set in front of me was a bucket of ammo – pinecones soaked in water. They’re heavier and easier to throw when they’re wet. They also leave a nice welt on bare skin. If you think that’s bad, we freeze them in the winter.

“Here they come,” I called out to Alex. He was stationed inside a tree house fifteen feet below me with three buckets of ammo.

“I see ‘em,” he said.

Two boys came hurdling towards us. One was an eleventh grader, and the other was a sixth grader. Both were Alex’s brothers. They wore camouflage shirts that they’d bought at a garage sale.

The older brother slipped behind a tree and chucked pinecones so fast that they whistled through the air. The wooden walls of the tree house thudded like drums with every hit. Alex’s brothers had soaked their ammo, too.

The youngest brother hid behind a cluster of alders. He was the weakest thrower. What he lacked in velocity he more than made up for in foot speed. In a matter of seconds he was under the tree house and out of our sight.

We kept the two brothers pinned down with our barrage of pinecones. I hit Alex’s older brother multiple times on the arms, legs, and shoulders, and his younger brother twice on the top of the head. Alex drilled his older brother’s shin. My early success soon ran out with my ammo.

“Here comes Spoon,” shouted the younger brother.

Alex’s older brother rushed for the base of the tree house, zigzagging around ferns and trees. He reached his younger brother. Together they tagged me as I climbed down from the lookout. I finally reached the trap door in the roof of the tree house, welts and all.

The tree house was put together with two-by-fours and mismatched pieces of plywood. Alex and his brothers got the materials from a scrap pile next to a house that was being remodeled across the street. The tree house could hold six boys with ease. It was built with a Douglas fir tree growing through the middle. It had four walls, three lawn chairs for furniture, and a homemade zip line for an escape route.

Alex and I rotated between two of the windows, and two remaining buckets of pinecones, like a pair of snipers. I was able to land direct hits almost every time a head, elbow, or knee poked out below. A pinecone hit Alex on the forearm, causing him to yelp in pain.

“I’m almost out,” I said, dodging a pinecone that ricocheted around the inside of the tree house.

“Me too,” said Alex, showing me the last five pinecones in his bucket.

I hurled my last two pinecones, both hitting the youngest brother in the back. “Zip line?” I asked.

“Zip line,” agreed Alex.

We climbed through the trapdoor and onto the roof. I reached for the first zip line handle, grabbed on, and jumped off the roof.

“They’re taking the zip lines!” shouted someone from below.

Now I know what you’re picturing in your head. One of those professional zip lines that people ride on vacations. But like I said, this is a homemade zip line. It was no more than a thick rope tightened between two trees with a rusty winch. Don’t get me wrong, sailing twenty feet over the forest floor is fun. It’s just that our zip line isn’t made with wire cable. It sags terribly in the center, sucking the speed right out of the ride.

As soon as my body sailed through the air, a whizzing pinecone hit me in the elbow. Another smacked against the bone of my ankle. One more thumped me in the side of the head. It hurt so bad that I struggled to keep hold of the handle. Alex’s brothers cheered every time I winced.

When I was close enough to the ground I released my grip. Letting my knees bend to absorb the fall, I gathered my balance and sprinted down a trail. Alex was right behind me. Last week, we’d stashed some pinecones in various spots throughout the forest. The closest was coming up on our right, hidden at the base of a green fern. All we had to do was get there.

Alex’s brothers charged after us, their feet thudding against the packed dirt. I threw my last pinecone over my shoulder. Sliding over the forest floor, I thrust my hand beneath the fern. No pinecones.

“What’s the matter,” heckled the older brother, “out of ammo?”

Alex rushed up behind me while shouting back at his brother, “You took our pinecones!”

“Why do you think we agreed to have a pinecone fight in the first place?” mocked the younger brother.

We had no choice but to run. Making ninety-degree turns, we charged back towards the tree house. “Head for my backyard!” Alex yelled.

I nodded.

Alex’s brothers used this time to tag us in the backs with pinecones they pulled from their fanny-packs. I hate fanny-packs. We sprinted over a rotting log, around a stump, and between two leafy bushes.

We reached the spot where Alex’s cherry wooden fence connected to his neighbor’s gray wooden fence. I planted one foot on the outside of the cherry fence, grabbed the top, and propelled myself into my best friend’s backyard. Pinecones banged against the wooden panels of the fence behind me.

With two hands, Alex pulled himself up. He sat on the top of the fence that divided his neighbor’s yard and his own. With his back to his neighbor’s house, and his legs dangling above his own yard, Alex scanned the ground for a safe place to land. But he never got the chance. A pinecone cracked him in the base of the skull. His arms went to the back of his head, and his body fell backward.

“Alex!” I hollered.

I ran up the side of the fence that separated the two yards, grabbed a hold of the top, and catapulted myself into the neighbor’s yard. Alex rolled around on his side holding his wrist. “Ouch, ouch, ouch!” he moaned, louder each time.

“Let me see,” I said.

Alex removed his shaking hand from his injured wrist. It was red and swollen. Thankfully, no bones were sticking through his skin.

“Can you move your fingers?” I asked.

He wiggled them with a painful groan. “Barely.”

Alex’s brothers climbed into the neighbor’s yard, too. “Sorry, Alex,” apologized his oldest brother. “I didn’t know this would happen.”

Alex gritted his teeth. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Does it hurt?” Alex’s younger brother asked.

“Yeah,” said Alex, his voice sounding shaky. “I heard it crack.”

His brothers shuddered.

An elderly Asian woman ran out of her house. She had ash-gray hair, a wrinkled face, and pink bunny slippers. She held a rolling pin behind her head like a samurai warrior. “Get off my flowers!” she shouted.

I looked down at my shoes. I was standing on a bush with thorny branches and red blossoms. Alex had landed on a cluster of flowers with yellow and orange pedals. Both plants were smashed to pieces.

“Let’s get out of here before we get whacked,” said Alex’s oldest brother.

That sounded good to me. “We’re sorry about your flowers,” I said, apologizing to the old lady. “But I think my friend broke his wrist.”

The older woman stopped and stared at me, frozen. “Your Japanese is flawless,” she said, sounding amazed.

“What?” I asked.

“Where did you learn to speak it so well?” she asked. “You don’t even have an accent.”

I had no idea what the old lady was talking about. I turned toward Alex, who had a funny look on his face.

“What?” I asked, checking to see if my fly was open.

“You’re speaking to our neighbor’s grandmother,” he said.

“So,” I said. “She’s mad because we destroyed her flowers.”

Alex pressed his lips into a thin line, not appearing to be in pain at the moment. “She’s speaking Japanese,” he said slowly, as if to make a point.

“She is?” I asked.

My cheeks burned red hot as all three brothers nodded their heads.

I ignored their confused looks. “Whatever,” I shrugged. “Let’s get Alex out of here.”

They helped Alex up, but kept glancing at me like I was an alien. The four of us made our way out of the old woman’s backyard.

“Sorry,” I said to her as we were leaving.

“It’s alright,” she said in perfect English.

Ninth Night

I just finished formatting a story I began writing for my wife back in 2010. It’s in a genre I’m not accustomed to writing in or reading, but I wanted to see what I could do with the idea I had. I’m pleased with the way it turned out. Now I have to come up with a cover, and find the right person to make it.

Formatting

I have been busy formatting the first book of my The Legend of Spoon in paperback. I will also have to reformat the book for Amazon Kindle. Then I will have to take care of a cover. I have a Plan-A and Plan-B. However, both plans will take some time. I am finding it very difficult to be patient.