When Rodney found the tiny bones scattered on the concrete slab that was his front porch, he assumed they were from a small animal, like a raccoon or a squirrel. In time, he learned that he was wrong. When the long shadows passed over the back yard, and a gust of cool wind caused the skeletal branches of the skinny dogwood tree to bend and wave, he hardly glanced up, thinking airplane, in his fearless skull—airplane, airplane, airplane. When the phone started ringing at all hours of the night, his mother’s voice rising to a high pitch, he rolled over and went back to sleep, because death had never visited their doorstep before. He had no base of knowledge.
There were cops at his school the next morning, Rodney noticed, as the beige 4-door crept up to the parking lot. His mother drove him as usual, but today she walked him in—all the way in. She nodded to Mr. Langer, the gym teacher, with his bushy mustache and crossed arms, a hairy beast guarding the door to Rodney’s school. His mother held his hand, and it was nothing new—he liked to hold his mother’s hand, his father’s hand, they felt large and warm—safe was the word that came to mind.
The classroom would have an electric quality to it all day long, as rain beat at the windows like knuckles—knocking and knocking, wanting to come inside. Rodney noticed that Millicent was missing. She was his very first crush. It would make the day slower, the math problems dry and calculated, no dishwater blonde across from him with a smile and a toss of her hair. There would be tears in the hallway later that week, anguish echoing in the hallways. But Rodney would be long gone by then.
Hushed voices in the kitchen, and Rodney sat on the couch, a juice box in one hand, and a bowl of Cheetos by his side. The puppy lay next to him, eyes to the ground, and then back to him, her black tail wagging furiously, and then stopping. Her head kept lifting to look at the mother, to look at the father. There was whispering in the kitchen, words that Rodney didn’t understand, exhaled with a heavy despair. Abduction was one of them—pedophile another. His parents were also wrong. The bones from the other day flashed across his mind’s eye, but Rodney pushed the image away. Stupid bones. They meant nothing to him, not sacrifice, or remains, they were not real—they were not familiar at all.
The puppy ran around the back yard, yapping at the leaves that fell from the neighbor’s oak tree, faster and faster in an infinite loop, around the swing set, around Rodney as he stood in the breeze, his mother watching from the kitchen sink, the sun setting over the faded wooden fence. He stared at the sky—and with Halloween approaching—the myths and fables came back to him. He thought of wolves and huntsmen, he thought of sharp teeth at his neck. He laughed and lowered his eyes to the dog, a black shadow blurred across the dying grass. When the wings expanded overhead, the leathery skin taut across ancient bones, he opened his mouth, to scream perhaps—and then he was gone.