He felt the phone in his back pocket vibrating. He was tempted not to even look to see who was calling. It was most likely his wife doing the nightly “where are you” call. God, he fucking hated that call. Often, he contemplated answering and saying “as far away from you as possible!” and hanging up but he knew that wouldn’t end well. Then again, it could be one of his kids calling and he grabbed for the phone. Too late, he had missed the call, but it was indeed the wife. Here comes the text, he thought. 2 seconds later it came through.
Where are U?
Bill chuckled to himself despite his annoyance. He called that one. He didn’t respond. He had a walk to finish and possibly a kid to beat up.
As he got closer to his car, he could see that it was a boy, maybe 8 years old standing near his car. He had to see Bill approaching yet he made no move to retreat or even acknowledge his approach. The hair on the back of his neck was standing up, something seemed off about this kid.
“Hey kid”, he called out when he was less than 20 feet away, “can I help you?”
The boy was gazing intently at the sky. Without looking down or away he replied, “no Bill, I’m just fine thank you.”
Shocked, Bill managed to respond,” how do you know my name?”
“It’s not important”, the little boy replied, still not moving his gaze from the sky. Bill looked in the direction of the boy’s gaze and all he could see was the setting sun.
“What are you looking at like that, kid. You’re kinda creeping me out.”
The boy, without shifting his gaze, said, “I’m looking at the sky. Do you ever just look up at the sky? It’s quite beautiful actually. The clouds. The birds. The setting sun and the shadow of the moon. Did you ever look at the top of a tall tree and wonder what it’s like to be a bird looking down?”
“That’s a lot of questions kid. And yes, I suppose I have. Well, I know that I used to.” Bill was reminded that he was talking to a stranger, an unaccompanied minor at that. “Are you lost? It is getting dark.”
“No, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”
At a loss for his next move, Bill leaned against his car to stretch his legs and assess the situation. It was more than odd. He studied the boy. His clothes looked like they were from another generation. His hair looked like one of the “bowl cuts” his mom used to give him. It then occurred that the boy must have parents looking for him. But he sure didn’t seem scared or lost, he looked oddly comfortable.
He decided to play the quiet game and see who made the next move. He continued to stretch his tired body. Minutes passed and the boy said nothing. He was tempted to leave but his curiosity instincts were piqued and instead walked over and stood next to the boy. ‘Ok”, he said, “I give, what are you looking at?”
“Í told you, I’m looking at the sky. It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes”, Bill replied. “We’ve established that. But you haven’t looked away once. Aren’t you bored looking at the same thing?”
Without hesitation, the boy shot back. “Bored? That’s what kids today are. Always need to be occupied and entertained. Not me.”
Kids today! The statement resonated with Bill. “Well, aren’t you part of ‘kid’s today’?” There was something really strange about this kid. He was tempted to end this and take off. His phone had rung two more times since he got to his car and he knew that every ignored call was throwing logs on the shit bonfire that awaited him at home. Despite this, he remained glued to his spot.
“Let’s just say that I’m here, but I don’t belong here” the boy deftly replied.
“Then where do you belong?” Bill replied, despite feeling that he was better off not asking.
“A different time”, the boy exclaimed as he lowered his fixed gaze for the first time, turned his head, and stared directly at Bill. He felt as if he was staring directly through him. Bill pressed further.
“OK, what time do you mean?”