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?”The boy didn’t respond for a few moments. Finally, he turned and stared intently at Bill.
“I asked you if you ever looked up at the sky a few minutes ago. I asked because I wonder if you looked up even once. Did you even notice what a beautiful evening it is?.” He continued, “I asked you if you ever wondered what it was like to look down from a high tree. You had no answer. Why is that?”
“Because I don’t know who you are, where you’re from and how you know my damn name!” Bill was getting angry. He almost felt bad about raising his voice to the young, albeit creepy kid.
Unfazed, the boy continued. “I asked you about the trees because from the height of the tall tree you look small. We all do. Minor. Insignificant. Yet all you are focusing on right now is how big your problems are.” He paused. “See, the world is bigger than the size of the screen of your phone or laptop. If you looked around you would see that. But you need the phone and the computer to make money. To buy stuff, stuff that will further take your attention away from every beautiful day. It’s just stuff, yet it’s consuming you, ruining you.”
Bill was beside himself. This kid didn’t talk like any kid he ever met, and what the hell is he talking about?
“How do you know this?!”
The boy sat down in the grass Indian style. “Did you ever sit just like this? Playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt until your mother called you? Riding bikes with your friends. You hated to go home, right? Just like now.You were having fun then. But that’s not why you don’t want to go home now, is it Bill?”
The matter-of-fact look on the kid’s friggin’ face was killing Bill. He was looking right through him again. Yet he had no reply.
The boy continued. He was on his back now. “Did you ever lie on your back like this for hours looking at the sky? Wondering about the clouds? The stars at night. The possibility of a Heaven? About God. Do you think about God, Bill?”
“Not as much as I should.” Bill was powerless to question the utterly bizarre nature of this conversation.
The boy was standing now. “You used to be a happy kid, right? Lots of friends. You knew where they were without Facebook. You would look for the yard with all the bikes in the yard. Your mom knew where you were because you called from a phone in that house, a phone mounted to a wall, right? The streetlight was your curfew, or maybe you were close enough to hear your mother call you.” He paused and looked at his feet.
“It’s not too late, Bill”, He continued. “There’s still time to be that happy kid again. Look up, look around. Chase butterflies, smell the flowers. Find happiness like you used to. Remember the view of the bird, to him you are small. Look down on your problems as the bird looks down at you. Small, insignificant. It will work out.” With that, the boy turned and began to walk away.
Bill Marshall, who had been at a complete loss for words for what seemed like forever, finally blurted out what he had wanted to ask all along.
“Kid, how do you know me? I mean, this is impossible! How can you possibly know all of these things about my childhood? Is this mere speculation or a theory of yours? Do you think or do you know all of this!”
The boy, turning as he walked, said, “I know it. Think about where we’ve met before”. He then winked at Bill and continued walking. For the first time, Bill noticed that the boy had an old-fashioned Slingshot in his back pocket.
He used to have one just like it!
He looked down at the ground, he then gazed to the night sky. It really was a beautiful evening.
He got in his car and turned the engine on. He bathed in the AC and observed that he felt a little better. Despite the episode of the Twilight Zone he just starred in. The conversation played out over and over in his head. The kid was weird but in a non-threatening way. And he looked vaguely familiar. Shaking his head in disbelief, or to make sure he was indeed awake and conscious, he put the car in gear.
It suddenly occurred to him that he had some old-school pictures to go home and look at.