Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wilbur

Wilbur Matthews pedaled slowly down Bismarck Road heading toward Crossgate Street. Birds were chirping and the sounds of animals scampering through the woods on the south side of the road could be heard. There was a slight breeze that every so often blew Wilbur’s brown hair up, causing it to lay crisscrossed on his scalp. Wilbur crossed a narrow bridge that went over a small creek before the road curved onto Crossgate. On the bank of the creek, Wilbur noticed, the Evilsizor brothers were playing in the water and dirt. Wilbur kept riding but pedaled slowly so as not to bring attention to himself. The gravel road turned into pavement and Wilbur only got a little bit away from the bridge when he heard the sound of footsteps and bicycles racing up the ground to the road.

“It’s Matthews! Get him!” Dale shouted. Dale was the oldest Evilsizor brother and was the same age as Wilbur. He had a few classes with Dale at Northeast Middle School but Wilbur usually just tried to avoid him. The younger siblings were Mitchell and Porter. The Evilsizors were always recognizable with their bright red hair and face full of freckles.

The three boys began racing after Wilbur as he picked up speed. The brothers chased Wilbur down Crossgate to Shadybrook Drive, where Wilbur made a quick right turn. The brothers were still on Wilbur’s tail but started losing them on the second curve. Wilbur quickly turned onto Lazy Brook Lane, hit some loose sand and wiped out.

Wilbur rolled onto his stomach and tried to crawl away until Mitchell ran into him with his bike, knocking him down again. Wilbur tried his hardest to hold back his tears as the Evilsizors stood over him. “What were you doing out there?” asked Dale.

“I was just riding around,” Wilbur groaned.

“Bismarck Road is Evilsizor territory. Stay off of it,” Dale ordered.

“You tell him, Dale,” said Porter, who had not done anything until now.

“You don’t even live near Bismarck Road, and besides, it’s a public road and…” Mitchell interrupted Wilbur by kicking him in the ribs. “Ow.”

“We don’t ever want to see you on Bismarck Road again, or else we’re gonna dump you on Old Man Kupfer’s property,” Dale threatened. The Kupfer property was the woods south of Bismarck Road. There was a large house in the middle of the wood built in the 1870s. It had been abandoned for decades and there was a rumor among the kids that a monster lived there. “Come on, guys, I think this turd has learned his lesson.” All three then kicked Wilbur again, got on their bikes, and rode off.

Wilbur slowly got up, brushed the sand off his clothes and looked at the bloody scrapes on his elbows and knees. He picked up his bike and began walking back to his house back on Shadybrook. As Wilbur passed in front of his neighbor’s house, Amy Parker, a girl Wilbur’s age with short brown hair and dark brown eyes, came out onto the patio.

“What’s wrong, Wilbur?” she asked him.

“The Evilsizor brothers were chasing me and I wiped out taking a turn,” Wilbur said walking up to the patio and looking up at Amy.

“Do they hurt?” she asked.

“What?”

“Your scrapes,” Amy giggled and pointed at them.

“They’re fine. I’ll live. I’m gonna go and get washed up,” Wilbur started crossing the yard to his house. “I’ll see you at school.”

“Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Amy said. Wilbur walked up onto his patio as Amy went back inside.

Amy Parker was Wilbur’s best friend and they had lived next door to each other their entire lives. Wilbur was a month older exactly and their parents had been friendly beforehand. While Amy’s dad, John, was the owner of a grocery store in southwest Laketon, her mom had always been a stay-at-home wife and mother. Wilbur’s parents were more professional. Wilbur’s dad, Lawrence, was city manager and his mother, Michelle, was a professor at Sibley University.

Wilbur had two siblings. His brother, Charles—or Chuck—and sister, Cindy. Amy had only one older sister, Christine. Wilbur and Amy were such good friends that everyone joked that they would get married when they got older but of course, both Wilbur and Amy found this totally disgusting.





The next day at school, Wilbur and Amy were sitting with their friends Tim Earles and Emily Wertham at lunch. They were almost done with their food when Jennifer Mandabach arrived and sat down. “Jen? Where have you been?” Wilbur exclaimed.

“I was finishing up an assignment for Ms. Ebeling,” Jennifer replied.

“We were just talking about getting together after dinner at Quarry Park. There’s new playground equipment. I figured we could hang out, play around, enjoy the new park near our houses. They have tennis courts,” Wilbur said.

“No one here knows how to play tennis,” Amy said.

“The park is five blocks away. We can learn,” Wilbur laughed.

Up until about two months ago, Quarry Park was a park full of nothing. It was completely flat with a few trees. It used to be an active quarry but as the neighborhood encroached, the quarry filled in the pits and gave the land to the city. Because the land might be unstable since it was just a landfill, the city turned it into a park. For years, it was just greenspace to allow the land to settle and then they put in a basketball court, a couple of tennis courts, and playground equipment.

Wilbur and Tim were the first ones at the park. Tim had been Wilbur’s friend since they Kindergarten. He was a nice and quiet kid who helped balance out Wilbur’s more outgoing nature. They were both on the swing set, waiting for the others to show up, if they did. It was a nice night and getting cooler as the sun went down.

“Do you think Emily is cute?” Wilbur asked suddenly.

               Tim turned toward Wilbur and shrugged. “Eh.”

               “I think she’s cute. I like her. I’m glad she moved here,” Wilbur said.

Emily was a girl with long light brown always in a ponytail. She had a small upturned nose and face dotted with light freckles. She was an adopted daughter and, before she moved to Laketon, was somewhat of a troublemaker that she kept hidden from her new friends. What caused her parents to move was Emily getting caught about once a week behind the groundskeeping shed at her school with a boy whose pants were down around his ankles. When Wilbur befriended her early in their seventh-grade year, she seemed to change overnight.

“I like her but I’m not, like, attracted to her or anything,” Tim said.

“Who are you attracted to?”

Tim stopped swinging and just looked at Wilbur. “Promise not to tell anyone?”

“Of course. Why?”

“I’m gay.”

Wilbur returned to look to Tim and stopped swinging. “Really? I mean, I’m sorry. You are? How long have you known?”

“For awhile but I realized it back in sixth grade,” Tim said. He went back to swinging, as did Wilbur. “You’re the first person I’ve told so that’s why I want you to keep quiet.”

“The first? You haven’t even told your parents?” Wilbur smiled big.

“Oh. No, I told them back in fourth grade or something like that.”

“Oh,” Wilbur sounded dejected.

“You’re the first friend I’ve told though.”

“Oh!” Wilbur perked back up.

“Here come the others. Remember, keep it quiet,” Tim said and hopped off the swing.

Amy, Jennifer, and Emily arrived as the street lights came on. The five of them ran around the park until it became completely dark. One-by-one they began going home until only Wilbur and Jennifer were left.

“Hey, Wilbur,” Jennifer said as they both began walking home from the park. They both lived on the same street but she lived on the corner while Wilbur was in the middle of the block. “Would you want to come over to my house for dinner some time?”

“Really? Yeah, sure. I’ll have to ask my parents if it’s all right but just let me know when,” Wilbur said. He looked up at the stars and sighed. “It’s a nice night, isn’t it?” he asked.

“It is nice. I love this temperature,” Jennifer said.

They arrived at her house quickly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Jen,” Wilbur said and continued walking toward his house.

“Bye, Wilbur. See you,” she waved at him.





Dale, Mitchell, and Porter trudged through the thick woods on the Kupfer property. They could hear other animals nearby but couldn’t see them. “I think we’re lost,” Mitchell said after tripped over an exposed tree root.

“We’re not lost. There’s only one path to the house and we’re still on it. The gate should be nearby.”

As they continued walking, the trees began to thin out and the grass got thicker and taller. Dale pointed the flashlight from the ground to straight ahead of him and two stone pillars reflected back at him. The iron gate between the pillars was rusty and, despite being chained and padlocked, was open enough for someone to squeeze through.

“Here it is,” Dale whispered. Mitchell and Porter got closer to their older brother. Dale shined the flashlight around the stone pillars, the iron gate, and the stone fence. The two globe lights on top of the pillars were shattered. A grotesque was carved into each pillar. “Those are so cool,” Dale said and went up to the pillar and touched one of them.

The three brothers slowly and cautiously passed through the gate and prepared to approach the house. Dale nonchalantly tried to push Mitchell in front but Mitchell held his ground and shoved his older brother’s arm away. “What are you doing?” Mitchell asked.

“I thought you might want to go first. I’m trying to be nice,” Dale explained.

“This was your stupid idea, Dale, so you are going to go first,” Mitchell ordered and took a step back behind Dale.

The Kupfer house was in shambles. Nearly all the windows were broken out and door hung loosely on their hinges. The paint was peeling and chipped from the wood. The grass was very tall but it seemed as if a path had been made because some of the grass was bent down. The three boys peered into the house through one of the broken windows and saw that everything that was left in the house was ripped apart. Holes had been made in the wall, the railing to the central staircase had been destroyed but the newel post inexplicably remained. A loud scuffling noise erupted behind the boys causing them to scream and run away from the house. They ran back down the path to their bikes that they left at the entrance. The three of them pedaled as fast as they could.

A loud whooshing noising mixed with a leathery flapping echoed in the night sky above the boys. It got closer until the sound of Mitchell’s bike hitting the pavement and a piercing scream flooded the night. Dale and Porter slammed on their brakes to look behind them. They saw Mitchell being carrying off by a man-like monster with bat-like wings. The creature flew away until disappearing into the woods surrounding the Kupfer house.

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