From where Leo sat beneath the sycamore, he could see the cars passing down below through the woods that separated Tobias and his house from the road. He watched them sometimes, absentmindedly, glimpsing them in pieces only. The branches dissected their wholeness, turned them into moving jigsaw. Today though, one slowed down and drew his mind closer in. It was white. It was large. And just as it went around the bend toward the mouth of Tobias's driveway, all the sound it cut into the air ceased to exist. It had stopped.
Leo stood and started down the hill, determined to distract the tresspasser, to redirect whatever curiosity might have brought this driver to his uncle's home. And then he realized. It was a mail truck. He heard it pull away before he even reached the top of the driveway. Tobias never received mail at his house. He only needed to check his post office box once a month. Why would a mail truck stop? Leo had wondered why Tobias kept a mailbox here at all, but he had never bothered to ask the old man.
And so for the first time in his many summers with Tobias, Leo checked the mail. He reached the mailbox in a rush but hesitated before opening it. He laughed at himself for being such a sissy, gave himself a shake, and opened the door to find a single envelope inside. No address. No return address. He pulled it out and tore it open. He laughed again. It had come from Lisa's house, an invitation to the neighborhood yard sale that afternoon. He knew from Lisa's complaints that her mother was in charge of getting word out. From the looks of things, she had been derelict in her duty. Perhaps she had given the mailman some cookies to convince him to help her make it right.
Leo had not planned on going. He had no use for hand-me-downs from strangers. Tobias provided well enough for both of them. Here was an invitation though. A temptation. A sign. A map to being one step closer to Lisa. He would go. A whole neighborhood of strangers would surround him like a gauntlet, but he would go.
He turned to walk back up the driveway and noticed something glinting at the corner of his eye. He took a closer look. A bottle holding what seemed to him like liquid topaz lay half-emptied where the ditch met the road. Its treasure trickled out before his eyes, and he rushed to pick it up. The label read "Jose Cuervo." Tequila.
Could this have been Mrs. Weatherholt's gift to the mailman? If so, here it was, offered up to Leo, a talisman, right beside the invitation. He had never been offered liquor before. His kind did not drink, and he had never even wondered why. It had never seemed like an option until this moment. And even though he knew a reason must exist (his kind had reasons for every omission and admittance), he cast the knowledge away in an instant and put the mouth of the bottle to his lips. One sip, down the throat. It burned, but burning was good, right? It meant it was working. More and more, on and on, down into his belly.
More to come in days ahead...( Collapse )