The Kids in Town
by David Williams
The old pickup truck bounced along the dirt road.
It shook and juddered, parts against parts, as Mom bucketed along. Mom always drove faster
than Dad. She drove a lot faster than Dad. Behind the truck, a cloud of dust rose from the road
like blood from a wound.
Once, Enoch had asked her if it was safe to go so fast, if the truck might break, and she had just
laughed. She had a bright laugh, like silver bells.
"Knock," she had said, as his teeth had rattled in his head. "This old truck is built to last. They
used to make 'em tough, tough for these roads, they really did." She'd turned, flashed him a quick
look with her dark brown eyes. "And nobody tells me how to drive." The eyes narrowed, a dark
beam framed by the wild wiry thundercloud of her hair. "Nobody. Not even my little Knock."
So he didn't, didn't ever do that again. Today he looked out the backseat window, the brisk air of
a fall morning vaulting in through open windows, sharp against his skin. It was a little too cool,
but he did not say so.
They were going to town, and going to the store. Enoch did not really like going to the store, but
Mom wasn't one to ever give him a choice. They were done with school for the day. He'd read his
texts, watched two edvids on the old player, and done his problems. He'd watched the ants for a
while, as they nosed around in their noodly way, and drawn the pictures that showed how the
colony had grown. Then they'd said their closing contemplations, and Mom had told him he
could go out to play in the yard for an hour.
He'd gone out, and Krom had come bounding up, all doggity licks and bright eagerness. There
was a ball, one of dozens all over the yard, and Krom had gone to get it, holding it delicately in
his massive jaws.
Play with me, his eyes said, smart and sharp set into his huge watermelon head. So of course they
played, and ran, ran until the breath was out of the both of them.
Enoch loved Krom. Krom was his best friend, and anyway, there was nobody else to play with.
There had never been anybody else to play with.
There had been kids once, back when Becky and Zack and Jake were little. They'd lived down
the road, down in the circle of houses where the Davidsons and the Becketts and the Lees lived
all together. Before she left, Becky told him they used to all play together, to run like a wild tribe
through the woods on a Sunday after meeting. But all those families had come here when Mom
and Dad had come here, and now they were old, and their kids had all grown up.
Even Becky was gone, Becky, who'd been the youngest before Enoch showed up. "Our last
surprise," Mom would call him sometimes. He liked that, a little, but he didn't like it, too. He felt
like a present brought by a guest who has missed the party. Becky was eleven when he was just
born. And now he was seven, and she was gone. All the other kids were gone. All except him.
But Krom was there, and they romped and played in the yard and in the woods. They talked
without words. They got crusty with mud and got bitten by bugs and stank like boys and dogs
He smiled as he thought of Krom's big dumb ol' head, and as he smiled there was a whir, and the
chill against his skin faded. Mom rolled up the windows. Her hair, windblown, settled down, a
tangle of yarn on her shoulders. It caught the sun as they turned left at the tee-bone. It shone,
moon-silver and a warm honey brown. Mom was still so pretty.