The following is the first chapter of a WORK IN PROGRESS. As you read, if there are parts of the story that do not make sense, where you want more detail, or you notice other problems, please send me a note. I welcome any and all comments on the story. Thanks~!
“Run, Eddie,” Kelly O’Laughlan yelled. “Run to Mrs. Grayson’s.” The light blue clapboard house was at least a hundred yards away on the other side of High Street. And Kelly’s best friend was loaded down by his full NASCAR yellow backpack. “Run!” Kelly yelled again, dropping his own backpack and charging after Eddie.
The redheaded Kelly had glimpsed Aaron Hitchcock and one of his sidekicks, D J Pruett, just as he was about to hop Old Man Perkins’ fence. Aaron raced across the Grover Heights Elementary school yard toward Kelly’s dark-haired friend.
Aaron’s blond curls bounced atop his head as he easily closed the gap, tackling Eddie Philmont just after he crossed High Street, forty feet short of the safety of Mrs. Grayson’s front porch.
D J trailed. “Get the little punk,” he cackled.
“Leave him alone,” Kelly screamed, galloping across the school yard to the street.
D J tried to intercept Kelly at the corner of the school yard. “I got the other one,” he laughed. But the skinny D J was not as quick as the wiry Kelly.
Aaron straddled Eddie, pinning the smaller boy’s arms to the ground with his knees. “You little punk,” he yelled, pounding on his prey’s chest. “You been askin’ for this.”
“Get off,” Eddie yelled as loud as he could, his words cut short by a hard punch to his rib cage. “Leave…me…alone.”
When D J tried to corral Kelly, the smaller boy elbowed D J hard in the groin, doubling his would-be captor over and breaking his hold on Kelly’s shoulders. The redhead kicked him in the shin before D J could recover, sprawling him to the ground.
Kelly did not wait to see what D J would do next. He spun back toward Mrs. Grayson’s. Before he could take more than a step forward, a red Ford Taurus honked at him. Mrs. Grayson stopped her car right in front on him, blocking his way. She honked her horn again before jumping out of the car and running toward Aaron who continued to flail away at the smaller, dark-haired boy pinned under him.
“Aaron Hitchcock,” Mrs. Grayson screamed. She stopped just feet from the curly blonde. “You get off of Eddie right now.”
Aaron turned to see his middle-aged Sunday school teacher standing with her fists on her hips. Her blue scarf framed her small, round face.
“What on earth are you doing to Eddie? You get off of him right now. I’m calling your mother. This is no way for a fifth-grader to act.”
From across the street, Kelly watched as Mrs. Grayson’s face turned redder and redder as she yelled at Aaron. He had never seen her this mad. He had never seen her mad at all. She was the nicest teacher he ever had.
“I’m calling the principal,” she said with a nod back toward the School. “I’m going to tell him I have seen you picking on your classmates. You can’t go around bullying people like this. It’s not right. We have talked about this in Sunday school.”
Aaron continued to sit atop of Eddie, but he had stopped hitting the smaller boy. The longer Mrs. Grayson yelled, the further his head dropped toward his chest.
“Get off of him right now.”
As Aaron slowly dragged his right leg up and over to sit on the ground beside Eddie, Kelly looked around for D J. He was nowhere to be seen.
“Are you all right, Eddie?” Mrs. Grayson asked, taking a step toward him and bending down to offer him a hand up.
“I’m okay,” the dark-haired boy said. His eyes were red, but he wasn’t crying.
Kelly finally crossed High Street. He came over to Eddie and Mrs. Grayson. He looked up at his Sunday school teacher. “I’ll make sure he gets home okay,” he said. “D J ran off somewhere.”
“Don’t worry. I saw him, too. And I will be calling his mother as well,” Mrs. Grayson said. “You two run along. Aaron, I want you to come inside with me.”
Kelly actually felt sorry for his tormentor. Aaron’s large frame looked small as he sat on the ground with his head down and his arms crossed over his knees.
At ten, Kelly O’Laughlan was short for his age, a mere thirty-three and three-quarters inches tall. But his freckled skin, topped by the nest of red curly hair, and his green sparkling eyes made mothers and grandmothers swoon when they saw him.
He was thin and wiry, quick on his feet and intensely interested in all things mechanical. With fine long fingers, he pulled almost every contraption apart and then put it back together, often improving it along the way.
Kelly’s mother, Mary Catherine, was upset to see the brush block assembly—wheels, beater, and screws—strewn across her living room carpet. But she decided to watch and see if her young mechanic could reassemble her trusty old vacuum.
“Don’t touch anything, Mom.” Kelly told her as he stood up from his work. “I need to get a couple of things before I can put it back together.”
Kelly ran into his room and pulled out the bottom drawer of his desk. He picked up first one baby food jar and then another, finally opening the third one and pulling out two shiny steel washers. He grabbed the sewing machine oil from the drawer before half-kicking it closed with his foot. In no time, he was back in the living room and reassembling the vacuum. “The roller thing was loose, and the wheels needed some oil. One of the wheels was missing its washers.”
Kelly reattached the hose to the vacuum and turned it on. He pushed and pulled the vacuum wand across the carpet, leaving a clear mark where the beater had passed.
“The squeaks gone,” his mother said.
“I fixed the roller thing, too,” Kelly yelled over the roar of the old machine. “See, you can tell it’s really hitting the carpet now.”
“Vacuum over here by the TV,” his mother told him, “so I can see how well it’s working.”
From an early age, his mother, Mary Catherine, knew two things: his favorite color was green, and he loved all things shiny, especially new silver and gold coins.
Kelly loved green so much that he would dig out a dirty green shirt and wear it again rather than wearing something red or blue or yellow. He liked green stripes and green plaids, but most of all he liked solid greens, as long as they were bright. He didn’t like the darker greens or the camouflage tones so many of the other kids wore.
When the U S Mint started producing the Presidential Coins Series, he wanted them for his birthday. He had secreted dozens of the coins in a small box he kept behind the dresser in his bedroom. But his favorite possession was the far too large belt buckle he wore even when his pants required no belt. It was shiny silver with a golden horse frozen in mid-gallop.
Kelly collected foils and pins and chains and coins. These he kept in baby food jars snatched from the recycle bin; they were easy to find lined up along the back of his closet. Silver chains in one jar, gold pins in another, never mixing metals or specie.
He was seven when he watched in wonder as his mother polished her silver teapot and brought it back to a most lustrous shine. He asked her if it would work on coins, and she let him try the soft silver cream on a couple of old dimes she had in her purse. One of the dimes had been nearly black, but it came back to its original brilliance. Kelly then tried the polish on quarters. They shone, too. When he used the cream on some nickels, they didn’t change much. As for pennies, they cleaned up, but didn’t dazzle as he had hoped. One day, Kelly used the polish on a Sacagawea Dollar. The golden electroplating turned a dull gray.
Kelly had fixed his closet door with a lock he could reach only by standing on his desk chair. The lock kept his younger brother Sean, a curious two-year-old, from getting into his treasures. Sean, now nearly four-fifths Kelly’s size, was always digging through cupboards and closets and pulling things out. There had been more than one accident caused by the younger boy’s tugging out a drawer and spilling the contents on top of himself. There was the race to the emergency room and the ten stitches after the lamp on the end table in the living room toppled on top of Sean’s head when he tried to use the cord to pull himself up. And there was the blue-purple bruise on Sean’s thigh when he pulled the bottom drawer of his mother’s desk out, catching his leg under it, getting trapped and angrier the more he struggled to get free.
When those accidents occurred in Kelly’s room, usually spilling the carefully collected and sorted contents of boxes and jars, the older boy’s face became as red as his hair, and his thin little fingers balled into white-knuckled fists. He yelled at his baby brother, stomped toward him and yelled some more. “Leave my stuff alone.” Sean would cry and run from the room, and Kelly would chase behind him to the bedroom door, which he shut with a slam that made the rest of the house shake.
Kelly did have a violent temper. And it didn’t take much to set it off. But he never hit his baby brother. At least, not after the first time. His stepfather, whom he called Curtis, had made it more than clear that Kelly’s striking Sean was not to happen again.
For his part, Sean was learning that Kelly’s room, tempting as it may be, was a place to avoid.
Kelly often relied on his speed and agility to race away from Aaron Hitchcock, the meanest kid in his class at Grover Heights Elementary, over on High Street, seven and a half blocks from his home. Aaron picked on almost everyone, except for his sidekicks, Gary Brown and D J Pruett. Aaron and Gary were tall for fifth graders, but Gary had been held back once. And Gary was heavier than Aaron, who was monster strong. D J shared Aaron’s mean streak. D J was only average in every physical way. But he did have a wickedly scary laugh which could be heard at the oddest moments.
For weeks, Aaron and his boys had been trying to run Kelly and his friend, Eddie, down. The first time, the trio had come up behind him and Eddie Philmont as they started across the schoolyard. Kelly saw them just in time, hollered for Eddie to run and swung his backpack into Gary hard enough that he fell back into Aaron. That little opening gave him just enough of a head start to reach Old Man Perkins’ backyard fence. He threw his black Batman pack over the fence, then clambered up and hopped off the top of the chain links just beyond a bed of iris.
Kelly turned and saw that Eddie was now across the street and up on Mrs. Grayson’s porch, so he was safe. Eddie could ring her bell if the bigger boys threatened him, or ease off the porch and cut through her yard to the alley and run the two remaining blocks to his house.
Aaron was yelling as he came toward the fence. “You did it now, O’Laughlan. I will get you.” He ran his fingers through his curly, blonde hair. “You just wait.”
With each step Aaron took toward Perkins’ fence, Kelly took two, edging across the old man’s manicured lawn: to Kelly’s left at the back of the lot, a thick copse of trees; behind him, several raised beds of vegetables separated by strips of lawn just wide enough for Perkins’ 2-cycle mower; up by the back porch was a flowering pyramid, Kelly’s favorite part of the yard.
Aaron banged his palm on the taut chain links. They barely rattled. “I will get you, you little punk.”
D J laughed. Gary turned and started back toward the school building.
The next day, Kelly stayed after school to get a second permission slip for a field trip to the museum. He had managed to lose the first one somewhere between school and home last week, and he had to have it signed and turned the next day.
As Kelly left the office and headed for the door, he saw Gary crouching just outside the door by the steps. Gary’s portly tummy was hard to miss, protruding just past the edge of the bricked ledge. And Kelly also could see the top of Gary’s buzz-cut head because the heavyset boy did not crouch down enough to hide. Figuring that Aaron and D J were nearby, Kelly headed the opposite way and left through the far door of the building and crossed over to Bell Avenue before heading home—an extra three blocks.
Another day, Kelly ran down Peony Lane near Carver’s Hardware. There he escaped only because D J tripped and fell, knocking over a table of Girl Scout cookies. Aaron, less than a step behind, stumbled over D J, the table and cookies, crashing to the sidewalk, tearing a hole in his pants and scraping up his knee. People shouted, “Watch out.” “Are you okay?” A little girl was crying. As the little redhead darted away, he could hear D J laughing and Aaron yelling, “That’s not funny, you moron.”
The trio got closer on another encounter, and Kelly thought he was a goner. He was running as fast as he could, but Aaron and D J were close behind—red-faced Gary huffed and puffed losing ground. Kelly spun into the alley off Peony Lane. When he darted by the edge of a rusting, green dumpster, he was grabbed from behind and dragged over to the wall of Carver’s Hardware. A firm hand grasped his mouth, so he couldn’t yell. He could barely breathe. But he could feel the heat spread across his face, and his hands balled into fists, even though his arms were pinned to his sides and he could not move them.
An instant later Aaron skidded to a halt just past the dumpster. “Where’d he go?”
D J came to a halt a step beyond Aaron and bent over trying to catch his breath. “I know he turned up the alley,” he managed to say between gulps for air and his odd little laugh.
Aaron spun and looked right toward Kelly.
Kelly’s face flushed hotter and he struggled to break away from whoever held him. But he could not move.
Aaron smiled. He took a step toward the dumpster. He pointed to the rusting, green hulk.
Kelly thought Aaron was pointing at him. He couldn’t understand why Aaron was just standing there.
D J cackled.
Aaron motioned D J over. “You lift the lid. I’ll grab him,” he whispered.
Lift the lid, Kelly wondered. I am practically gift wrapped right here.
D J lifted one of the two black plastic lids.
Aaron reached in and yelled, “Gotcha, O’Laughlan.” But his hands closed on nothing but air. Aaron grabbed the other lid and threw it into the air, bracing it with his outstretched hand.
Gary, wheezing to catch his breath, finally came around the corner of the alley and joined the other boys at the edge of the green container. The three of them surveyed the mostly empty garbage bin.
“Where did he go?” Aaron asked. He turned and looked down the length of the alley. No one else was there. And only another large, green container by Martin’s café seemed to offer any possible refuge. “Let’s check that one,” Aaron said. He pointed down to the end of the alley. And the three of them moved slowly away from Kelly who was still held in someone’s tight grip. Confused by Aaron’s behavior, Kelly had quit trying to get away from his captor.
It was several minutes before Aaron, Gary and D J left the alley. They had lifted the lid on the other bin, complained about the smells of rotting food, and then tried a few of the doors that lined the far end of the alley. None of them opened.
Slowly, the grip that had held Kelly in place loosened. He was able to move and step away. As soon as he was free, he spun around. “Hey, what’s the big—“ He was going to say idea, but he stopped when he found himself staring at a blank wall.
“What’s going on?” Kelly could still feel how someone’s arms had wrapped around him. He knew someone should be standing right in front of him by the side of the bin against the hardware store’s back wall.
“Oh. Sorry.” A voice said. And then, a little man in an old-fashioned green suit with a long coat and vest stood before him. “Sometimes I forget to rematerialize.”
Kelly stared at the little man, who was just a few inches taller than he was. His hair and beard were a rustier red. “Who are you?” Kelly managed to ask.
“My, but you will be a tall one, won’t you.”
“What?” Kelly asked.
“I mean, you are only ten and you are nearly as tall as me. You could end up being three and a half feet tall. That must come from your mother’s side. She must be nearly twice as tall as me.”
“What are you talking about? Who are you? How do you know my mother?” Kelly wanted to ask a lot more questions, but those were the first to tumble out of his mouth. He took a step toward the little man, noticing the gleaming silver buckles on his black shoes and belt.
“Oh. Sorry. Again. My name is Seamus O’Laughlan, and I be your father.” The older man held his hand out to Kelly.
Kelly stared at it, but he did not shake it. “My dad’s dead,” Kelly told him.
“I am not dead,” Seamus said, putting his hands on his hips. “Though I can’t say I blame Mary Catherine for claiming so. She harbors a wee bit of a grudge. I had to escape and take me gold with me. But I have made sure she’s never been broke. You would think that would be enough for her. But, no. And then she goes off and tells you of my demise. I am so lucky to be free of that woman.”
“You know my mother?”
“More rightly, knew. I check in on her every now and then. But I can’t let her see me or catch me again.”
“Well, of course, again. How do you expect you got here as me son if she hadn’t caught me before?”
Kelly just stared at him.
“When you were still a wee thing, I used to come and hold you during the night. Then, when you were just over three, I accidentally woke you up. And you went running to your mother crying that there was a little green monster in your room. You wouldn’t sleep alone after. I could only watch you sleeping between Mary Catherine and what’s-his-name.”
“Yes, him.” Seamus sniffed. “But I still came when I could and looked in on you. “
“So why haven’t I seen you before?” Kelly asked.
“You mean, since you thought I was a monster? Well, because I was invisible, of course. Like I said, I can’t be having your mother catch me again. That would never do.”
“You were invisible?”
“Of course.” Seamus laughed, “You didn’t see me, did ye? I can disappear just like that,” he said with a finger snap. And then the little man disappeared and reappeared. Snap. Snap. Snap. “Easy as pie. And by the looks of it, it’s time I be teaching you to become invisible, too.”
Kelly became interested in Seamus for more than his bright, silver buckles. “I could become invisible?”
“You’re a leprechaun, aren’t you?”
“No,” Kelly said. “I am American.”
“Well, of course you are American. But you can be a leprechaun, too. There be a few of you—Mary Catherine is not the only banshee to trick one of us.”
“Oh, never mind me about that. I can carry a wee grudge about meself, too.
“So how do I become invisible?”
“Anxious to learn that all of a sudden aren’t ye. First I will have to see what you can do already. There’s a progression to leaning to be invisible. Just like everything else. It’s like learning to walk. For now, you best be getting home.”
Before Kelly could say but, Seamus disappeared.
Kelly spent the weekend waiting for Seamus to return. He waited in his room while he counted his chains and coins and pins. He waited in the kitchen where he polished a batch of change Curtis had collected in the ashtray of his car. He waited for him while he watched Sean when his mom and dad ran to the store.
Watching Sean meant pulling him away from drawers he tried to open and out of closets he scurried into, and picking up all the pots and pans and lids he took from kitchen cupboards. Kelly tried to interest Sean in puzzles. He tried to read to him. But no sooner had he set him in the corner of the couch and started “Once upon a time” or Dr. Seuss, his half-brother would scramble down from the couch and head off to investigate.
“Why can’t you just sit still?” Kelly asked.
Sean would only smile and scurry away.
By Sunday night, Kelly was exhausted from all the waiting. Curtis cleaned his glasses with his t-shirt while Kelly said his prayers and climbed into bed with a loud sigh. “What’s the matter, Big Guy?” Curtis asked Kelly as the boy snuggled into the covers.
“I’ve just been wondering about my dad.”
“Oh? And what brings him up now?”
Kelly hesitated. “Well, Mom told me he was dead. But I think met him on Friday. And I thought he would come see me over the weekend. But he didn’t show up.”
“Did you tell your mom you saw your father?” Curtis asked in a whisper.
“For now, you should keep it a secret.”
“You know about my dad?”
“And you know he’s not dead?”
Curtis nodded again. Then he put his finger to his lips. “Now’s not the time to talk about this, Big Guy. I think I hear your mother coming.”
“And what are you two talking about?” Mary Catherine asked as she came into the room.
“Guy stuff,” Curtis said, patting Kelly on the head. “Prayers are said, and he’s ready for a mother’s sweet kiss.” Curtis turned to leave.
“That’s a funny way to say that,” Mary Catherine said.
Curtis winked at Kelly, gave Mary Catherine a playful smack on the rear and left the room.
“He’s certainly being odd tonight,” Mary Catherine said as she bent over her son and kissed him on the forehead. “Any last minute news?”
“No, Mom. Good night,” Kelly said.
“Sweet dreams,” Mary Catherine replied as she turned out the light and closed the door.
But Kelly did not fall asleep. He stared at the shadows around the room. The outline of the lamp on his desk was easy to see against the lighter gray of the wall. A stripe of dim light from Rose Avenue outlined the window around the pulled blind. He could feel the pulsing of his heart with his ear on his soft pillow.
“So you’ve been waiting for me, have ye?” A whispered voice came from across the room.
The silence broken, his heart racing, Kelly tried to catch his breath. “How long have you been here?” he asked, sitting up and trying to find Seamus in the dark.
“Then why didn’t you appear?”
“I was hoping you would see me.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s part of the progression,” Seamus said, suddenly appearing in the shadows at the side of the bed. The only things Kelly could see were a sparkle in Seamus’ eyes and a glint from his belt buckle.
“When you are ready to be invisible, you can see people even when they have disappeared. But you may still be a little young. Big as you are, you are still only 10. And with Mary Catherine’s blood in you, maybe you won’t learn at all.” Seamus sighed. “Be a shame if you weren’t able to be a full leprechaun.”
“I might not be a full leprechaun?” Kelly asked.
“I have seen it happen. But it’s rare. And I like to think me O’Laughlan blood is strong enough to carry you all the way to leprechaunhood.”
“I looked up leprechauns on the Internet. I sure look like one. Sure would like to be one. What can I do?”
“Mostly, you just have to be,” Seamus said. “But tell me, do you eat your potatoes?”
“I like French fries,” Kelly said.
“French fries are no good. You need to eat boiled potatoes with their red or white skins on them. Some hearty stew would be good. Even boiled cabbage and corned beef might help.”
“Mom never boils anything. We have a microwave. And I don’t like cabbage—not even in cole slaw. I think I had a corned beef sandwich once. But don’t know—“ Kelly’s voice drifted off into a yawn.
“Well, no wonder then you’re growing up slow. No decent food. We’ll have to see what we can do about that. Now you best get yourself to sleep.”
And just like that, Kelly was alone. Or so it seemed.
Kelly was just sitting down at the kitchen table to eat his Marshmallow Charms cereal when his step-father, Curtis, surprised him. “Hurry up, Big Guy,” he said, popping his head into the kitchen. “I’ll give you a ride to school.” Kelly’s stepfather was usually on his way into the Springfield by the time Kelly got out of bed at 7:00 AM. “I had something to do in town,” Curtis told him. “So I thought I could take you to school on the way.”
Once they were in the car, Curtis asked, “Did you see your dad last night?
“Did you know he was there?”
“No. But I suspected he might be.”
“How much do you know about my dad?” Kelly asked.
“Leprechauns? Only about as much as most Irish folks do. They are pretty secretive folks. But they are fiercely loyal to the families and clans.”
“Not leprechauns,” Kelly said. “What do you know about my dad?”
The balding man was quiet for a moment. When they stopped for a red light on Peony Lane, Curtis took off his glasses and cleaned them with the tip of his tie. “Well, you probably don’t remember it, but when you were three, you came running into the living room white as a sheet. You screamed about a green monster with red hair that had tried to grab you. I’ve never seen you so scared. Or your mother so mad.”
“My dad told me he used to hold me as a baby.”
The light changed and they turned down Peony Lane toward school. “I am sure your father did hold you. And for some reason, you woke up that night, and it scared you. I remember your mother yelling something like, ‘You better hope I don’t catch you!’ At first, I thought she was saying that to help comfort you. But I think she suspected your father was in the house. She never talks to me about him—except to say he is not to be trusted.”
“Anyway, as you continued to grow, the more I suspected that you might have leprechaun blood in you. And the more I suspected you had seen your father when you were three.”
Kelly was quiet for a moment. “You know what Seamus told me?”
“Seamus?” Curtis asked.
“That’s his name. Seamus O’Laughlan.”
“Oh.” Curtis said. “So what did your dad tell you?”
“He told me I needed to be able to see him when he’s invisible in order to be ready to turn invisible.”
“You can become invisible?”
“Not yet. But soon,” Kelly said. “At least I hope so. But it can’t happen until I can see Seamus when he’s invisible.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Curtis said. “So you can see the other faerie folk.”
“Like goblins and dwarves?” Kelly asked.
“Well, dwarves aren’t really faerie folk, although they have a special relationship with elves—and elves are big-time faeries. Besides elves, there are sprites and all sorts of other ones.”
“And he told me I had to eat boiled potatoes and cabbage and stuff.”
“What did you think of that?” Curtis asked.
“I told him I didn’t like cabbage. And mom didn’t boil anything. We had a microwave.”
Curtis laughed. “I don’t think there’s anything magical about potatoes. There might be something to that corned beef. It’s positively magical. But I will swear that boiled cabbage never did anything but make your farts stink.”
Kelly laughed when Curtis mentioned stinking farts. “Mom doesn’t like me to talk about farts.”
“Yeah. That’s a woman’s thing. You’re going to learn that women have a lot of rules that men don’t. And, if you ever learn to become invisible, you’re going to be glad you can disappear when you cross one of the lines women draw.”
A moment later the car stopped in front of Grover Heights Elementary and Curtis let Kelly out. Just as the boy started to close the door, Curtis called out: “Kelly. One thing I need to warn you about.”
Kelly leaned back into the car.
Curtis again wiped something off his glasses with his tie before he continued. “Leprechauns, for all their good and special qualities, can be unpredictable and undependable. Just remember that.”
Kelly nodded and closed the door. He did not know what to think about his dad, the leprechaun.
Kelly spun around to see Aaron, Gary and D J standing behind him.
“I told you I would get you,” Aaron said, running his fingers through his blonde curls.
Kelly had thought—hoped anyway—that Aaron and his two buddies had given up on him. After a week of not even seeing them on his way home, he had let his guard down. He was trapped against Old Man Perkins’ fence.
Aaron took a step toward Kelly. D J laughed and moved around to the side. Gary was now a step behind Aaron.
Kelly took a quick glance backward, trying to size up a jump up and over the fence. When Kelly looked back at Aaron, he saw the bigger boy jerk backward, buckling a bit at the waist. His arms flew up and out. Before Aaron could recover his balance, Kelly was up and over the fence and darting across the Perkins’ lawn.
D J laughed again.
“Shut up, you moron,” Aaron yelled at D J. And then he turned on Gary, “What did you do that for?”
“What? I didn’t do nothin’,” Gary said, stepping back from Aaron. “I was just waitin’ for you.”
“You grabbed me by my belt, you moron.”
“No I didn’t. Why would I do that?”
“Somebody grabbed me,” Aaron yelled. “And now the little punk has gotten away again.”
Kelly jumped the next fence and the next before turning back again. Aaron was sitting on Gary and punching him in the chest. Gary was covering his face and trying to twist out from under Aaron. Kelly ran as fast as he could. He was gasping for air when he came into the kitchen through the back door.
“Did you run all the way home?” Mary Catherine asked, fixing her son with the probing gaze of her intense, green eyes. She was standing by her long worktable folding towels and setting them next to trust desktop computer. At thirty-five, Mary Catherine now worked from home, free-lancing articles and ghost writing for minor celebrities and local politicians. She liked being home for her boys. “No trouble, I hope.”
“I’m okay,” Kelly said around gulps for air. “Just in a hurry to get home.” He gave his mother a weak smile and headed to his room.
“Seamus?” Kelly called out softly as he opened the door. “Seamus, are you in here?”
There was no reply.
“Who are you talking to?” his mother asked, as she poked her head into his bedroom. She had a stack of towels in her arms.
“I thought I heard you talking.”
“No.” Kelly didn’t look at his mother. Instead he concentrated on taking his backpack off and putting it on top of his dresser. “Not talking. I was…singing…a song we learned in school.” Kelly looked up with a smile.
“Oh. Can I hear it?”
“Mom,” Kelly replied with that I am not a baby anymore voice.
“Sorry. Will I get to hear it at the Open House in a few weeks?”
“Maybe. If everybody learns it.”
“Okay. I can wait,” she said. “But you used to sing me all the songs you learned in school.
* * * * * * *
Kelly took a look over his shoulder just before he jumped Old Man Perkins’ fence. Nobody was lurking behind him, and he smiled, thinking he had escaped Aaron, Gary and D J one more time. But when he landed in Old Man Perkins’ yard—just missing the iris bed—a laughing D J tried to grab him.
“Hey,” Kelly yelled, jerking away, turning bright red, hands tightening into white-knuckled fists. “Leave me alone.”
“You’ve had this coming for a long time, O’Laughlan,” Aaron said, smiling, running his fingers through his curls.
“Yeah. A long time,” Gary wheezed, still standing back by the copse of ever greens in the corner of the yard.
“I ain’t never done nothin’ to you.”
“Except you got away and made me look bad.”
Just then, there was a loud crash. A window on the back of Old Man Perkins’ house was broken.
All four boys spun toward the clattering glass as a flower pot fell on the back porch. A second later, with Kelly darting over the opposite fence, Old Man Perkins was coming out the back door.
“We didn’t do it,” Aaron said.
“You boys get out of my yard,” Old Man Perkins screamed, waving his arms. “And don’t you come back. I see you back here again, and I am calling your folks. Always ruining my flowerbeds,” his voice trailed off, but his fierce stare didn’t diminish.
From the safety of the Parkers’ yard, Kelly watched D J hop the fence, then turn and laugh at Old Man Perkins. Aaron helped Gary up and over the fence and then easily followed him out of Old Man Perkins’ yard. Kelly didn’t wait to see what the other boys did next. He ran home.
Kelly heard something thump the wall of his room. He opened his eyes. But because the room was so dark, he saw nothing. Another thump against the wall. He stared in the direction of the noise, and tried to focus. A darkly shadowed dresser came into view against a lighter gray of the wall. “Is that you Seamus?”
Then another thump.
“If that’s you, I still can’t see you,” Kelly whispered.
Through his bedroom wall, Kelly heard wood groaning as something heavy in the living room scraped across the floor. “What’s going on? Seamus, what are you doing?” Kelly asked, easing out from under the covers, grabbing his felt Pokémon bathrobe, and tiptoeing to the door. He tugged one arm through his robe before he pushed against the door and turned the knob—a trick Eddie Philmont taught him so no one could hear the latch move. He eased the door open and stepped into the hall, pulling his robe on the rest of the way. Then the young boy slid down the hallway past the door to his parents’ room as quietly as he could.
As he rounded the corner into the living room, it took him a moment to see anything at all. “Seamus, what are you doing in here?”
There was movement and the tiniest beam of light over in the corner by the new plasma TV. Kelly took a step forward. “Seamus,” he said in a disgusted whisper, “Stop messing with our TV.”
The tiny beam froze for a moment.
“I can see you. Are you invisible? What are you doing in here?” Kelly said, moving around the couch toward the dark figure in the corner.
The beam of light turned his direction.
“I am going to have to tell Mom about this,” Kelly said a little more loudly as he pointed toward the TV. “You can’t come into our house and steal our stuff.”
“Get out of here, kid,” a deep voice—much deeper than Seamus’—growled. “I don’t want to have to hurt you.” The shadow rose from the corner of the room. It took a step toward Kelly. “Get out of here.”
The beam of light was not strong enough to show how red Kelly’s face became in that instant. His little fists balled and were ready for action.
“I said get out of here.”
“You can’t steal our stuff,” Kelly yelled as loudly as he could. “You can’t.”
He picked up a heavy leaded bowl his mother kept on the coffee table in front of the couch and threw it as hard as he could above the tiny beam of light toward the shadow of the man’s head. If the robber saw Kelly throw the bowl, he reacted very slowly. The bowl connected with the man’s temple, and both the robber and the bowl thumped to the ground.
“What’s going on?” Curtis screamed, running into the living room. “What’s going on?”
Kelly turned toward Curtis’ voice just as his stepfather turned on a light in the room.
“Call 9-1-1,” Kelly said. “There’s a robber in the house.”
Curtis stepped further into the room and saw the crumpled body of a large man dressed in black from head to toe in the corner by the new TV.
“Call 9-1-1,” Kelly said again. Then the red-headed ten-year-old turned back toward the robber on the floor. He slipped the belt out of his bathrobe and bent over the unconscious robber. He grabbed the big man’s arms and pulled them behind the thief’s back before using the felt to tie the hands tightly together. Kelly braced his foot on the man’s back as he pulled as hard as he could. Three times, he circled the belt around the man’s wrists. Three times he braced his foot against the man’s back and pulled hard. Then, forcing the belt between the man’s arms, he wrapped the belt two more times to pull the make-shift cuffs even tighter before finishing off the restraints with a square knot. He looked down at his handiwork and smiled, thinking how Eddie Philmont would tell him it was his best knot ever.
By the time he finished the knotting of the robber’s wrists, Kelly’s mother was in the living room, too.
“The police are on the way,” Curtis said.
“Police?” his mother asked.
“I thought Seamus was up to something when I heard noises,” Kelly said. “So I came in here and asked him what he was doing when I saw someone in the corner by the TV. For a second I thought I was finally able to see Seamus when he was invisible. But then this guy—“
“Oh, my,” Mary Catherine gasped.
“—stood up and I knew it wasn’t Seamus because Seamus is just a little taller than me. I told the robber he couldn’t steal our stuff. He told me to go back to bed. But he was trying to steal our new TV and that made me mad. So I threw that bowl at him. And it hit him and knocked him out. And the bowl didn’t even break.”
“Irish crystal,” Kelly’s mother said.
“He was already unconscious by the time I got in here,” Curtis said. “Way to go, Big Guy. I am really proud of you.”
There was a soft knock on the door.
“Must be the police,” Curtis said as he crossed the room and opened the door.
“Crowley, Grover Heights Police. Did you call to report an intruder,” asked the gray uniformed officer standing on the porch.
“Yes, sir,” Curtis said, opening the screen door and inviting the officer in. “We have one unconscious intruder over in the corner all tied up and ready for you to take to jail.”
Crowley took off his hat as he entered the house. The dark eyes quickly focused on Kelly and his mother before coming to rest on the still unconscious robber on the floor in the corner by the TV.
The officer stepped over to the thief and bent over to check the restraint. “Good knot,” he said. He checked the man’s pulse before standing. “This is Crowley. I’ll need an ambulance at 121 First Avenue.” Then he turned around and looked at Kelly, Curtis and Mary Catherine. “Everyone all right?”
“Can you tell me what happened?” the officer asked, looking at Curtis.
“I think Kelly should be the one to tell you,” Curtis said. “All I did was call the police. My brave son did all the work.”
Kelly’s face reddened slightly.
“Go on, Big Guy,” Curtis said. “Tell him how you stopped the robber.”
The ambulance arrived about the time Kelly finished retelling the story. And it was but a few minutes later when the robber was wheeled out and the officer left.
Mary Catherine came over to the corner by the TV set and picked up the crystal bowl.
“Not even cracked,” Kelly said.
“Not even cracked,” his mother repeated.
“You know,” Kelly said a moment later, “I am kind of hungry.”
Curtis laughed. “Saving our TV is hard work.”
As the three of them made their way into the kitchen, Curtis asked, “And what would our hero like to eat?”
“I don’t know. Maybe some cereal or a sandwich.”
“Let’s do cereal,” Curtis said.
Just as Kelly crossed into the kitchen, his mother put her hand on his shoulder. The young boy turned around to look at his mother, who still carried her crystal bowl.
“When did you see Seamus?”
“A couple of weeks ago,” Kelly said. “He kind of saved me from Aaron, Gary and D J.”
“Oh.” She stared into his eyes. “And when were you going to tell me?”
Kelly glanced at Curtis.
“So you knew he had seen Seamus, too?”
“Guilty,” Curtis said. “But I didn’t want you to get upset. So I told him not to tell you just yet.”
Mary Catherine nodded, then moved to the table and set the bowl down. "Okay," she said after a long moment. "We'll talk about Seamus later."