I remember being ten, eleven years old maybe, and running around in the summers when my old man was drunk off his ass on the couch in the frontroom, and my ma would open the back porch door and tell me to get out of the house for a couple of hours so she could get some peace and quiet. I would round up some other neighborhood kids—it didn’t really matter which ones, though usually Benzo and Pooce were along for the ride—and just run out as far as we could get from the block without interfering with anyone else’s turf. At that time, 1960, 1961, there were still a lot of what we used to call prairies around—empty lots. The lots could fool you if you weren’t careful. The grass in them was tall, tall enough that from the street it looked like you could just run right across them to the alley behind. But, really, there was a slope down from the sidewalk and another back up to the alley so the middle of the yard might be four feet or more down. You could run into one and be up to your armpits in weeds and get yourself a broken ankle to boot. That was something you learned as a little kid running through the neighborhood. So, when we’d come across a prairie on one of our runs, we’d be careful, especially if we didn’t know it real good, to go in sideways, one foot at a time, or better yet find a big rock or a stone and throw it in and see how far down it went before we jumped in. This was also true in cases of snow. Just something we learned.
She knew from the moment that the notion entered her mind that it was surely a terrible one. The odds were too high that he would fully transform. It seemed these days that the slightest annoyance and the stiff orange hair the color of an emblazoned sun would streak the ridge of his spine and he was all claws and jagged teeth. He bit a boy on the playground last week. A smaller boy who’d done nothing more than deny Wallace the privilege of destroying his small diligent sandcastle. It was like watching a Godzilla movie if Godzilla were an outraged baboon decapitating beach condos with shoddy foundations instead of a giant lizard. And then they had all spent three hours staring at the sterile screaming walls of the ER while both boys were tested for rabies.