English: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, one with wrapper and the other is split in half. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
They both stared at the garbage can. It shook and rattled. Scratching came from inside.
“It’s a raccoon,” Tom said, picking up the baseball bat and heading down the deck steps. Vanessa stepped onto the deck and peered over the railing. “Be careful!”
Tom positioned himself next to the metal can, bat raised. “Get out,” he said, trying to sound threatening without shouting. It was, after all, 3 a.m. The can stopped moving.
“I’ve scared it.” Tom tapped gingerly at the can with his bat. The animal arose from the can, garbage falling out as it did so. Tom saw it first: The face glowing, an iridescent moon in the starlight, the silvery blonde hair that was both eerie and lovely. Tom’s mouth formed an “O” of surprise.
“What is it?” Vanessa asked, walking down the deck steps. Then she saw it. Not a raccoon. But a boy. Ragamuffin described him perfectly; tousled hair, filthy face, ripped jeans, no shirt. They guessed his age at four, but he could have been older so frail was he.
Tom said, “He’s hungry.”
“Obviously.” Vanessa ran into the house, to the refrigerator, and grabbed some grapes and a peanut butter cup. She headed back down the deck steps and reached out to the boy, holding the food as a lure. The boy sniffed. Vanessa and Tom would later say that they could almost see the white plumes from the smell of the food tickling the boy’s nose, as in a cartoon. Slowly, Vanessa edged backwards, up the deck steps. Spit trailed down the boy’s chin as he grabbed at the food.
“A little further,” Vanessa said. Tom followed behind the boy.
Moments later, the child sat in a kitchen chair, a bag of Reese’s cups and a bowl of grapes in front of him. He ate, taking in the food in great gobs, barely chewing. Tom sat at the table. Vanessa stood preparing pancakes and bacon.
“Hurry,” Tom said.
“They’re ready.” Vanessa flipped four perfectly formed pancakes onto a plate and smothered them in butter and syrup. She placed the plate in front of the boy. He tore into them with grubby fingers. Neither Vanessa or Tom cared.
…They’d lost the baby three months before. Vanessa was far along—so far, they’d named the boy, Colin. A name they’d both agreed on and loved. The room was ready. Vanessa had made painstaking preparations, painting, selecting linens and overseeing Tom putting together the convertible crib that would grow with the baby, so that they’d never need to purchase another bed…
“Uhn.” The voice startled them. Gruff, an old man’s voice, but pleading.
“So we know his vocal chords work,” Tom said, staring at the child. He turned to Vanessa. “He wants more. Is the bacon ready?”
Vanessa hurried to the microwave and pulled out a plate of steaming bacon. Fat sizzled in the strips. She slid four slices onto the boy’s empty plate. The bacon settled into the leftover syrup as the boy ate the food with both hands.
Vanessa smiled. “He’ll be a sticky mess.”
Tom reached up and touched her cheek. “That’s the first smile since…”
“It’s a problem that he can’t speak,” Vanessa said as worry crossed her face.
“You’re a teacher.”
Tom rose and cradled her face in his hands. “You can do it. We’ll keep him inside, in the house, until we make the appropriate arrangements. I’m a lawyer. I can pull strings, create paperwork. While you,” Tom looked again at the boy, “make a human out of him.”
Vanessa followed Tom’s gaze. The child had Tom’s dark eyes, her blonde hair and pointy chin.
“He’s Colin, come back to us,” she murmured, bending down to face the boy. She reached out and touched him. He stopped eating and looked at her. His eyes were black, magnetic,pulling her to him. She moved slowly, caressing his face gently. He grabbed her arm with a sticky hand. Syrup clung to her skin. She whispered, “Your name is Colin. Do you know what that name means?”
Tom answered. “Gaelic. It means young creature.”
“Yes,” Vanessa said. “Our young creature.”
Kaye Sebastian is a Philadelphia, PA-based writer whose passion is “flash fiction with a twist.”
Filed under: Guest Writers | Tagged: Creature Comfort, flash fiction, Kaye Sebastian, PA, Philadelphia, Tom, Vanessa | 1 Comment »