On the day of his birthday, Kenny came from school flustered. Boys had called him Big Teeth and he was having none of it. He was subconsciously touching his front teeth when he walked in home.
Surprise, they said. Happy birthday. Here are your presents, they said. He got a pencil with a small, starshaped eraser from Benny. He got a warm chestnut from Charlie.
He didn’t get anything from Tom.
He got a little blue glove from Momma. To replace the one he lost. He got something very special from Poppa.
Kenny knew what it was for. He almost forgot about the pencil and the chestnut and the little blue glove. Kenny asked if he could use it and Poppa said, you must. So he ran outside without unwrapping it.
The forest was dark and green and dark green. Dry leaves crunched under his feet and the wind whispered to him but didn’t call him names. He walked until he came to the quiet pond. There were ducks around here.
Brown duck. Green duck. Brown feathers. Green feathers. I once ripped open a pillow and found feathers in it, he thought.
He kept walking. He passed the lake and climbed a hill. Here were tall trees with small whitetailed squirrels scurrying up and down the branches, chattering with their brethren.
Tom likes squirrel stew, he thought, clutching his present. He kept walking.
Bushes and vines appeared. There were thorns and little weeds that stuck to his clothes. He found a snake, caught in a hunter’s trap. Metal pierced its scales. It looked like it would have whimpered, would have cried if it could. Snake skin could make me rich, Kenny thought, fiddling with the wrapping on his present. But he kept walking.
Kenny’s special present was weighing heavy in his arms so he sat on a log where there were less weeds and thistles. I wonder why I feel empty, he thought. The sky began to darken. He heard a bark behind a bush. Kenny stood and brushed the soot off the present. He walked up behind the bush. There was a big brown drog with a white spot on its belly. It was growling, and it had a pair of red trowsers in its foaming mouth.
He knew this dog.
You ran away, he thought. You stole Tom’s blue trowsers. You did mean things. You are a bad boy.
So he began to unwrap his present.