From the safety of the bushes, Grady watched the two kids playing in the street. One was a boy, the other a girl. The boy had been lethargically kicking a soccer ball around, but now he sat with the girl in the yard across the street. They were facing each other, and playing with various things scattered before them.
“I left the lawnmower on all night and it drove the neighbors crazy,” the boy said, holding up a doll of some sort, trying to make his voice as deep as possible.
“I’ll bake some cookies,” the girl said.
“Then I’ll build the fire.”
The boy began to dig in the dirt between them with a stick. When he’d loosened the dirt enough, he scooped dark wads free with his hands and flung them over his shoulder. When dirt from his vigorous digging sprayed up into the girls face she said, “Hey!” And the boy laughed.
The girl at first continued to play with the dolls, making them talk to each other, mumbling inaudibly, but then she grew bored and began to help the boy dig. She began to scoop up the now-muddy earth and pack it into little cakes with her hands. “We need something to put these on,” she said.
The boy sprung to his feet. “I know,” he said, and ran to where debris from the crashed car that lay at the end of the cul-de-sac had scattered. He kicked at things in the dirt, found something, and ran back.
The boy dropped a relatively flat piece of fractured plastic fender before the girl, and then plopped down where he’d been sitting before.
The girl nodded and began to arrange the mud cakes on the “baking sheet.”
The boy rocked in place, excited, snatching the stick and digging, getting to his knees, flinging dirt behind him from between his legs like a dog. He laughed. “He called it a pillow light,” he said. “When daddy went to light it, he blew up.”
The girl shook her head. “Not my parents. They love each other.”
The boy stopped digging and looked at the girl. “No they don’t.”
“Yes they do!” the girl said, suddenly angry.
The boy shrugged. “Whatever. Well, mine don’t.”
“Yes they do! Yes they do!”
The boy returned to his digging, scratching at the dirt with his hands, then stopped, sat and looked around. “Where is everyone?” he asked. “Are those almost ready?”
The girl shook her head. “They have to bake first.”
“How long does that take?” The boy stood, put his hands on his hips. “I’m hungry, woman!”
The girl stood. She bent and lifted the tray. “Ten minutes,” she said. She set the tray to the side, where their shadows couldn’t block the sun.
“I want one now,” the boy said, reaching for the tray.
The girl slapped his hand away. “No!”
The boy looked at the girl, shocked. He lifted his fist, as if to punch the girl, but then dropped it and laughed. “My mom forgot a dog in the oven once,” he said. “By the time she remembered, the alarm was beeping and it was all smoke and black and stuff.”
The girl laughed too.
“What should we do now?” the boy asked.
“We need more cakes,” the girl said.
“You’re right!” The boy dropped to his knees and began to dig in the hole again, scooping mud into a pile.
The girl stooped to help.
“There’s something here,” the boy said. “I found something.” He grunted, straining to pry the object free.
“What is it?” the girl asked.
“Something hard...oof...and heavy.” The boy fell backward into a sitting position. “Got it!” He held up something about the size of a softball, dark with mud.
From his hiding spot in the bushes, Grady’s heart lept.
“Give it,” the girl said, and the boy passed her the object. “It’s just a rock.”
“I know,” the boy said. He sat with his feet dangling into the hole and leaned toward the girl. He shut his mouth and closed his eyes.
The girl looked at the rock she held, then at the boys head, then back at the rock. She lifted the rock with both hands, and casually brought it down.
The crack--like breaking pool balls--echoed on the empty street.
The boy slumped forward.
The girl lifted the rock above her head, and brought it down; lifted, brought it down. She let the rock tumble from her hands and began to pick and prod the boy’s head with her fingers. Her hands came away slick with blood. She stood, to get a better angle, and plunged her hands down. Her hands came away filled with soft matter. She carried these handfuls over and slapped the offal next to the drying mud cakes on the piece of car fender. She hummed to herself while she played.
Grady turned, disappointed, and crossed the yard back into the house.