And what was I supposed to do, when that rat-a-tap-tapping started in on my window pane a couple hours after the sun went down? What would you have done, hearing your whispered name rising out of that darkness?
“Tevis,” came the whisper. “Come on! Tevis! Get on out here!”
Well I don’t mind tellin’ you, when I cranked that window open and saw that rotten neighbor boy standing knee-deep in our rosebushes, I near to cranked it back shut again and went back to bed.
“What’re you doin’ in our rosebushes!”
Now any normal person would have answered me, would have said something along the lines of, “Well, Tevis, the reason I came knocking on your window in the middle of the night and am standing in the middle of your rosebushes is because…”
But Zeke, he just got that crooked grin of his and wouldn’t say a word till I’d clambered out the window and stumbled after him into the darkness.
“It’s a meteor shower,” he said, not sparing even a glance over his shoulder to be certain I was there. It’s true my grumbling may have been louder than I thought.
Now I don’t care to get hit by a meteor anymore than the next person, but I reckon if they’re gonna rain down on us I ought to at least know where they’re comin’ from.
“Are we gonna die?” I asked him, and when he laughed I guessed the answer was no.
I guess that boy must have done a fair bit of night wandering, what with the way he traipsed through the darkness and led us up the hillside like there was a noonday sun lighting our path. For myself, all I could make out was the white of Zeke’s undershirt, where it peeked out at the nape of his neck.
I finally kicked a rock that got the best of me, and my hands only narrowly beat my face to the ground.
“Okay?” Zeke asked, his hands taking my shoulders to set me aright.
“Hmph,” I said.
He took my hand then, and set off at a pace maybe even faster than before. Somehow we crested that hill and settled ourselves on a mossy boulder. It may be we saw some stars fall out of the sky that night. To be honest, I can’t much remember.
“Do you believe in God?” I asked him.
He said, “Probably not.”
“What kind of a dumb answer is that?”
“Not much dumber than your question, I guess.”
We weren’t much inclined to talk after that. Some people just aren’t a right fit; some you just can’t talk to no matter how you try. If he was going to get all ornery every time I asked a simple question, well, I reckon there weren’t much point in me continuing to try.
Next morning I hurried to find Ben in the barn where he was wrestling a bale of hay out to the goats. He looked at me funny, but being Ben said nothin’ when I yanked the hay hook out of his left hand and set my palm where the handle had been. I counted to twenty, because I wanted to be sure. That whole time, from one to twenty, Ben just stood there starin’ at my little hand in his dirty one and I couldn’t begin to guess what he was thinkin’.
‘Cause my thoughts were all used up with this one: There was no magic here. Just Ben’s hand, sort of scratchy on mine. I didn’t feel it in my toes, didn’t feel it under my skin, most certainly didn’t feel it in my chest, which had been all fluttery and gasping under the stars.
I had to pry Ben’s fingers loose when I got to twenty though. He didn’t seem much inclined to let go of me.