Greg was excited about being home from the grocery store again so he could go play with the neighbor's little boy. Since they had moved into our rent house a few years ago our families had become practically inseparable apart from their religious activities. The mother, Miriam, was young and expecting her second child, and her older husband, Joe, worked in construction for my Jack. Miriam and Josh were great company for Greg and me during the long summer days and early winter nights. Apparently some scandal she or her husband never talked about prevented them from returning to their home town. It apparently had estranged them from the nuclear family. Their loss, our gain. They kept to themselves pretty much when they weren’t at church, which was more than Jack and I were though they continuously invited us even when we adamantly explained we weren‘t believers.
They were a divine couple, always doting on each other and so protective of their firstborn, Josh, who was heaven sent. What a remarkable child he was! I kept suggesting to his parents that they start him in advance schooling. You could tell by Josh's eyes he was inquisitive and sharp. He was destined for great things. He would be the guy you hear about who invented a cure for some deadly disease, you could just sense that about him. I was proud to have him as a companion for my little fellow.
I freed Greg from his car seat, working around hands that were trying unsuccessfully to be useful, and without shilly-shallying he toddled, fell, toddled, fell, toddled over to Josh, who was sitting knee deep in squirrels and birds. It had taken me, myself, some time to adjust to nature's affinity for Josh. From the first morning Miriam placed his play pen in the yard animals would gather around him. They seemed to feel safe in his presence. You'd think he was the king of beasts. Greg's clumsy approach, however sent the little creatures scampering and flying. Miriam waved at me that she would gladly sit for Greg while I toted edible provisions into my kitchen, As they were coming over for dinner, it was the least she could do, she announced, rubbing her enlarged tummy in the expectant mother sort of way.
Later in the evening, dinner done, Mary and I bathed the boys, the toddlers, not the husbands, together in our tub, while our hubbies planned tomorrow's work day. It was like having an extended family. Greg was an only child so far and prospects looked gloomy for a sibling in the next nine months, but not from lack of trying. I was envious of Miriam’s pregnancy, wishing I could have my kids as close together. After the last battle ship was sunk, I toweled Greg dry and cuddled him to death before playing tickly, his baby fresh sweetness permeated my lungs and soul. He enclosed my neck in his arms and kissed my cheek as I laid him in his crib whilst Mary took Josh home to his little bed.
An hour or so latter as Jack and I were preparing to retire, we heard a commotion outside. Pulling the curtains back we discovered a convoy of sorts in front of Miriam and Joe's house. The bright light in the sky that had emerged a while back, and still mystified prominent astrologists, made spying easy. Three limousines and a host of supplementary cars with foreign license plates were parked outside and impressive looking men dressed in Armani suits and sporting turbans were carting things inside. What on earth? I'd never seen anything so impressive off the movie screen.
Neighbors up and down the street gathered on lawns under the illumination of the bright and shining star. Marge from across the lane looked over at me and shrugged. She had no idea what was going on but thought I might. Of course I felt foolish to signal I had no clue. I was suppose to be close to Miriam. I had never had a hint she or Joe had such connections. We all convened together and I was amazed at all the speculations and hypothesis being bandied about. Were they part of some witness protection program or the Mafia? How wealthy were their relatives? How influential? Had they found were they had escaped too? Were they going to be brought back home against their wishes? Should we call the police for….what; taking up too much parking space? Were we in danger by association? Individually the notable guests returned to their chauffer driven vehicles and departed without bringing any captives.
Jack and I lingered to see if Miriam or Joe would come talk to us, to ease our minds and curiosities, but we watched as the lights went out in the living room, and then the bedrooms. No explanations were coming tonight. I don't think I could sleep till morning to go get the scoop but that is exactly what Jack cautioned I do. If they thought it was any of our business they’d tell us. Men! No inquisitiveness what so ever.
I tossed and turned the remainder of the night, Jack’s snoring fueling my anger. I should have gone over and grilled Miriam the instant they were alone. When morning finally arrived, so to speak, ( the rooster was still asleep), I jumped into my slippers and raced across the back yard like a teenager sneaking out of the house against her parents’ orders. Miriam should be up fixing breakfast, remember I knew Joe’s schedule, it was the same as my husbands!
I was infuriated to see that all the lights were still off. No wait. Something else had changed. The star or what ever that had been suspended above us for the past two years was gone, along with it‘s radiance! Along with Joe’s pick up truck! Joe couldn’t have already left for work! I tapped on the door and got a jolt when it opened. Everything was gone. Well mostly everything, clothes, dishes, toys. Stuff was strewn about in substantiation of a rapid departure. The bed wasn’t even made. Miriam always made her bed. I felt like a thief casing the joint. I was in reality trespassing. It was definite that no one anticipated coming back. My friends had stolen away into the night. Left without a good bye.
I was home for about an hour listening to the sounds of the neighborhood waking up when the land phone went off. “Becky, you need to take Greg and leave town, now!” Miriam yelled hysterically.
“Miriam, what’s wrong? If you’re in trouble tell me, we can work it out!” I begged gripping the phone so tight my knuckles whitened.
“We’re not in trouble, but you are! Get Greg and leave! I can’t talk to you any more, bye and I love you!” Click.
Chills went up my spine from the urgency Miriam had imposed on me. I hoisted Greg from his high chair and ran to the car like a maniac. I felt like I was being drawn up into Miriam’s hallucinations of danger. But still….It wouldn’t hurt to go visit my parents for the day. I could make my sudden flight, in pajamas, sound sane. Just call Jack and tell him I had gotten homesick. I was dialing Jack up on my cell phone as a convoy of military trucks passed me, heading into town, men hanging off the sides with high power weapons over their shoulders. I wonder what they were up to? A drill?
“Becky, is that you, Thank the Mother of God you’re all right!” Jack screamed at me when he answered.“What’s wrong?” I asked. Was that gun fire I was hearing?“Just keep going! Don’t turn back. I’ll catch up with you later!” was his response before the line went dead.
My parents sprang out of their door as I pulled into the driveway and snatched Greg from my arms nearly wrenching my shoulder out of it‘s socket. Mom was crying feverishly, muttering things like she never expected to see him again. Dad had to explain to me the news was caring a life report of a military invasion into my city where they were targeting young infant boys, Greg’s age.