Two magnets bounced off a metal flower vase and fell into the open grave, the rattling of the metal on metal caused a funeral home worker to turn his head, but a buzzing fly broke his concentration. Sammy Licken shuffled his feet between rows of flowers and walked toward a black limousine. Sammy was only twelve years old but he held the secret that had been a precursor to a parade of death in his family.
After a year of tragedies Sammy was tired. He was tired of funerals, tired of questions, tired of grownups period. The social worker slid into the seat next to him.
“Sammy, we have a nice place for you to stay tonight. Then we can talk tomorrow.”
He had seen her before – the same ruffled white shirt under a gray dress. He had heard about dresses when his mother scolded his older sister, now both the scolder and the scoldee were in the ground with Papa.
A year ago he had never been in a graveyard. A year ago he was a Cub Scout carving cars for the Pinewood derby. He wondered if his Scout uniform got burned up in the fire too.
The limo suddenly started rolling forward. The social worker looked over at Sammy and smiled. He could feel her eyes burning into his cheeks. He folded his hands and looked at the floor. “Who gonna take me?” His voice was faint, and over the rumble of the car engine the social worker had to strain to hear.
“Oh, a nice couple in Doryville, they have two children, I think you’ll be happy there.”
She thinks. “Okay.”
He closed his eyes thankful she wasn’t asking him to understand words like court appointed, and guardian ad something. “Will I be safe there?” he blurted out.
“Why yes, Sammy, they live in a nice neighborhood with lots of trees and flowers.”
He hated the way she said nice neighborhood. He hated flowers. His old neighborhood was alright, at least in his mind. His momma took him to church, and his neighbors went to church, and until a few months ago nobody got killed in his neighborhood.
“Do they have Cub Scouts?”
“I’m sure they do Sammy.”
It started with the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, an activity where Scouts carve tiny light weight pine cars and then race the cars down a slotted track. His father was an electrician during the day, but once per year he was the Pinewood Derby chairman. Sammy could still his father’s voice.
“Look Sammy, if we put these little magnets in here,” his father turned the car over, “and put this resistance panel over here, then put this battery here,” Sammy’s father worked wires and batteries around while Sammy watched with interest. “There let’s try this.”
His father set the experimental car on the flat kitchen floor, and then pushed a tiny lever backward. The car wheels started spinning, and then the car flew across the floor, knocked open the screen door, flew off the steps, and buried its nose in mama’s flower bed. The rear wheels were still spinning.”
“Wow,” was all Sammy could say.
The next Saturday, Sammy’s father took the car to the Pinewood Derby; all of the older men were fascinated by the experimental car. Mr. Johnson, a lawyer, even offered to help Sammy’s father with some government papers for the car.
A week later two men came to the house and offered Sammy’s father money for the toy car, but his father said it was not for sale. Then someone broke into their house and stole a whole bunch of Cub Scout stuff. The Police said it was kids. Then Sammy’s dad came home all scared and told Sammy’s mama and sister to move to Omaha and take Sammy along. Then, when Sammy was at school his house blew up, the Police said it was a gas leak, but it killed Sammy’s mama and sister. Then someone ran into Sammy’s dad at an intersection and shot him. Police said it was a hit and run drive by.
The limo stopped in front of a large brick house. Bright flowers lined the walkway. A smiling man and woman came out to the car and opened the door for Sammy. The woman smelled funny to Sammy.
The man held out a hand, “Say, young fella, I understand you like to carve Pinewood Derby cars. I sure would like to learn how to do that.”
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