He should have counted himself lucky (had he been able to count) that he had arrived during a different age in this dimension. His mother and father might have done some tallying of their own, had they not been otherwise disposed. The truth was that they themselves were too young and ill-equipped to fully take hold of the texture of the period they occupied. After all, were there not countless settings they could stroll through without being accosted? The possibility of seeing the eyes of God on a limp swing at the edge of a branch was an abstract one. And they had never grinded their teeth by lamplight, crouching, with windows barred and ears straining to hear footsteps approaching in the wind. Instead, they wore iPods, with sixteen bars pounding on their eardrums; and reclined in front of forty-two-inch screens that made their skin glow from pink to blue to green.
The elders, now well past their prime, were quietly certain of the child’s good fortune. It almost astounded them that he was just three and could access cell phones and laptops with startling familiarity, even if mastery would not come for another four, five years. Whenever they all gathered, they took turns throwing tales about their grandchildren gleefully onto the table, and sat back to watch them bounce together like marbles among competitors. The young child’s parents convened with their own contingent, staggering in from jobs they disliked, making plans to pay for extra studio time, and sending the boy and his toys to the back bedroom so that one of the guests could commence with the splitting of the Dutches at the kitchen counter. Their pungent phrases drifted on fog to where he was contentedly navigating his toy Hummer; they swirled around him; they swooped him up; and when the child swore in front of the elders the following day, everyone was aghast.
These were signs of the times, the elders said. They shook their heads and walked away, and left the young to tend to the young. The boy was boosted in his booster seat as his parents chuckled on the ride home. He marveled at how quickly the houses and trees raced across his window, and the cars. Cars! There were cars in multiplicity roving right beside him; cars for him to pick up and roll clear across the ground or to fling from high on the bed to see them crash. He giggled. Ooh…there was a white and black, no blue car pulling up alongside them, a car with flashing lights! The child called to his mother to share his excitement, but she just placed a pacifying hand behind her seat and tugged his leg. He was not convinced she could see it. The boy called again…Daddy saw it! Yes! But somehow the man was not pleased. He said something to his passenger. They turned the music down.
The vehicle slowed and then stopped. A man with a helmet and something reddening his cheeks was at the window, taking papers from Daddy. He left. He came back. He disappeared once more and returned. The blinking lights mesmerized the child, but he tried hard to focus on what his father was saying to the man. The two seemed to be disagreeing about a grave subject. Daddy started yelling. Mommy was yelling too. The voices formed an echo that made the child’s ears hurt; it frightened him when it reached into the back, undid his seatbelt, and yanked him out of his chair. The boy was cloaked in his mother’s arms. She squeezed his back to her chest and moved out into the grass. Her hair was blowing wildly around her face.
The boy stared at the rotating red glow, allowing its magic to penetrate his eyes. A sudden instinct made him seek out his father. The man had put a lock on Daddy’s hands and was taking him away. What was he doing? The boy’s distress mounted, and then, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” The child hollered, feeling his mother twist him to the side. The boy attempted to spring from her arms as the lights began to taunt him – their earlier radiance now changing unexpectedly to a darker tint. The red flicked fire at him, scorching its image into his memory. The wheels started a slow roll. They were taking his father away. The child was overcome with dread. He let out a frantic shriek as the car pulled off, with his father’s head bowed in the back, and those lights dancing jubilantly in the midst of his tears.