Amos was smaller than me and everyone at the home called him AD but me, even the houseparents. People were generally saying the AD stood for things like A DISEASE, or A DEMON mostly something that made him feel bad about himself. But somehow I knew he was a period of my time, like ‘Before Death’ or ‘After Death’ In time he was A.D.
I had to think about Amos for a long time and get older before I saw how he fit with me.
Life had been cruel to me, and maybe God deserted me. I was an orphan because when I was old enough ot do something with my demon parents I had set them, and their like-minded friends on fire. I was the only survivor of what had been a large family. At the time it had been a question of my survival. For a long time I didn’t even think about my brothers and sisters, but one sister Ophelion came to me in dreams, and asked why I ate her flesh. She looked familiar then, but I didn’t see her as my sister, that was put out of my mind then.
On Saturdays the Light House Orphanage let us out to wander around. I was ten,and branded a troublemaker by several former sets of foster parents. My side kick was Amos Drexter who was also about ten. Like me he wasn’t exactly sure of his birthday. He said his parents were killed in an accident. I said mine were killed in a fire (which they were).
So this one Saturday Amos and I were sitting on a rise above this Texas highway. Cars and trucks were speeding by and we could see people in the cars. We had been there before far from town, and Amos always wanted to do something to those rich people. He wanted my blessing ot throw rocks down and break a windshield. I knew that type of thing would get both of us in trouble.
I had to actually wrestle with Amos to get rocks out of his hands. Only by telling him that I wouldn’t stay there with him, I knew he really liked me. I told him that, “If we stay and watch long enough we’ll see a big wreck.” He looked at my statement as a promise.
It was a half circle curve on a hill. I thought that somebody would be going too fast or one Saturday or another one car would roll over, off the incline and down the embankment.
I didn’t want any car to wreck, and I didn’t have anything against rich people (like Amos did), in fact I thought being rich would be neat. I thought then in terms of how much ice cream and coca cola I could buy with enough funds.
I don’t know why I said it but this red and white van was coming over the hill Amos had been running at the mouth about how he hoped that we would see some people running out of ‘the wreck’ on fire. He said, “We could run down and put out the fire on them and we would be heros, and maybe get a $5.00 reward. I said right then, “That van is just going to go off the road into those trees”. That was all I said and the brown and tan-colored van just went directly off the road and missing the embankment it went into the trees. The man driving the van didn’t even slam on his breaks.
We didn’t get to see where it crashed, but we heard the impact with the tree. You couldn’t even see the van from the road it was way back in the underbrush. There was no fire, there ws no other sound. No cars stopped. We sat there looking at each other then.
Amos said, “Shit, shit, shit you did it!.
“No, I didn’t do it.”
“You said it, and crash, boom.”
“Saying it and doing it are two different things.”
“Not with you, but are they dead?”
I don’t know if it was the sound of the crash or just knowing but I said, “Yes, all dead. Even the two girls sleeping in the back.” I don’t know how I knew any of that.
We didn’t say anymore for maybe a half hour, and then we walked over there, across the highway. The path back to the tree looked like a logging road just two ruts. In the van they looked normal and when I opened the driver’s door the mother and father just sat there mashed close to the tree. It was like their van had grown out of the tree. As if they had always been there. There was a dead branch that had made a single hole thru the windshield and stuck itself right in the mother’s mouth. Her head was very upright.
I felt the hand of the man and there was only cold, no heart beat. Amos got in the back door and found the girls. They were dead in their sleeping bags on the floor. They didn’t look dead. Amos found some Richard Scarey books, and he was looking at them. Amos never had any books of his own. We were too old for that type of books, but Amos started asking me, “Can I have them?”
“OK by me” I said.
I closed the van doors and we went back to the orphanage earlier than normal. Amos was carrying his books. Finally I said, “They’re going to say you stole those books Amos.”
He didn’t say anything at first so I said, “Those are expensive books, how are you going to explain getting them?”
“I’ll say I traded my knife for them.”
He had a well-worn, and over sharpened Barlow knife, and it was nearly his only possession, and the social worker type people at the home knew he had it. I said, “But then you can’t show up with that knife.”
“I know.” He said.
Before we got home he found a chewing gum wrapper and put his knife in the wrapper and then climbed a tree and found a place in the tree for his knife. At the orphanage there was no scene over the books. When someone asked later in the week Amos said he had them, “Some time.” He started carrying his knife again before the next Saturday.
We went back into the woods again the next Saturday and the parents were still behind the wheel and the girls still were in their sleeping bags. It had rained during the week and the area where the van sat was mostly a marsh. The wheel marks were washed away and our shoes would stick in the mud and then come up with a sucking sound like a plunger.
Amos and I looked in the van windows, and Amos said, “Would it be stealing if that man happened ot have some change in his pocket so we could go to a picture show, or get an ice cream?”
“They don’t need their money anymore.” I said.
“How much money do you think people like that carry around with them?” Amos said.
“Maybe more than a hundred dollars.”
It was too late to walk all the way to town and be back at the home on time, 5:30 PM, so we didn’t get any of the money out of the van. I thought the family would be found in another week. The more I thought about it the more it didn’t seem at all like stealing. These were dead foreigners from Iowa, or at least a tag from there was on their car. They were dead as doornails, gone, finished, something that flowers could grow in. Being dead they mattered very little, and every week they stayed there everything mattered less.
There was even luggage in the car, probably filled with dresses of the girls. the next Saturday the ground was much dryer, but we didn’t get any money for the movies because of ants. Masses of ants, or termites were swarming in the van, all over the dead people. The insects were worse than being dead. not to them of course, but to Amos and me.
It wasn’t that ants were all over the luggage, and I had convinced myself all week that I would look inside the suitcases, and there were no ants on the suitcases, but Amos saw it and was sick, he threw up his lunch. It was their faces, and their eyes covered with the crawling things. And I knew the insects must be eating the faces because I had seen ants eat crusts of bread on the lawn, but these were faces sitting upright in a Ford van and faces looking out of sleeping bags covered with bugs. We had no way to get them off. So we left and went home. Amos left that food form is stomach by the side of the van.
We didn’t go back for a month. Four weeks, we both thought about the van, and what little we said to each other about it was about the money. We had no money, we would work for money in town, but people let town children do any work they had. town children got allowances of 50 cents per week, and girls in school babysit for sometimes and make several dollars an hour. Orphanage girls never got to sit, first we all had to be home at night, and orphanage children weren’t trusted. One town woman told me to my face she wouldn’t give me any yard work because, “Orphans come from everywhere, and I like to know a child’s parents.” So Amos and I talked about the money and we calculated that if god left them in the van for a whole month more without being found, then it was because he wanted two orphan boys to have that money.
We carried two cans of bug spray from the home. We got it out in a paper bag. As we got nearer the car I was the one who was getting sick. I figured in all that time the ants would have probably eaten their whole faces away. I could visualize their clean skulls at the steering wheel and in that hateful sleeping bag. They would not even seem human any more.
There was a lot of traffic on the road that Saturday and we stayed back out of sight for a while at a place where we could scamper across.
We had not been talking, but when I threw up my peanut butter sandwich and kool- aid, Amos said, “They probably don’t even look human now, but I’ll go in their pockets. We’ll spray them and then after the ants are dead get all their money. Split it 50 fifty.”
“You know what I wish?” I said to Amos, “I wish that before we get to the van they would all four get up and out of their van and run away.” I paused a minute then said, “But before they go I think they should leave their pocket change and cash on the front seat of the car.”
After about ten minutes more we crossed the road. It had been raining again and the ground was soggy and our clothes got wet from low branches and bushes. When we got to the van we saw all the doors were open, and the dead people were gone. The smell in the whole area was terrible, something worse than skunk. Around the car were footprints, lots of footprints. Four people had been there recently, went into the woods and then returned to the woods and then ran away from the road.
The ants were still on the car seats and the sleeping bags.
We sprayed in the van to kill the ants, and then took the money out of the wallet on the front seat, and gathered up the various quarters, dimes and pennies we found there.
The film we went to that afternoon was an old Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis flick. Except for ice cream once we never got to use any of the folding money. We hid it in the tree where Amos had put his pocket knife, ubt some one must have seen us because it was not there one week later.
Amos went to a foster home right after that, and later that school year I was transferred to another home because they said I was a pyro. But they never found matches on me and I never started any serious fires except when I burned up my parents to save my life — like self-defense.
We never got a chance to go back and check out the van again. I always wondered what was in that luggage. I wondered where the man, woman and two girls went after most of their flesh was gone. Little boys wonder about the strangest things.
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