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Nate was one of those kids who went to school without a lunch because his mum forgot to go to the grocery store that week. They weren’t really poor or anything, but sometimes it sorta seemed like it, the way his eyes widened when kids would talk about their summer holiday trips and whatnot. I thought he was a real wierdo, not eating nothing at school and then walking home and filling his pockets with candy and junk from the little place on the corner that sold everything from fishing line to barbecue chips in a bag as big as your pillow. I thought he might be nicking the junk but when I tailed him one day he pulled a little plastic card from his pants pocket and bought the whole lot of shit he’d carried to the counter. I caught up with him as he was dragging the lot home and I tried getting the kid to talk a bit cocky about what he’d been doing like all my eighth grade buddies would do when they’d snuck out of their houses at night to fetch the reject bottles of wine from the dumpster behind the grocer’s. I thought it was pretty cool that he’d nicked his mum’s card like that and that he probably had a whole stash of goods up in his room. I figured maybe with me being a year older than him and hanging out with the badass crowd and all, he’d practically fall over himself to show me his stuff.

As hard as I tried to pick at him, Nate wouldn’t talk. He was every bit the wierdo I thought he was before I knew he was jacking his mum’s card. I finally shoved him a bit, like “what the hell, you think I don’t know you’re nicking your mum’s credit card to buy your gay little toys and junk every day? ‘Cause I do, and I’ll tell Miss Marckin, and she’ll rat you out to your mum before tomorrow! She’ll go ‘ring ring!’ your wierd little snot Nate has been stealing from you.” I thought that was pretty smart, the blackmail bit, but Nate just looked sort of surprised with those damn baby eyes and turned and kept on walking. About five steps later he tuned back to me and went, “do you want to see what I’m making?” just like that! I don’t know that I had ever heard the kid talk before, it was so shallow and empty, like some breeze blowing through a cobwebby old cave by the South Town Lagoon.

His house was tucked way back off the main road and it stood alone like it’s been there a lot longer than the others that were all in a narrow row. It backed up to a long slope that flattened out and turned into an old half-dried-up marsh. Inside was empty except for the kind of thing you’d find in a girl’s dollhouse; some furniture in every room, a carpet here and there– I didn’t get a good look because he disappeared upstairs so quick and I went with him in case his mum caught me snooping around. It looked like she kept the place real tidy and she probably didn’t like visitors.

At the top of the stairs there were two god awful creaks and this narrow hall that led to the closet. I suppose it was his room off to the right because that’s where I followed him to, but the only thing I saw in there was all these milk crates. He had a bunch of milk crates covered in papier-mache, a few more stacked in the corner. It was like looking in on a little Lloryn Town, but instead of little houses there were only fields and mountains and the little marshy places. He’d added trees made out of sticks and moss, and every once in a while there would be a set of giant Yew trees made from some combination of shredded cardboard and glue. The whole scene was practically real life but on a much smaller scale, the mountains edging the western border of the milk crates looked exactly like the ones I could see outside over in Snowdonia Park. It looked bloody good, there’s no telling how long it had taken him to do. He’d even added a bigger lake, or perhaps it was a marsh, a good creepy marsh, with rugged edges and reeds and real water dyed blue-gray with dirt and rocks sunk to the bottom. There was something else in the lake too, some model car he probably bought from the corner store, and it was nosed down, half filled with the murky water. I was staring at it real close, right down on its level, when I could have sworn I saw the the car lights flick on underwater. I jumped back, like hey stop messing with me! But he didn’t have a control switch or nothing so I knew it must have been a trick of the light passing through the water.

“Where’s your mum at, anyway?” I asked, “how is it she lets you make all this stuff?” And all in the middle of the hardwood floor, too. My mum would commit murder if she found me gluing shit on the wood floor, peeling the rubbery papery shit off of my fingers and leaving it in a nasty pile.
Nate shrugged, he squatted down and cocked his head, resting it on his knees.

“I think she’s in the car.”
His hand was covering his mouth in a fist, and he kept scraping his knuckles with his teeth like he’d gone mental.
At this point I was feeling a bit uneasy so I didn’t take my eyes off him; he just rocked a little and stared off like he was dumb. I didn’t know what to do so I backed off of him, like “What’s wrong with you, man, quit, you’re freaking me out,” but he completely ignored me, which made me a bit scared ‘cause I remember my cousin Cade told me once that you can never trust the quiet ones, they’ll go off one day and just whack anybody because they’ve just lost their marbles. Literally.

I left him up there and went back downstairs to find something fit to drink, maybe some cider hidden away, but there was only some old tea that looked to have sat out all day and night, having gone cold on the burner. My mum isn’t well off neither but she can at least wash the dishes and do herself a fresh pot. Nate’s mum had a whole stack of chipped greenware glasses sitting in the sink and used mugs lining the window sill, their handles all pointing different ways like she hadn’t meant to leave them there. The sun coming from the window had baked lines of coffee stains into the mugs and when I opened the cabinets there was only a single cracked mug left so I had to use a dirty one.

His house was not actually tidy, it was just bare, so you didn’t see the dust settled into the corners. It was near embarrassing, I was embarrassed for him, and yet he felt more need to make his little landscape than to sweep the floor and wash the mugs. I couldn’t taste the coffee rings. I wondered what Nate was doing up there so quietly, but as I walked about his house I heard the ticking of a car approaching in the drive. The next thing I heard was some rushing around upstairs and those awful creaks and then quiet, so I panicked and hid behind the sofa just as this lady comes in the front door. She looked pretty hot at first, a skinny milf with these blonde curls falling loose over one shoulder- I don’t know if it was dyed or not, I can never tell with my mum’s friends- but then the door closed and the midday sun that was behind her got shut out and suddenly she looked all disheveled and familiar.

What the hell was his mum doing home midday?? And I knew her, I knew it. She had the look of a waitress but in all the negative respects, like having hollow baggy eyes and wearing chalky makeup that looked like it got put on a full two days before. I didn’t notice how she shook until she pulled these tall pill bottles from her purse and gripped them like little maracas. Parkinsons, my neighbor had it but he died two years ago. I used to have to rake his leaves which was cool because then I could buy a pack of fags from my cousin, Cade who lived just over in Hull, and sell the looseys at a price to the younger boys. When my mum found out about it I got whooped pretty good, my mates had a good laugh over it and I still have to box them in the head to quit laughing every time one of them brings it up. Anyway, I got to thinking as I sat there behind the sofa and I figured that those pills would put a few dollars in my pocket if I asked the right people, like Cade. And Cade told me once he had to know what sort of stuff it might be if he’s to market it, so I figured I’d pop a few and see what they did.

It didn’t take long after I had nicked the pills to realize where I recognized Nate’s mum from. It had been about an hour since I was able to feel my body and I was stumbling down the street in a fit when I passed the drug store and recalled the blonde curls of the checkout lady. There was nothing wrong with her. These weren’t Parkinson’s pills, they were painkillers. If some Parkinson’s affected person were to try them, they’d probably just sit in bed all day and twitch…perhaps they were Parkinson’s pills. Ha! Either way, fantastic luck, because they’ll go like mad on the street, Cade told me that night.
The next day after school I followed Nate home again. I continued to watch the little Lloryn Town scenery get built up over about two weeks. Nate never talked a whole lot but sometimes we’d walk to the corner store while the glue dried on his trees. I never asked why we pretended we weren’t at home when she came home, it almost seemed normal by the end. Every day that his mum came home we’d hear the rattling and then the creaking hall, and then she’d pass out in the next room for a few hours. When she woke up, her bottle would be two pills lighter. I didn’t even think to ask Nate if he knew his mum had a thing for killers, I’d never even seen them speak to each other. But, in their disconnect there seemed to be a growing tension in the way Nate nervously glanced at his bedroom door and the footsteps that traipsed up the stairs on the other side.
The stockpiling worked out brilliantly until I got greedy and almost cost Nate his life. We were listening to this little radio Cade gave me for my birthday and didn’t hear his mum come in the door. We might’ve had the chance to hide if we’d heard the way she banged up the stairs, but the thunder storm outside drowned out all other sounds. Nate had looked really freaked that day, he didn’t even want me to come over after school but I thought I should so it wouldn’t be suspicious when his mum found out that all her pills were gone. I had the cash in hand and I thought we could go blow it together and maybe Nate would lighten up a little.
As it happened, his mum flung the door open and stood there dripping wet, staring at us with a look of vengeance in her face like all the comic book villians have. Nate jerked back and almost knocked down the ancient Yew we’d just constructed on the crates.

“Where,” she said in a harsh whisper, “are they?” Nate and I looked at each other.

“What?” Nate trembled, he fidgeted with the glue that was dried to his fingers.

“You,” she said, seething, “know.” She was trembling and leaned against the door frame. “I’ve had all my my shit stolen, you think I don’t know? You thought Mummy wouldn’t guess that the one other fucker in this house maybe did it? Hm?” She strutted into the room with new found agitation that seemed to be the only thing keeping her upright.

Before I knew what was happening she grabbed Nate and began dragging him out of the room yelling and stumbling as he scrambled to his feet. Without a thought I shoved the wad of bills through the window of the little car in the murky lake and I ran after them down stairs.

“Stop!” I called out to them both, like what the hell do I even call her by, you know? So I grab Nate’s free arm and pull back expecting a big fight but he fell from her grip so easily that I fell to the ground, and he and I scooted away from her on the kitchen floor, frantically looking about for some genius plan. This, of course, infuriated her and turned her attention to me. As if she hadn’t fucking seen me til just then, her mouth dropped in surprise and then turned into a sneer. I thought she might hit me but before I knew what I was saying I called out “its in the old yew, I promise!” Both of them looked at me blankly, then his mum whirled around and stormed out the door to her car, which was barely visible through the torrential rain.

“Where is she going?” I gasped, still in shock.

Nate looked at me, his face still in complete surprise, and ran to the back door, flinging it open just in time to see his mother roll around the side of the house and comically slide her car down the hill. She was visibly cursing and hitting the steering wheel as she cruised by the window, the glare of red break lights faded as she passed. He looked up at me, his mouth dropped.

And then he smiled the first of many smiles. “There’s an old yew at the bottom of the hill.” He almost laughed.

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