I’m closing in on the draft, which is actually more stressful than I thought. After all this work, all this thought and preparation, the idea that I’m going to actually send this thing, that I’ll transform it into little digital filaments and hurl it into the electronic ether, where it will spin, reassemble and land upon the waiting lap of my beloved Editrix – well, the thought fills me with so much anxiety and nervous energy I’m pretty sure I might hurl at any second.
Anyway, for those who like such things, here’s another little cut bit.
Mr. Perkins crouched in the tall grasses and stared up at the Fitzpatrick house through a pair of bright green binoculars. He had watched Mr. and Mrs. Fitzpatrick leave two hours earlier without the boy, though followed by their troublingly large cats. For one terrifying moment, the cats turned in unison, their whip-like tails pointed towards the sky. They flexed the muscles in their broad shoulders and prepared themselves to pounce. Mr. Perkins held his breath.
“Gog,” Mr. Fitzpatrick called without looking back. “Magog. Come now. There’s a good kitty.” The cats stared towards the edge of the yard, tilted their ears forward and, with a sniff, turned around in unison and trotted after the Fitzpatricks. Mr. Perkins sighed and allowed his body to crumple to the ground. Once he had recovered himself, he opened his sketch pad.
“Seven thirty,” he wrote. “Professor and wife depart. Boy alone. Below that, he began to sketch the house. At first, he didn’t know he was doing it. He simply looked down and saw the broad eaves and the steep roof beginning to take form. He checked the windows. He saw no one peeking through. In all honesty, he was skeptical that he would recognize the boy even if he saw him. There were no pictures, after all.
“Seven fifty two, boy still not visible,” he wrote at the edge of the page.
“Eight thirty seven. No sign of the boy.” Lazy, he thought, though he didn’t know how the time passed so quickly and he suspected that he may have drifted to sleep.
By nine thirty, the sketch was finished, though, Mr. Perkins noticed, the end product looked nothing like the actual house. The roof in his drawing didn’t lay flat as roofs ought, but rather floated and wisped about like hair. He had tried to imagine a boy looking out the windows, and the shape and heft and coloring of that boy. Instead, he made windows that looked oddly like eyes, and a door that was uncomfortably like a mouth.
The Fizpatricks’ parrot had somehow gotten loose, and flew from window to window, trying to find a way back in. He wondered if the boy had let it out or if the bird had inadvertently escaped. Either way, he pressed his body deeper in the grass. He had met that parrot on four occasions, and none were pleasant. It had an exceptionally sharp beak, and Mr. Perkins had the scars to prove it.
“It’s a nasty thing, that parrot,” a voice said in his ear, “but it means well, and that counts for something.” Mr. Perkins dropped his sketchpad and pencil and scrambled sideways with a scream.
“It’s okay, Mr. Perkins. It’s me. Anders. Remember? Nils and Laura Lindstrom are my parents. You were at my house two weeks ago.” Mr. Perkins tried to slow his breathing and lower the panic out of his voice. He sat up and brushed himself off.
“Of course, of course,” he said, his voice pinched and scratchy. “Anders. Of course. You just startled me, that’s all. I was just…” he ground his teeth trying to think. “Taking some measurements. Official business.” He cleared his throat. “For the Exchange.”
Anders rested his chin on his patched knees and looked distinctly like he was trying not to smile. Mr. Perkins nearly wept in frustration.
“Taking measurements with a notebook instead of a measuring tape? That’ll take a while.”
Mr. Perkins stood, closing his notebook with a snap.
“Last I heard,” he said loftily, “it was considered rude for children to pry into grownup affairs. Now, I’d appreciate it if you’d run along, sonny.” He shoved his right hand decisively into his pocket.
Anders stood as well. He was a tall boy, nearly reaching Mr. Perkins’ eyebrows. Judging by his large hands and feet, he would likely grow to a giant of a man, but Mr. Perkins couldn’t be troubled by that now.
“I’m terribly sorry sir,” Anders said, still smiling. “I didn’t mean to bother you.” He began to walk towards the hazel trees. “But, if I were you, I’d give up trying to get information from a bunch of weeds. You want to know about that kid, you can just ask him.” And with that, Anders ducked under the tree branches and disappeared into the corn.