Unwind / Page 27

Page 27



"Would it help to have a map?" asks the Fry. The question gets Cy mad. "Map won't help me," he says. "I need to see stuff. I need to be places. A map is just a map. It ain't being there."

They stand at a corner on the outskirts of Joplin. It's like divining for water. Nothing looks familiar. "He doesn't know this place," Cy says. "Let's try another street."

Block after block, intersection after intersection, it's the same. Nothing. Joplin is a small town, but not so small that a person could know all of it. Then, at last they get to a main street. There are shops and restaurants up and down the road. It's just like any other town this size, but—

"Wait!"

"What is it?"

"He knows this street," says Cy. "There! That ice cream shop. I can taste pumpkin ice cream. I hate pumpkin ice cream."

"I'll bet he didn't."

Cyrus nods. "It was his favorite. The loser." He points a finger at the ice cream shop and slowly swings his arm to the left. "He comes walking from that direction. . . ." He swings his arm to the right. "And when he's done, he goes that way."

"So, do we track where he comes from, or where he goes?"

Cy chooses to go left but finds himself at Joplin High, home of the Eagles. He gets an image of a sword, and instantly knows. "Fencing. The kid was on the fencing team here."

"Swords are shiny," the Fry notes. Cy would throw him a dirty look if he weren't right on target. Swords are, indeed, shiny. He wonders if the kid ever stole swords, and realizes that, yes, he probably did. Stealing the swords of opposing teams is a time-honored tradition of fencing.

"This way," says the Fry, taking the lead. "He must have gone from school, to the ice cream shop, to home. Home is where we're going, right?"

The answer comes to Cy as an urge deep in his brain that shoots straight to his gut. Salmon? More like a swordfish Misting on a line, and that line is pulling him relentlessly toward . . . "Home," says Cy. "Right."

It's twilight now. Kids are out in the street; half the cars have headlights on. As far as anyone knows, they're just two neighborhood kids, headed wherever neighborhood kids go. No one seems to notice them. But there's a police car a block away. It was parked, but now it begins moving.

They pass the ice cream parlor, and as they do, Cyrus can feel the change inside him. It's in his walk, and in the way he holds himself. It's in all the tension points of his face: They're changing. His eyebrows lower, his jaw opens slightly. I'm not myself. That other kid is taking over. Should Cy let it happen, or should he fight it? But he knows it's already past the point of fighting. The only way to finish this is to let it happen.

"Cy," says the kid next to him.

Cy looks at him, and although part of him knows it's just Lev, another part of him panics. He instantly knows why. He closes his eyes for a moment and tries to convince the kid in his head that the Fry is a friend, not a threat. The kid seems to get it, and his panic drops a notch.

Cy reaches a corner and turns left like he's done it a hundred times. The rest of him shudders as he tries to keep up with his determined temporal lobe. Now a feeling comes on him. Nervous, annoyed. He knows he must find a way to translate it into words.

"I'm gonna be late. They're gonna be so mad. They're always so mad."

"Late for what?"

"Dinner. They gotta eat it right on time, or I get hell for it. They could eat it without me, but they won't. They don't. They just stew. And the food goes cold. And it's my fault, my fault, always my fault. So I gotta sit there and they ask me how was my day? Fine. What did I learn? Nothing. What did I do wrong this time? Everything." It's not his voice. It's his vocal chords, but it's not his voice coming out of them. Same tones, but different inflections. A different accent. Like the way he might have talked if he came from Joplin, home of the Eagles.

As they turn another corner, Cy catches sight of that cop car again. It's behind them, following slowly. No mistake about it: It's following. And that's not all. There's another police car up ahead, but that one's just waiting in front of a house. His house. My house. Cy is the salmon after all, and that police car is the bear. But even so, he can't stop. He's got to get to that house or die trying.

As he nears the front walk, two men get out of a familiar Toyota parked across the street. It's the dads. They look at him, relief in their faces, but also pain. So they knew where he was coming. They must have known all along.

"Cyrus," one of them calls. He wants to run to them. He wants them to just take him home, but he stops himself. He can't go home. Not yet. They both stride toward him, getting in his path, but smart enough not to get in his face.

"I gotta do this," he says in a voice he knows isn't his at all.

That's when the police leap from their cars and grab him. They're too strong for him to fight them off, so he looks at the dads. "I gotta do this," he says again. "Don't be the bear."

They look at each other, not understanding what he means—but then, maybe they do, because they step aside and say to the cops, "Let him go."

"This is Lev," Cyrus says, amazed that the Fry is willing to risk his own safety to stand by Cy now. "Nobody bothers him, either." The dads take a brief moment to acknowledge the Fry, but quickly return their attention to Cyrus.

The cops frisk Cy to make sure he has no weapon, and, satisfied, they let him go on toward the house. But there is a weapon. It's something sharp and heavy. Right now it's just in a corner of his mind, but in a few moments it won't be. And now Cy's scared, but he can't stop.

There's a police officer at the front door talking in hushed tones to a man and a woman standing at the threshold. They glance nervously at Cy.

The part of Cy that isn't Cy knows this middle-aged couple so well, he's hit by a lightning bolt of emotions so violent he feels like he'll incinerate.

As he walks toward the door, the flagstone path seems to undulate beneath his feet like a fun-house floor. Then finally he's standing before them. The couple look scared—horrified. Part of him is happy at that, part of him sad, and part of him wishes he could be anyplace else in the world, but he no longer knows which part is which.

He opens his mouth to speak, trying to translate the feelings into words.

"Give it!" he demands, "Give it to me, Mom. Give it to me, Dad."

The woman covers her mouth and turns away. She presses out tears like she's a sponge in a fist.

"Tyler?" says the man. "Tyler, is that you?"

It's the first time Cyrus has a name to go with that part of him. Tyler. Yes. I'm Cyrus, but I'm also Tyler. I'm Cy-Ty.

"Hurry!" Cy-Ty says. "Give it to me—I need it now!"

"What? Tyler," says the woman through her tears, "What do you want from us?"

Cy-Ty tries to say it, but he can't get the word. He can't even get the image straight. It's a thing. A weapon. Still the image won't come, but the action does. He's miming something. He leans forward, puts one arm in front of the other. He's holding something long, angling it down. He thrusts both arms lower. And now he knows it's not a weapon he seeks, it's a tool. Because he understands the action he's miming. He's digging.

"Shovel!" he says with a breath of relief. "I need the shovel."

The man and woman look at each other. The policeman beside them nods, and the man says, "It's out in the shed."

Cy-Ty makes a beeline through the house and out the back door with everyone following behind him: the couple, the cops, the dads, and the Fry. He heads straight for the shed, grabs the shovel—he knew exactly where it was—and heads toward a corner of the yard, where some twigs stick out of the ground.

The twigs have been tied to form lopsided crosses.

Cy-Ty knows this corner of the yard. He feels this place in his gut. This is where he buried his pets. He doesn't know their names, or even what kind of animals they were, but he suspects one of them was an Irish setter. He gets images of what happened to each of them. One met up with a pack of wild dogs. Another with a bus. The third, old age. He takes the shovel and thrusts it into the ground, but not near any of their graves. He'd never disturb them. Never. Instead, he presses his shovel into the soft earth two yards behind the graves.

He grunts with every thrust of the shovel, hurling the dirt wildly to the side. Then, at just about two feet down, the shovel hits something with a dull thud. He drops to all fours and begins scooping out the earth with his hands.

With the dirt cleared away, he reaches in, grabs a handle, and tugs, tugs, tugs until it comes up. He's holding a briefcase that's waterlogged and covered with mud. He puts it on the ground, flicks open the latches, and opens it.

The moment he sees what's inside, Cy-Ty's entire brain seizes. He's frozen in a total system lockup. He can't move, can't think. Because it's all so bright, so shiny in the slanted red rays of the sun. There are so many pretty things to look at, he can't move. But he must move. He must finish this.

He digs both of his hands into the jewelry-filled briefcase, feeling the fine gold chains slide over his hands, hearing the rattle of metal against metal. There are diamonds and rubies, zircons and plastic. The priceless and the worthless, all mixed in together. He doesn't remember where or when he stole any of it, he only knows that he did. He stole it, hoarded it, and hid it. Put it in its own little grave, to dig up when he needed it. But if he can give it back, then maybe . . .

With hands tangled in gold chains more binding than the handcuffs on the policemen's belts, he stumbles toward the man and woman. Bits and pieces, rings and pins fall from the tangled bundle into the brush of the yard. They slip through his fingers, but still he holds on to what he can until he's there in front of the man and woman, who now hold each other as if cowering in the path of a tornado. Then he falls to his knees, drops the bundle of shiny things at their feet, and, rocking back and forth, makes a desperate plea.

"Please," he says. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."

"Please," he says, "Take it. I don't need it. 1 don't want it."

"Please," he says. "Do anything. But don't unwind me."

And all at once Cy realizes that Tyler doesn't know. The part of that boy which comprehends time and place isn't here, and never will be. Tyler can't understand that he's already gone, and nothing Cy can do will ever make him understand. So he goes on wailing.

"Please don't unwind me. I'll do anything. Please don't unwind me. Pleeeeeeeease ..."

Then, behind him, he hears a voice.

31 Lev

"Tell him what he needs to hear!" Lev says. He stands there with such wrath in him he feels the earth itself will split from his anger. He told Cy he'd witness this. But he can't witness it and not take action.

Tyler's parents still huddle together, comforting each other instead of comforting Cy. It makes Lev even more furious.

"TELL HIM YOU WON'T UNWIND HIM!" he screams.

The man and woman just look at him like stupid rabbits. So he grabs the shovel from the ground and swings it back over his shoulder like a baseball bat. "TELL HIM YOU WONT UNWIND HIM, OR I SWEAR I'LL BASH YOUR WORTHLESS HEADS IN!" He's never spoken like this to anyone. He's never threatened anyone. And he knows it's not just a threat— he'll do it. Today, he'll hit a grand slam if he has to.


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