My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree CHAPTER 20

Updated 5 weeks ago By Shelly Reuben
My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree  CHAPTER 20

Illustrations by Ruth McGraw

 

Chapter 20 – The Return of Jarvis Larchmont 

 

Over the years, I saw Jarvis Larchmont strolling past the Samuel Swerling Park on many occasions. Usually, he would pause at the gate and look inside. Inevitably, he got a glimpse of Alonso pruning a tree or planting a bulb, and his head would snap back as if hit by a small electric shock. Then he would turn abruptly and walk away.

However, as age forced Alonso to work less and Hercules to work more, Jarvis could peer into the park from the vantage point of our gate and no longer see the man who had inspired in him such fear.

Alonso’s son Herk is a big man. As big and brawny as his father had been. He even has two fully functioning arms. But it was Alonso and not Hercules who, seventeen years before, had issued the ominous warning that Jarvis remembered, word-for-word as an adult:  

 

“If, at any time in the future, you enter the park’s perimeter, an alarm will be transmitted to my office. Within seconds, I will pinpoint your location. I will find and detain you. You will not be questioned. Your parents will not be notified. The police will not be called. You will simply disappear.”    

Jarvis was no fool.

In his rational mind, he knew that the alarm system Alonso described had not existed back then, and that it certainly did not exist now. The park had security. This was obvious from the motion detecting cameras, the sensor lighting, and the groundskeepers on site.

But no security systems could mysteriously identify an individual from a DNA sample simply by walking through a gate.

My Mostly Happy Life: Autobiography of a Climbing Tree  CHAPTER 20
 

 

That was science fiction.

 

It was ridiculous.

 

And for years, Jarvis had known it was ridiculous.

 

Still, he had stayed out of the park.

 

Then, on one of his visits to its perimeter, he saw a woman with bright red hair, delicate bones, a wallpaper of freckles, an expressive mouth, and large hazel eyes. When she walked past him, he immediately recognized her as the adult version of the little girl whom he had tormented in the Children’s Garden when he was twelve-years-old.

 

But he was no longer, he assured himself, a bully.

 

He was on the City Council.  He was a respected politician.

 

Without thinking, he followed the woman through the gate.

 

“Hey!” he called out, raising a hand. “Miss. Miss. I’d like to speak to you.”

 

Without stopping, Meg Fitzgerald turned her head and asked, “Are you talking to me?”

 

“Yes!”  Jarvis huffed, hurrying after her. “I know you.”

 

Meg stopped. She waited.

 

He continued to walk quickly until he had reached her side.

 

“My name is Jarvis Larchmont,” he said, thrusting out his hand. “We knew each other as children.”

 

Meg ignored his hand.

 

Jarvis could see her tongue protrude into her left cheek as she studied him. It was an odd gesture that seemed to imply evaluation. Or distrust.

 

Her eyes – the last time he had looked into them, they were filled with fear – began their assessment at the top of his head. He felt them run down his face as if they were an ink roller on a stamp pad, absorbing the bluish tint of his oily skin; the arch of his pale thin eyebrows; the light-jade green of his eyes; the long, loose spill of his fair hair; the slight bend in his skinny nose; and the puffy lips on a mouth that ended in spiky points. A mouth that tried very hard to appear sincere and friendly, but was incapable of hiding an embryonic sneer.

 

”Do you really think,” Meg said coldly, “that I could forget you?  Can you really and truly conceive of a universe in which I would not remember every detail of that mouth and those eyes?” 

 

“But…but,” Jarvis stammered, “I was just a boy.”

 

“You were a mean boy. A nasty boy. You were a sadistic boy.”

 

“Well,” Jarvis bit his lower lip. “You were no great shakes yourself.”

 

Meg said nothing. 

 

“You had no business digging up that garden. It wasn’t your garden. You were vandalizing a public space.”

 

Meg glared.

 

“Anyway, it wasn’t your box you were trying to bury. It was my box. You stole it from me.”

 

Meg lifted her head. She narrowed her eyes. “I suppose the dead cockatiel inside was yours, too,” she said calmly.

 

Jarvis blinked.

 

“Dead…what?”

 

Meg turned and started to walk away.

 

“Hey,” he shouted. “Hey. Hey. I just want to be your friend.”

 

Meg shook her head. 

 

Without turning around, she said loudly enough for her words to drift out behind her, “Forget friend. Cozy up with a rattlesnake, and find a soulmate instead.”

 

That was the first time Jarvis Larchmont returned to the Samuel Swerling Park as an adult.

 

It would not be the last.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017, Shelly Reuben

 

 

 

Originally published in The Evening Sun, Norwich, NY - evesun.com Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her work, visit www.shellyreuben.com.


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