Click Clack

by Judith Snyder

click clack.jpg

Mama and Daddy fought a lot after Lenny left. A lot.

And Paul felt like it was his fault. That was because Daddy always told his mother she babied him too much. Do you think you’re gonna keep him a little boy tied to your apron strings forever? He would say. And then she would say, But it’s true, Charles Finley! Why can’t you see that Pauly is still just a little guy? And then she’d cry. It made Paul feel like he’d done something wrong, but he couldn’t quite understand what.

 

          He was standing there next to his bed in his birthday-surprise Spiderman pajamas. And he was getting really tired of saying, Yes, Daddy; I understand, Daddy. He must have said that a million gazillion times. It was his birthday, that day, Yes, it was! He turned eight, and he ate strawberry cake and vanilla ice cream and got lots of presents.

The boy continued to say yes to everything his father told him, even though he felt like he didn’t really agree with him, and he most definitely didn’t understand. To Daddy, his magic eighth birthday just meant he had become too old for a lot of things. Like... he was too old to sleep with his night light on, and he was too big to climb into his parents’ bed every time he had a bad dream.

 

Big boys of eight want to be more grown up. They don’t run away from their fears, his father had explained. They face them. And you must face yours too so that you can be big and grown up.

His daddy said they would leave his bedroom door open for him, with the hall light on. That would take care of the darkness. Anyway, he was too old to believe in such nonsense as monsters under the bed or in his closet, wasn’t he? And he had better not be calling out for Daddy to come check, because if he did, Daddy would be very disappointed in him.

Well, Daddy had been disappointed in Lenny, and Lenny had gone away.  Paul remembered that clearly.

But the monsters really are there, Daddy, Paul wanted to say. He didn't. It wasn’t smart to talk back to Daddy. Lenny talked back, and Lenny was gone.

 

"You do understand—don't you, son?"

 

Daddy had been squatting to look Paul in the eyes, a sure signal that it was a very serious talk and that he had better listen. 

The man stood up. Paul nodded, and Daddy reached down and ruffled his son’s hair.

"That's my boy! Now into bed with you. It’s late." 

Paul climbed into bed and waited for his father to leave. Then he looked around. At least the room wasn't completely dark, just shadowy. He leaned over the side of his bed and pulled his secret box out from underneath. It was an old Christmas-coookie tin that had been Lenny's and his; it was where they hid their treasures. 

Then he sat up on his mattress and folded his legs like an Indian chief. He carefully opened the lid, so that he wouldn't make much noise. There at the top lay his Halloween flashlight, with the jack o’ lantern face.  He turned it on, cupping his hand around the end where the light came out—so it wouldn’t shine everywhere. Then he aimed it at his secret picture of Lenny and him together.

He stared at the picture. Lenny was eight in the picture; in real life, Paul had just become eight. He thought Lenny looked just exactly the same as he himself did! He put the picture into the box, put the box away, and scurried into the bathroom, turning on the light.

He stared at himself in the mirror. Yep! Same dark hair. Almost black. Just like Lenny’s. Same eyes that the grownups called hazel.  Just like Lenny’s. Yes, yes. If only Lenny’s eight-year-old ghost was standing next to him, everyone would say they were twins.

Satisfied, he flushed the toilet so it would sound like he peed. He shut off the bathroom light, like a grownup. Then he went back to bed.

Mama had cried a lot after Lenny left. Whenever she saw anything that reminded her of her boy who went away, she cried. So Daddy said they had to put everything about Lenny away. When no one was looking, though, Paul managed to snitch that picture of the two of them together…before everything all disappeared so that his parents could forget that Paul had once had a big brother.  Who looked like him, and who was two years older than he was, in real life.

 But Paul wasn’t like the grownup who just wanted to forget Lenny. He didn't want to forget the best big brother ever. And Paul never forgot what happened that day either.

Their father had told Lenny that he was very disappointed in him because fighting was such a childish thing to do. He was a big boy, and he should have solved the problem with his words, not with his fists. Because that’s what a grownup would do. And what’s more, he was expecting Lenny to apologize for hurting that poor little boy from down the street.

Then Lenny said—right in front of that mean fifth-grader, Teddy Williams, and the boy’s dad too—that Teddy was nothing but a big bully, and he got what he had coming, and he was not sorry, and he wasn’t going to say that he was, because it wasn’t true.

With that, Lenny jerked his arm away from Daddy’s grip and ran outside. Paul heard a screech of tires on pavement, along with the blast of a car’s horn, and then— thump.  After that, Lenny never came back, and Mama cried every day for a long time. Paul cried too. At night. When he was alone.

A lot of grownups came over to visit. And they said things to his parents about how sorry to hear of the tragic accident and may God comfort them. But nobody ever asked any questions, like: Why did a smart boy like Lenny run out into the street?

Sometimes Paul couldn't help but wonder. What if Lenny hadn't disappointed Daddy? What if he had never talked back to him? Would he still be here with us then?

Yes, he wondered about that. And he was a little afraid to say the wrong thing to Daddy.

Click clack. Click Clack!

Paul stiffened.

Click clack. Click Clack!

He knew that sound. He hadn’t heard it in a long time.

It was right aside outside! Paul eased out of his bed, went to the window, and pulling back the curtain, looked down into the yard below. The moon was full, and it was easier to see outside of his room than it was inside of it.

What? Can’t be! No. I’m not asleep. This isn’t a dream.

He rubbed his eyes and stared again.

Click clack. Click Clack!

Paul leaned forward until his nose pressed against the glass. He breathed out his brother’s name. Lenny was right there, in the bright moonlight, out in the backyard, playing with a clacker. The noise the balls would make when they swung upwards was a click. When they fell, they clacked as they hit one another. That had driven their dad bonkers.

Lenny could click and clack for a long time before the balls would miss each other and fall down in silence. Lenny had loved his clacker so much that Mama put it with him in the graveyard box before they closed it and put it in the ground.

Paul didn't waste another moment. He slipped out his bedroom door, hurried down the stairs, and then went ever so quietly out the back door to join his brother.

"Lenny! I’m so happy. So, so busting wide open happy To see you is the best birthday present ever. I guess grownups aren't so smart, are they? They said I'd never see you again!"

"Shhh...Keep it down, will ya?  We don't want Dad coming down and spoiling our fun, do we?"

Paul shook his head hard and whispered, "Is it a secret that you’re here?"

"Yes! Don’t tell anyone. Or I'll have to go away again, this time for keeps. Understand?"

“I understand. I really, really want you to come back again, And not just be here for my birthday. I won’t tell anybody.”

"Swear?"

Paul drew a big letter X over his heart saying, "Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye."

“Good. Let's go!"

With that, the two ran and climbed up into the treehouse, there where nobody could see them. They giggled, and traded shoulder punches, and told each other little boy jokes. Like…what do you call a fly with no wings? A walk. And… why did Mrs. Tomato turn red? She looked over the fence and saw Mr. English Pea. Get it? Haha. She saw Mr. English pee-pee.

"I've missed you, so much, Lenny. So, so, so much."

"I've missed you too. And Mama too.” His face turned dark. "Dad not so much. Sometimes he can really be kind of a bully. Like he thinks he knows everything all the time, but he doesn’t.”

Paul nodded. It was true,

“What was I supposed to do? Tell that Cootie-hands guy from fifth grade not to pound you? Bullies don’t ever listen to words, no matter how grownup the words sound." He laid a hand on Paul's shoulder. "What kind of big brother wouldn’t stand up and stop that kind of crap? And then for a father to say he's disappointed when his son does the right thing? That’s just plain bullshit!"

 

Paul's mouth fell open.

 

"You said a swear! Two swears!"

 

Lenny shrugged.

"Just us here. We can swear if we want. Isn't that what grownups do? And Dad is always on us to act grownup."

"Yeah. Sure. Makes sense to me."

"Another thing, Paul. You shouldn't call him Daddy anymore. Maybe call him Dad or sir. I bet he'd like that. Yes sir! No sir!  Yeah, that seems right for him a guy like him."

 

A little while later, he told Paul it was time for him to go back in, so he wouldn’t get caught, and above all else, he was to always, always, remember not to tell anyone that his brother came back.


***


The next day, Paul remembered to call his father sir, both before and after school.  Dad noticed. At dinner, he asked the boy why he wasn't calling him Daddy all the time like before.

Paul said, "Daddy is for babies, and I'm eight now." 

His father smiled and said, "That's right! You do sound a lot more grown up now that you’re not calling me daddy.”

His mother thought saying sir was just not something that they did in their family, and she suggested he say Dad or Pops instead. But his father told her that she should stop babying the boy.

Paul thought maybe his brother had been right. Their dad actually liked being called sir.  Maybe he wished he wasn't even a dad. At least not a dad of little boys who weren’t grown up enough for him yet.

Later that night he heard the click-clack sound and quietly slipped out to join Lenny in the treehouse, taking their secret box with him.

 

Lenny greeted him at the top and asked about him calling their dad sir.

After Paul explained to him how his day had gone, Lenny smiled.

 "Told ya. Liked it, didn't he? Like some big boss man and you're nobody."

 

"I guess so," Paul said. “But isn't that what grownups do? Teachers and neighbors and everybody. They all boss us kids around."

 

“Mama doesn't act like that, does she?"

 

"No. You’re right. She’s nice."

Paul shifted the secret box in his hands.

 

"Thought you might like looking in here again.”

He held it out to his brother.

 

Lenny opened it, shuffled things about, but didn't seem too interested in anything. That was weird. It was like he didn’t even remember any of their treasures that they had loved so much.

 

As if reading his mind, Lenny looked at him and smiled.

"I sure have missed you, Paul,” he said, “and all the fun we used to have.  Remember how we would sneak out of bed, after Mama and Dad were asleep, and make hand shadows using the night light?"

Paul smiled happily; Lenny had been good at making those too.

"You still do that?"                                                                                 

“I can't. Da—uh, I mean—Sir took it away. He says I'm too old for the night light.”

Lenny sighed.

 "Let me guess. Now that you're eight, you're too old for a lot of stuff, right? And even if you still like it, you're supposed to give it up—because he says so."

 

Paul leaned forward and confided in his brother.

 

"He wanted me to throw Rags out! But I tricked him. I stuck an old T-shirt all crumpled up into a bag, and I threw that out instead."

 

“Ha!” Lenny exclaimed. “Good thinking! He did the very same thing to me. But I wouldn’t throw Rags away either. That’s why I gave him to you. Remember? I didn’t care if he looked more like rags than like a toy puppy. He’s more than just a stuffed animal. He’s our friend. The only puppy we’ll ever have since Dad won’t let us get a real one. Where’s our little puppy at now?”

 

"I hid him behind my headboard, like you showed me.  I only take him out when I get scared, or lonesome. But I always hide him in the morning. Even before I go pee."

"Be careful, Paul. I’m warning you. If he ever finds Rags, you’ll be in big trouble."

 

“I know.”

 

"And if he gets real mad, he might try to hurt you, like he did me."

 

“Do you really think he meant for that to happen to you?”

 

“Think about it, Paul. Like a grownup would think, you know, the way he’s always telling us to do. He doesn't want you to be a kid, does he? And think about this too! When a person isn’t a kid anymore, they go away and live somewhere else. That’s the way it is in real life.  And that makes me think Sir doesn’t like little kids. He got rid of me, and now that just leaves you. The only little kid left.”

 

Back in bed, Paul lay awake thinking about what Lenny said. It felt true. What about all those times his father had told him he was too old for something he loved? And what about all those times he yelled at Mama for being nice and told her she was babying him? He nodded to himself, there on his pillow, inside his shadowy room; he nodded. It was true! It was true what Lenny said. And Paul was a little scared of what Sir might do…

 

***


Paul’s father had things he wanted to do. He was in a hurry to get out of the kitchen, even though the hour was still quite early. The boy’s mother tried to get his attention.

 

“Charles, I’m worried. He has started sleepwalking. I’m sure of it. Twice now, I've found the back door unlocked of a morning—even though I know you lock it every night. And pieces of grass turn up tracked on the carpet even when I know I vacuumed carefully before we went upstairs.” 

 

"He’s sneaking out at night.”

 Charles buttered a piece of toast, scooped egg up on it, and stuffed it all in his mouth. Amy wondered what happened to all those good manners he had had years ago when they were courting.

"No! I said sleepwalking. You’re not thinking. You know that Paul wouldn’t wander outside in the darkness if he were awake. He isn't bold at all, not like little Lenny was. Paul doesn’t like the dark.”

 

Charles scowled and gulped down the rest of his breakfast , nearly choking so he could get the words out.

 

"Amy! Stop it. You know I don't like hearing that name. It only upsets you."

You mean it upsets you, Charles. And is that because you feel guilty?

 

"Why, of course, dear. Sorry."

 

Wiping his mouth roughly with a napkin, he gulped a last swallow of black coffee, clattered the mug down on the table, and started for the door.

 

"Don’t worry, Amy. I’ll talk to the boy. If he's sneaking out, I'll teach him a lesson."

"Charles! You didn’t hear a word I said, did you!”

His hand was on the doorknob.

“I said”—he turned to face her— “lesson, not beating! But I’ll tell you straight up: I myself got plenty of good, solid paddlings when I was growing up, and it made a man out of me. Nobody ever babied me. I make a lot of concessions to you, Amy. To your ideas of childrearing. And you don’t even appreciate it. All you do is continually criticize whatever you think is wrong."

 

He opened the door and finished talking without looking at back at her.

 

“Me and the boys will be out fishin’ at Pine Lake. Don't wait dinner for me. We’ll probably go by the Dew Drop Inn afterwards."

 

Amy almost sagged with relief as the door closed.  Living with Charles had become nearly impossible after what happened with Lenny…

 

 Her husband had been so unreasonable that day. He didn’t even ask their son for his side of the story.

 

 Mr. Williams had shown up at the door with that irritating son of his in tow, the kid sporting a heck of a shiner. The big lout was blustering around outside the door in fury saying that Lenny hit his Teddy for no reason.

 

Was Charles afraid of Mr. Williams? Amy couldn’t help but wonder. Everybody else was. After all, the man was violent. The whole neighborhood knew he beat his wife and kids, and they said he he brawled a lot on Saturday nights.

 

Charles immediately apologized, repeating several times over how disappointed he was in his son’s childish behavior. He

promised the man his bad-mannered boy would apologize.

 

That was when the problem started. Her husband had demanded his boy tell the Williamses that he was as sorry as his dad was for what he did

 Her world collapsed then. Lenny ran out, pushing past the Williamses. She stood, calling out, Come back, son. Come back!

Amy closed her eyes against the sights and closed her mind against sounds of the scene playing out in her memory.

Torturing yourself won't bring Lenny back, and it won’t change anything else either. He's gone. My brave, loving, wonderful little star athlete is gone. Is there anything worse that can ever happen to a parent than to lose your child?

She squeezed her eyes shut and then blinked them open.

Paul was standing in front of her. He looked so much like Lenny did at eight years old that she started.

 

“Mama, you ok?"

 

She forced a smile.

 

"Yes, baby, I am. Bet you’re hungry."

 

“Yep.”

 

In a conspiratorial tone she said, "Your dad isn't home. What do you say to a bowl full of Frosted Flakes with milk, and we’ll sit on the floor together and watch Sesame Street?"

 

“Yep! Yep! Yep!”

“Cool. I like Cookie Monster, don’t you?”

“Uh-huh. And I like Big Bird too.”


***


Something—some sound—awakened her. Charles still hadn’t come home. Amy lay still, listening. Getting up then to check on Paul, she found his bed empty and hustled down the stairs to look for him.

 

She didn't call out. If he was sleepwalking, as she expected, she didn't want to startle him awake. She had always heard that was distressing to the sleepwalker, and besides, it didn’t always awaken them. Instead, she would find him and try to guide him gently back to his bed.

Following her hunch—based on those repeated morning discoveries of grass bits on the floors—she went straight to the back door. It was closed but unlocked. She nodded. Since Charles wasn’t there, she had carefully locked the doors before she went up to bed. She was right—sleepwalking!

 

She opened the door in time to see him climbing up into the treehouse. It was all she could do not to cry out in alarm. Pauly was asleep! That was clearly dangerous. He could fall and hurt himself. Awful little nightmare scenarios that only a parent understands danced across her mind in an instant. In that same instant, she was fervently glad that Charles had not made it home. She would deal with the situation without the interference of any of his inappropriate “lessons”. She hurried after her precious little boy.

 

Although jeans would have been better suited to climbing than her long nightgown, Amy couldn’t risk taking the time to go back in to change.  Far better that she should fall than for any harm to come to her only living child. She managed, without incident, to climb the boards, nailed up the side of the tree, that served as a ladder to the platform. She poked her head up, peering inside.

 

Paul, all by his lonesome, sat there talking enthusiastically…to himself.  It wasn’t the sometimes mumbled, sometimes incoherent, sometimes clear speech of someone talking in their sleep. At last she understood!  Paul had a little imaginary friend. The realization wrenched her heart. Of course he did. He missed Lenny so terribly. That was the only way the poor child could cope.

 

He turned his head towards her.

 

“Hi, Mama! Come on in."

 

His face beamed with joy. He was feeling something wonderful. The thought made her heart ache again.

 

Amy hauled herself the rest of the way up and then sat on the floor.

 

“So, what are you doing, Paul?"

 

He seemed confused, looking first at her, then turning his head back around and giving a shrug as if to someone else. Amy stared into the dark corner but saw nothing.

 

"Oh, have you someone with you, Paul?"

 

The child giggled.

 

"Sure I do, Mama! Can't you see?”

“Well, it is a bit dark, and I don’t see any—"

 

Her mouth went dry at what she did see beside her little boy.

Click clack! Click Clack!

 

She had placed a pair of clacker balls just like that one in the coffin, with tears streaming down her face, struggling against Charles who was trying to hold her back and finally breaking free from his grip. Lenny’s favorite pastime. The toy had since been banned as a “mechanical hazard”. Where could it have possibly come from?

 

She nearly choked on her own shock.

 

After a few moments, she got control enough of her voice to speak. In spite of her efforts to stay calm for Paul’s sake, her hand trembled as she pointed to the clackers.

 

“Where did you get those?" she asked, her voice miraculously staying steady.

Pauly grabbed them up and hugged them to his little chest..

 

“Oh!” He laughed. “I didn't get them. They're Lenny's. He brought them with."

 

He wrinkled his little forehead and pursed his lips and tilted his head to one side.

 

“Mama,” he whispered. “Can’t you see him? He looks just like me, doesn’t he?”

 

 Yes, just like Lenny… Just like her brave little Lenny had looked in that moment of proud defiance before he threw off his father’s hand and raced to his—

--his doom. Her beautiful little dead son.

 

Oh, no! This is just another dreadful thing to have to deal with though. My baby Paul seems to be losing his mind with grief. Or am I? Something must be terribly wrong with Paul… Some mental disorder. And yet, and yet, he’s so happy. Only one thing could make him act so exuberantly joyful.

 

"Lenny?” She half sobbed the name.

 

And then, almost against her will, she stretched out both hands.

 

Oh God, forgive me. I can’t bear not to hold my child in my arms again. Once. Just once.

 

 He was in her lap in a flash, nestled against her chest, and she clutched him tightly, rocking and crying; half wanting to believe, half scared of what was happening to her child.

 

"Oh, Mama, I missed you so much! Have you missed me?

 

 Her son pulled away slightly, and Amy wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. 

 

"More than you could ever know. Not a day or a night goes by that I don't miss you. I've always loved you so much, and I always will."

"Love me more than chocolate?” he asked.

That word hit like cold water splashed against her face.

Paul never talked about chocolate; why, he liked vanilla best.

 

And he couldn’t even pronounce the word right anyway.

 

“More than chocolate?" he repeated with an impish grin. "More than Paul?"

 

Lenny’s competitive spirit was always turned on.

"No, my precious son. You and Paul are my heart and soul. I love you both."

"At least I beat out chocolate, and you love that a lot!"

"Yes, yes, I do. So I must love you lots of a lot."

 

A warning voice in her head was shouting that it was all wrong, screaming that she was wallowing in a self-indulgent illusion… but still she had to speak the words that were haunting her mind.

 

"Lenny, is Paul still here?"

 

"Yes, Mama, he's just sleeping. It’s really too late at night, you know, for an eight-year-old to be awake. Too late for Dad to still be out with the guys, too.”


***


Amy woke up. Charles was softly snoring beside her. She had never even heard him come in during the night. Most have been sleeping very soundly. But that dream—oh, no! Paul!

 

Worried, she hurried to check on her little Pauly. Safe and sound asleep, he was, there in his own bed. He wouldn’t be asleep long though. The sun was about to come up.

 

It seemed so real! Must have been a very vivid dream.  She had no memory of leaving the treehouse or going back to bed. Her grief over losing Lenny must have conjured up that dream to comfort her. That at least made sense.

 

Once downstairs, she checked the back door before she even glanced at the coffee pot. It was properly locked. No grassy debris lay on the floor either.

 

But…! She snatched up the hem of her pale pink, soft cotton nightgown and examined it. A smudge, like dirt, streaked it. She shuddered. She had some evidence that it had really happened, and yet, to believe that it did was lunacy. The dead don't come back. Do they?
 

***


Weeks passed, and the trees turned.

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

 

"What is that sound?"

 

Charles pulled his face up out of his buttermilk biscuits with tomato and bacon gravy long enough to look around.

"What sound? I don't hear anything," Amy said. But she did hear it. And it made her heart sing.

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

 

"That sound!" Charles snapped.

 

"I don't hear nothin’ either, Sir."

As Charles wandered around the room, Paul snatched up his glass of milk, hiding his face. Amy suspected he was fighting to keep from laughing.

 

Click clack. Click Clack! 

 

Charles headed to the window.

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

 

He walked back over beside the sink. 

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

 

He ambled along the outside wall. 

 

Finally, he shook his head and grumbled, "I don't have time for this," and off he went to work.

 

***


It had been a hard day at the plant. The boss man raged from start to finish. Nothing was good enough for him, all day long. Charles was relieved to get home at last. Anyway, at first he was.

 

He plopped down into his recliner and turned on the TV. He didn’t even care what was on. He just needed to think about something besides work. Anything!

 

Click clack. Click Clack! 

Oh no! Not that. Anything but that.

 

It didn’t stop. He could barely hear the newscast for the noise. With a sigh, he shut off the TV, then went and settled down at the table to wait for dinner, like Paul was doing. The aroma of tri-tip smelt mouth-wateringly good, but even so, he sat with his head in his hands.

 

Click clack. Click Clack!  

 

“Damn that blasted sound!” he exclaimed, looking up.

 

Amy, standing over the roast on the countertop, turned, carving knife in hand, and asked him what the noise that he kept hearing sounded like.

 

“Clackers!” he exclaimed. “Clackers! That wretched toy that they finally had the sense to take off the market before it drove all the parents in this country crazy!”

 

"Oh, you mean like the one Lenny had?" Paul piped up.

 

Charles slammed his fist down on the table.

 

“Don’t talk about him!”

 

Amy was at Paul’s side before Charles could finish rising from his chair. The carving knife in her right hand brought along red meat juice from the rare center of the roast and trailed it onto the white tablecloth. The shining tip of the blade was pointing in the direction of her husband.

 

“Charles,” she said softly. “If you are in such terrible pain over the guilt you feel about Lenny’s death, then the only relief you will ever find is to take a good, hard look at yourself and see what needs to change. You will find healing for yourself there.”

 

“Goddamn it, Amy! I am not the one who needs to change. You are! You actually think it’s okay for children to grow up with nothing more from their patents than cuddling and cooing over them every time they stub their toe! That doesn’t prepare them for life, woman! You don’t think. You don’t think at all. You need to change.”

 

“At least you could watch your language in front of me and Paul.”

 

“Swearing is life. Pain is life. You want to run from everything that is uncomfortable.”

 

“So do you, Charles. You’re still running from Mr. Williams and the way you let your fear of him destroy our family.”

 

He stalked out the room without eating. He had lost his appetite.

 

At least the damned clacking stopped. But the echoes in his mind didn’t.

When he finally felt relaxed enough that he could go up to his bedroom, Amy was already asleep. He got into his PJ’s, lay down beside her and stretched himself out, closing his eyes.

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

 

Enough! Son of a bitch! Fury engulfed him. He was not imagining that goddamned sound! He was gonna find that clacker and silence it forever.

 

He sprang out of bed and stomped down the stairs. Ah ha! The back door was not only unlocked, it was standing wide open. He stalked out into the backyard.

 

“Paul? Paul!” he called.

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

 

The treehouse. He climbed up as nimbly as some hungry ape going after a ripe, juicy piece of fruit.

 

There sat a child. His child. Playing with a clacker.

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

 

Paul was playing with the clacker balls. Playing with them very well. As well as, as well as…

What the__?

 

No.  His eyes were playing tricks on him. For a moment, Paul looked just like, uh, just like Lenny looked on the afternoon he…

Charles rubbed his eyes. The kid stood up and grinned. He began to work the clackers. Louder and louder and louder they resounded.

 

“Stop it! Stop it right now! Give me that toy.”

 

He would break the damn thing.  Once and for all. That’s what he would do.

 

“Sure, Dad!”

 

Not Daddy, not Sir. Dad…!

 

The child laughed, long and hard. It was not the laughter of an eight-year-old child.

 

“Sure, Dad! Here it comes! Think fast! Catch!”

 

***

Yet another terrible accident.

 

The people shook their heads.

 

Charles Findley’s broken body was found beneath the old oak tree in his own backyard—that’s what they whispered among themselves, the many who had come by the house to bring words of comfort and casserole dishes full of potluck offerings: potato salad and apple crisp and fried chicken. Very thoughtful. That way poor Mrs. Findley would not have to even think about cooking in her time of grief.

Yes. Like a man overburdened with adult responsibilities, and longing for an escape back into the joys of his childhood, Mr. Findley had climbed up into the treehouse late during the night. Was it Wednesday or Thursday? He must have been unable to sleep.

They nodded sagely amongst themselves. They understood all that. Sometimes the adult pressures they faced chased sleep far out of reach.

 

Looked like he started trying to play with an old clacker toy that he found there. But they didn’t have clackers back when Charles was a boy, and he just didn’t know how to use it, did he?

 

Tsk, tsk.

 

He slammed his own head in the temple with the toy. Apparently knocked himself out from the blow; he and the clacker both fell to the ground. His neck was broken by the fall; the clacker was unscratched.

 

That is a terrible toy. It’s only right that they outlawed those dangerous things.

 

Click clack. Click Clack!

The End