By Kathryn Evans
Dan liked the feel of the grass pressing against his back; the cool damp seeping through his clothes to his skin. He used to lay like this with his dad, watching clouds or counting leaves if there were a tree nearby. His dad had always been much better at spotting shapes in the clouds; he was always picking out sailboats, hot-air balloons, and sometimes he would find giraffes or hippos. On Dan’s eighth birthday, just the past summer, he and his dad had gone out late at night and watched the clouds by the big full moon. His dad said that moon-clouds are better than clouds in the daytime, because the moon fills them with the magic to grant wishes. Right now, Dan was watching the squirrels and birds playing on the power lines; the clouds hadn’t granted any wishes that night, so he didn’t think they were very special anymore.
“Danny,” his was mom was calling him, but he just watched the sky, trying to determine whether two of the birds were plotting against a third, or if they were all actually plotting against the squirrel that kept running across their line.
“Oh, Danny, you are ruining your suit.”
People always said that Dan’s mom was pretty, though her black dress made her look pale. She cried a lot now, too, and that also made her look pale. Dan remembered a kid at school who looked that pale once, and the nurse said he had to go home because he was sick. The kid didn’t come back to school for over a week. Maybe that explained why Dan’s mom was home so much lately, even in the middle of the day when she was usually at work.
“Danny, it’s time to go inside, please get up,” Dan’s mom never said please when she was angry, so she couldn’t have been angry that he was ruining his suit. Still, he didn’t want to chance anything, so he quickly got up and took her hand. They walked towards the chapel, where Dan’s uncles and some men he didn’t know very well were carrying a large wooden box inside. Dan had been told by his mother and his uncles that his dad was in that box, but he had been told by his grandpa that his dad was really up in the clouds now. Dan thought that perhaps his dad was riding around in a hot-air balloon, talking to giraffes and hippos.
Dan’s mom was holding his hand so tight that it almost hurt, but he didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to let go of it.