O Danny Boy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Warning: mild profanity.

A story of Lida. Iian, who was a small boy in "The Stars in the Meadow" is now a teenager. He has reached the age when a time loop will take him back into the past of a distant planet called "Earth" because it already has, only not yet. This part of the loop has a beginning somewhere, but in searching for it, he finds something else quite unexpected.

Submitted: March 24, 2010

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Submitted: March 24, 2010

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A place.A particular place.It would feel like a beginning.He would know it when he found it. I am not here, he thought, and no one noticed him as he walked slowly down the street.A tendril of attraction.That way.He looked in that direction.Straight line after straight line of the elaborate constructions they called residential neighborhoods.Too many people too crowed into too many spaces.They interrupted, disrupted, corrupted and erupted everywhere, leaving too little anywhere for anything else.Leaving nothing be.

For a moment the pattern twisted away from him, became lost in the cacophony.He stopped, stood motionless on the sidewalk.Let things settle.Gently now.The eyes.The hair.He set the center point and was quiet.Soon a pattern began to settle out, to coalesce.As it formed, it began to skew, distort, warp.He offered it a center point again and coaxed it.The pattern settled out again and stabilized.He let it go a moment and it held.Better now.But right?

There was definitely a something over there.He looked up the street in that direction and though it might be a beginning.The beginning he was looking for?He traced out the pattern and followed it across the street at a long diagonal.There, beyond those dwellings.He studied out the way the streets lay.Yes.He turned and walked to the point where this street intersected at right angles with another.Yes.He paused a moment beside the metal stalk that bore the red, flat, hexagonal object with the white pattern??no??symbols.Writing.STOP.

He saw it then, the white wooden dwelling.He crossed the street and followed the cracked, buckling sidewalk.The tree in the front yard.That felt right.Large, old tree.The grass beneath was patchy, shaggy.The uncut grass and the abandoned shrubs in front of the porch appealed to him.Slowly he approached the front steps.Wooden.Peeling paint.The scent of the dwelling appealed to him.Yes. There was a beginning here.The beginning he was looking for?He put out a hand to the door.Paused.Looked down at his feet.Sandals it should be.Blue jeans.And the shirt, how?Yes.Like that.

He turned the knob and entered.The room was dingy, the light through the dirty windows dim and clouded.Grimy cushions on the naked, stained floor.The cushions certainly seemed right.He studied the couch a moment.One leg of battered wood.The other, a dull grey metal cylinder.A boy on the couch.There was/will be a boy.This one?Reading paper with colors, pictures, words printed inside round white shapes with a single claw.I am not here, he reminded them, and the boy did not look up as he passed.

He stopped in the doorway to the kitchen.A girl washing dishes.Anger.Fear.Emptiness.Pain.He felt the pattern shift slightly and studied the new configuration with interest.The boy, the girl.There was/will be both in the pattern around the beginning he was looking for.The boy got up and went to the ghetto?blaster on the floor that was plugged into the wall very near to where he stood unnoticed.The boy selected one of several cassettes from a pile on the floor, inserted it and pressed PLAY.

"It ain't me, babe.It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe."The boy sang along with the tape and sprawled back onto the couch in the throes of an air guitar solo.

The girl threw her dish rag down."For chrissake, Jerry, turn that damn thing off!"Startled by the vehemence that rippled through the pattern, he knelt and pressed the OFF.

The boy looked up, angry.The girl turned, angry.The pattern twisted, realigned sharply and he was visible to them against the smeared wall.

"Hey, where it's at, cat."The boy withdrew warily behind a smirk.

"Where the hell have you been?" The girl demanded."I suppose you think you can just wander off whenever you like without bothering to let anybody know where the hell you've been for the past five weeks!"She tore loose her apron, threw it at the counter, and stormed off into another room. He followed her and the pattern shifted again along unexpected lines.

"It ain't me, babe.Naw! Naw! Naw!"

"Jerry, goddammit!" The howl of the music dropped abruptly to a whimper.

"Won't do you any good to come crying back to momma, Danny?boy."The girl dragged a comb through her hair with swift, ruthless strokes.

"Momma's dead."She threw the words at him with a viciousness that made him recoil."Yeah, that's right, Danny?boy.The free ride has gone and croaked on you."

She slammed the comb down on the bureau and went to the closet.There was no closet door, only a faded sheet hung on part of a curtain rod."No more freebies, Danny?boy.No more momma's purse to rob.No more rent money to blow on rocks and weed.No more, do you hear me!"

The mother dead?That was wrong, surely.He registered the room.The lumpy studio bed.The shelves made of concrete blocks and boards.The cluttered Goodwill bureau.The mirror that was slowly coming unsilvered.The dime?store picture frame with the cracked glass.He went to the bureau, touched the water?ringed surface.The picture.Black and white photograph of a man, a woman, two boys and a girl.The face of the man had been carefully torn out of the picture.He recognized the girl, older now, bitter, afraid.And the younger boy, bewildered, pretending not to care.It was the older boy.He studied the face, then looked up at his real reflection in the mirror.His real hair was not white enough and too golden.His real eyes were impossibly blue.The dimensions of his real body had subtly different proportions, too long in the vertical, too narrow in the horizontal.But then, she saw only what she expected to see and heard only what she expected to hear.

He reached out to the picture, put his thin, white, real fingers over the face of the older boy.A dirty stairway that stank of urine and mildew.A cold metal box in a wall of cold metal boxes.The echo of despair that grew fainter and fainter.He saw the pattern now.He took his hand away and turned to go.

"That's right.Get out.Go find somebody else to sponge off of.Go back to La?La Land.We don't need you, Danny?boy.We don't need anybody.Jerry and me can get along just fine all by ourselves."The avoidance reflex.Once burned, twice as sensitive.

He looked back at her a long moment, tracing back through the pattern that had brought him here.Then he walked out of the room so that she could collapse on the bed, so that she could hide her angry, frightened tears in the threadbare bedspread.As quietly as he had walked in, he walked out of the dwelling.He paused a moment on the porch, started to let this pattern go, then realized he mustn't.Not yet.

A white Jaguar convertible screeched to a halt just up the street, roared back, and pounced on the driveway.The face torn out of the picture.

"Danny?boy?"The man scrambled from the car, hurried around it but stopped uncertainly a few feet from him."Son?"

Hope, fear, relief, grief, desperate need.He smiled and the man ran to him, hugged him fiercely, not noticing how hot his skin was to the touch.

"You don't know how long I've been looking for you guys!Your mother just packed up and disappeared."The man still could not comprehend the reason for it."Four years I've been looking for you.Four years!If I hadn't been daydreaming and gotten off at the wrong exit...if I hadn't seen you on the porch..."The man paused to master his emotions."God, I've missed you guys!"

The front door opened a few inches.It was the boy.Suspicion.Mistrust.Determined not to make the same mistake again.The boy closed the door again and locked it.

"Jerry?Jerry, it's me.Dad."The man reached out his hand; let it fall again, empty; looked down at him.

"I'm glad you've found them," he whispered to the man."They need you."

"And what about my Danny?boy?"The man took him by the shoulders and held him at arms' length, searching his face for something he wouldn't be able to find there.

"Danny?boy is dead," he replied softly, fading from the man's grasp. He broke loose the pattern then, let it dissolve back into chaos, turned and walked a little way up the street.This was not the beginning he was looking for.He reached out for Mother, found her without trying, establishing their relative positions in the here and there.It did not surprise him that she had found the right beginning and was waiting for him there.

Unnoticed, he watched the man standing beside the car looking at the front of the dwelling.Slowly the man's empty hands fell back to his side.He watched the man take one hesitant step toward the dwelling then hurry over to it and up the porch steps.He watched the man pound on the door, calling to Sally and Jerry to let him in, begging them to open the door.Finally, the girl unlocked the door and opened it as far as the intruder chain would permit.The man began to coax and persuade.To remind. To plead. To hope.

He smiled, and found the thread that led into the pattern Mother was weaving to guide him.He took the short cut into thin air, through Nothing and back out again to the place where the rest of this beginning was.

The symbols above the building's door interpreted themselves to him.POLICE DEPARTMENT.He traced the pattern up the steps, through the door, down the dingy hallway.None of the people he passed took the slightest notice of him.Even if they had, they would not have noticed that his hair was not white enough and too golden, that his eyes were impossibly blue, that his dimensions were slightly out of the expected proportion ?? too long in the vertical and not wide enough in the horizontal.

MISSING PERSONS.

He opened the door and walked in. I am not here, he told the secretary, and she believed him without looking up.

There.That one on the desk.The detective was looking at yet another John Doe file, looking but not seeing.The detective was tired.Too many years of trying to fit lost identities to found bodies had worn the man bare.As he stood beside the detective, he looped a thread of the pattern spun from the music of plucked strings around the man's frayed soul, and was pleased to hear him sigh.Then, humming softly a counter melody?and?harmony, he picked up the black marking object and traced the shadow of a portion of the pattern on the front of the manila file folder:

Daniel Allen Crandell

431 Encinada Place

Beautiful Downtown Burbank

The detective looked up then and didn't see him.He smiled at the man. Still humming the melody?and?harmony, he turned and went out, leaving the detective still sitting at his desk, looking but not seeing.

Police Detective Harry Connolly shook his head tiredly and realized he was holding a pen in his hand.Connolly didn't remember picking it up, nor did he remember writing on the folder front.Connolly started to cross out "Beautiful Downtown" as somebody's idea of flogging a dead joke.Then he stopped, realizing he did not recognize the writing.He got up from the desk so suddenly he almost sent the chair over backwards.He grabbed on his suit coat, grabbed up the folder, and headed out of the office at a hard walk.

As he juggled himself down the front steps, he didn't notice the boy of perhaps fifteen sitting on the railing, even though he passed within inches of his long, pale face.The sunlight glinted on the boy's metal?golden hair as he looked after the detective out of sapphire?blue eyes.The boy's slim body was white?skinned and subtly out of proportion like the figures in a late El Greco painting.

As Connolly got into his car, closed the door and buckled up, he lost his impetus for a moment, faltered.Then a strange, faerie tapestry woven from the music of plucked strings intersected with his consciousness.A familiar melody?and?harmony sung by two high, clear voices threaded a golden pattern through the tapestry of sound.

"Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling...."


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