“Isn’t that what sons do when their pops tell them not to?” Nate asked.

“It’s not a good idea,” I told him.

“Are you coming?”

I propped myself up on one arm and finally took in his appearance. He already had his shoes on and he was holding a flashlight.

He must have noticed my eyes because he shook it and said, “I’ve got one for you too.”

“Ok. I’m coming,” I said getting up from the couch.

I followed Nate into the mudroom and he grabbed up another flashlight and handed it to me. Now that I was awake every sound seemed extraordinarily loud in the silence of the night. I tugged on my converse–low tops–and nodded at my brother. He flicked on his flashlight, pointing it at the ground. I did the same.

The front door had creaked just a little as Nate opened it, but it sounded like an alarm bell. I was sure Pop was going to wake up and know what we were planning and come walking down the stairs in that stiff fashion of his and say, Now you boys aren’t off to the Sad Tree, are you?

But then I stepped through the door after Nate and slowly, quietly shut the door behind us and we were free.

Nate walked down the few steps off the porch and into the gravel driveway. The moon overhead was just a sliver and didn’t cast much light. I held my flashlight out and followed him.

We walked toward the field we called the Front 20. It was owned by our neighbors, but wasn’t visible from their house, and so it wasn’t much of risk to hop the fence onto their land. The grass in the Front 20 was long and wet. It smelled of mildew and dust and I felt the cold damp where the grass pressed my jeans.

Neither of us spoke as we walked through the field. I think we were both still wary of Pop coming out the front door if he heard out voices in the night. But once we were about halfway across the Front 20 nate spoke and his words didn’t seem out of place or risky.

“You know what Bobby says about the Sad Tree?” he asked.

“Everyone knows what Bobby says about everything,” I said.

“So you think he’s right?”

“I don’ know. Maybe he’s right.”

“I don’t think he’s right,” said Nate.

“Me neither.”

“You just said you thought he was,” said Nate.

“I said he could be,” I said. “But I don’t think he is.

On the other side of the field we jumped the fence out of the Front 20, right where the field bordered the forest. A woody smell came from the darkness below the trees, but we both knew where the trail was and it was well maintained.

It was used by deer and the occasional bear, but more commonly by the folks in the community. The trail was a loop that circled from the Front 20 all the way back around north, paralleling the dirt road we lived on. It was a nice way to get from house to house on our road.



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