Sticks and Stones Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEGHe did push-ups in the side yard beneath the river birch. Chest to the ground, feet elevated on the rusty wrought-iron chair, fifteen sets of forty. The same workout heโ€™d been doing for most of his life. With the weather unusually warm for early November, sweat began to pour after two hundred. By the midway point, morphine-like endorphins shot across the gray-matter of his brain like flame-tipped arrows from archers in the hippocampus, nailing bullseye receptors in the cerebrum.

Flooded with dopamine confidence, he leaped in the air to grasp a thick tree limb, easily pulling his two hundred pounds three times, five times, ten times.

He dropped to the ground and took a swig of water from the bottle. Thatโ€™s when he noticed it. The thing from the other night. The bat. Only it wasnโ€™t a bat. It was some kind of flying robot apparatus, a dull black miniature helicopter with four propellers hovering just over his side of the neighborโ€™s privacy fence.

He looked around for a decent sized stick, then remembered the paint roller in the garage. It was easily six feet long. When added to his own six feet, plus his arm length, plus however high he could jump, he was certain he could knock it out of the air.

It was still there when he returned. He crept up on it like a hunter. The roller had hardened, stuck in place by dried paint. He held it over his shoulder, poised to strike.

As he drew near he could hear Pat Benatar through the fence. “Hit me with your best shot.” His neighbor was humming along. He glared up at the intruder.

โ€œFire away!โ€ Ms. Benatar sang. He complied, leaping in the air and swinging the pole like a Samurai.


He missed it by a foot, knocking splinters from the privacy fence. The impact reverberated in his hands.

His neighbor screamed.

The mini-chopper disappeared around the front of the house. He dropped the pole and pulled his head over the fence to apologize. She was sunbathing topless.

โ€œWhoa. Sorry,โ€ he said, dropping back down.

โ€œItโ€™s fine.โ€

He leaned against the boards, attempting to explain. โ€œThere was a โ€ฆ UFO up here. I mean โ€ฆ not like a flying saucer but,โ€ he looked around, โ€œit was unidentified and it was flying and โ€ฆ definitely an object.โ€

โ€œOkay. Well, Iโ€™m Tammy.โ€

โ€œMason,โ€ he said, glancing through a crack in the fence once more before walking away.

He returned the pole to the garage, the roller now dislodged and spinning freely from the impact. He was trying to decide whether to finish the workout when he saw the boy marching up his driveway.

โ€œYou almost broke my drone!โ€

Aha. โ€œIs that what you call that thing?โ€

โ€œItโ€™s a DKS Aeroghost 4 with seven axis stabilization, GPS, camera, and real time video.โ€

โ€œYeah whatever,โ€ he said, walking back to the river birch to finish his push-ups. โ€œJust keep it off my property.โ€

The boy followed. โ€œIt cost eight hundred dollars and my mom wouldโ€™ve sued you if you broke it. Her boyfriend is a lawyer.โ€

โ€œYeah? Well I wonder what theyโ€™d do if they found out you were a peeping tom.โ€

โ€œAm not!โ€ said the boy. Then, โ€œWhatโ€™s a peeping tom?โ€

โ€œSomething you could go to prison for.โ€

He propped his feet on the chair and hammered out forty push-ups. When he finished, the boy was still standing there.

โ€œYou need to go,โ€ said Mason. โ€œYour mom doesnโ€™t want you down here.โ€

The boy ignored him, headed straight for the chair and attempted a set of his own. His arms trembled and his back sloped as he managed a meager eight.

When he got up he brushed the dirt from his hands and straightened his glasses. โ€œHow many did you do?โ€

โ€œForty,โ€ said Mason.

โ€œMe too.โ€

He uncapped the water bottle and took a swig, hiding his smile.

“Are you a soldier?โ€

Mason shook his head as he dropped for another set. โ€œYou need to go.โ€

Again, the boy ignored him, waiting until he finished before placing his feet on the chair and banging out another eight.

โ€œWhy donโ€™t you just go to the gym like my mom?โ€

He jumped up and grabbed the tree limb, pulling his chest to the branch. โ€œBecause gyms are social gatherings,โ€ he said, โ€œand Iโ€™m not social.โ€

โ€œMe neither,โ€ said the boy, watching him.

Mason used his t-shirt to wipe the sweat from his face.

โ€œWhy do you do push-ups anyway? Your muscles are big enough already.โ€

โ€œI donโ€™t work out for big muscles. I work out to keep from becoming a bug.โ€

The boy laughed. โ€œYouโ€™ll turn into a bug if you donโ€™t exercise? What kind? A beetle?โ€

โ€œNot that kind of bug,โ€ said Mason. โ€œIt keeps me from being a psych patient.โ€

โ€œWhatโ€™s a psych patient?โ€

Movement in his peripheral caused him to turn. The blonde was storming up his driveway. โ€œPrime example,โ€ he muttered under his breath.

The little girl came running behind her. โ€œHi Mason.โ€

The mother glared at him.

โ€œMom, this isnโ€™t a social gathering.โ€ The boy darted over to the river birch and assumed the position. โ€œWatch this!โ€

ยฉ2018 Sticks & Stones by Malcolm Ivey
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