Matt Ishida was six years old at the time. He had a three year old little brother, who was called TK.
It was the middle of summer. Matt was supposed to start first grade soon. He hated school, so he spent as much time as possible away from it. He hated those who liked school as well. That included a kid who he saw a lot of, whether he liked it or not. The kid's name was Joe. Their mothers were best friends.
But all that aside…Matt was…well…I don't know how to tell you this, but he was playing in a dumpster behind the nearest pizza place. TK was not with him, as their mother, Leah, was much more concerned about TK's well-being then Matt's.
Matt tossed a thrown-away banana peal out of the dumpster. He tossed piece of pizza after piece of pizza, onto the ground. He was making a huge mess, but he didn't care.
One girl, about 13 years old, tossed him a ten-dollar bill, thinking he was a looking for scraps. "Go buy yourself some decent food!" She yelled.
An old lady passed by. "Little boy, where's your mother?"
Matt shrugged. He really didn't know. She was going out somewhere.
"Well I guess it isn't my business." They both left. Matt stuffed half a candy bar into his mouth. Mmmm…dumpstery…
"This is good." Matt said to no one in particular. A dog walked up to the dumpster. It was a huge dog. It was strong to. It pulled down the dumpster, sending Matt, and all the garbage, crashing to the ground. Matt started cursing at the dog. He said them in an odd way. He didn't know them very well, much less their meanings.
The dog was foaming at the mouth. Matt thought it was shaving cream, like his dad got on his mouth whenever he 'made his face hair disappear,' as Matt put it.
But the dog had rabies. Matt smacked the dog and kicked it. He even bit it. Now that made the dog angry. It barked like mad. It thought, 'well if he's going to bite me, I'll just bite him right back!' And so it did. (I don't know the dog's gender, so I'll go with it.) The dog sunk it's teeth into Matt's flesh, and blood sprayed from the wound.
"Hey you stupid f***ing dummy a**h*** dog! Stop it! Leggo!" Matt shrieked. Some people looked around, wondering why someone with such a childish voice would say such things.
Matt screamed more. It turned from anger to agony. The dog would not let go, and it was very painful. Eventually, Matt passed out from the pain.
Matt woke up. It was much darker out. The dog was gone. He was covered in garbage and had a pus-covered, open wound where the dog had bit him. Matt recalled a TV show where someone used their wounds as chip dip. Matt found a chip lying in the garbage and dipped it into the bite. He ate it. "Yuck!" He yelled.
Another teenage girl popped her head out of the pizza place. "Hey kid." She said. "Are you okay? I saw you pass out about three hours ago."
"Yeah, 'cept this huge, gigantic dog bit me, and it looks like chip dip."
The girl stuck out her tongue. "Eew! Well, whatever. Where do you live?"
Matt tried to remember. "Floor Manet?"
"Oh you mean Flower Gardens? Is that it?"
"Uh, I think so."
"I'm going to take you home, okay?"
"I know howta get home from here."
"Well you look like you might pass out again. If you do, it's best to do so in my car, instead of in the middle of the street, where you'll get hit by a car."
"Are you tryin' to kidnap me?"
"I wouldn't waste my time. I just want to see that you get home okay. Someone is probably wondering where you are."
"Come on kid. I'll let you refuse, but it could be a fatal mistake."
Matt did not like this girl. But he was sure she only wanted to help. So he agreed.
Matt sat in the backseat of the girl's car, rubbing his bite. "Don't do that." She said.
She drove in silence for a bit, and said, "Whats you name anyway?"
"Ya-ya-yama…oh it's just Matt."
"Okay. I'm Cherry."
"It's really Cheryl, but I hate that stupid name, so…"
Matt just stared.
Cherry said, pulling her short dark hair into a ponytail, "Kind of like you call your self Matt instead of Yama-whatever."
"So which of these houses is yours?" She asked, pulling up to Flower Gardens.
"The one before the last one." Matt said.
Matt could see his mother walking into the house. She started yelling at her husband. Matt couldn't hear about what.
"Those your parents?" Cherry asked.
"I bet you anything they get divorced sooner or later. I can tell about these things. My parents did, and they used to be just like this…oh, you probably don't want to hear about it."
"You can let me out now." Matt said.
"No, I can't. I'm not letting you out."
"Oh so you are kidnapping me!"
"No, of course not. I just want to talk to one of your parents first."
She pulled up to Matt's house. She was bold enough to go right into the driveway.
Leah and Robert (Matt's parents) stared at the car. Cherry got out. She opened the door for Matt and he got out.
Leah sighed and said, "Are you the police or something? Did Matt do something illegal?"
"Of course not!" Cherry said. "Six year olds do not corner the market on law-breaking."
"Well then what is going on?"
"I saw him pass out by a dumpster near my work. I had to finish work first, but when I was done, I took him home."
"Why did he pass out?"
"A dog bit him."
"A dog? My sister's dog Taito bit him before and he was fine!"
"Well he's not this time!"
"You should of left him alone. It's none of your concern. He'd get home on his own eventually."
"Hey I was worried about the kid! Most six-year-olds don't know their way home. This guy happens to be street smart. I was worried he'd get lost, or pass out again."
"Well he's just fine. Now go!" Leah stuck out her finger, pointing to Cherry's car. "And don't let me catch you on my property again!"
"Well this is just great…" Cherry mumbled to herself as she got into her car. She drove off.
"Mom," Matt said, "She was only trying to help out."
"Matt shut up and go to bed. It's way past bedtime."
Robert walked out the door. "Where do you think your going?" Leah demanded.
"Out." He said quietly.
"Leah…" Robert looked at Matt. "Matt, go inside, okay?"
Matt walked inside.
"Leah, I'm going to see my girlfriend. Her name is Rain. She's beautiful and nice. I love her. I'm sorry Leah, but I think a divorce would be good idea."
"Wait'll this Rain girl hears that you're still married!" Leah spit the words out like poison.
"WHAT?! And she still likes you?"
"What kind of weirdo is she? I mean, her name for instance. Rain? Where is she from, Neptune?"
"Actually she's Native American."
"I couldn't care less!"
"Then why did you ask?"
"You know what? Get out! I never want to see your face again!"
"Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? Me kicking you out?"
"I don't care! Just go! And don't come back you scum!" Leah was screaming until her face turned red and her voice was cracking.
Leah nearly lost it when she heard that. "Don't you ever, I and I, I mean ever call me Lee-Kurai again! Those days are over, Robert! We are through!"
"Sorry Leah. I'm just used to calling you that. I used to love it when you got like this, 'cause you were just kidding."
"Well I'm not kidding now! Go!"
"I have to get my stuff."
"I'll ship it to you. Just get out of my house now."
Matt was listening from inside the house. TK had been taking a nap and was just waking up. "TK," Matt said, "Go back to sleep."
"I don't wanna…" TK said sleepily.
"Shhh…just go back to sleep TK."
TK closed his eyes and fell back asleep. Matt sat on the rug near the door, trying to hear what his parents were saying.
"GET OUT, NOW!" He heard his mother scream.
"Okay, okay." He heard a car start, and drive away. His mother came back inside. Matt froze up, wondering what had happened.
Matt got off the rug. "Sorry…" He mumbled.
"Wake up your brother."
"But I just told him to go back to sleep."
"I didn't want him to hear you guys fighting."
"Whatever. Just wake him up, now!" She snapped.
"Okay Mom." Matt walked over to TK and shook him awake. "I thought I was suppos'ta go to sleep…" TK whined.
"Mom said I had to wake you up."
"When I'm done talking, the two of you have to go to bed."
"What do you wanna talk about Mom?"
"Your father is gone."
"Dead?" Matt asked.
"Where'd Daddy go?" TK asked in an adorable innocent voice.
"I told him to go. He won't be back."
"Why did you tell him to go?" Matt asked. He wanted to scream at her, he wanted to do something really bad. But he couldn't. All he could do was sit there, asking stupid question after stupid question, wearing that same stupid mask he put on everyday. The mask that protected him from the world, shielded him from all danger, and gave him a tough-guy image he always needed. He needed someone to protect him, and all he had was himself.
"Because I hate him, and he's a f***ing b**t***! In other words, you're never seeing that man again!"
TK started to cry. "No more Daddy?"
"No TK." Leah said, in a voice that was so pained to see her younger son cry. She could see Matt was crying to, but she banished him from her thoughts. She hadn't wanted Matt. He'd been Robert's idea. She didn't want a child then. TK was her idea. So he was her precious baby. But Matt had been nothing but pain. Having him hurt. When she first saw him, he looked like her, and she hadn't wanted a baby. She only wanted to love her husband, with no crying little thing to come between them. But she had him, and she didn't want him at all. He looked like her, and she didn't want him to be hers.
When she had TK, she wanted a baby. She wanted a child who would look like her. She was happy then.
She didn't love Matt. He represented nothing but pain, hurt and guilt. She was willing to do anything her husband asked. He didn't ask much. That was why. So she had a baby. Nothing wrong there, she was a married woman. But she didn't want a baby; she didn't know how to take care of one. So she couldn't love Matt, no matter how she tried. She tried to pretend he wasn't there, so she wouldn't feel so guilty.
"No TK, no more Daddy." Matt said to TK, and hugged him. They both cried.
"Go to bed." Leah said, defeated with emotion. That was her way of telling them she was sick of them, and she wanted them to go away.
Matt went up to his room. TK fell asleep on the floor. Matt kept rubbing his arm on the way up.
Leah walked over to the couch and fell asleep.
The light streamed into the window. The phone rang. Matt didn't bother answering it. He knew his mother would answer. She lived on the phone.
Usually Matt was happy to get up and do whatever. But today it felt like a school day. All he wanted to do was stay in bed. His arm still hurt. It was getting uglier and pussier by the second. He made up his mind to get up. He went downstairs.
"Mom?" He said. He said it quietly, hoping she wouldn't be mad that he was interrupting her phone conversation.
"What!?" She exploded. She looked at Matt's now hideous arm. "Oh god…" She sucked in her breath and stared. "Oh my god…Matt, go get yourself some breakfast, okay?"
She spoke into the phone as soon as Matt left. "God, Blossom, I just saw Matt's arm and it looks like chip dip!"
Blossom said into the phone, "Is it a bite?"
"Must be. I guess it's from that dog that girl told me about."
"Dog? Was it a stray?"
"You should get Matt to a doctor."
"The dog could've had rabies."
"Rabies?" Leah had to laugh at that.
"Well doctors cost money. I can't afford it."
"Leah, I can get you free medical service and you know it. My husbands a doctor, I can convince him to do this for free."
"Thanks, that'd be great Blossom."
"No problem. So how's TK?"
"Great. He's an angel."
"And Matt? Besides the bite I mean."
"He's fine. How are your two kids?"
"Okay, I don't even know where Jim is…probably at some nasty party. I hate having a teenager. It is a major pain in the neck. And Joe is fine. Just the same as usual."
"Oh…and your marriage? How's that holding up?"
"Fine. Why do you ask?"
Leah went into detail about Robert.
"Well it seems like your having a lot of trouble. I thought I had problems!"
"It's not so bad…I have to go now. Gotta see how bad Matt's arm is, okay?"
"Sure Lee, go ahead. I have to go, have to get to work."
Leah was happy she didn't have work right now. She was a journalist, and so she could work whenever she pleased.
She hung up the phone, and walked into the kitchen. "Matt, aren't you done with your breakfast yet?"
"No. Mom my throat really hurts."
"So drink some water."
"I did. That's when it started hurting."
Leah recalled hearing something about rabies symptoms when there was a family of rabid squirrels loose in the park. She remembered they included something to do with your throat when you drank water. Oh god, what if Blossom was right? What if he did have rabies? All she knew about it was only crazy animals had it, and it was fatal.
"Matt, let me see your arm." She said nervously.
He stuck out his arm. Leah took him over to the sink and told him to wash it. He did. It still looked horrible, just wet.
Rabies…oh god…no…humans did not get rabies…only animals. This was insane.
The phone rang again. Matt went over and picked it up. "'Lo?"
"Hi Matt…" The voice on the other line said. "It's your dad. How are you?"
Leah took the phone from Matt. "Hello?" She asked.
"ROBERT! Why are you calling? I thought I told you to stay out of my life!"
"I only wanted to talk to my children Leah."
"Your children? You sonofabitch, these are my children. I am their mother!"
"Well you're not much of one. Leah, I want custody of the children. You are too self-centered to take care of a three-year-old, and a six-year-old."
"Self-centered! Robert I am not, I repeat, not self-centered! You can have Matt. He's freaking me out anyway. I think he has rabies."
"Rabies! Is this a joke?"
"No! I really think he has rabies!"
"Okay, I'll take Matt. But I want custody over TK too."
"We'll work this out in court Leah."
"Court, are you crazy?"
"No Leah, I'm not."
"I'll get custody you know! I am the mother!"
"I'll make sure they aren't biased by your motherhood." Leah was about to slam down the phone, but he was speaking again. "Leah I want to speak to my children."
"You will not speak to them Robert!" She slammed down the phone.
Matt looked up at his mother. She stared at him in fright. "Don't tell me you just heard that."
"I heard. It's okay. I won't tell TK."
"Matt do you think that's all I care about?"
He nodded sadly.
Leah blurted out, without thinking. "Well your right. I'm sorry Matt, but I really do care more about TK then you. In fact I don't care about you at all."
Had those words really come out of her mouth? Did she really tell that to a six- year-old boy? Was it even still true? She was supposed to love him, she was his mother!
Matt was crying again. She hated it so much when he cried. He was so strong all the time. His crying made every chamber of her heart, ache with sorrow.
"Matt…" Leah pleaded. "I'm so sorry…"
He was trying not to cry, trying to bring back his mask. But it was nowhere to be found and his tears flowed. "Matt…" He heard his mother pleading with him in the background. Classic stuff. 'I'm sorry.' Stuff like that.
TK toddled in. "Mommy can I go outside?"
"If Matt'll go with you." She looked at Matt for his answer.
"No…" He said shakily. "I…I…I'm going up to my room."
"Sorry TK, stay here."
"Damn oo, Mommy!" TK shrieked. "Damn oo Matt!"
Leah was shocked at TK's choice of language. She should've realized that in a heavily cursing family, the children would curse too. "TK! Do not, under any circumstances, use that sort of language!"
"You use it Mommy."
"Who's the adult here? Me or you?"
"Me." TK said, pointing to himself.
"Okay, so make me breakfast."
"No…you make me breakfast."
"Okay sweetie." She poured a bowl of Frosted Flakes for TK. She put an English muffin in the toaster for herself. She noticed Matt had not even touched the cereal he got out for himself.
Leah really wanted to talk to Blossom, but she knew she was at work. Blossom was a writer, but she worked at Barnes and Noble as a day job. It was only 11:00 AM. Blossom wouldn't be back in a while. She wanted to talk to someone else who had problems with their children. She thought of all the mothers she knew.
Not Tika or Rini. They both thought their children were perfect. Not Stephanie. She was too old to understand, and oblivious to the problems she had. Not May or
Lynnie. They didn't much notice their children. Not Lauren either. She probably doesn't. She's to shaken up about her dead daughter to talk to anyway. Emily might be a good idea. Her problem was even more like hers then Blossom's. She loved her daughter June, but found it impossible to care about her son Davis. No, not Emily. Emily was on vacation in Hawaii. Maybe Mrs. Tokocho? No, she barely knew her. She wanted to talk to Blossom! Blossom understood! She had the same trouble with Joe! She didn't love him, or Jim very much either, but it was worse with Joe.
Oh forget this. She was getting too depressed.
Matt walked around his room. He had no idea what he should be doing right now. He was bored, depressed, and he felt sick. He kept crying. He rubbed his arm again. It was starting to heal.
The phone rang. Leah picked it up. "Hello?"
"Hey Lee. I can't talk long; I just had this, feeling that you really needed to talk to me. Is that weird or what?"
"Weird, yes, but I'm glad it happened. Your right. I am totally desperate to talk to someone who would understand what's happening."
"You know what, I'll take my lunch brake now, to talk to you, okay? I have my cell phone, so I can talk to you while I actually get lunch."
"Thank you so much Blossom, you're a real pal."
"So what is happening that you are so desperate to talk about?"
"I think I'm going to go crazy. This thing with Robert, and my problem with Matt, and the possibility that he has rabies…it's all too much for me. And now Robert wants custody of the kids…"
"Seems like a lot. I think maybe you should see a psychologist."
"What is with you and professional help?"
"My family's always been big on it. Anyway, I'm serious."
"Well I certainly can't afford it, and I don't suppose you can get that free for me."
"So it's not happening."
"Okay. I keep forgetting about price. While were on the subject, you really need to get Matt checked out. That I can get you for free."
"Okay. It'd be weird if he really did get rabies! It's an animal disease!"
"Actually it wouldn't. Everyone he's going to come in contact with will have to get rabies shots. He'd go crazy, and eventually die."
"I didn't know that."
"That's why you better pray he's not rabid."
"I know. Another thing…I know your not the church confession, but I did something, so bad today. I actually told Matt, you know…"
"That he might have rabies?"
"No. That I don't really care about him at all."
Blossom didn't speak for a while. "You're kidding, right?"
Leah shook her head, and then remembered she was on the phone. "No I'm totally serious."
"Hang on a sec." Blossom said. "No I said I wanted a diet coke!" She yelled in the background.
"Blos?" Leah said.
"Yeah Lee? Okay, I'm done getting my order."
"Why did you get so mad when I told you that?"
"I didn't 'get mad.' I was just stunned that you would actually hurt him like that. That's almost as bad as psychical abuse!"
"So you mean this is verbal abuse?"
"I don't know why I said that to him. I wasn't thinking."
"Lee, maybe to someone older, it's okay, but he is six years old, he's a little kid! Little kids are especially dependant on their parents, and you've just destroyed that both ways! You kicked out his dad, and now you, in a way kicked yourself out. In his perspective, he doesn't have parents!"
"He knows he has parents."
"Yes, but not parents who care about him. That's what's important."
"I should never have let you take that psychology class."
"I'm sorry, this is getting me pretty riled up. Can we continue this part of the conversation later? People are staring at me."
"Anyway, you said that Robert wants custody of the kids?"
"Yes…" Leah started to cry.
"Lee, Lee. It'll be okay. Let him have Matt, he's better off with his father. But you've got to fight for TK!"
"I already said he could have Matt, but I don't want to give up Matt. I can't care about him, but he is my son."
"He's Robert's son to."
"Blossom, I can't give up my children."
"I know…I know Lee, it'd be hard. Really hard. But maybe it's better off that way."
Leah just sobbed into the phone.
"Oh god, my lunch break is so totally over! I have to go back to work!"
"Okay, bye Blossom."
"Lee, wait, don't hang up."
"If you need to talk, just call me, okay? I don't care how much trouble I get in for using the phone on the job. I don't care if I get fired. My book is almost finished anyway, and I should make money. Just call me if you need me, okay?"
"Thank you Blossom, you are such a great friend."
"I know I am. Bye-bye."
Leah listened to the dial tone for a long time.
Matt lay on his bed. His face was covered in tearstains. He had heard his mother talking about him having rabies. A kid in his old kindergarten class had a pet puppy with rabies. She had to put it to sleep, 'so it wouldn't bite no one else, and give them rabies too.' If he did have rabies, would his mother have him put to sleep?
His mother walked in the door. "Matt? How are you doing?"
"I don't think so."
"Ma, what's rabies?"
She didn't talk for a while. Finally she said, "Rabies is a sickness that you get when an animal, like a dog, or a cat, bites you."
"But Taito bit me, and he didn't give me rabies."
"Taito didn't have rabies. I think that that dog who bit you yesterday had rabies, and gave it to you."
"Are you going to put me to sleep?"
Leah laughed. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
"Well my friend Olivia had a puppy who had rabies, and she had to put it to sleep."
"Matt, that doesn't happen to people."
"Oh. I don't want to have rabies. It's weird."
"Well it's mostly animals who have rabies."
"Matt, I don't know if you have rabies or not. I'm going to take you to a doctor, to find out."
"I don't like doctors."
"Me either. But you've got to."
"What happens when you get rabies?"
"You go crazy. And you hurt other people. I'm sure you don't want to do that. So if you do have rabies, we've got to get it under control right away."
"Matt, it's time to go downstairs. It's lunch time."
"Mom…when you said you didn't care about me…"
"Matt, it's hard for me to care about you. When you were born…I didn't want to have children yet. I didn't know how to take care of kids. And I felt bad because I didn't want you. But I do love you. I guess it's just hard to really care about you, because I never wanted you in the first place, and you looked just like me…" Leah buried her face in her hands and started to cry. "I'm so sorry Matt. If I had paid more attention to you, then you wouldn't be playing in garbage, and you'd never have met that dog. I really do love you Matt, I do!"
Matt stared at a fly on the wall, not wanting to look at his mother.
They were downstairs. The phone rang again. Matt picked it up. "'Lo?"
"Hi. This is Rain Firedance."
"No, Rain, the stuff that comes from the sky, and Firedance. Like a leaping fire, dancing until the rain blows out it's lashing spirit."
"Leah, I don't-"
"I'm not my mom. I'm Matt."
"Oh yes. How old are you? Six or seven, right?"
"Your dad said that your mom said you could live with us!"
"I have a daughter about your age named Phoenix."
"Okay, that's nice. Do you want to talk to my mom?"
"Later, yes, but right now I want to talk to you."
"Oh, okay…what do you want to talk about?" Matt was scared. Whenever someone wanted to talk to him, it was always bad news.
"I would like to just, talk, you know? You'll be living with us, so I want to get to know you. You'll have to meet Phoenix too."
"I'd like to stay here, if it's okay."
"Oh Matt, you'll change your mind once you come!"
"I'm going to come over and meet you personally. TK might live with us to, if the court thing works out. I also have to talk to your mother. Can you give her the phone?"
Matt gave her the phone and said, "It's Wayne Firdon."
He walked into the living room and put on the TV. He didn't really watch it, he just flipped channels. TK came in and said he wanted to watch Green Tea and Azuki Bean, a TV show where the main characters were ice cream cones. Matt put on the show.
"Matt, Rain is coming over in an hour. She'll have lunch here. Please be nice to her. I don't know if I'll have any choice about handing you over to your father, so you'd best make it a pleasant experience." Leah said, looking at the floor.
Green Tea and Azuki Bean was over and TK bounced up, wanting to do something else. "Matt." Leah said. "Play with TK until Rain comes okay? I have to finish making lunch."
Leah went into the kitchen and Matt turned on the Nintendo. "TK, I'm going to show you how to play video games."
Rain walked in and saw the whole family at the door. "Hello everyone!" She hugged Matt instantly.
"Let me go…" Matt said in a tiny voice. She released him.
A shy-looking little girl, around six years old, came out from behind Rain. "Oh, this is my daughter, Phoenix."
"She's a very pretty little girl." Leah said. She thought, you have such a pretty, lovely little girl already. Why do you need my son? But she said nothing.
Rain was smiling all over her face. She looked like her mouth would break open if she smiled any harder. "Phoenix, say hi to Matt, TK, and Mrs. Ishida."
"Hello Matt. Hello TK. Hello Mrs. Ishida." She said softly.
"Hello…" They all said.
Leah figured she better get them out of the doorway. "Why don't you come in for lunch?"
"That would be lovely!"
They all walked to the table. Leah handed out the plates. "I don't know if there will be enough for everyone. I didn't know Phoenix would be coming."
"It's okay. I'll split with her."
"Are you sure? I can give everyone a little less."
"Whatever you say." Rain had her black hair on her head with barrettes. It was these small pigtails that stood strait up. She also had tiny beaded braids coming down until shoulder length. Her daughter had her hair down, no special hairstyle. "So, Matt?" She asked. "What kind of grades did you get, in school last year?"
"Kindergarten doesn't give out grades Ms. Firedance."
"Oh, I am Mrs. Not Ms. I married your dad last night. It was a quick marriage, but we are husband and wife now. Also call me Rain."
"What!?" Leah screamed. "Me and Robert are still married! Couldn't you have waited?"
"Sorry Leah. I thought it would be okay. I guess we should've waited. But we love each other very much, we could not wait."
"Fine. Tell Robert to get the divorce papers set up."
"He already did. One year ago. They are almost verified."
"He did? Why didn't he tell me?"
"I don't know. But you two should be divorced be tomorrow, or the next day."
"Anyway, so Matt, what do you like to do?"
"I like to play video games."
"Is that all? I thought you would have more interests."
"I don't know about that, but I have rabies."
"Rabies? Oh, hah-hah, you are a good comedian!"
Leah said, "Actually he might have rabies. He's going to a doctor tomorrow to see if he does."
"Yes. A dog bit him, and I think it was rabid."
"Oh, I am so sorry. Matt, why do you wear long sleeves? It's hot out."
He rolled up his sleeve. "This is why."
"Oh, gross, roll your sleeve back down! Is that from the dog bite?"
"That had to hurt a lot."
"It did. I even passed out."
Leah stood up and tapped Matt on the shoulder, a sign for him to come in another room.
They went into the hallway. "Matt, no more talking about rabies okay? I don't think Rain and Phoenix, or TK want to hear about it. We want to make a good impression."
"Why? I don't want to go with her."
"I know Matt, I don't want you to go with her either. She's weird. She's too happy all the time."
"How do you know?"
"I just know. Anyways, Matt, be very polite, and nice, okay? I don't want to give her or your father, the impression that I am an incapable parent."
"Mommy…I really don't want to go with her…she's scary, and I like it here."
"Sorry Matt. I was a little crazy then, but I already agreed that they could have you. Well your father, and in this case, that means Rain to. I didn't know he'd take it literally, but he did, and now theirs nothing I can do."
Matt started crying again. Why did he always do that? Doesn't he know how much pain it causes her? Doesn't he know he is using his best weapon against his own mother?
Leah walked into the kitchen and got out the food. She knew she should stay, try to make him happy again, but she couldn't stand watching him cry.
The food was set out, and it was more like Thanksgiving then a typical lunch. But the occasion was awful. "Leah, this food is delicious. Give me the recipe, I'd like to cook like this." Rain said.
"Thank you. Oh, about Matt going to live with you and Robert, when do you think this might happen?"
"Tomorrow. I wanted to take him right away, but he should go to the doctor first."
Leah, Matt, and TK stared at her. They had expected her to be stupid, unreasonable, and ditzy.
"Health, above all, is most important. We will take him after."
"Your right Rain."
Matt drank some water, and grimaced horribly. Rain stared at him. "What you don't like water?"
Matt shook his head. "I like water…" He whispered something to Phoenix, who was sitting next to him. She ate some rice, then 'accidentally' knocked over Matt's water.
"Oh, sorry, sorry!" She yelled. This girl was a good actress.
"It's okay." Leah said. "I'll clean it up. Matt come with me."
They walked into the kitchen. Leah got a dishtowel. "Matt, what did you whisper to Phoenix?"
"I asked her to knock over my water."
"Why? To get her in trouble?"
"No. Water really hurts my throat, and I thought they would think I was weird if it looked like I hated water, so I asked her to knock it over for me."
"Couldn't you have done it yourself?"
"Yeah, but she thought I didn't like water, and would think I did it on purpose."
All doubts vanished from her mind that he was rabid. During that squirrel thing, she had learned about rabies. She was sure he had it. "Okay Matt. Go back to the table, okay?"
He nodded and left. Leah came in and cleaned up the water, then put the dishtowel back, and sat down. "Looks like everyone is done, except me and Matt, huh?"
"Rain, why don't you go now? Why should you stay? Lunch is over."
"Okay, we will go. Lunch was delicious, and I had a great time. I think Phoenix did to. Did you Phoenix?"
She nodded. "Yes, I had a fun time. I hope to see you again soon."
"I'm glad you had a good time." Leah said, her voice tightened.
It was the next day. They were eating breakfast. They were all silent. Even TK knew that now was a bad time to talk.
Leah had had to make the final arrangements for Matt's doctor's appointment last night. It was all set. That morning, after breakfast, she would take him to the doctor, and afterwards, and Rain and Robert would be waiting to pick him up afterwards. She had also arranged the matters of custody, at least towards Matt. For TK it was confused and muddled. She didn't know where he would go, but she prayed he would stay where he was.
As for Matt, Leah would see him during the school vacations, but not during holidays. She did know, that TK would be with their father during that time, unless he was with him permanently.
She had forgotten to get drinks. She made some coffee for herself and got water for TK. She didn't think Matt would want any.
The phone rang, but she ignored it. She knew it was Robert, or Rain, calling to confirm the arrangements. Or maybe it was Blossom, making sure Leah wasn't having a nervous breakdown. The message picked up. It wasn't either of them. It was a little girl's voice. "Hi Matt…Matt…are you there?"
Matt walked up to the phone and picked it up. "Hi, who's this?"
"This is Phoenix. Remember me? I just…I am looking forward to seeing you again. It was great yesterday."
"I remember you. I asked you to knock down my water, and you did."
"That was fun."
"You thought it was fun? It was only knocking over water."
"It was just fun…that's all. Well, see you soon. Um…when are you coming?"
"Sometime this morning."
"'Kay. Bye Matt."
Leah looked at Matt hanging up the phone. "Matt, why was Phoenix calling?"
"She was saying that she had a real good time last time, and she wanted to see me again. She also had fun knocking over my water glass."
Now Leah knew most people could not drive pleasure over knocking over a glass of water. She thought maybe, just maybe, this little girl might have a crush on Matt. Too bad they were related by marriage. They would make a cute couple. But she wouldn't know she couldn't, she was too young…it was all so sweet. She knew it was extremely rare for children under ten too have even a remote interest in the opposite sex, but it happens.
"TK," She said. "I'm going to leave you with Blossom for a while today, okay?"
TK groaned in disgust. Whenever Leah had something to do, she dumped Matt, TK, or both, on Blossom, and Blossom did the same with Joe. She pretty much let Jim run wild though. She figured, since she hated being bossed when she was a teenager, she should just leave her own kids alone.
TK hated Blossom's place. No one ever wanted to do anything with him. Blossom was always sitting at the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette, and talking with one of her various friends. And the kids were not even remotely interested in TK. He hated to be ignored. Lately, in his own home, he was being ignored much more then usual. The focus seemed to be on Matt. He didn't understand why, for it had always been on him, for as long as he could remember, which was about two weeks ago.
"I'd like it if you go over now. It's right next-door, and she's expecting you."
"But what if I get lost?"
"Then I'll know which one of your brains to sell for a slab of meat."
TK screamed in terror. "You wouldn't really do that would you?"
"Of course not TK, it's just a joke. But I'm sure you were joking when you said you might get lost."
"TK, just run across the yard, okay? Then go into her yard, and go to the door."
"Go on." Leah knew it was mean to try to get rid of him like this, but she'd been doing it to both of them since the day they were born. She left them with Blossom, she told them to go to bed when it was the middle of the day, all kinds of excuses to tell them to go away.
"Okay, bye Mommy, I love you."
"I love you to TK." She knew it wasn't necessary to make him go, she could just drag him along for the ride. But after all these years of favoring TK over Matt, all these years of not caring, now that she did she just wanted to be with Matt one last time, before he would no longer be hers. Sure she'd see him again, but she could never really make any impact on his life, except as a mother who never cared about him. If only she hadn't told him! But it was to late, she had! Rain would eventually replace her as his mother, she, maybe just an aunt or something.
"Matt, finish your breakfast." She said. "We have to go."
"I'm done." If he could eat so much now, then why not yesterday? Maybe it was because that was when she told him. How could he even think of eating at a time like that?
"Mom?" Matt said. "I'm ready to go."
"Is your stuff all packed? Remember, your going with your dad today."
"Yeah. I'll get it."
Leah drove, defying the One-Way sign. She didn't even notice it. "Mom, you can't go this way." Matt said, looking out the window.
"Oh. Well whatever. It doesn't matter to me. Well, were almost there."
"Oh. Um, never mind."
"Nothing, I just forgot what I was going to say."
This wasn't much of a conversation. They both realized that.
Leah pulled up in front of the doctor's office. "Here we are."
"Yes. This is why Blossom and her family have a lot of money…"
Matt's face was completely blank. He could not understand how a building being big could possibly give their next-door neighbors money.
They went inside and sat down in the hard plastic chairs, typical of a waiting room. Leah was given a form to fill out. She did.
Matt was looking through the magazines on the table. Nothing he was interested in, so he got up and started walking around.
The receptionist called them up. "You're using which doctor?" She asked.
"Oh. Um…are you paying for this?"
"No, his wife got free service for me."
"Oh Blossom. She gets free service for everyone she ever meets."
"Well, Blossom is my best friend…"
"That's nice. Go on ahead, take the kid."
"Uh duh, I'm taking the kid. Why do you think I'm here?"
"Maybe you have an appointment?"
"This isn't the kind of doctor adults go to."
"You don't look like an adult to me. How old are you, sixteen?"
"Your ten years off. Goodbye." She and Matt walked into the appropriate room.
"What did you want me to see if he has again?" Dr. Kido said.
"Rabies." Leah said.
"I'm not a veterinarian Leah. And Matt is human you idiot. He is not going to have rabies."
"Well Blossom said he probably does, and I think she's right."
"Blossom said he did? Then theirs absolutely nothing to worry about. It's impossible."
"Well he was bitten by a rabid dog."
"Did you see the dog?"
"Then how do you know it was rabid?"
She thought for a few minutes. "Matt, was the dog foaming at the mouth?"
"Well he had that stuff on his mouth that Daddy has when he makes his face hair disappear."
"I rest my case." She knew that whenever her ex-husband shaved, it always looked like he was foaming at the mouth.
"I'll check if you like, but all I can see wrong with him is dehydration."
"Lack of water."
"He hasn't had very much water in the last few days."
Matt piped up, "Because it made my throat hurt really bad."
Dr. Kido stared at him. "Water made your throat hurt?"
"Uh…yeah?" He said it in the form of a question.
"Okay…well, Leah it's looking more possible…"
"How would you know? Like you said, you're not a veterinarian. You wouldn't know anything about rabies."
"I know from that rabid squirrel thing. Everyone in the neighborhood heard enough about rabies to last them a lifetime. And please don't make fun of me like that. I'm doing this for free you know."
"But it's fun…" She pouted.
"Do you want me to charge you?"
"So knock it off."
"Oh okay. Anyway, I don't care how unlikely you think it is just check."
"Gimme a dollar."
"You said this was for free!"
"But doctors don't get tips! Only taxi drivers and waiters/waitresses!"
"I want a tip!"
"When you're done."
"You are extremely weird."
"I am not…"
"Just check for godsakes!"
"And so…?" Leah said. "Is he rabid or what?"
"Okay, you were right. He has rabies. But he isn't acting rabid. Just hope to god he doesn't. Those with rabies are often very dangerous."
"Can you cure him?"
"What do you mean?"
"Is there a cure for rabies?"
"How should I know?"
"Do you think there is?"
"Rabies isn't exactly a threat to society. There are only 1-5 human case of it a year."
"As if I care."
"Anyway, no one would bother trying to find a cure for rabies. They're looking for a cure for cancer, or AIDS."
"I couldn't care less. I don't care if they find a cure for every disease in existence. And who's they anyway?"
"I don't know. Just…they."
"Like that helps."
"I wasn't trying to help."
"So in other words, Matt's going to go psycho, and eventually die."
"I was worried on of them would get bitten by a rabid squirrel. But after they left, I never thought rabies would be a problem at all."
"Human cases are usually resulted from stupidity."
"What do you mean?"
"If you had cleaned out the stupid bite, he wouldn't have rabies!"
"I had him rinse it off the next day."
"That's way to late, and not good enough anyway."
"Don't talk to your self."
"Will you be quiet?'
"No. Talking to yourself is bad for you, or Blossom, or me, or Matt, or Poobah, or who's Poobah?"
"You are totally psycho."
"Which is what Matt will be."
"Shut up! You know, whoever they is, they should be looking for a cure for rabies!"
"Why? It barely effects anyone, and it's no where near as bad as other things."
"Yes it is! He might wind up killing someone, and he's totally innocent!"
"You know, were talking about Matt as if he isn't there. And no it's not. Other things are much worse. Longer, and more drawn out."
"Well I'm sure those things don't make you kill anyone!"
"Well, no, they don't. Listen, just go, okay? He's rabid now deal with it. And where's my tip?"
"No tip. You're a lousy doctor."
Leah and Matt walked back to the waiting room. "Mom?" Matt asked, "Am I really going to kill people?"
"I hope not."
"I hope not to. I don't want to kill anyone."
Then Dr. Kido came back out. "I forgot to tell you. Everyone who is ever going to come in contact with him, better get rabies shots, for when he does go crazy. I can give you a shot right now."
"Okay…" She walked back in and got the shot. When she was finished, she walked up to Robert, Rain, and Phoenix, who were in the waiting room, and told them they better get rabies shots.
"Why?" Phoenix asked.
"Well, Matt has rabies, and this is so none of you will get it."
Robert stared at her. "You were actually serious about that?"
"Yes. And now I know for sure."
"Okay, we'll get shots." The three of them went in and got shots, then came back out.
"Leah, I know TK won't be seeing much of Matt for a while, but you better get him rabies shots to. Because if it's up to me, they will be together as soon as possible." Robert said.
Leah glared at him. "I was planning on getting him rabies shots. I'm not stupid Robert. By the way, when is the divorce paper going to go through?"
"It did. I just got a call that we were officially divorced."
"Wonderful. Well you can just go and take Matt now."
Rain said, "Don't you want to say goodbye first?"
"No, no I don't want to say goodbye."
Rain's car lived up to her name. It was the exact color of Rain and Fire. Clear and reddish-orangish-yellowish. Both she and Robert now used her car, but she was the main driver. She looked over at the two kids in the backseat. Her own daughter, Phoenix, was looking out the window, looking bored of the world. All she could see of Matt was his hair. His head was hanging down. He looked like he was either throwing up or crying. She didn't think he was throwing up. She'd have heard, seen and smelled that by now. He was crying.
"Matt, what's wrong?" Phoenix asked.
"Nothing…" Matt said.
"Are you sure?"
"Mom!" Phoenix said, "Matt's crying."
"I know. Maybe it would be best to just leave him alone, let him cry."
Robert looked back at Matt. "Matt what in the world are you crying about? You shouldn't cry Matt, it's not manly."
Rain sighed and said, "Robert little kids cry whether they're a boy or a girl. He'll grow out of this crying thing eventually, don't worry."
Why couldn't he cry? He was sad, so why couldn't he? What was manly anyway? He stopped crying, figuring it was wrong.
"Matt…" His father said. "There will be no crying and acting like a baby from you. Your going to act like a man."
Matt nodded. "Sorry Dad."
"Robert did you hear a single thing I just said? He's just been separated from his mother, and if he knows anything about rabies, then he knows he's going to go nuts. That's not that easy for someone his age to deal with. It's totally okay and appropriate for him to cry."
"Well I don't think so. Girls can be emotional, but boys should be more, well, not. Sure he can have emotions, but he can't show them so much."
"And why exactly is that?"
"It's just the way society works. To have any kind of social life whatsoever, you have to follow the rules."
"Oh for godsakes Robert, Matt doesn't need a social life now! He's six years old, okay? Little kids cry. Deal with it."
"I thought women couldn't deal with seeing other people cry."
"Why in the world would you think that?"
"Well Leah couldn't. She would get all frozen up and sick-looking if anyone she knew cried."
"Actually," Matt said, "Mom only gets like that if me or TK cry. If someone else, like her friends do, she's not like that."
"Well Leah is slightly psycho."
"Your totally right. She is."
"Rob, if one person feels a certain way about something, that doesn't mean everyone else does. And why are you being so sexist? I don't think gender has anything to do with this."
"Your right, I guess. I just don't want him to show how he feels."
"Do you know that that can be really psychologically damaging?"
"You mean he'll go crazy?"
"But he will."
"I know that. But that's not what would make him crazy. Rabies is what will do that. And he should be able to show how he feels. You never get angry if Phoenix cries."
"She can if she likes. She is more your concern then mine. Sure I care about her, a heck of a lot, but how she should conduct herself should be your decision. As how Matt should act, should be mine."
"No, no Robert, we should share the responsibility of the two of them. And really, how they act is mostly up to them. They have to become their own people."
"Rain, I honestly have no idea if your right or not. I'm sorry."
"Oh look, were here. Rain, theirs a parking space right there." Robert said, pointing to the space.
They lived in a large apartment building, where the single apartments were small. "Wow…" Matt said, in a voice mixed with wonder and amazement. "This is you house?"
"No silly. We only have a little part of the house to live in." Phoenix said.
This was new to Matt. He'd lived in a house all his life. "How much of the house do you get?"
"Only one apartment."
"Is it as big as my house?"
"No. It's a lot littler. Hope you don't mind."
"I don't mind…" But in reality he did. Not the fact of the smaller size, but the fact that he didn't have his own home anymore. He would forever be intruding somewhere else, where he felt unwanted, even though he was very much wanted.
"Matt, are you sure your okay?" Phoenix asked.
"I don't believe you. But okay, whatever."
"Oh I forgot to say before. Thanks for knocking over my water."
"Your welcome. I'll do it again if you want."
They got out of the car and walked into the building. The doorman greeted Rain. "Well, your certainly gathering family like flies, aren't you?"
She giggled. "Well, I guess so…"
They walked up to the apartment. "Well, this is it. Hope you like it." Rain said.
"It's nice." Matt said. "I think…" It was really a very crummy place. Roaches crawled on the floor, the house hadn't been cleaned in years. It was dirty and disgusting, with signs of human and animal feces, littering the apartment.
Phoenix leaned over and whispered in Matt's ear, "It's okay if you don't like it. We don't either."
Matt smiled gratefully at her.
"Well…" Robert said. "Why don't you kids play a game or something?" He and Rain walked into the kitchen.
"Okay!" Phoenix said smiling. "Matt, wanna play Candy Land?" She took out the game.
"What's that? Is it a video game?"
"Uh course not! We don't even have TV! It's a board game!"
"Okay…how do you play?"
"You have to move these guys," she picked up a little plastic gingerbread man and shook it. "to get to this place…" She pointed to the end. "And you have to do what the cards say."
The played for a little. Matt didn't seem to get the concept. "No, Matt, it's my turn now!" Phoenix shouted as Matt picked up a card.
"Oh sorry. In all the games I played both people take turns at the same time."
"You never played a board game before have you?"
Matt shook his head.
"Well you missing out on a lot of fun."
Suddenly Matt slapped her in the face. He knocked over the game and walked towards her. Phoenix stared up at him in a mix of rage and alarm. "Matt, what are you doing? Why did you slap me? It hurt!"
Matt did not answer. He reached for her, trying to attack, but she ran into another room before he could. She was very fast. "MOMMY!" Phoenix shouted. "Matt hit me!"
Rain came into the living room. "Matt did you hit Phoenix?"
Matt charged at her in bull fashion and tried once again to attack. He missed, and hit his head on the wall. He reached for Phoenix's hair and pulled it. She screamed and struggled, but it was no use. He had a firm grip on her hair. "LET ME GO!" She screamed.
Matt let go, and then charged towards the lamp and knocked it down. The light bulb shattered into a thousand pieces.
"Robert get in here!" Rain shouted for her husband. "Your son has gone berserk!"
Robert dashed in. "What is going on in here?"
"Matt went crazy!" Rain shrieked at him, amazed at his stupidity. She had just told him what was going on!
Robert ran over to Matt and grabbed him. He tried to get away, but it was futile. His father has a strong grip on him. "Matt what the hell is wrong with you!?" He shouted.
Matt whacked him in a karate chop. He didn't even know karate. His actions seemed blind, as if he didn't have the faintest idea he was wrecking so much havoc.
Robert was very angry. He slapped Matt across the face, hoping to bring him to his senses. But it was completely useless and futile. "Matt!" He shouted at him.
Finally Phoenix made a suggestion. "Lock him in the closet until he's nice again." And that's exactly what they did. They locked him in the closet. He beat the door for a while, but he eventually went to sleep.
When they were sure he was asleep, the went to bed themselves.
It was morning. There were no sounds in the apartment but the scurrying of roaches.
Phoenix woke up earlier then everyone else. She tiptoed to the closet to see if Matt was sane yet. He had become very important to her, and she hated seeing him act so insane.
She opened the closet. She looked at Matt. He appeared to be asleep. But something was weird. Shouldn't he be snoring? Or at the very least, breathing?
She was starting to get scared, she had no idea what was going on, what to do. So she did the only thing a person in her situation could do.
"Yes…I'm sorry Leah, but he's dead." Rain said into the phone.
"How can he be dead? I cannot believe he dies the first night at your place!" Leah shrieked in anger.
"Leah, it isn't my fault. He died from the rabies. He went crazy, so we had to lock him up. We locked him in the closet, and when it was morning he was dead."
"Probably wasn't any air in the closet."
"Actually there is. He died from the rabies. It wasn't something I could control."
"I just can't believe he's dead."
"I'm really sorry Leah. I'm not very happy about it either. And for some reason Phoenix is totally mental about it."
"Well, he'll have to have a funeral."
"No. No funeral."
"Why? You of all people should want a chance to say goodbye."
"He's to young to be dead. And well, no one is going to believe he had rabies. They'll probably think I killed him and made something up. I mean, it's an animal disease."
"But there has to be some sort of ceremony."
"We could just burn him into ashes."
"Toss the ashes up into the air. If we do that, he'll be like a spirit. Not really dead."
"Okay. I'll have to check with Robert to see if it's okay. But it is a better idea then a funeral."
"I still cant believe this even happened. I mean, rabies of all things."
"Well believe it because it's true."
"My best friend keeps calling me and screaming at me for doing so badly as a parent to him."
"I think she's trying to tell you not to make the same mistake with TK."
"Your probably right. But all she's doing is making me feel guilty." Then Leah started to sob into the phone.
"Leah, it'll be okay. Just calm down, put down the phone, and start getting ready for the ceremony."
The body was burnt. Ashes scattered, and people rushed to pick them up. It was not agonistic burning, as the body was already dead. It was not disfiguring and horrible. Matt's body just burnt for a little, then turned to ash.
Leah picked up most of the ashes, and distributed them, like palms on Palm Sunday. "Okay, time to throw." everyone let the ashes go, and the wind took them away.
"Bye Matt." Leah said. Now she could say goodbye.