The Arbor Society

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Dad swore that things would be better in this town. Business would improve. The schools were great. The cost of living was so much lower that they could afford a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, and still have enough left over to pay for karate lessons.

The big moving truck turned laboriously onto the tiny residential street. If some little late model hybrid coupe had been approaching Danny was sure they would have driven right over it, crushing it, exactly as the monster trucks had done to the cars in the middle of the arena at the show Dad had taken him to last summer. That was before The Big Deal had been lost and his parents had started worrying all the time. That was before anyone had even started talking about leaving every good thing in their life and moving from the awesome warmth and sunniness of the desert to this place where it rained more days than not and the trees grew much too tall.

And speaking of trees, this street was virtually a forest. It seemed like every house was in danger of being overwhelmed by nature. The houses were nice enough, he supposed. Definitely bigger than the houses in his old neighborhood. They all had two levels. In Arizona such a thing was rare. Heat rises, you know; better to stay close to the earth. The place on the corner of this street actually had half of a third floor. Why would anyone want to sleep two floors above the ground? What if there was a fire? These old wooden houses, with their peeling paint and shingled roofs certainly looked more likely to burn up in a blaze than any of the solid adobe buildings he was used to. They seemed kind of shabby. Maybe the people who lived here should spend a little more time taking care of their houses and less time playing in the yards.

Despite the slick grey sludge of leftover snow from last week's storm still in the gutters, and temperatures that hovered around freezing, everyone was outside. The big three-story place had a couple that actually looked a lot like his own parents in the yard. They were picking up the little sticks and larger branches that littered the ground. The yellow house next to it, had a little old man filling bird feeders. Across the street from there, a young couple appeared to be wrapping the base of a tiny sapling with two arm-like branches in a thick blue blanket. Who knew? Maybe such a new, delicate plant could be damaged by cold like this. After all, this wasn't a chill that could be kept at bay with a comfortable hoodie. You had to bundle against this weather, and still it would find ways to slither into the warm cocoon you worked to create.

Dad parked the truck badly in front of a green house with a sagging front porch. One tire was up on the curb and the left rear bumper was sticking out so far that any passing car would have to ease around it with utmost care or be in danger of following suit and riding right up onto the curb on the other side of the street.

He sighed and looked over at Maddy. She was asleep in her car seat, like always. The kid never slept at night when she was supposed to, but the second you strapped her into a moving vehicle her head was back, eyes closed, mouth open, a little line of drool running down her cheek. She held her grubby little grey bunny loosely in her lap with one chubby hand. Even in sleep, some part of her wouldn't let go of that thing. It was a wonder Mom could wrestle it away from her at bath time. Stupid baby.

Stupid truck.

Stupid neighborhood.

He knew he was going to hate it here. He was determined that it should be so. His seething, unrelenting hatred of this place would reign supreme. It would ruin their lives. It would make them so miserable they would realize the only way to find peace would be to go home again.

He fought to suppress the smile that resulted from his pride in the excellent level of his sheer evil genius.

With a shriek of tortured, rusty metal, the heavy door of the truck opened and he put his feet on the concrete of the street. Bits of salt crunched under his weight. He met the eye of a woman carefully pruning the branches of a medium size tree that sat in the exact center of her yard. She waved. "Just giving it a little trim. It gets shaggy so fast if you don't keep up on it, you know."

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