Chapter 61

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"Take a sip of water, Stanley." Mr. Reece helped his son to a sitting position and raised a glass to his lips. The boy drank. They were in the family room, Stanley on the couch. When half the glass was gone, he leaned back against a stack of pillows.

"Thanks, Pop."

The father placed his palm against Stanley's forehead, held it there for about five seconds, then removed it. "No fever." He then took a flashlight and shined it in the boy's eyes, then moved the beam away, then back into his eyes. "Pupils are dilating. You feeling any better?"

It'd been a good half hour or so since Stanley had suffered his spell. He nodded. "Uh-huh. Just a little light-headed. I'm hungry."

Mr. Reece laughed. "Well, that's a good sign."

"I'll say," added Gramps. He was standing halfway between the living room and the kitchen. He walked over and ran his fingertips along the back of his grandson's head. "So, you just fell and bumped your noggin, Muskrat?"

"I think so. My head hurts a little back here," he said, rubbing the back of his skull. "I guess it's cause I was spraying the hose all over. Probably got the tree roots all wet and then slipped."

"No bumps back there," called Gramps as he went into the kitchen. He retrieved a frozen bag of peas from the freezer, then slammed it down on the table to loosen it up. He handed it to Stanley's father, who placed it beneath Stanley's head. Mr. Reece smoothed his graying hair back and threw on his dusty Phillies baseball cap. "Well, you're going to sit right here and rest for a bit, okay?"

"Uh-huh," mumbled the boy. "Can I read my comics?"

His father chuckled. "Sure. I'll go get a couple from your room." Mr. Reece started up the stairs.


Stanley's eyes grew wide with fright. "Doris! She alright?" He propped himself up to look around and found the dog curled up on the area rug beneath the coffee table to his left.

"Hell, yes. She's right there," said Gramps, pointing. "She's fine. Now, lie back down."

Doris had raised her head and thumped her tail once. She looked from Stanley to Gramps and then lowered to the floor again.

Once his father had climbed the last of the steps, Stanley motioned for Gramps to come closer and he took a seat in the armchair opposite the couch. "What is it, Muskrat?"

"Um..." The boy hesitated, twiddling his fingers nervously. "Did you..."

After this second pause, Gramps frowned. "Well, are you gonna tell me or ain't ya?"

Stanley licked his lips and began. "Did you see any lightning outside...when I fell?"

Gramps looked up, as if into his own head, searching his memory. "Nope. There wasn't no storm."

"Oh. Okay."

"Hell, you're not going to stop there, Muskrat."

"Huh? Whattya mean?"

Gramps sighed. "Explain why in the heck you asked such a strange question."

"Oh." He looked toward the top of the steps. From the creaking of the floorboards above, Stanley knew his father was still in his room and therefore safe to continue. "Just don't tell my Pop, Gramps."

Gramps nodded.

"I saw a flash of light before I fell."

"A flash of light, hmm?" Gramps scratched his beard below his chin. "It could've been that you saw the light after you bumped your head and just thought it had been before. Sometimes that happens."

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