Don’t Talk to Strangers
By Julie Galosy
They lived way out in the country. The school bus came all the way out there anyway and his Mom waited by the edge of the highway to meet him every day. He was always amazed when it was raining or snowing to see her there waiting. No matter what.
Mom and Dad had only him. There had been two others. One died in her crib and the other died inside Mom’s stomach. When he went out with Mom and Dad they held his hand. If one let go for a second the other one would grab him.
“Don’t talk to strangers, Richie” Mom said.
“Why not?” He spun the cheerios in his bowl trying to sink the one closest to the side.
“Well sometimes strangers can be mean.”
“What if they’re not mean, what if they’re nice?” The cheerio sank.
“You won’t know if they’re nice or not and then it could be too late.”
“Too late for what?” He chose another cheerio to drown.
“To find out if they’re mean.”
“What if they are mean, what do they do?”
“It doesn’t really matter what they do. They’re just mean and why would you even take a chance that a stranger might be mean?”
Something happened a bit later. The people in the church were talking about Sammy Famia. I tried to find out what was happening but the grown-ups were all whispering about it. The kids in school said they’d found Sammy’s body. Some stranger had stolen him from the front of his own house. His head was all bashed in and his arms and legs were all broken. He had cuts and he had been shot and he had been strangled too. That’s what the kids said. Oh yeah his head had been cut clean off his body and they found it down the stream from the rest of him.
“Mom, what happened to Sammy?”
“He died, sweetheart.”
“I know but how did he die?”
“Oh, these things happen. It was really sad.”
“Sometimes kids die.”
“He was murdered.”
“Who told you that?”
“The kids at school.”
“Those kids talk about the worst things. They see too much TV.”
“Well, is it true?”
“Too much TV. Go wash up for dinner now.”
There were always shows on TV about people being mean to other people. Even grown-ups being mean to kids. I wasn’t allowed to watch those shows but I could hear them from my room. I would be playing with my soldiers but I could hear the parents crying and the kids screaming on those shows. Everybody was real upset. They made a lot of noise so I had to make more noise so my soldiers could hear the guns and the tanks shooting.
I wondered if things happened to the kids on those shows because they talked to strangers. Did the strangers do bad things to them? Were the strangers mean?
“Were the strangers mean to the kids on that show last night?” I asked my Mom.
“The show you and Pa were watching.”
“You’re not allowed to watch that show.”
“I know, I wasn’t watching it but I could hear some of it.”
“What did you hear?”
“Stuff? What kind of stuff?”
“Stuff like people screaming and kids screaming and everyone crying. Stuff”
“You’re not allowed to watch that show because of people screaming.”
“Screaming? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It does to me. Go wash up for dinner.”
Mom didn’t want me playing in the front yard anymore. After what happened to Sammy. I went there anyway. There was a family of ducks with little babies near the pond. I had to check on them. I didn’t see the hole before it was too late.
I was in deep darkness when I looked up at the hand of the stranger. He was wiggling his fingers just over my head.
“Come on son, come on. Just take my hand.”
I saw the hand. Lots of words were swirling around inside my head. I saw the hand. I stopped all those words and grabbed for the hand. The stranger’s hand closed over mine in a strong grip. With one long tug he pulled me up through the opening in the hole back into the sunshine. He hugged me to him.
“You’ll be all right, son. I saw you fall in. I was scared to death that you’d really be hurt but luckily the hole wasn’t so deep. You’ll be OK. Where’s your house?”
I pointed down the road. I started to cry. The stranger hugged me closer.
“Don’t worry son. I’ve got a little boy just about your age. I’ll take you on home to your folks. Everything’s going to be all right.”
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com
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