I could never move houses again and be totally fine with it. Well, maybe one more time to get us out of my grandpa’s house. It might actually be in the middle of nowhere. My dad said that it was called “Apple-at-ya.” When I didn't understand he just told me it was some huge mountain range on the right side of the map. I also found out after we were on the road that I would have to share a room with my little brother Nat- short for Nathaniel. No one wants to live with some stinky third-grade boy- or fourth grade now, I guess- who thinks most about all of the places he can insert toilet humor into a conversation.
We brought the boxes in one by one, and I was slowly beginning to realize how many of these were just Nat’s toys. The room began to seem smaller and smaller. It had smooth tan walls with three windows, but two were right next to each other so that can count as one. There was also this weird smell that was unlike anything I had known. It wasn’t because of death, I think it was more that there had been just no life up here at all in years. If I could compare it to anything, it would have to be a musty old home that had just laid new mulch.
I went downstairs to grab another box and passed my dad on the way to the trailer. He didn’t look too happy; he and mom didn’t really talk much on the last leg of the trip this morning.
He passed me but stopped and turned around, “Hey Emma,” he said kind of hesitantly. “Yes,” I responded as I turned around to look at him. “Do you like your new room?” he asked. “Don’t you mean our new room?” I asked back. He looked at me and smiled and turned around to go carry his box in. “I can’t wait to see what you do with it!” he said as he was walking away.
I will say that it was a lot prettier here than it was in Oklahoma. The air smells nicer, and if I tried hard enough, my eyes would get lost in the texture of all of the dark green lines that went from the ground to the sky but met at different places. I’m going to climb one of those.
I reached for the next box and went back up the porch stairs. It was just now 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and Pop or “Jerald” as his birth certificate called him had already found his chair and was blowing smoke my direction from his pipe. It looked gross but didn’t smell terrible. I never understood why people would want to put the taste of campfire in their mouth.
When I got back up to my room, Nat had already found a way to make a mess of all of his things. Honestly, I don’t mind a messy room I just don’t want to step on a bunch of Legos with a heavy box in my hand. Almost slipping on one of those little toy cars I yell, “Nat, come move your toys! I told you to wait!” I realized that I needed to calm down or he would just end up hitting me with one of those foam darts, which he could shoot out of any one of the eight different blasters he had.
My mom had been trying to get her stuff put away in her and my dad’s new room and to get the kitchen set up so that she could cook dinner. We all had dinner together that night and had good food, but no one seemed to say much except for Nat. He didn’t talk a lot all the time; it was only when he could make some witty comment to get under other people’s skin. He’ll even try to mess with me when we are thanking God for the food.
We got enough stuff put away so that we could make our bed for the night. It didn’t seem like we had even lied down for a minute before we heard mom and dad raising their voices over one another’s again. Apparently, it helps their marriage to talk, but it sounds more like yelling than talking. They keep having the same argument. They say it’s “the move,” but I know it's just about money.
From what I’d collected in the past few months, dad lost his job to a computer or something. My mom was always a big spender, and so he blamed her when we had to move out of the house because we couldn’t afford it anymore. Nat didn’t quite understand what was happening with it all. I’m pretty sure he just thinks we are going on summer vacation.
He would get kind of sad whenever he would hear them. Since we moved, we share a bed, which I think that offers him a little comfort. I could tell that he was trying to plug his ears to tune them out. When he finally shut his eyes, it made it easier for me to as well.
* * *
“Emma! Emma!” I opened my eyes a little bit to Nat standing over me. The sun was behind him and shone perfectly around his body. He looked at me and said, “Emma, come on, I have to show this to you.” I got up from the tall grass, and we began to run- me following him. It was so tall that it started to get brown fuzzy things on the ends.
We ran up to this enormous fortress made out of all sorts of different blocks. Nat pointed me to some yellow looking thing out front that was talking to some other yellow looking things. As we got closer, I saw that it was a life-size Lego man talking to other ones. One of them welcomed Nat over and patted him on the back with his weird claw thing. He reached out his claw-like hand and introduced himself to me as “Captain Phil.” I initially thought that it’d be hard to pick his nose with that, and then I saw that his eyes and mouth were painted on but were still moving like anyone else’s.
They took us inside and had more of these yellow guards escort us into a large room. They were planning something significant. A huge map hung on the wall in front of even more yellow men wearing camouflage.
I asked Captain Phil where we were, and he said, “we’re in the Rock Keys. It’s on the west side of the map.”
By the doors were guys with big guns that said “Nerd” across the side.
Nat went up to one of them and asked in almost a mocking tone, “are you a ‘nerd?’” “Yes, yes we all are” Captain Phil replied sternly. I could tell it made Nat a bit uncomfortable. It wasn’t until he looked around that he saw that all of the soldiers had “nerd” written on their uniform somewhere and it was on the flags hanging on the wall.
Captain Phil looked up at Nat and said, “I’m glad you guys came when you did. We are about to go to battle with the ‘Jocks.’” “Who are they?” Nat asked eagerly. They are the rival group that outdoes us in everything but our smarts. They attacked us 20 years ago and basically turned us into their servant territory. We have been planning a way to finally beat them at their own game. And the two of you with your size could help us tremendously.” Nat asked, "how are we going to do it?" Captain Phil replied with a slight smirk, "our wheels are hot."
They escorted Nat and me up to where we could stay while we waited for them to tell us exactly what to do. Nat sat down on the bed made of blocks which was still yet surprisingly comfortable.
Nat looked up at me and asked, “why are none of the things you like here?” I responded, “Maybe we haven’t found any of it yet.” “Do you want to go look for it while we wait?” he asked. I thought about it for a few seconds, but I came to realize that the happiness that could come from finding what I like doesn’t compare to seeing the joy that he has found through contentment in all of his fears.
I responded, “no I am having too much fun right now with you to want to leave here.” We were both tired and decided to lie down on the block bed for a few minutes while we waited for whatever was next.
The door flew open, “Nat we need you now!” Captain Phil said firmly. “Yessir!” Nat said proudly as he jumped up out of bed. Captain Phil looked to me and said quickly, “Get ready, it’s happening.”