A little spittle rocketed off his lip each time he shouted the word into the phone.
The word echoed across the empty field. The anger in it threatened peaceful gaps in time beneath lavender shadowed trees, trilled the dew in the morning grass, and sent a shiver thorough the two quiet children who had been standing motionless beside the shouting man.
A sad looking Lab nipped at the echoes and suddenly took down the field to a row of crows that were resting their wings near the end of the world.
"That's what he said!" shouted the man after a long pause.
Beyond the end of the world something stirred.
The boy was lean, blond, and long-toothed. He edged toward me, leaving his sister to shiver quietly near her frothing father.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Skeezix" I said, and nodding to my son, "that's Alfonso."
"Want to play?" asked the boy.
The father was ranting and spitting but he saw his son speaking to a stranger and paused for just one guilty moment before picking up the rant once more. "I told him! I said,
You've got to be kidding me!! I'm only thirty-five! Son of a bitch! How could I be going bald!"
"What's your name?" I asked the boy.
"Walter," he admitted, weakly. "That's Horatio." He nodded to his sister.
"We call her Henrietta."
Alphonso tickled his nose with a blade of grass and sneezed.
"Your dad's angry huh?"
"Jeepers..." said Walter.
"Henrietta looks frightened, don't you think?" I asked.
"She always looks like that - Hey! Hey Henry!" called Walter.
Horatio ignored her brother.
"You want to play with me?" asked the boy.
"We wouldn't mind," I said, pointing to Alphonso, "but what about Henry?"
"Oh she's not feeling much like playing, right now," said Walter. "We were supposed to go to the pool. Then dad got mad and now - no pool."
"That's too bad," I said.
"Why's your old man screaming cause he's bald?!" bleated Alphonso. "What's the big deal?"
"My papa's bald, you don't see him screaming!"
"Hey now, be nice, Alphonso! You just didn't hear my screaming - I screamed plenty."
"No you didn't!"
"Sure I did, you just weren't there to hear it."
"Well then, you stopped anyhow! That guy just keep screaming."
Walter frowned, Henry made a little red fist and threw it against her hip.
"He's mad at his bald because mother didn't like him and she moved out."
"She moved out because he was bald?" asked Alphonso, surprised.
Henry finally couldn't stand it. Her father was so deep into his rant that he couldn't fix himself beyond the end of his cell phone and the rage kneading up his lips.
"She didn't leave because he was bald, you idiot! She left because daddy never stops screaming about it! She said he was a dummy."
Alphonso pulled the Velcro strap on one sneaker up and down. Then he looked at me and said, "Papa, Mama just says she doesn't like you thats all. She doesn't say bad words."
"I'm glad to hear it." I said.
Far off the little spot that was the Lab chasing crows in the field grew larger.
"What's the name of your dog?"
"Tick-tock," she said.
"Why's that?" asked Alphonso.
"Cause his she's go like this..." and Henry made like left and right with her big brown eyes.
"That's funny," said Alphonso.
End part 1