Robert sat on the back porch, kicking at the step.
Thump. Thump. Thumpthump.
“Robert, stop that. Your brother is napping!”
Mom’s voice through the open window was too loud, too high, and too sharp. Robert held his head; Mom got mad when he tried to plug his ears, ’cause that was ‘diss-specful.’ She didn’t want him to be loud. But she was even louder!
“It’s not fair!” he whisper-hissed, pretending he was a Cobra Bad Guy. He liked to be a bad guy. Mom and Dad were always telling him to be a good boy, but being a good boy meant doing what they said, when they said, the way they said.
But Robert usually couldn’t do everything that would make him a Good Boy. He couldn’t always remember that he had a brother, when Joey was sleeping. He didn’t know when he was too loud, or why Mom and Dad could talk about anything they wanted, but, when he did, he was “a pest”, and “went on and on, even when no one wants to listen.”
He didn’t always want to listen to them , either!
What made things OK for them, and not for him?
Because he was a kid!
“And it’s not fair!” The Cobra Bad Guy was mad now, and mad was bad, at least if he let the mad come out in a yell, or throwing, or hitting….
But the mad had to come out. Robert couldn’t hold it. It was bigger and stronger than he was.
He could run though. That’s what Dad had said. He could run around the yard, and up and down the quiet sandy road, until he was tired.
So he ran for a while – but running where he was told to did not make the Cobra Bad Guy happy. The Cobra Bad Guy was a bad guy, after all, and what made a bad guy a bad guy?
Doing what he wasn’t supposed to, that’s what.
But what bad thing would the Cobra Bad Guy do?
He could spy. Yes. Mom and Dad hated when he listened to their “grown-up”talks. Usually, what they said was boring and didn’t make any sense, but sometimes he listened, just because he wanted to get even and they didn’t like it any better than he liked being bossed around.
This time, though, they were talking about Uncadan, and now Robert had to listen, had to know, because Uncadan was his very best friend in all the world. And Uncadan was sick, and Mom and Dad never answered when he asked about him.
“I don’t know how we’re going to tell Robbie,” Mom said. She was crying, and Robert almost forgot that he was a Cobra Bad Guy, almost forgot how much he hated being called Robbie when his name was Robert. Robert Daniel Saylor- Daniel, like Uncadan was. He almost forgot, and went to hug Mom – but then she’d know he had been listening.
But then he remembered that Cobra Bad Guys didn’t hug crying people. They made people cry, because they were bad guys.
He stayed where he was.
Dad was hugging Mom when Robert peeked in at the window, keeping to the side and hoping they wouldn’t look. “I think we need to just tell him. He’s six, now – old enough to learn about these things. He’s going to grow up, and we can’t protect him from the hard things forever.”
Hard things? Robert’s finger found the loose paint at the edge of the window, and slipped underneath to peel it back. It jammed under his nail, and he almost yelled, but bit his finger instead.
When he looked again, Mom was staring at Dad, and her face was all red and messy from her crying. “But how are we supposed to do that? How are we supposed to tell a little boy that his favorite uncle – his only friend in the whole world – is dead?”
Dead? Uncadan? No!
Robert Daniel Saylor, who had been a Cobra Bad Guy, ran from the porch, ran to the ocean, ran to get away –
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