todd was odd. not that he looked any different from the rest of us boys, all arms and legs, in that uncomfortable season when our voices squeaked, but before hair began sprouting in places left unspoken. he had plenty of friends as well, at school at least. it was when he went home that things changed.
when school was out for the summer and postcards kept me sane with visions of far away lands, we did not see todd all that much. he lived in another subdivision, down the road and behind a hill, where few children lived. it was a prim and proper place, where children within its confines were best seen and not heard.
one year, in the waning days of summer, i wanted to have a camp out in the back yard for my birthday, inviting all my friends. my mom was not too keen on a city of tents being created in the backyard, so we settled on three friends; johnny, eric and todd.
we pitched an old canvas tent, securing the ropes to fat yellow tent pegs that took forever to bang into the ground. hearing the click-whir of Mrs. Lilly's camera, preserving the moment, we figured it would be sent along to whatever agency she belonged to, surely flagging us for further investigation.
the trouble began shortly after the lights in the house went out, the neighborhood settling into relative quiet. the four of us lay on the soft bed of grass, staring at the stars, hoping to see little green men or the warp trail of the Enterprise, when todd began talking to himself.
his voice was quiet at first, though he seemed to be carrying on a lively conversation. eric, who was never at a loss for something to say, asked him who he was talking to, capping the question with a snicker. todd grew quiet, crickets filling the gap with their melody, then sheepishly introduced us to a friend he brought with him.
it was a bumble bee, that we could not see. he anxiously told us how the bee had come to him one day when he particularly needed someone to talk to and how it had been his confidant ever since. he shared his reluctance to bring the bee on the sleep over as he was afraid we would not understand. i shook my head, thinking of my postcards.
johnny, having none of it, snapped like a twig, smacking todd's hand where the supposed bee resided, calling him sissy and wienie and other things for which my mother would wash my mouth out with ivory soap. todd cringed, his eyes darting frantically for the invisible bee that now was missing. eric and i just sat there dumbfounded, until the lights snapped on in the house.
knowing my father was on his way to the door, we forgot everything, burying ourselves in our sleeping bags, feigning sleep, as we listened to the door open then close. after a few moments night sounds resumed and i listened to todd whimpering in his bag behind me, until i drifted off to sleep.
"agh!" johnny yelled, rousing us all from of bags, the beams of our flashlights careening around the tent to ward off whatever alien was attacking him. finally they settled on johnny, who sat grimacing, clutching his hand to his chest. slowly he opened his fingers, allowing us to see the throbbing red welt in the middle of his palm, that looked surprisingly like a bee sting.
my dad came all the way to the tent to scold us this time, striking fear in our hearts by invoking Mr. Wilson's name and thoughts of what might happen if we woke him. then dad took johnny inside to tend to his wound. when johnny returned, he crawled right into his sleeping bag without a word...and never made fun of odd todd or his bee again.
years later, i visited todd, in the one bedroom apartment, where he lives alone. while he went into the kitchen to fix drinks, i sat on the end of a ragged brown couch, letting my eyes wander around the room. in the corner, halfway up the wall, protruded a tree limb, with a round grey beehive hanging beneath and i smiled. todd is still odd.
This is a Theme Thursday post. And I could not help revisiting my old suburb again.