The Sandman, Vols 1 & 2 (Neil Gaiman, et al)

I like to look down from my second story office at the nine-foot sunflower that has grown in the end of one of the garden boxes. The rest of the garden is screened from my view by the limbs of a pine tree, but that sunflower sits there staring at me all day long. Waiting, for what I do not know.

But whatever it is, I am sure it is no good.

And this is why, when I noticed that neighbor kid sitting on one of the lawn chairs not more than a few feet away from the flower, I had to go down and investigate. I might not be able to remember the kid's name, and, in fact, there is a good chance he is imaginary, but that doesn't mean I don't have a responsibility. I'm an adult.

This is a sentence I repeat to myself throughout the day. It is an important part of my routine: eat breakfast, brush teeth, remind myself I'm an adult; eat lunch, wash dishes, remind myself I'm an adult. You do this, too, right?

At any rate, I trundled out into the back yard to find that the kid was reading. Now, reading is something I like to encourage. I took the opportunity to do so right then.

"You go, boy," I said.

"What?"

"You go, you with your reading and stuff. Good on you."

He looked back down to his book. I eyed the sunflower. You realize that nine feet is about three feet taller than I am, right? That's pretty tall.

He looked up from his book. "Why are you staring at the sunflower like that?"

"What are you reading?" I responded. No need to let him in on the dangers around him.

"A collection of The Sandman comics."

"Oh, I see. Neil Gaiman. I like his prose work a lot."

"You haven't read the comics?"

"Oh, sure. Felt like I never gave comics a chance when I was a kid. Not sure why: it's not really much of a leap from the fantasy novels I read to the comics. It was hurting my geek cred, so I picked up a couple volumes last week."

"This is really good," he said. "Different from that superhero junk."

"Gaiman can tell a story, that's for sure. Kinda gruesome, though." A bee flew onto the sunflower. I waited for the flower to pounce on it. The kid watched me watching the flower.

"You afraid of that thing?" he asked.

"Oh, no. Of course not. Perish the thought. I mean, sure I was when I was little, but that's understandable. They were like twice my height and there was a huge gang of them down on the corner. I had to pass them on the way to Martin Boulevard Elementary School. There wasn't a sidewalk on the other side of the street, of course, so I sidled past them the best I could, hoping my backpack would protect me."

"You were afraid of a flower."

"It was a long time ago. I think I had seen this episode of Star Trek where this flower spits into Spock's face and he goes all doolally."

The boy just shakes his head. "Maybe you didn't get into comics because they were too scary for you."

"I don't think that's it," I said. Sure, I would sometimes read a Groo, but that wasn't going to help my case, so I didn't mention it. "I think it was just that I was cheap."

"Cheap?"

"Sure. With a comic book, you paid like a dollar for maybe 25 pages of content? And that wasn't a whole lot of words. Compare that to getting a whole novel for five or six dollars, back in the day. Standard economic sense. I'd finish that thing in an hour. It wasn't worth the money to me."

"But the artwork is worth poring over."

"I guess I don't see artwork so well."

A breeze kicked up and the sunflower bent down toward me. I decided I needed to be back on the porch, so I ran over to it.

"You're still afraid of the sunflower," the kid said. "You're just a scaredy cat."

"I am not a scaredy cat," I said. "I am an adult."

And so I went inside and left him to his fate, the little mocker.

1 thoughtful messages from friendly readers:

Lori said...

Good one! It'd make a great comic book...