My family would be systematically seated in the station wagon with Robin Hood and me in the way back. I would watch the world whip by from the hatchback window. In my peripheral vision were only colors, and ahead, or behind, lay stretched out scenes shrinking into the tunnel we had just moved through. Robin Hood would have his head on my lap, an exact weight and warmth that equated to a distinct happiness in me. The car always slowed and turned left onto Old Smoke Road. Left, as we would be coming from the direction of most anything at all, the state forest, my grandparents house or the shopping mall. Old Smoke Road was steep on one side, and a rolling descent on the other. Our station wagon climbed and gravity strengthened. A heaviness would begin to grow from my stomach until my gut felt like rocks held in thin, wet fabric.
At the peak of Old Smoke Road my body steadied upright a moment, teetered and then reversed. Instead of being pulled toward the hatchback window and the rest of the world, I was shifted. I now was pulled toward the back seat where my sister and brother sat, toward the front seats with my mother and father, toward our house and with dusk most likely upon us, toward the black hole which gulped down the world from its origin in our backyard.
My father turned into the driveway and without turning my head to face them, silhouettes of shadows whispered, attempting to distract me from the inertia. The driveway slightly bowed and so for a hard, mean second we were aimed, the whole family, directly at the backyard and the black hole. My father would always steer toward the garage though, a survival instinct left over from his military days. Consequently the gravitational pull was blocked by our house and the station wagon would slow to a stop. I felt the gears move below my body, an unwelcoming metallic plunk into park. This was my cue. Just like our systematic placement within the car, each family member had a specific role with specific duties. One of my duties was to open the garage door.
I pushed the hatchback up with my foot and it whined a high pitched scream only I could hear. Robin Hood would lumber down in front of me and then wait so as to follow me as I jolted towar the garage door. I pulled its dead weight up, more heaviness, then pushed it above my head, more teetering, before the accordion cut wood glided horizontally into the slot, like bread in a tipped over toaster. I stepped aside and my family’s rigid torsos rolled by. I stood there, alone but for Robin Hood, while the few seconds afforded me a private concert to the black hole’s peculiar pitch. I could hear gravity. It summoned my arm hairs. It gripped my whole body. At times it even enticed me around the corner, and I would peek, not scared but stunned. There was an energy in the air behind the house that was astounding. It amplified both sound and silence and the heartbeat in my chest.
I witnessed the black hole through its hunger, knowing it had eaten up the backyard, the garden and the big apple tree, the time capsule Nikki and I would plant, and even the potential of a place to plant a time capsule. This black hole played tricks on me. It not only ate the light and my sense of familiarity, but at times when I looked onto the backyard from the house, the black hole would also project a muted scene of what was there yesterday and what would be regurgitated tomorrow. It took from me what I knew was real, along with any proof of itself. My awareness of the black hole, this knowledge, was like the light from a dead star, reaching my eyes but no longer existing. And so, I never tested the black hole, I never even tested speaking about it. I let it expand and contract each night, a blinking eye only I saw. Perhaps it only saw me as well.
I awoke to something missing. The weight was not there. The weight and warmth of Robin Hood was missing from my bed. Sleep fell away from my mind slightly slower than from my body. I smelled rain, and through its light, melodic, pitter-patter drops I heard a howling. Robin Hood was outside my window, on the hill, in the backyard. A low song resonated from his long throat, and there was another sound, a high compliment. I was reminded of the whine from the hatchback opening. Was it only now echoing back? Was the black hole spitting out the sounds from the day?
Robin Hood and the black hole conversed a duet, sang a dialogue. He spoke for me, let the black hole know that I needed to understand. It hissed and did not want to reveal itself. Robin Hood’s pleas persisted, with his baritone breaths full of commitment and concern, loyalty and love, so full like a stretched balloon, he sang of my fear of the unknown, my fear of loneliness and the source of the loneliness. He sang as I slid back into sleep, exhausted by my straining to understand this other language.
When I woke the sun was high and Robin Hood was crazed. His legs and belly were covered with seed burrs like any dog after an adventure, but his eyes met mine and I saw they were different, different from the day before and different from any other dog. His stubby tail wagged with fever. My heart sped up. I knew he had wooed the black hole into admitting its secrets.