Johnny's Road

“'Tis true; the raven doth not hatch a lark”
-Titus Andronicus II, iii.

Johnny squirmed to keep his seatbelt from pressing down on his bladder. He couldn’t pee out the window. He couldn’t pee in the backseat, but he really really had to pee. With no other choice, he said quietly “I have to go to the bathroom.”

His parents didn’t hear him. Johnny cleared his throat and spoke up a little louder. “Erm… Excuse me…” He raised his voice above the din of the road, “Excuse me, but I have to go to the bathroom.”

His mom let out a yelp. His dad turned quickly from the road to search for the source of the sound.

“Um, ok,” his mom said looking back at him. “We’ll pull off at the next rest stop.”

“We have to get there by 3pm to pick up the keys,” said his dad.

“I know but he has to use the bathroom.”

His dad tried to whisper, “Why is he even here?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered back.

A few miles later Johnny saw a rest stop fly past. “Erm… Excuse me, but I really need to use the bathroom.”

He didn’t know exactly where they were going. The sounds of his dad packing the car woke Johnny up that morning. His dad always swore a lot packing the car. His mom always wanted to bring too much stuff, or she forgot to pack his dad’s underwear or hair-gro shampoo. Johnny had to act fast. He leapt out of bed, threw on some clothes, and grabbed his Crazy-Bob backpack. He always had it packed with a few days’ essentials for just these sorts of emergencies. He ran downstairs to the car and jumped in just before it pulled out of the driveway.

A few hours later they stopped for lunch at a truck stop restaurant. As usual, his parents got a table for two. Johnny sat at the counter for a while eating sugar packets before giving up and heading for the vending machines. He forced down a plastic tasting egg sandwich and followed it with a Snickers and three cans of lemon-lime soda just to get the taste out of his mouth. Just as he was about to head to the bathroom, he saw his parents coming out of the restaurant.

They headed straight back to the car. Not wanting to get left behind, Johnny followed. They’d have to go to the bathroom eventually, he figured.

But they hadn’t.

Now with the three cans of soda straining to get out of him, Johnny vowed to buy mints next time. He tried to distract himself by looking out the window and counting things: out-of-state plates, yellow trucks, big black birds that flew along the highway. Finally when he couldn’t take it anymore, he spoke up.

“Erm… I was really serious. I still… I really really need to go to the bathroom,” Johnny said.

“There isn’t another exit for a while. Just hold it,” said his dad.

“I really have to go. Now!”

“Just pull over. He can go in the bushes,” said his mom.

The shoulder gravel hadn’t even settled before Johnny was out the door and into the brush. The thick weeds were taller than him providing suitable privacy for his much anticipated pee. It was one of the longest and most satisfying he’d ever experienced which perhaps contributed to his parents forgetting why they had stopped.

“Don’t you have to go?”

“No, I thought you had to go.”

As Johnny stood there zipping up, he heard the unmistakable sound of the car pulling away. He scampered back up out of the brush and stared at the car disappearing into the distance. Then he said, for the first time in his life, a word his dad had said a lot that morning.


“Stupid!” Johnny kicked the rocks and sat down. “Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.” He looked around at the short stretch of thick weeds that separated the highway from the forest. “I need… I should add an empty milk carton to my emergency pack.” By then the day was deep into the afternoon and the pavement was hot from its long day in the sun. Johnny could feel it through the seat of his jeans. He picked up a stone and skipped it onto the roadway.

That’s when he noticed the big black bird staring at him from the side of the road. In the sun, its feathers shined green or sometimes blue and underneath they seemed so black they were almost purple. Amazingly colorful for a plain black bird, thought Johnny.

“What are you looking at?” Johnny said skipping a stone towards the bird. It let out a sound and flapped its wings, but it didn’t fly away. It just stood there looking at him. It was definitely looking at him with its two black eyes. It made another noise from deep in its throat and then another. They sounded like gronks or cronks or something.

“My parent’s will come back. You’ll see. They’ll notice… They’ll realize they left me behind and they’ll panic. They’ll race back and um… buy me a special dinner with ice cream. You’ll see. They’ll hug me tight and promise never to forget me again, and this time they won’t.” He squinted at the horizon trying to find his parent’s car coming back. “My dad… He wouldn’t leave me.”

The bird took a few steps closer and Johnny realized for the first time just how big it was. As Johnny sat, they were almost at eye level. Johnny’s stomach tightened as the big black bird’s eyes kept staring at him. No one, not a person, not a bird, not even one of his stuffed animals had ever looked at him that long or that intently. Johnny stared back into the bird’s eyes. They were so dark they seemed more like holes in the bird’s head. They just disappeared into blackness.

Was it going to bite him? Did it think he was already dead?

It made another cronking sound, this time louder and longer and closer to Johnny’s ears.

“What?! Do you want me to go? I don’t have any place to go.”

The bird stretch its head towards Johnny and yelled. Then with a great swoosh of its wings, the bird took to the air.

“Wait! Come back. Don’t leave.” Johnny shouted as the bird flew back into the trees and vanished. The bird at least had looked at him. Now he was alone.


Johnny stood up and started walking down the highway. Every now and then a car or truck would drive by, but they never saw him. Instead they just kicked up dust and dirt, and he would cough until his dry throat ached.

Johnny could feel his head getting sun brunt. He needed to get into the shade and find some water, but he didn’t want to leave the road in case someone finally saw him, or in case his parents came back for him. Maybe he could walk to the next exit. He’d read a true story once about a woman who survived a plane crash and walked through a jungle for 10 days before she was found. If she could do that, he could survive along a highway. Of course she’d been walking along a stream, and people could see her. His parents would come back soon. They had to.

A few more cars went by. Johnny tried turning to look at them as they passed. He even waved a little. Soon he’d have to head into the trees to find some water. He had no choice. But the trees were tall and dark, and the weeds between him and them were thick and prickly.

There might be poison ivy. There might be wolves. Or worse yet, there might be squirrels like the ones that hissed at him from the branches outside his bedroom. They were mean. Of course there might also be a stream or a house or a store, or there might be nothing at all, just an endless forest that he’d never walk out of.

A loud cronking sound stirred Johnny from his trance. He had been starring off into the trees. Cronk!

Suddenly out of the trees flapped a large black bird with something in its feet. The bird seemed to hover for a second before dropping its cargo and landing.


The bird looked at Johnny. It was the same bird, he thought. It must be. It had the same stare and the same black eyes.

The bird cronked again, then bent down its head and used nudged forward what it had brought. It rolled up to Johnny’s feet. He looked down. It was a bottle of water.


Johnny gulped down the entire bottle and then bent over feeling a little sick. “Thank you.” Johnny looked at the bird. “You um… look like the crows that eat our garbage, but you’re bigger. And you’re feathers make your tail different. See I once read… I read this book once while Mrs. McQueen was teaching fractions. I’d already read about fractions. But um… it was a whole book about birds. You look like a raven bird. Thank you. Thank you for the water, raven bird.”

The raven cronked as if to say “You’re welcome”.

For the next hour or so Johnny kept walking down the road with the raven. Sometimes it flew in tight circles around him. Sometimes it walked along with him. But it hardly ever took its eyes off Johnny.

“I’m gonna be a tax attorney when I grow up, like my dad. I’ve already started… I read IRS Forms sometimes and fill them in. I mean not with real figures or anything. I’m just making up the numbers, but dad… He says sometimes he has to do that anyway so it’s good practice. Making up the numbers. He works for one of the top 5 biggest companies in the country! Probably the world even. I think… I know he’s gonna get me a job there when I’m older. I’ll have to start small and work my way up just like him. Just like he did, but it’ll be worth it.”


“I’ll have a nice house… the biggest house. And a yard and a puppy and um… a wife. I’ll make her grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches. We’ll eat them on the porch and watch the lightning bugs. Man I could use a grilled cheese.” His empty stomach made a loud growl. “I’d even eat another one of those egg sandwiches if I had one.”


“Thanks for the water again. That was nice of you raven bird. What’s your name? Oh um… you can’t talk. I should give you a name. I mean, I’m sure you have one already, but I need to give you an English name since I don’t speak bird. I wonder, are you a boy or a girl? I um… I read a story about a raven once. I could call you Poe. That would work either way. If you’re a boy bird or a girl bird. What do you think, Poe?”


Johnny stopped and looked down the long road ahead. “They’re not coming back are they? Why aren’t they coming back? I’m their son. They should come back for me, but they’re not, are they Poe?... Poe?” He turned all around and just saw a flutter of wings as the raven flew back into the trees. “Poe! Come back, Poe! I can call you something else if you don’t like Poe. Poe!”

Tears made mud from the dust on his cheeks. His parents had left him. They’d finally left him and forgotten about him completely, and now the raven had left him too. He kicked at the gravel then sat down on his butt and buried his head in his hands.


Johnny was dreaming. He knew this because in his dream his parents were not only looking directly at him and talking to him, but they were laughing and splitting the largest chocolate fudge sundae Johnny had ever seen. The waitress had needed a crane to put it on the table. But as he slurped down a spoonful of creamy strawberry ice cream smothered in thick fudge, something kept poking him on the knee. It wouldn’t stop.

“What? I’m having a good dream,” he said through his slumber.


Johnny opened his eyes wide. “Poe! Poe you came back!”


Johnny wanted to hug the bird but also didn’t want it to fly away.


Poe nudged a small familiar paper bag towards Johnny. Johnny knew that bag! It was a Hamburger Mary’s bag.

“How?!” Johnny grabbed it and opened it. A hamburger, small fries, and a coke. “A Mary Classic Combo!” He tore the wrapper off the burger and took a bite. “Thunk yu. Thunk yu oh uch,” he said with his mouth full.

Cronk. The bird flapped its wings in approval.

“You came back. You came back for me,” Johnny said with a smile.


The wind had started to pickup, swirling the dust around Johnny in gusts as he walked. He seemed no closer to an exit or civilization. He’d stopped looking at the approaching cars. “I don’t know what else to tell you Poe. I don’t know why they never paid any attention to me, or why they forget about me all the time. It’s just always been that way. No adults ever seem to notice me. I mean, kids don’t much either. It is nice to talk to you though. You’re a great listener. Erm… sometimes I talk to Momo. Momo’s a stuffed bunny, but he never seems to really listen to me like you do.”


“You’re the best Poe. I wish you were my dad. I mean, like the bird version of my dad. You wouldn’t leave me. You won’t leave me will you? I mean, not forever. You’ll always come back, right?”


“You promise?”


Johnny kept walking with the wind blowing at his back. The trees on either side of the road seemed to go on forever. He couldn’t see into them as far as he could before. “Seems like the night is coming, but it’s too early for the night to come. Don’t you think Poe?”

Poe was ahead of him perched on the branch of a bush. The branch swayed and Poe’s feathers rippled in waves. Johnny could never tell exactly where Poe’s black eyes were looking, but they usually seemed to be looking at him, except now. Now they were fixed on a point up above and behind Johnny. He turned around to see the sky behind him dark with black clouds. A gust of wind blew back his hair.

Cronk. Cronk!

Johnny looked back at Poe and then quickly back at the approaching storm. Lightning flashed in the distance. Johnny counted to himself: one, two, three, four, five. Faint thunder. Still far away.

Cronk. Poe leapt from the branch and started flying towards the trees.

“Wait! You promised.” cried Johnny, and the bird stopped and landed on another bush. Then Poe turned and cronked loudly. Then the raven flew back to the first branch, cronked and flew back to the second. Poe did this two more times, back and forth between the same branches, cronking loudly at each.

“What is it Poe?” Johnny walked up to the branch along the road. Poe came back to it, almost on top of Johnny, flapped its wings and soared back to the far branch. Poe let out a cronk so loud it echoed through the trees.

“What is it?” but as Johnny looked he could see almost a path through the weeds from the road right towards Poe. From the corner of his eye, Johnny saw another flash of lightning. One, two, three. Louder thunder. “Erm… There better not be squirrels.” Johnny dived into the bushes. Poe let out an approving chirp. Johnny kept his eyes on Poe as he pushed his way through the prickly brush. Branches cut and scraped his forearms and snagged his clothing, but in very little time at all he’d reached Poe.

Cronk. Poe flew almost to the trees and turned back. Cronk!

Johnny plowed ahead. “You better know where you’re going.” Poe next flew into the trees. Johnny had to squint to keep the outline of the bird in view as he struggled towards the trees. Just as he got under the tree line he felt a splash of water on his face. With a quick glance over his shoulder, he saw a wall of water rush by. The rain was so thick he could barely see the road.

Poe led him parallel to the road, edging deeper into the forest as they went. The thunder grew louder and right on top of the lightning until each clap would shake the trees and send a shower of rain down onto Johnny.

Soon Poe landed on top of the rotted out bones of a fallen tree. Johnny crawled inside the hollow trunk. He was a little wet, but not soaked. Poe flew into the mouth Johnny’s shelter, let out a cronk and then flew back out into the storm. Even under the trees the rain soon fell thick all around him.


The storm blew away almost as quickly as it had blown in. Johnny crawled to the edge of the tree trunk and watched the wind shake water from the trees. Soon they dropped less and less water, and Johnny pulled himself out of the trunk. His feet plunked into a cold wet mud that instantly started soaking through his shoes. After staying mostly dry in the storm, he didn’t want to get all wet and cold now. He also didn’t want to crawl back into the dark tree trunk either. Instead he stepped onto the lip of the trunk and put his hands on the top. The wood was slippery, but also soft. He dug his fingers in enough to pull himself up onto it.

Johnny stood up and looked around. He could see the highway through the trees and hear the distant traffic. He didn’t see Poe anywhere, but that didn’t worry him anymore. “When Poe comes back… Poe will um… lead me out of the forest somewhere safe. And then Poe will stay with me even after I’m safe and be my friend. Or um… I could stay here in the forest maybe. Poe will help me build a tree house and bring me food. But no, the cold… I wouldn’t be able to not freeze out here in the winter. I’ll have to go somewhere, but Poe will help.”

A strange chirping clicking noise behind Johnny caught his ear. He looked over his shoulder and saw two large gray squirrels at the other end of the log.

“No! Don’t you come any closer squirrels! Squirrels are mean.” He held out his hands to point at them, but as soon as he moved his arm, the squirrels bounded straight for him as if he was holding out food.

“No. No. No! No!” Johnny backed away but his muddy shoes slipped on the slick bark. He fell backwards and bounced off the side of the trunk and tumbled through the air. His feet hit the ground hard. He collapsed with a sickening snap and fell head first into a thick thorny bush that cut him every where he touched it. He screamed.

Johnny could feel hundreds of prickles biting at his skin. His foot was stuck behind him, wedged into something. He tried to use it to pull himself up, but pain exploded up his leg every time he tried to move it. He tried pushing himself up with his hands but every movement dug the prickles deeper into him.

“Poe. Poe!” he yelled, but he didn’t know how the bird could help him out of this. Everything hurt. He had to do something. Johnny flailed his arms against the bush and dug his good foot into the ground. He pushed and pulled himself out of the thorns with a shriek of pain that bounced through the trees.

Johnny stood panting with his weight on his good foot. His face and arms were warm with blood from his cuts. His bad foot was bent to the side and caught between a rock and a branch of the dead tree that had been his shelter from the storm. He bit the inside of his cheek and twisted himself free.

Johnny hopped to the mouth of the trunk and sat down in the opening. Then he said that same word for just the second time in his life. Only this time much louder.


Johnny sat with his gaze fixed on one spot in the trees. If he kept looking at one spot it didn’t hurt so much. He stayed there for a long time watching the light fade until Poe returned.

Cronk. Cronk! Poe flew up to him dropping an apple and a small can at his feet.

“There you are!” Johnny smiled and picked up the apple and the can. It was a small pop-top can of tuna. “Erm… thanks.”

Poe cronked and flapped in obvious distress at Johnny’s appearance.

“I think my ankle broke itself, Poe.” Johnny winced as he took a bite out of the apple. Even his teeth seemed to hurt. “I should wash… I should clean out the cuts with some of this rain water around, but I just… I didn’t feel like it. I just didn’t feel like doing much of anything but sitting here. Moving’s too painful.”


“I’m not sure what to do now Poe. Erm… You can’t carry me, and I doubt you can fly back here with a doctor. I can’t walk to the road. I can’t go with you anywhere, but I don’t think I’ll heal right just sitting here. It’s gotten so cold. The sun is going.”

Poe cronked and flew away again. Johnny wondered how Poe would try to help him now.


Soon Johnny couldn’t see much beyond the few trees nearest him. The dark had never scared him much, but this dark was different. The woods were alive with chirping, scuttling noises, breaking twigs, and occasionally the roar of a car or truck going by on the highway. Depending on which direction they were going, they’d cast a sweeping beam of light through the trees allowing Johnny to see into the night.

He felt something crawling on his arm. “Ew!” he flicked away two spiders, and then, without thinking, a large beetle off his ankle. He bit his cheek and stifled a yell. His ankle had swollen up bigger than his fist and screamed with pain at the slightest touch or movement. It throbbed constantly.

He brushed off a few more bugs and started feeling them even where they weren’t. It’s just your imagination, he told himself.

“You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. Poe will bring you help, somehow. You’ll get out of this and find your parents and go home, and Poe will stay with you and help you.”

A headlight swept past and Johnny froze. He’d seen eyes. Several pairs of eyes.

“No. No eyes. No squirrels. No mean squirrels.” He could hear footsteps now or thought he did. Animals moving around him. Another car and he saw the outline of a dog. Several dogs. But they weren’t dogs of course. They were wolves.

That word was becoming a regular part of his vocabulary.


“And the rockets’ red glaaaare. Boom! The bombs bursting in aaaair. Boom!” Johnny sang as loud as he could, but with each passing headlight he could see the wolves circling closer. They could smell his blood smeared and dried all over his arms and face. Somehow they knew he’d broken his ankle too, or maybe they just knew he was injured and figured he was easy prey. “…of the braaaaaaave! …Ooooh say can you…” It was the only song he could think of, but he’d read somewhere about bears that you should sing show tunes while walking through the forest to scare them away. He didn’t know any show tunes.

The adrenaline was dulling the pain at least enough for Johnny to stand. He used a long heavy branch as a crutch and waived his free arm to look bigger than he was. The wolves didn’t seem to care. Closer and closer they came.

Johnny turned around in circles trying to keep them from his back, but there were too many of them. They weren’t close enough for him to see without the light of a passing car, but they were just beyond his field of vision now. They could leap at him at any moment out of the darkness. He turned and turned.

“…that our flag… was… still…” He stopped dizzy and about to fall over. “Poe, where are you?”

Before he was even aware of seeing movement, he was already swinging the branch. He connected with the jaw of the first wolf with a crack and knocked it off course enough that it flew past him and scattered the wolves on the opposite side. Another one must have been on top of the fallen tree. It jumped down towards him from above, but Johnny was able to get the branch underneath it and vault it over the top of him.

Then a jaw locked around his good ankle. Johnny flailed the branch at the wolf, pounding at its eyes until it let go. As it did, it grabbed the stick in its mouth and wrenched it free from Johnny’s grip. He could feel blood running down his ankle filling up his shoe. He looked up into the face of a wolf now no more than a few feet away. He could see its lips quivering as it growled, drool dripping from its fangs. Johnny closed his eyes and braced himself.

Cronk! Johnny’s heart leapt as he heard a swooshing of wings, a howl and a whimper. He opened his eyes and saw Poe gripping the wolf’s muzzle pecking at its eyes. Another wolf leapt at Johnny, but Poe met it in mid air. “Go Poe!” Johnny yelled.

Poe cronked and flew a circle around Johnny. As headlights slid by, Johnny could see the wolves scattering, but they weren’t going far.

The raven flew up to Johnny from behind and grabbed him by his shirt pulling him forward. Johnny hopped along as Poe led him to a nearby tree and then let go. Johnny heard a cronk from above and looked up to see Poe jumping from one branch to another higher into the tree, cronking and looking back at Johnny.

“I get it Poe! I’m coming.” Johnny started climbing up the tree as fast as he could, which wasn’t very fast with one ankle broken and the other bit and bleeding.

He could hear the wolves coming up to the tree growling and howling. One jumped and just missed him. The next caught his pant leg with its fangs and ripped off a piece as it fell back to the earth. The third was met by Poe pecking at its eyes.

Johnny climbed until he was well out of the reach of the wolves, but still he kept climbing. Finally he pulled himself up onto a branch big enough for him to sit on with his legs propped up on another crossing branch. His broken ankle pulsed. His bitten ankle bled. The pain and exhaustion washed over him and he slept.


He was dreaming again. He was at the ice cream shop with his parents again, but this time the forklift bringing in their sundae ran over his feet and knocked over a glass dish that shattered on his nose. His parents sat there laughing at him. The waitress turned into a wolf and ordered herself a Johnny Surprise. Just as she was about to take her first bite of him, Johnny woke up.

He had no idea where he was at first. The sight of crisscrossing tree branches and the blue sky might as well have been Mars, but then he felt the pain in his ankles and everything from the day before came back to him. He laughed. He laughed a long hallow laugh that shook the branches and brought water down from the leaves above. He was broken and bleeding and alone and up in a tree that he wasn’t entirely sure he could climb down from. All he had was a bird that seemed to like him and show up at the right moments. It was all the funniest thing he’d ever heard of. He’d probably die sitting where he sat up in the tree, if it weren’t for Poe. Johnny sighed a big sigh. “Well, do I wait up here for Poe or do I climb down. I mean, he’ll probably show up soon with a full pancake breakfast and a ladder.” He laughed again.

Then as the wind rustled the leaves, Johnny heard another sound: a weak chirping sound coming from nearby. He twisted around to find the source. Just a little below him and out in the crook of a branch sat a bird’s nest. Johnny looked down into it and saw three young hatchlings. They looked like dark grey balls of fluff with pink beaks. They didn’t have real feathers yet and their heads were bald. One of them was asleep. One of them was chirping as if it barely had the energy to move. Something had fallen on the third and it was struggling to push it off.

The nest wasn’t that far away. “I can help you little chicks.” Johnny slid down his branch a little, biting his cheek to fight back the pain of his ankles and cuts. He held on with one hand as he stretched with his other until he could just reach the thing that had fallen on the third chick. He walked on it with his fingers to roll it off and saw that it was another chick. A dead chick covered in flies. Johnny gagged and flung it out of the nest to the ground.

“Ew. Ick. Why didn’t your momma bird throw that out before.” The freed chick let out a little chirp and then stumbled and fell over in the nest. “Are um… you ok little chicks? Are you hungry? I’m sure your momma bird will come back soon with food.”

Johnny looked closer at the sleeping chick. He didn’t think it was sleeping. He poked it and it didn’t move. He felt it for any signs of life. Finding none, he flicked the second dead chick out of the nest and sat back on his branch. He kept watching the nest, though, just to make sure the other two chicks still moved from time to time.

Cronk! Poe landed on Johnny’s branch depositing a white plastic bag next to him. Cronk!

“Thanks Poe. What did you bring me?” He riffled through the bag and found a juice box, chocolate candy, antibiotic cream, an individual sized pack of facial tissue, and a “congratulations on your graduation” card. “Erm… thanks Poe. That’s a start anyway.”


“Hey there are these birds over ther-“ Johnny looked up past Poe and saw the two chicks chirping weakly. Their pink beaks stretched up towards Poe on the branch above. Wherever Poe moved along the branch, their beaks pointed.

Poe looked at Johnny with her deep black eyes. “They’re yours? They’re yours! How could you Poe. How?” He looked from Poe back to the screaming chicks. “You’ve been helping me while your own chicks starved.” Cronk. “What’s wrong with you?!” He yelled at Poe so fiercely the raven took a step back and flapped her wings. “Those are your chicks. Your kids. You have to feed them and love them and listen to them. Can’t you even hear them?!” Turning to the chicks, he said “Chirp louder little chicks! Chirp louder,” but even Johnny could barely hear them. “Help them! Love them.” Poe just stood there looking at Johnny.

“You have to hear them. You have to hear them, Poe.” Mustering all his strength, Johnny pulled himself down off his branch and started climbing down. He could put a little weight on his bitten ankle. Enough to get down. He wouldn’t let the pain stop him. He got to the ground and grabbed another long solid branch to help him walk, and he headed towards the sounds of the cars.

Poe flew down beside him. The plastic bag of supplies clutched in her beak. “No! Go away. I don’t want your stupid food. You should be feeding your chicks not me.”

She dropped the bag in front of Johnny and cronked. “No! I don’t want it.” He grabbed the juice box out of the bag and threw it at Poe. She dodged it in a flurry of wings and cronks.

Johnny hobbled ahead through the trees and bushes yelling at Poe whenever she came near him and throwing things at her when there was a rock or a branch he could throw. Soon he was out of the trees and back down to the road. Some of the cuts on his arms and face had re-opened. He couldn’t move his foot below his broken ankle anymore, and the bites on his other ankle itched and burned.

As a car approached down the road, Johnny waved his arms and screamed, but the car drove right by.

Cronk. Poe was on the ground near him. Cronk.

“Go away! Help your chicks! Listen to them, not me.”

Another car. Johnny got right up onto the shoulder and threw his branch at the car. It exploded on the front bumper. The car swerved a little but disappeared down the road.


Johnny clenched his teeth. “Go away. Listen to them.” He bit down on his check so hard he could feel his mouth bleeding as he limped and hopped out onto the freeway.

Poe cronked and flew around him. She tried to grab his shirt, but Johnny threw her off. He stood there in the middle of the lane staring back down the freeway at an approaching car. He put his hands up in the air and stared at it getting closer and closer without slowing down.


“Listen to them. Listen to me!” He screamed a long loud scream as the car sped towards him.


“Look out!” The woman yelled. The man slammed on the brakes and turned just enough to avoid the boy that had appeared out of nowhere in the middle of their lane. He kept control of the car but drove off into the grass median before coming to a stop.

The man jumped out of the car flush with adrenaline and rage. “What the hell are you doing?!” But the boy collapsed on to the freeway.

The man ran up to him and saw a bloody mess of a child in torn rags. “Call 911,” he yelled back to his wife. He bent down to the child who looked back up into his eyes. “It’s all right,” said the man, “We’re gonna help you. It’s all right.”

The child smiled and turned his head to look at the side of the road. A raven took to the air and flew off into the trees.

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