Every Living Thing

Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant Read Free Book Online

Book: Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cynthia Rylant
watched, those five cows—big heads and strong breath and curiosity.
    Denny stood with them and felt very serious. He regarded them solemnly.
    The cows’ eyes were all large and shining and very, very peaceful. Denny stared at the eyes and he felt reassured. He felt stronger. He felt safe.
    Denny moved up against the fence, and the cows wobbled among themselves a minute,then were still again. He put his hand through the fence and gently touched the muzzle of the cow nearest him. It watched him with soft eyes and did not move away.
    Denny breathed deep and smiled and stood resting with the cows a long time. Then he went inside.
    Afterward, every night when the talk in the house turned to nuclear war, Denny went to the cows. And they always made him feel safe.
    It wasn’t too many nights, though, until his mother and Uncle Jim noticed his leaving them alone. And when. They knew, finally, what subject could chase Denny out of the room.
    One night, then, they came after him and found him with the cows.
    â€œWe have made you sad,” they said. “Or maybe afraid. And we are sorry.”
    Denny didn’t want to talk of it near the cows, so the three of them went back inside the house.
    Denny didn’t have to run to the cows any more nights after that. Sometimes, though, he went to see them while the news was on, or just before bed. He liked them so.
    When the vacation ended and Denny returned to Canton with his mother, he noticed she was careful not to discuss the NuclearFreeze around him. It helped some, but not completely. He had learned enough to still be afraid.
    And when he did feel afraid, he shut his eyes tight and walked across the yard in Maine to the cows.

Shells
    â€œYou
hate
living here.”
    Michael looked at the woman speaking to him.
    â€œNo, Aunt Esther. I don’t.” He said it dully, sliding his milk glass back and forth on the table. “I don’t hate it here.”
    Esther removed the last pan from the dishwasher and hung it above the oven.
    â€œYou hate it here,” she said, “and you hate me.”
    â€œI don’t!” Michael yelled. “It’s not
you!”
    The woman turned to face him in the kitchen.
    â€œDon’t yell at me!” she yelled. “I’ll not have it in my home. I can’t make you happy, Michael. You just refuse to be happy here. And you punish me every day for it.”
    â€œ
Punish
you?” Michael gawked at her. “I don’t punish you! I don’t care about you! I don’t care what you eat or how you dress or where you go or what you think. Can’t you just leave me alone?”
    He slammed down the glass, scraped his chair back from the table and ran out the door.
    â€œMichael!” yelled Esther.
    They had been living together, the two of them, for six months. Michael’s parents had died and only Esther could take him in—or, only she had offered to. Michael’s other relatives could not imagine dealing with a fourteen-year-old boy. They wanted peaceful lives.
    Esther lived in a condominium in a wealthy section of Detroit. Most of the area’s residents were older (like her) and afraid of the world they lived in (like her). They stayed indoors much of the time. They trusted few people.
    Esther liked living alone. She had nevermarried or had children. She had never lived anywhere but Detroit. She liked her condominium.
    But she was fiercely loyal to her family, and when her only sister had died, Esther insisted she be allowed to care for Michael. And Michael, afraid of going anywhere else, had accepted.
    Oh, he was lonely. Even six months after their deaths, he still expected to see his parents—sitting on the couch as he walked into Esther’s living room, waiting for the bathroom as he came out of the shower, coming in the door late at night. He still smelled his father’s Old Spice somewhere, his mother’s talc.
    Sometimes he was so sure one of them was

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