He kicked the dirt, lost his grip on Spiderman and sat on a low rock. Spiderman was upside down straddling a Fir twig, but he didn’t care. He was tired of walking. He could see better now that the shade had reached him. The river was gone. It was quiet now, only rocks and trees to talk to. “Dad said he’d be right back,” he told the SpongeBob shaped rock. “Mom is at Uncle Joe’s house, giggling and spilling her lemonade, and PaPa is selling his car to Miss Sippi.” He pulled a twig out of his shoe and stretched over to pick up Spiderman. He stood up and squeaked out “DADDY” as loud as he could, then moaned. “Lets go back, no one’s here Spidey.”
The trail wound back into the woods, and he recognized a gnarly old tree a while later. Then came the little cave he’d crawled into earlier, only to crawl back out when a chipmunk chased him out. He kept going, down, across a small hill and there was the river again. He picked up a dead tree branch and banged it against a giant root, raw without it’s bark, echoing loudly even with the river rushing by. “Daddy!” No answer came.
He’d been talking on his phone, one hand deep in his front pocket, pacing between the trees. His front teeth chewed at the hair below his lower lip, as he glanced in all directions, like he was searching for someone. Wyatt had heard him say, “Even if I leave now, I can’t make it in time… Fuck Me!”
They’d been camping down river for two weeks, and he’d watched his Dad toss his pole in the river, letting it and the fish go when his phone rang. He’d came back over, squatted down to look him in the eye, and had said, “I’ll be right back, don’t go anywhere, you hear?” “Yes, sir,” and Daddy was jogging down the trail along the river, back to their tent, Wyatt thought. But that was hours ago. His stomach grumbled again, and Spiderman was tired of fishing.
He picked up his pole, tucked Spiderman in his sweatshirt pocket in front, and started down the trail to their tent. It got dark before he reached it, but he knew where it was. He lit the lantern, just like his Dad had showed him how to, and sat inside the tent. He zipped it up, just in case a bear was around, and pulled out the loaf of bread and the jar of peanut butter. He didn’t need a knife, just his finger to dig it out and smear it around. He wolfed it down. Dug out more peanut butter with his fingers. He guzzled at the half empty water bottle lying by his sleeping bag. Then slowly, as he counted out the number of frog “Ribbit’s” he heard, he fell asleep.
All the food was gone in four days; he’d drank all the water and milk and had started in on his Dad’s beer. He felt funny, but lying on his sleeping bag under the stars, he just smiled to himself and looked up. Spiderman was lying on his chest, watching too. They were both covered in filth. But he was the only one with streaks of grime down his cheeks. Spiderman still grinned with large black eyes. One of his feet was missing though, and this upset him greatly. They’d looked for it for hours today. Long enough he’d actually forgot about Daddy for a while. His stomach hurt, so he turned over and curled up, with Spiderman lying next to him, he could just feel the one foot poking him in the side.
He woke up slowly. Wiped sweat off his face and sat up slowly, his head throbbing. Spiderman was face down in the dirt so he picked him up and said in a small voice, “I don’t feel so good.” He stepped into the river’s edge taking three small steps and sat down in the cool rushing water. It felt so good he shivered. He stuck Spiderman in between his knees, pulled off his sweatshirt and threw it back into the dirt on the bank. One arm trailed into the water. He pretended he had a washrag and began to wash himself off. After his face was done he held onto Spiderman and leaned back into the water, to get his hair wet. He scrubbed at his hair with his hand and Spiderman’s two raised hands, then sat back up, shaking his head like a dog.
A sharp crack of a branch startled him. Right behind him, it seemed. He stood up and looked at the trees, the trail, from the river on one side all the way around to the river again and didn’t see anything. Then another loud crunch sounded and he stepped out of the water and froze. The bushes next to their tent wiggled and shivered.
“Where is your Daddy?”
Wyatt whispered, “I don’t know,” as Spiderman came up in front of him to be molded into his chest. Nothing could hurt him with Spidey there.
“Are you hungry?”
“Yes. What’s your name?”
“You can call me Leo. It’s short for Leonardo.”
“Like the Ninja?” Wyatt’s eyes were wide open now. He stepped toward Leo, not afraid in any way. Leo met him half way and took his left hand.
“A bit.” Leo led him to the camouflaged tent. “Anything in there you need?”
“I don’t know.” He crawled in anyway, looked around blankly. His bag of clothes was spilled open, so he changed his shorts and found his Hulk sweatshirt to pull on, leaving his wet stuff behind and tucking Spiderman into the front pocket that was his usual resting place. He didn’t bother with Underoos or socks, just slid his feet into his river shoes. He noticed his special pocket knife lying in the dirt and grabbed that, stuffing it into one of his short’s pockets.
“Do you have anything to drink?” Wyatt asked as they walked around the trunk of a huge Cedar. Leo was holding the arm of a long sticker bush up so Wyatt could walk underneath it without getting scratched. Wyatt couldn’t stop looking up at Leo. He stumbled, not noticing they weren’t on a trail of any kind, just making their way through the forest in an easterly direction.
“Not here.” He pulled an orange out and handed it to Wyatt. He bit it like an apple and spit out the first bite. Then he ripped it in half just like the Hulk would, and started sucking.
“Mmmn, oh hey, mmmn.” He swallowed loudly, licked his lips in a sloppy circle. When he was done ripping all the chunks out and slurping them down, he tossed the rind and wiped his hands off on his sweatshirt. He stopped walking and asked,”Can you help me find my Daddy?” Leo stopped walking and bent down to look Wyatt in the eye.
“Your Daddy can’t be found. Your Mommy ran off to Vegas with her pimp, and your PaPa was in a car accident.” He watched Wyatt’s face go from open and adventurous to frozen, just blank. Leo was quick though and offered, “Wanna come with me?”
Wyatt put both hands in his pocket to hold Spiderman, squeezing him against his stomach. “Where?”
Leo walked away and Wyatt followed, just past a massive boulder tumbled from the top of the mountains, and stopped in front of 5 giant tree trunks. Wyatt blinked his eyes and realized the trunks were shiny; blinked again and saw 5 massive metal legs. His eyes followed the legs all the way up to the huge metal belly of a space ship.
Leo grinned widely with both his mouths and said, “How about Pluto?”