Xylander: A Spirit Traveler Beginning

I originally published my book under the title Xylander in 2015. I included in that version many scenes that were more like pieces of my own history. That's why I ultimately cut them out for the revised version. You can read them here at your leisure.

Childhood Street

Charlotte got a ride home from a friend that afternoon. It was only about a mile from her house to school. In between, was a busy highway that many eighteen-wheelers traveled, so her mother didn’t want her or her brothers walking to or from school. Charlotte couldn’t wait for her sixteenth birthday in a few weeks and then she could drive herself to and from school.

The street she lived on was perfect for kids growing up. The turn off the main highway was at the top of a hill; then it sloped down to a small valley before climbing to a hill in the center of the street. It then sloped downward a second time to a valley where Charlotte’s family lived before finally ascending to end in a cul-de-sac. It was perfect for riding bikes and skateboards. All throughout the year, the kids that lived on the street played outside after school until sundown. Charlotte and her brothers knew when the street lights came on that was their signal it was time to go in. Otherwise, their mother would cup her hands together and blow a whistle that could be heard a half a mile away, and they would know she was calling them to come home.

When the McAfee’s first moved to the street, it was a gravel road lined with open sewer ditches. The city finally paved it sometime during Charlotte’s fifth-grade year, although the open sewers remained for many years after. There were only eight houses built on the street at the time and all, but one had school age children. The O’Quinn’s lived at the beginning of the street, and they had three daughters, Jenessa, Jennifer, and Molly. In the first valley, lived the Jones’s. They had a swimming pool that many of the kids got to swim in during the summer. Shane, Shawna, and Sheena were the Jones kids. On the middle hill lived the Williams’s with their daughter, Kelly, and across from them lived the Rutherfords who had Ronny and Darah. In the second valley, Charlotte and her two brothers, Tad and Ryan, lived across the street from the Montgomery’s and their daughter, Misty. Finally, at the top of the hill at the end of the street and looking out over the whole street itself, lived the McMillan’s with their son, Isaac. Isaac was also a third cousin to the McAfee children. Next to the McMillan’s lived the “Old” Williams’s. They were the grandparents of Kelly and owned most of the undeveloped land and fishing pond further back behind the street.

Charlotte remembered fondly the games they played as children. They played a game called colored eggs that involved all the children sitting in a group with one person standing out in front. The kids were to think in their mind the name of a color. If the person standing in front called out their color, they were to jump up and run around trying not to get tagged before they made it back to their original seat. It was like an alternate version of duck-duck-goose that they also liked to play, along with Red Rover and Freeze Tag. They played hand slapping games while saying rhymes like Miss Mary Mack, Miss Susie, Alice the Camel, Miss Lucy had a baby, and McDonald’s Big Mac. As they got older, they would organize teams to play kickball. They enjoyed playing baseball, basketball, catch 500 with the football, night-time flashlight tag and making huge snowmen in the winter.

Their cousin, Isaac, was a particular troublemaker in their elementary and junior high days. He was into WWE wrestling and would always use Charlotte and her brothers as practice dummies to try out new moves like “the figure four.” He also got Tad and Ryan in trouble on numerous occasions by shooting BB guns and pressuring them into trying cigarettes and chewing tobacco. They enjoyed riding their bicycles along the trails in the woods and going to “the pits.” The pits area was a dirt area that had been carved out over time by three-wheelers and dirt motorbikes. It was much like an early version of a skatepark with slopes and ramps to jump and ride over. They would often go to the Williams’s pond and fish even though Mr. Williams said they had to throw anything they caught back in the pond. And on one occasion, Charlotte unwisely rode a horse, courtesy of Jesse Bryson, through the back pasture that was full of holes and rough hills. Looking back on it, she realized what a dangerous act that had been since she knew nothing about horses and how to handle them.


Flying squirrels, based on true events

     She was exhausted from all of the excitement of the basketball game, and now she worried about the fact that someone else had a jealous vendetta out for her.

     She showered and fell into bed. She was just falling into sleep when she heard her mother scream outside her bedroom door. She jumped out of bed and opened her door to see what her mother had screamed about.

     Just as she did, her mother yelled, “Watch out!”

     She caught a glimpse of something small and furry run between her legs and into her bedroom. Charlotte screamed and jumped halfway down the hall into her mother’s arms.

     “What was that!” she yelled.

     “It’s a flying squirrel, and your dad isn’t home to help me catch it this time!” her mother clung to her just as afraid as Charlotte was. This was not the first time a squirrel had gotten in the house. Her dad thought he found the hole in the chimney where they were coming from, but obviously, there was more than one way they were getting in.

     “What are we gonna do? That thing is in my bedroom now!” she said, trying to keep her voice down knowing her brothers were asleep upstairs.

     “We need to chase it out,” her mother concluded. They crept slowly down the hall back to her bedroom to peek inside and see where it was. When she peered around the door frame, she saw the little squirrel sitting upright in the middle of her bed.

     “It’s in my bed!” she shrieked.

     “We need to draw it out somehow,” her mother answered, still hiding behind her daughter for protection.

     “With what! I don’t want to go in there, and that thing jump on me!”

      They stood outside the bedroom trying to think about what to do when the squirrel decided to take action again and came running out of the bedroom along the wall. The women shrieked again as it turned up the living room wall and up to the second-floor balcony. Charlotte and her mother ran out into the living room and looked up to see where it was. It was sitting on the wooden banister of the balcony just as pretty as you please. The poor thing was probably more frightened than they were, but that didn’t draw any sympathy points for it from them at the moment.

     “I bet if we open the sliding glass door it will glide right out from where it is,” Charlotte suggested.

     “Okay, open it and see,” her mother agreed. Charlotte unlocked the sliding door as her mother removed the wooden pole in the back. She slid the glass door all the way open. The night air rushed in sending a chill along her skin. The little squirrel twitched its nose as if it could smell the outside open to it now.

     Without a moment’s hesitation, it leaped from the banister and spread its legs out wide. The thin skin that connected its paws and body spread out like a parachute. The tiny squirrel flew out the door and into the dark night. Charlotte slammed the door behind it as if it could somehow force its way back in, and her mother pushed the pole back in place. They sighed with relief.

     “I’m glad that worked,” her mother said.

     “Me, too. Otherwise, we might have been dancing and screaming around here all night trying to catch that thing,” she said. Then they looked at each other realizing how silly the whole ordeal had been, and they burst out laughing until tears rolled down their cheeks. They replayed some of the parts back to one another and laughed at their own ridiculousness. After they had a good laugh, Charlotte trudged back to bed. Living in the woods was never without its adventures.