He arose the following afternoon feeling hungry, cold, and sore; but at least he was well-rested. His 28-hour slumber was without a doubt the best sleep he had ever gotten in his life. As he stood in front of the living room window with his eyes fixated on the woods he not too long ago called home, his mind was encumbered by a million and one thoughts, quelling his hunger and other related physical discomforts. Where were his parents? Did anybody even bother searching for him in his absence? Could he remain in the neighborhood undetected? And if detected, how would he act amongst people with his faith in humanity having been marred? Why did he ever leave home in the first place? Was he really going to carry through with his plan to kill his parents? Why couldn’t his father just stay with his mother instead of altering his sexual preference? These were just some of the burning questions on Frederickstein’s mind. Only a few of them would be answered. He would never see his parents again, nor would he gain knowledge of their whereabouts. That being the case, he was never able to find out from his father exactly why he left his mother. Everything in the boy’s life at the moment was just a blur of confusion. After a personal inquisition, he couldn’t come up with a legitimate reason for leaving home; but he did admit to himself that his decision to fly the nest was of his own volition and blaming his parents for his doltish actions was merely a cop-out. And who was to say whether or not he would have slit his parents’ throats. That was one of those “What if?” scenarios. But what did become crystal clear was the fact that he couldn’t avoid people forever. More shocking was that he was the one to actually initiate interaction with someone else. He really didn’t have much of a choice, though. Power at the house was off and his blanket was still damp, so he had absolutely no way of warming up; water to the house was also off, making it impossible for him to quench his thirst or to at least try and make himself feel clean with a pure water bath; he had nothing to wear, since the only set of clothes he owned had yet to dry; the blisters on his feet had started to succumb to infection; and the little food that remained inside his knapsack was much too cold and hard for him to eat. Two days after his return to civilization, Frederickstein found himself at the front door of his neighbor Mr. Garrett.
Richard Garrett had been a long-time family friend of Frederickstein’s family. Frederickstein and his parents would spend most holidays and weekends over at Mr. Garrett’s place primarily because he insisted on them doing so. Over the course of several years, with their relationship strengthening, Mr. Garrett began to see Frederickstein as an adopted son of his and affectionately gave him the moniker of Fred. For a man who was such a people’s person, the boy often wondered why he lived alone. Whenever they needed assistance of any kind, Mr. Garrett was the first person they turned to in the neighborhood. Mr. Garrett’s generosity was what Frederickstein had remembered most about him, and he was now in dire need of the philanthropist’s benevolence. This morning’s emergency was one that Mr. Garrett wouldn’t be able to ignore. Frederickstein had made his way over to his neighbor’s place wearing only a pair of underwear in near subzero temperatures. Following two hard knocks, the door was opened to him, just as he expected it would be. Mr. Garrett, who had already seen who was standing outside after taking a quick glance through his peephole, opened the door with tears cascading down his face.
“We searched so diligently for you,” he disclosed to the boy whilst his left forearm tightly clasped his neck. Mr. Garrett wasn’t a big man - just a little stout - neither was he left-handed, but his squeeze was tight enough to render the recipient of his impassioned chokehold both silent and breathless. Frederickstein was grateful to know that at least somebody actually gave a damn about him, but when symptoms of hypoxia began to set in, he reached his arms behind his head and loosened Mr. Garrett’s carking grip on him.
“Nice to see you, too, Mr. G,” he whispered sarcastically while gingerly massaging his tender throat. Though the boy was focusing his attention on his aching larynx, Mr. Garrett couldn’t help but notice his convulsing body and dark purple cheeks.
“I am so sorry. Forgive me,” he pleaded with his prodigal neighbor as he pulled him out of the cold and into his home’s much warmer climate. “I’ll be right back, Fred,” he informed him after seating him on the living room settee. He returned seconds later with a huge comforter that he blanketed over the boy’s shoulders. Ahhhh, comforting warmth. At that moment and time, Frederickstein had never felt more enraptured. Existence as he knew it became ethereal as he temporarily transitioned from a world of woes to the comeliness of nirvana. His brief high was interrupted by the clanking of a teacup against its accompanying saucer that Mr. Garrett was bringing for him. “This will do you good,” Mr. Garrett promised his guest as he rested the cup of tea on a table that was situated directly in front of him. Instantly Frederickstein clasped the hot cup in his hands for several minutes before consuming its contents. In no time the combination of his internal and external warming agents had his body temperature regulated. For the first time in months he was able to feel sensation in his body’s extremities. Now that he was comfortable, he was ready to have his queries addressed.
His first question: “Where is my father?” Mr. Garrett, who was seated across from him in an armchair in the small living room, looked down without saying a word for nearly five minutes. He was visualizing his friend going through the agony of not knowing where his son could possibly be, and his reminiscing caused tears to well in his eyes once more. He recalled how hopeful his former neighbor was during the intense search and rescue effort that was only launched after he and his partner brazenly barged into Police Commissioner Howswell’s office, bypassed his secretary, and demanded that he either employ the services of special dogs to sniff out the missing boy’s trail or he personally get down on all fours and track down their son himself. Mr. Garrett was then forced to recall Mr. Sillow’s despair when the search and rescue mission came up empty. Too much time had passed between Frederickstein’s fleeing and officials’ hunting.
“Your dad did the same thing you did,” Mr. Garrett finally came out with. His head jerked back as he let out a guttural “hmph”. He found the father and son disappearing acts to be a bit too coincidental. “He vanished without saying a word. He had even left your stepfather with the house. He just didn’t care about anything anymore.”
“So where is he?” Frederickstein then inquired of his stepfather. Although his stepfather had always shown him unlimited amounts of love and kindness, Frederickstein didn’t really care too much for him after the bullying at school had started. He just wanted the question answered so that the mystery of where he was wouldn’t be an annoying lingering thought in his head in the future.
“Don’t know,” Mr. Garrett answered with a shrug. “Neither he or your dad was ever the same once you left. I guess he must’ve gone back to his family in Colorado.”
Now Frederickstein was the one in deep thought. He sat motionless, just staring at the empty tea cup resting on the table in front of him until Mr. Garrett asked him if he was alright. “I’m fine. I’m just a little unhappy with myself right now.” The number of lives he had affected as a result of his selfish and asinine act was setting in with every word that Mr. Garrett spoke. Too embarrassed to let his host see him cry, the boy placed the comforter over his head and broke down. His puling, coupled with his bouncing shoulders, were clear indicators of what he was doing, though. And this time around, his tears were 100 percent real - not made of blood that was luridly extracted from his eyes.
Naturally an emotional person, when Mr. Garrett saw Frederickstein crying, his heart secreted empathy. He knew all too well what it was like to lose touch with a loved one. Obviously the young man presently sitting across the room from him was an example of such a case, but Mr. Garrett had also dealt with the ordeal of losing his only child nearly 20 years ago. At that time in his life, he was a single parent who was out of work with no place to lay his head. He and his boy roamed the town of Yarmouth surviving exclusively off of the compassion of the town’s gracious residents. Much of the donations they received were credited to the boy’s charm. “I haven’t eaten all day. Can you kindly give me some silvers so that I may afford a can of corn?” six-year-old Danny would beg of pedestrians. He was barely able to pronounce all of his words properly, but nearly everybody he sought assistance from seemed to get the message quite clear. His supplication usually earned him much more than the mere silvers he would ask for. One time he ended up receiving a donation of $279.23. The donator was so moved by the young boy’s humility that she reached into her purse and gave him every bit of legal tender that was at her disposal. Mr. Garrett couldn’t be any more proud of his little abettor. On any given day he was capable of bringing in anywhere between $300 and $400. The money that he had earned his father could have easily had them in a comfortable apartment in a very short period of time. Unfortunately, all Mr. Garrett did was squander the funds. Little Danny would be lucky if his father was actually able to afford a can of corn for him at the end of the day. Spending on prostitutes ranked the number one reason why Mr. Garrett could never achieve stability. His inability to properly manage the funds and get himself together resulted in his “everything” being taken away from him by social services. So appalled by Mr. Garrett’s absolute contempt for his parental duties, the agency never bothered disclosing any information pertaining to Danny’s new family with him. That being the case, he would never see his son again. His days of gallivanting had come to an abrupt end. He hadn’t seen it coming. Suddenly, he was left to rove through this cold, unforgiving world all alone; so that was exactly what he did - but not before picking up the pieces of his broken life. The loss of his son was the last straw in a string of unfortunate events he had been victimized by for the past several years. The occurrence sparked an epiphany in his world. Instead of moving around looking for a handout all day, Mr. Garrett opted to put his hands to work. A skilled electrician, he independently resumed work in the field. But townsmen found it extremely hard to let bygones be bygones. He was castigated for months on end for using his innocent little son as a pawn, and jobs were slow to roll in. His pursuit of self-reliance wouldn’t be an easy journey by any means. It was only after months of witnessing his unshakeable resolve and unwavering dedication to his business that locals began to support his endeavor. It took longer than he had anticipated, but eventually Mr. Garrett was able to put a roof back over his head. He was never able to get over the stigma that his own townspeople had placed on him, however. The very people he had known for so many years, the very people he had done work for in the past, these were the same persons who had made him feel like an outcast who was afflicted with some highly contagious disease. The affect that such treatment had on his psyche inhibited Mr. Garrett from being able to establish a meaningful relationship with anyone ever again, and neither did he care to. But that all changed when Mr. Sillow, his lover, and Frederickstein moved into the neighborhood six years ago. Somehow, Frederickstein reminded him so much of his lost son. That was why Mr. Garrett always wanted them around at every possible moment. And now that Frederickstein was without a family, Mr. Garrett felt a strange urge to step back into the fathership role that had been stripped away from him. He relocated from his armchair to the settee where Frederickstein was mewling. “It’ll be alright. Let it out, boy,” Mr. Garrett encouraged him as he alternately massaged one of his shoulders and slapped him on the back. His incitation caused the vulnerable boy to begin lamenting. Frederickstein’s large, formidable exterior was merely a façade that made it easy for one to overlook his true childlike nature. Mr. Garrett knew within his heart that it would be remiss of him to let the boy return home. No way would he be able to continue surviving on his own. It was a wonder he had made it out of the woods alive. After he had gotten through letting out his emotions, Mr. Garrett pitched Frederickstein an offer to move in with him. Without hesitation, the boy accepted. The two just had a mutual unspoken love for one another. And after so many years of heartache, pain, and despondency, Mr. Garrett felt that he had finally regained custody of his son.