I was walking down the road, that much was true, yet sadly my name was not Jack, neither did I have a cow in tow. I was simply walking to clear my head; you know just to think for a while, be with my own thoughts. At home the angry voices had become too much and I had to open the door and run down the garden path into the dirt road and beyond. I wished fervently that things would change.
As luck would have it, a mystery man was waiting at the turnstile. I had never seen him before; we lived in a small community where everyone knew everyone else. It seemed he was there specifically for me, maybe that was wishful thinking on my part, but I could swear I saw a glint of recognition in his blue eyes as he watched me ambling along. He was dressed in a long, midnight blue cape, leather boots, black cotton shirt, black trousers and a black cowboy hat which cast his face into deep, purple shadows.
“Jack, we meet again,” he drawled in a lazy, Southern twang.
“Nope, sir, the name is William,” I grinned. I was all of thirteen that summer and felt grown up enough not to be associated with fairytales. I fancied myself somewhat of a comedian as well: “Sorry, but I don’t have Bessie the cow with me.” I couldn’t help giggling. “Even if I did I wouldn’t sell her to you for a handful of beans; no way, Jose.”
“Jack, I have something special to offer you today,” he said, shifting his weight and leaning against the wooden fence. For fear of sounding like the wiseass my father always accused me of being, I kept my peace. If the man wanted to keep on calling me Jack, he would be the one with egg all over his face in the long run. Maybe he was deaf, or a bit slow like my friend Tommy who was stuck in remedial classes for the rest of his life. At this age school seemed like the rest of my life.
“Jack, wouldn’t you like to know what it is I have for you? Aren’t you curious?” He said this as if I would be missing out on something ultra special and awesome; like a crazy new x-box game or a remote controlled airplane. To tell the truth, I was curious, what boy of my age wouldn’t be? I took a tentative step towards him, being careful to stay out of reach. My mother always warned my sister and me not to get too close to strangers and boy was this guy a stranger. At times it seemed as if his face disappeared into the shadow of his hat, only to be replaced with a leering skull. I shook my head. The midday sun was getting to me for sure.
“Jack, what would you say if I could increase one of your senses and dull the rest?”
What was he on about? Nobody could do that? This whole conversation seemed insane.
“Which one would you choose, Jack?”