The first time I did it I was ten.
It was an afternoon in mid-October, brighter than anything. The leaves had all turned and were starting to drop, but most still hung from the trees screaming red and yellow everywhere you looked.
I was walking home from school with my little brother Chuckie who was seven and a neighbor boy, Michael, who was my age. I didn’t know Michael very well, but he lived close by and we walked home the same route. Chuckie had found a soda can and stomped on it so it fit around his foot. He wore it like a shoe and came limping and clomping behind Michael and me. The clomping was a good noise and gave us a reason for not talking.
When we rounded the corner to my block there it was plain as day—a police car with lights flashing right in front of my house. Chuckie stopped clomping and the three of us stood there and watched while two policemen came out of the house and down the stairs on either side of a man who had his hands handcuffed behind his back. They led the man into the car, ducking his head for him so he wouldn’t bang it just like on TV. And then they drove away, lights and all.
We stood in silence and watched the blue lights flashing under the red and yellow leaves until they disappeared.
“Wasn’t that your father?” Michael asked.
I looked at Chuckie, but he wouldn’t look at me. He just stood, lopsided, looked at the ground, and said nothing.
I took a deep breath. Someone somewhere was burning leaves.
“No,” I said.
And that was that. Chuckie and I never saw that man again.
It’s come in handy this little trick of mine, making people disappear without a trace, but I’ve learned to use it with discretion and restraint.
It can’t be undone, you see. It can’t be undone.