Danny didn’t enjoy going to rummage sales nearly as much as his mother enjoyed taking him to them. He didn’t like the kind of kids he found there. They were dirty. They smelled. But worse than that, they looked at him like maybe—deep down where they couldn’t see—he was just like them. But Danny knew that wasn’t true; he was better than them, smarter than them, special. He wasn’t there because he needed looking over; he was there because his mother wanted him there.
The people selling the items always looked so happy, but why wouldn’t they be? Didn’t every sale mean one less piece of crap for them to throw away? The people having this sale were younger than normal. They were not as old as dirt, like most of the people who had rummage sales, nor did they smell like smoke or used-up furniture.
“Look around back,” his mother was saying to him. “Find me something special. Something small.”
That was Danny’s task on most of these outings, to find something small. It seemed the world was filled with small things, so it wasn’t hard to do, didn’t require any thought. Danny usually grabbed something quickly and then palmed it, acted like he was still looking so he could stay away from his mother for a just a little bit longer.
Sometimes he would find a place to hide, wondering if his mother would get worried about him or maybe even forget him altogether and drive off without him. But neither of these things ever happened. She would just wait him out and when he crawled out she would ask him if he had something unusual like she asked. He always had something.
Sometimes she was happy with what Danny had found. Other times she was not. Once Danny had found a locket with a picture of a pretty woman inside it. He had liked her face, had run his finger across it delicately, like he saw people do in movies. He had been staring so long and so hard at the picture of the woman that he didn’t even notice his mother come behind him until she yelled at him.
Danny had never seen her so angry. He had thought she was going to hurt him, but she didn’t. She took the locket from him and bought it, stormed off to the car and didn’t speak to him for the rest of the day. He had never seen the locket after then, had known that asking about it would just make his mother angry. He still thought about it though, all the time.
Danny found a box of books that rested on a table beside a tiny guitar with a body shaped like a teardrop. Most of the books looked older than the people who were selling them, which struck Danny as strange and funny and sad all at the same time. One in particular grabbed Danny’s attention and he pulled it out. It wasn’t a proper book, Danny saw, but a journal. It was pale white, slightly yellow with age, and a thin rust-colored line ran down the spine. It looked like there was once a picture on the cover, but whatever it had once portrayed, it had been rubbed away long before it made its way into this cardboard box. A strange and even printed handwriting filled the lined pages in a way that Danny liked. He took the journal away, knew that this was his unusual thing. He found some shade a small distance away from the rummage shoppers and his mother. He sat down and started to read.
I swear to you that though you read these words on a printed page, I first wrote them out by hand. That might not seem important to you, but it is.
My name is Tanner Roy and if at times what I’m about to tell you seems untidy and contradictory, well that’s the way things were. I fear I’ve already muddled up the beginning of the story by making it about me. It isn’t about me, not really. How many stories are about one person, anyway? It’s about the CEO and Morgan, or Arthur and Mordred, or Gary and Reggie, or any of hundreds of people and one cat. It’s about her.
It’s about good and evil and what lies between. This is the story about who we were and what we did and how we saved the world, or, perhaps, doomed it. And in this story I had a part to play; it begins with a copy machine.
Danny thought that was funny. Not many stories began with a copy machine. He read the names again. His mother’s name was Morgan. That was a neat coincidence. When the man who wrote the journal talked about Morgan, Danny could imagine it was his mother the man was talking about. Danny liked coincidence. He liked that his name even sounded a little bit like the man who had written the journal. He kept on reading. He had read several pages when his light was blocked by a man standing in front of him.
For a second Danny was afraid it was his mother, was prepared to be angry with her and insist that this time the unusual thing was his. But it wasn’t his mother. It was the man selling the crap. He looked even younger up close, like he was still in college. Danny’s mother had spent a year at a college a couple of years ago; most of the boys there had looked like this guy.
“What you got there?” the man asked.
That was a dumb question, but adults were always asking dumb questions. It was clearly a book and Danny doubted the man had two books like this. Danny hoped that when he grew up he wouldn’t get dumb like everyone else. That would be horrible.
“A book,” Danny replied when the man crouched down to look him in the eyes. Somehow that made it better. There was something Danny didn’t like much about looking up at someone who was being stupid.
“That’s not your average book,” the man continued on. “Most kids your age like things with more pictures. But you like this one?”
“Yeah,” Danny said. “It’s funny.”
The man smiled, but his eyes were sad. His eyes were strange, black, or at least a very dark gray. Danny liked his voice, though. It sounded like the voice of someone from out of a movie, like he could break out into song at any moment
“You know,” the man said, “there used to be a picture on the front of that book. Would you like to know what the picture was?”
“It was a knight holding a sword,” the man said. “Do you like stories about swords and knights?”
Danny shrugged his shoulders. He supposed those stories were okay. Any story was okay if it was written right.
“What’s your name?” the man asked.
“Danny,” Danny replied.
“Nice to meet you, Danny,” the man extended his hand to the boy. “My name’s Gary. I’m glad to meet you.”
Danny took a look at the hand and at the man’s face. Danny knew that he wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but he supposed it would be rude not to shake his hand. He rested the book down against his lap and reached for the man’s hand.
“Danny,” his mother called out sharply, “put your hand down right now.”
Danny dropped his hand to his side as quickly as he could. He recognized this voice. This was the voice his mother had used when he had found the locket for her, the one with the pretty woman. This was the voice his mother used when she was angry. He knew better than to do anything that would upset her further. His mother was a different person when she was angry.
“Morgan,” the man said softly. “It has been a long time.”
That this man knew his mother did not surprise Danny. Many people knew his mother. It seemed everywhere they went there were people she knew, people who would let her and Danny stay the night, or a week, or a month, but never forever. They would always have to leave. Lots of people knew his mother, Danny had learned, but very few of them liked for them to stay for very long. But this was different. This time his mother wasn’t friends with the person who knew her, not even a little. He knew this because she would answer someone who was her friend. She would talk to them. She wasn’t talking to Gary.
“I knew you would come eventually,” Gary continued on, his tone still soft. “I’ve heard that you’ve been prowling around, looking for things that used to belong to him. I knew you’d eventually make it here.”
Gary pointed down at Danny, but he wasn’t pointing at Danny, he was pointing at the book. Danny picked it up again, ran his finger along the spine. He felt warm when he did it, like he was almost remembering doing it before, almost but not quite. It was a strange feeling; Danny wasn’t sure he liked very much.
“Well,” Gary went on as Danny’s mother kept silent. “There it is. You’ve come here for it. It’s yours if you want it. You should read it. Danny should read it. Tanner would like that.”
“Don’t you ever say his name,” his mother sounded like a snake to Danny when she spoke the words. “Not to me, not to my son.”
“As you wish,” Gary said, his eyes still sad. “But isn’t that why you came here, Morgan? Isn’t that why you brought the boy?”
Danny hated when adults did that, talked about him like he wasn’t there and hearing every single word. It was another one of the dumb things they did. Danny wondered when it was that adults became dumb. He doubted they were all born that way. There must have been a time when some kind of hormone kicked in and took away their good sense.
“Why I came here and why I brought Danny is none of your business,” Danny’s mother said, her voice still angry but also a little sad.
Danny knew what it meant when her voice got like that, too. It meant that she was thinking about his Dad. She didn’t do it often when Danny was around, but sometimes when she didn’t realize he was there, Danny would catch her crying. Did this man know his Dad? Was the man who wrote this journal his Dad? Danny opened up the book again, alive with the possibility of it all. Danny saw that there was a Gary in the journal, wondered if this was the same Gary. He seemed too young for it to be true.
“You’re angry,” Gary said and Danny knew that the young man would regret that. One stated the obvious to Danny’s mother at one’s own risk.
“Yes, I am angry,” Danny heard his mother say, and the chill to her words made him wonder how Gary could stand there so still, why Gary didn’t start running away. The man was fearless.
“Take the book,” Gary said one last time. “Let it be my gift to you. For him.”
“For Tanner?” Danny’s mother asked.
“Also for him,” Gary replied.
Danny opened the journal at random. He read a passage while the two adults wasted time not saying the things that needed to be said, choosing to let their personal history, whatever that was, come between them doing what they needed or wanted to do now. Danny saw that grown ups did that all the time. He read the words of a man who might very well be his father.
The crystal ball was heavier than it should have been, like it was weighed down by the soul inside of it. I could almost feel it speak to me, cry out for release. It was all I could do not to drop the ball, I would have had I been convinced that by so doing I would free the tormented soul inside. But the CEO had told me that there was no release for that soul, that so long as one atom of the crystal remained, the soul would have no freedom. So I looked deep inside the glass and it grew clouded. At first I thought this was an angry reaction by the soul inside, but as the fog cleared and an image revealed itself, I learned it was the contrary. My sympathy for the soul had persuaded it to grant me a glimpse at that which I most wanted to see. She was beautiful, and much to my shock, she wore the same face that she did in the locket.
“Put that down,” Danny’s mother instructed him, his words striking him harder than her fist ever could. “We’re going, Danny.”
“You’re making a mistake,” Gary said to her as she grabbed Danny by the wrist, her grip tight, her fingernails digging into his skin.
That the man could say such a thing and think it might move her meant that he didn’t know Danny’s mother very well. She was mule-headed. Danny knew this because she called him mule-headed when he acted the same way she did. He was nothing if not a fast learner.
As Danny moved past Gary the young man stuffed a piece of paper in Danny’s pocket. He did it so quickly that his mother didn’t notice and Danny didn’t say anything. After they walked past the kids who stared at him Danny remained quiet. He kept on being quiet until they stopped at a gas station and his mother left the car.
Danny quickly pulled out the piece of paper which looked like it had been torn from the journal. The front of the page had words written in a different handwriting than the rest of the journal. It read simply, The Keeper of Secrets. This handwriting and the words didn’t mean much to Danny. He wanted more of the other handwriting, the writing from the man who might be his father. He flipped over the piece of paper and saw another brief message was written on the back, this time in the handwriting he found so reassuring. It was also a short message, but reading it made Danny feel warm and comforted in a way he had never felt before.
I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you.