On summer nights, they are in bed by eight when the light is still out. They can hear the red-headed Scott Starr playing with friends and siblings in his driveway. Sometimes, their best friend next door, Kevin Luzius, is still out riding his bike. The boy and his brother hate it.
This night, a gusty wind is blowing through the oaks, and the boy can hear the leaves and branches rustling and crunching. He sits up.
“You still up?”
“Yeah,” says Stephen.
The boy hops across the gap between their beds and lifts the shade of the window just over Stephen’s bed.
“Check it out,” the boy says, and Stephen pops up quickly.
“What are you looking at?”
“There’s Scott Starr still playing. So lucky.”
The wind gusts, and the boy looks at the tall oak across the street, its green leaves and long branches moving like waves.
“Check out those branches,” he says.
“Yeah?” says Stephen.
“See how the long branches open and shut on each other like jaws?”
“They’re branches now, but when it gets dark, those branches turn into alligators.”
“Shut up. No way.”
“Yeah, and they come down from the trees and eat people all night. Then they go back up before it gets light.”
“Yeah. It’s really bad if you’re out in the street all night. You’re dead for sure. And even in your house, you’re not safe.”
“Yeah. Sometimes, they get in through windows and eat kids.”
The boy hops back to his own bed and lies down.
“You made all that up.”
“Nah ah. You’ll probably be fine. Just keep an ear out for scratching at the window.”