the box

There was once a boy who lived in a wooded community. The neighborhood was very dark, and so hilly as to be nearly vertical. The greens were close to black. Large houses perched like static birds on incremental precipices, visible all the way up. The boy had a friend called Cohen, who was also called Onnie. Onnie was a bit of a coward but that’s not a crime. 

It was a beautiful secluded neighborhood, a beautiful place to grow up. Erected in a treetop was a wooden clubhouse known as The Box. The children knew the password. (Well, most of them—Onnie did not know the password, and neither did the girl who was always threatening to tell the parents what went on in The Box.) 

One day all the parents left the neighborhood together. So the kids—well, most of them—went to The Box. This is where it starts to go off the rails. The boy looked out a paneless window in The Box and saw a helicopter, shining a searchlight into their dark, forested world, and knew they were getting caught. (Though what crime could possibly warrant a helicopter?) The kids scattered, jumping out of trees, climbing out of The Box, shrieking into the undergrowth. The boy let everyone escape. A police officer snatched him by his crew neck collar and spat, What is the password? The boy said nothing. What is the password? The officer repeated. But the boy did not give up the password or his friends. He got caught, and seemed to have broken the law, but he was rather courageous and principled in his loose sweater. At this point Onnie was crying. The officer dragged the boy to the big house where he lived. Really, these people were awfully rich. 

At home, the boy mumbled to his mother, by way of explanation: “It’s not like I was on-the-ground drunk, Mom.” (So a kind of debauchery?) His mother looked disappointed and a little exhausted, but she gave the boy a hug. She stood back from him, as if seeing him anew. “There’s something different about you, isn’t there?” she said. Not just in the way a mother tends to think her son is different. “Compared to Onnie and the others.”

Who was Cohen, also called Onnie? At the end, the children’s crimes faded, the wooded community faded into its green-black darkness, and all that was left was a searchable database. It’s possible there was an actor, playing a child, a bit of a coward. Cohen “Onnie.” But he was no different from the others. 
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