The Tale of Lawrence Stokes, Chapter 1
The children would stop halfway up the hill, sometimes willingly, but mostly hesitantly as the old man called them from the street. They approached mostly out of a sense of respect instilled to them from their parents as the old man gently rocked back and forth in the aging chair that always sat patiently on the covered porch in front of the century-old house.
The man's raspy voice called out and the kids obeyed. Coming closer each child wondered if they knew the story that surely would come from the elderly man as they became audience to the to his theater, something the children did almost every other day as they walked home from school.
The stories varied and rarely did the neighbor complete a singular anecdote which included the beginning, middle, and end of the same story. The children came to know snippets of stories and would occasionally nod their heads as a familiar sentence emanated from the old man's wrinkled lips, lips permanently stained by years of tobacco use.
Errant bugs hummed in the warmed spring air as the children dutifully stood and waited for the man to begin this afternoon's latest edition.
"Kids, come on over," the man coughed the words clearing the collected phlegm from his brittle throat. "I've got a story for you."
Another story, thought the children. What will it be today?
"Did I ever tell you about my friend, Lawrence Stokes?" Those assembled shook their heads almost in unison. In all the stories told by the old man, that name never surfaced and the fresh element sparked an interest in the children's minds--something that had been missing for many a lazy afternoon.
"Lawrence was my best friend," the man said. "He was a lot of fun...I sure do miss him... They never did find his body."