Imagine that someone - or something - completely stole one of your days? Just one single day, and you did not know why, or what they had done with your life during that time? Young Philip Galvez and his friend Marcus Holmes discoveredt for themselves when they decided to find out why there was an enormous stuffed moose in a house down the street.
Later, when the Dark Rider was once again known only as Phil, he wouldn’t want to talk about what happened that summer. Of course, the Dark Rider was never much of one for talking anyhow. He was more of a traveler. He’d been born and raised right there in Spring Hill Lake, spent all his life so far in a dingy little house by the old wharf with his mom and dad. Well, he shared the same house but hardly saw much of them. Pete and Marina Galvez weren’t the traditional family types. They’d achieved a sort of equilibrium by rigorously avoiding each other and their son. Pete put in long, irregular hours in a warehouse near the old abandoned railway station. Marina worked the night shift as a waitress at a restaurant in the fish market. Marina’s expected arrival home was always Pete’s cue to leave. Pete’s return coincided with Marina’s exit. In this way they’d managed to remain married for more than twelve years.
For eleven of those years, they’d had a son to work around. Early on they’d tried to get by using neighborhood teenage girls to raise him, but these too often simply left the baby alone, and then demanded more money for the trouble. Then they tried some old women but eventually got tired of the griping. So by the time he was six, Phil was pretty much left to take care of himself, and he did pretty well for a kid.
By then he was already swimming in the river, climbing every tree, scrounging for food in dumpsters, and looting every unguarded building for parts and equipment. He was a taker-aparter. Anything that was made of more than one piece was subjected to his special skills of deconstruction. For a long time he wasn’t interested in putting things back together, and his bedroom housed a mountain of assorted bits and pieces. Later on he started assembling them all in new and interesting ways.
Everyone knew about Phil. Social workers paid regular calls to make sure he was trying to stay in school. His teachers complimented him on his handwriting. Local shop owners left their scraps and junk in prominent spots in order to get rid of the stuff, and to discourage him from invading their storerooms and ripping them off further. He was quick and as stealthy as a feral cat. He was always a bit tall for his age too, and amazingly thin no matter how much he ate, and he did eat a lot. Local schoolgirls were always putting out plates full of goodies on the chance that he might come on by, especially one named Karly, whose dad owned the local donut shop. Karly would hide behind the screen door, peaking out to catch a glimpse whenever she expected to see him. You had to be alert for the Dark Rider. He’d come wheeling by on his skateboard, and before you knew it, whatever had been there was gone. He would sometimes hear Karly giggling there, but he never even stopped to say “Hi.”
The Dark Rider had his own plans. He got the name from his hair, which was black and thick as a mop, and his clothes, which were always as dark as his hair. The Dark Rider went barefoot whenever he could, which was everywhere he went except school. It was the summer before the sixth grade, and the Dark Rider wasn’t planning to attend. He was a kid who knew how to learn for himself. He was a regular at the library, where he found everything he needed for his self-education. His major interests were mechanics and physics. He’d become more and more into inventions, beginning with the motors and widgets he’d started attaching to his vehicles. His bicycle had auto-location and voice-activated braking. His skateboard had auxiliary solar power and remote controlled velocity. His roller blades had self-adjusting torque. The Dark Rider wanted a car and he wanted to build it himself, and he wanted it to be small, self-powered, non-polluting and one hundred percent biodegradable. All of this was going to take study, and time, and salvaged materials. The boy had no time to be wasting in school.
Mostly the Dark Rider was fine by himself. He didn’t have friends, and didn’t feel lonely. There was always someone he could nod to if needed. He’d gotten by all those years on facial expressions and a handful of words. He knew that girls liked him, but he wasn’t much bothered by that. The boys kept their distance. Most were afraid of him but would never admit it. Even the older ones secretly wanted to be him. He wasn’t much known for conversation, so it was a startled Marcus Holmes who suddenly found the Dark Rider standing beside him one late afternoon by the grocery store.
“Yo Marcus,” the Dark Rider said, and Marcus looked at him and shyly replied,