THE GHOST OF KORRIM McKARTHY
He was here because of wonder. If a better place were on the globe, he didn’t want to know about it.
At nine years old, Samuel Driscoll knew no better place existed outside his bedroom-GI Joe toys sprawled over the rumpled blankets. Sammy thrived on imagination and its necessity. He shaped the blankets to resemble mountains, partial valleys, caves for the action figures, the jeep, snowmobile, tank, and whatever else he’d decided to add to this dramatic world of make-believe.
Sammy loved GI Joe. It was-in that year of 1987-simply the coolest. He watched the cartoon every day after school on channel 2, the only program he enjoyed, despite the cheesy melodrama. He enjoyed watching Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends as well, but toys for Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends weren’t available to buy. Sammy had never seen them if they were available. If he had dinosaurs or Star Wars toys, he would depict battles and stories to fit the collection of these versatile characters. What a battle it would be! Sammy wasn’t averse to mixing genres. He thought it made for better stories. Since he didn’t own the kind of toys to mix the Cretaceous era with space travel and light sabers, Sammy settled for GI Joe, and he was okay with that.
He was inventing a scenario now where Scarlet and Snake Eyes fell in love because they were-in his opinion-the best characters in the lot. Sammy liked redheads anyway. Scarlet was not only the perfect name; it was his favorite color. When it came to Snake Eyes, that mysterious masked figure dressed in black who couldn’t talk…well, what more could you say? Everyone knew Snake Eyes was the coolest.
Imagination was paradise that summer. If Sammy understood childhood by definition, it was a pretend world of make-believe of his own creation. Paradise was not a tropical island far from civilization. Paradise was time alone with his toys and the rumpled mountains, valleys, and caves made by his blankets. The blankets were not the color of mountains and valleys. They were Houston Astros colors. A large orange star took up most of the blanket. Scarlet and Snake Eyes didn’t seem to mind that the mountain was one giant baseball logo.
With the summer in Nacogdoches, Texas in full swing, Sammy spent his days inside, away from the brutal heat and the sun, playing with his GI Joe toys and losing himself in fictional scenarios of his creation. He was fortunate to have his own room, while his older brother, Trevor, had one just down the hall. Life as a boy wasn’t an unhappy one.
Nacogdoches was a stifling hot and humid town near the border of Louisiana, broken by long stretches of roads, small, packed neighborhoods, and shopping centers. The town sat in the middle of an endless sea of undulating pine and forests. Snow was rare during the winter. Sammy remembered a winter years ago where a thin layer of white had covered the driveway, the lawn, and the trees. It was the first and only time he’d ever seen snow.
The summers, however, were oppressive mantles of heat and humidity, bringing the forests alive with poisonous snakes, scorpions, colorful birds, insects, armadillos, and spiders. Sammy’s parents had warned him about the dangers of some of these creatures. Summer in the south was definitely alive and deadly. News broadcasts mentioned alligator attacks in nearby lakes. If he played outside, he had to stay in the yard, his parents told him. Still, he had to watch out for scorpions and snakes.
He often questioned why he needed perfect wonder when he had all this adventure outside his backdoor. He wondered if perfect wonder was the reason his older brother Trevor harbored such resentment for him. Trevor took advantage of every opportunity, whenever he could, to manipulate Sammy to the brink of tears, it seemed. Nine times out of ten, it worked. Trevor, with thick, goofy red hair-scraggly to the point of leprous-assaulted Sammy with undermining insults, jabs to the ribs, and every imaginable nuance that defined older brothers as perfect jerks. Trevor played short roles in Sammy’s GI Joe dramas, usually making a quick exit under the wheels-or in the line of fire-of a tank coming over the barren hills of the Houston Astros logo.
It was the perfect childhood.