The sound of the perimeter alarm drove Rodney McKay out of his workspace and to the window at the front of his cabin. He wasn’t expecting a delivery today. It was Monday, and Mondays were his, as were Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tuesdays were solemn days meant for interacting with grocery deliveries and UPS drivers, and god forbid, trips into town. Tuesdays were expected though, he could prepare for them, so the alarm alerting him to the interloper was an intrusion out upon his day to day modus operandi.
He watched as the unwelcomed miscreant boldly lifted the rusted latch on his gate, and the sound of the squeaky hinges cut through the wooded silence, forcing Rodney McKay to protect his cloistered way of life.
“Hey!” Rodney yelled through the window, hiding behind the faded, dusty curtains.
The insolent intruder froze halfway through the gate, eyes wide with confusion and shock.
People for the most part left Rodney McKay alone. He knew of the rumors circulating about him in town, the whispered gossip and speculations, the blatant stares and pointing, but frankly, it didn’t register with him. He liked his seclusion, and liked that people avoided him and his property. It allowed him the freedom to do what he needed to get done without unwarranted interruptions. He chose this mountain so he could communicate with people on his own terms, and those interactions were few and far between, and only when necessary. So, the snot-nosed, waify kid with a full head of dark hair who ambled up his dirt driveway was a first for Rodney, and unbeknownst to him, his four years of living a simple, sequestered life was about to change forever.
The kid swallowed, then raised his fisted hand which contained a crumpled, dirt-smudged envelope. “I-I h-have...”
“I-I...” Rodney mocked his stutter. “Spit it out. I’m a very busy man.”
“I-I,” he took a deep breath, “I found this on my way home from school. My dad said I should bring it to you.”
“What is it?” Rodney asked, still out of sight, safely hidden behind the orange patterned curtains. The kid strained his neck trying to locate the source of Rodney’s voice.
“A l-letter addressed to Dr. M-Meredith R. McKay.”
“Did you steal it?”
“No!” He put his arms down, snapping his chin up at the insult. “I said I found it.”
“Sure, kid. Is this a dare? Your friends put you up to this? How much are you getting for opening the latch to my gate? What about knocking on my door? Bet that’s a big prize.”
“No. I’m not getting anything. No one put me up to it.” He muttered something else under his breath, but Rodney couldn’t quite hear it. He did manage to catch the word ‘friends’ in the mumble.
“Speak up, kid!”
“My name is J.J., not kid.”
“Well, that’s a stupid name,” Rodney said.
“At least it’s not a girl’s name!”
The kid had gumption; Rodney would give him that. “You’ve given me initials. They could stand for Judith-Joyce for all I know. And if it’s a nickname, that’s even worse.” Rodney was a firm believer in a zero-tolerance nickname policy, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he never had one—well he did have one in grade school, but he would never admit to it.
“What do you want?” Rodney snapped.
“I see the schools have done away with teaching conversation skills. What else aren’t they teaching you? Mathematics? Can you count? I’ll give you ten seconds to get off my property.”
“I can count!” The nuisance yelled back, but stayed rooted in place.
“Your comprehension skills are clearly lacking for your age. What are you five? Ten?”
“Geez, I’m seven.”
“And when I was seven, I was on my way to building nuclear bombs. Age is not an excuse.”
The kid’s eyes went wide again, his body stilled for a few seconds, then he dropped the letter and bolted back through the gate, racing down the dirt road until he was gone from Rodney’s sight.
Rodney waited a few more minutes to make sure he was truly gone and there was no one else waiting for him outside. He checked the cameras, angled in all directions on his property, and when he was positive he was alone, he unlocked the two locks and the deadbolt on the steel door, retrieving the letter he’d been waiting for since last week.