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The day Katie set out to fly her kite for the first time was a big event at the Keeney household. Mr. Keeney had strewn all the parts out on the lawn early one Saturday and had been working on putting it together diligently all morning.  I liked watching him crawl around on his knees scratching his head and yelling indiscriminant things at inanimate objects. There was something incredibly playful about Mr. Keeney; it seemed like he possessed a subset of behavior that other adults didn't have He was able to lose the vanguard of maturity and digress into puerile histrionics when he felt it necessary and since this contrasted so harshly against his wife's behavior, it only amplified the effect for me.  

Once it was finally put together, the whole family came out to take part in the revelry. Mrs. Keeney was waddling around like a hyperactive duck and from a distance she looked like a squat version of Moe from The Three Stooges. Lauren looked beautiful as always, her hair in a taught ponytail, and she walked with the slow arrogant gait of the leisured as she made her way out to the front lawn. Gwen meanwhile was holding her left arm straight down her side with her right hand as she stood diminutively by one of the trees next to the house.

Mr. Keeney began getting very excited now, I could tell by the frantic way he moved around, galloping in circles on the front lawn flapping his arms like wings.  I watched from my bedroom window and though I couldn't hear him, I could imagine exactly the kind of noises he was making. You see, every time Mr. Keeney ordered buffalo wings, he would act like a buffalo. This involved chasing everybody around the Keeney house flapping his wings and tickling, huffing the way he thought a buffalo must sound. And that's what he looked like that morning giving instructions to Katie on how to fly the kite he had spent the whole morning putting together. 

Our street seemed to have a pretty good breeze blowing through most of the time for some reason. I couldn't begin to tell you why, but whenever I flew my kite I could usually get the reel out all the way to the end. One time I had even had the kite catch a draft so strong I almost lost my grip on it. Mr. Keeney had Katie hold on to the handles while he picked up the Phoenix and held it with one arm over his head. He began scratching his feet into the yard like a bull about to charge, flapping the wing of his free arm, sending the entire Keeney family into hysterics.

Suddenly he was off, and the kite with him. It immediately caught a strong gust of wind and went soaring into the air. The Keeney family all cheered and clapped as the bird took flight, soaring well above even the tallest trees surrounding it. My vantage point allowed me the most glorious view of this takeoff and now her kite was soaring through the crystal blue sky like the most beautiful rainbow on a string you've ever seen. This gratuitous display so overwhelmed me that, at least momentarily, my frustration and angst was replaced with pure awe.

I backed away from the window afraid to turn my back on the Phoenix. I shielded my eyes to the light that was coming in through the window. It began to seem as if as the light was changing color as the Phoenix aligned itself with the sun and my window. First red, then blue, then yellow then red again; as I backed away from the window it looked like the light in my entire room was changing color now. I made it out into the hallway and the effect almost immediately ceased but my head felt heavy and I decided to lay down on the couch and watch TV.

I began to think about the situation while I watched cartoons. It wasn't like I didn't have great toys; I definitely had a huge compendium of Transformers, Ninja Turtles, ThunderCats, McDonald's drive-thru toys, cereal prizes, video games and Nerf guns. And I even had a kite-a large rectangular kite with Batman flying through the air on it. But it didn't fly as high as Katie's Phoenix and it certainly didn't change the fucking color of my room at will. If anything, the Phoenix ended up being one of Katie's few sole possessions, since she was one of three daughters, and she cherished it accordingly, flying it in her front yard often with a smile plastered from ear to ear the entire time.

From that day forward I only flew my Batman kite in the confines of my own backyard, shielded with a fence on one side and several large oak trees on the other. I never got the kite higher than the roof of my house. A couple of times I could even see Katie's kite in the air on the other side of the roof soaring above the tree tops, but I never flew it out on the street with her.

I took my fundraiser "prizes," the top and finger trap and ruler, and planned to throw all of them away, but at the last moment I decided to keep the ruler. The top plain old sucked and the finger trap was too big to use on my sister's fingers, although I had managed to stuff two of her toes in one end fairly successfully. The ruler would be useful tool for poking and prodding, plus, it had surprisingly sharp edge to it so it doubled as a weapon.

Weeks passed and summer vacation flew by in a flurry of soccer games, picnics, and ice cream. I skip over this period not for effect but simply because the narrative of this tale dictates otherwise. That last summer in Pennsylvania was the most glorious of my life so far. My older cousin came to live with us after graduating from high school and I enjoyed a modicum of freedom at my local pool as a side effect of him dating all the female lifeguards, an unprecedented move for his age. I can assure you that havoc was wreaked and candy was consumed in mass quantities as never before seen in the quiet burb of South Hampton. But the story of the fire ends on a breezy day in early October when Katie decided to fly her kite for what would be the last time.

After school on a weekday Katie was flying her kite out in her front lawn as she usually did.  I was peddling around on my three-wheeler on what was a mock race course compromised of cones in my driveway. I had learned by watching my dad set it up that if you put the cones at the points of a basic cross pattern you could construct an oblong racecourse with which to race around. I loved counting down the four laps that made up the Grand Prix in my mind and on the final lap cutting on the inside corner of the last cone to take the lead from my imaginary opponent. What sweet justice it made for the hero of the story swooping in on the final lap to take the win and the trophy for first place. There was always an imaginary trophy involved and it was always HUGE, as big as me if not bigger most of the time. After winning multiple consecutive Grand Prix mentally, I decided to go see what Katie was up to.

As I approached Katie I noticed her smile broaden. I didn't think that was possible honestly, and she didn't even look down from her glorious bird as I approached, but for some reason it seemed like her eyes brightened and her smile got larger that day as I came up to her driveway. I noticed that every now and then she had to lean back on the reel or reset her footing because the kite was lurching in the air with such force. It was a breezy fall day and the Phoenix was out to the hilt of its reel soaring at peak altitude. It was so high up in the air that from Katie's perspective it looked a lot smaller than it did from my bedroom window.

"Hi Katie!" I said, forcing a smile and waving.

"Huueeeeeeye Jonafannnnn," she replied, drawing on the low vowels like it was said out of requisite disdain.

She never took her eye off of the Phoenix while she said this and as I got closer I began to realize that Katie was struggling to hold on to the reel. The wind gusted audibly overhead and she began making little grunting noises and shuffling around erratically as the kite threatened to break her grasp. She wasn't smiling anymore and I began to reminisce about the day I had almost lost my kite.

I had been flying Batman on the side of my house farthest from the Keeney's and as it was fairly breezy that day my kite was lurching from side to side much in the same manner that Katie's was now. I struggled to keep a grasp on the reel and a violent gust of wind almost lifted me off the ground as my kite crashed suddenly into the low hanging branch of a tree across the street. There had been some panic from the thought of being discovered as I gathered up the line, and my mother had given me flack for messing up the reel so much. (How daunting of a task is untying a series of knots when you're a child? I thought it was impossible at the time.)

But I had gotten out of it without losing my kite. And standing there watching Katie go through the same thing that day, thinking about how I too had felt, I immediately and without thinking began to feel a sense of concern for her. The wind was really howling at this point and her arms were at full extension as her heels dug into the pavement. She began emitting what sounded like a high pitched tea kettle whistle.

"Jonafan…uh…" she grunted." Jonafan will uu ‘ellllllp meeee?" she stammered, implying I should grab the reel.

And then it happened: my mind clicked, the same way it had when I realized she had only wished me luck because she knew I was going to fail in the candy contest. I said before that great ideas come in a flash, and that day was no different.

"Sure Katie, let me hold the reel and you go and get your Dad!" I told her with an air of male direction and supremacy.

"Ugh…otayyyyy… ‘urry takkkke itttttt," she grunted reluctantly.

I went over to her with my hands outstretched ready to take the reel, and she contorted her body to lean it closer to me but at the last second, the moment I deked. It was enough, and the momentary lapse in possession of the reel combined with the strong wind was all it took to send the Phoenix off into the afternoon sun.

I don't know if it was the kite that made my room turn different colors the first day she flew it, and I don't even know if it really did change colors or if it was just something I imagined. But I do know that when the Phoenix took off into the air that afternoon, the entire sky began to change color as it soared higher than I could have even imagined anything could fly.

I didn't hear anything but the wind for the next thirty seconds to a minute. I didn't hear Katie scream, I didn't hear her run away, and I didn't hear her crying to her father inside her house. I was watching the Phoenix fly away like a magnificent bird. It took off over the road and flew straight down the street across from the Keeney's that ran by my house. The reel rose to a height well above the roof of my home as the Phoenix flew away, and as it headed toward the horizon I saw the reel rising higher and higher into the air along with the kite some hundred feet above it. Almost at the end of the street and out of view I saw the Phoenix take a violent dive toward the earth and suddenly it was gone.

Suddnely, I realized Mr. Keeney was standing next to me with Katie crying on his pant leg. I snapped back to reality.

"Um, Jonathan…Katie says she just lost her kite…and…well…Katie just told me her kite flew away…and that, well…it was your fault," he said, with a strangely inquisitive look, like he was waiting to make up his mind about something.

"Katie's full of soup Mr. Keeney," I said straightfaced, looking him straight in the eye, never wavering in the slightest. Katie cried out loudly after hearing this and began blurting out some gawd-awful indiscernible nonsense that no one, not even those best versed in Swedish-Stranger talk could understand. With her face covered in a mix of tears and saliva, Mr. Keeney led her back into the house half carrying her as he tried to console her.

I felt a very strange and tingly edge as I walked home that night. The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up and I was sensitive all over with a buzzing sensation-I had finally gotten Katie back once and for all. It really sunk in for me the next day on the bus ride home from school when we passed the tree her kite had gotten stuck in, a tall broad-leafed oak with the kite sticking out like a sore thumb high in the canopy. Our bus and all the kids in and around our neighborhood got to pass that tree every single day for the rest of the year and it never ceased or wavered in popularity as we passed. The same symbol of conquest and magnificence now a relic of a bygone era, a testament to the sense of grandiose superiority that had once permeated throughout our quiet street.

When I moved away almost a year later, the kite was still there, and when we went back to get the rest of our furniture after the house sold six months later it was still there, too. I'd like to think that somewhere in that same old oak tree at least a strand of her kite reel is still there, blowing in the wind the same way the kite it reigned in did so many years ago.