Mr. and Mrs. Howley had called 1427 Markie Drive home for the past thirty-four and a half years. It had been there when Mrs. Howley went into labor with James, keeping her warm as she gave birth in the tub in the master bedroom. It had been there again, three and a half years later, when she had Olivia, although she had opted to go to the hospital for that delivery.
It had tolerated three large dogs over its years; Noodle, Trick, and Gerald, all German Shepherd rescue, and it had even tolerated a few stray cats that Mrs. Howley refused to leave out in the cold over the winter.
It had even remained loyal and stood strong when the Lakeland family home burned down next door. It had opened its doors to the family of five for three whole months while they rebuilt, and it showed great empathy when the Lakeland family moved away two years later, unable to shake the memories of their house going up in flames.
It had provided comfort and warmth to a grieving Mrs. Howley, who never saw her best friend after the Lakelands moved. They lost touch a few years after that, taking a piece of one another permanently with them.
Yes, 1427 had given the Howleys the best years of its life, and theirs. It was once their dream home, the pride of their lives. They had once sworn that they wouldn’t give this house up for anything in the world.
The memory of that moment came flooding back to Mrs. Howley as she watched her husband reluctantly hand the keys over to 1427’s new owners. She quickly and quietly brushed a tear from her eyes, not wanting Mr. Howley to see her sudden sadness overselling their precious home, but he caught her out of the corner of his eye.
“We are pursuing a new dream now, darling. You never know what we might discover!” He whispered softly, taking her hand in his and gently kissing its back. “This is the adventure we always dreamed of.”
They finished the paperwork and walked out to their newly purchased RV, a Winnebago Adventurer. Mr. Howley was right. They had spoken about traveling the country from coast to coast since they were barely adults, but something always came up. Bills, children, college tuition. They set their dream aside to build their family, and they were now quickly approaching 70. It was now, or they were never going to do it.
They decided their journey would begin in Maine. It took them all of eight and a half hours to get there from 1427. Not a horrible drive but they were thankful to see the campground at Moosehead Lake emerge behind the thick trees around 5 p.m. on their first day.
Mr. Howley found their assigned spot quickly and backed the RV in carefully, following the instructions given to him by the man at the dealership.
“You won’t be able to see everything so best to keep your foot off the gas unless you’re parking uphill. Which I don’t recommend.” The dealer had said in his best-used car salesman voice. Luckily, there were no hills at Moosehead Lake.
As soon as they were parked, Mrs. Howley got started right away with the cooking products, pulling out the grill and the griddle, wanting to quickly start preparing a meal before she sat down and got too tired.
She stepped back inside their brand new Winnebago and tried to avoid directing her eyes to the bed in the back, her eyelids getting heavy as the word ‘sleep’ flashed in her brain. She almost walked back, just to rest her eyes for a few moments, when she heard a knock at the door.
She opened it to a little boy with jet black hair and small mousy features. He was perhaps about six years old, wearing jean shorts, a plaid button up shirt, and was carrying a dodgeball.
“Hello, ma’am!” He exclaimed as Mrs. Howley opened the door. “Wanna come out and play with me?”
He smiled up at her, a look of pure innocence spread across his face, which likely meant he was actually quite a bit of trouble.
“Play? I’m so sorry, dear. I’m afraid I’m a bit old to play.” Mrs. Howley said regrettably, trying to let the little boy down easy.
“You’re not old! You’re a witch!” The little boy exclaimed, a silly laugh escaping his lips as he continued to look up at Mrs. Howley.
Mrs. Howley quickly glanced around for her husband, but he was nowhere in sight. He must have gone to the front office to get some wood for the fire later that evening.
“A witch, huh? What makes you say that?” Mrs. Howley asked, trying to keep the boy in conversation as she scanned the landscape for his family.
“My grandma says that the more gray hair you have, the more magic you’re made of. You have a lot of gray hair, so you must be a witch!” The boy said with certainty. Mrs. Howley wasn’t sure how, but she thought she might have heard that before.
“I see.” Mrs. Howley said with a glow of excitement. “Well, you caught me! What’s your name?”
“Dennis. I’m here visiting my Nona and Poppy.” The little boy said excitedly. “They have an RV on the other side of the playground. I wanted to play dodgeball, but my brother told me no. I said please, but he told me that I should just ask all the witches and wizards ta play with me. So, here I am.”
“Well, that is quite the story. Do your Nona and Poppy know you are out talking to other witches and wizards?” Mrs. Howley asked, just as she saw her husband walk around the bend with a big bundle of logs and sticks.
“Woah, mister! That’s a lotta carry! Why don’t ya just use your magic to bring it back?” Dennis asked, looking up at Mr. Howley in amazement.
“Use my magic, huh? Is that because of my grey hair?” Mr. Howley said, pulling on his grey hair for effect.
“Yeppers!” Dennis practically yelled, excited that someone else knew his secret.
“How did you know it was because of your grey hair?” Mrs. Howley asked her husband, wondering for a fleeting second if he really was magical.
“Loretta Lakeland used to say it to all of the kids, remember? Especially when Howie started turning grey in his 30’s!” He added with a chuckle.
“Hey! Those are my grandparent’s names! Well, my Poppy is actually Howard. That’s what Nona calls him, but my Uncle calls him Howie!” Dennis explained in his child-like admiration.
Mr. and Mrs. Howley looked at one another in shock.
“Where did you say your RV was parked?” Mr. Howley asked, noticing the tears developing in his wife’s eyes as she remembered the last time she saw her best friend.
“Over there!” The little boy turned to point across the playground. “Here, I’ll show ya.” He started to walk away, grabbing Mr. Howley’s hand as he did.
Mr. Howley put an arm around his wife as he walked behind the little boy. “What an adventure this already is, isn’t it darling?”
Mrs. Howley smiled as she set her head on her husband’s shoulder, sniffling away her tears of happiness.