I was driving along the back roads of our town. I had a passenger in the car with me, a ninety year old woman hunched under a dark hood, only her jaw and the hook of her nose visible. As we passed by an elementary school, she suddenly spoke up in a voice that creaked like a door that hadn’t been opened in years. She said that she had been a teacher at that school a long time ago. I nodded and looked over at the school. It was just a small, one story, brick building. Across the school yard, on the far side of the building, there was a road which led directly off from the school property. I could read the sign that was fixed in the ground there. It said “Lathymore.” Something struck me as cold and sinister about this road and the dark leafless branches of the trees which formed an arch at its entrance, like claws with long scratching nails.
My passenger explained the source of my misgivings. She said that there used to be a facility down that road where they would take the children who habitually misbehaved and they would perform lobotomies on them in order to make them a bit more manageable. She told me that the rest of the children didn’t know where the road led to or the exact nature of what went on down there, but there were rumors. At recess they would stay far away from the entrance to the road and they would play their games on the other side of the school yard. So the road became a forbidding place, overcast with the stale air of suspicion and neglect.
The woman spoke again and I could hear the emotion in her voice from somewhere cold and far off. She said, “I remember that first day of school every year. I would stand at the window of my classroom and watch as the mothers brought their children across the yard. They would be smiling. The children would be smiling. None of them knew that before the day was out I would be sending at least eight or nine of the children down Lathymore.” And then she was done and her head fell forward. I could see that beyond the scratching branches there were houses on Lathymore now, and I had to assume that the facility that she spoke of had either been abandoned long ago or had probably even been torn down. Those dark days were far behind. But I had to wonder if there were ever nights when the wind blew a certain way, and the people in those houses would have that sudden chill and that same hint in the air of something terribly wrong.