“A what?” Sharon laughed.
“You know, a PITA. Pain in the ass?”
Sharon couldn’t contain her laughter. The conversation seemed to be leading to a much more relaxed place for Mark, and that had to be a good sign. Sharon playfully pushed Mark and prodded him on. “Tell me the story your mom told you, silly,” she said. ”What was it about?”
“Okay. Now I know this might sound kind of crazy to you, but she would tell me about these wild beasts in the Black Oaks.”
“Are you serious?” asked Sharon.
Mark nodded. “Very.”
“Well, to be honest, I’ve heard that story over a million times too.”
“Yeah. What, you thought you were the only one it was told to? This is Wichita, Mark. Everyone here has heard that story before. My dad used to tell my cousin and me that story every weekend and virtually every day she was sleeping over during the summer. He said that the forest was run by wild animals with long fangs and claws that could rip a man to shreds with one swing. Said they’d harvest your heart for food and drink your blood like wine.”
“Word? Like werewolves?” Mark asked.
“Yeah. Sorta. I remember how my mom would lean against the threshold of my room, listening with a serious look on her face as if the story my dad was telling us was the truth. And no matter how many times it was told to me, it would always sound the same. Wild beasts, murderous rampages and mysterious sightings in Kansas, especially in the Black Oak Forest. I brushed it off as a myth because it always sounded like some werewolf story to me. But some people say the stories are real because they’ve been told for over a hundred years in Wichita. Who knows, maybe it all could be the truth. But I never have nor do I now give it too much thought. I tend to put my faith in what I can see, and I’ve never seen anything like what my father and others describe in those stories.”
“Me either,” said Mark.
“Well, I tend to live by one rule when it comes to wives’ tales. If it doesn’t happen to me, it’s not real. So since neither of us has ever seen one before, they don’t exist. And that means it was just a story. Something to tell unruly kids, like you and me, to keep us in line.”