I wasn’t asleep when Sergeant Defenbargh came into my room, even though it was 10:23PM. He didn’t say anything, but picked up my clothes from the floor. I dressed and followed him out to the truck. The door to Mom’s bedroom was closed, but there was a light underneath. Sergeant Defenbargh drove to the all-night Walmart. He wouldn’t let me come in with him, so I waited in the cab with the doors locked. He came out with a full plastic bag that banged and clanged when he dropped it at my feet. I didn’t ask.
When we got back the house was all dark. I followed him around to the backyard. The neighbors were out on their porch, smoking and drinking, but Sergeant Defenbargh didn’t even look at them. Instead he dumped out what was inside the bag. There were twelve cans of spray-paint. All of them were the same color, a blue bluer than the ocean. Sergeant Defenbargh popped off the caps, one after another, and stood them up in the grass in a long straight line. He looked at me and nodded. I nodded back. Then he picked up two cans, handed one to me, and pointed to a far corner of the lawn, away from the neighbors and their party.
“What if I get it on my clothes?”
He didn’t answer. I took off my shoes and socks and ran barefoot across the cool grass. I saw a firefly but didn’t even think about stopping to chase him. I jumped down to the lawn and started painting, holding the can with both hands. I tried really hard to make straight lines and not miss any spots. Once the can was empty, I squinted over at Sergeant Defenbargh, who was on his knees and spraying very evenly, in wide lines, back and forth. The man with the earring in his nose came to the chain-link fence.
“Right on, man.”
Sergeant Defenbargh didn’t look up.