Daniel had been happy, at least partly. Growing up, Daniel was like sunshine. He was one of those kids that filled any room he entered with warmth and light. Adults often went out of their way to say hello to him just so they could get a glimpse of his eyes, a glimpse of something they needed, even for a second. Those eyes. They were like pure light. Like precious emeralds. Pure joy. Pure love.
He was the delight of his mother and the pride of his father.
Daniel’s brothers, Mike (older) and Gabe (younger), relished his silliness. He was their ticket into “Silly Land”, their favorite childhood game. Daniel was the master of silly. It, like the joy, also came from his eyes. Just a look from Daniel could send his brothers into “Silly Land”. That’s how the game always began. That look.
Daniel Roberts had an uncanny knack for finding money everywhere he went. Quarters, dollar bills, fives, and, on 12 separate occasions, twenties. This drove his older brother Mike absolutely crazy.
One time, at the county fair, Daniel had found two twenty dollar bills, one under a flattened popcorn box in front of the ring toss and one on the floor of a port-a-potty. 40 bucks! Mike had never in his life found anything higher than the fifty-cent piece he had found waiting in line to ride the elephants at the circus 2 years before.
“One of those twenties is mine!” Mike had shouted at Daniel on the way home, a sob swelling at the back of his throat, superman t-shirt stained with vomit. “I was going to use that port-a-potty and you went first!”
Daniel, who had puked on Mike while riding the Ferris wheel, shrugged his 7-year-old shoulders and handed over one of the twenties. And then he gave Mike the look. The look that could make all of Mike’s troubles disappear. For the rest of the ride home, they were in Silly Land.
Daniel came to be known as “Lucky” Roberts not because he found money, but because of something that happened when he was 5-years-old.
Daniel spent the better part of his childhood living in a small farming town in rural Oklahoma. Most of the boys in the town had a fascination with tractors and Daniel was no exception.
“Uncle” Ray owned and operated a small farm. He was a quiet, bachelor farmer who had a gentle way with children. He always had an unopened pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint in the bib pocket of his immaculate overalls for every child who might come his way. “A whole pack for each of us!” Mike had exclaimed after meeting Uncle Ray at the county fair. Every kid in town knew and adored Uncle Ray.
It was a sunny late September day and Ray, who was also well-known to Daniel’s father, was harvesting the ripe soybean crop. Daniel and Mike were enjoying a rare ride with Uncle Ray on the old, open-top John Deere, chewing their gum with great vigor.
Although Ray was known for the smooth grade of his fields, no field could be without a dip here and there. Ray had been watching carefully for just such a dip when the left side of the tractor dropped with just enough force to throw Daniel off of the tractor.
Ray, who had also been thrown a little, was struggling to bring the tractor to a stop. When he finally managed to kill the engine, he leapt from the tractor with the speed of a man half his age, adrenaline pumping, prepared for the worst. In a blur, his eyes scanned the combine* from front to back.
Daniel was lying on the ground two-and-a-half feet from the back end of the combine, untouched by the deadly blades, lying on his back, and chewing his gum.
Many theories sprang up around town to explain what had happened on that day in 1978. Some speculated that Daniel had fallen into the pothole and that the tractor had shifted enough for the combine to roll squarely over him without touching him, but none of the other farmers would believe that one of Ray McCoy’s fields could have a pothole deep enough for it to be possible. Others suggested Daniel had somehow been thrown clear over the combine or that he was cast aside and only rolled behind the combine after it had passed. But, by far the most popular theory was that it had been a miracle. More specifically, that Daniel had been protected by an angel.
“Do you know what you are, Danny? Do you?”
“Uh, no. What do mean? I mean I’m…”
“Your a GOD DAMN MOTHER FUCKING PUSSY LOVING RATFUCKER!” With that, Dr. Collins settled back into his desk chair and stared at Daniel with a knowing grin, gold nugget necklace resting peacefully on an ample bed of exposed chest hair.