Episode 1 January Twenty minutes before breakfast had started, Stephen opened his eyes for the first time that day, having just cut short a dream where he was swimming though an underwater amusement park and was nearly out of air. He had an arrangement with his unconscious where he would wake up immediately should he run into serious trouble while dreaming. If he started falling from a dream-built skyscraper or was stuck in a pterodactyl's beak, he'd pull the plug, stop the show, and exit the theater. He sat up in bed, scratched himself in several places, and watched snow fall quietly outside his bedroom window, prettily frosted at its edges. Stephen was usually charged with clearing snow from the stoop, sidewalks, and driveway, so quite likely later that morning he'd be shoveling the zillion snowflakes off the concrete and blacktop into piles that, had it been three or four years earlier, he and Francis would have played King of the Mountain on; but they didn't do that anymore and his brother was going to be gone all weekend anyway. Stephen despised winter and the entire history of human migration northward. Why didn't people stay put in tropical climates, where colorful toucans and hooting monkeys populated the trees, not just stupid robins and humdrum squirrels? Not to mention that the holidays were done and it was only Day Thirteen of the dreaded what's-a-boy-to-do period between the end of the Bears season and the start of the White Sox season. (He didn't much like watching Bulls basketball, where points came too easily, or Black Hawks hockey, where points were almost impossible to get.) Bears, the animals not the football players, were the smart ones, hibernating these months away. His bedroom was filled with the things he loved. Posters of Sox stars Frank Thomas and Carlton Fisk were taped to his walls, as were pictures cut out of pro wrestling and baseball magazines. Above his bed a model of the space shuttle Columbia hung from the ceiling by a string. (The model helped spur his many dreams of space flight, he suspected.) Under his bed were two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures, Leonardo and Raphael, which he secretly still played with, a well-thumbed-through 1991 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and some long-missing underwear and socks. The Amazing Spider-Man #372 rested on top of the bedcovers. Stephen was midway through a story where Spider-Man was battling arachnid robots, and even though the robots had the upper hand, surely good would prevail over evil once again and the robots would be destroyed. A school photo of Nicole, Stephen's girlfriend, was wedged between his pillows: he had kissed the picture so often it no longer tasted like chemicals. The bookcase was stuffed with Mad magazines and his comic book collection, and books about baseball, UFOs, ghosts, ESP, archaeology, and dinosaurs. On his desk he kept his ancient rocks and geodes, and some of his best baseball and football cards. He was waiting to be called to breakfast for the third time before he responded, one of the many duties of a lazybones, when the sun found an opening in the clouds and illuminated the falling snowflakes, making them appear feathery and inner-lit. "Good job," he said to the universe. This is the best we can do in January, the universe said back. As he often did when nature was putting on a show for him, Stephen started thinking about God, or at least the god of design. Even though the Bible, from what he knew of it, never spoke of this, Stephen believed that an artistic god existedmaybe not in heaven minding the store but somewherewho insisted on things like patterns for each snowflake, despite the fact that plain old flaked ice would be simpKuhlman, Evan is the author of 'Wolf Boy ' with ISBN 9780307336965 and ISBN 0307336964.