Last to Go

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young boy makes an incredibly difficult choice.

Submitted: June 30, 2011

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Submitted: June 30, 2011

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The boy rides out on his bike. His breath comes before him, billowing and dissipating. His nose stings from the cold as he adjusts his numb fingers on the handle bars. The next door neighbor’s dog whines as it paces in the empty yard. Then, startling in the crisp before-dawn air, his barks ring out in a staccato rhythm echoing off the long high walls of the alley.

The boy wriggles his toes inside his worn sneakers as he pedals faster towards the end of the block. Around the corner, the light changes, the air becoming clearer and heavy with bright yellow—almost as if the particles in the air were imbued with the light of the sun itself. He stands up on his bike, the bike swaying back and forth as he speeds between the empty street and the empty shops, staying in the relative darkness offered by the tall buildings. His breath is harsh now and his lungs are stinging. Street after street passes, not a soul to be seen.

He reaches a corner and brakes, the muscles in his small legs quivering from the effort. He sags at the shoulders then, his backpack a heavy but warm comfort in the morning air. The rising sun blinds him as it tops the far building ahead. He quickly shields his face from the sting and moves right, adjusting his position so his face and body are back into the shadow.

Sitting on his bike, both feet on the cracked pavement, he allows his breath and racing heart to slow. They have been here, but not for months. No one is coming back.

The boy glances down at his fingers gripping the handle bars, their rough and cracked knuckles white and bloodless. He detaches his right hand from the grip and brushes his shaggy hair from his eyes. The cold is seeping into him again. The hunger gnaws at him.

He draws in a breath that hurts his chest as the cold air rushes into his tired lungs.

Wrestling the backpack to the pavement, he is struck by the weight of it tipping him to the side. He clambers stiffly off his bike, settling it gently to the ground, the mangled kickstand offering no help.

The boy squats next to the backpack as he allows the path of the light to slowly creep towards him. From the bag, he spreads his favorite things. A broken piece of his mother’s favorite wine glass is fingered and placed aside. His little brother’s teddy—the fur rubbed off around the triangle-shaped nose—is placed on the cold pavement next to the glass shard. Finally, the boy removes a thick leather-bound book that was his grandmother’s (and later his father’s) bible from the backpack. Its pages are worn and dirty and he looks at them without seeing them. He closes his eyes and examines his memories again, twisting around the truths to bring back the happiness to his mind.

One by one, he lets them rest. One by one, his hands shaking, he slips his precious things back into his bag.

Slowly, he moves to the middle of the sidewalk that had once been clean of trash and unbroken. He sits and then leans down to rest the left side of his head against the cold ground. Tucking his legs up to his chest, a small tear skips over his nose. The brilliant yellow sunlight spreads across his prone body and he allows himself to be burned and carried away on the wind.


© Copyright 2020 KEJones. All rights reserved.

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