Monday, December 12, 2011

Boy on a Curb

The boy was sitting alone on the curb in front of his house. He didn’t look particularly alone on that Minneapolis street with all the bungalows lined up neatly behind him, the grass mowed, the hedges trimmed, the gardens weeded. Not as symmetrical as that last sentence makes it sound, but neat nonetheless, tamed, civilized.

He sat there—alone—unaware of the comfort of his block, ignorant of the men who cleared the land, sawed the lumber, fired the bricks, roofed the houses on days too hot to breathe. He hadn’t been there then and didn’t care now. He just sat on the curb in front of his own house with the rough cement hard on his skin, and his bare feet shuffled under the leaves in the gutter.

And, no, he wasn’t bored. We always assume that fifteen-year-old kids who sit without moving, with that blank look on their faces, are bored. He wasn’t bored. He wasn’t sad. He was frozen, stunned, dazed. He couldn’t move. For the first time in his life all he wanted to do was to be still, very, very still.

He’d known her all his life. Janey. As plain as they come, but a little while ago when she grabbed his hand, he had a weird feeling, really weird. Now he was almost afraid of her, close to mad at her. She touched his hand, he grabbed hers, they looked at each other a second too long, and then he stuck out his tongue. “Bleah!” he said.

Bleah!” she said and moved closer.

They laughed and did it again and again and again.

And now the boy is sitting on the curb, not moving. Bleah? he thinks.

Yes, she’d said, Yes.

© 2011 Kathleen Coskran