It has been some time since I’ve taken part in the Flash Fiction Friday challenges. But, this particular week I couldn’t let pass by without getting involved. See, for every story they receive the generous Fiona Johnson and Thomas Pluck are donating money to a few organizations that work to protect children. You like that don’t you? So after you read my story, go write one, and read the other powerful tales people are coming up with.
Here is my submission. Thanks to Fiona and Thomas for sponsoring and donating.
Outside the Dream
His skin was like rotting fish on a muddy riverbank. His bulbous eyes pushed against his lids, his dark eyebrows wild, and his bald misshapen head, battered, scarred, knotted from of fights long forgotten made all the stories of a boogey man seem true. When he smiled it seemed like his face was struggling against the brain’s impulses.
He loped down the sidewalk smoking his menthol cigarette. Toledo wasn’t much, but it was his. The burgeoning art district brought hippie middle-class college kids downtown. They watched middle-aged couples meander through small stands of pottery and glass bulbs, beads and fake jewelry. When it got dark, they hustled up their shit and scurried back to whatever suburb they came from. They liked to pretend poverty.
KaVon went to the river, plopped onto the grass, and watched the sun fall. He imagined God’s hand laying the sun down like a man might guide a child’s head to his pillow. After awhile, he stubbed his cigarette out and closed his eyes. He hummed some Junior Kimbrough. Soon he’d go to work.
When he awoke, the night’s chill already gripped him. He stood, cracked his neck, and made his way to the city’s landscape. It was quiet, only the argot of the city calling him. As he passed one corner, KaVon saw a girl’s face silhouetted by street light. When she noticed KaVon walking by, she stood into the light and grinned.
“You looking for someone in particular, honey?” KaVon just kept walking. He had things to do.
Ahead he saw them, three boys trying to be men. Two stood on the corner, 13 years old, but Jesus to fuck it was getting hard to tell anymore. One older man, Lamar, lounged on a stoop about fifteen yards away. “Ain’t it a little late, K?” The kids laughed. Lamar stared. “Maybe you want a little bump? Old times sake.”
“Light?” KaVon said pulling out a cigarette. Lamar nodded. When KaVon was close he grabbed Lamar’s head and brought his knee up. Lamar’s nose snapped, blood flowed. KaVon grabbed the .45 Lamar had under his leg.
“What the fuck, K?” one kid stammered.
“I want to know where Jonah is.”
“Jonah? I don’t know…”
KaVon put the gun to his lips. “Think. Hard.”
The boys shared a glance then one squeaked, “He stayin’ with Reggie.”
At Reggie’s place, a decrepit box of rotting wood, KaVon walked to the back door. He heard ‘Lil Wayne bumping and caught the aroma of smoke wafting out the window. As he stepped into the kitchen he spied Jonah: head back, eyes closed, pipe in his hand. KaVon turned off the radio and Jonah jumped, dropping the pipe to the floor.
“Fuck, lookit what you made me do. Reggie’s gonna be pissed,” Jonah said scooping up the contents.
“Leave it. We have business to discuss.”
Jonah’s eyes widened. The dark pools trembled. “I’m not doing that anymore. I told you.”
“I know what you said.”
“I won’t.” His bottom lip quivered.
“Problem is you never do what you’re told; you never follow through with your promises.”
Jonah jumped up, his slight frame rushing toward the yard. KaVon wondered why they always tried to run. His powerful hand gripped Jonah’s shirt and pulled him to the floor. The boy flailed, but KaVon’s forearm on his throat and hand over his mouth stopped the squirming quick.
“You gonna walk or I hafta carry ya the three blocks home?”
Jonah nodded. KaVon helped the boy up. As the tread back to Jonah’s house, the boy studied the sidewalk. “You just don’t understand.”
“Fuck I don’t.”
“I tell her how it is, but she don’t care.”
“You’re her golden boy.”
“What else am I gonna do, K? Wash dishes?”
“I’m doin’ ok.”
“That’s cause you have yer own angles. How much momma pay you to fetch me?”
“Enough.” They walked in silence. KaVon regarded the boy, his simple wish to be relevant, to imagine something beyond what he could see around him. “Don’t break her heart like I did.”
“My boys, they won’t let me go. You know that,” Jonah said.
“Listen, you do right by momma and I’ll take care of you.”
The boy nodded. KaVon put his arm around Jonah’s shoulder. He knew he was going to earn every penny that night.