Nasty, Brutish, and Short
Evil Fiction by Patrick M. Tracy

The First To Fall in ‘82

By Patrick M. Tracy

Joanne dropped her bike and ran to his crumpled body. At least, she wanted to run. Her steps fell so slowly, like playing drums under water. She stepped over the kid’s shoe. It lay there on its side, a wad of gum stuck in the figured instep, the laces burst and fallen in a tangle. A little kid’s sneaker, the canvas top still crisp and unsullied.

Blood bloomed around him, his eyes fixed and blank as marbles in his narrow face. That smell. That sharpness like pennies on her tongue and the air stark as the moment before a hard rain fell, tingling all around her. Something tried to loosen in her lower abdomen and she clenched hard, holding herself. Jo knew a sound escaped her mouth, a mournful sound, like hearing recess was cancelled for good. Like hearing it wouldn’t ever be Christmas again.

But all that just hung there in her brain like the the puffy steam rising from the generating station across the valley. Meaningless stuff she hid behind because she couldn’t look at him. Only a moment, but it stretched into an infinity of running, of being too weak to find his face where he lay, head touching the curb.

Kellen Danforth. She knew him. Not to talk to, but to pass on the street, to remember that he had a stars and stripes spangled Schwinn Stingray. Jo remembered how long he’d been able to ride a wheelie, his hair flying wild behind him in the height of summer. Just months ago. Just a blink of that sweet everything before school bells started ringing and made reality start again.

Jo looked. Her eyes traversed the blood pool that had now filled every crevice of the road surface and lapped against the toe of her powder blue Keds tennis shoe. His shoulder, looking shattered and incorrect beneath his Charlie Brown shirt. The chocolate brown corduroy of his fall jacket. The deep hollow where his neck met his bony chest, so still.

Her knees folded. Jo put her hands to his neck, like Miss Henckle had taught them in PE. She couldn’t find it. Not by sound or feel or hope. Little Kellen’s heart wouldn’t speak to her, wouldn’t save her from the yawning hole beneath her knees. He couldn’t be cold yet, but he felt like ice beneath her shaking fingers.

Jo turned her face aside, to the black tire marks on the tarmac, so near, slewing to where the car had come to rest, one wheel in the Bohannon’s flower patch, now covered with winter hay. She caught a shimmer of her own face in the side mirror, and an indistinct shadow of a driver’s pale face.

The car’s engine roared in a feeble, thready pulse. Raw gasoline and burnt oil fumes wafted out from some indistinct place underneath the old beater. In a moment, the rust-red wagon sped away dragging its tail pipe.

Alone with little Kellen, Jo felt the burn of tears touch her cheek. Alone, holding a dead boy as his blood soaked into her socks and crawled up the hem of her dress.

One Response to “The First To Fall in ‘82”

  1. Painted quite the visual! 😢

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