Saturday, January 14, 2012

F3 Cycle 63 "A Little Boy's Secret"

Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: You know something, but you do nothing…ever, no matter what happens
Length: Let’s do it between 500 and 1500 words
Style: Noir, psychological thriller, or horror
Deadline: Wednesday January 18th 9:00PM




“Wake up sleepyhead,” my mom said after gently kissing me on my nose. I was eleven years old at the time and she knew I hated overt contact so I wiggled underneath my covers in an attempt to prevent any further embarrassment. I had come to believe I was an adult and grown men just did not receive kisses from their mothers.

“All right big boy,” she said laughing while trying to tickle me, “breakfast is downstairs and Steven you need to eat and get ready quickly if you want to come to work with me.”

I was still underneath the covers with my body tucked tightly into a protective fetal position when I felt my mother’s weight lift off my worn mattress to be replaced with the sound of her heels clicking on the hardwood floor of my bedroom as she walked out. Throwing back the covers, I laid on the bed for several moments thinking about how my father once came in after my mother and spend a few minutes with me before he had to run out the door.

Funny how pain and heartache fades over the years but I still remember laying on that old bed feeling the intense sense of loss his absence brought. He had died a little over a year before after a drunk driver ran a red light and crashed into him. I never told my mother but I would often dream of sitting beside him as he drove that old Ford truck he got from granddad. It was a pleasant dream and somehow I always knew we were heading towards the Tastee-Freez for a private father and son ice cream cone.

The reason I never told my mother about the dream was that it always turned into a nightmare. At some point, I would no longer be in the truck but standing on the sidewalk watching the huge speeding semi slam into the small truck. The last thing I would see before waking up would be the puzzled and disappointed expression on my father’s face as his life ended and the truck he drove was twisted, smashed, and compacted all at the same time. It was almost as if I could tell he understood what was happening to him and how his small family would be lost without him.

Not wanting to torture myself any longer I thankfully remembered my promise to my mother to be the man of the house, so I pushed the sorrow away and jumped up so I would not make her late for her job. Breakfast was pancakes and bacon and like any growing boy, I gobbled it down without really tasting anything of the food. I was especially happy that morning because a few days before a water pipe had busting on the third floor of my school resulting in all the rooms below being flooded and classes abruptly canceled.

The destruction was so great that both the district superintendent and my principle had decided to keep the school closed until after the Thanksgiving holiday to allow the workmen enough time to repair and clean everything up. It was every elementary school kid’s fantasy come true, not only had the school been closed but all our textbooks, recorded grades, and homework were soggy oatmeal-like sludge being pushed into trash cans.

My mom’s job was in the huge motor vehicles records warehouse located on the southeast corner of Elm and North Houston Streets. She was part of a crew of other women who spent their entire day filing incoming records or retrieving those that might be needed somewhere. The building had seven floors and when I accompanied my mom to work, it was a huge and mysterious playground with all sorts of strange rooms filled with storage boxes that acted as oversized Legos. This was all made possible because my mom’s boss was a kind man who let the ladies working under him bring their children to work occasionally.

The day my perception of the world changed for the second time I was the only child in the warehouse but on the sixth floor I had a fort built from a previous visit and I was looking forward to playing cowboys and Indians with an entire tribe of imaginary Apache warriors out to overrun my stronghold. For a couple of hours I played contently repelling several assaults when I happened to glance outside one of the big windows that lined the wall.

A huge crowd had gathered all along the parts of Elm Street I could see and it appeared to stretch all the way into the park further down. Using all the strength I had I forced open one of the old windows so I could get a better view of what was going on. Before long a cheer rose up in the distance and seconds later I saw a small motorcade approaching.

From below, I heard faint mentioning of President Kennedy with my child brain finally making the connection with the memory of the radio announcer mentioning he was suppose to be in town that day. I grew excited for all the dreams and hopes he inspired in everyone at that time. He was the man that challenged us to go to the moon and stared down the evil Soviets during the scary Cuban Missile Crisis.

As President Kennedy, the First Lady, Governor Connally, and his wife rode past my spot I quickly hurried over to the other side of the building and opened up another window, this allowed me to see all the way down to Dealey Park.

Seeing the president and his beautiful wife pass in front of me was the most exciting thing to happen in my young life but movement in the window of the building across from me that tore my attention away from them. Almost parallel to me I saw two men huddled close together looking out one of the windows. The one in the background was holding something made of wood, which for some reason I took to be a broom and the other in the forefront was looking through a pair of binoculars observing the motorcade.

They quickly changed positions with the man who I had thought was holding a broom taking up what I learned from movies was a firing position. This unknown man with the speed and precision of what was clearly professional training, even to a kid like me, worked the bolt-action rifle three separate times. He was so fast each pop from the weapon almost overlapped the other. I was transfixed with what I saw but the screams that followed were proof enough that he had hit his intended target.

The man with the binoculars pushed the other one out the way bringing them up to his eyes. A maniacal smile appeared on his face as he watched the chaos below and my soul ran cold because I was convinced I was looking at none other than the devil himself.

“Help someone,” I screamed at the top of my lungs while leaning dangerously out the window, “they shot the president.” The entire world, so caught up in the anarchy below, ignored my pleas. All except the devil man who brought the binoculars up to his eyes and looked directly at me.

I froze like a rabbit in the crosshairs and felt death hovering over my shoulder. The devil man just continued smiling and seconds later disappeared into the recesses of the Texas School Book Depository.Within minutes police were everywhere like my imaginary Apache Warriors had been before and I ran downstairs in an attempt to tell them what I knew.

The only one who I was able to stop listened for only a few seconds before I was interrupted by the loud voice blaring from his walky-talky, he then quickly ran off and disappeared. The only adult who listened all the way through was my mom’s boss. He made a few phone calls but later told me with everything so crazy he believed it would be days before anyone came around to talk with us.

Two days later he was killed in what the police claimed was a robbery at his home. As the days passed strange men began appearing at my mom’s work walking the floors looking for something.

Fearful of these men,whenever I accompanied my mother to her work I retreated to an very isolated hiding place deep in the bowels of the building and only left as the work day drew to a close. I would appear at my mother's desk and make her leave as everyone else walked out to the parking lot. For reasons I cannot explain these mysterious visitors eventually faded away like evil wraiths and over time I have come to believe they may have been figments of my imagination, or at least that is what I tell myself. Still though, as I spent long fearful days hiding among all the dusty boxes I made silent prays promising to say nothing more about what I saw if they left my mother and me alone and I have kept that agreement.

Every year as the anniversary approaches, it’s always the same. Scores of documentaries muscle in on the moronic reality shows that infest the so-called historical cable channels like a bad case of fleas on a stray dog. Serious looking men and women holding all sorts of degrees in history and engineering will explain what actually happen and how a lone gunman killed the president. Yes, one man fired the shots but I know he was not alone and this secret will die with me.

15 comments:

Windsmoke. said...

Well written. Poor little fella to witness death twice at such a young age his secret will haunt his dreams for the rest of his life :-).

Pixel Peeper said...

Yes - well written!

I wonder what it is about Kennedy's assasination that keeps us all so fascinated and intrigued almost 50 years later. Have you read Stephen King's new novel (11/22/63)? My co-worker is reading it and tells me it's one of the best books she's ever read.

I may have to put it on my list now, especially after reading your story.

lime said...

kind of makes you wonder how many secrets how many children hold.

Marja said...

But he is not dead yet and can tell is the secret behind this terrible historical event. What a great story I was sitting on the tip of my chair hangin on every word

Red Nomad OZ said...

Do I sense a deathbed confession follow up story to beat the conspirators??!!

Akelamalu said...

So convincing you had me wondering if you were that boy and it's true!

John McElveen said...

I froze like a rabbit in the crosshairs and felt death hovering over my shoulder.

Damn---best one yet for me!

John

Beach Bum said...

Windsmoke: I sort of envisage an adult Steven as a secretive person living out of the country. I would have thrown more detail into the story but I was pushing the word limit already.

Pixel: I believe Oswald acted alone but for me somethings just do not add up.

Heard about that new King book, will have to read it myself.

Lime: As a kid I remember seeing all sorts of things the adults around me ignored. None of it would have shaken reality, it was all minor stuff but I remember how frustrated it was to try and tell them when they would not listen.

Marja: If I was in that position I would probably stay quiet. And I do wonder who in real life knows things and are afraid to speak out.

Red Nomad: Probably not, the various JFK assassination theories have muddied whatever truth there is to the point if someone did have actual knowledge that would be important very few would believe them.

Akelamalu: LOL!!!! Oh God no. I was a little of a year away from bursting on the scene when JFK was shot.

John: Thanks, sort of liked that phrase.

Glen said...

love the irony of the story being "told" but ending as how he will "never tell" . As usual you have captured it perfectly.

Jenny Shaw said...

Nice work, Beach Bum. I like what you did with the prompt. When I was a kid, I loved roaming around office buildings when my parents brought me to work and you brought that all back.

Ingrid Hardy said...

Wow, fantastic take on the prompt. this feels so real... That poor little boy, what a secret to carry!

Cloudia said...

yes, all is exciting, new, and worth noticing to kids. adults are mostly asleep in their delusions. . .


Aloha from Waikiki
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Ranch Chimp said...

It was a well put together story Bum, and Good Morning to ya'll. Lot's of theories till this day over that assassination. I'm 55 year's old, so I was a kid when it happened, but still remember the news broadcast's ... I didnt live in Dallas back then though. Thanx for the read Bum ....

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

Great take on the prompt, Beach! I loved the 'silent promise' in the devil man's smile that instilled enough fear in Steven that he would take the secret to his grave.

Nicely written.

Brown Paper Publishing said...

Ah, good nice. I’m in no way a conspiracy theory guy or any of it, so don’t approach this like that (if I was, I’d likely dig it on different points, just wanted to
get this out of the way at the start of my remarks, so it doesn’t seem I’m just odd for not talking about the historical set up).

This is like a paranoiac version of Calivno’s ‘Numbers in the Dark’ in its mediation on the hauntingness of the world observed through the child’s perceptions. What strikes me so much, though, is not (cool as it is) the assassination angle, but, really, that this second storyline (wider world) paired with the first (personal world). The establishing, in such a felt
way, the identity and fullness of the child is a beauty in itself and this informs the actual impact for me.

It isn’t JFK or America etc etc etc that is on his mind to protect or help out in the end: it’s his mother. His hiding in the
basement, hovering around his mother, feeling the childhood presence of playtime
imaginary “Apache warriors” surrounding him transmuted into the paranoia of people out to get him and his mother, the place that was once sanctuary and enjoyment
turned inside out and made hideous, reinforces the gravity of his promise to be “the man of his house”, to comfort his dream image of his dying-father-knowing-he-was-dying, to make sure that death did not leave the family helpless, unprotected (that the boy unconsciously understand this as the worry of his dying father, I will say as a father, is a moving note). The reason he keeps the secret is to live up to what was torn from him, destroyed, to protect what remained of what could
not be protected.

Anyway, that’s my take—again, as a tweak on JFK lore it’s also cool, but so much more grave and hurting to use the larger “icon” to bring focus back down on the more fragile, intimate thing that could have been lost forever.