Hero This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
   Joe was a boy

With a dream to live

In a place where the sound of night

Was the wind and the crickets

Not the gunshots and the sirens

That were all too common

In the place where he lived

And the children were recognized

And the women were respected

And everyone had a daddy

Who came home at five o'clock



Joe's favorite times

In his whole meaningless world

Were the times he spent with Jeffrey

Jeffrey was kind

And he had taught Joe how to play pool

And how to change the oil in his truck

And how to show off for the girls

Who jumped rope on the sidewalk

And Jeffrey would laugh

He'd say "Joe, you're gettin' to be bigger'n Ol' Jeffrey"

And they'd laugh together

At the people they watched

Walking down the sidewalk

Always going somewhere

For where they were never suited them



Sometimes Joe acted strangely, though

He wouldn't be home for a week

Or sometimes two

And he would get phone calls

In the middle of the night

Or he'd have a mysterious bruise

And sometimes a cut

Appear at random places on his body



It was almost Joe's birthday

He'd be nine in a week

Jeffrey had said that something important would happen

On Joe's birthday

Joe wondered what the surprise would be

Something small like a toy

Or big like a bike

Or important like Joe's sister



Whom they hadn't heard from in years

And one day

The day before his birthday

Joe was sitting out in the corridor of his apartment building

And Jeffrey appeared

He held a paper bag in his hand

And when Joe asked if it was his present

Jeffrey smiled painfully

He managed to utter an inaudible "no"

And then he was gone



Joe fell asleep dreaming that night

Of happy tihings

Or at least the things that made him happy

And when he awoke the next morning

His mother had left

And the apartment was cold

So Joe went over to Jeffrey's apartment

But Jeffrey wasn't there



He wasn't on the stoop

Or their favorite bench

He wasn't at the drugstore on the corner

Or sleeping under their favorite tree

So Joe started to walk home

But he went the long way

Just for the sake of taking more time

Filling more space

With things he could do



And as he turned the corner

Lying down next to a garbage can

Was Jeffrey

In Jeffrey's left hand there were remnants of the paper bag

Shreds

Like it had been torn from his hand

But in Jeffrey's right hand

Was a pretty box

With a card attached

That said Joe



And Joe sat with him for hours

But when the flies started coming

Buzzing around Jeffrey's face

Joe got up and walked home quickly

With the shreds of the paper bag

Clenched in his small fist




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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