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Down the Black Street

David wanted nothing less than to eat toast. But as he lay sprawled on the couch, he came to the conclusion that his dreams would fall short. From the kitchen, a hot scent crept into his nose. The lone smell of burnt bread transformed into a horrific, sharp taste. Actually, it transformed into more than just taste--it became the monster that began a downward spiral in David’s day.

David clasped his hands together and rolled on his side. His thick, brown hair had yet to be brushed, and it dripped warm water, from his bath, onto the cushions.

“Mom,” David said, half drooling in lethargy.

A faint ticking served as the only reply.

Across the room, an old clock read 7:52PM. Its iron hands pointed in their forced positions, guided and propelled by an inward cog. Aside from a newly acquired, color-dried armoire, it stood as the oldest antique in the house. The boy looked at the clock with pain, noting the two notches following the gold-trimmed “10” on its face. His toast was two minutes too late.

Two deadly minutes late.

David jumped up, pumped with adrenaline, and ran towards the toaster. He froze his legs mid-stride, sliding on the wood floor with his socks. Reaching the corner of the living room, he spun, kicking back his foot and propelling himself past the oven and stove tops. His eyes squinted, glaring into the toaster’s slots. A frown broke across his face and he whimpered. Clutching the legs of his German-shepherd pajamas, David elbowed the nearest cabinet and began his exodus back to the couch and the clock.

“Honey!” called his mom from across the house. A tapping of shoes shut David’s mouth before he could answer back. “Go outside and motion for the ambulance to stop when it gets here. Your dad’s not feeling well after surgery.”

David stood still. His eyes blinked once.

“Honey, listen, now,” she said, the hysteria fading slowly. “You and your brother need to go outside and flag down the ambulance when it arrives.”

With that, she ran back to her room. David looked at the front door, where he saw his brother, clad in matching pajamas, waiting.

Rather than rush outdoors and stand watch, David followed his mom. His steps were hurried at first, but after a moment, he stopped, foot raised. At the far corner of his parents’ room sat his father. He wore nothing but a white shirt and flannel boxers.

The man’s body shook. Even so, it was far from a seizure. Rather than move in violent, uncontrollable spurts, his arms and legs vibrated with the intensity of a back massager. His eyes were loosely closed, his arms hung near to his chest, and his legs were crossed at the ankles, clanking together multiple times per second.

Oblivious to her son’s presence, the wife scurried from master bath to bedroom, pacing and jabbering. She stopped at the foot of the bed. Hugging her husband quickly, she took back to pacing, then gazed up, catching her son’s eye.

“I told you to go outside.”

David, wide-eyed, met back with his brother and opened the front door. A slight breeze greeted them. As David shut the door, he stared at the lamps and furniture visible from his vantage point. The objects waved goodbye and David walked down the stone path that led to the street.

David’s brother stood next to him. He was older but quiet and aloof--the kind who, when one’s father needed an ambulance, would stand at the curb, kicking rocks and smiling to himself.

“What do you think’s gonna happen?” David kept his eyes lowered. He took a step off the path and onto the lawn.

Silence ensued.

“I hope he’s okay.” David’s voice shied away with each syllable.

Down the black street, not considering house lights or the occasional lawn lamp, two figures pedaled in unison. Their shapes, mere silhouettes in the moonlight, progressed towards the house like a funeral procession nearing a cemetery. When they could nearly be touched, David noticed they wore helmets, dark ties, black pants, and white shirts. The boy cowered behind a tree, relying on darkness to shadow him.

The figures stopped in front of the house, taking note of the two kids in pajamas.

“What’s wrong?” they asked.

David stepped into the open. Liquid streamed down his cheeks and he swept at it.

“Nothing.” David noticed that his brother remained in the same position, kicking rocks and humming to himself.

One man hopped off his bike and unlatched his helmet. David crossed his arms. He squeezed his chest, as if trying to mask the pressure inside it.

Sirens echoed down the road. The two strangers jerked their heads. David followed their gaze and, seeing the ambulance, poked his brother’s shoulder and took a step into the street. His knees buckled in the German-shepherd pajamas as he faced the headlights head on.

David raised his right hand just above the shoulder. The hand reached its peak and plummeted. The boy then hit his brother’s back and ran with him inside, leaving the Mormons and the ambulance in the dust.

“They’re here,” David said, but his voice projected like a whisper, hugging the walls.

The door jumped open and in walked three men and a stretcher. David was upstairs, though, only listening. He heard his mother. He could sense his father. Within minutes, the stretcher was gone, and David ran downstairs.

“Be a good boy. Go upstairs and go to bed,” his mom said. Her glazed eyes stared into his. “Mommy will be back soon. Now go on and tuck yourself in.”

David watched them leave. He swiped at his tears once more as the red lights drifted out of sight. The Mormons, too, had vanished, leaving him and his brother alone.

He hobbled up the stairs and grabbed his brother’s hand.

“It’ll be okay. I know it will.” David sat in the corner of his bed, determined. His brother traced circles in the bedspread, still smiling in his usual way.





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