The Boy in the Fire

January 8, 2015
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Biting my lip from the frost and the cold, I tucked my chin farther into the collar of my coat. Black ice covered the path from edge to edge and my weak soled shoes slipped across its surface. stumbling along the bleak and broken pathway, I clutched the inside of my pockets, desperately trying to find warmth.

                I pressed my lips further into the collar, trying desperately to dry them, and shield them from the wind. Each of my muscles ached with the effort of moving. Large purple bruises on my arms and chest had swollen, and I could feel the throb of my heart in each and every one of them.

                I struggled to move quicker, to get out of the cold, but the black ice wouldn’t allow it. My feet glided across its surface without my will, and it was all I could do to remain standing. I gripped a branch to keep me stable, not from the ice, but from the numbness in my legs that was slowly spreading through my body.

I looked around at the houses around me, their festive decorations and warm fires burning in the hearth of everyhome. The very thought of such happiness and warmth cut me to the core. What is it like to feel warm? I thought, after all this time I had forgotten. All I could see was a blanket of cold and white. Darkness seemed to close around me, and the stars seemed without light. Just glowing points in the sky, too far to offer any help. Even the moon itself seemed to pull and wane and taunt my very existence.

I heard the creek of a door and a sliver of light stretched across the dark snow. I couldn’t find the strength to turn my head, but realizing that someone was watching me, I began to slowly trudge forward. My tormented eyes clung to the silhouette in the snow, desperately hoping for compassion, but not having the bravery to ask for it.

I saw the silhouette take a step forward, raising one of his hands. My heart pumped a little faster, and I saw a shimmer of hope. Then the silhouette lowered its hand, and retracted its foot. I watched the door close slowly, and felt my heart go with it.

I urged myself to take the next step, but I couldn’t, I had lost my will. I had no were to go, at least not any place warm. My father was a drunk and my mother had died when I was very little, leaving us to live in a little trailer in a mobile home lot. In the years and years of use it had never been repaired. We no longer had any windows or any electricity. All that would happen if I got there would be a vicious beating from my father for not making enough money for his beer.

I realized I was on my side, not remembering having fallen. Small shimmering lights could be seen through the windows of the homes, and I saw one man sitting next to a lamp reading a book. However, what had once seemed so close, now seemed out of reach. I put my hands farther into my pockets, I was no longer cold, I was warm, and with that I drifted off into nothing.


                I sat in my warm chair, letting the waves of warmth roll over me as I watched the snow outside. I observed the delicate and beautiful symphony of snowflakes descend from heaven in a silver tide. The beauty of smoke rising from the chimneys of loving homes during the rage of such elegance was truly unparalleled.

                I glanced down toward the fire, were my son and daughter were playing. My daughter danced around the fire place, twirling with an enormous smile on her face. My son, playing both the role of the dragon and the knight, sometimes attacking his sister, and other times fending off an imaginary beast and yelling, “You will not harm her!” I chuckled.

                Cradling my hot-choclate, I stood up to go to the kitchen. My bare feet relished the warm and soft embrase of the carpet, and my hands remained comfortably warm around my mug. I approached the counter, looking into my beautiful wife’s eyes. She smiled at me as she worked on her mundane tasks. Her hair fell like liquid gold from her head, falling gently just below her shoulders. I smiled back taking one of the dish towels and drying the knife she had just cleaned.

                We worked together in silence, washing dish after dish for several minutes. Neither words nor contact were shared, but we didn’t need it. The company of one another was enough for us, the safe knowledge that love was in our lives.

                As we completed the dishes, I gave her a kiss. It was quick, and on the cheek, but more was not required. The kiss was as real as if we had hung there for hours, were it was placed didn’t matter. She gave me another smile, her white teeth glittering in her perfect countenance. I felt my chest warm and my mouth break into an uncontrollable smile as I walked calmly back to my chair.

                As I sat down I looked out the window and saw a hooded figure. A small young man, no older than 14 was walking through the snow. He huddled in his coat and shivered from the cold. His face was pale from the snow blowing against his exposed face. As he arrived outside my house, he leaned onto a branch and looked down, resting.

                I arose from my seat and quickly strode to the entryway. I opened the tall heavy oak door, and stepped out onto the dry mat in front of it. I saw the boy begin walking again, and I took a small step forward. No one should be walking out in this cold, it was tiring and I had a car, I could take him where ever he needed to go.

                I raised my hand, as if to wave, but then I stopped myself. He probably lived in one of these houses, he would be home and warm soon. If I were to stop him, I would only slow him down in getting to his destination. Besides, it would be just too awkward if I called him over into my car.

                I lowered my hand, and remained there, watching for a few moments. He continued to walk up the street, his head hung down to protect his face from the wind. Pushing his feet through the shin deep snow he made it another few yards.

                After watching for a moment I realized that I had left my chocolate inside, and my feet had begun to numb. I longed for the call of the fire, and finally gave into it. Turning into the light of my house I walked back into the carpeted floors and warm fire. Closing the door behind me I sat back down in my chair and began to read my book, safe in the knowledge that the boy would be home soon.

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This article has 10 comments. Post your own now!

Succubus-Chan This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 25, 2015 at 9:57 pm
Meh, could have been better.
TaylorCortre replied...
Oct. 26, 2015 at 7:39 pm
Very detailed, thank you for your clearly methodical comment. I wonder what ever I should do with this new found information.
writer-violistThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 18, 2015 at 2:07 pm
The was really good. I'm serious. I like how you put the two views in the same piece. At first, I thought that the second part was the person in the snow after many years until he saw the boy outside. All of your descriptions and imagery were really nice and touching. I could feel the emotion of the boy walking in the snow and his coldness and his lost feeling. I suggest that you give some more context about the boy's life so you could see more so how hard it is for him. Why was he leaving? Did ... (more »)
ellwist said...
Oct. 18, 2015 at 10:00 am
Whenever criticizing work, I'm always careful to watch the authors' intentions. Most intentions are to entertain, but I think this is trying to be a little bit more ambitious (an idea man, yes? I like idea men.) From what I'm getting here is that you want to put a contrasting light to the life of the poor boy and the virtuous man, painted in cold and warm colours, respectively. It'd make a very exceptional visual piece, but I have some doubts when it comes to writing. As I said before, the ide... (more »)
thisEmilyda1 said...
Oct. 15, 2015 at 12:00 am
I honestly love this, but at first it's hard to see the correlation between the two characters. I really love your descriptions, they were perfect, especially the first paragaph of the second part. The only thing that really bothered me personally was the second part. I mean I like it, but I think you painted it a little TOO perfect. The perfect family the perfect beautiful wife. The perfect "ideal" home, you even made the carpets sound inviting. Its hard to read it and feel like it's realistic,... (more »)
TaylorCortre replied...
Oct. 16, 2015 at 11:21 am
This piece is more allegorical than realistic. The point was to emphasize a dramatic contrast between the two situations. By pointing out flaws in the mans life and home would be working against myself. Now had this been a story about something else, where the main character only lived here, you would be absolutely right. Here however it needed to seem perfect, and thus contrast the boy's situation which seemed like nothing more could go wrong.
BreeZephyr This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 14, 2015 at 10:59 am
Wow. When I first started reading this, I didn't expect an ending like that. It hits the reader over the head with a brick--extremely powerful and poignant, not to mention that it turns the focus on the reader's own responsibility to extend a helping hand. Well done. However, if you'll let me give a smidgen of constructive criticism--while the great thing about your story is that it hits the reader over the head with a brick, the one criticism I have about your story is...well, that it hits the ... (more »)
TaylorCortre replied...
Oct. 14, 2015 at 11:09 am
No,no thank you for the long comment. I have been looking for someone to give me some criticism and I think you are absolutely right. I need to be more indirect about it, it's true that he would take it for granted. Thank you again for this comment, it means a lot to me.
CNBono17 said...
Oct. 11, 2015 at 9:42 pm
Oh. My. Gosh. It's been 24 hours since I first read this, and still, I'm struggling to find something to say. It's that powerful. The message is deep, and hits home. Poignant, profound, and biting. Bittersweet. Incredible. Amazing job!
Kyrstie said...
Oct. 11, 2015 at 7:15 pm
It's saddening to think of the suffering this young boy is going through, what with a dead mother; an alcoholic, abusive father; and that fact that he has nowhere to go, so he trudges along an icy sidewalk in the cold. You can almost feel his pain. What made it sadder is that the man who lived in that house was almost ready to offer the boy assistance, but then went against it because he thought the boy was near home. This is a good piece with a perfect ending. I would recommend some minor editi... (more »)
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