The Boy in the Fire

January 8, 2015
By TaylorCortre BRONZE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
TaylorCortre BRONZE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
1 article 0 photos 8 comments

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.

The author's comments:

Don't be embarrissed to offer assistance, and don't be to proud to ask for it.

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This article has 10 comments.

on Oct. 26 2015 at 7:39 pm
TaylorCortre BRONZE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
1 article 0 photos 8 comments
Very detailed, thank you for your clearly methodical comment. I wonder what ever I should do with this new found information.

on Oct. 25 2015 at 9:57 pm
bella. PLATINUM, Jacksonville, Florida
24 articles 0 photos 34 comments

Favorite Quote:
“don’t fall slave to the serpent’s tongue”

Meh, could have been better.

on Oct. 18 2015 at 2:07 pm
writer-violist DIAMOND, Jenks, Oklahoma
63 articles 4 photos 84 comments

Favorite Quote:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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 he have any siblings or money? In the first part, I think that you had very nice details (as did the second part) about the boy being cold. I suggest that you add even more detail to make the reader cold or give them chills and want to grab a blanket even if they are warm at the current moment. There were a few grammatical errors but not many, which is really good. I really like the story and the irony. Very, very nice job. Seriously. Amazing job. Please keep writing. I leave you with two questions. Did the boy die in the cold? Why did the man reading in the warm house never look out the window to see if the boy was gone? This really inspired me. Very, very great job. :)Thanks for writing it. :)

ellwist SILVER said...
on Oct. 18 2015 at 10:00 am
ellwist SILVER, Surabaya, Other
7 articles 2 photos 93 comments

Favorite Quote:
"They only let you be this happy when they're preparing to take something from you." -Khaled Hosseini, the Kite Runner.

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 idea stands on its own as a portrait. Though one needs to work hard to put Van Gogh into words. I think the best advice I could give you, at this point in time, is this: voice. Have you ever read books with different perspectives, all told in first person? It's a very hard thing to pull off effectively, and that's because most of the time, the author always uses the same voices, the same descriptions to give life to different characters. An educated character and a man who has not gone to school will have the same vocabulary in their monologues, a happy character and a sad character will carry the same monotone. One of the few books that averted this, in my opinion, is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, who succeeded in separating the voice of a (spoiler alert) sociopathic wife and a relatively disturbed husband in a duet of folie a deux. Not only does the husband and the wife have different motivations and experiences, they have different thought processes (the wife's is short, snappy, walking the line between genius and insanity, while the writer husband's tended to sound older, quieter, arguably violent, but much more repressed.) This might be a good idea for this work. Perhaps if you could make the kid sound like a kid (grandiose ambitions, somewhat irrational hatred towards father, wild ideas of what the world should be like) and the virtuous man sound like an adult (past regrets, contentedness, memories), the contrast would bounce off each other beautifully. Your repetition is already good, but it doesn't hurt to keep it going. Also, this is a personal preference, but I've always thought of the bigger strokes to be the most important. Detail is good, but in short stories, the simpler you keep it, the better. (again, personal preference. If that's your style, I won't bother it too much.)

on Oct. 16 2015 at 11:21 am
TaylorCortre BRONZE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
1 article 0 photos 8 comments
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.

on Oct. 15 2015 at 12:00 am
ThisEmilyDa1 SILVER, BF, New Mexico
6 articles 0 photos 101 comments

Favorite Quote:
only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile
-Albert Instien
the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.

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, cause in real life even the most pleasant ideal home has at least little flaw. But Keep writing I love your work!

on Oct. 14 2015 at 11:09 am
TaylorCortre BRONZE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
1 article 0 photos 8 comments
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.

on Oct. 14 2015 at 10:59 am
BreeZephyr SILVER, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
7 articles 0 photos 84 comments

Favorite Quote:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” - Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

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 reader over the head with a brick. What I mean is that, though the story is appropriately affecting in its moral, it comes on too strong in its delivery sometimes, to the point that your word choice sometimes beats the intended lesson into the reader's mind. I especially noticed this at the part with the rich, comfortable man inside his house: the descriptions of the "warm and soft embrase of the carpet", the "liquid gold" of his wife's hair and her "white teeth glittering" in her "perfect countenance", "the safe knowledge that love was in our lives", and his "uncontrollable smile", not to mention the large amount of references to heat and comfort, draw a very forced comparison to the poor cold boy outside and make the man's speech seem unrealistic. Not only is it a little over-the-top, but it makes the man seem like a caricature ("the warm man" versus the "cold boy"), who's only there to provide a contrast. Find ways to show me that he's happy instead of having him tell me: maybe make a reference to the large pile of Christmas presents his kids opened a few days ago, have him warn his spinning daughter not to fall into the fireplace, which is roaring at full strength (that way you can mention the fireplace without drawing forced attention to it), have him observe his wife singing to herself as she cleans (showing that she's happy without you having to say it), or have him nearly step on a Lego that was so deeply sunken into the thick carpet that he almost didn't see it...little tricks like that. Very few people are as self-aware of their blessings as the man in this story--in fact, I think that your story could benefit from showing that this man is not self-aware. He's become used to the warmth of his house and the beauty of his children and wife, so he doesn't think poetically about them so much as passively enjoy their presence. This is just the norm for him. So much so that, when a boy of fourteen trudges by, he can't fathom that the boy isn't as well off as he. But anyway, sorry to leave such a long comment. I really did like your story; it got me thinking, and as the other comments suggest, I'm not the only one it affected. Hope you write more :D

on Oct. 11 2015 at 9:42 pm
CNBono17 SILVER, Rural, South Carolina
5 articles 0 photos 250 comments

Favorite Quote:
Lego ergo sum (Latin—I read, therefore, I am)
The pen is mightier than the sword—unknown
Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity—1 Timothy 4:12

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!

hhhjjhh said...
on Oct. 11 2015 at 7:15 pm
hhhjjhh, Yuuuuuu, Massachusetts
0 articles 0 photos 10 comments
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 editing, but overall, nicely written!

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