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“LOVING CUP” played for the umpteenth time on Gunther’s iPod as he jogged his usual early morning route around his neighborhood in the Gold Coast. The sky was a vibrant mix of pink and orange, and Gunther could not help but become completely absorbed in the sunrise’s beauty. The car making a U-turn brought him back to reality. He returned home just in time for Aunt May’s famous biscuits and gravy.
School was its average teenage wasteland. After school Gunther hung signs advertising the school dance. He did not plan on attending, but as a member of student council, he had duties to fulfill. Just after he hung the last purple sign, he bumped into a girl in the hall. He did not recognize her, so he just apologized and kept walking. It was the second Friday of the month, and that meant he had to visit his grandparents.
THE BROWN line train stopped at Francisco. As its doors opened, Gunther felt the cool breeze. The weather invited strolls in the park. Gunther decided a walk would do him good.
Children played in the park next to the train station, and Gunther smiled when a toddler in a stroller waved at him and said, “hi.” Gunther waved back, wishing to return to his rugrat days. He peeled off his hoodie, stuffed it in his backpack, and debated going left or right on Manor street. A dog chased after a red rubber ball, going left, so Gunther chose that direction.
The atmosphere was delightful as he passed several little coffee shops and numerous parents with their children. He continued his walk down Eastwood, trying to remember if he knew anyone who lived in this part of the city. He decided to stay a while and programmed his cell phone to vibrate so the serenity of Ravenswood Manor would not be disturbed.
“Good afternoon, young man,” a kindly older woman walking her two black Labradors said to Gunther as they crossed paths, “Isn’t the weather beautiful?”
“Good afternoon, and yes, it is” Gunther replied, “Beautiful dogs,” he added.
“Thank you,” the woman smiled. They continued to walk their separate ways.
A tree with a clay face captured Gunther’s attention as he wandered around another block. The tree was surrounded by numerous bird houses, and the house to which the whole display belonged had miniature garden gnomes surrounding it, as if they were guards. Gunther checked the time and quickly boarded the train again to his grandparent’s house.
“GUNTHER, dear, tell Grandmamma what you learned today,” Gunther’s grandmother said, with the genuine, warm smile that always comforted him. She poured him another glass of raspberry iced tea, his favorite drink, and sat next to her husband.
“I learned Coulomb’s law in physics,” Gunther replied, digging his fork into a slice of cherry pie.
“I remember that from high school,” his grandfather said.
Gunther chewed in silence, gazing out the window behind his grandparents.
The rest of the conversation was a blur as Gunther daydreamed about returning to the Ravenswood Manor neighborhood. He thought about spending the day there instead of at school. He could still hear the children laughing.
RUNNING at midnight always helped Gunther clear his head. The sensation of his sneakers hitting the concrete brought him comfort. He enjoyed the peaceful quiet of the neighborhood. Aside from the occasional car or two, he was the only one roaming the streets. Its lights provided just the right amount of illumination as he advanced to North Avenue Beach. “Loving Cup” resumed play on his iPod. When he reached the sand, he stopped to watch the ripples in the water. In his reflection he cold see his golden brown eyes sparkle in the moonlight. He took off his shoes and socks and walked into the water until it came up to his knees. He spent an hour just standing like that while seagulls flew above him.
ARCHARD Eisenberg was already an avid fan of The Rolling Stones when he met Allison. She had never heard of the band when Archard introduced himself to her at a concert venue in Milwaukee during the summer of 1985. He insisted she attend the concert. She agreed. Seven years later, they were married with a son, Gunther. Archard loved to play “Loving Cup” on the grand piano for his darling wife. That is one of the last images Gunther had of his parents.
That December day marked Archard and Allison’s seventeenth anniversary. Gunther was late for dinner, on account of the roads being icy. When he entered the living room, his father was once again showing off his best Mick Jagger impression. Gunther laughed and headed to the kitchen, where a scrumptious meal of baked chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, and a tall glass of raspberry iced tea waited for him. With a mouth full, he quickly said goodbye to his parents as they rushed out of the house to catch a movie.
THE BARREL is hollow, much like Gunther. It screams at him to put it to use. It is midnight, and the only sound heard is Gunther’s breathing. He places the bullet inside the gun, listening for the return of his aunt and uncle. Hearing nothing, he opens his mouth and puts the barrel inside. Suddenly, Gunther averts his attention to the picture of his parents and him at his on his dresser. Then, a sharp noise from outside his bedroom window pierces his ears. With his heart thumping, he pulls the gun out of his mouth. He steps closer to the window, looking at the street. He sees nothing at first. Then, he sees a girl being harassed by a dark figure. She screams and the figure drags her to a nearby black car. The girl screams again and the figure covers her mouth. Muffled, she cries.
An unknown force electrocutes Gunther with energy. He runs out of the apartment, with the gun still in his hand, but wearing no shoes. Being on the first floor, he reaches the girl and her assailant in the nick of time. Just as the car pulls out into the street, Gunther picks up a rock in front of his feet and hurls it at the car, breaking its rear window. The car stops abruptly. The driver opens its door, yells, and exits. He slams the door and runs towards Gunther. Gunther takes off full speed around the corner, with the gun still in his hand and the driver tailing him. The driver loses him at North Avenue.
Meanwhile, the girl leaves the car and races out of the Gold Coast.
When Gunther reaches home, Aunt May and Uncle Max have already arrived. They know about his midnight runs, thus they do not question him as he slumps back to his room. He buries the gun in his closet, takes off his socks, climbs into bed, and falls asleep.