Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Florida Snowball

He slipped the slingshot back into his pocket, freeing a puff of dust that caught the breeze and rose into the thin, blue sky. The sun was high, there was plenty of time. He would not have to go home for hours. With a practiced force, Jeremy sent a ball of spit into the sun-baked dirt where it rolled, turning brown - a Florida snowball.

He was trying not to think about it, but the word was foreign enough that it grappled with his subconscious - it was a thick word, sharp edges. Divorce. He knew it was a bad word. He knew that it was a life-changing word. He couldn't shake it off. He could not erase the image of his parents' faces, both grim and trying to look hopeful. There was no hope; that much was clear.

Jeremy didn't know any kids whose parents were divorced. Dillon didn't have a mom, but it was because she had died. There was something honorable in that kind of tragedy. It had branded Dillon as a child-martyr - he was forgiven everything and rewarded regardless of what he did. Jeremy knew enough to know that death was something to rehash and parade when convenient - divorce was something the women at church whispered about.

Hearing the word come from the lips that kissed him goodnight was shocking. He'd never heard either of his parents curse, but a profane tirade would have surprised him less.

He shook his head and stared at the sun. There was a bologna sandwich in his jacket. He spread the jacket under a shade tree and devoured the sandwich, chewing the situation over. If his parents weren't going to live together...

They'd asked him if he had any questions, but he couldn't voice the one thing that seemed to matter only to him. If his dad lived in one house and his mom lived in another, where the hell was he going to live?

Ten years isn't grown, and Jeremy knew that. It would have to do. He pulled a canteen out of his backpack and sipped a small amount of water, conserving it.

His mom wouldn't start to worry until after dark. They would second-guess themselves for an hour or so before calling the police. He would be long gone by then.

Jeremy heard the train whistle and smiled. He stood and slapped his pants. He checked his bag one last time. Some canned peaches and beef jerky. Water. A change of clothes. His pockets held fishing line and a few hooks. His Scout knife. He'd killed and skinned more than a few squirrels with the slingshot and knife. He looked back for a moment and almost reconsidered. No, it was done. He did not want to be around while his family disbanded.

He felt strong with food in his belly. He could envision it all, spread out before him, tracks and signs that would mark his journey. Now, he could hear the train on the tracks. Di-vorce, Di-vorce, Di-vorce. He knew that it would hurt them. He even knew that it would hurt him. He also knew that he had no say in the matter, so he hitched his pants and walked toward the sound of the train.


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