Those are some eyes on that lad, aren’t they? I couldn’t resist.
Did you like that one? I can’t use the word “lad” without an Irish accent. And I do a dreadful Irish accent. Be glad there’s a nice physical separation on this internet thing.
Once again fabulous entries this week. Just fabulous. Bravo. (That’s some sort of weird posh accent going on there. I don’t know. Don’t ask.)
Here are this week’s finalists:
Congratulations! Here are their entries. Give them a read. Enjoy. And then vote below.Don’t forget, voting’s now extended until 8:30 EST tomorrow morning. Winner to be posted by 9:00. See you then!
David looked at the lad across the street. He’s seen him before, looking very much like some street waif from a Dickens novel. He was always eye catching, the large coat, pie hat and the fingerless gloves, standing on the bridge, looking over the Themes. David sighed. The lad always looked so sad, big eyes red as if they had been crying. This time, he was determined to find out who the boy was. He got off the bus and walked across the bridge to where he saw the lad, but when he got there, the boy was gone.
“Excuse me,” he said to a young girl that was playing stones with her friends. “Excuse me, lass, did you happen to see a boy here? With a coat and a hat?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, excited. “The one with the gloves what ain’t got no fingers on ‘em?”
David nodded. The other children stopped playing and looked up, excitement shining in their eyes as well.
“Do you know him?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” she said, suddenly turning serious. “Well, not really. We just see him every day, and he does the same thing.”
“And what’s that?” David asked.
“Well, he jumps,” the girl said, as if it were obvious.
“Why, into the river, o’ course.”
“What?” David said shocked, running to the edge of the railing at the bridge. He didn’t see anything down there but water.
“Oh yes,” she said as if she were talking about the weather. “He does it every day. Funny, ain’t many adults that see ‘em. Just us kids, normally.”
“What are you saying?” David asked, the truth beginning to dawn on him.
“Well, he’s a ghost, innit he?”
My grandfather was my hero, my best friend. When I was young, he was the one who took me to movies, out for ice cream, or just to walk and talk. He was the one who taught me how to behave on a first date, what qualities to look for in a girlfriend, and how to be myself. When I wanted to major in the arts, instead of law or medicine (as my parents), he was the one who stood up for me.
I loved him with all my heart.
Unfortunately, the years passed. We got older and drifted apart, I moved away for a job, he had health problems.
Then came the day my world ended.
My mother called, trying not to cry. Alzheimer’s. Already advanced. They hadn’t wanted to worry me, but I needed to know, needed to see him now, before it was too late and all of ‘him’ was gone.
A quick flight with a hastily packed bag and I was standing at the door to his room. He must have heard me, because he turned to look at me. I did see a moment of confusion in his eyes, then the light of recognition.
“Oh, Jimmy, my lad, you’ve come!”
A long hug, then time spent reminiscing and filling in the details of our years apart. It was as though we’d never been separated.
I could see he was tiring and left him to nap, knowing when he woke up it might all be gone, and he’d never know me as his “lad” ever again.
He couldn’t have been more than ten years old.
Ten years spent living in fear that one day his parents wouldn’t be able to shelter him from the civil war tearing the country in half. Ten years with his nose pressed into comic books, hoping the fantasy worlds within would suck him in, keep him safe.
Ten short years on the earth. It wasn’t enough.
The lad’s blood snaked around the cobblestones. Tiny rivers of red raced down the hillside. He never had a chance. The gunman had too much training, knew all too well what the cost to his person would be if he failed in his mission. “Make an example of the fence sittin’ cowards,” they said. And he did.
A mother’s screams cut through the ringing pain left after the volley of gunfire. Her tears fell into the rivers of red and were carried off. She scooped up the boy. Held him close. Provided the shelter she should have only minutes before bullets tore his small body apart. He was naught but another victim of war that would be forgotten by its leaders but forever remembered by family.
Her heels clicked on the hard floor. The post-industrial, pre-apocalypse feel of the clinic was everywhere, a purposeful design decision whose purpose was lost on me. They’d eschewed marble floors for polished concrete, brushed titanium fittings for gray, ultra-high density polylacticacetate plastic with a matte finish, skipped LEDs for phosphor-coated squares of poplar.
She stopped in front of a display window, so he stopped, too.
“This one,” she said. “Are the eyes have extra functions, or are they just ocular?”
“Enhanced ocular, with pheromone-augmented hypnotics.”
“How old is he?”
“He’s just a lad, ma’am. Eight years old.”
She considered for a moment, then leaned in toward the glass. I could see that he was afraid of her, but he didn’t lean back. He let her come in close, matched her gaze with his own. After half a minute, she straightened.
“How long until he reached sexual maturity?”
The salesman consulted a chart on the clipboard. “There is some variability in this race model, but perhaps as little as two years, perhaps as long as five.”
She turned to leave. As she walked past me, she said, “Pay him. I’ll be at the club.”
I looked up and smiled at my grandpa, who sat next to me on the whicker sofa on the patio.
I smiled. “Hey, granddaddy.”
He placed his fingers to my cheeks, that were wet from my tears and sighed. “You know, eyes aren’t supposed to leak, love.”
I looked down and wiped at my face as he titled my face back up. “How can we fix this?”
He lifted a bushy brow. “Fred?”
Nodding, I continued, “He asked me to marry him. And-and I’m not…I’m not so sure…”
Grandpa nodded as though I told him everything he needed to know. He pulled me closer to his chest, allowing my head to rest against his beating heart. “You don’t know if he’s the one?”
I shook my head and released a shuddering sigh as my tears began to spill down my cheeks again.
We sat in companiable silence for a while as my tears soaked his shirt. When my nerves calmed down, Grandpa placed a gentle kiss on my forehead and said, “You know, when I was a lad and I met your grandmother, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Still is, you know? And when a man meets such a woman, he does everything in his power to make her happy. It’s so hard to do, especially when one false step could make you lose her forever. And, when I asked her to marry me, she wasn’t so sure at first. She had to think over all we’d ever been through.”
I nodded and looked at Grandpa again. “What made her say yes?”
“Well, she remembered how whenever she needed me. Your grandma is a smart woman. She knew that no other man knew her favorite and least favorite color. No other man could make the foods she liked. Most importantly, no other man would care to keep her happy for the rest of her life. I became her happiness,” he smiled warmly, “and she stayed mine.”
I smiled, thinking of the ways Fred and I were always happy together. He was forever there for me, and he never showed signs of wanting to leave.
“Granddaddy, I don’t think I could live without him.”
Kissing my forehead again, he stood and said, “Then, you know what to do.”
Together, we walked back into the house.