Contest Entry for "Writer's Cramp"
|816 words ( on going story...editing )
Figure in the Night
As darkness fell on the Iowa winter landscape it became as foreboding as the Artic ice shelf. Vast amounts of dark sky broken with unnamed stars join the snow covered hills creating an unfamiliar world. The moonlight casts shadows across the frozen earth forming lurking figures. Shadows made of fear and the unknown. And in the shadows of dark and light a boy was running.
A boy ran in the night…he ran faster, filling his lungs with bitter cold air. He was running in the night, blinded by his tears. He didn’t know where to run but knew what he was running from. He was running from him. Fear had caused him to run into the night. Bobby didn’t want another beating.
He ran; confused, tormented, and filled with anguish. He stumbled and fell, got back on his feet and ran some more. He staggered and fell once again. In his mind he wanted to run forever and get far away. His young legs were spent, would not respond to his wishes as he rolled on the ground in agony. It isn’t fair, Bobby thought as he laid his head down between frozen furrows made by huge tractor tires when the ground was soft.
At that moment he wanted to die. He looked up at the sky and prayed God would take him. Take him away from the beatings his stepfather gave him. “I’m only fourteen, please help me”, Bobby screamed into the night air. His voice went unheard; spinning off into space.
He put his head down, resting against the frozen earth hoping he would freeze to death. “How long will it take?” he whispered to the corn stubble. He was cold, afraid and began to sleep in the middle of winter, in a snow covered corn field.
Gradually his thoughts returned. He was too cold to even die. Snow had crusted on his cheeks, frozen tears blurred his vision, feeling in his hands and feet were gone. He stared at the lifeless stubble around him, once healthy growing stalks of corn. He got to his feet and half walked, half crawled back to town. He found himself at the city park.
In the park were a few broken-down wood picnic tables, a metal swing set needing repair. At the center was one dim street light. Under the light leaning against the pole was the only bench; built and donated by the Lion’s Club years ago.
Bobby wiped away his tears as he walked toward the bench, feeling the cold drifting down from tree tops and building roofs. Through the hazy winter fog that hangs low he could see a figure sitting on the bench. He couldn’t let one of his friends see him crying! A fact he hid very well for so long. The figure sat on the park bench; fog drifting all around, not moving, staring at the Methodist church across the street. As Bobby got closer the figure stood and disappeared into the fog.
Bobby sat down on the bench facing the church. He was surprised to find the bench warm to his touch and comforting. He looked across the street through the drifting fog and saw a Nativity scene made of wood, bales of straw and cardboard. He saw the figure standing next to the cardboard sheep looking down into the light created by the bright flood lights.
He jumped up and dashed across the street shouting, “Wait up,” but the figure vanished once again.
He stood before the Nativity, inching his way closer through the fog to get a better look. In the center was a wooden cradle made by a member of the church choir ten years earlier. There was no fog; just the cradle with a plastic baby doll wrapped in burlap from an old discarded potato sack. All Bobby could see was the face of the doll with rosy cheeks, eyes closed, and tiny fingers on tiny hands resting on the doll’s chest.
Bobby felt warm and peaceful inside as he made his way home. Getting closer to the house he could see there were no lights on. “Good”, he said aloud. “It will be easier to sneak in and hide.” He entered the cold, dark house, wrapped himself in an old quilt, hid in a closet and cried until there were no more tears. He went to sleep on Christmas.
No one ever asked where he had been. He went back to school after Christmas break with his bruises and damaged pride. He still received the beatings when his stepfather got to drinking. The yelling and screaming at the supper table never came to an end but things seemed different to Bobby. He knew the figure on the bench cared for him and the day would arrive when the beatings would stop and every day would be a good day.
And it did!