< 700 words. HEAT, No dialogue contest
|Along the bank, under the cottonwood, head above water, the beaver languidly swims at dusk. There's no hurry.
Winter seems so far away as cotton holds sway in the light breeze and swallows dip and dance with the raising midges.
There's always a fresh branch to chew on.
Ah ... but the heat. The river is losing its grip on the bank and the heron stalks the shallows. The osprey overhead has a clear view of fish trying to hide. Along the shore leaves and debris swirl in the eddies.
And there sitting on some driftwood surrounded by stones and sand sits Jarom.
Jarom decides it is time for dinner. He calls out to Noah and Hiram. They don't answer.
He only has some hardtack. The water might be okay. It's not totally clear, that would be a sure sign of arsenic, and the beaver seems healthy. He doesn't like to eat beaver. And he can't gnaw cottonwood.
He dips his tin cup in the river and drinks. Dips again and lets it settle. Time enough for tea later. He looks for the tea and finds it in a small pocket wrapped up and sealed in a thin tin.
The others would worry whether he had performed the right rituals when he made his tea. He didn't care. They weren't here.
But he wished they were.
Every since he had been thrown out of his home they had been there for him. They called their encampment the Town of Lost Boys.
Jarom moves into the dying glow of the sunset. He lights a small fire and hangs a lantern over the bank in hopes the midges are attracted to it and then ... maybe a fish ... if he were lucky.
He lights another small fire in the sand surrounded by stones. It's dry and any fire could burn him out of his home of dry sticks. He would like some tea with his hardtack.
He breaks it into pieces and sets them by the fire where he can see them.
He looks up. The moon will shine later tonight if the clouds part.
He grabs a stick and makes symbols in the sand to summon the moon.
The heat stifles any urge to sing as the breeze dies with the light.
He knows the songs, the melodies, the harmonies. He knew them all by age 8. They all did. Even those who didn't believe in them. Even those who had been found unworthy and kicked out.
The elders believe that there is only so much of anything to go around and never enough. The Anointed Ones do not share with the unworthy.
But the Lost Boys share ... sometimes.
He wishes his friends were here but the water is boiling and it's time for tea.
A thrashing in the river is a welcome sound. A fish has been caught in his snare. It's little but two bites are better than none. He starts the ritual of taking-a-life. He boils another cup of water to cook the fish. He's hungry.
He spends the night alone, tossing and turning in his sweat, wakes up at the first glow of dawn. No hardtack. No fish. Enough tea for one cup. He heads back to town before the heat rises as the beaver swims by. He hopes Noah and Hiram will greet him.