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Still Time - Fall Anthology 2023 - Leap of Faith Due 10/1 ×
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Boy - 2. Chapter 2

As notes in chapter one - emtions, sure, but no sex.

Part II

"Thank you for returning this," I tell him, tucking my wallet into my back pocket and sitting down on the concrete park bench across from my little "stalker". Okay, that's a very unfair characterization...he did meet me in a neutral location, he did return my wallet, and he hasn't done anything weird to me yet, so I suppose I shouldn't be suspecting anything from him. I just have a deeply ingrained distrust of anyone who does something for me, and doesn't have a clear motive for doing so.

It's Tuesday. It took me two days of wrestling with the situation, torn between the need to retrieve my wallet and the strong impulse to stay as far away from this kid as I could, before I decided I had to call him back. All manner of scenarios played out in my head; I imagined him charging online porn and drug paraphernalia to my credit cards, I pictured him spending the meager cash on comic books and candy, and I tried not to think about him inspecting my wallet photos because that's just too much of a personal violation...I considered calling the police and reporting it stolen, and giving them what I knew about the kid, making it their problem to get it back for me. But I hate cops, and he did call me to offer to return it.

But there was something else; I had been having a very strange feeling since he had called to leave the message on my machine a few days ago. No, I take that back; it started earlier than that - I’ve had this damn kid on my mind almost every moment since he touched me. Not that it’s a huge surprise, I mean, our encounter in the store was so far beyond strange that I scarcely could have dreamed it up if I was a fiction writer. But this was more; I found my thoughts being repeatedly tugged back to the boy, as if he held a wispy mental thread and could give it a little yank whenever he wanted to be on my mind. I suppose it could just be that he was cute – he was, certainly – but after years of hardening my will against (illegal!) such (wrong!) temptations (jailbait!), I had gotten very good at suppressing that sort of attraction.

"It's no problem; I wanted you to have it back. Anybody could have found it, and I wouldn't want to see you have your identity stolen, or anything like that," he replies. As I lean back, resting my back against the concrete of the bench, still cool despite the warm ambient air and sunshine, he seems to sense my reservation at being here, meeting with him. "What's making you so uneasy? I don't make you nervous, do I?"

"I suppose I don't know how to answer that question," I answer honestly. "I don't understand why you did what you did the other day, why you talked to me the way you did and why you...when you..." I trail off, not really wanting to discuss what I felt from him the other day - this situation feels very delicate to me, being the suspicious type, and I don't want the kid to think I'm some sort of nutcase. For all I know, the next step in this little drama involves a slightly modified (but not entirely untrue, I regret) story about me touching the boy in a clothing store dressing room; it's a short leap from there to the image of being fitted for jailhouse orange jumpsuits and spending the next 10 years as bitch to a 280-lb inmate named Tiny.

"When I hugged you?" he offers helpfully, with a smile. "Well, wasn't it nice?"

"NICE?" I snap at him with a bit more irritation in my voice than I intend; I take a breath and continue with a bit more control. "That's not exactly how I would describe it."

He frowns at me, as though disturbed at the idea that he made me uncomfortable. I'm starting to get the impression that he is genuinely concerned about how I'm feeling; before, I thought it must have been some kind of bizarre game for him, seeing the old, vulnerable fart in the store and not being able to pass up the opportunity to fuck with him. But this isn't playing out that way at all; this kid found me, called me, and met me just to return my wallet; now he's looking upset at the idea that he caused me some discomfort when he was trying to console me the other day. This kid is missing some of his marbles, I'm sure...today's youth don't look out for other KID’S feelings, to say nothing of an adult's.

*Sigh* I suppose it's time to lay it out on the table, and maybe get some answers from this guy.

"Okay, here's the thing. I don't know if this was just because I was really upset - because, I have a lot of stuff going on in my life right now, okay? - or if I was having some sort of toxic hangover problem, but when you walked up to me and gave me that hug, it felt like..."

"Like someone was pulling your soul out through your gut?"

...That's exactly how I would describe it! “You KNOW what I felt?”, I exclaim, somewhere between relief that I wasn’t dreaming it or crazy, and anger that this little punk might have pulled that crazy shit on PURPOSE.

“Well, yeah, of course. That’s what it always feels like!”

"What do you mean, ALWAYS?" I demand, leaning forward on the bench, and looking directly into his brown eyes.

"I mean, that's how people have always described it to me. When someone is hurting – you know, feeling pain, either aching with depression or maybe a more acute feeling, like after someone they love dies, a lot of times they can't really deal with those feelings. People - mostly lonely people - can't always heal themselves. I can heal pain; I don't take away the experience or remove the memory, that wouldn’t be right because experiences like that are how we grow as people, but I can just...ease the burden a little bit. Anyway, when I pull it out, people usually feel it most in the center of their bodies - their guts. They feel it all over, but mostly there." He explained this in a matter-of-fact tone, as though giving a book report in school. I just stared at him.

"Are you making this up?" I ask.

"Of course not, why would I do that?" he replies, looking mildly offended.

"Are you HUMAN?" I ask, not completely serious, but not having any other plausible solution, as if any explanation would seem plausible for this whole scenario.

He sighs. “I’m just a kid, you know. Sure, I’m a little different, but everyone has their talents, right? I mean, some kids do Tae Kwon Do, other kids play music...is it so hard to think of this as just something I can do? I mean, it’s not like I’m curing lepers here, I’m just helping people to deal with their feelings a little bit.”

I’m starting to feel guilty, he’s looking like I’ve offended him; he thinks I’m mocking him. Or maybe it’s not about me; maybe he’s sensitive about his “gift” (if it’s not all bullshit, I’m still not convinced) and he’s feeling like an outcast. That, at least, I can relate to – how do you share what might be your greatest gift with the people around you, if that gift also makes you seem like a freak of nature?

“Why don’t you tell me more about yourself,” I suggest, in a slightly more gentle tone. “Start at the beginning – when did this whole...er...ability thing start?”

“Okay, but not here. Can we go somewhere else? I don’t like sitting in once place for too long.”

“Uh, sure – where do you want to go? We could head down Citadel St. to the mall,” I suggest.

“No,” he says, shaking his head. “I need to go somewhere...less fake. Somewhere more, I don’t know, natural? Can we go to the beach, maybe? That always relaxes me...”

“That’s about 50 miles from here! That’s quite a haul. Won’t your parents be worried? And how do you know you can even trust me? And what if...”

“Sshhh...” he cuts me off, “you’re over-thinking this. Let’s just go, okay?”

He leads me over to where he left his bike, leaning up against a cement pylon near the park entrance. From there, we walk over to my car; I hate driving, preferring to use public transport, but I didn’t know what this meeting, and what today, would bring for me, so I decided that driving would be the most prudent choice. I flip the quick-release on the front wheel of the bike and remove it from the fork, and pack it and the rest of the bike into my trunk.


We’re cruising along in the middle lane of the 3-lane expressway, heading southeast towards the ocean, and the sun has just dropped behind the tree line -or maybe behind the horizon itself, it's difficult to tell. The view outside is still lit almost to full-daylight, but it’s a more gentle, indirect illumination. It’s much less harsh than the afternoon glare usually encountered on my evening commute, and lends the landscape a muted tone; there are colors – purple-blue hues that only exist in this halfway time between day and night - only to be experienced twice per day, and only for those paying attention. A change in the weather – a storm, perhaps, is on its way and the air outside the car is growing heavy with moisture as the temperature begins to drop. Nonetheless, it’s still quite warm and the air rushing in from the open windows ruffles my hair and my shirt sleeves.

The world outside the car is in transition; halfway between warm and cool, splitting daylight and darkness, standing on the knife’s edge, we travel through this purgatory of the senses.

I feel the familiar mental tug again; I can’t stop looking over at him. Smiling in spite of myself, I wonder what is happening to the dour, cranky human doormat I used to be, the one that can’t seem to get an emotional break though it would seem to be, by now, a statistical certainty. He wants to talk at the beach, but the silence seems a bit awkward, even though we both seem captivated by the sights and textures of the world outside the car; I nudge him into conversation.

“Shouldn’t you be in school now? It’s Tuesday...”

He laughs, a very easy laugh, a comfortable sound that tells me that HE, at least, is completely at ease with this situation. “You ask that question a lot,” he observes. “It’s the first thing you asked me the other day. The answer is no, I shouldn’t be in school today, either. I’m home schooled – my parents take turns teaching me at home when they’re not working. I’m way ahead in my schoolwork, so they don’t mind if I disappear for a while and have some time for myself. They say it ‘teaches me independence and self reliance’ but I think it just means they get to work more, or make out, or whatever they do when I’m not there.”

He’s grinning now. He’s obviously fond of his parents – something else to file away in the oddity file for this kid – from the way he jokes about them without a trace of scorn or embarrassment in his voice.

“What do they do for work?” I ask.

“They’re painters,” he replies. “They’re artists, but it can be hard to pay the bills that way, so they do interior and exterior house painting work when they aren’t working on art pieces. They enjoy it, which is good, but mostly I like it because we can spend a lot of time together as a family. They pretty much get to choose their schedules.”

An off-ramp and a few intersections later, we are coasting along the beach route, along the boardwalk past arcades, bars, restaurants, and walk-up vendors just opening up for the night. It’s alluring, or it will be in a few hours when it’s dark and the neon lights and flashing carnival-like signs pull in crowds like so many summer insects to porch lights; but this is not what we’re seeking, not the beach that my passenger had in mind. We continue on, cruising past waterfront motels with their amenities – HBO, AC, Jacuzzi tubs - on gaudy display like whores showing their assets for passing johns. Chaotic development gives way, slowly, to posh residences facing the beach across the two-lane coastal road. We pull into a public parking spot, drop some change in to the meter, and start off along the asphalt and concrete sea wall towards one of the many cut-in staircases leading down to the sand, but not before grabbing a jacket for me and an extra pull-over sweatshirt of mine from the backseat for my companion.

He scoots off ahead of me, down towards the water where the receding tide leaves water-worn rocks and shells, a varied buffet of sea treasure perfect the devoted collector or – in this case - for boys in search of skipping stones. He snatches them up, one, two, three, and sends them jumping from wave to wave, skittering across the surface of the ocean where they will start their journey back to the shore again on the next tide cycle. I sit down on in the sand on the natural ridge that marks the high-tide mark for this time of the season, content to suspend our conversation for a few minutes while I watch him frolic. He doesn’t have a worry in the world at this moment; where did this innocence, this treasure of youth that wrapped us like a warm cloak to fend of the harsh wind of reality, go for the rest of us? The sight of him, enjoying the simple pleasure of time on the beach on this unusually warm spring afternoon, makes me miss it fiercely.

After a time, he notices me sitting up above the water and walks over to join me.

“So, you’re going to be disappointed with my story – there’s not much to tell,” he begins, “I’ve really only done the whole ‘pain yank’ thing a few times. I think I’ve always been able to tell when someone is hurting inside, but when I was younger, I think it just didn’t have the same...’oomph’...that it does now.” He pauses, thinking for a few moments, his face serene as he looks past me, along the beach. “I think that before, I was just able to soothe people - like the time I was comforting my grandma at grandpa’s funeral – she was crying, and I sat with her, holding her hand, hugging her from time to time, and after a while, she just sort of, relaxed. She was still sad, still mourning, but I think it helped her to see the joy in the life he lived, not just feel grief when he was gone. So that’s how it used to be for me...everyone in my family knew I made them feel better, but I think it was subtle enough that nobody thought it was strange. They just called me ‘their little angel’ and accepted and appreciated that they felt better when I was around.”

“You’re pretty tuned in, emotionally, huh? I mean, you seem to know a lot about other people’s feelings; I can’t even sort my own out, most of the time.” That earns me a quick grin from him. “So when was the first time you REALLY put the whammy on someone?”

“Well, I already told you about that the other day – it was with my friend Jim. He was feeling REALLY rough, after the whole ‘coming out’ to his family thing...” He pauses, again, as if there’s something he’s not quite sure if he wants to say. “Brent,” he says, and it sounds funny to hear him use my name for some reason, “there’s something else, too. After I do the...thing...you know, help someone out...” He stops again. “It, sort of, connects me to them. You know, sort of like you might feel with a friend you’ve spent a REALLY long time hanging out with, and you start to think alike, or make the same jokes, or finish each other’s sentences? That’s how it usually feels afterwards, for me.”

I think about this, silently, for a minute or two; it was all tying together now, the odd feelings I’ve been having since the day we met, my thoughts being pulled back to him almost constantly – this “connection” he’s talking about must be a two-way street. The other day, when I was so weirded out by this whole situation, that statement would have sent me off on another whole freak-out episode. Now, it didn’t; maybe I’m getting used to this kid? As stupid as it sounds, he certainly has eased my mind a lot, though I’m not sure if it’s by talking through all this, or from the spirit-sucking treatment he gave me in the store.

“That must be sort of an ‘iffy’ situation for you, though, right? I mean, you wouldn’t want to end up emotionally linked to every tortured soul you run into on the street, I’d think.”

He looks down at the sand by his feet, and wiggles his toes, lifting them up so the sand piled up on top runs down between his toes. I think he’s avoiding looking at me now, but I’m not sure why. “Well, that’s why I only do it for people I like,” he explains. When I say nothing, he looks up, slowly; it’s hard to tell with the brighter light behind him and his face partially in shadow, but I think that he just might be blushing, a little bit.

Awkward silence. This conversation took a left turn down a street I wasn’t expecting, and that I wasn’t prepared to travel down. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I have rules, and toying romantically with underage boy’s affections is one of those things that I JUST DON’T DO. But letting him fall flat on his face after his rather bashful half-admission is going to hurt him, too, so I do what I think is always the best way to handle a situation like this. I lean over to him, and jab a finger into each side of his ribs, and go into full-on tickle attack mode. He yelps, hops up, and tries to run backwards away from me but I’m too quick; I grab his ankle and he falls over backward, landing with a thud as his butt hits the soft sand. He looks at me, mock fear in his eyes, and he rolls over and scrambles again to his feet. I let him escape, but barely. The tension is gone.

As we walk back to the car, he is once again skipping ahead of me; the streetlamps start to light as dusk settles in and they cast half-shadows, barely visible to me, as the fading sunlight fights in vain to compete with the growing illumination cast by the overhead sodium-vapor lamps. My companion is looking down at his barely visibly shadow, watching it bounce up and forward on the asphalt as he jumps in place. With a giggle, he grabs the bottom corners of the sweatshirt where the zipper begins, one side in each hand, and lifts them behind his arms and up over his head; his shadow suddenly sprouts a pair of angel wings – how apropos. I walk up beside him, the little angel, and place my hand on the small of his back, gently, as we walk the last few yards back to the car.

He climbs up onto the hood and sits, cross-legged, looking out across the water one last time before we leave. I lean against the car with my butt against the fender, not as entranced by the view as he seems to be, but certainly enjoying the salty air smell carried by the soft breeze, and the faintest sense of warmth from the body just a few inches to my left. He leans over to place his head against me, and sighs with contentment. He looks at my face, and I turn my head to look back at him; he looks expectant, and I know what he wants – I can feel that gentle “tug” again, this time not just a mental pull willing me to look at him, but almost physical, drawing me down towards him. He closes his eyes, and I draw nearer, for once, just for a moment, not worrying about the social taboos and the imaginary klaxon horns that will roar to life as soon as I give into this temptation I’ve gotten so good at resisting. This is good; this is right; there’s no guilt in this simple expression of love, when it’s so clear that it’s desired by the both of us.

Or is there?

With a scant inch separating us, I slow my descent, and lift my head a bit. His eyes are still closed; I place a soft kiss on his forehead, wrap my arms around his shoulders, and hold him tight.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him, “but I can’t...”


Comments & feedback to dezlboi-at-yahoo-dot-com. Thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended (or committed at all, hopefully).<br /><br />
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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