The Boy Who Flew Away
The swing set creaked in the wind; well, more of a breeze really, but the fact is that it only moved a tiny bit, but then uttered sounds as if it was about to die. Squeaking guttural sounds that made my skin crawl and my heart thump.
The old park isn’t really up to much now. The decrepit climbing frame has more rust than paint on it, in spite of the latest community service chain gang’s efforts. They don’t understand that by simply painting over the rust, they are only wasting their own time. The paint will not stick to cracked, crumbling metal work that really should have been torn down a number of years ago. I sit down on the swing. It is the only useable seat and it groans under my weight. I brace myself to come tumbling to the ground, but the fall never happens, and I am impressed in spite of myself.
The silence in the park is the loudest noise in all the city. I think that’s why I like it here. The hustle and bustle of the city and all the people with their various thoughts and feelings and plans unsettle me. I don’t really understand why. I wish that I did. Then, maybe I would be able to deal with it without having to resort to… My mind trails off almost by itself. It won’t let me even think it, but I know that when the time comes, I will inevitably turn back to it again, just like I always do. It seems to have this inexplicable hold over me, that I can’t quite break.
I dig my toes into the ground. The gravel shifts under my weight, with some pieces bouncing out of the way, making me jump a little. I look around, just in case anyone has seen, then I realise how stupid that is, because no one else is here. Nobody ever comes here. Another reason why I like the decrepit old place.
I glance over at the rusted skate ramp. Tags and other graffiti adorns it, as if someone has come along and felt sad at the state of it, and decided to try and improve it. It didn’t work. I wonder if they ever come back to check whether their handiwork is still here. It is possible, but then, anything is possible. At least, that’s what they tell you. They never seem to think about how much work you have to put in, and that more often than not, it won’t come off and that you will just be left as a failure.
Little spots of rain begin to fall, dropping onto my head. I shiver a little and shake them off, but they keep coming, heavier now, landing on my hair and rolling slowly down my neck, chilling me to the bone until there is no way that I can stay here.
I get up and make my way over to the skate ramp and take refuge underneath it, with the spiders and beetles and woodlice. My sister would scream and say that I am mad, but I’m just not scared of them. Up until recently, I wouldn’t have said that I was scared of anything at all, but I guess I know better now. They know what scares me, and they certainly aren’t afraid to use it. I still can’t believe I was stupid enough to let them see. They think I’m a joke now. I guess I sort of am. I can’t imagine that anyone else would have let themselves get into a mess like this, but I’m not anyone else. I am weak and stupid and that’s exactly what they want from me.
Navigating school has become a little bit like playing the art of war, except that I am ill equipped and ill prepared for the battle. The teachers don’t seem to notice or care. They just see me as a moody smart mouth, and I know that I don’t help my cause, but they could at least try and look past my attitude. I keep hoping that someone will notice, but none of them seem to care. All they really care about is whether I’ve done my homework, and if I turn up to class on time!
I sit cross legged on the floor under the ramp. The bugs scatter, like rats leaving a shipwreck. I watch them with amusement and can’t help but wonder if there is another, bigger being somewhere, doing exactly the same thing, except that instead of bugs, they are watching us. I know, I sound crazy and I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped talking to me right this instant.
The rain is heavier now, pounding as hard as it possibly can on the ramp, almost deafening me, but I don’t really mind. The sound is actually managing to shut out the thoughts in my own mind that seem to drift and swirl; an eternal cyclone, put there to confuse and scare me, and once more, I long for the oblivion that it will bring, but that can’t happen yet. He won’t be here for another hour.
I stuff my hand deep into my pocket and it closes around the money. A thick wad of tenners, rolled into a sausage shape. There’s £60 there. That’s what he charges me for a wrap. It should be more, but I do his homework for him, too. He doesn’t care what grades he gets, as long as the work is handed in and he doesn’t get any hassle. He says it’s actually better if the grades aren’t too high because they don’t expect too much of him then, so I usually just write a couple of answers, leave some blank and get a couple wrong, just for good luck.
A spider approaches me, but then stops. I eye it, and for a moment it is as if we are having a staring contest. I smile. Of all the things that other, more ‘normal’ people are doing, I’m guessing that staring out a spider definitely doesn’t even register on their radar. The spider gets bored, and moves on.
My phone buzzes in my other pocket. I get it out and open the text message. It’s Mum, wondering when I will be home and what I’d like to have for dinner. I smile sadly, sigh and type, “I’m meeting someone in half an hour. I’ll be home by 8. I don’t mind what you cook” I read through it, and then add “Love you. x” to the end before I press send. It’s not Mum’s fault things are turning out like this.
I watch the rain fall, pitter pat, pitter pat, and I am thankful that I at least have the skate ramp to shield me from it. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for a homeless person, out in the elements all the time, with no respite and no where to escape to. I guess there are some things worse than what I am going through.
Finally, I see him, swaggering across the park towards me. The legs of his baggy, too-low jeans drag along the ground as he moves. A dark line encompasses them, showing the boundary between wet and dry. He is wearing a baseball cap, pulled so low that I’m surprised he can actually see anything at all. He approaches and slaps the top of the ramp,
“Rat, dude!” he says in a slow drawl.
I scramble out of the way of a shower of dirt and bugs, shunted out of the way by his slap. Straightening up, I pull my rucksack on to my back. I am shaking. “Have you got it?” I ask, not feeling the idea of making small talk. He holds out his knuckle dusted hand, “You first” he says, a sly smile on his face. He loves having this control over me. He thinks it’s fun. It isn’t fun for me, though.
I drop my bag to the floor and start rummaging through it, until I find three sheets of Math, and possibly the world’s shortest English essay. I hand them over, and he looks them over, inspecting them, like he actually has any chance of understanding it anyway.
I grimace as I stand and switch my weight from one foot to the other, impatient. The urge to fly; to be free; to just not be me for a while is so strong, that it’s all I can do to stay still. Finally, after what feels like about an hour, he deems the sheets adequate and reaches into his pocket.
“You know the drill” he says, holding out his hand. I reach inside my pocket, and grab at the money, like it is poisoned. Like there is nothing I want more than to get rid of it as quickly as possible. I almost throw it at him, and snatch the wrap, shoving it deep inside my pocket, replacing the money with a far more valuable, albeit far smaller package.
He watches me for a moment, then holds out his hand. I oblige with the obligatory gangster handshake,
“Laters Ratty boy. Gotta go, I gots me business to do!” he says and he looks almost puffed up with a sense of his own importance. He turns and I watch him walk away, getting smaller and smaller until he is nothing more than an ant in the distance, and I feel as if I am some kind of omniscient being, watching, and waiting for something to happen, but it never does.
Li Carter is a writer, artist and crafter. She lives in South Wales, UK, with her family, and five rescue dogs. She’s on Twitter @rbcreativeli , Facebook: Rainbow Butterfly Creative, and Instagram @rainbowbutterflycreative and is the author of My Only True Friend: The Beginning. She is currently working on a new series titled The QuickSilver Chronicles. She is the original Rainbow Butterfly, and wants to fill an ever darkening world with a little bit of beauty and creativity.