I recently submitted a piece to the quarterly “The First Line“, for the fall edition. This time round the piece was rejected – no worries. I found the site by accident one evening, and I wrote the story upon seeing the first line – which has never happened. It was a great exercise and so I’ll put it on here, simply for that fact, to remind me I can do it. I’m glad I tried and, after all, rejection is one step away from acceptance. Anyway, here goes:
A light snow was falling as Charlie Reardon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street. The cheeseburger, fries and large coke were weighing heavy on his stomach and for one queasy moment he thought he would throw everything back up. Leaning against an old Camaro he took a series of deep breaths, letting his head clear a little before moving on.
“Get your hands of the car man”.
Charlie lifted his hands and turned toward the voice.
“You heard him, get your hands off the car”.
“They are off” mumbled Charlie.
“What you say boy?” came the reply. He turned toward this voice, to his left. A fist crashed into the right side of his head, whilst another hit him just above the kidneys. Feeling his legs give way he was spun round and a forehead was planted in his face. His world turned black.
“Hey pal, are you OK”? A light push on his shoulder. “Hey buddy, can you hear me”? The voice slowly filtered through to Charlie’s semiconscious brain. “Jeez, this guy’s taken a hell of a beating. Say Sam, should we call the cops or an ambulance”?
“No way, leave him Steve, we could be next. What if they’re watching him? I wanna go get the beers and run man, this stuff disturbs me. Let’s get outta here”.
Steve looked up and down the dark street, seeing no one but now fear started to slowly knot his stomach.
“Sam, what if he…”
“Forget it buddy, it could be us”.
Looking down at the prone body Steve got to his feet.
“I guess you’re right man”, through gritted teeth as he fell into step with his friend.
Charlie lifted his face from the wet asphalt, feeling a sharp tearing pain as if the skin were still stuck to it. He tried to open his eyes but only the left one responded. The pain above his right temple seared through his head when he tried to move, and, giving it up as a bad idea he laid back down, feeling the snow fall in his ear. Somewhere a siren wailed, fading into the distance.
“Not coming for me then boys” he thought. The pain in his head intensified. He could feel unconsciousness slowly wash over him.
The snow started getting heavier. Charlie couldn’t feel it.
“Look mama, is that man drunk”? The kid’s whiney voice cut through the evening street sounds.
“If he doesn’t get up soon he’ll catch his death in this” said the kid’s mother, looking up at the sky as large flakes of snow descended upon them. “Speaking of which, we’d better get you inside little man” she continued, tugging the boy’s arm as he continued to watch the man lying in the road.
“Shouldn’t we help him Mom”? the kid asked. “In Sunday School they told us about a good Sama…Sama…Sama’ton. Shouldn’t we be like him Mom?”
“Not if the man’s drunk, junior” she replied. “Drunk people can be mean honey”.
“What if he’s dying Mom?” His nasally whine was beginning to grate on his mother’s nerves.
She stood by her son and looked closer at the body. She couldn’t see blood, which, she thought, was a blessing. However this then strengthened her view that the man had been on a drunk and had come to harm because of it.
“Well go inside honey, and we’ll call an ambulance. Is that good enough for my little Samaritan?”
“I guess so Mom” he replied, letting out a sigh as they turned for home.
The got through the door and the boy’s mother, true to her word, called an ambulance immediately, before taking off their coats and shoes.
“It’s out of our hands now” she said, feeling relieved but concerned at the same time. She laid newspaper down by the door and placed their shoes upon it. Urging her son to go and “get his ‘jamas on” she made her way to the kitchen. She thought about having a glass of wine then remembered the man outside. She poured some water into the kettle, deciding on a cup of tea instead. The ambulance, its siren shredding the night air, arrived.
A light snow was falling as Charlie Reardon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street. Surprisingly, he felt extremely light, almost as if he hadn’t eaten. As he continued along the sidewalk he saw an ambulance parked against the curb. A crowd stood round something, or someone lying in the road.