A short story assignment I had when I took a first year fiction writing class; which, by the way, I recommend for every first year university/college student. The topic we had to write about was a wheelbarrow and while being slightly morbid, I still hold fond memories for this one. Cheers~
The mingled smell of slime and gasoline disgusts me. Bubbles of stench waver to the surface as the once animate floats idly along the surface. I'm about to vomit.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
"C'mn Adam, help me out!' Jack cries under the weight of the wheelbarrow.
Grunting, I shoulder some extra weight as we run barefoot across the dead grass. The gasoline in the wheelbarrow sloshes back and forth as small arms of liquid escape the sides.
"What are we going to do with this stuff?" I wheeze as we wheel around the shed towards the sandbox.
Silence seems to be Jack's only form of concentration. Having only known him a good ten minutes I have already fallen under his influence. His blund and headstrong attitude reminds me of someone I used to know but am starting to forget.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
I had started off today just like any other play time outside. Digging for China in our turtle-shaped sandbox used to be my favorite pastime with Ben, but I'm starting to forget. After digging a fairly large hole and layering myself in a perfect sheet of sand, I look up and see him just standing there watching me.
"Name's Jack, just moved here from Ohio, nice t'meetchu!" He drawls with an awkward wave.
"Hi." I reply a bit uneasily at having my moment disturbed and sneak a look at the house for signs of rescue, but no one in there.
"We're just unpackin' an' my mum tol' e to get out from under her feet and meet the neighbour kids." Jack speaks loudly, drawing my attention back to him.
"Welcome to the neighbourhood I guess, how old are you?" I question sizing him up.
"7 'n 5 months; how old are you?" He replies happily with a crooked smile that mirrors a memory I can almost reach.
"Just 8," I answer trying to sound as uninterested as possible.
The late summer wind whistles through our large angel oak tree. 'Our well-manicured lawn in our average suburban neighbourhood needs a bit of variety' our Dad joked when he planted it with tears in his eyes. Jack stands my height with scruffy red hair and a scar along his right cheek that I wouldn't dare ask him about but feel envious all the same. he must've noticed my uneasiness. Maybe someone already warned him about me and how I am...how I get.
"Let's play cops and roobers!" He quickly grabs me up out of the muck and drags me across the grass.
It seems only moments later we're in a heap on the lawn shaking with laughter. My stomach kills from giggling so hard that tears come to my eyes. It seems a long time since I've laughed this way.
"Stop, Stop!" I laugh out wiggling beside Jack.
We lie on our backs and stare up as clouds transform in the sky.
"So I guess we'll be in the same class then?" I say with my eyes on a cloud that has taken the shape of a fluffy bunny; Ben's favorite.
"Suppose so. It's nice to have a neighbour with kids my age since I'm the only one. God any siblings?" Jack drags out making conversation.
I can't say anything. My chest is hurting now and I know I should probably say something but that wouldn't be cool. My eyes burn and when I close them I see a boy with a crooked mile lying in a hospital bed with blue linens tucked tightly around him. I hold his hand and want him to come home when I have to leave, but a pretty lady in white tells me I"ll have to see him again tomorrow. The unnatrual smell of clean still haunts me.
"Hey man, let's explore!" Jack sits up excitedly unaware of my silent moment.
"Sure, lead the way." I say as I roll to my knees wiping my eyes in a hidden motion.
Crouched low we inch slowly listening closely for invisible enemies but hear only the crunch of the brown grass beneath our toes. Along the back fence we wriggle through the ivy with large sweeps of our arms, chopping with our imaginary swords. Beneath the kitchen window we wriggle on our stomachs to escape the shooting arrows. One catches Jacks leg and he screams out.
"We need to get to the base or we'll never have enough supplies to get the poison out before I die!" He hollers loudly with mock bravado.
"It's okay; I'll drag you to it. It's just around the next bend. Hang in there!" I cry out with exaggerated bravery.
The two of us stagger to the side of the shed and lean against the panels. Jack pulls out a bandana from his back pocket and makes a bandage for his leg that immediatly droops to his ankle.
"Good thinking." I pant with a chuckle; out of breath.
Jack checks out our shelter as I sit and rest. When he comes around the side again he's got two of my Dad's large red gas cans in his hands. They're full an make Jack waddle as he walks.
"Check the loot I found!" Jack gushes with pride.
"I don't get it. So you found the mowers gas, it's too heavy to do anything with." I reason not wanting any more games involving carrying of heavy objects.
"See. All's we gotta do is pour the gas into the wheelbarrow and wheel it around." Jack is beaming and I have to admit it's a pretty good idea.
"Ugh," I grunt lifting the cans up over the lip of the wheelbarrow as the brown liquid glugs its way into the large bowl.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
We still haven't found a place to hide and invisible enemy is getting closer while shouts grow louder.
"Towards the desert. It'll take them forever to find us there!" Jack cries.
We struggle with the load of the full wheelbarrow and as we reach the sandbox the front wheel collides with a thud. Gasoline splashed onto the surrounding grass and the smell is overwhelming.
"Now what?" I pant to Jack who's jumped into the sandbox and begun to pat the edges of my earlier attempt at escaping to China.
"Go on, pour it in!" He orders and i"m behind the splintered wooden handles lifting until my face turns purple.
The effort pays off and we watch the contents spill into the deserts hole. Jack stands beside me and we toss the empty wheelbarrow out of the way.
"Sweeeet!" Jack nodds slowly and I nod along still not udnerstanding but happy to play along all the same.
We stand and watch as the gas settles and my feet ache but I'll keep standing until Jack moves. The sun is right above us now and my brown curls almost burn my hands wiping sweat from my forehead.
CROAK! Something's behind us.
"Catch it!" Jack jumps and while whirling around I lose footing and fall.
Jacks already there chasing after the intruder. Getting up and stumbling forward till I'm beside him, we watch the warty green toad hop away.
"Don't be a dummy and help me catch it!" Jack sighs with aheavy pat on the back.
Moving forward, my toe catches a rock and I fall again. Jack's screaming something at me as I sit up.
"You squashed it, good job!" I hear as I check my toe for the damage.
Twisting around I see the poor toad did get clipped by my fall and one of his legs was grossly bent.
"Croak, Croak, Croak!" It cries as Jack scooped it up into his grimy hands.
"Gross! What are you doing?" I yell trying to get up as Jack runs back over to our makeshift desert-come pool.
"Frogs don't live in backyards; they need a pond or something!" He shouts and I hobble to my feet to catch up.
Running over, Jack is already crouched down letting the injured toad down into our brown swimming pool.
"I didn't squash him too bad did I?" I question having never actually seen toads in my backyard before.
My breath catches and I'm standing on tiny rocks. Ben runs ahead and I rub a stubbed toe.
"Adam, if you don't hurry up it'll swim away!" He shouts with a smile and drags me by the arm.
The tiny brown toad in very big and Ben isn't very strong or quick. We sit and giggle as it jumps into the bushes. We watch closely as the river washes the dirt from our tiny hands downstream. I've forgotten the rest.
Jack struggles with the toad because it seems he doesn't want to swim today.
"Stupid, if you swim a bit your gimpy leg may get better!" Jack scolds and drops the toad in the center of the brown goop.
The toad wiggles and we giggle a bit at its silly dance. We run to the grass and copy the shaking, making wild croaking noises and waving our arms. Jack runs back and stops at the edge of the sandbox.
"What's wrong?" I shout as Jack drops to his knees.
A strong breeze grips the angel oak and its branches seem to shudder as I run to our desert. The smell is very strong and it pricks the inside of my nose making my eyes water. Floating along the surface of our tiny pool is the green toad: belly-up. I don't understand what happened, he was dancing a minute ago. My eyes blur and my throat feels dry.
The summer breeze blows in through the room's window. Ben's cheeks are so thin. The constant whine from the machine beside his bed hurts my ears but I won't let go of his hand. His eyes are closed and he looks so small. People rush around me and someone is trying to pull me away telling me he has to leave. I don't want him to go anywhere without me.
It doesn't seem fair.
But I'm starting to forget.