Alex, a short story by StevenHunley. Date added: 2010-10-21. Times viewed: 1222.
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This story is for Alexi, Czar Alexander’s son, a hemophiliac, murdered at nine years old, another victim of the revolution.
A regular Sunday morning with just a bit of wind was how it was. Alex put down his copy of Treasure Island when he heard the fine branches of the tree that stood outside his window tap-tapping against the pane. The boy was, as he put it, "nearly ten", sandy-haired and pale, and looked as normal as any boy does who is a bleeder.
The wind was up. He knew immediately what that meant.
He put the book down and opened the closet door.
He poked around in back until he found his stunt kite with two sets of strings tangled up. He took it out and spread it out on the floor. What a mess! It took an hour to straighten it out.
“Aunt Mona,” he bawled, “can we go out?”
“Where to?” came her voice from the kitchen.
“To the park, I found my kite!”
“Sure. We’ll get some ice cream afterwards, there’s a Baskin Robbins across the street.”
In a flash they were gone. In even less of a flash they were there. The wind was up even more now to about ten or fifteen miles per hour. That’s what Alex said.
“How can you tell?”
“Just look at the trees. See the leaves? When leaves alone shake it’s less, maybe five to ten. But now it’s the small branches they’re attached to. That’s more.”
“For a nephew that never gets out you sure know one hell of a lot.”
He laid out the strings on the ground making sure they didn’t tangle.
“You launch it,” he said.
“You expect me to run with it?”
“No, there’s more than enough wind now. Just hold it up.”
The park was almost deserted. One man was there walking a black lab. The song the wind played in the trees was the only one that was heard. It was as if there was just the two of them and the kite, the trees and the wind.
When Mona lifted it the wind grabbed and carried it skyward. Alex let out line and it seemed to shrink as it climbed higher and higher. It seemed to Mona as if Alex was holding nature itself by its tail, as if he finally had control. It was an illusion. The boy’s grasp on nature was tenuous at best, as fragile as thin cotton thread stretched to its limit. For a second, if only a second, he was King, and felt that way deep inside. Being King for the moment was good. King for the moment, Lady Mona in attendance. His realm: a deserted park on a Sunday afternoon. Puffy white clouds ran like so many sheep through his sky of royal blue.
Then nature regained control and reminded him of his place in the scheme of things. The curious black dog wandered over and then behind him. Alex’s eyes were directed skyward, and he saw the kite fall when the wind grew weak. He backed up to keep control by tightening the line. Tripping over the dog, who gave a sharp yelp, he fell back and landed on his shoulder. Mona saw what happened and gathered him up. She quickly drove to the ER, the crumpled boy in the back of her car.
The dog sniffed at the damaged kite lying on the grass, the strings tangled in a heap. He caught one of his feet in the string and let out a whimper, wanting someone to set him free. Rushing home in the car, his shoulder starting to swell, the boy who’d taken a back seat to life did too.
When they got to the ER Cathy was waiting with her knitting in her hand. It was what she usually did. The boy climbed onto the bed and sat. The doctor said what he usually said which was,
“Hi Alex, what’s up?” and checked him out.
“It’s not too bad this time,” he told Cathy, “it’s superficial, nothing major. Let him rest.”
It was all she could do. She began to take out the yarn and say “Alex, put out your hands like this,” so she could unwrap it and make a ball, then realized she couldn’t. Not now. This time it had been his shoulder so that was out. Besides, he’d already fallen asleep. Instead, she packed up her knitting, went in the bathroom and closed the door quietly so not to disturb her boy. She sat on the toilet fully clothed and regarded herself in the mirror.
The terrazzo floor beneath her feet was cold and hard.
“So is our life,” she reflected.
The chromium bar placed on the wall nearby had more sparkle to it than she had. Cathy knew it had been placed there for people with disabilities, so she grabbed it with her left hand tightly.
With her right hand she reached over and grabbed an inordinate amount of toilet paper, and although the task was difficult one-handed, balled it up in a gigantic ball. Grasping it, she decided to have the only thing she could have, the only one she felt coming to her, the thing she felt she deserved. She had a woman’s cry, that is to say, she cried not like a man, but like a woman instead.
At home Mona flopped into a chair. She located the computer and searched through the icons till she found the southern gentleman (she called him that now to herself) and imagined just what she’d say to him if ever they met, then fell asleep. Poor Mona, the day had done her in.
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