Here’s a short, nasty little piece.
By John F.D. Taff
The lost boy peers from the single window and wonders how he came to be here.
The window is small, uncleaned. It is guarded by blinds and a thick layer of curtains that he must dig through to gain the outside.
Rain falls from a sky that is rendered even greyer seen through the grey window. Outside is the half-empty parking lot of the apartment complex. Those cars still there—rusted, dented, dirty—huddle together like wounded beasts.
How easy it would be, he thinks, for me to walk down there—walk down there with no fear, smash a window, hotwire the car and drive away….
But to where?
And, no fear?
Who am I kidding? There’s always the fear, even if it sleeps now, stirring only occasionally.
Besides, if I wanted to go, I could do it far easier than boosting a car.
I could ride my bike.
I could walk, for that matter. Open the door wide, stride out and walk to the police station, walk right in and tell them who I…who…
No, just as it prevents him from taking a car, it dismisses the bike, warns against taking off on foot.
It leashes him here as effectively as chains.
No, more so, because it affects his desire to leave, his need.
This is home.
Now, not before…
But there is no before anymore; not with him. There was, of course, but…
Best not to think of it.
(Because the before hurts him, oh, how it hurts him.)
(And the before that was even before that hurts him even more.)
He closes the heavy curtains, seals the light out of the dirty apartment.
I could go outside, leave this place.
The door is unlocked.
He’s very sure, my new father…so very, very sure…
But he won’t.
Instead, the lost boy turns to the TV, to the video game console and the stack of games there.
Pulling one from the stack at random, he glances at its cover illustration of guns and explosions, nods as if in agreement, slides it into the player.
Plopping onto the sagging couch, he takes a controller and mindlessly pushes buttons as the game flashing on the TV tells him where to go, what to do, how to feel.
Because, in the end, it is so much easier, so much less painful than doing these things himself.
Briefly, he remembers his new father telling him that he’s damaged goods.
No one wants something back after it’s been broken…
So, he saves the game, moves to the next level.
And leaves before where it is, where it has been since his new father took him.