XX

http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1920064/XX
XX

Written by
Ethan CT Burwell
å2008

He cringed in his mother’s arms as the cries and pleas pierced the frigid moonless night. The rickety boat was crowed and unsteady. He saw the tears glistening on everyone else’s face just as he could feel them on his own. The fire danced in his eyes, as it scarred the glassy floor. A frigid wind froze the tears in his eyes and the sea to his face as the nightmare consumed them. He heard the others like him crying out for Papa, but knew it was in vain as they swirled about on the devil in the midnight air. If only the moon had been out to lend its light, maybe, just maybe it would have lit the never ending nightmare a little bit. He watched as slowly it was gone, as slowly they were gone.
--~--
It had been a long hard drive for Evin. As he drove down the streets into the heart of the city he didn’t know quite how to feel, the tears that he had managed to put behind him suddenly came back from the dead as he drove past the 2747 Broadway building. As he parked his car around the block and began to walk to 105th street he was overwhelmed by a surge of long forgotten memories. Fire trucks lined the street next to a growing crowd that had gathered for the memorial dedication that he was about to attend. According to the brochure he had with him there was supposed to be some sort of parade with them after the ceremony.
“And so, it is with great pleasure that I present Mrs. Helen Herron Taft.” A man stepped off a platform as the widowed first lady spoke before the crowd. Some organization, of which he could not remember the name, was dedicating a statue in honor of the people who died in the accident.
“My fellow New Yorkers it has been nearly 20 years since the world cried, but today, on this Christmas morning, we are no longer here to mourn, but to remember, to remember the lives of those who were lost on that cold dark April night…” Her words fell upon his ears like malicious attacks from the past and he wished to hear no more. Seeking escape he left the memorial and began to roam the streets which lead to back roads in his memory. The late December wind was chilly as it wove in between the apartment complexes. It was cold out, but there was no snow on the ground. The roads were as dead and dry as the trees and sky. The whole city was covered in a shroud of gray as several people scurried down the residential neighbor hood in their winter coats and scarves. Eventually, Evin came to a two story brick home covered in unrestrained ivy vines. Toddler toys littered the porch and, like the apartment buildings that surrounded it, the roof wasn’t in the best shape. Looking up at the tattered home he walked to the porch and sat on the stoop. It was clear that time had moved on. He buried his head in his arms and began to cry tears of memories. In the distance he heard the sirens from the fire trucks at the memorial. They wailed and whined and sent him into a state of drowsiness.

Finally, the last bell of the day rang.
“Hey ya Ann…how’s it going?” The lively frizzle headed boy ran up to her as everyone left the school.
“I’m doing alright. How ‘bout your self?” The two had been friends since they were five and had practically grown up together.
“Terrific! Say, Ann, there was something that I wanted to ask you…”
“What is it Evin?”
“Well…” He paused and waited for several students to walk by as his cheeks reddened and he tried to gather the words. “Has anyone asked you to the Primary Solstice Dance yet?”
“No, no one has asked me yet.” His toes began to shuffle inside his shoes as he felt his face getting warmer.
“Well…a…would you like to go with me?”
“I would love to, Evin.”
“Well that’s great! I’ll pick you up around 7 then?”
“Alright. I’ll see you then.” Ann turned and walked in the direction of her house as Evin turned and ran up the road in his own direction. He had a simile on his face and the feeling of spring all around him. It was warm out and there were puddles along the street and side walk where the remnants of a long and brutal winter had been. Pockets of grass were beginning to show under what had once been a thick layer of snow.
“Good morning Phil.” Evin stopped at a street peddler’s cart on the corner of Broadway and 105th street.
“Who? Wha’?” the man looked up somewhat startled as to who had called him. “Oh! Well if it isn’t Evin Rice Arena. Top of the day to you, Sir. How’s you been?”
“I’ve been just great Phil.” Phil was an older man with pale skin and a red face. His hair matched the snow on the ground, both in color and in density. “You remember Ann, don’t you, Phil? That girl I brought by here a few weeks ago?” The man rubbed his chin a moment.
“Oh yes! I ‘member her. A…a perdy little thing?”
“Yup, that’s her. I just asked her to the annual Primary Solstice Dance.”
“Well congratulations, son. I see someone done went and got a wee bit too used to spring.”
“Well I need to pick up a few things, I‘m leaving with Mom tomorrow evening.”
“Leaving? Where be ya’ goin‘?”
“England. Mom’s family’s havin’ a reunion. We’re traveling on that fancy ship they just built, you know?”
“Well I’ll be dog gone! What I wouldn’t give to take a spin on a ship like her.”
“Yeah, they say she’s a beaut’. Top of the line and unsinkable too.” Evin filled Phil in on everything that had happened in the past two weeks as the old man filled a bag with the supplies that he needed. When they were finished Evin continued on his way back home.
Later that night as the sun was beginning to setting Evin set out to pick up Ann. With the wind to his back down the intersecting streets he rode his maroon Slimline double seated bike that his parents had given him on his thirteenth birthday. The day still smelt fresh, even as the night set in. He wore a semi-brand new suite that he had had for the past two years but had only worn five times. As he drove down the roads the trees still had Christmas lights on them that had been left up through the winter. Usually the lights were down by mid March, but Evin figured that they had been left up because there was still snow on the ground as they headed into mid April. Eventually he pulled up in front of Ann’s house. It was a two story brick home that had neatly tended ivy vines growing on the porch. It was one of the few buildings on the street that was a single family house and not an apartment building.
“Hello, Ann” he said as she opened the door when he knocked on it. From inside came the warm scent of a fire. The home was cozy and lively as he could hear her siblings giggling in the other room.
“But, mom… but I wanted to get a picture” one of them whined. Though she tried to hide it, it was quite obvious that she had been waiting on the other side of the door, waiting to hear the sound of his fist impacting the wood.
“Hi, Even” she gently shot back at him as stepped out into the dusk and shut the door behind her.
“Shall we go?” The two got on the bike and drove off towards the school.

At the school there were lights everywhere; Christmas lights that had never been there before, flashing lights, candle lights. When they arrive there was already a fairly large crowd of people, both inside and outside the building. In the gym dozens of couples were dancing to the music of a twelve piece band that was performing on the stage. The two grabbed a glass of raspberry juice from the punch table before sitting in the bleachers amongst a crowd who watched as couples floated on and off the dance floor.
“Gee, this is really good raspberry juice.” Evin commented
“Isn’t it? And the color, it’s so…raspberry colored.”
“And it’s seedless too!” The two sat together drinking their raspberry juice. When the song finished everyone in the gym offered a round of applause to the band and the dancers before the next song began. Finally, after two songs of awkwardly sitting on the bench with their glasses of raspberry juice Evin turned to Ann.
“Ann?”
“Yes?”
“Would you like to dance?”
“I’d love to.” The two danced arm in arm that night, and somewhere between the Congo line and a slow dance they saw each other in a way that they had never seen before. As they danced the lights sparkled in their eyes and danced on the glassy floors.
“Your eyes are the most beautiful eyes in all of New York.” Evin was instantly embarrassed when he heard himself say this. For, though he meant the words he did not mean for them to leave his mouth.
“Thank you, Evin.” She blushed and smiled as she rested her head on her chest and closed her midnight blue eyes for a moment. As the music played the two drifted amongst the other dancers.
After the last dance had ended the two walked to the bike; the crowd was dispersing into the night.
“You know I‘m leaving tomorrow?” he knew that he hadn’t told her about England, but brought it up anyway.
“No. Where are you going?”
“England.”
“England? What for? How long?” she was quite surprised that he had never told him
“We’re leaving tomorrow to go see my family for three weeks?”
“Well you must have known for a while. Why didn’t you tell me before?” she wished that he had told him earlier.
“I don’t know. It just never came up.” He felt ashamed that he hadn’t told her, but he knew that he had to. Eventually, the conversation evolved into other subjects and Evin drove Ann back to her house. It was just after midnight and it was quite chilly out as he walked her to the door.
“The stars are so beautiful tonight. Aren’t they, Evin?” It was a clear night and the absence of the moon allowed the stars to shine extra bright. The flickering stars in the midnight sky instantly reminded him of the way that the light had dance upon her eyes just a little while ago, and though he wanted to tell her so he managed to keep his tongue this time.
“They are beautiful” he agreed. “Do you know why they’re extra bright tonight?” he asked her as they held each other in their arms, heads gazing up towards the heavens.
“Why?”
“They’re extra beautiful tonight because they’re watching us.” The two stood together on the stairs outside Ann’s house for a moment before a cold wind blew and forced them to part. As Evin walked towards his car and Ann to the door she stopped and turned around to him.
“Evin, will you come back?”
“Of course, I told you I’ll be back in three weeks.”
“No, will you come back to me?”
“Ann, I’ll always come back to you”
“And you’ll watch out for the Ostrich, won’t you?”
“The what?”
“The Ostrich, it lives in the dark corners and follows you when you least expect it. Look out for it, Evin, and don’t let it get you. Promise me.”
“I promise, Ann” and with that vow he rode off into the cold wings of the night but was sheltered by the spirit of the Firefox within him.

“Can I help you, Sir?” A voice came from the doorway behind him abruptly interrupting his mental recollection. Startled he jumped up from the stoop and turned around at the bottom. “Can I help you?” The woman asked again. She was holding a baby
“Oh, no, I’m sorry. I was just resting a moment.” Evin got up and began to walk down the street as the woman watched; the day was beginning to expire. Evin walked away and the woman went inside. Inside, the woman put the baby in it’s highchair as she prepared to feed it; the phone rang as she finished. Going to answer the phone the woman caught a glimpse of one of her pictures that were sitting on a bookshelf. In the picture a young girl stood posed with a boy. In shock she grabbed the picture and looked at it closer. Ignoring the phone the woman took the picture and ran into the kitchen to get the baby. With the baby in arm she ran out of the house, put the baby in the car seat, and drove down the road in the direction that she had seen the man walk. The sun was setting quickly now, but it was still light out. She drove down the streets that she thought it possible to have walked to by now, but he wasn’t there. Street after street, she looked, but couldn’t find him. After about half an hour the sky was dark and the woman had no choice but to return home. Back inside the house the woman carried the sleeping baby upstairs. Feeling depressed she began to cry as she stood over the crib. A picture of the baby girl’s father sat beside her. Tears rolled down her face as she thought about the picture of the boy and girl and of the picture that now sat before her.
After some time, the woman began to stop crying. She wiped her reddened eyes and seeing that the baby was still asleep went down to the ivy covered porch where the man had been sitting not so long ago. The wind had died down since earlier that morning, but it was still chilly as she sat on the stoop in the moonless night. Other than several cars driving by it was totally quite; a sound reminiscent of a gentle snowfall. All around the year was quickly coming to an end as the Christmas lights lit up the street in a variety of colors. As she sat alone she was suddenly startled when a green little creature crawled out of the bushes and surprised her.
“Aw, life’s gotcha down, has it?”
“AHHH!” She shrieked and smacked the waddling four legged; vertically standing creature it onto the sidewalk when it began to speak. “Oh God! What satanic devil are you?!” she asked in horror as if her life…or perhaps her sanity…were at stake.
“Ok, that really hurt” it said getting up. “Yup, that’s gonna bruise” it looked at its scraped elbow before attempting to speak to the woman again “I’m dreadfully sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you. I shoulda introduce myself first; I am the Ghost of Christmas Future.” With a frozen scared face the woman slapped him onto the side walk again. “Ah, you can’t keep doin’ that, miss. I know that the brochure says that geckos can re-grow their tails but that doesn’t mean we can do it with the rest of out bodies.” He got up again.
“I’m sorry” she apologized “It’s just that I don’t usually talk to geckos. Are you really the Ghost of Christmas Future?” Calmly she began to accept that she was in fact going mad, after all what would a gecko with an accent be doing in America?
“We’ll yes and no. You see, I’m not a ghost, but I am from the future” he explained
“Oh…”
“I’m what they call a Geico Gecko. How it works is, humans like you give me stuff to read, I read it, they put it on the tele, I get famous, and they get rich, while you get insured” She stared at him, not quite sure how to respond.
“Why are you here?” she finally asked.
“I’m here because…because…well what do ya know? I don’t know why I’m here. Ah, well best be goin’ then.” the green little creature got up and hopped down the steps. “But before I leave, though, something tells me that I should tell you that we insure cars, not boats.” he paused and looked at her “Well see ya around perhaps” And with that he continued down the walkway “Look me up when the Yellow pages come out” he hollered over his shoulder as he disappeared up the street, humming some song about the Canadian Outback.
For many a minute the woman sat on the stoop trying to decide what had just happened. As she sat trying to comprehend what the gecko had said she was well aware that she had now officially been certified in the colt of the insane. “I know what the brochure says…” his words echoed in her head. What did he mean? What brochure? “We insure cars, not boats.” What in the name of Zeus’ lighthouse keeper did he mean? “Brochure…boat…car?” Then, finally it all made scenes.
“Ah ha! Finally, it all makes scenes.” She jumped up and ran inside. After a few minutes and a quick phone call there was a knock at the door.
“Oh, thank you so much, Jessica. They baby’s sleeping up stairs and shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll be back in about half an hour.” The woman grabbed the picture of the boy and girl from the shelf, left the house and got into her car as the neighbor went upstairs to check on the baby.
Back on the street, the woman knew where she was going this time. When she arrived at the corner of Broadway and 105th there was a solitary car parked at the corner; she parked behind it. The two cars were the only ones on the road, and despite the Christmas lights in the trees and the lights shining on the newly dedicated memorial she was nervous. In the small park where the granite statue was located sat a man on a bench. He sat still and just stared at the towering statue. It stood about twice as tall as him and featured a young boy. His loosely clothed body seemed free and peaceful with his arms outstretched and his head cocked back as if he were floating on a gentle sea or ascending to heaven with his eyes closed.
“Excuse me?” the woman cautiously approached him. The man stood up and looked at her. It was him. “Sir, I think I have something that partly belongs to you.”
“What?” the man wasn’t quite sure what she meant. The woman pulled the picture of the boy and the girl out from under her coat and handed it to the man. He stared at it briefly.
“Wh…where did you get this?” a tear formed in one of his eyes as she handed him the past twenty years in a second.
“It’s a picture that I took of my sister and her friend many years ago”
“Your sister?” he couldn’t believe the bitter sweet words that he was hearing. The woman nodded.
“She lives not far from here. I‘ll bring you if you like.” the man stood still just looking at the picture trying to decide what to do. Had twenty years taken too much and left too little? Was it better to leave and just walk away as things were? Fore fate had left a tender scar before him now, a scar that still felt the burn from years ago. He nodded in compliance without taking his eyes off of the picture and drove behind her down the darkened streets of the city. It had been twenty years since he had last traveled these roads and everything looked different to him, especially in the dark. They stopped at a five story apartment building and he followed her up the stairs. It was a nice place, nothing like what the warm scented ivy home from twenty years ago had been, but a nice place never the less. Once inside it was a quick elevator ride to the third floor.
“Knock, knock” a knocking sound was followed by another knocking sound as she knocked on the door. “Knock.”
“Just a minute.” A voice came across the wooden barricade. “Hi, Wanda, how are you?” The door opened and a woman wrapped “Wanda” in a hug. “And who’s this…” the sentence faded into nothing as she stared at the man who stood before her.
“Ann, I want you to meet Evin.”
“Hello,” she paused “…Evin”
“Hello, Ann” he reached out to shake her hand but was instead greeted with a warm hug; tears lined both of their eyes. Twenty years washed away before them as they stood, suspended in each others arms. Suddenly they were transported back in time, back before a void of isolation washed away the better part of a lifetime, back before flames scarred an optical floor, back to a chilly April night. A night surrounded by music and light and loose words that fueled fire in the heart. And as it all came to an end they rode home together. Looking down into her eyes he was there again, not one detail missing. “You have the most beautiful eyes in all the world” he said to her as he tried to sprout a smile.
“Well, you’re twenty years late” she sniffed back the tears as a smile grew on her as well. “Come in, come in, and let’s get out of the hallway.” The two followed her as she stepped back and wiped her face on her sleeve.


THE END

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