Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Lost Boy

Photo by David Castillo Dominici
by Mary Britton

The boy emerges from deep within the woods. He hesitates near the edge, stopping to peep from behind a large cedar tree. In the woods, the boy feels safe and secure. He does not like entering what he calls “people space”. Now he must go in search of food. His stomach is growling, and he feels faint. His legs are wobbling. This has never happened before. He has waited far too long this time. He hopes his journey will be a short one. His head emerges. He is a small boy with thick cropped red hair and a cowlick that stands straight up.

The boy stands there for a moment, looking around through large bluish green eyes. His eyes are intriguing. They are very round, almost a complete circle, and they seem to shine like a diamond ring does from the reflection of the sun.

The boy steps out from behind the tree and starts walking, almost shuffling, down the narrow dirt road adjacent to the woods. He is wearing tattered blue jeans and a white tee shirt; not exactly what he should be wearing on this damp chilly day. His sneakers, too large for his feet, and held together with electrical tape, look more like tattered bedroom slippers.  He lifts his feet off the ground and walks at a slow pace to keep the sneakers from slipping off.

The boy sees a big blue truck parked on the opposite side of the road. It is huge. He has never seen such a truck. He notices a raised imprint on the side of the truck, TUNDRA. He pronounces the word out loud, then louder….. TUNDRA, TUNDRA! Sounds like a ferocious thunder storm.   

The boy sees the man exit the truck, where he had been drinking a cup of coffee and reading the morning paper. He approaches the boy. The boy is apprehensive. He is shivering and feels the sting of the wind on his face. His hands are cold and he is trying very hard to keep them from shaking. They are red and swollen. The fingernails are long with ragged edges and some type of dust or powder underneath. He places his hands in his pockets in a failed attempt to keep them warm.

The boy steps back from the edge of the woods, keeping his eyes focused on the man.  He studies his face, moves his eyes toward his feet, and takes a quick glance backwards, towards the woods. He stares into the eyes of the man, trying to determine if he can trust him, or if he should make a quick dash back to the safety of the forest. The man senses a child in crisis. He remains quiet.

The boy’s hunger supersedes his caution, and he asks: “Do you have a candy bar or something in your truck that I can eat?”

“There is hot coffee, a sandwich and an apple. Go inside and warm up. Help yourself to the food.” 

The boy is suspicious.

“Sir, if you don’t mind, please give me half the sandwich and I will be on my way.”

“No. The food is all yours. You will be much more comfortable inside. Just lock the doors. I will wait outside until you are through eating.”  

The boy pauses. He IS very hungry, but still unwilling to go inside the truck.

“I will tell you what”, the man said. “Here are my keys.  Go inside and lock up. I will wait inside the gas station around the corner. Take your time. When you are finished eating, just leave the keys under the driver seat. I will return in about twenty minutes. Will that work for you?”

Afraid to get within arm’s reach, the boy nods his head and says “Sir, I will go inside if you place the keys on top of the truck and move away.”

The man understands where the boy is coming from. But what could possibly have led this young boy to this. He leaves the keys on top of the truck and walks away.

The aroma of the coffee is inviting. The cup is warm. The boy wraps his hands around the cup and it feels good. He takes a sip. He has tasted coffee before, but none like this. This is fancy coffee. It tastes like caramel. The boy has always liked caramel, but it has been a long time since he has eaten any. The taste of the coffee takes him back to another place and another time. Well so much for that. No need to go there now.

He picks up the sandwich and starts eating. He tastes fresh tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and pickles. He tastes something with a mild sour taste, but cannot identify it. The meat is tender and juicy. He has no idea what it is either. One thing he does know… is the best sandwich he has ever eaten.

When the man returns, the boy is waiting outside the truck holding the apple in his hand. He is still cautious, but less afraid.  He says “thank you sir, thank you very much. By the way, what was in the sandwich?”

“Corn beef and sauerkraut. It’s called a Reuben.”

“Well, it was mighty tasty. Thanks again.”

”You are welcome, son.”

He hands the boy two plastic bags. They contain juice and bottled water, as well as some cold sandwiches, nuts, chips, cookies and two candy bars. The boy looks inside the bag and smiles for the first time.

The boy, like the trees and the shrubs that surround him, is a part of the forest, but the man asks anyway, “Would you like me to give you a ride home?”

“I have no home.”

“Is there somewhere I can drop you off?”

“Sir, I believe in my heart that you are a good man, but I will never get into a truck with a stranger……… never AGAIN.”

1 comment:

  1. The story has such an open range to draw from. The lost boy, did he run away into the woods from danger, does he want to find his way home? Awe, we know - He will never get into a truck with a stranger.............nerver AGAIN!
    Mooku Lee