I originally wrote this for a college creative writing workshop in the mid-90s. It was an exercise in perspective. It’s actually pretty long, so I’m going to separate the story into 2 blog posts.
“This place sucks.” Jake had a black eye from falling out of the tree last week. It hurt. He sat beside his best friend, Mark Williams. They slouched on the guardrail, looking down at their blurry reflections in the murky river water below. “I mean, it really sucks.”
Mark slowly dragged the side of his sneaker through the gravel, scraping the debris over the edge of the bridge. They watched it cloud and then rain into the river, the tiny pebbles barely stirring the surface of the slow-moving current.
“Do you think,” Jake wondered, “if a stone is light enough, the river could carry it all the way to the city?”
Mark shrugged, “Who cares, we won’t get there til we’re sixteen.” Driving. The appeal of getting behind the wheel of a car and driving somewhere other than this hick country town was the best thing about getting older. Jake was fourteen and a half. He would get his license at least six months before Mark did. They would work to get a car, and then they would be outta there. This summer had been endless. It was the week before school started. The boys didn’t talk about how nervous they were about their freshman year of high school. Just like they didn’t talk about the zits on their faces or how Mark’s voice shifted in strange ways.
“In two years, I’m pretty sure this place will still suck,” Jake sighed and glanced at his watch. “Shit! I’ve got to get home! We’re supposed to go the Fair tonight!” He hoped he would be able to see Rachel. She’d said on the phone last week that she would be going to the Fair tonight. He had dreamed of talking her into joining him on the Ferris Wheel since she’d promised to be there.
Mark barely looked up from his place, kicking gravel into the river, “Later.” Jake was already on his bike, rushing toward home.
As he was cresting the first hill, Jake spotted his kid sister pedaling toward him on her pink huffy, her braids bouncing around her ears. “You’re in big trouble!” Jessie called, wheeling a U-turn without looking for cars. Her training wheels made a horrible racket.
Jessie couldn’t hear anything else over her squeaking, rattling bike, and Jake didn’t wait for her to get home. He knew he was in trouble. By the time she pulled into their driveway, Jake’s bike was already in the garage. When Jessie opened the back door, feeling the cool burst of the air conditioner hit her sweaty skin, she could hear Jake’s raised voice upstairs.
“I didn’t want to go to the stupid Fair anyway!” she heard his voice wavering as he yelled, and then the slam of his bedroom door.
Jessie felt her throat tighten. If Jake didn’t go, who would ride the rides with her? Who would win her a stuffed animal in the games? She couldn’t go into the Midway without her big brother. Tears welled in her eyes as she tapped on his bedroom door.
“What do you want?”
“Jake?” she tried the knob. It was locked. But after she said his name, the door swung open. He let her duck under his arm and into the room. “The Fair won’t be any fun without you.” Jessie’s eyes burned. “If you don’t go, neither will I.”
“Jess, don’t be like that,” Jake sighed. “Don’t let me spoil your fun.”
“Jessie, come on,” their mother’s voice called up the stairs. “We’re ready to go.”
“Jake!” she looked up at her big brother, her wet eyes filled with panic.
With a sigh, Jake took a roll of quarters off of his nightstand. “Here, take these. Use them to do whatever Mom and Dad say you can’t because it’s too expensive.” His sister’s little arm dropped with the weight of the roll of coins. “There’s ten dollars there. I saved ’em from my mowing money.”
Jessie flung her arms around her big brother, squeezing him as tight as she could. “I’ll get you something,” she whispered.
“Jacob, give me your phone,” their mother held out her hand. Her face was a little sunburned from gardening all afternoon. He handed his phone to his mom and watched with sadness as it disappeared into her purse. “Stay in the house, leave the doors locked. Mark can’t come over.”
Jake stood in the middle of his room, thinking about Rachael. His shoulders slumped. It had been an accident. He hadn’t meant to be late. He hadn’t meant…
Jake sighed. Whatever.
Come back tomorrow to find out what Jessie brings back from the Fair.