This story started as a personal challenge to write a theme prompted short story in 300 words or less. The theme was self-awareness. My first draft was about 400 words, and the final is 592, which may be a terseness record for me. I don’t really care because I like the story.I hope you do too.
By: David P. Cantrell
“Joey you’re a wonder, you always do what you’re told.” Granny said in her Minnesota-English as I put the empty trash bin under the sink. “And you’re never sassy or angry. You better hurry though, or you’ll be late for school. You’re such a good boy.”
What am I, a dog? I’d kill her, but I love her too much. She doesn’t know me—she knows who I was at eight, I thought. But as usual I said nothing about my feelings and just a sullen goodbye left my mouth as the door closed.
Even Becky Blinker, my best friend until high school, calls me a good boy. What a joke. If I got into her panties I’d show her how bad this good boy could be.
But that will never happen as long as Luke’s around. Luke the Quarterback, like Alexander the Great, someone to admire, someone to worship, I’ll worship him when he’s crucified on his precious goal posts.
Becky stood near my locker when I got to school, apparently waiting for me. “Join us tomorrow. Everybody’s going to River Park to celebrate the championship.” I gawked at her dumbfounded. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot that your parents died there. Please forgive me.”
I don’t care about them—they left me, to be together, I thought, but didn’t dare say it, instead I laughed halfheartedly. “That’s not the problem. I’d go, but my truck’s in the shop.” Thinking the excuse would save me, I turned to walk away, but her voiced stopped me.
“We’ll pick you up in Luke’s new Jeep. Be ready at noon.”
Becky cheerily said howdy as I climbed into the back of Luke’s SUV and mumbled hello in response. He took Route 12 to River Park road. It’s notorious for being narrow, snaky and full of blind spots. None of those attributes slowed Luke’s driving while he boasted of his football scholarship as we entered a shadowy curve. A Toyota materialized out of the half-light; Luke freaked, swerved hard, and rolled us into ten feet of water.
Becky screamed—the sound broke my heart. The Jeep settled on its roof. “Unbuckle! My window’s open.” I yelled as I escaped. A moment later Becky’s hand appeared through the cloudy water and together we struggled to the riverbank. Becky’s glassy eyes swelled. I felt the fear too and dove back in.
Luke had freed himself from the seat belt but not the Jeep and floated above the roof-liner. He’s a big guy and I had trouble grabbing him, so I pulled on his shirt but he didn’t budge. My lungs were pleading for air, but I couldn’t let him go. I placed my feet on the doorframe and with both hands, latched onto his shirt and pushed with my legs. I could feel the shirt slowly giving way. My lungs were screaming, but I kept at it. Finally the shirt broke free and Luke launched through the window.
I don’t know who took him from me, but Luke survived—we all did. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion, and I sobbed so hard I could barely breathe—my parents hadn’t abandoned me, they’d lost the struggle that we had won.
“Miss Blinker, what do you think of your savior, Joey Johansson?” the reporter asked.
“He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever known,” She said staring at me with a beautiful smile.
Nice guy huh? Yeah, I guess I am a nice guy and, to be honest, I like the idea. Plus it sounds much better than good boy.
David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.