Tales of the Bearded Toad

Short stories and the occasional true tidbit devised in the life and times of the Bearded Toad

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Pit

She sat down on the curb and carefully plucked two pebbles from the broken skin of her knee. Her hard feet were planted in the still damp rain gutter, and her hair, darkened from sweat, was plastered to her pale neck. She grimaced as her deft, dirty fingers worked the sandy remains of the road grime from the wound. She pursed her lips and blew gently on it before looking up to see how far her friends had gotten ahead of her. One more deep breath to steady her pulse again as she rose to her rather foal-like stance, she started running with a steadiness that surprised her.

It didn’t take her long to catch up with the other two who were weaving back and forth across the old road with their arms stretched out like featherless wings. Ashlyn had tripped her but hadn’t seemed to notice.

“Oh, there you are.” Amber was barefoot too with her hair in a braid and clothes as filthy as her feet.

“Yep. Thanks,” she said as she kicked Ashlyn’s right foot from behind her so that it caught in the crease of her left knee, just enough to break her stride. They both giggled, and then made the sounds hawks flying overhead, that unmistakable screech that makes you look up to find it.

Shadows darkened their way in spurts as the trees let the sunlight through in odd shapes and patterns like the seemingly unrepeated designs on her mothers clothing. Never animal prints, but never solids either. Her mom said it confused the prey, men, so it was like camouflage. She must have been a good hunter, she thought.

Large clouds of gnats had to be dodged, and spider webs ducked since this roadbed was rarely travelled anymore. It led to the old quarry that shut down nearly twenty-five years ago when her mother was about her age. Her mom was still young, so she could imagine her out here too with her friends, boys actually.

As they arrived at the edge of the pit, they could smell the change in the air that flowed up from inside. The wind swirled and floated dust up from the edge and rolled it back down toward the ground causing it to look as though it were water going over a slide. They walked around a little further to the spot they had cleared to be able to sit on the edge and avoid the dust.

“I keep forgetting to look up why the water down there is so green. Do you think it’s full of emeralds or jade or something?”

“No. It’s probably got gunk growing in it from just sitting there all the time. My mom calls water that just sits ‘stagnant’. Stuff is always growing in that water, and it stinks. She said that about a guy who stuck around too long once too.” Her dirty feet were swinging, with her heels clunking against the stone wall inside.

“Gross. Count how long it takes for this rock to make a splash.” Ashlyn tossed a stone that looked about the size of a cherry over the edge and waited.

“I didn’t see a splash.” Amber said it flatly still peering down.

“Here try this one, it’s much bigger.” She grunted as she pushed it into the air.

“Four Mississippi!” The sound of the splash echoed up hollow and soft. They sat there gazing down into it, quiet except for their breathing.

Amber put her hand to her belly and scrunched up her nose, pulling her lip with it to show the two teeth in the front so much bigger than the others. “Ugh, I just remembered I have homework I haven’t done. It made my stomach feel weird.”

“Like how?”

“Like it’s all bundled up tight, like a bunch of string that’s gotten tangled in a knot.”

“Oh. I get that feeling too, only it’s not about homework.”

“What’s it about, then?” They were both looking at her now.

“Well…”

“Come on, tell us. It’s no big deal, right?”

“Well, I get that feeling every time I have to go home. It’s really bad when I’ve been out here with you two. I just don’t want to do it; I don’t want to be there anymore.”

“Why not?”

She crossed her ankles and lifted her butt off the ground so that only her hands were touching. She shook her head and said, “It doesn’t really feel like knotted string.” She paused and looked down at the shimmering water. “It feels like this deep hole is inside me with that green nastiness at the bottom.”

She rolled back, flipping on her hands and planted her feet. She smiled. “But I don’t have to go home yet.” She sprinted toward the trees and let out a screech. The other two looked at each other and jumped up to follow. There was still some Sunday left.

2 Comments:

Anonymous DBA Lehane said...

Just loved the playful lightness of childhood with the darker sinister air bubbling away underneath. This encapsulates all I ever loved in your writing Brandon.

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Amin said...

Hi Brandon.

Long time no see.

I loved this, especially the fact that it left me wanting more and wondering about what was unsaid.

It kept my imagination whirring for quite some time, filling in the unspoken dialogue that might have been. I would imagine the backstory to this would be pretty interesting.

6:57 AM  

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