Tales of the Bearded Toad

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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pressure Release

All at once, the branch broke beneath his feet. His breath left him as his stomach pressed his lungs into his throat. The knife he had been using to carve into the tree remained stuck in place at the end of her initials. When he hit the ground his knees hit his chest and he rolled backwards, flattening out. The leaves of the branch cradled his head as he looked up at his knife.

It has been 26 years since that fall, and the knife is rusty now, with the blade completely swallowed by the growth of the tree around it. The polish worn from the handle. No one else had ever seemed to notice it there, and he had never told anyone the story. His crush having been a secret, still being a secret, just like the knife, which he had stolen from his grandfather's desk drawer.

There were no leaves to cushion his head now, so he placed his hands, one on top of the other beneath it. He closed his eyes and remembered the feeling of his pulse in his feet and knees from the fall. His knees had felt so hot. A deep breath and exhale, just like he had done that day: relief that he wasn't really hurt. Physically he never really had been.

He purposefully acknowledged that feeling of relief, and the feelings that followed: dread that someone would find out and longing for her to. Courage was one feeling he had not been able to muster when he had the chance. This much time later, the dread remained, but much more muted. The longing having since passed on with his adolescence and his ability to sleep through the night.

The dream was still there sometimes too. He was reminded of that as soon as he drifted off beneath the tree. She was there, wearing those little blue shorts, a tank top with the strap of her bra hanging loosely off her shoulder. Her smooth skin shining in a line from the bottom of the fabric to her ankles. He stared, hoping she wouldn't notice. When his eyes finally made it back up to her face, those eyes with the blue circles inside the green fading together, she was staring right back into his. That's when she collapsed. And all he could do was run, panicking until he woke up startled and sweating.

He got up from his nap, his frightful recurring dream, dusted off his pants, and started back. The rest of the family was sitting around the table reminiscing as families do on the rare occasions they get together.

"Oh, there you are. We thought you would remember. What was that girl's name that was in your class? The one that died while she was out by herself in those woods." He felt his stomach pressing on his lungs again, but his pulse was in his face this time.

"Leana," he managed to choke out.

"Leana. That's right. They say she had a stroke or annuerisn or something like that. She laid there for dern near two days before anybody found her. Of course, everybody thought it was some pervert or something done got her. Carl here wouldn't go back in those woods for years after that. Said he was afraid it was haunted or something. Isn't that right, Carl? Sometimes I wondered if he was a bit off, but he turned out all right."

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