Ariion Kathleen Brindley

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The Child

by Julian Ruck

       The sun shone down harshly on the pavement. Little ripples of heat rose from the asphalt in thick, heavy offerings to the sky. The children could be heard laughing in the empty lot across the street, playing some game where the imagination is king. Where the grand prize was in knowing he was a better pretender than the others. At least for this round.

Michael observed all this with a side-long glance. Knowing that the real game couldn't be seen or heard, only felt in the sweaty smiles of the children. He remembered what it was like, to have a complete understanding of what you wanted in life.

To play.

To impress all those around you.

Well, some things never change, he thought, listening to some brash youth proclaim that he was the best. That no one could be better, because his mother had told him so.

The arguement that followed drifted very predictably to whose mother was right in saying their child was the most precious.

He smiled, in some unknown satisfaction at children fighting over something so seemingly pointless. Yet to a child, mother and god are one in the same, except that god doesn't love you as much.

His eyes drifted to a little girl, not more than five or six, sitting on the broken blacktop. With desperate grass growing in the cracks in the cement to reach the life-giving light all around her.

What struck him as odd, was that the girl was pulling these very blades of grass out, not with the intensity of a child at work, but with the listless action of an indirect sadness.

Sighing, hopelessness for the girl flooded him. He tried so hard to protect her from her pain, but the girl couldn't be helped it seemed.

"Maria!" he calls.

The girl looks up abruptly, like she was caught doing some horrible mischief.

And then she smiles, so innocent, that one could almost forget the incredible sadness that had been so over-cast on her face only moments ago. One could almost do that. Almost.

1998 Julian Ruck


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Click to see Hannibal's Elephant Girl, a new novel by Ariion Kathleen Brindley

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