Fourth Stars

Colleen asked again, and a series of unfortunate circumstances (that have nothing to do with Colleen or the blog) make it wise for me to comply. Hereʼs some more from Stars in Heaven, which as you can tell from the link has gotten its own Longer Items page. Enjoy…

from Stars in Heaven

But Daniel knew. Daniel knew. He knew that. Daniel had told him, at first without meaning to, just a slip of the tongue. Uncle Rimmon said that too. “Slip of the…” The boy rolled his tongue around inside of his mouth, feeling the roughness of his teeth and the tickling of the far high backside. How did you make your tongue slip? Slip where? Sometimes he knew Uncle Rim didn’t have a clue what he was babbling about. Jism there, he said that — all the way after the caravanserai. Over and over and over all the next day. Rim don’t have no, have no, have no clue, Rim don’t, don’t have no, Rim don’t have no goddam clue.

But Daniel did. This was the worst year, but Daniel nonetheless was eager, sitting there looking at everything. Getting biffed into the dirt forgotten already. It didn’t matter, not to Daniel. Nothing really mattered to Daniel this year. He had his Plan.

Like them both, Daniel had borne enough. More than enough, as he kept saying, sounding just like Ghorf. More than enough. More than anyone should have to take. And then some. They both felt like that. Who knows what Ghorf felt, even though they both used Ghorf’s words. Unlike the boy, however, Daniel was going to Do Something about it. He had taken enough. He was going to Escape.

The boy didn’t really understand. But Daniel had been different for months now. As the harvest neared, he had changed — becoming more alert, more withdrawn. Daniel didn’t seem to have time to pick on the boy any more. He wasn’t sure why but the boy didn’t feel good about that. Daniel’s preoccupation should have made him feel relieved, but instead he felt alone.

Daniel’s transformation had begun, on retrospect, not long after they had returned last year. The boy hadn’t really observed at first. The trio had been gone so long — at least so it seemed to him — that he had begun to forget Daniel’s more than daily mistreatment. …Perhaps he had no uncles, no cousin. He and Aunt Sarai had been alone together for so many months, with no furious roaring from Ghorf and incessant needling whine from Jism, no continual pushing or poking or jabbing or tripping or battering or ridiculing for the boy from Daniel. He had begun to feel he was living a whole new life, blissfully alone with only Aunt Sarai.

Now, here, he had almost forgotten… — forgotten he had forgotten. In each moment he felt the present so immediately that he separated himself somehow from all the other moments before. Unless he thought hard, remembered, made himself remember…

Daniel being mean, being Daniel. Or at least the Daniel he had been, then, before. It had been a regular business. Awakening in the morning because Daniel had shoved him right off the hay out of the loft, pitching ten feet, half-dreaming, to the hard dirt below, and screaming. Aunt Sarai bending over him then, not far from the oven where she had been fixing breakfast, cooing: “Now, now, precious. You was just a-dreamin’, just havin’ a bad dream, you. Made you twitch, l’il one, and you flopped outta the bed. It’s okay, it’s okay. You just took a tumble, took a tumble, you.”

He never told her. If he’d tried, Daniel would have just pounded him outdoors later (and then told her the boy had Taken a Fall). Telling just wasn’t worth it. Of course, Daniel’d pound him, kick him, poke him with sticks anyway. What difference would it have made to tell? He got beaten on every day, eight times a day, anyway.

Strange thing: he had never thought of it like that before. He had just simply been terrified of telling, terrified of Daniel — every day, every minute, coldwater-over-the-head, rabbitty-nervous terrified. Effectively, Daniel had ruled his life, had been his omniscient and omnipotent deity, being everywhere, knowing everything, punishing each of his acts.

He had hated Daniel.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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