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Kids Drama American

At first the dare seemed simple. It was a cake walk. On a hot summer day on his grandfather’s farm, David and three other boys: Pete his cousin, and two younger boys, nine and six, from the farm down the road, were rolling in the grass, enjoying the hot summer weather and the soft breezes coming over the bean fields, when the allure of the decrepit chicken coop at the corner of the farmstead presented a challenge. It was a lazy dare by Pete, almost an afterthought. But being the tester of limits, the magi of misdirection, he was always up to challenging others, yet rarely up to being challenged. David gazed at the structure, swaybacked from years in the elements and neglect. Most of the side boards had fallen away; gray and rotted, laying like fallen soldiers in the grass along its sides. The cage-wired guts of the building were easily visible as were the egg chutes, small yellow faggots of straw in the corners, and brown and white feathers matted into the wood. All that remained from chickens potted long ago. 

“All you got to do is walk from one end to the other along the top of the roof.” Pete said wirily. “Should be a breeze.”

David sized up the bargain, cocked his head and raised the ante. “If I do, you have to run across the cow pasture blindfolded and barefoot.”

“Ok.” Pete said hesitantly, then stopped, realizing that he had made a hasty bargain with a boy that for some reason was unafraid. In the past this kind of dare between cousins had always led to David backing down, furthering Pete’s influence by intimidation. But with the acceptance and the counter offer, this could lead to his own humiliation, possibly even a sobering story to be related amongst all the kids once 6th grade began in the fall. A story that could possibly loop around for years. But it was too late to back out now and he doubted David was up to the challenge. There was still the chance that when he actually got to the coop, he would back down. Besides, backing away from a dare and appearing the coward was the greater victory to Pete. The other two boys, also realizing the potential for a great story, snickered at Pete’s seemingly poor judgment and now relished the opportunity for one of the two combatants to fail.  

With the deal done, the four of them ran towards the coop, the thrill of danger in the air. Adventure calling to them. Once they arrived at the coop, they discovered getting up to the roof was easy. The center of the ridge was only ten feet high, and by placing a few of the boards on end, David was able to scramble along the edge of the fascia at the lowest point and achieve the start off marker for his walk. 

Starting out, he confidently took off his shirt with bravado and tossed it to the boys on the ground. His pants were barely held up, hanging on the knobs of his hips and with his thin frame he resembled a maple whip wrapped in a denim sheet. He took a deep breath, his pasty skin stretching over his twelve year old ribs even tighter. Then he exhaled loudly. The green Converse tennis shoes he was wearing; holed at the bend of the toe and with rounded, flat rubber soles from hours of outdoor basketball, were ready to go to work as he wiggled his toes in preparation. At last, confident, he reached out to the ridge cautiously with his left foot. Sliding it along the dry, gray wood, the wood seemed solid, almost willing to take his weight. 

Having reached the end of his stride, he then dragged his other foot slowly behind him until he stood squarely on the top of the roof about six feet from the edge where he started. With this first success, he now had the desire to beat the dare. He knew he could and with that as inspiration, the initial hesitancy faded away while he slid his foot forward again to the maximum of his stride and pulled the other behind him. On the ground, the younger boys began to jump around as they saw something they thought was impossible. Their best friend was defying gravity, dismissing danger as if it was some annoying gnat. 

David made two more strides and was now almost to the center of the roof. As he brought up his lagging foot, he heard a loud, sharp crack from under his feet. He froze. His knees were suddenly weak and he was unsure of his balance. The boys on the ground heard the sound and were silent as they watched helplessly. David looked around him, trying to reason whether to go forward or try and work his way back to where he started. Deciding the worn path was the best option, he slowly turned himself around and began to slide his foot along the ridge to head back where he came from. 

“You're going to lose the dare!” Pete yelled from the ground, his arms crossed and an unusually blank look on his face. He just stood there in judgment, like a referee waiting for the penalty so he could call the game. 

After David had moved only a few feet more, he heard another crack and this time three of the slates on the roof broke away and fell into the building. In a flurry, a dozen pigeons suddenly bolted out, surrounding him in their confusion. In the swirl of wings and feathers, David began to lose his sense of up and down. Coming dangerously close to falling off the spine of the roof, he flailed his arms wildly to gain his equilibrium, looking like a madman attempting flight. The boys panicked and screamed “Don’t fall!!”, the youngest almost in tears from the drama. Calmly, David regained his balance and after pausing for a moment to steady his breathing, looked to continue his journey along the roof. 

It was then that he chanced to look down and the realization of height caused a slight wave of vertigo. Luckily, that uncertainty faded away, but then greater danger now appeared. As the dust settled and the feathers blew away, he now realized why the farmer had never demolished the building. Underneath him, in a wide alley in the center of the shed, a tractor was stored. It was not just any tractor but the tractor used to clearcut brush in the ditches and grassed waterways. Directly below him was the cutting bar, long and narrow, with the blades facing upwards towards the ceiling. Its sharpened teeth were ready for any mistake. Any slip on his part and the blades would slice him into pieces when he fell into them. “There are these knives down there!” He screamed back. “If I fall, I’ll get cut up!” Pete’s face suddenly went pale. “Don’t move!” He bellowed out. The other two boys picked up the cadence and screamed at him not to move while they ran around helplessly trying to find something to get David off of the roof. 

Seemingly as a warning, the ridge snapped again, and this time he felt the wood give an inch or so. More boards gave way and fell into the shed, one of them impaling itself on the blades, the others snapping in half as they hit the support bar. Time and gravity were not on his side. He now began to realize that the longer he thought about this, the less chance there was to get out alive. As if in agreement, the beam snapped again and the wood shifted a little lower. Looking down at his shoes, David could now see a crack along the wood running underneath one shoe and approaching the other. 

He felt afraid. At any moment the beam could snap completely in half and he would tumble down on the knives. He began to pray, not for salvation, but for a quick end, little pain, no blades through his face so his parents could cradle his white, cold face in their hands. But how would they see this? Was this suicide? If so, hell awaited. But no, he didn’t want to die. Could this be murder? No, he came up here willingly and alone. What would this be? But this was something, and looking down at the rows of blades, coldly awaiting his demise, he felt a voice in the back of his head saying no. It wasn’t a thought, but an impulse, not a want, but a command. A deep source in his brain that he never knew was there, yet now took control. Like a knight coming out the castle to meet the enemy, a sense of strength grew in his chest. Consciously, he slowed his breathing, controlled his thoughts and felt the rush of adrenaline into his muscles. He turned and looked at the forward end of the ridge where he needed to be.    

Partly from panic, partly from this sudden clear eyed view of what needed to be done, he turned towards the end of the roof, his goal now clearly in sight. He narrowed his eyes, crouched down facing the far end and bent as low as he could. He slowed his breathing, then pushed off with his back leg to move him forward. As he did the wood snapped and bowed down a couple of feet. The slats on either side crumbled inward, falling apart like a house of cards. But David had a strong initial push and with the remaining foot on the beam, he pushed ahead as hard as he could. He was airborne just for a second, but it was enough. He sailed forward four feet, then when his shoe hit the beam again, he pushed off as hard as he could hoping with luck that he could hop his way across. Behind him, after each push off, he could hear the wood bark in protest and then crash into the building. He jumped again, then again, the wood beneath his feet giving way with the force of every push, yet he was going forward, with the peak of the roof growing closely with every leap.

He jumped again, then again, and then lastly, with a huge effort and a primal scream drawn from deep in his lungs, he pushed off the last footing and landed with both feet at the end of the roof. The momentum almost pitched him over, but he pulled himself back, lowering his center of gravity on the beam so he could regain his balance. Breathing heavily, he looked behind him and studied the carnage. The ridge had snapped completely in half and it had collapsed into the shed, landing on the knife bar. All of the roof slats that had been around him had also fallen into the shed, covering the tractor like a lean to. 

Shaking from the tension and the exhilaration, he stood up once again, then leaned forward placing his hands on his knees, staring at the ground. Around him the other boys had fabricated a platform using pallets and other debris that they had found. They were unable to reach the crown of the roof, but with the confidence of beating death, David jumped down a few feet to the top of the platform, then down a few more jumps until he was on solid ground. 

The two youngest boys cheered with joy and hugged him as if he had just flown around the world. Pete held out his hand and David complied. “Wow.” was all Pete could say. “Take your shoes off.” was David’s reply. 

September 17, 2022 03:27

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1 comment

Mustang Patty
10:11 Sep 17, 2022

Hi Gregory, I liked the way you took the prompt and turned it into a story full of suspense, and a dare that is all too common among young boys. I enjoyed the read, but I wanted to share some thoughts about your style. For instance-when you are making a quote in writing, such as this one, “All you got to do is walk from one end to the other along the top of the roof.” Pete said wirily. “Should be a breeze.” You need to use a comma at the end of the line - "All you got to do is walk from one end to the other along the top of the roof," Pe...

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