Michael’s hands bled and shook from gripping the rusty metal railing. Rocks peaked out from under the river. He knew he needed to land in the small gaps between them to survive. His fingers gave out.
He sunk down in deep, murky water. His body dropped slowly, like an astronaut floating in space, until he reached the sandy bottom where the stream calmed down. His ass brushed against something pointed, but oddly soft. Michael looked down; he screamed out bubbles.
Pointed nose and fat lips stuck out from the sand. As Michael convulsed in panic, he dug through the base and more of the body emerged—a woman’s. Her eyes stared, her curly hair started to rise like tentacles, and her legs spread out awkwardly. Then, Michael’s hand hit a stiff limb, a hand as small as his, sticking out from under the curly haired woman. He blacked out.
“Hey,” a voice said. “Hey, wake up!”
Michael coughed out a concoction of water and spit.
“Don’t you need to get home? Ain’t your mama worried?”
Michael sat up—legs stretched out and back slouched—in the riverbank. “No,” he said.
“Betcha she’d be mad.”
“I slipped up there,” said Michael. He pointed at the now still bridge. “I thought I was going to die.”
“Nah, you won’t die. No sir. It’s pretty deep. It looks like it’s not. But it is”
The other kid helped him up and they walked through a narrow dirt path in the bushes leading to a meadow a few meters away from the river. Michael slugged behind him, his mind fixated on the fall, his body heavy.
“I’m Rolli,” the stranger said. “Sit here.” Michael sat on a piece of log and warmed himself up in front of a campfire, under the light of the full moon.
“Michael,” he said.
“Your mama’s gonna be sad if you died. Mamas tend to do that.”
“I don’t know.”
“My mama has a temper, you know,” said Rolli. “Really bad temper. She’s crazy.”
The fire lit his face up from the bottom; he looked like a ghost.
Chubby cheeks accentuated Rolli’s slanted eyes, but his twig-like body made him a lollipop. He wore a white tank-top and red basketball shorts, no tsinelas on his feet
“You don’t like your mama, don’t you?” asked Rolli.
Michael didn’t answer. Mind fog cleared out bit by bit.
“Well,” said Rolli, “I hate mine. She’s always mad, you know, always yelling ‘Stupid boy! Go to your father where you belong!’ Well I don’t know where papa is. Betcha she doesn't know too. How am I supposed to go to him if no one knows where he is? Doesn’t make sense.”
“I see,” said Michael. His limbs and abdomen vibrated, but no terror came over him.
They just shook. He thought about the fall, how he survived, and the bodies. Where would he go after this?
“You know how it feels, yeah? She beats your ass too?”
“The freaking beating!” Rolli screamed. He stood up, feet firm on the grass. “Why do they do that? Doesn’t mama know it hurts. It hurts so bad.”
“It does,” said Michael.
Rolli sat back down. “It’s like she wants me to die, you know. I don’t want to die.
Why does she want me to die? I’m her son.”
Michael thought for a moment. Crickets sang their mating chants in the dark. The night’s air brushed against his skin and he expected to be cold. He felt nothing, perhaps occupied in thinking.
“Maybe,” Michael said, “maybe she hates your papa. My mom hates my dad. They fight every day.”
Rolli scratched his head.
“He’s still with us,” said Michael. “I think not for long, though. He has another wife in the city, another kid.”
“Oh,” said Rolli. “That sucks.”
“Auntie Marites said I look like my dad. Do you look like your papa?”
“Yeah, they say that too!”
“Maybe that’s why. Because we look like our dads. I don’t really know.”
Rolli rubbed his chin. “I think you’re right. You’re probably right, Mikey.”
“I know mama loves me. Even when she’s mad or something, you know.”
The gentle flow of shallow water echoed through the moonlit meadow. The wind howled, as if a kapre blew a whistle from the distance. Slowly, the fire shrunk down to a dim burn. The orchestra of crickets played to their fullest, engulfing the night with distorted alien sounds. Michael stopped shaking. Although still soaked, he felt nothing.
“I think that’s why she jumped after me.”
“What?” Michael asked.
“Mama. We were at the bridge and she pulled my hair. It hurt, you know. It hurt bad, so bad. I bit her hand. I didn’t know what to do. I just bit her hand.”
“What happened next?”
“Well, she pushed me off the bridge.”
Michael slouched and buried his face between his palms.
“Did your mama push you off, too?” asked Rolli.
“No, I ran away from home.”
“Well,” said Rolli, “I didn’t know the river was really, really deep. I thought it was supposed to be, you know, not deep. That was weird, huh?”
“Yes, it was.”
“I was lying down at the bottom, then I saw mama fall to the water. She fell right on top of me! Can you believe it? She was over me and I was under her.”
“I screamed and screamed and there were bubbles but she wouldn’t move. She wouldn’t move.”
They didn’t talk for a while. A good while. Michael lay down on the grass and turned to his side. He tried to cry, even forced some tears out, but the absence of sadness bothered him.
“Hey Mikey,” Rolli finally said.
“When are you going home?”
The words traveled softly, a faint whisper in the dark, where the river flowed in the distance, where the wind sang, and only the smoldering firewood and the moon was light.
“I don’t know,” said Michael. “I think I’ll just sleep.”
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Great first story! Keep writing!
Thank you for reading!
Very interesting and thrilling read. Kept your attention to find out the results. What a writer sets out to do. Well done.
Appreciate the read. Stay safe!
updated it, hopefully for the better. Thank you for the likes and feedback.
"Michael learned his name was Rolli." It's better to just have Rolli say, "I'm Rolli," the next time he speaks. First, shorter, second show instead of tell. Tell is usually faster, so it is used to shorten a boring bit of information you cannot excise completely, but here it is longer. "under the subtle light of the full moon." Check your word choice and be sure "subtle" is what you want. “I feel like you don’t like your mama,” said Rolli. speech is tricky because you want to have distinguishable voices for different characters, but ...
Thank you for the feedback, will rework in my spare time.
Also, I find it difficult to establish a good flow. If you could give me tips, that'd be great
There are a few main parts for flow- opening, rising tension, climax and denouement. Your opening is "Michael wondered if he could make it. Maybe the water would cushion the fall and he’d land in the gaps between the chunks of rocks peeking out from under the water. They waited for him. His hands bled and shook, tightly clenching the rusty metal bridge he ran across earlier. When they failed him, no wave of fear rushed through his body. Unlike what he had seen in television, time did not slowdown, there were no flashbacks of every preci...
Man thank you for taking the time to help beginner writers like me. Hoping for more feedback on future stories. Really helpful
Awesome story! Stay safe and healthy! Keep writing!
I will. Thank you!