2nd place in our Picture Prompt short story contest goes to Catherine Haws, and her story, Fire Engine!
Mamma says summer’s almost over, an I gotta spend it right. Killing a thing aint spending it right, though. You gotta spend summer right by suckin popsicles, an countin stars at night, an climbing trees t’ hang ropes from. When you kill a thing it’s like summer’s plum over.
No body knowed yet what I done, so I peeped around a tree t’ spy at the house. The brim of my hat crunckled against the tree till it fell off choking me a bit with the holding string. Uncle Andy gave me it fer my birthday. He said I’d grow into it and wear it a whole slew of summers.
I peeped back at the body.
If I digged a hole nobody’d see it. I’d just dig a hole deep out where nobody’d know. The garden! The dirt’s good fer diggin there. I knowd because Mamma let me dig and fish out all the rocks fer my collection and the dirt ‘allays fluffed around easy like.
My heart thumpled, like the truck when we drive t’ Uncle Andy’s. I ‘spose that’s what hearts do after you kill something – it thumples. The spit in my throat sunk down t’ my heart too, leaving dry spatches. I swallerd a lot, but t’iddn’t work none.
Oncet I set my eyes on him, I couldn’t look away then. I never seen a real dead body before. Bugs and fish don’t count, cuz everybody knows that.
This here was different. I’d killed him. And it was like summer was killed with him too in my heart.
I didn’t mean t’ kill him. He just got in the way of the nail.
Daddy ‘allays tole me not to stick nothin in my new gun but potato bits, and not to point at nothin that could get hurt. I mostly ‘allays listened, cuz he could tell if I didn’t and’d woop me good. He’d woop me now, sure. If he knowd anyhow.
I could burry it in the garden, down under the punkin’ vines, an nobody’d know.
But I couldn’t. Cuz somethin stuck me right t’ the ground and my back stuck right against the tree. I wanted t’ sneak over an grab the shovel an dig, but nuthin’ in my bones wanted t’ move. All I could do was stare with woozy eyes.
The nail stuck right out of the heart spot. The feathers all around it was red like a fire engine bull’s-eye. I cudn’t a shot him that hard if I was aimin right at ‘im. This was a accident. I didn’t mean to kill nothin.
A glob of water dribbled outa’ my eye. I snuffed hard to keep from cryin, but it warnt no good. I reached back and grabbed my hat to cover my face. I knowd I was shameful.
I’d done killed a cardinal.
A crunchy noise, like fishing fer the sugar raisins in cereal, whispered behind me, too close to run away from.
“Willy?” Daddy asked real soft like from up high.
I swallerd and tried to stop cryin.
“Willy, what happened?”
I yanked off my hat an smashed it to the ground. Then came a swish noise of quiet jeans bending down with big knees in ‘em. Daddy hunkered down beside me.
“What happened, Willy?”
“He’s dead.” I chucked my new potato gun away. With my blinky, woozy eyes I couldn’t see where it hit.
“What happened, Willy?” Daddy asked again with a real calm voice like he was sorry what happened.
“He just got in the way an I was shootin an he got hit.” I wiped my nose on the bandanna around my neck. My heart thumpled hard.
“What was he hit with?”
I knowd Daddy was lookin at me, but I kep my head down to stare at my boots.
“Just a nail.”
Daddy leaned against the tree beside me.
“And how could he of got hit with a nail?”
I raised my shoulders and squirmed a bit.
“Willy.” Daddy’s voice got deep like when he’d sing low. “How’d that nail get there?”
“It just – ”
I sucked in a breath hard.
“I – I stuck it there.” Another piece of water dribbled outa my eye.
“Is at gun for nails, Willy?” Daddy’s big ol’ finger pointed at my gun away in the grass.
“No.” I snuffed into my bandanna again. My mind kep wonderin a question, so I asked it. “Are you gonna woop me, Daddy?”
“Well, now.” He lowered his finger to dab at the tear on my cheek. “What is a woopin’ for, Willy?”
“When I done wrong.”
“That’s right, but what’s it for you?”
I blinked and had to think fer a bit.
“Fer ‘membering not t’ do it again.”
“That’s right.” Daddy poked my nose like he did when he wanted me to look up at him.
I looked up at him.
His glowy dark eyes frowned.
“What do I ‘allays say, Willy?”
I swallered and rubbed the bandanna over my face.
“You say, ‘Now will you remember tomorrow what happened today?’ an I ‘allays say so.”
“Now, Willy,” he said, holding my gun in his big ol’ hand. He pointed a finger at the dead cardinal. “Will you remember tomorrow what happened today?”
I stared at the purdy red feathers of the bird.
We dug a hole an had a funeral. I named him “Fire Engine” an wrote that on a rock. Now I’ll never use nails no more, because I’ll ‘allays remember what happened today.”
“I really enjoyed the suspense in the beginning. I thought this poor little boy had killed a person, and then we find out later what he really killed. Also, how the author puts us in this little boy’s mind. You feel for him throughout the entirety of the story. Very well written!” – Haley Long
Catherine Haws has been writing since the age of 5 with her well known work “The Wuf.” A classic tale of a wolf family who eat a pig. Since then she has written (almost) two novels with the One Year Adventure Novel. Along with writing, Catherine participates in theatre and volunteers with children. If you’d like to read more from Catherine, visit her blog: Paws And Clause.
As the second place winner, Cathrine will receive a $50 prize, provided by our sponsor, CoastalConservatory.com: Intentional Living for Cultivating the Family Enterprise.