Hello once again. You know, I’ve been doing this for quite some time, time enough that it has become my mantra in a sense. Disappearing, claiming I was doing things, and then returning with some short stories that I’ve been saving up. This true. And this also the realities that I’ve faced, I think. Or something. I won’t chalk this up to peer indolence, because it wasn’t. Anyway, this time we have a short story, one that is considerably, or arguably longer than most, about a man who learns a little bit about happiness, one step at a time, through the encounter of a quaint, lost young girl. I’ll be pumping things out, I promise on that, because I have things to pump out. Perhaps not new things, but short stories are going to be flooding. Well, more like a wave. Waves are cool too. Here you go, “Knife In a Hay”.
A scream resounded in the dark alleyway, which slowly turned into muffling as the man covered his victim with a cloth.
“Quiet!” The man said as he pushed him down onto the alleyway and ducked his head. After assuring himself that no wandering eyes would befall him, he brought his victim up and searched his pockets.
“Where is she?” The man pointed a knife towards his victim, and removed the cloth from his mouth, urging him to answer his question.
“I don’t know!”
“Don’t give me that.” The man brought his knife closer to his victims neck, and produced a small picture in front of him.
“You know who that is?”
“I don’t!” The victim didn’t squirm, and fixated his eyes on the knife that found itself near his neck.
“That’s my wife. And you know what?” The victim began shaking his head, his lips sealed, and his eyes bolted wide.
“She’s dead. Someone killed her, and now I want her back.”
“Where is she?”
“What do you mean? She’s dead, you just said that!” The victim began panicking as the man’s eyes began dilating.
“You look like you could have done it. I’ve heard the rumors.”
“They say things about you. You get around the neighbourhood, if you know what I mean.”
“I have no idea what happened with your wife, okay? I didn’t even know you existed!” The man drove his knife into the man’s neck.
“Have I found you yet?” The man said out loud.
“No. I haven’t found you. I’ll keep looking for you then. I’ll find you again,” the man said as he began wiping away the blood from his knife and from his hands. Once he was done, he left the dark alleyway, and began walking down the snow covered walkway. He checked his watch; the dead of night. He sighed and watched as his breath formed and disappeared. He thought that it was fleeting. When the man looked up, the only thing he could see was the star filled sky. It was all so bright, he thought. Too bright for his own liking. He scuttled his way towards the busy intersection of bodies, and walked towards the front of a bakery. The man sighed, he had nowhere to go, and didn’t care. He sat down at the front of the store, with his knees out stretched. His head banged onto the glass of the store, causing him to place one hand over it. He turned his head with a sour look on his face and looked at the glass window. A disheveled face, and a limp body appeared in the glass pane. The man laughed at this image before turning back towards the streets. Cars roared from every side, and exhaust filled the air. People walked by without giving the man a second glance, and even more people gave him pitiful looks. He laughed at that as well.
“Mister?” A voice called out to the man. He had fallen asleep on the store front.
“You okay?” The voice called out again, bringing a of serenity to the man. He woke up slowly, his eyes barely adjusting to the figure in front of him.
“Where–” The man began, but his voice began trailing. Once his eyes had adjusted, he noticed a child in front of him. It was a young girl, probably still in elementary school, the man concluded. There was no one else, and the streets were eerily quiet, with only the odd car or passerby giving much life to the intersection now.
“Never mind,” the man said to himself. He was still in the same streets, sitting on the same store front, and sleeping at the same time. This much was his life, and the man knew that. His knife was tucked away in his pocket, and he made sure that his hands were clean. He checked his watch and laughed at the time.
“You shouldn’t be out so late, young lady,” the man said.
“I’m not out late.” The man looked at his watch again, and looked behind him to see the empty store. He looked back at the child, who was staring intently at him. The man had two choices now, and didn’t feel like doing either, but he knew that if he didn’t answer, the girl in front of him would not budge.
“Fine then,” the man began, “Where’s your mommy? Or daddy?”
“I don’t know!” The girl proudly proclaimed.
“So you’re lost?”
“I came here with my momma and dad to see the lights.” The man took a few moments to think about what she could have meant, and then looked at his watch more closely. Eve, he thought. The thought of that day, made him want to be more uplifting. He figured that if anything, he should at least stick to traditions, and at least have some spirit. At the same time, the thought of spending that spirit alone also made him all the more bitter.
“Did you see the lights then?” The man asked.
“Yeah!” The man waited for her to continue, but she didn’t. The man gave her a questioning look, and then laughingly asked, “You’re not going to tell me about it?”
“Not unless you ask!” The man was taken aback by the child’s boldness. Or perhaps, it was a type of protectionism, the man thought. He was still a stranger.
“Fair enough. Then, how were the lights?”
“They were pretty!” The man waited again for her to continue, but as she didn’t, he realized that he would have to keep asking.
“Right,” the man started, “How pretty?”
“Really pretty! They were in all kinds of colors: blue, red, yellow, orange.”
“Purple! Pink, brown….” The girl began trailing as she said the word ‘brown’ which prompted the man to ask, “You don’t like brown?” The girl shook her head, “It’s a yucky color,” she said.
“Yucky? Wh–” The man stopped himself in the middle of his sentence, and realized why. He laughed. Still precious, he thought.
“After the lights, where did they go? Your parents I mean.”
“They took me to eat!”
“What did you eat?” The girl thought about it for a few moments, and then proudly answered, “I don’t know!”
“You don’t?” The girl shook her head.
“Then, after that?”
“We began walking down the streets where they had this big parade.” The girl stretched her arms out to emphasize how large it was. Must have slept through it, the man thought.
“After that?” The girl repeated, “Then I found you!” The man began piecing together her story in his head. He looked at his watch again, and sighed.
“How long ago was that? I mean, when you found me, from when you last saw your parents.”
“I don’t know!”
“Great. Well, no point just sitting here then.” The man got up and stretched his back and arms. He walked over to the walk way, and peered into the distance, looking both ways for cars, and for people, especially those who look like they need a child.
“That parade,” the man said looking back to the girl, “It’s long over.”
“You have to go back to your parents.” The man looked up at the sky, stars were glittering, and his breath formed and disappeared like before. It was all so fleeting, he thought.
“Do you know where momma and dad are?”
“Me? No. I don’t.” The man looked to his right, to the end of the streets, seeming to peer off into space. The girl didn’t think much of this notion, and simply stood looking at him, wondering what he was thinking about.
“I don’t know where anyone is. I’m still looking.” The girl tilted her head in confusion to the man.
“Anyway, let’s go. Your parents must be worried sick.” The man stretched his hand out to the girl, who accepted it. They began walking towards the center of the city, where the parade had previously happened. The man was asleep during the event, but knew all too well what it was about, and where it was. It reminded him of his past.
“I wonder,” the man said to the girl, who was skipping along beside him, “How you even found me.”
“What do you mean?”
“You got lost from your parents. Somehow. And ended up wandering all the way to that bakery.” The man stopped himself, and realized something.
“No. The bakery, was bright. And it probably smelt really nice too. It was probably warm as well.” The girl tilted her head in confusion to the man’s ramblings.
“Never mind,” the man added, “Why did you approach me, anyway?”
“Because you seemed cold, mister.” The man looked down at the girl, who was skipping away, looking at the steps in front of her, and seeming to be collecting snowflakes on her hand. A few cars roared by, sending a wave of light to them, and then drifting off into the distance. The air seemed to radiate cold, and the snow didn’t make it any better, the man thought.
“I was cold,” the man said.
“But the light, was warm,” the man said to himself.
“My momma said to never talk to strangers.”
“Rightly so,” the man said with a laugh.
“But,” the girl stopped, looked at her feet, and then up towards the man, “You, you’re just like a kid.”
“Like a kid?” The man asked, giving a raised brow to the child’s thinking.
“What makes you say that?” The man was referring to his height, and his other obvious differences to any male child the girl could have meant. It perplexed the man that he would be compared to a child.
“When little Timmy, and little Billy, and little Jimmy are all alone, they look just like you!”
“When they’re all alone?”
“They don’t like playing with other people. I think. I always see them by themselves, and they always have bruises and bandages on. I don’t know why they like playing by themselves.”
“Bruises and bandages?”
“They even have friends! I see the older kids always with them! I don’t get why they always look so sad though.” The girl’s pace slowed.
“Have you tried talking to them?”
“I have! I go up to them all the time! But lately my friends tell me to stop going to them. And even my parents say that I shouldn’t try so hard. I don’t get it!” The man kept his eyes fixed on the streets, and on the city. He needed to find the girl’s parents, but as she continued her story, he just couldn’t help but be interested. Being alone, and not having anything or anyone to comfort them. It all seemed so close, the man thought. It was all so close.
“So? I looked like them, when I was sleeping at the bakery?”
“Yeah!” The girl said with pride.
“I was just a kid, huh?”
“Just like Timmy, and Billy, and Jimmy!”
“Childish.” The man’s voice began trailing off. He laughed. He couldn’t help but laugh.
“Maybe your right,” the man said. The girl gave him a questioning look, but the man simply continued walking, staring forward, and looking out for her parents. He laughed again.
“Say. Don’t you have some kind of paper, or number or something that your parents gave you?”
“Yeah. Like if you ever get lost, and they tell you to call it or something.” The girl thought about the question, and shook her head. The man sighed. They’ve been walking for quite some time now, and even the girl had stopped skipping. The man’s face was growing red from the chill winds, and he could tell that the stars would soon subside. He only had one place to go now. Her parents were nowhere to be found.
“Hey! Look!” The girl said excitingly. She let go of the man’s hands and began running towards the city square. The man thought that she had saw her parents, but as he followed up, he noticed a big gathering. He checked his watch, and looked up again. A group of people were all huddled together. It was an unbelievable amount of people, the man thought.
“Hey! Don’t run off like that,” the man said as he caught up with the girl.
“Look! It’s Santa!” The man looked up to see a man dressed in all red, in what was undeniably a Santa suit. There seemed to be a divide in the group of people. There were some like him and the girl, who wore what they had on, jackets and scarves. And there were people who dressed in bright red and green. One of them pushed past the crowd with a cell phone on hand. The man stopped him and asked, “Hey? What’s going on here?”
“Oh this? We’re setting up for the float today.” The worker scuttled off.
“A float?” The girl asked, with bright eyes.
“Yeah. Apparently. Never seen something like this before, though. Must be new. I wonder if–” The man stopped himself. He didn’t want to remind himself. Not now. It wasn’t the time for that. In one strange sense of it, he wanted to move on. The girl looked at him with a questioning look, and then asked, “Hey, mister?”
“Are you sad?” The man looked at the girl with wide eyes.
“Why?” The man said with a soft voice.
“Because, you’re eyes are always down. And you walk so slowly, and you always seem to be thinking about something!”
“That makes me sad?”
“Whenever my momma and my dad are sad, they are always like that! They look like the worst kind of people ever!”
“They look like the worst kind of people ever when they are sad?”
“Yeah! Like super scary!” The man laughed, “Super scary?”
“I guess I’m super scary, then,” the man said.
“You’re kind of scary. But I think you’re okay!” The girl said with a bright smile. The man smiled, and laughed again. He’s never had this much joy, he thought. It was a good night, or a good morning, he thought. Truly a time to be alive, and truly a time to let go, he thought.
“I guess I am sad,” the man affirmed, “But not anymore, I think.”
“You moved on?” The man looked at the girl surprisingly.
“Where did you learn that from?” The man asked.
“That’s what my dad says when someone becomes not sad. He says they move on.”
“I think your dad is a smart person,” the man said with a chuckle.
“Yeah. I think I can move on now,” the man said to himself, “I won’t need to find her. There was no way I would find her, I think I knew that.” The girl looked at him curiously, but the man simply waved her off and laughed.
“Let’s find your parents, okay?” The girl nodded her head. The man began walking around the crowd, avoiding the herds of people. However, he quickly found out that his notion was fleeting.
“Mary!” A voice resounded in the distance, catching the girl’s attention.
“Momma!” She answered back. The man looked in the distance, to where a woman and a man appeared, running towards him. Once they arrived, the girl named Mary ran towards her mother, who embraced her in her arms.
“Thank goodness you’re safe!” The mother said in relief.
“I’m sorry. Our daughter caused you so much trouble,” she added.
“No. It’s fine. Things happen. It’s a busy holiday. I understand,” the man answered.
“How can we ever repay you?” The mother asked. The man considered his answer. It took him a few moments, but as he looked up into the fading sky, and looked towards the crowd of people, he knew that there was only one thing he wanted to do. The man grabbed the knife from his pocket, and placed it on the snow covered walk way.
“Call the police.”