a short story, by Michael Sherrillo
He lay beneath the large oak tree, looking out. There is something special about the summer sky at night, warm breezes and cool earth mingle around you as the grasses hiss and the trees sigh. Looking up at the diamond studded night; he felt certain emptiness, a peaceful oblivion of comfort, almost womb-like security. Out here, under the oak tree, he could sit with his eyes half-lidded in contentment, taking in the entire nightfall at once. The sounds of the world were drowned out, as if the stars had turned up the silence till nothing else remained. The problems of his world became far and distant, here there was only room for peace, and everything else was pressed out and away till they became specks on horizon, then nothing.
The sounds of his parents yelling at each other washed over him thought his mind was so far away that he could no longer hear them. The usual sounds of dishes breaking, the baby screaming, and the TV turned too loud were nothing more than the faint hiss of static in his mind. Beneath the oak tree, he sat, alone with the world. No close neighbors around, no one to hear, to see, to know…no one but him. The tracks down his cheeks were partially hid in the darkness, revealed only through the shifting glow of the harvest moon, filtering down through the boughs and branches as they gently swayed above. The dilapidated house behind him might as well have not existed at all; the uneven glow coming through the windows from the TV, the figures moving back and forth in the kitchen, just shadows passing bare bulbs and unshaded lights. At one point, the sound of yelling stopped and was replaced by a tump as something struck flesh. Only to return more frenzied than before. The sound spilled on, over, and away from this silent sentinel as he sat still; repetition had dulled his notice of it even if he had been aware enough to hear. His own body had marks covering it, his arms lightly greened from being grabbed a little to hard to often, his neck sore and stiff from being pushed or thrown… but those were the good marks, those were the ones that would go away. He hated the ones that didn’t the ones inside; those marks covered his soul. The sight of a plate flying across the room and hitting his fathers forehead, splitting his eyebrow as he fell back against the counter and slumped down, blood staining his shirt. The picture of his mother’s eye one morning, swollen completely shut and surrounded by a dark rainbow of colors fading from deep purple to light green. The memory of their faces inches apart as spit flew from each other’s mouth and the veins and tendons on their necks throbbed with the intensity of the curses being thrown. These scars were there every time his eyes closed. Bitterness, anger, hatred… burnt onto his innocence. Searing him with pain that spilled out from his eyes in hot tears. So little of it he understood, but this was his entire world.
There was beauty in the summer sky, it didn’t yell or scream. It took him into it’s its dark folds and shrouded him from the world around him. He couldn’t feel the salty tears burning his eyes, or the runny nose dripping off his chin. He couldn’t even hear the pleading whimpers wrenching his whole body and burning his thick cotton filled throat. And he couldn’t feel the weight of his parent’s revolver in his hand. He only felt the emptiness of the sky, saw but was to young to understand the perfection and beauty of it. So complete was his innocence and his awe, the as the barrel, warm and wet from being held too tightly in hands too small, pressed against the side of his head like he had seen in cartoons. His only moment of total conciseness was when he looked one last time at the stars, like so many diamonds in the sky, winking at him, as if they had secret for him only. He saw the peace of the night above and wanted to become a part of it. As he closed his eyes, the darkness came, and takes him away with it.
A few miles away, off the poor country road, sat a small house with a smaller old couple in it. They both stopped eating their dinner and looked up at each other. “What was that?” the woman asks. “Probably just a car backfiring out on the road.” He replies. “But I don’t hear any car…” she worries aloud. For a moment they look at each other, their eyes meet and lock briefly, speaking without words. If they had been able to afford a phone, they might call someone, but without it, they both knew there was no point in worrying. “Your probably right” she thinks aloud, as her gaze shifts to the window pane and the darkness beyond, “just a car out on the road…”