Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The first thing he noticed when he awoke was that his head felt swollen, like a round melon, bigger than his body. He’d stayed awake most of the night, face up beneath a checkered down comforter, replaying the advice his psychiatrist had given him. She was a dark-haired harpy, sure, but everything she said was correct. It all had to be destroyed so he could move on.

He found an axe in his parents’ basement and felt like the tree was the best place to start. The tree had served as a constant reminder of his lifelong failure and it needed to come down. He was surprised how easy it was to get rid of. No more than 14 chops and it had crashed hard to the ground. He continued hacking away at it until it looked like the broken kites he’s lost to it so many years before.

The stone wall was next. He kept glancing up and down the street with every whack of the ball-peen hammer, thinking someone would come along and tell him to stop. But no one did. It was his anyway. Well, his and his best friend’s. But his best friend had taken the coward’s way out of this town, so it was up to him now to break it apart, piece by piece. Even if his friend had been there, he would’ve found a way to keep the wall up, to talk him out of tearing it down. His friend had always been the rational one, the soft one. But that was why he was gone anyway. Too soft for this world.

He dismantled the mailbox. He’d never really received any mail anyway. What good is a mailbox when you’re not popular enough to even get a Valentine?

The last thing hurt the most. He tried to turn his heart cold, to stone, and just go through with it, but this was always the most difficult part of the process, shedding the feelings. He doused the empty dog house with gasoline. He lit the match, then blew it out. A tear stung his eye and his hands trembled. He took a deep breath, lit another match and slowly tossed it into the old dog food bowl at the house’s base. He watched the orange flames mix with the brown leaves that fluttered into the blaze. The colors reminded him of a Thanksgiving many years back. One last look at the dog house, then he walked away.

He strengthened his resolve by looking back at the town he’d grown up in, just as he crossed its tiny border. He swore he heard the tinkling of a piano somewhere in a house nearby and the distant howl of a dog. His heart pumped fast and he almost went back. But he knew he was meant to leave one day. And that day was today.

Pumpkins were in bloom as he passed the baseball diamond. A cloud of dust rolled up the street towards him. This was the place he would never return to.



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