He wanted to be the first one up the hill, just this once, after all those years of second place in every race and every game, but the darkness of the woods slowed him down. He tripped over a fallen branch, and thought, you don’t have to be swimming in the middle of the lake to get yourself into real trouble, you just have to be a little careless. Just a little careless. He laughed, remembered his purpose, and continued, as serious as an eight-year old could be, picking his way quickly through the nighttime woods. He recognized, even in the darkness, the boulder off to his left, an old tree fall to his right, the place where he fell and Jason laughed. Getting close. He didn’t yet see his own deck lights, but he knew he was almost there. The sirens had receded behind him, so loud at first down by the beach, there punctuated by the static of police radios. Off to his left, the narrow dirt road climbed the hill to its summit. No lights coming up that way yet, but they would soon. He had to be the first, had to beat them. Focused, he ran feeling his way, silent and quick. It felt good to breathe. An odd thought, he knew, but there it was, the air and his body, two legs beneath him on firm ground, like kicking through dark water. He climbed the last steep section, slipped through the hedge into the grassy yard, inhaled deeply. And there was his yard, exactly as they had left it hours ago: the remains of the Fourth of July picnic, the half-erected shed that was his father’s and brother’s project, their driveway. He had won! He was the first to the top of the hill. He raised his arms in the air, fists clenched. His father on a chair on the patio looked surprised to see him. At that moment, at the bottom of the driveway, a single police car with blue lights flashing, turned up toward the house, its high beams illuminating the woods. The father looked at the boy, then at the police car, then at the boy. He wiped his hands on his pants. “Where’s Jason?” The boy took a step toward him, his elation punctured, drowned. “Where’s your brother?” The boy ran, buried his face in his father’s shirt, and sobbed. The cop stepped from his car, closed the door softly, and, with blue lights, like water, shimmering in the trees, swam down down down to them.
[Refer: This story refers to the Kate Bush song, “Running Up that Hill.”]
Bill Gillard is a refugee from the high cost of living in his ancestral homeland of New Jersey. He lives in Appleton, Wisconsin, teaches creative writing and Shakespeare at University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, and considers Doctor Who in front of a crackling fire on a cold night a romantic date. So far, his wife agrees, which continues to delight him. His poetry and prose have appeared in many publications, including Writer’s Chronicle, The Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, The Literary Review, and Review Americana.
Image by John Loo