Out of Breath by Alexis Boddy-Cotruta

The two boys run. As fast as they possibly can. Trees all around, bobbing up and down with each stride. Breath falling back on their faces, blurring vision.


Yes...he was.

How can you tell?

I just can, OK.

Slower now, as though distance from the scene gives less warrant for speed. A road. Cars shushing past in a long row of silver, blue, black, red. They will have to step out. Wave a hand, ask for help. They look at one another.

The bigger one, the taller one, takes the lead. As he always does. As he always will do. Got to be in charge. Got to take the lead. He lifts one arm, waving it up and down like a parking barrier gone berserk. Cars slow but don't stop. He begins yelling.

Help us!

The other one, the smaller one, the skinnier one, joins in. They both jump up and down waving their hands. Scissor jumps. Just like gym class. A car pulls off the side of the road. Silver. A man gets out. He is older than their dad. That is the way they measure age. Constant referral back to their parents. He walks over. A woman sits in the car, purse under her chin.

What's the matter here?

There's a man, in the woods, he's dead.

First time saying those words. They seem strange. As though he may be lying.

An ambulance comes. Flashing beacons rebound off dark trees. A woman in overalls with a soothing voice and blankets.

A car pulls up. A known car. Their Mum's car.

My poor darlings.

The smaller one begins to cry. That's OK. That's his prerogative as the smaller one. The bigger one is stoic. That is what he must do. Got to be in charge of everything.

A trolley clattering out of the woods. A lump covered in a blanket. Same as the blankets wrapped around them. A red-faced man pushing it. Shaking his head at the woman with the soothing voice.

The smell of decomposition drifts up their noses. Mingling with the scent of pine cones and mud.

Mum pulls them close. Her perfume blots out the other smell for now. But it will return later. From now on the woods will always smell bad. Always that rancid aftertaste.

Copyright 2009