Editor’s note: We asked our contributors to respond to this spring-related prompt: Using the following phrase as a starting point write for 10 minutes without self-editing:
“Collapsing under a canopy of green…” (source: The Journal)
The Thrill Is Gone
Collapsing under a canopy of green, Bobbi clapped her hand over her mouth, stifling the ragged breaths of escape. Brandishing a pocket knife, he had demanded money. A nickel he asked for but what he was really after was their fear, to feel the power of his menace. Her heart jumped, ready for the fight. She stared him down hard. His eyes looked blacker than what passed for normal.
She pushed her chin out. “A nickel?” she laughed, “That’s nothing. I’ll bring you a dime, but you better not bother me again.”
Charlotte gaped at her, mouth open wide then clapped a clammy hand over Bobbi’s wrist.
“Let’s go,” she whispered.
“Yeah, go get the money,” Danny growled, “or I’ll cut you.” He waved the knife, barely bigger than her little finger.
“Wait here.” She pointed to the ground. He nodded.
Exhilarated, she grabbed Charlotte’s hand, “C’mon!” They dashed toward the distant park gate, through it, around the bushes and down the block. They ran and ran. Charlotte ran home.
Bobbi rolled herself under a bush to hide, a lilac bush that bloomed in spring, the dripping bunches of purple wilted now, shriveled and brown, in the boring heat of late summer. Uncertain if she was scared or thrilled, she kept a watchful eye. Wait, are those eyes peering through the innocent heart-shaped leaves? Her heart raced again, her hands trembled, her breath heaved. If he comes I’ll kick him, I’ll scream and I’ll kick him, then run for the Drydens. He won’t get me, can’t catch me. Her ears begged for the threat of footsteps, the slap of Converse rubber against concrete. She listened. Watched. Waited.
After while her imagination grew weary. She let her heart relax, her breath even out. She crawled out from under the bush, brushed the dirt and tiny flower petals from the seat of her pants.
“Hey Mom,” she said climbing the back steps into the kitchen, the salty scent of frying burgers welcoming her home, “can we go to the pool tomorrow? I wanna try the high dive.”
Her mother turned, smiled, “Sure, honey, if you think you’re ready for it.”
Bobbi’s brother, Fred, laughed. “They don’t let 7-year-olds go off the high dive.”
“We’ll see,” she answered washing her hands at the kitchen sink.
“I’ll bet you a nickel you’ll chicken out.”
“A dime and you’ve got a deal,” Bobbi said. She shook his hand then bit her burger with an animal hunger.
The next afternoon she stood, after special permission from the lifeguards, on the edge of the eight-foot board and the thrill returned, the leaping heart, the trembling hands and the wild sense of abandon. She stepped into thin air, right foot first, arms pressed tight to her side like a missile. The drop felt like the greatest freedom, falling through the thick August air. Splash. The water welcomed her, shoved the breath from her lungs with the force of its hug. She was ready to surface long before gravity would release her. A panic gathered in her throat, her pattering feet brushed the bottom of the pool. She pushed hard, fierce with survival, her eyes she trained on the beams of sunlight bouncing off the azure blue water. With a sputter she surfaced, gleamed a bright smile. Her mom leaning, arms folded, watchful at the pool’s edge, breathed a sigh of relief. Like an Olympian who’d just won gold, Bobbi waved reassurance. Mom beamed and let her jump off that board all afternoon.
Fred never did pay up.
Roller coasters and sky diving, mountain climbing and double black diamond skiing, Bobbi will spend the rest of her life searching for the thrill, that wild rush she felt confronting crazy Danny Archer, who did eventually end up in “juvie” and probably was someone she should have been more afraid of. She won’t find it, that same bright sparkle of alive, but she won’t ever stop looking.
Jessica Ciosek lives with her family in NYC. Her short story appears in the “Mothers” edition of Minerva Rising.