Jonathan Wan

An Undeserving Silence

It was dark outside. A single light dimly glowed over a convenience store, like an island in a bottomless ocean, a thought in an empty mind.

From the outskirts of the shadows a boy emerged. His face was pale; his limbs paler, but still, like a moth to fire he sauntered to the door. He wore only an oversized white shirt and a lifeless expression.  The fluorescent white lights from inside the store were flickering, like that of hope in times of despair. There was a man behind the register, smoking cigars. The store had filled with smoke, the boy could tell, as the smoke was seeping out of the broken glass in the windows. He put his fingers on the doorknob, it did not turn. He shook the knob violently but the man behind the register did not respond. The boy looked down at his bare feet and let his thoughts paddle around in his head.

He looked back at the dim lamp post and he supposed he could turn around. Stifling a cough, he brought his hand, or what was left of it, to his throat. The large sign plastered to the window read “24 Hour Assistance.” He could not turn back. The boy crawled through the broken glass in the door, allowing the shards to slowly scratch his skin. The shards that tore his shirt and drew red lines along his back made the boy tremble under his weight. He could not stop, he had no other choice. He knew why he was here.

Blood dribbled down his back. The lines would scar, but they would not be visible through his white shirt, now slightly tattered. The boy made his way through smoky haze and empty shelves. It seemed there was nothing to buy, but the boy knew better. He stood at the register, too short for comfort, and only able to see the man’s eyes. He breathed in and felt the irritation of the smoke in his lungs. “I need to buy a lottery ticket,” the boy said. His voice was hoarse, and his quiet tone too corrupt to be innocent, and sounding of a voice beyond his years. As the boy spoke he could feel the wounds in his throat open and stagger his breath. It had been hard to admit that he was in a position of need and vulnerability. He glanced up at the man; his eyes were bloodshot and twitching, unadjusted to the light.

“Age,” the man spoke, butting his cigar on the desk. His eyes twitched endlessly into the smoke and empty shelves, as if unaware of the boy.

“Seven.” The boy replied quickly, almost catching himself in stutter. It was painful to speak and feel the air brush against his rough windpipe. It was painful even more to speak in the truth, something he had once forgotten, and had now almost too suddenly remembered. The short answer spat out like a droplet in an undeserving desert, aching for water.
The man’s eyes stopped twitching and focused on the boy. “Too young.”

The boy stared at his feet, in slight disbelief. He begun to scratch his sides, but it was useless. His fingers were too short, too worn away by now to alleviate his itch; an itch he longed to silence, and a past he longed to throw away. He did not know where to continue from here. He grew anxious. He clenched his fists and began beating the sides of his head, hoping to fix the gridlock, and that maybe the smoke would clear.

“I need to buy a lottery ticket,” he stuttered louder, tasting the blood beginning to seep out of his wound and into his throat. The boy could feel his past gather itself and surface the ocean. He brushed his eroded finger across the surface of his throat, worn away by his false words, a scar of the evil inside him. The man’s bloodshot eyes jerked.

“Age.”

“Seven.”

“Too young.”

The boy felt nauseous. This was impossible, unreasonable. His chaotic mind, racing recklessly in circles dived madly to the bottom of a lifeless ocean. His feet began to give and he fell to his knees, hearing them crack under the impact. He dug his fingers into his head but it was useless, there was no hair left to pull. His fingers were too short, too worn away to alleviate his pain.

He slowly attempted to stand digging desperately into the wall of the countertop for support. The man looked into the boy’s vivid blue eyes. It was the last sign of innocence in his dishonest soul, but even then the blue was fading. The boy in his last struggle to stand struck a palm against the surface of the countertop, ashes from the cigar stinging his hand.

“I NEED TO BUY A LOTTERY TICKET,” he screamed exposing the barren child inside. Uncontrollably, he coughed blood onto the floor. He threw his hand over his mouth in an attempt to hold the blood back, but stained his hand and his white shirt in doing so. The boy looked up at the man, and then down at himself. Blood smeared his pale skin, and streaked down his white shirt.

 “Leave.” The man said while lighting a new cigar.

The boy stood leaning there for a moment in exhaustion. He looked up at the register but the man was gone. He saw the blood spill on the floor. The lights went out. He stayed motionless for a moment like a lost child, and felt the emptiness of solitude. Turning his back, he limped towards the door. He ran his hand along the empty shelves, feeling nothing, and shuffled toward the dim light outside. He walked aimlessly around the lamppost, hoping the lights in the convenience store would once more illuminate. It was too late, he thought viewing his pathetic reflection in the broken glass and the deep red set into his shirt; they would know, they could see. He felt the hunger grip his insides, and the loneliness straddle his mind. The boy ambled towards the outskirts of the light, and disappeared into the shadows.





[BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS, CLASS OF 2008 EDITION]

Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.