The Bramble
Melanie Atherton Allen
Doorknobs Winner
“Didn’t know what time it was, the lights were lo-o-ow,” Jack sang as he walked along the path.  It was late August, 1972, and Jack was twelve.  As Jack sang, he fought a fierce running battle against the brambles and bushes that threatened him from all sides.  His sword was a stick he’d found.  He’d picked it up for the same reason we all pick up sticks: it had looked like a good stick.  Only later had it become a sword.

“I leaned back on my ray-dio-o-oh,” sang Jack.  Whack thwack went Jack’s blade.

He came to a forked pathway and took the left way abstractedly.  He was focusing on his singing and on his war against the Forces of Shrubbery.

“Some cats were laying down some rock… and … roll” Jack’s face wrinkled.  The lyrics of the next bit were tricky.  “Not a soul was saved?” Whack thwack.

“Not even one,” said the man on the path behind him, with infinite sadness. 

Jack spun, and held up his stick.

It was a sword.

The blade was bloody.

The shrubs were spouting blood where he’d struck them.

The man seemed to go in and out of focus.

Laughter and lamentations rent the air.

Hundreds of tiny movements came from the undergrowth, rushing towards him from all sides.  Converging.

“Run,” said the man, “it will give you something to do.”

Jack ran.  He thought of home, of school in the fall.

He knew neither would again be his.

First published: February, 2014
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