Sugar and Blood

Below is my contribution to this week’s Trifecta challenge to use the following definition of grace:   “a : a charming or attractive trait or characteristic; b : a pleasing appearance or effect : charm <all the grace of youth — John Buchan>; c : ease and suppleness of movement or bearing.”  This started as a much, much longer story and I think I liked it better that way.  Maybe I’ll toy with that a little more and post it separately.


Bub Hively stood at the door with an empty grocery sack and a hangdog grimace.  Mikey couldn’t stand him, his high-water jeans or his grimy hands that were always begging to be filled.

“Mommy wants to know can she borry some lard an some sugar,” Bub drawled.

Although his mother had promised to make an applesauce cake with that sugar, Mikey knew she’d give it to the Hivelys anyway.  They need it more than we do, she’d insist later.

When Bub left, Mikey followed him down the dirt road, hissing, “Filth!  Greedy trash!”

Bub continued to stride with an aberrant grace that struggled against his stunted limbs, as if his lithe soul had been born into the wrong body.  Eventually he stopped at a bend in the road and turned.  For the first time, the boys stared fully into each others’ eyes.  Bub’s mournful eyes impregnated the air with an immeasurable weight that settled onto Mikey’s chest.  He stared, breathless, terrified, desperate, until a sleek, Thunderbird convertible whipped around the corner.

As Bub hit the dirt with a puff of ochre dust, Mikey saw a veil fall away into the spilled sugar, lard and blood.  Driven by a novel compulsion, he knelt and grasped Bub’s filthy hand, urging, “You’ll be alright.”

A man jumped out, glanced at Bub’s twisted body and ran his hands back and forth over his hair, as if erasing the image.

Mikey watched Bub’s eyes go blank and whispered, “He’s dead,” more to himself than the man.

“Oh geez, kid.  I didn’t mean – I’m lost and –”

Standing, wiping his hands on his thighs, Mikey considered the man’s cashmere suit shrewdly.

“Don’t worry mister.  He’s just a Hively.”

The man pushed a wad of cash into Mikey’s hand.

“Give this to his family.  You keep some too, just forget you saw me.”

Without waiting for an answer, he hopped back into the Thunderbird and sped off.

Mikey turned, stuffed the cash in his pocket and walked back home.


31 responses »

  1. How horribly real,made me cringe at a child’s cruelty and greed!Great character sketches here using such few words & I liked the way you drew on inherent human weaknesses 🙂

  2. I got so drawn into your story–what great storytelling this is. As blunt and cruel as it is, the story feels so real. I wonder about the before and after of this scene, which is probably why you liked it better in its longer narrative?

    • Thank you! Yes, there is definitely more character development in the longer version, which I think makes the ending somehow more shocking but also more expected at the same time (if that’s possible).

  3. I wasn’t over the shock to realize Mikey’s greed. In shock, I ‘d imagine you’d mechanically stuff the money and walk home. It wouldn’t be a right or wrong issue not in that instant. And this kind of shock I know up close and personal. Regardless of the intent of the closing, it is clear how greed, resentment and sympathy intersect. Children are no less cruel because they are human.

  4. This piece is is so reflective of the nature of the human race. Some will always feel superior to others-as chillingly illustrated by Mikey’s remark-“Don’t worry Mister. He’s just a Hively.”

    Excellent piece of writing!

  5. This makes me disappointed in the human race (mostly because I can believe this could really happen.) It’s disappointing that a child could behave like that, but it’s sickening that an adult would act so callous, like a life is worth a wad of cash.

  6. I like what you’ve done with dialect here. Not everyone can pull that off. I also like how you’ve captured the “grace” of the impoverished. Written like someone who truly sees (as both an artist and a human being).

    I’d also like to hear more about your adventures in adjuncting. I will be tuning in.

  7. Wow! This was a painful read because it rings true. Sadly in our country, money talks, excuses, covers up and changes people.

    You crafted this story so well with vivid descriptions and realistic dialogue. It’s a heartbreaking tale. I would love to read the longer version. Kudos to you for doing so much cutting and still producing a complete story!

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