For Today I Am a Boy

For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu Read Free Book Online

Book: For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kim Fu
was no way I could dig a hole here, let alone one deep enough to contain the Away box. I slid down and rested against the shovel, picturing the boxes and suitcases waiting by the door, their passive victory.
    As my breathing slowed, I became aware of the sound of moving water—a slow, babbling flow. I left the box and shovel and climbed the slight slope. I caught sight of a narrow tributary below me, a stream that flowed into the larger river that went through town, the one with the bridge that didn’t like to be cold.
    Maybe the dirt would be softer closer to the stream. More like mud.
    I couldn’t lift the box this time, so I shoved it up the ridge. Once it was over the hill, I gave it one solid push so that it rolled down to the river’s edge. I threw the shovel after it and stumbled down to them. The box was dusty and streaked with mud, the corners crushed inward, making it more like a ball.
    I started to scrape at the bank with my shovel. It didn’t really make a hole—the dirt just broke away and crumbled into the river.
    â€œPeter!”
    I looked back. A figure stood on top of the ridge, the eastern sun behind. Even in silhouette, I knew it was Helen from the threat of her stance. She edged down the hill sideways, arms out like a surfer’s.
    I sat down, defeated, putting my butt squarely in the mud.
    Helen stopped in front of me. She looked at the shovel. She looked at my tired face, my stained clothes. At the dirty, still-sealed box now with only the
Aw
of
Away
legible. She watched the box tensely, as though it were a wound-up jack-in-the-box.
    She knelt down. Mud and water got into her sandals. With both arms, she thrust the box into the stream.
    The box sank down with a sucking
blomp,
then bobbed up again. Only the top was visible, like an iceberg. The box moved leisurely with the current. When it struck the rocks along the bank slightly farther down, not very hard, the tape came loose from the sodden cardboard. The flaps popped open.
    Helen and I watched as Adele’s possessions flowed away and the box buoyed more and more easily to the surface. Glossy paperback covers jumped like iridescent fish. A coveted leather jacket floated on its inner lining, looking like an eel, sleek and menacing. Everything migrated slowly downstream.
    I felt numb, more conscious of the wet seat of my pants than anything else. Helen extended her hand to me. I took it and she pulled me up. We walked back to the house. At the back door, Helen took off her sandals and wiped her bare feet on the mat. She lined up her shoes neatly. I kicked my sneakers off and left them where they landed.
    Adele was standing with her boxes and suitcases by the front door. She paced a small circle. The house still had the anticipatory air that it had when my parents were sleeping, their authority latent. Adele’s face—eyebrows knit in confusion, not accusation—made me realize what we’d done. I started to cry.
    Adele opened her arms and I rushed for her knees. “I just wanted you to stay,” I mumbled, muffled by the bottom of her nightshirt. Even then, I knew my eight-year-old tears were crocodilian. I knew what I was saying:
I don’t care if you’re happy, as long as you’re here.
    I could feel Adele and Helen meeting eyes over my head. Helen stayed a safe distance away from our embrace, her head held high and her stare blank.
    Â 
    Adele’s stuff washed up on the riverbank a day later. Someone phoned the police, thinking there had been a drowning, that all those clothes implied a body. It was in the local paper.
    Another family would have reported what had actually happened, saved the town from speculation. Ours ignored it. The explanation was too complicated, too private. I had guilty nightmares. In my dreams, policemen stood at the edge of the river, carefully skimming the water with butterfly nets. They moved as gingerly as archaeologists, gathering pieces of a teenage girl’s

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