A story for everyone

by Pari (and everyone else!)

(Hi all. I've had a rough few days; the rescue dog we adopted bit one of our children and we had to take him back. It was heartbreaking, like losing a friend all over again. So, I decided to do something different for the post today. I trolled through the beginnings of my short stories and found this one. It's a good start. How about we write the rest of it?

Here's how I see this working:
Everyone who comments adds a sentence, a paragraph or two to the already existing prose from other writers. Toward the end of the day, anyone who wants to take a stab at the ending can do it — just let us readers know that's what you're up to. Anyone can contribute more text at any time; heck, I might do that, too.

I'm not sure this is going to fly, but thought it'd be an interesting experiment.

Let's see what happens.

One . . . two .  . . three . . . HERE GOES:)

The janitor found the kid back by the dumpters before morning announcements. The child's face had already grayed, his body arched in a weird rigor mortis. No need to feel for a pulse. Eyes that glassy no longer held a soul.

"We can't just leave him there," said the principal, her breakfast returning from its first voyage down her throat.

"Can't move him either," said the janitor. "It'd mess up the police investigation."

"How do you know that?" she said too quickly, suspicious.

The janitor just shook his head and pulled a dingy handkerchief out of one of his many pockets. He dabbed at his eyes.

"You're telling me I don't want to know?" she said.

He closed his eyes and shook his head again.

The principal stepped back a little, her high heels making a clicking sound on the asphalt at the desolate edge of the parking lot. Cell phone at the ready but not yet open, she addressed the man who'd discovered the child. "Juan, would you go get Mr. Valdez? I'll need him to keep things calm while I deal with the police."

"Yes, Mrs. Henry." He started to leave, but she reached for his arm.

"And please don't tell anyone else about this. Not yet."

"Yes, Ma'am."

Her hand remained in place a minute after he left, the heat of their connection turning cold in the winter wind. It was times like these she hated her job, hated that there were parents who neglected their children or, worse yet, who paid the wrong kind of attention to them.

She took a deep breath, letting the tears fall from her cheeks onto her wool coat, and dialed 911. When that was done, she called the superintendent at his home and explained the situation.

"I wish you'd waited to call the police," he said. "You know the media will be all over this. Four kids in four weeks." His cough was phlegmy. "I'll get someone from communications out there to handle them right away. You just hold tight."

That was just like him to worry more about image than anything else. He hadn't even asked if she knew the boy. Horror of horrors, she did . . .

(So, what happens next?)

23 thoughts on “A story for everyone

  1. B.G. Ritts

    Six months ago his family had moved into a fixer-upper on the street running behind hers. It was the oldest house in the area and they had been putting a lot of work into the place. It was beginning to show.

    Her youngest had just asked if they could invite him over for dinner sometime soon.

  2. Jake Nantz

    When she asked her son Derek why he was interested, he mentioned the bruises. She glanced down, noted the faint yellow-on-gray covering his misshapen arms. All that was left, but enough for a stark reminder that she could have done something. Instead she chose to stay out of it.

    The result lay before her, mouth twisted in a silent, accusatory scream that would haunt her for a very long time.

  3. pari

    In the distance, she could hear the ambulance and police sirens, their wails tearing at her real and assumed impotence.

    In spite of the spots of the snow still on the ground, in spite of her dress and flimsy designer stockings, Mrs. Henry kneeled by the boy.

    “I am so sorry, Michael,” she said to him. “I am so damn sorry.”

    Then she stood and faced the parking lot’s entrance.

  4. Louise Ure

    The ambulance got there first, red lights spinning like a carnival against the brick wall. Two paramedics jumped out with practiced urgency, and race-walked to the fallen boy.

  5. pari

    “Oh, God,” said one of them when he got close enough to see the child’s face. “I recognize this kid. We picked up his mother two days ago. Heart failure.” He shook his head. “Kid wouldn’t let go of her hand, screamed his head off when we took her out the door.”

  6. Pepper Smith

    A blue Honda sedan pulled into the lot and parked beside the building, blocking the exit from the school kitchen. Mrs. Henry recognized the vehicle–after all, he’d been here multiple times since the first child’s discovery. Archie Long from the Gazette. He must have had his ear glued to the police scanner to have gotten here this fast.

    The principal sighed deeply and turned away from paramedics and their unpleasant task. The least she could do was try to head Long off and give the child as private a send-off as possible.

  7. J.D. Rhoades

    The paramedics knelt and began their work. It was obvious what their final verdict would be, but there were procedures that had to be followed. They were the lucky ones in one respect; once reflex and training took over, they wouldn’t have to think too much about what this might mean, this child’s body lying like a piece of discarded refuse. The principal wasn’t so lucky. She knew there was some procedure for this, something she was supposed to be doing, but it had all deserted her. All the uncertainty and fear was right here, right now.She heard running feet behind her, then the sound of someone skidding to a stop. She couldn’t take her eyes from the body.”Holy shit,” Valdez said at her elbow.

  8. Sandy

    “That’s Michael. I had him and his mother in three days ago to meet with Child Protective Services because during recess last week Ed Hanlon thought he saw Michael being bullied by his cousin. You remember him, don’t you?”

  9. pari

    Long arrived two steps behind him. “You said it, Juan.” He snapped a picture before Mrs. Henry could stop him. “Is . . . was he a student here?”

    “Archie, have a little respect for the dead. This is neither the time nor the place for this discussion. His parents haven’t even been informed.”

    “So he’s a student here? Four kids killed at your school. Sounds like education is getting mighty dangerous.”

  10. Jake Nantz

    Her face grew hot, but she couldn’t think of a retort. Long’s crooked grin snapped her out of her daze. She stepped in front of him, blocking his camera and invading his space. “Back away, bottom-feeder. This child–no, these children, and their families–deserve better than a low-life like you to eulogize them.”

    Long leaned back, but didn’t take a step. The grin remained. “Can I quote you on that, Judith?”

    “That’s Mrs. Henry to you, Long.” She knew her comments would end up in the story, and she didn’t care. If that spineless Superintendent wouldn’t support her, she was better off elsewhere.

  11. Fran

    “No need,” she replied, her eyes icy. “He was just leaving.”

    Valdez smirked and backed away. “Too true, got a deadline to meet. Hey, how about “Killer School” for a headline?” He folded himself into his car, a cell phone materializing in his hand.

    Judith started to turn back, to go watch the paramedics finish up, but saw a new car pulling in.

    “Oh hell,” she sighed. Of course it would be Jake Gonzales who caught the call. He had taken the reports on the other deaths, so of course he had to show up now.

  12. Tom

    Juan, the janitor who knew about evidence and procedure, walked into the maintenance shop. He unlocked the tool room cage, stepped inside, looked around the shop as he locked the door.

    No one there.

    Juan opened the parts locker to reach behind the stacked nuts and bolts and nails and screws for the cigar box. Nothing wrong with a cigar box in a parts locker. From the cigar box he withdrew a brown paper bag, and from the bag came a wide, flat and full bottle of vodka.

    He put the bottle back empty in less than a minute. The tears in his eyes, though, weren’t from the burning in his throat.

    He closed the locker door, and leaned against it like an old friend. His eyes were shut, his cheek against the cool metal.

    “Maybe,” he whispered to himself, “if I was still a good man. Maybe. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”

    He heard the door of the shop open. He tried to stand up straight. Like a man.

    From the doorway, young Detective Gonzales said, “Senor Oliveras, I wonder if you could help me. I have a few questions for you.”

    From inside the cage, Juan Oliveras looked out at the detective, and nodded.

  13. pari

    “I found him just like that, Detective. I didn’t move a thing,” he said.

    The detective smelled the booze on his breath, saw his left eye begin to twitch. “Just walk me through it, okay? When did you find the boy?”

    “Right when I got to work, at six-thirty.”

    “And what did you do?”

    “I checked for a pulse on his neck. Didn’t find it. Then I called Mrs. Henry.”

    “And then what?”

    The janitor looked away. He wasn’t about to tell the policeman about what he did next. That wasn’t something he’d ever tell anyone, not ever.

  14. kit

    Squaring her shoulders, and taking firm strides she met “By The Book” Gonzales as he was exiting his car.Jake took one look at Judith’s face and realized there were reasons she wanted to meet him out of earshot of the people gathered around.He hadn’t “caught this call”, nothing quite so simple, his supervisor assigned him to this duty after they heard what district it was in and the fact that he had worked with Judith before.Judith was a product of her era, oh, she might dress professionally, talk the talk, but they both realized that Judith would never walk the walk. Under that professional attire beat the heart of a rebel that didn’t play by the rules, used the *grey areas*, and would go to the wall for her kids, if she thought it neccessary.” Michael and his family are in this country illegally, his mother is in the hospital with a heart condition, his siter posed as his mother to meet with Child Protection Services, we may have child abuse issues, reports were taken but not filed, because we were still investigating and working out how best to proceed, and then this…I thought it best if you had some background before you walked into several conflicting stories, it’s a nightmare Jake.”

  15. pari

    “What else, Juan?” said Detective Gonzales. “You’re leaving something out, aren’t you?”

    The janitor sighed. “He’s my nephew, sir. My sister’s son.”

    “Michael? That was his name?”

    “In English. That’s what they called him.”

    “Are you sure that’s all you want to tell me?”

    Juan stared at the floor. He wasn’t going to talk about what he found in his nephew’s hands. He wasn’t going to talk about his own young son and the mental problems the boy seemed to have — or the fact that Luis hadn’t been in bed this morning when he should’ve been sound asleep.

  16. Tom

    “So,” Juan thought. “I can give him a chance to get some help and live a little while in the outside.”

    He tried to stand taller, as tall as he could. He made himself stare into the eyes of the younger man, as if the cop was just another barrio kid he’d caught stealing manzanos.

    He tried.

    “Call me Senor Oliveras, please. It’s better. It’s more polite. Respect. I’m a janitor, I’m an old guy, but I deserve some respect.”

    Juan stood strong.

    “Yes, of course,” said the detective, new questions forming behind his eyes. “Of course. And what I respect immediately is the truth, especially when it’s a hard truth, and someone speaks it anyway.

    “What hard truth haven’t you told me, Senor Oliveras?”

    Juan took a deep breath. “Por mi hijo, for me myself,” he thought. He walked right up to the thick wire mesh of the toolroom cage, and looked the proud young cop in the eyes. Juan made a special effort to hold his head high as he said, “I killed the boy.”

  17. pari

    [THANK YOU TO EVERYONE who participated in this. It was a good experiment. I might try it again . . . AND I had no idea Juan had killed the boy himself. Ah, hell.

    I wonder why he did it?]

  18. Tom

    He didn’t, Pari. He thinks his son did, but the son is innocent as well. Still, Juan thinks he needs to ‘man up’ to atone for his failings.

    In the net of assumptions, the killer is still free.

  19. Tom

    My initial impulse was that it was Long. But, depending on what Pari meant for Juan to find in Miguel’s hand, I think it’s better if it’s the school superintendent.

    Imagine the outrage and resentment he can be having about so many migrant kids in his district, and so few tax dollars coming in. Think about the price he pays in hate and loathing from the citizens who all think they can do his job better than he can.


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