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Short Story About a Tragedy: Innocent Dream of Guilt
When you’re a kid and one of your best friends is run over in the street right before your eyes, you become a sort of emotionless robot that, without direction, would just sit there idle for God knows how long. Greg Mills was sitting on his porch steps, in his best suit of clothes, and holding the football that these days he carried with him wherever he could get away with it. He was twelve years old and he was going to play football in the NFL. His friend Darren was going to also, but now he was dead.
“Greg, what are you going to do?’
It was his mother from inside the house. She wanted him to go over to the Johnson’s house with all the other friends and family of the deceased. They lived just one street over and he knew he should be there. But his body didn’t feel like moving off the step.
“I don’t know”, he said sulkily. The summer sun blazed out from behind a cloud and brightened the world, and Greg felt a little better.
They took his mom’s Pontiac over so she didn’t have to carry the big tray of sausage and peppers she had made for the occasion. Darren’s street was packed with cars parked along both sides.
“I know it hurts, baby. But you need to be strong now for his momma. Can you do that?” She leaned forward in the driver’s seat and made him look at her.
They went up the front steps, Greg carrying the food and following his mother. She did the greeting and talking and Greg just wanted to be away from there. Everyone was shedding suit coats and ties in the heat. Some lady in the house was singing softly. Greg saw the framed picture of his friend on a coffee table. Everybody was crowded around it, as if by doing so they wouldn’t have to let him go yet.
Greg looked at the smiling Darren, a smile that said, “Look at me. I’ve got my whole life ahead of me.”
He remembered. They had been playing basketball at the park. There was only Darren, Greg, and two other kids from the neighborhood. Soon the bigger kids would come and chase them off, so they decided to walk up to the corner store and get some sodas. They had just walked up Elm and were turning onto Liberty when a green and brown SUV went over the curb and onto the sidewalk. It struck two of the boys and Darren was dead on impact. At least that’s what the police said.
The other boy had a broken hip but he would make a full recovery. The SUV didn’t stop, of course, when it had killed Darren. It kept going until ending it's journey, and Darren’s existence, against a brick chimney on the side of somebody’s house. If Greg had not jumped off the sidewalk and rolled onto the grass, he would have seen it all in horrible detail. The way it happened he saw only the top of Darren’s head above the hood of the SUV. It was covered in blood.
He got through the visit at Darren’s house like a little man until he and his mother went to tell Darren’s mother that they were going, and that if there was anything they could do, they were only one street away. He made the mistake of looking up when she said, “Oh honey, my boy’s with the angels now, don’t be sad.” He had started blubbering like a four year old and had been ashamed. No one seemed to hold it against him.
That night he had a dream. He and Darren were playing football. It was the high school nearby, where they both would have attended. Just before he awoke, Darren was going up to catch a pass that was thrown high over his head. He always bragged to Greg how he was going to make more money than T.O. He was going up for the pass, only Greg was seeing it all through the eyes of a player on the other team. He saw Darren was going to make the catch so he lowered his shoulders and ran at him with all his speed. He couldn’t stop himself. It was just what you did when you were on the other team.
He timed his tackle perfectly and the collision was one of those where the player delivering the hit can feel how good a hit it is. The ball glanced off Darren’s fingers and out of bounds. Darren and Greg hit the ground hard, and as Greg was about to bounce up and return to his team’s huddle, he heard his friend say, “This is your fault, Greg. I would've caught that.” Greg looked down and saw blood flowing out from beneath Darren’s helmet. He was dead.