Afflicted 20: Chapter 19

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Bevan didn’t hear from Jack, but he also didn’t hear from anybody else about him, so he didn’t worry. He figured that his mate was probably just wagging school and staying out of his mum’s way; he also figured that she was probably prone to exaggeration—all mums were. Especially Jack’s.

The rest of the week passed uneventfully, and on Friday Rick announced that his old man had bought him a new second-hand bike, and was fixing it up. Did he want to go fishing the next day?

In response, Bevan eyed his friend critically. He still didn’t look well enough to be riding down the river to go fishing. ‘Are you sure you’re up to it?’

Rick sighed impatiently.

Bevan changed his tack. ‘Let’s not ride, alright? We’ll walk. If we leave in the morning we’ll still get a good day’s fishing in.’

Rick sighed. ‘Fine.’

‘Besides,’ commented Bevan. ‘If your dad fucks up the brakes on this bike like he did the last one, the ride’ll kill you. If it doesn’t, you’ll barely be able to get out of that place in one piece.’

So it was that Bevan and Rick met up the next morning and walked down along the river. They hadn’t done it for what such a long time. They didn’t talk much. The beautiful sunshine was warm and with its cascading heat came silence, which walked with them for most of the way. Each was absorbed in his own thoughts, neither of them taking much notice of their surroundings, even though for both of them the river was easily the most wonderful place in the world. The two boys had been living in a fog for what seemed half their lives, a fog that had made them forget the simple pleasures in their lives.

The walk down around the river took them a good while. Their usual spot was a good five k’s or so along, and much of that was over rutted tracks, through pestilential weeds resplendent with thorns and other nasties that catch you unaware if you don’t pay attention. It took them an hour to get there sometimes. But Rick’s condition meant that it took them longer than usual; and the sun was so nice that it made them want to linger.

After a while they got to where they were going, to the big tree on the bend in the river. They stopped in their tracks at the same time, as if by telepathic consensus and, now hidden from the sun and in the strengthening breeze, they pulled out their jumpers with one accord and put them on. They also simultaneously looked up, sat down, and lit up a smoke. They smoked, and sat, and looked up into the tree, contemplatively. The sun filtering down through the leaves hit them in the face now and then, and highlighted how ill they looked.

Their worries about Jack had passed in the warmth of the morning. Neither of them had expected to see him swinging gently in the breeze, held aloft by a noose around his neck. Shortly after they’d sat down, Bevan’s phone started to ring. He jerked out of his reverie and pulled it out of his pocket to see who it was.

It was Jack’s mum.

Bevan sighed, stared at it with sadness, then shuddered and pitched his phone into the river.

‘I’m sorry, man,’ he whispered up at Jack. ‘Your mum’ll murder you when she finds out you’ve killed yourself.’

Fini.

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