We are standing behind the complex where he lives, at the edge of the woods. He is five years old, tawny brown hair with a grin. His eyes carry shadows.
That's the boom boom trail...we don't go down there.
My mind turns this over slowly, examining it for anything that could be good, coming up with naught. An orange cat walks lopsided toward us, its back feet skittering to the side, ribs forming ridges in nappy fur. Milky eyes peer over its ragged smile and its cries sound like an abandoned baby.
This is my cat. He walks funny. Want to pet him?
A head pokes out a screenless window to see who is talking, then darts back inside. Muffled voices, then a burn scarred face appears, then disappears back inside, shutting the window. Meth she'll mumble, one day as we talk on the stoop. The breeze carries the aroma of sweet smoke.
My dad is over at Billy's. I can't go there, when he is there.
Empty beer cans pile in an altar, random debris littering its base, leftovers from last nights sacrifices to Bacchus. I can still hear their raucous echoes in the blood beating bass drums in my ears, and just try to breathe. A cop strolls through the alley between the buildings, eyeing us then moving on, his heavy belt jangling.
Want to play hide n' seek.
I feel the march of a thousand ants on my arms and neck. We play. We play to make it all go away. For a brief few moments maybe it does. I make calls, file reports. In two weeks, he will fly out of the second story window, in a rain shower of glass.
We will hear stories. He will get a new home. I will not see him again.
This is not pretty.
Sometimes it isn't.
But I keep going back to broken homes and busted lives, with band aids, board games and hope.
I can't save them all,
But maybe just a few...
This is the weight that I carry.
This was written for the photo prompt at Magpie Tales.