Saturday again and time for another instalment of my story A Snap of the Fingers.
This was a difficult story for me to write, because the main character is a ten year old boy, and when I was developing the idea for the story, my son was just a year or so older than SETH ROGERS is in this story, and when I was writing him, I had my son in mind, mostly for his looks but also for some of the ways he reacts to some of the situations he finds himself in, and trust me, he finds himself in some tough situations. Imagining my son facing those predicaments was tough, but I hope it helped me to get it right.
Last time, Seth was offered the option to save his mum, dying from cancer. The price for this is death – ten-year-old Seth has been tasked with killing two people, one he knows and one he doesn’t. After some soul-searching, he decides he’s going to do it.
The night had been difficult. Sleep was slow to come and when it did, it was fitful, tortured; his mum screamed for him to help her. Red stood behind her, an expression on his face that said you can change all of this.
He had risen early, dressed and left the house before his dad had stirred. He had never left the house on his own before, at least not without his mum or dad knowing where he was going. He could hardly ask permission now: Dad, I’m just off to kill someone; I’ll be back for dinner.
The walk to the canal took about fifteen minutes. It was somewhere he had often come with his friends. Skimming stones and scaring ducks were things you did at ten years old. Today he was looking for something else.
All the boys knew him as Rodney. He was a middle-aged man that lived in a hole in the riverbank. Two large sheets of cardboard covered the hole most days, but the boys knew he was in there; it was the overpowering stench of extra strong cider and human waste that gave it away.
Stepping carefully over the empty cans that littered the path alongside the canal, Seth carefully climbed down until he stood in front of the cardboard-covered hole. Easing back one of the sheets, Seth peered inside.
The early morning light crept inside highlighting Rodney’s head. The stained woollen cap he wore poked out of what could only be described as a sleeping bag; it looked like two large, stained coats had been sewn together with a shoelace, but underneath it, Rodney snored loudly.
Seth pulled out the kitchen knife that he had taken from home. The blade was almost as long as his forearm, and it shone in the early morning sun. He stared at the sleeping figure for a time. Rodney was strange, sometimes a little creepy, but he had never really caused any trouble. Sometimes he would shout at the boys when they scared the ducks on the water. Sometimes he would ask them for money, but mostly he kept to himself.
After a minute or so, Seth lowered the knife. Who was he kidding? He couldn’t kill someone. Did that mean he didn’t love his mum as much as this strange man that no one cared about? He didn’t know the answer to that, but it didn’t change the fact that he couldn’t do it. Putting the knife back inside his coat, Seth pulled his head out of the shadows and pulled the sheet of cardboard back into place, shutting Rodney back into his hole.
On his hands and knees, Seth began to clamber back up the short grassy slope. With the early morning dew making the surface slick, progress was slow, but a few minutes later, his hand reached the gravel path. That was when he heard someone clear his throat, and looking up, he saw Red standing over him, one arm reaching down to him.
“Would you like a hand up, buddy? I’ll take you back home, so you and your dad can visit your mum.” He took hold of Seth’s hand and pulled him onto the path. “It’s her last day today, I’m led to believe.”
“I’m afraid,” Seth said, looking up at Red.
“I know. Let me help you.” Red slid down the small slope and beckoned Seth to follow. Together, they walked back to the cardboard-covered opening in the bank. Red lifted away one of the large cardboard sheets and held a hand out to Seth. “Knife, please.”
Without speaking, Seth pulled out the knife and handed it to Red. It felt like a dream; Seth’s arm didn’t feel connected to his body. He watched as his hand released the knife. Red took it from him and ducked inside Rodney’s meagre shelter.
Rodney lay motionless, still snoring loudly, as Red placed the point of the knife over the man’s chest. He turned back to Seth.
“Come on. Just here. Push it in just here.”
Seth slipped inside next to Red and took the knife handle from him. He looked briefly at Red, who nodded. Closing his eyes, and gritting his teeth, Seth leaned on the knife and it slipped between Rodney’s ribs, into his heart.
Rodney’s eyes flew open and his mouth opened to scream. Red placed a hand over the open mouth and pushed his head back to the ground. Rodney continued to make muffled attempts to scream for several seconds, before his body relaxed, and his eyes closed.
Red had to prize Seth’s hands off the knife handle that he still gripped tightly. Seth moved away from the lifeless body and backed out of the hole, knocking the remaining piece of cardboard over. He watched Red as he pulled the knife out of the body and wiped it against the makeshift sleeping bag. To Seth, Red appeared to be moving in slow motion. He could hear his heart thumping, feel his chest rising and falling as he struggled to catch his breath. He watched, mouth agape, as Red leant over Rodney’s body and placed a hand against his neck. After a moment, he turned to Seth and gave him the thumbs-up. He backed his way out of the hole dragging Rodney’s body – still in his sleeping back – positioning it alongside the canal. He turned to Seth, smiling.
“Nicely done, young sir,” he said, and kicked the body into the water, dropping the knife in with it.
Seth watched the body as it floated away from them, before disappearing under the water, out of sight below the surface.
“Will my mum be better now?” Seth asked.
“Go home, Seth.” Red climbed back up the bank, onto the path and walked away.
That’s it for Seth this week. Come back to see if it gets better for Seth next week? [SPOILER] It doesn’t.
My Question to you: Do you ever base characters on people you know well? How does it feel?