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In the overgrown, ripening summer, four boys, elementary age, chase the day away. It is that magic hour, right after dinner, just before the dark comes and beds call. It is twilight when boys can claim ten-foot tall dirt mountains on construction sites as their own kingdom. It is that time of not-day, not-yet-night when shadows grow longer than they ever will get and when the sun casts mirages and mirrors on tin trash can lids and car windows.
It is this moment when Hector takes his playschool plastic three-wheeler into the alley behind his house to play games of bravery, rivalry and danger with his brother and cousins. They take turns at first, on the “Big Wheel” as Hector calls it. He is only slightly too big for it. His brother, Cameron, outgrew it last year and his cousins played on it when they were six, but even then they barely fit. Hector is small for his age, but he controls the group dynamic, and he knows it.
Simple turn-taking becomes poking and prodding, becomes challenges to intellect, ability and manhood. Hector’s youngest cousin, Manny, takes the Big Wheel out of turn when Hector turns too fast and falls. While Hector still nurses a scraped knee, Manny lifts the Big Wheel above his head, like some tyrannical Cyclops. Hector screams, his most valued possession hurled like felled timber before the howling and jeers of his kin.
Something in Hector snaps, erupts like a hot, battered soda can and he leaps for Manny, fingers brandished like Wolverine’s claws. He strikes Manny’s face, narrowly missing his eyes. Fingernail scratches on Manny’s temple will be attributed to a tree branch when their mothers ask later, but at this moment they are cause for retribution, for war.
The two boys roll and rage on the shark skin cement. Neither commit to full blows or all-out fist fighting, but the potential is there as their seething young muscles grapple. Cameron and Vinny, in their upper elementary wisdom, know instigation and co-conspiracy charges when they see them. They look at each other, wordless, and run for an alibi. Manny and Hector continue to tumble, teeth bared, neither acknowledging the inevitable truce they know they must come to.
For it is not this day, not this sunset when they will at last come to terms with their places in existence, in the hierarchy of boys that becomes the hierarchy of men that becomes the structure of civilization. It is not yet their time to accept their lots and play the cards they’ve been dealt.
During this dusk, all things are still possible. And so they curse each other more, but eventually let go. They examine their own wounds first and then the wounds of their adversary. And at this time, they can still feel the pain of the other. They can still regret the suffering caused. They can still walk away, holding each other up unsteadily and, together, tell their mothers a unified lie.
Levi Andrew Noe
Born and raised in Denver, Colorado Levi Andrew Noe attended Metropolitan State University of Denver, receiving a B.A. in English writing. For over eight years Levi has been a teacher and instructor of children ages zero to twelve, as well as a tutor of college age students with learning disabilities and an ESL teacher in Japan. Levi has many passions, though writing will always be his one true love. He has traveled extensively through North America and Asia, he practices and teaches yoga, and is the owner/creator of Tall Tales Yoga LLC a story-based children's yoga program. Levi won first prize in 2011 and 2013 in Spirit First’s international poetry competition. His works have appeared in Twisted Vine, River Poets Journal, Elephant Journal and Japan Travel. His first published children’s book, One Day as a Raven, is offered in the kindle store. Levi is the editor in chief and founder of the podcast Rocky Mountain Revival, Audio Art Journal, which can be found on iTunes or Stitcher.