“You’ll never catch me! Never!! Argh! . . . BOOM!!” the giant robot was heard shouting at the top of his digitalized voice just before a company of small army men blew it away with the gigantic explosion of an invisible STA missile. 
        A 10-year-old boy named Paul found glorious sanctuary in a Centinela Park playground on a sweltering hot summer’s day in Inglewood, California. Dirty grains of iridescent sand stuck to the moist brown skin of his knees as he knelt low in the sandbox, playing with his toys amidst the wild flailing of his arms to and fro; simulating all the action and battle scenes from the inner recesses of his finely tuned imagination. His Turbo Power Rangers; his movie-version Optimus Prime Transformer; his eight or nine little green army men; his bright yellow 1:24 scale die cast H2 truck. Even the headless, half-naked form of his little sister’s old Kenya doll. They were all joined together there with him in the box, inanimate though willing participants in his childish capering.
        As he played with his cars, his trucks, and his action figures, Paul’s attention was gradually drawn away from his toys to the scores of trees, shrubs, and plants that surrounded him, most of which towered over him and swayed softly in the warm, stiff breeze. The different colors, sizes, and textures of the plant life enamored him. He had frequented this playground many times before, though never noticing the diversity of his environment. To the ground all around him had fallen hundreds of leaves of many shades and shapes. Green ones with grey accents, crumpled up like old dollar bills. Yellow ones peppered with clusters of thin red ones as if setting the cemented ground ablaze. Brown dead ones camouflaged in the dirt; born from the dust and now primed and ready to return to such.
        One leaf in particular caught his eye. He picked it up to observe it more closely. It was a green maple leaf, broad and crisp. It was covered in a fine film of dust, and its edges were slightly browned and folded over. As it lay in his spread palm, it was delicate and yet at the same time strong. It was perfect, thought Paul. He reached into his backpack and pulled out his trusty magnifying glass, wanting to examine intently his newly found treasure. He marveled as he analyzed the intricate design and beautiful detail of his leaf. He traced with his fingers its pinnate venation, drawing his hand up from its base to its ends like pure water, fancifully breathing life and fresh color back into it. He looked up at the scores of maple trees all around, trying to ascertain from which one the leaf fell. He meditated on how the leaf somewhat resembled him. Of course he wasn’t flat and brittle like it. He did, however, have a lot of ideas and feelings going on deep within him; more inside than met the average, untrained eye-just like the leaf. More often than not, he, too, felt like a fallen soul, like a young black dwarf decent from the heavens and burned up in the dense atmosphere of life far too prematurely.
        At that very moment, harmful ultraviolet rays cast by the sun on that hot summer’s day beat down upon the leaf; these rays, like washed out watercolor brushstrokes, being magnified and intensifying in the pane of the scuffed glass. A small, singular pinhead-sized dot of white light appeared on the face of the leaf; thereafter, ivory wisps of particularized air swiftly rose from the light. After just a few precious moments, Paul—sniff, sniff—smelled the unmistakable scent of smoke. He looked down to find, much to his chagrin, that the sun and its intense heat had burned a hole into his valued prize; a hole with ragged, singed edges-a blemish permanent and never to be restored or repaired.
        With a disappointed countenance, Paul walked east on Florence Avenue towards his Aunt’s house, twirling his leaf by its stem between his right thumb and fore finger in looping pirouettes. Though damaged irrevocably, he would by no means discard of it. He lived with his aunt Chanelle and his three cousins due to the fact that, at the time, Momma called an Arizona drug rehab facility home and he had not yet experienced the personal pleasure of knowing Daddy.
        Paul’s life with his aunt and her family was an unhappy and difficult one. His aunt loved him, though often resented the responsibility forged upon her to care for a son not her own. Paul, albeit young, understood this, though he did not have to like it.
        “Where you been, boy?” Chanelle snapped as he entered through the front door into the living room.
        “I was at the park playin’,” he replied.
        Her eyes, which had been fixed to a television screen, violently glared at him. “Hmpf! Ain’t doing nothin’ but wastin’ time! Did you get my fryin’ grease like I asked you?”
        “Oh, sorry, Auntie. I forgot. I can-.”
        “Of course you did. What good are you? You’re always forgettin’ stuff. Especially my stuff. You’re worthless! You and yo sister ain’t nothin’, just like your folks! Get outta my sight, boy!”
        Paul retreated to the small, darkened room he shared with his cousins; a lone salty tear slowly descending from his reddened left eye. Again, like his leaf, he choked back the emotion that would reveal his very own hole. A hole in his heart-not that of the valves and arteries of such, but of one much more significant.
        Heated at his aunt, Paul wiped the accumulating tears away with both hands. He did not want anyone to see him crying. 
        “Stupid fryin’ grease!” he grumbled through clenched teeth, kicking a nearby under-inflated football away from him. 
        He closed his eyes and visualized how much better life would be once Momma came home. He could see her in his mind’s eye coming through the door with a great big smile shinier than the mid-morning light cast through the doorway from behind her. She would reach down and grab him and hug him so, so tight-the kind of embrace only a mother could administer. Then she would take him and his sister home and the three of them would all live happily ever after. That is, if Momma could stay clean.
        He looked down at his leaf long and hard before finding an old schoolbook to hide his keepsake between its yellowing pages. He’d preserve his leaf as a reminder of that day–just another day to you and me but a very special one to him. It was that day Paul decided he would be different. He vowed to himself never in the future to look at his own children, nieces, nephews, Momma, or anyone for that matter in such a way to scar them, to disfigure them beyond recognition. To hurt them beyond healing.
        He promised he would never burn and blaze as bright as the almighty sun on that sweltering hot summer’s day in Inglewood.

Warriorprincess55   Warriorprincess55 wrote
on 6/20/2009 9:45:05 AM
An absolutely beautiful, meaningful, and heartfelt piece of writing. Fom the first word to the very last, I was held captive to this story. Excellently written! I totally enjoyed this piece.

Short Story
writing kamikaze2009
Hello, all! My name is Joshua Lane. I am a poetry and fiction author living in San Diego, CA. Feel free to send me a message. Take care!

"If you doubt, you fail." -Anonymous
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Rating: 9.7/10

This short story was published with honorable mention in the Winter 2008 edition of The Lakeview Review quarterly compendium.
A Word from the Writer
Published Date
12/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Published In
The Lakeview Review
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