Fiction by Jamy Bond
On clear nights we snuck through the window of the bunk house and made our way to the creek to skip rocks and soak our feet. There was something about the cool air, the sable sky, the moon’s vibrant bloom that made our crime worth its potential punishment. If Mr. Brody caught us he’d take us to the white room, one-by-one, and hit us until our skin split. If we cried, he’d hit harder; if we wept, he’d slam our cheeks against the wall until ruby welts appeared.
One night, we detoured from the creek to investigate screaming we heard coming from behind the barn. Jeremy guessed it was birds in distress, Jason thought fox pups and Mike, the newest boy, said witches. It turned out to be a mound of newborn kittens gathered beneath a drain pipe, desperate to stay warm. The sound of their mewing spun through the trees like a warning.
I don’t remember whose idea it was, but we all recognized the opportunity. Jeremy dug the first hole and Jason and I followed. We clawed deep into the dirt, sculpting tiny, round graves, while Mike stood staring into a stretch of wheat fields that bordered the property. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that taking off through those fields wouldn’t save him; there was nothing on the other side.
We each took a kitten and dropped it into a hole. Mine was gun-metal gray except for a soft patch of white above the crusted umbilical cord dangling from its belly. I briefly entertained the idea of hiding it in the bunk house, letting it sleep beneath my blanket at night, sneaking food from the kitchen to nourish it.
We filled the holes with fury, layering fist after fist full of dirt, until we had silenced them all. Then we stood, stone-faced and still, taking in the quiet.
When the red ribbon of dawn appeared on the horizon, we hurried back up the hill toward the bunks, rounding a corner by the kitchen house where a chimney pumped white plumes of smoke. Soon, we’d find out if Mr. Brody had heard us or not; if he was waiting; if we’d see him standing there in the dark.