The following story is my entry in Dan Alatorre’s 1,000 Word Sprint last month.
The Lost Scout
Ronnie and Stevie sat on a park bench under a starlit sky.
“The lights just went out. Did ya see?”
Stevie missed it. He was watching the full moon rising slowly behind them.
“Do ya think he’s OK?”
“In a roomful of Scouts? Of course, he’s OK.” Sometimes Ronnie didn’t think things all the way through.
“Yeah, what am I worried about? Donnie’ll be OK.”
Ronnie and Donnie were twins. Identical in more ways than one. One for all and all for one.
Stevie was jealous. He had no siblings. You got yourself into a jam, you get yourself out.
Time moved along.
Across the road from the two boys stood a single story flat-roofed recreation center. Narrow windows mounted on top of a block wall that faced the street were dark now. The initiation ceremony was under way. Two potential candidates awaiting their fate. The third one, inside, facing his.
Time moved along.
No more words were spoken.
The lights in the rec center came on and a loud cheer roared through the open awning windows. The two boys looked at each other and grinned widely. He did it! He got voted in. Now we will get our turns.
One long minute passed. The side door of the building opened, and a large figure stepped outside. The headlights of a passing car gave the boys a glimpse of Assistant Scoutmaster Barnes, now walking down the sidewalk in their direction.
“Ronnie, git over here. You’re up next.” Mr. Barnes stood in the middle of the road motioning to the boy. He checked for traffic in both directions as Ronnie ran across the street. “Stevie, you hang on and we’ll git to you in a little bit.”
“Yessir. I’ll be right here.”
Mr. Barnes walked Ronnie toward the side door of the facility. “C’mon, son. It’s your turn in the barrel.”
Stevie watched as two silhouettes turned and entered the building. A minute later the lights in the building went out.
All alone. Again. Stevie looked around the vicinity of the park bench.
He turned all the way around and scanned the park. Nobody is out tonight. Well, it is a school night after-all.
Another car drove past his bench, the driver oblivious to the presence of a pre-teen all alone this time of night.
It’s a good thing that he’s not afraid of the dark.
Or of being alone.
Out in the open.
In the dark.
Stevie made another 360-degree scan of his surroundings. Casual-like. No hurry. Just taking a slow look around. Enjoying the park. What little he could see of the park. Checking to see if a toddler needed help. Or maybe, a stray dog was on the loose and needed to be reunited with its owner.
Yes, ma’am. I found him over here by the swing set. Oh, no ma’am, he didn’t try to bite. He would clip the owner’s leash to the dog’s collar. He’s a frisky one, this little guy. No, ma’am, thank you for offering, but I can’t accept a reward for finding your lost dog. I’m a Scout—well, almost a Scout—and helping others is a part of who I am. That is, who I am going to be, ma’am.
A pair of teen-agers in a convertible drove past Stevie’s bench. The driver’s arm stretched across the top of the seat back, his date cuddled up underneath. A love song blaring out of the dashboard radio, growing softer in the distance. Soldier boy. Oh, my little soldier boy.
Once again, the lights in the rec center came on and a loud cheer roared through the open awning windows.
Stevie’s stomach knotted up. Almost there. Your chance to be a part of the Troop. Join your buddies from sixth grade and be a part of something that’s safe and fun. Learn valuable outdoor skills. Meet new people and make new friends.
They will be the brothers that I don’t have.
The side door of the building opened, and Mr. Barnes walked to the edge of the sidewalk. He looked both ways for cars on the road and, seeing none, beckoned Stevie across the street. “C’mon, boy. You know the drill by now.”
Stevie wasted no time getting off the bench. “Yessir. I’m on my way, sir.”
Mr. Barnes stopped at the door and let Stevie precede him into the room. He could see Scouts lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, forming three rows, front-to-back. Ronnie and Donnie were standing next to Head Scoutmaster Gordon.
The only thing missing was smiling faces.
Someone turned off the lights.
Mr. Gordon sighed. “It’s been a long night and we’re going to dispense with a lot of the formality of this occasion.”
Stevie’s chest was being hammered from within. Good. Let’s get this over with.
“Over the last three months you have attended our monthly meetings. Last month you camped overnight on the beach with us. We have been watching you, evaluating to see if you have what it takes to be a Scout.”
Here it comes. Almost there.
“We took a vote tonight and I’m sorry to say that you were not accepted into our Troop.”
Tears flooded Stevie’s eyes. That’s it? Are you kidding me? He couldn’t catch his breath. It’s a good thing that the lights are out.
The lights in the room came on and a loud cheer echoed through the room.
“We’re just pulling your leg. You’re in. Welcome to the Troop!”
Assholes! Stevie ducked his head and wiped the tears from his eyes. Assholes! Now they’re watching me cry like a baby.
The rest of the night was a blur.
Words of welcome rang hollow. Pats on the back brought no solace to the rapid rise and fall of Stevie’s emotions just as the lights were turned on.
Who can you trust?
For Stevie, it marked the end of making friends and the beginning of a lifetime of having acquaintances.