- H.K. Slade
In Time: Part 2
Note: This story was originally published in Allegory Magazine
Clarence Turner was at once average and special: average height, average weight, and the same hairstyle and clothes as a dozen other kids in his cramped apartment building. There was nothing outward about the boy to indicate his uniqueness..
What made Clarence special was inside him. Born into a city of violence and hatred, Clarence should have been just another angry city kid, looking to find a way to spread his misery. But even when his father was slain in the line of duty, hatred and bitterness found no purchase in the boy. Clarence never spoke one ill word of anyone. He read books to his nearly blind mother. He picked up ladybugs he found in the kitchen and carried them out-of-doors. He was a light, an example of the fine and gentle things in the world.
On that Tuesday, Clarence had gone to the movies with some of his friends from school. The other boys snuck into a rated-R movie, but Clarence, who’d promised his mother he wouldn’t do such things, waited out in the lobby. It was type of thing that should have gotten him picked on, but the neighborhood’s toughest bully, Big Henry Clay, liked Clarence, and the shadow of his protection deflected all but the most good-natured teasing.
“Are you lost, son?” someone asked. The man speaking wore the same bowtie and vest as the other theater employees, though he was much older then the teenagers working behind the counter. He had a warm, friendly smile that showed all of his teeth in one go.
“No, sir,” Clarence answered. “My friends are watching a movie, but it will be out soon.”
The older usher’s smile dipped, then broadened even further. “They snuck into that horror movie, didn’t they? That R-rated one?”
Clarence sat mute. He was a good kid, but he was no rat.
The usher chuckled. “That’s alright, son, you don’t have to tell me. But you didn’t sneak in with them, did you?”
“My mama said I’m not old enough,” Clarence confided.
“You’re mama’s raised you right. You’re a good boy, son.” The usher reach out and patted Clarence’s shoulder. His hand was warm, almost hot, even through Clarence’s shirt.
“I’ll bet you’re the type of boy who helps your mama around the house, too?”
“You ever take the trash out for her?”
“You think you can give an old man a hand pushing out this here heavy trash can?” The usher pointed to a big grey trash barrel on wheels. “What am I asking? Of course a strong young man like you can push that little old trash can. I’ll bet you play football, don’t you? Come on, son, give me a hand.”
Clarence always liked to help. But the trashcan was very big, big enough that he could probably fit inside it. For some reason, that made him uneasy. Still, the usher seemed very nice, and he did have a uniform on. Plus, his mama had told him not to say “no” to adults, not unless it was bad-touching.
“Sure, I’ll help,” Clarence said and hopped up. “We’ll be back before the movie gets out, right?”
“Oh, yeah,” the usher said as they walked down the service hall. “This’ll only take a minute.”