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Mark M Lichterman

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The ClimbingBoy20:Phantoms
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Friday, January 06, 2012
Last edited: Thursday, August 16, 2012
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.

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Oblivious of the people in the shop, the three stared at each other: the boy and girl outside, in the cold, and
Zachariah inside, in the warmth, who was suddenly able to see the two children with straightforward, crystal
clear clarity...

The Climbing Boy can now be purchased as a Kindle eBook @ $3.00

_________________________________________________

Expecting none other than this rebuke, “Aye, Sir,”

George said.

 

“One thing more…”

 

“Aye, Sir?”

 

“None of your indigestible potatoes tonight, George!”

 

“Aye, Sir. As ya wish, Mister Scrooge.”

Outside, catching the door, a gust of wind slammed it shut.____________________________________________________

Climbing Boy 20: Phantoms

London, England

December 24, 1843

                                        Christmas Eve

Walking again, the little black-skinned boy again became

part of the flowing crowd.

 

Stopping often to look through shop windows, when

spoken to he spoke back.

 

Forgetting the encounter with the man outside of the

tavern, Zachariah was with the joyous people once more

and, once again had a sense of well-being.

 

The streaky-black-skinned boy, looking almost like an

African, wearing a worn, dirty, undertaker’s long-coat and

a dented top hat, was oblivious to the reasons for the stares

of those he passed.

 

Zachariah smiled at them and they smiled back and he—

for the first time in his life—truly enjoyed the good luck

touches of the people.

 

The boy felt that, although they were touching him hoping

for good luck, they were in fact giving him much more than

they thought he’d given them. After all, what he was really

giving them was but an outlet for their superstition, while

their touches were making him a part of themselves, a part

of their humanity.

 

Maybe, were it yesterday or the day after tomorrow,

they’d feel differently. Now, though, on this night, Christmas

Eve, while walking by, the people who caught his eye were

rewarded with Zachariah’s heart-warming smile and

somehow, in passing, they felt warmer—somehow better

than they had just a moment earlier—and most thought,

God bless you, lad!May the Lord bless you, boy.

 

“Almost there, Mousy!” Putting his finger into his pocket,

he touched his friend. “We’re almost there!

 

“Ahh.”

 

Barely visible in the distance, he saw it down the road:

the huge replica of a clay pipe that hung by chains above

the tobacconist’s shop, and Zachariah knew it was there,

just next door… The Confectioner’s Shop.

 

Of all the wondrous sights of this wondrous night… of

all he’d seen, and smelled, this…

 

This is what he’d hungered for, what he wanted the

most… The Confectioner’s Shop!

 

He had passed it hundreds of times in the past, but always

in the tow of Johnson, and as he passed The Confectioner’s

Shop Zachariah always looked longingly through the

window, then in passing over his shoulder till it was out

of sight.

 

The moisture of sweet anticipation flooding the boy’s

mouth, “And now I’m here!” Tapping his pocket, “with money

to spend!”

 

Being held by his mother was his sleeping time dream.

Going into The Confectioner’s Shop—being able to have

what he wanted—this was his daytime dream.

 

But now that he was here, he was also on a direct route

to the shack that was no more than a half-mile away.

 

Almost home! He was almost home!

 

The realization coming to him: Home! Johnson! The boy

shook his head, clearing his mind, and suddenly, as though

coming through the fog of a dream, Zachariah remembered

Hobbins. He remembered the equipment left alongside the

fireplace and the undertaker’s refusal to pay.

 

“Oh, Lordy!” Thinking of Johnson, the euphoria fading,

“What’ll I tell him?”

 

Having reached his goal, the boy vacantly stared through

the steamy glass.

 

Taking the hat off, nervously rubbing his hand across the

stubble on his scalp, “What’ll I tell ‘im?”

 

The thought of Johnson—the thought of what awaited

him once back at the shack—caused a chill to run along his

spine, causing him to shudder.

 

Cold again, he put the hat onto his head.

 

“Sweets!”

 

The tip of his tongue circling his lips, his eyes opening

wide, Zachariah saw the shelves and trays through the fogcast

window, and all else was forgotten; his dread of Johnson

was overcome by his desire for the candy; thinking of what

he was about to have, the fear left as fast as it had come.

Entranced! Hardly believing he was truly here, that truly

he was going into this shop, opening the door, the boy

walked inside.

 

The shop was crowded, but the people, waiting their turn

to buy, as though afraid of being brushed against and soiled,

moved aside, allowing him clear passage as he made his

way to the counter.

 

In near reverence, open-mouthed, his head moving from

side to side, Zachariah looked at the trays of assorted

candies: chocolate, vanilla and cherry; fruits, nuts

and creams.

 

So much! he thought. So many different kinds! What

should I buy?

 

He had a problem he never thought he would have: What

to pick? How much, he thought. What can I get for my copper?

 

Smelling the sweetness, Mousy poked his head through

the slit of the pocket and squealed. Hearing him, Zachariah

looked at the mouse, than glanced from side to side and

over his shoulder.

 

Instinctively, the boy knew a candy shop is not the place

for a mouse—even if the mouse is in the pocket of a

boy’s coat.

 

Facing the counter, his back was to most of the people,

so hopefully they hadn’t seen or heard the mouse. Pushing

Mousy back into the depth of the pocket, covering the slit

with his hand, Zachariah came back to the perplexing

problem of: What should I get?

 

On the counter there were jars filled with brightly colored

balls and long, thin things that look like black rope.

 

Standing before the L-shaped counter, looking from one

tray to another, his head turning from side to side as he

looked from tray to jar, from jar to tray, his desire for sweets

momentarily overcome by Which sweets? when suddenly…

A sensation.

 

A prickling sensation.

 

Zachariah felt something on his back… Something in his

back. He flexed his shoulders, but the sensation persisted.

Someone was staring at him.

 

Turning his head, forcing a smile, he looked at the people

in the shop.

 

Most of the people he looked at smiled back; some averted

their eyes, but no one in particular seemed to be staring at

him—certainly no one with enough intensity to cause this

eerie feeling. Flexing his shoulders once again, he turned

back to the problem of his selection, but still he felt the

prickling sensation of eyes boring into his back.

 

Outside?

 

Turning from the counter, Zachariah looked to the

window.

 

There! Outside, there were two wavy, distorted figures.

Children.

 

Their faces pressed against the moisture-streaked

window, the vapor of their breath making undulating circles

of blue fog upon the sweating glass, the tatters of their

clothing moved in a breeze that was all but nonexistent only

a few minutes ago, both wore little more than rags.

 

The larger of the two, a girl, stood with her hand on a

boy’s shoulder.

 

Inexplicably fearful, Zachariah tried to smile, but

couldn’t, and not understanding why he felt this fear, turned

away… But, immediately drawn back. Why’my so afraid?

he thought. They’re just a couple’a poor kids like me.

 

Oblivious of the people in the shop, the three stared at

each other: the boy and girl outside, in the cold, and

Zachariah inside, in the warmth, who was suddenly able to

see the two children with straightforward, crystal

clear clarity.

 

Their long, stringy, muddy-blonde hair, deeply set,

black circled eyes, and thin, emaciated faces had a

very marked likeness, causing Zachariah to think,

They must be brother and sister.

 

Sitting upon and across the girl’s chest is a wooden tray

that was held upward by a piece of twine bound around her

neck and Zachariah could see an angry red line from where

the twine cut into her flesh and—even as he looked, unable

to discern if it was factual or his imagination—a thin line of

blood seeped from the deep, circular indentation.

 

Hanging over the edge of the wooden tray, its yellow pod

and hair-like pistils showing through the flower’s blackedged,

fully opened, drooping petals, its stem broken, was the

head of one wilted, red rose.

 

Closing his eyes, shaking his head, Zachariah hoped the

two children were a figment of his imagination and that

when he opened his eyes they would be gone…

 

He opened his eyes…


Web Site: mmlichterman.com  

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Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 1/11/2012
Very well penned, Mark; well done!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Texas, Karen Lynn. :D


Books by
Mark M Lichterman



For Better or Worse

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The Climbing Boy

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Becoming

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