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Mark M Lichterman

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Books by Mark M Lichterman
The ClimbingBoy 26: Gold
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012
Last edited: Thursday, August 16, 2012
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.
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The fire having dimmed again, his eyes shifted from the somewhat strange-appearing face of Zachariah to the mound of coins that lay on the table before him and, hefting the lady’s coin in his hand, he weighed…

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

__________________________________________________

Rising from his pallet, Zachariah walked silently across

the room and, standing alongside the stranger, his fist

clenched, the boy held one hand straightforward.

“‘ere, Sir.The lady in the ‘ouse give it to me, an’ I want’s

ya to ‘ave it.”

 ____________________________________________________

Climbing Boy 26: Gold

London, England

December 24, 1843

                                        Christmas Eve

 

In his other hand, hanging by his side, he held the magician’s

bent and dented top hat.

 

“What’j’ya got, boy?” Forcing his eyes from the boy’s

eerily lit face, Johnson motioned to his hand.

 

Zachariah turned his hand upward…

 

He opened his fingers.

 

In the fireplace there was an upshot of sparks that briefly

brightened the gloomy, dimly lit room.

 

Johnson looked down…

 

Looking down his eyes widened, his mouth opened and

he swallowed.

 

Lying in the palm of the boy’s hand was a large coin.

 

In the reflection of light the coin sparkled as…

 

“Gold?” Johnson whispered in awe. “The lady…” he asked

unbelievably, “she gave ya gold?”

 

“The lady said I was to keep it, an’ I was to use it only for

somethin’ very ‘portant, somthin’ I be wantin’ jus’ for meself,”

Zachariah answered, smiling wanly. “An’ I wants ya to be

‘avin’ it, Sir.”

 

The gaze of the stranger did not move from Johnson’s face.

 

Staring at the coin, “But it’s…” He reached to the coin,

but as if afraid to touch it pulled his hand back. “If it’s really

g-g-gold…” he stammered in a high pitched voice as,

reaching for the coin again, this time grabbing it from

Zachariah’s hand, Johnson instantly brought it to his mouth

and, biting it, hoped his teeth would feel a softness not found

in other coins. And his teeth and jaw, numb with alcohol,

did indeed confirm a softness not found in other coins…

except, possibly, were he to bite other coins while this

inebriated.

 

“It’s enough for the boy, Johnson?”

 

No answer.

 

“It’s enough for the boy, Johnson!”

 

Cowering at the sound of the stranger’s voice, not sure if

he was asking him or telling him, “Yes, it’s enough!”

 

“Truly,” giving Johnson yet another opportunity, “you

do give the boy’s contract willingly, then?” the

stranger asked.

 

Knowing he still had a choice, looking at Zachariah, he

hesitated, and…

 

Forgetting that just a short while ago he’d beaten him.

 

Forgetting that just a short while ago he’d stood above the

bleeding, cowering boy with his fists clenched and had been

prepared to beat him to death.

 

Forgetting this, Johnson felt betrayed at Zachariah’s

willingness to go with the stranger.

 

The fire having dimmed again, his eyes shifted from the

somewhat strange-appearing face of Zachariah to the mound

of coins that lay on the table before him and, hefting the

lady’s coin in his hand, he weighed…

 

The boy?

The money?

 

Of course, he thought, I could keep Zachariah and the gold

coin. But, glancing at the shadowy figure that sat across

from him, once again Johnson felt the stranger was

something more—or something less—than human, and he

shuddered, because knowing were he to keep the boy, under

that pretense, the stranger would certainly come knocking

on his door again, and that was something he did not want

to happen… ever.

 

“Johnson,” the stranger demanded. “Enough money?”

 

Startled, bolting in his seat, he looked at the dark figure

and… “Yes.” Johnson muttered softly, then looked to the

stranger’s side, at the boy, and speaking louder, “Damn ya,

it’s enough! Damn ya both! Now get out’a me ‘ouse, the

both of ya!” His voice rising with anger, “Take ‘im an’…” he

began to cough, “get out!”

 

Slowly, as if terribly saddened, rising wearily from the

chair, turning away from Johnson, the stranger walked to

the door, opened it, stepped through, and without another

word closed the door behind him, allowing Zachariah and

Johnson their goodbyes.

 

Standing across from the man that had been his only

family for almost as far into the past as he could remember,

“Master Johnson, I…” The boy had an urgent need to speak

to the man, to thank him for providing what little he did

have, to…

 

 

 

Feeling something he hadn’t felt in the past,

Zachariah felt a need to tell Johnson that he wasn’t angry

for the beatings, to tell Johnson that he forgave him for the

years of mistreatment, and for killing Mousy, so, “Master

Johnson, I…”

 

But…

 

Holding his hand forward, silencing the boy, Johnson

lifted the bottle of gin and, deliberately looking at him from

above its smooth, rounded circumference, drained the

remaining liquor, then, slamming the bottle onto the table,

causing the coins to jump. “Get out’a ‘ere!” Gesturing

drunkenly, shaking his fist at the boy. “Get out’a ‘ere or I’ll

give ya what for!”

 

“Master…”

 

“No!” Shaking his head negatively, “Ya ain’t mine no

more!” Waving him away, “Go on with ya! Go to ya

new master!”

 

His shoulders slumping sadly, the boy walked slowly to

the closed door, pulled the door open and, pausing before

stepping out of the shack, Zachariah looked back at that

which had been his home and at he whom had been his

father. “Master Johnson,” still, the boy tried speaking to the

man one last time…

 

But…

 

Hunched over the table, counting, stacking his money,

Johnson seemingly no longer noticed the boy.

 

“Zachariah, come, lad.” Speaking softly, the stranger

beckoned from outside. “The night’s growing late.”

 

Looking at the hunched figure at the table, “Goodbye,

Sir.”

 

There was no response.

With one last, “Goodbye,” stepping through the doorway,

putting the hat onto his head, feeling a lifting of his spirit,

Zachariah pulled the door to the shack shut behind him.

 

“Lordy!”

 

The darkly overcast sky was gone.

 

As it had been earlier, the velvet sky was pitch black and

the full moon shone brilliantly to the accompaniment of

millions upon millions of radiantly gleaming stars, and, as

far as Zachariah could see, the earth was bathed in creamy

whiteness, for all within sight was covered with sparkling

crystals of pure, white snow.

 

Waiting, the stranger held his hand to the little boy.

  


Web Site: mmlichterman.com  

Reader Reviews for "The ClimbingBoy 26: Gold"


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Reviewed by Ruan Mills Burke
I was so captured by this that I bought the book and I have read it.
The story of Zachariah is both heartbreaking and magical. such a harsh life and so much emotion for a small child and such a mysterious outcome.
I don't want to say too much to give the story away to other prospective readers so suffice to say that I absolutely loved it!
Reviewed by Laura Fall
Excellent story my friend and an enjoyable read indeed Laura

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