The Tale of Lawrence Stokes, Chapter 4
Chapter 1: Here
Chapter 2: Here
Chapter 3: Here
The kids looked tentative, not sure to join the man in his laughter. They remained quiet; they all wanted to find out what happened to Lawrence Stokes. The laughter died and the old man stared into the afternoon sky where not a cloud nor a bird interrupted an endless expanse of blue.
"So..." a timid boy said. "What happened...to...Lawrence?" The question brought the frail man to the present, to the porch where his rocking chair sat and where he sat relaying the story of his friend. When the man looked at the children, any sparkle previously held in his grey eyes was gone and his face told a grim tale where words proved unnecessary.
"That drifter was right--right about everything. Lawrence got strong, real strong." The old man looked past those patiently listening to his story. "But, the most impressive thing that happened, Lawrence got fast."
"Lawrence wasn't a runner, per se. But after that fateful day, there wasn't anyone who could catch him. He'd run to the lower 40...run to the market, and run to and from school. At first, Lawrence used to show off, then he stopped. We asked him why he stopped and he said he couldn't do it anymore, but...one day he pulled me aside and told me a secret."
The old man began rocking gently and continued. "Lawrence told me that he was scared. He said he was running so fast one night--faster than a man should be allowed to run. He even did a little test. He got out his dad's fastest horse and took him for a sprint. He said he ran that horse, ran him good. He held the reigns while he ran along side and at one point he dropped the reigns and the horse slowed down--he was just too tired, he told me. That's when Lawrence Stokes cursed that drifter, cursed him to hell, he did."
The strange story affected the children. They felt uneasy in their guts, but exactly what they felt, they couldn't say.
"Lawrence and I decided to go for a hike the next day. We hiked to Patsy's Mine right where that ridge comes..." The old man pointed to the mountain and instinctively each child looked to where the mine was. Every kid in town had been to the mine and the braver the kid, the deeper they had ventured into the man-made hole.
"We hiked in the early evening--it was a Sunday, I believe. On the way up the hill Lawrence would jump to show me how high and far he could go. I ain't never seen anything like it--like a deer he could jump. I wondered as I watched him if he wasn't lighter. I mean, he looked like he didn't weigh anything. I was going to say something to him, but I never did...I never did."
As if coming back to reality, the old man looked at the children, their eyes meeting, and he said, "Ever since that awful day, I wish more than anything I wish I had...just...said...something."