The Tale of Lawrence Stokes, Chapter 5
Chapter 1: Here
Chapter 2: Here
Chapter 3: Here
Chapter 4: Here
The old man closed his eyes and shook his head as if trying to erase an awful thought swimming inside his mind. After a moment of silence, he stopped and the children patiently waited for him to continue, to say something that might explain the bizarre story they were hearing.
No one moved; no one spoke until a light breeze lightly moved through the nearby trees and gently kissed the old man's cheek, bringing him back to the present.
"You're probably wondering what happened to Lawrence on that day, aren't you?" The children could only nod in response to the man's question. "Now," the man turned serious. "I'm going to tell you something that I've never told anyone else--not even the police." At the mention of the word police the children became even more interested--a few even jumped.
"We got to the mine just before dusk that night and instead of going inside the mine like we normally did, Lawrence just walked to the end of the rocks, right before where the slide starts." Many of the children knew exactly where Lawrence was standing. The rocks are still there.
"I asked Lawrence what he was doing--asked if he wanted to go inside the mine. All he could do was shake his head, no. I was already kinda nervous because of what I had already seen that day so I suggested we just hike down and go home. Lawrence looked at me and said, 'No.' That was all he said."
"Well, with that I decided to sit down. I found a nice flat rock and sat and waited. The sun was just setting and I don't believe I've ever seen such a beautiful display of God's handiwork in that sunset, either before or since. It was simply beautiful."
"When the last ray of sunlight dipped behind Antelope Island, I turned back to Lawrence. He wasn't standing by the ledge anymore; he had backed up next to the mountain. 'What are you doing?' I asked him. He didn't answer right away, but then he spoke. 'That drifter told me something else that day, something I didn't tell you.' 'What was that?' I asked him. 'He told me I'll never be the way I was--never be normal again, and I just can't do this anymore. Tell my ma I'm sorry. I'll see you on the other side.' And with that I watched my best friend take off running."
"Lawrence Stokes ran right off that ledge but he didn't fall. In fact, he actually ascended into the fading light of the sunset. I got up and ran to the ledge. I yelled his name as he flew away. He must have heard me because he turned and saw me, his friend not knowing what to do. That's when I saw him smile. It was the saddest and most peaceful smile I'd ever seen. The last thing I saw of my friend was when he turned away from me and into the western sky. I watched as his body got smaller and smaller into the darkening space that's above us all, and I never saw him come down."
The children didn't know what to say. They stood like statures, many with their mouths agape. They didn't even dare look at each other, afraid if they did some unknown spell might be cast on them, or worse yet, a spell might somehow be broken somewhere.
"I hiked down in the dark still not knowing if I actually saw what I did see that night. I went to bed that night and went to school the next day. Some asked me if I had seen Lawrence--if I knew where he was because he didn't milk the cows that morning. I told them I didn't know. That was the first of many lies I told of Lawrence and I've kept telling them until today."
The old man stopped rocking and stood, the brittle bones creaking as they accepted the responsibility of the man's weight. Once standing the man lovingly place a wrinkled and twisted finger to the back of the wooden chair and stopped it from any further rocking, signaling to the inanimate object that its work was done.
"Kids," the man coughed. "You better run home now...and do your homework--it's important." The children watched their neighbor return to the engulfing darkness of his house as the large door shut behind him and as the latch of the ancient locking mechanism clicked, the children dispersed to their own destination, each child leaving with a vision in their mind of a lonely sad man flying weightless into the night.