Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: RASH (04/12/18)
By Robin West
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It started while walking home from school today. I was trying to figure out where to get $93 for my entrance exam. The way I saw it, college was my ticket out of this neighborhood and the AP exam was my way into college. I only needed the exam fee. Just then, Cameron showed up, gasping for breath, and asking for help.
“There’s money in it for you, Bro.”
He always called me Bro, short for Brodie, but he hadn’t called me Bro in a while. Heck, we hadn’t spoken in three years. As kids, we were like brothers. We spent summers skateboarding and riding bikes around the neighborhood. While our moms worked, Cameron’s dad drank beer all day, watching TV, and my dad… well… who knew where he was.
I didn’t exactly reject Cameron when he started smoking and cussing, but I never felt like joining in. Eventually we hung out less often, until all my friends were honors nerds, while he ran with the stoners. Rumor was he sold weed.
“Bro, I only ask ’cause I’m in a real bind.” He was practically hyperventilating, and he shoved a shipping envelope at me, plus a $100 bill.
“Just this once.” His eyes pleaded with me. “The boot factory, number 314.”
The sealed envelope bulged with lumps that felt spongy when I squeezed it. I knew what the lumps were. Then I looked at Ben Franklin’s face on the bill and saw my enrollment fee.
Without further thought, I nodded.
Cameron shot a glance over his right shoulder, shoved the envelope closer to my chest, and ran in the opposite direction.
I pocketed the Benjamin and headed for Rosser’s. The evening sky turned trees, street signs, and cars different shades of gray. Buildings hid in shadows, but I could find Rosser’s boot factory blindfolded. As kids, we’d spent hours exploring the abandoned facility. Number 314 referred to one of the lockers lining the west wall. I simply had to put the envelope in the locker and walk away. What could it hurt?
At Rosser’s, I ignored signs warning trespassers of imaginary dangers, and found our old opening in the fence. I’d grown in the last three years. Instead of crawling on my hands and knees, I had to slither on my belly to get through.
Slapping dirt off my jeans, I looked around and saw no one. I checked the loading dock door, locked, but I knew a place where I could crawl through. I walked around back, and found the spot with a missing ventilation plate. It also looked like a tighter squeeze than I remembered. I pushed my coat and backpack through first, then got on my belly again.
Once inside, I paused and listened in the black silence. I waited a couple minutes for my eyes to adjust to the lack of light, wishing I had a flashlight. The air felt thick and smelled moldy. When ghostly shapes of boot making machinery materialized, I stumbled through the rubble to the bank of lockers. Then I practically had to kiss the locker doors to read the numbers in the dark.
It’ll be worth it, I thought. I pictured myself mailing my application for the exam. That led to imagining college graduation, successful career, and a life of fame and luxury.
Finally, I found 314. With a loud rattle, I yanked the latch and pried the door open on its rusty hinges. I placed the envelope on the shelf, slammed the door hard enough to set the latch, and turned to leave.
That’s when the lights came on, two flashlights held by two uniformed cops.
“You must be Cameron Stokes,” one of them said.
That’s how I got here. I’m busted. It doesn’t matter that they have the wrong guy. I’m the one holding the dope. Nothing I say can save me. The $100 in my pocket won’t help either.
Still, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
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