Boy at Night

Steve Coughlin

In the final hours of daylight, he refuses to stop throwing his football against the chain-link fence. His arm aches from the relentless throwing, and the fence rattles as if the boy could drive a football-sized hole through it if he only threw hard enough.

But the boy will never throw hard enough.

His older brother, fourteen years older, has been dead two years. The older brother, with long hair and a brown mustache, was murdered while trying to buy heroin by the train tracks.

The boy tries not to sleep because in his dreams his brother wants to return home.

Let me in, his brother calls from the street in front of the boy’s white house. His brother knocks his cold fist against the boy’s front door.

A year after his brother died, the boy’s mother moved him into his brother’s room. There’s a record player covered in dust that the boy has never played. His brother’s hockey stick still leans against the wall.

He will not open the closet filled with his brother’s clothes.

The boy wants his arm to be strong enough to scare his dead brother away.

He keeps throwing the football against the fence because he wants to knock the fence over and run behind the neighbor’s brown house. After the boy knocks the fence down his mother will call his name, but the boy will not come home.

Emphysema has sprouted like a weed in his mother’s lungs. She is fat and smokes all day at the kitchen table. The boy’s mother does not have the strength to protect him.