The Boy Scout
He was 300 pounds, twelve years old, part of Pack
315, a model citizen with merit badges all over his
front. We were Pack zero-68, rough and rowdy,
planning to canoe across a half-frozen lake
and peek at Girl Scout Troop 156. We picked fights
with the other boys and took over Camp Bigfoot,
an invading Southside gang. The boys of 315 lit
a huge bonfire that melted the snow on the treetops,
making it rain a little, and the fat boy
carried a tangle of twigs in large cradling arms,
a thick branch as his staff. He breathed more
than the others, exhaling clouds in the frosted air.
He leaned hard against his branch and marveled
at the fire he helped create, smiling, face glowing
like the embers. He believed
in himself, believed he might not be fat at all.
But to Pack zero-68, he was fatter than any kid
we’d ever seen, the scout with too many chins.
It was irresistible. One of us strolled
by the unsuspecting boy and kicked his branch
from under him. It was not what we expected,
not like an avalanche building momentum. It was
slow—one knee hit the frozen ground, popped, the
other followed, then his entire body
quietly crashed onto his cushioned stomach.
He made no sound, as if he'd expected it all along,
a natural part of his life. It wasn’t funny
watching this boy struggle, his feet
slipping on the slick ground, clutching for anything
that could hold his weight. He didn’t panic.
He grunted softly, rolled like an up-turned turtle.
His friends tried to yank him to his feet,
four of them surrounding him, pushing and pulling
his vein-less hands, his fleshy back, their hands
disappearing into the folds of his body.
The bonfire grew higher,
the burning leaves sprinkling glowing ashes.
We were sorry, but didn’t say it.
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