The man’s boots clicked against the red-splattered streets.
The setting sun continued to paint the road red, orange, and pink as the man strolled down the little-known path, sighing in peace. He had just come from near the park, where the lazy water of the river had lapped at the riverbank, and the sun cast a rosy hue on the town. The playground was empty, as it was getting late, and mothers didn’t want their children to be out at this hour. The man wasn’t used to such silence, but he had to admit that it was soothing.
Passing by lighted storefronts, the man noticed a well-known bakery. He himself had been there once before to buy a birthday cake for his child. The man who owned the bakery, Alex, had happened to be there, and they shook hands. “The girl must be lucky to have a soldier as a father,” Alex had commented, clapping the man on the back. The man had just smiled. Drawing himself out of the memory, the man considered stopping for doughnuts, but he was too tired from the day’s work and eager to return home.
Just then, a second man came jogging his way, a pack thrown over his shoulder. “Hey, Cap!” he called good-naturedly. “We got ‘em, didn’t we?”
The man recognized his comrade, James, and saluted back. “That we did!”
James continued jogging away, the rifle slung over his shoulder bouncing with the tempo of his steps. A trace of gunpowder settled in his wake.
Careful to avoid the ash, the man picked up his pace. He dragged harder on the cigarette on his lips, savoring the last taste. His wife didn’t like him smoking, saying that it was bad for his lungs. The man didn’t care a bit about his lungs, but his wife would get upset, so he made sure to only smoke when she wasn’t around. Exhaling the smoke, the man dropped the cigarette, the stub bouncing inches away from a child’s still body. The scent of gunpowder still hung on the child’s clothes.
The man, barely glancing at the child, continued on his way, his bones aching. The gun he carried in one hand was increasing the strain on his muscles. His shoes made a squelching sound as he walked, the soles crimson from the blood-tainted streets.
The man noticed and grimaced in disgust. He’d have to buy a new pair when he got home, and Danner boots did not come cheap.
Michelle Liao is a sophomore who currently resides with her family in Michigan. She's been writing since kindergarten, and her mother still possesses rather embarrassing collections of stories from ten years ago. When Michelle isn’t writing, she enjoys reading YA books, spending time with her friends, and attempting to play piano pieces correctly.