A short story by James Graham
"Hey Dad?" The boy asks.
There is a pause while the man crosses his legs on the ottoman, his white socks the only thing in the boy's view.
"Yeah?" The man responds, raising the remote in his hands to lower the volume on a show about bowhunting turkeys.
"Would it be okay if I go to a movie this afternoon?"
"How ya' going to get there?"
"Me and the guys are just gonna ride bikes."
"Go ask your mother."
The boy pulls his bike out of the side door of the garage. He walks it past the pick-up truck in the driveway, being careful not to scrape the truck or the side of the house. Out in front, the boy climbs on the bike and pedals off.
He rides along the sidewalk, past the neighbor's houses. A woman in her early seventies is sweeping nothing off of her front steps. She waves to the boy as he passes. He waves back. He comes to the intersection at the end of the block and takes a left onto the road headed north. He stays on the road passing the Methodist Church and more white, one-story houses and a vacant lot. A rusted fifty-five gallon drum lies on its side. A sheriff's Ford Taurus passes him and drives on into the distance.
The boy turns right at the end of the road and snakes his way through the asphalt playground and parking lot of the elementary school. The low yellow brick structure, quiet in summer, stirs from its slumber to watch the boy pass and exit the grounds on the far side. He stands up to absorb the shock of the railroad crossing then pedals on past the cornfields on the north side of town.
Six-foot tall corn on either side of the road creates a canyon. The boy has to bear down on the pedals as he climbs a hill. The warmth of the day has caused the oil in the road to bubble. The bubbles pop under his tires in a wump-wump rhythm with each down stroke. As he crests the hill, a black wrought iron archway with Calvary Cemetery appearing in white lettering on the top comes into view. A smattering of old growth trees, oaks and maples, watch over the finely cut grass and gravestones. The boy turns his bike into the gravel lane.
He rides his bike along the lane past several older monuments with family names carved into the bottom. He is unfazed by the locality and seems familiar with this route. A flock of starlings alight from a large oak that stands to the boy's left on the edge of his route. When he reaches the back of the cemetery. He veers right on his bike and rides over the grass, leaving a snake-like indentation. He rolls to a stop and steps off of the bike. He leans it against another tree. He walks over to a grave whose stone is flush with the ground. A bouquet of plastic flowers that were at one point red, white and blue but are now faded to a combination of gray and pink, are stabbed into the earth in front of the grave stone. The boy places his hands in his pockets. He sighs.