Seeing an opportunity to run, Moody took it, quickly walking away from the prison work-detail at the construction site. Now his pale face was on TV screens across the state. He was a loser; hadn’t his father always said so?
He’d said so when Moody had accidentally shot the owner of the liquor store. Moody hadn’t meant to, but the man had pulled a gun from beneath the counter, and the boy panicked.
Moody hated prison. The loneliness worked on him. He missed Granny Ella, the one person who gave a damn about him. He missed Schuyler Falls.
So when the opportunity came, he ran.
Beneath the highway overpass, Moody huddled around the fire with the homeless men. In the chilly darkness, the men paid him no notice, each locked in his own misery.
One suddenly moved close, surprising Moody by looking deep into his eyes. Passing a bottle the boy’s way, he asked, “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“What’s your name, son?”
Moody studied the man. Ebony skin, eyes the color of dark chocolate. Kind eyes, nearly as kind as Granny Ella’s.
“Pleased, Moody. Mine’s Gabe.” He glanced up at the sky. “Beautiful night. Look at them stars. Know what they call this kinda night? A miracle night. All things possible.”
“Miracles! Wish there was such things. I could use one!”
Gabe looked at him. “It’s my understanding some miracles have already come your way.”
Moody frowned. “My mama died when I was a kid, and my old man kicked me out a few years later.”
“You had Granny Ella – that counts for much.”
Startled, Moody stared at Gabe. “How do you know about Granny Ella?”
Gabe smiled. “Same way I know about that man in the liquor store – and the man you took those clothes and that twenty-five dollars from. Miracle both times you didn’t kill nobody.”
Moody’s eyes widened, but Gabe looked at the sky. “Was a night like this another star once burned bright. That was sure some miracle night… So, you need a miracle, boy?”
Pain bloomed suddenly in Moody’s heart. “I want to go home, see Granny Ella again, say I’m sorry.”
Gabe nodded. “That’s where you belong. How much you reckon a bus ticket to that town costs?”
“You got twenty-five dollars, boy! Go home!”
Moody drank from the bottle. “Would if I could… but my face… I’d be recognized, sent back…”
Tears threatened, and he closed his eyes.
His companion whispered, “Go on home, boy.”
When Moody opened his eyes, Gabe was gone. Everyone was. Moody started to raise the bottle to his lips when he noticed his hands.
Dropping the bottle, he explored the contours of his face, the texture of his hair.
Go on home, boy.
He looked up at the stars. Damned if one wasn’t shining brighter than the rest.
Go on home, boy.
Moody fingered the bills in his pocket, and then headed in the direction of the bus station.
Author’s Note: This is written in response to a flash fiction challenge to write no more than 500 words about an escaped prisoner hiding from police with a group of homeless men. You can check out these weekly flash fiction challenges at Thain in Vain.