Last year's narrative contest piece. Third place senior narrative.
Word count: 614


The grey November sky was shot with streaks of fading pink and gold, but no one was looking at the sky this morning. Everyone's eyes were on the young man, on his knees with his face to the cement wall, and the older man in a suit and tie, holding the gun. The thick crowd was cheering, but it felt dark, and people were throwing small stones at him. I could see his own mother launch a piece of dried driftwood at the young man's head as if she wished it were a real piece of artillery.

The young man was dirty. His blonde hair was greasy and matted; his clothes worn and muddy. There were sweat streaks through the thin layer of dust on his neck. I could imagine his face just as chalky, with tears clearing a path from his eyes to his chin. I could never be sure because his back was to the crowd, but I'd have given my first born child to know.
I remember thinking things had gone too far. But then the man in the suit fired the gun and gravediggers came to clean up the mess and we children were ushered back to school.

The man in the suit walked beside me and put his ugly hand on my shoulder. I tried to shake it off, but it was as if his palm was glued to my blouse.

"You'll understand one day, sweetheart," the man assured me. "Once you're a little older. You're going to have to."

"No thanks," I mumbled crossly. He had no right to call me affectionate baby nicknames.

"Don't be like this, Nadia," he ordered. "I didn't raise you to be like this."

"You didn't really raise me at all, did you?" I asked, my voice getting louder and hysterical. "You were never even around! You left mom to deal with me, and Molly and Elliot, while you were out in your stupid mob- boss suit, trying to be the right hand man to the guy who messed everything up!" I stopped calling him father when he stopped being one.

Without warning, he slapped me hard across the face. Onlookers averted their eyes awkwardly. Although acceptable again, hitting kids in the eyes of the public still felt taboo. It would always.

"You are not to talk of Engelbrecht this way ever again," he muttered ominously, but I wasn't afraid.

"Things used to be normal, you know," I retorted.

"Things are normal."

I was stubborn. "This isn't normal. Before was normal. This is ridiculous."

"This is normal now."

I shook my head. He lightly smacked my shoulder blade. "Get moving, you've got classes."

"They're not important anymore," I whispered savagely, running ahead of him as fast as I could, dodging through the parting crowd of people. No one seemed to know quite where to go; home, or work, or should they stand around like idiots, discussing the execution and watching the clean up like the end credits of a snuff film? I wouldn't stand around. I'd go back to class like all the other kids in primary school, and learn math, reading, and how to feel pleasantly oppressed.

Mom played Imagine at dinner, because the man in the suit wasn't home. I cried through the whole song. Molly and Elliot were too young to know why, and mom was too empty to even frown or remember. I used to think it was because she was strong, and she wanted to be our rock. Now I know it's because she's just a shell; there's nothing left of her. There's not much left of anything. Sometimes I wonder if that's the best way to be.