Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 35

Ron Burch | 35

ordered Amica onto the float and she climbed right up to the shocked stares of Amy and the other kids.

You'll get yours, he hissed at me and pushed me to the ladder as he motioned and the float started floating.

But that didn't matter. We were minutes from freedom. We took our positions and smiled and waved and promised them the image without the truth. We traveled through most of the town. Eventually, I saw the big turn coming up ahead, the one I had heard Mr. Merkin talking about. I also saw the advancing protestors. A group had started fighting with the supporters and it didn't look too friendly. I looked over at Amica, who was still waving the wrong way. Why was she doing that? She knew the proper way. Mr. Merkin still had his eyes on that upcoming turn and I was nodding at Amica, trying to get her attention.

As we neared the fighting in the street, the local cops trying to break it up, other townspeople— grandparents, moms and dads, their kids—were still waving us on, waving little flags, wearing hats that said "MAKE US STRONG AGAIN" when Mr. Merkin abandoned the front of the float. Amy looked confused and tried to stop him and he pushed right through her, knocking her back and off-balance. He headed for Amica, who saw him coming, but she kept waving, she kept waving the wrong way. I shouted "No!" and ran for them but Mr. Merkin grabbed Amica and threw her off the float. She fell toward the crowd—the waving people, the fighters, the flag-bearers. I went to jump after her but Mr. Merkin grabbed me and hit me in the face with his elbow. I fell to my knees and he jumped me, holding me tight against the float, his mouth near my ear, his breath bitter as he whispered, I told you, boy, I told you.

I looked out to the crowd where she fell and I could see her. She turned her head and looked right at me, floating beautifully atop the crowd, her blue eyes right at mine, and she smiled, she smiled at me because she was