One-Page Story: Running Away
Hubert Orange never got along with his parents. Seven and an only child, he wondered what was out there in the pale blue yonder. Surely, it was more than instant noodles, nap times and droll children’s television shows. He had his Nikes and $100. What more did he need?
Silently stepping out the front door, he was pleased to see Daisy Roundtree waiting beside her white Toyota Prius, as planned. Daisy, a 16-year-old dropout and the Orange’s two-houses-down neighbour, had always loved Hubert. Their age difference was a problem, rather famously around town. However, for now, Daisy was happy to be just friends with the snot-nosed, slightly pudgy kid. His orange hair so perfectly matched his last name, and she detested Mr. and Mrs. Orange as much as he did.
Riding shotgun, listening to Pink Floyd, with the most beautiful girl in the world driving, Hubert was in existential bliss. She drove fast and recklessly. There was no moon in the clear sky. Only the Milky Way and its infinite family. Daisy didn’t use high beams. She relished the low light that her late-2000s Prius afforded her. When she asked Hubert their destination, he told her of a dream he had of the beach.
The hub of the world’s commerce, the gas station, was eerily quiet at 3 a.m. Hubert went to the window that kept the station attendant safe behind glass while leaving the patron to stand on the sidewalk, in the wind. Hubert bought two bags of chips with one of his five 20s. He did not see when a motorcycle cop lined up behind him. The 25-year-old Latino officer, who spent his off hours working out and watching porn, put both hands on his belt buckle and stood with most of his weight on his heels. Hubert turned and made eye contact with the man. The officer’s head was ensconced in a white helmet with black trim. The little boy’s heart BPM increased fourfold. His feet felt like they were made of the same stuff as the sidewalk. He was immovable. Was this man a modern Medusa?
“You done there, champ?” asked the cop. Hubert could do nothing more than nod with excruciating slowness. Told to move along, the pride of the Orange household stumbled by the officer and returned to Daisy, who looked out into the complete blackness that resulted from standing under halogen lights on a new-moon night.
They screeched out of the gas station and continued their ride. Not long after their exit, a single headlight appeared in the rearview mirror. Daisy didn’t slow down for a second. Hubert wondered if she had seen the cop (she certainly had). The Prius was pushed to its maximum as the red and blue lights began to swirl. For the first time in little Hubert’s life, he was legitimately, independently scared. He began to cry as Daisy tried to take the Prius off the road and into a fallow farm. Had she seen the farm’s preceding ditch, she probably wouldn’t have tried this.
Hubert woke up in the hospital with his parents at his bedside. His mother was in hysterics and his father asked her to leave. The old man sat with Hubert and had a long talk. They talked about Hubert’s worries and they both made some promises to change. It made Hubert feel recognized and happy.
Times were good after that. The Orange’s took a trip to the upcountry and little Hubert made some memories. The parents thought about trying for another kid. However, when they returned home, Daisy Roundtree had just been released from the hospital.
Under oak trees and a waxing moon, Daisy and Hubert’s reunion was truly magical. They spent the night talking and coming up with funny scenarios. Daisy suggested that they make a pact. When Hubert became an adult, legally speaking, they would move to Alaska and raise reindeer. Using a splint of oak wood, they each cut their hands and shook. They were bound by blood and the sands of time.