The Nameless Boy - Flash Fiction
A glance at the shallow bowl of rice triggers flashbacks in the boy. He remembers all the pain he’s endured from getting into fights for food, all the beatings he’s taken for stealing. He’s discontent but never regrets a thing because, for him, anything is worth surviving one more day. He departs with his pickaxe resisting his thin legs. A small jug of water and the rusted tool are the only items brought onto the journey. He drags himself through the scorching sun with his ripped cloth shoes. The sand burns hot enough to scorch skin, but his layers of callus protect his bony feet. Shortly after he arrives at the cave. He looks at the endless boulders and picks a small one and hits it. Nothing. He picks another rock. Nothing. Hours of mining pass with the same pattern as the cave seems to taunt him. More rocks. Nothing. Suddenly footsteps echo through the cave and another boy arrives. His hands are filled with a beaten down metal detector. He scans the rocks, waiting patiently for the disruption of sound. Besides the rhythmic slamming of a pickaxe and a consistent shrill of a metal detector, the boys work in silence.
The sounds suddenly grow rapid as the boy with the metal detector stares at the lucky rock with enormous eyes. The high pitched sounds filled the air in quick succession. He tries lifting the huge boulder but it’s much larger than his own size. The first boy comes and looks at the lucky newcomer. “I’m Ayo”. He looks at the special rock and back at the boy. “What is your name?” asks Ayo with a nervous tone.
“I no have name” murmurs the boy in a deep voice. Ayo and the nameless boy study each other for a second, trying to discover the other one’s life. The nameless boy’s skin is covered in burn and cut scars from years of intense labor. An obvious and unspoken past of hardship creates a bond between the two. Ayo looks back to the big boulder and slams it with his pickaxe. Then again. He keeps swinging until the first crack forms. Before long the rock gives in and crumbles to reveal a shiny material reflecting the light. The two boys look at the perfect sphere with equal satisfaction. Ayo holds the gleaming sphere thinking of his desperate family. An ore of that size could buy a month worth of rice. The ball mends his worrying heart as he thinks of cashing it in. Then a different pair of hands reach out. The nameless boy drops his metal detector with a thud and dust fills the air. He motions for the shiny sphere. The boys stare at each other knowing the ball cannot be split. Ayo sets the ball onto a nearby ledge and stares blankly at the nameless boy. He grabs his pickaxe by the wooden handle and slowly approaches his recently formed partner. Ayo looks into the boy’s eyes and mouths a few words in his language.
“I’m sorry”. The nameless boy is cornered and screams as Ayo approaches him until his dry lungs give out. He takes one last look at Ayo’s eyes and gives up. He stop flailing and stops fighting. Thoughts of his brothers and their same fate fills his head and he accepts his death. The pickaxe escalates with trembling hands, then it’s brought down with all his remaining strength. This time a rock doesn’t burst. There’s no loud crack. The pickaxe falls out of his shaking hands and he whispers softly “I’m sorry” once again. He wipes the blood off his shoes and stands up. The sphere is taken and the boy walks away with empty eyes.
After cashing the ore into the market, he buys a pack of rice and brings it home. The door of his broken home creaks open and he drops the bag on the floor. Ayo’s mother stares at him with disbelief.
“Where did you steal this from?” she asks desperately. He looks down remorsefully and murmurs
“I didn’t steal it”. With no more words, his family gathers around and shove the rice into their mouths. Hesitant, Ayo scoops a handful of the grain and eats the fruit of the nameless boy.