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Zach was the stitching in our fabric of friendship. When he died, we fell apart.
“I don’t feel right sitting here no more,” said Shelia, standing to her feet and crunching a few blades of dry grass.
A chorus of cicadas from the trees behind us provided the only sound. When their song quieted down I glanced at Emmanuel. He was staring at the old wheel that was rusted the color of a ripe plum. We’d been coming to this spot since we were munchkins. Zach had showed us where it was. The metal cart that the wheel fell from was a few feet away, still intact but rusted the same color as the wheel, and we often fantasized about how the two items came to be separated.
“Sheila’s right,” I said. “It just aint’ the same no more.”
I took the hay from between my teeth and spit on the dirt. I felt a dark sludge rise in my stomach and I wanted to leave. The sun was setting, and a breeze coaxed goose pimples from my arms.
“Ya’ll can’t be serious. It’s not like he was murdered round these parts.”
No one responded, but the silence spoke. Zach died from a freak accident, a coincidence. Slicing open a thumb and catching tetanus from an old wheel aint’ common, and it sure aint’ a reason to be scared, but we all knew the truth. Zach and Emmanuel was only playing, but Emmanuel pushed mighty hard and Zach steadied himself on the wheel. He didn’t see the sharp bit and it cut him something deep.
“Might as well of.”
Sheila gave Emmanuel a cold stare, and her words were icy enough to make his lips freeze. He started biting his nail and stood, walking toward the forest where the cicadas had started singing again. I sighed and felt my gut twist. Watching him go felt like losing money. I knew he wasn’t mad at me, but what Sheila…
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