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View Full Version : The Draft (Complete Short Story)



Lukk Bobmna
September 3rd, 2010, 02:47 AM
Here's a short story I wrote. Would love to get some feedback!

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Out in the forest, there’s a small tree, just a few years old. All around it are tall oaks, as green as limes in the sun. But the small tree’s leaves are a cold crimson brown, devoid of the life all the others have so much of. Down by the small tree, light is as precious as gold, hidden under mountains of shadows.
My Dad told me that tree would be lucky to last through spring. But seasons pass and the tree refuses to die. It clings to the life it can grasp, and waits for the day it will grow above the rest.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The world was changing. Either that, or I was changing. My friends were changing. The playful banter we carried with us through high school was being left behind. Violence was like firecrackers, erupting again and again in the night. Fighting for fighting’s sake suddenly made sense to everyone around me. It seemed like just because our country was fighting in a war, we had to fight at home too. We had to fight to stop violence, both at home and away.

Keith seemed to be the only other person who hadn’t lost their mind. We would sit outside, discussing how stupid it all was. Together, we were two silent protesters, careful to say things only we could hear. We just prayed it would stop. I counted the days till August 20th, when I’d be forced to go if they picked my birth date for the draft.

Summer slipped by like water and that dreaded day came. My mother bought a huge birthday cake for me, with 18 fiery reminders that I could leave any day. Die any day. I tried to smile, to be the adult I officially was. But I felt more like a child then I had in years.

Every time a lottery drawing neared, I would start to shake, my hands unable to keep still. They always showed the drawing right after the nightly news. Right after the report from the warfront, with the pictures of dead soldiers, dead Americans. As if to say “Wanna end up like that? Here’s your lucky chance!” A man would walk out, with a huge container filled with every birth date. He’d pick one out of it, unfold it and reveal which date had been picked. All boys 18 and older were automatically eligible. If you’re date was called, you had to go.
I watched each drawing, my eyes barely able to focus on the screen. Each time they showed a date that wasn’t mine I would thank the Lord in earnest. I’d never been religious, but not a day would go by that I wouldn’t pray. It was no wonder the Church was having a record number of members.

But after five months of this, my luck finally ran out. I had just gotten home from the auto shop I worked at. I knew nothing about cars, but my father was an Assistant Manager there, and by God his son was going to work there too. I didn’t mind. It paid decently and gave me something else to do than wait until the next draft number was announced.

I’d come home late, and ran to the television, fumbling with the dial. After a moment my fingers decided to work, and I sat down, trying to keep my hands from shaking. The announcer came on and pulled out a sheet of paper. My throat closed up as he unwrapped the sheet. The date flashed onto the screen. I stared at the number, wishing for anything other than August 20th. And it wasn’t. It was January 3rd, the day Keith was born.
I threw my fist against his door, desperate for it to open. Finally it did, and Keith was standing there, his face a ghostly white.

“Hi,” he said, standing frigid in the icy wind.

I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I didn’t know what to say, or how to say it.

“Did you…” I began slowly. “Did you see the… the date?”

He gave a forced chuckle that almost sounded like a whimper. “Yeah, I saw it.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, staring at my friend. I wanted to break down and cry, but if Keith could hold it together, I had to too.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.”

I was speechless. No big deal? How could he say that? After all the time we spent, loathing everything about the war. He was being sent off there, sent off to be slaughtered. And… he didn’t even care?

“Look, it’s really not that bad,” he said after I’d been silent for about a minute. “It still might be months until I actually get sent away. And, not everyone who goes there gets killed. Mark, it’s not like I’m going to die.

But he did die. I saw his mother at the funeral, clouded in black. Her face was expressionless and frozen. Throughout the military service, I never saw her speak, never move. But by the end, her carefully applied makeup was blotched, smeared all over her face by her silent tears.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

By the time I was 20, watching the drawing became a regular part of my life. It had almost lost its tortuous fear. I drove home in my new mustang I had got at the automotive store and strolled in, just in time for the news. I sat down and watched the last bit of the weather. They had stopped showing the war due to all the protest, all the deaths. As if the government was just realizing how many Americans were dying.

The news finished and they switched to the draft. The same man who’d been doing it from the beginning came out. I wondered if he had a son of his own. If he had felt the same fear I did. He picked out a piece of paper and unraveled it. The date flashed up on the screen. I blinked, trying to focus on the number.

It was August 20th.

It’s amazing how strong your heart is. Through everything, it continues to beat, every second of every day. Even as my life stopped, it continued to thump. Even as my lungs stopped breathing, my brain stopped thinking. I could still hear the pounding screech of my heart. I tried to focus on the screen, but it was incoherent array of colors, all bled together. My lungs refused to breathe again and I could feel myself choking. I was dying, and I was glad.

My conscious finally surfaced, and I gasped in air. My whole body was shaking terribly. I felt something blotchy on my cheek and touched it. It was tears. “This can’t be happening,” I thought. I got up and tried to get out of the prison I’d been trapped in. I needed real air, I needed to breath. But even getting out of the house seemed impossible now. I stumbled to the door and barely had enough energy to open it. “Am I having a heart attack?” I had never felt this week before in my life.

I got to my car and fell into the driver’s seat. My head collapsed against the wheel and suddenly I was sobbing. I couldn’t do it. Not after everything. Not after Keith. I couldn’t become another coffin, another military funeral. I tried to calm myself down, but thoughts didn’t seem to form. All I knew was that I had to leave.
I backed up the car, pulling it out of the driveway into the endless night. I didn’t even think to leave a note to my parents. To say goodbye. I drove past my house, past the high school I’d spent four years in. I drove past the auto shop where I’d worked for two years. Memories flooded my mind like a broken dam, but I pushed them back. I went past the tree I’d visited as a kid, the tree that refused to die. I drove past my home town, where I had spent my whole life, my whole existence. Past everything I knew and loved. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I could never go back.

ArcThomas
September 3rd, 2010, 03:25 AM
good topic/ theme..

defenestrator
September 3rd, 2010, 04:53 AM
I really enjoyed this. You're really good at building up that bleak, tense atmosphere. However, I felt the ending let it down a bit. It seemed a bit too abrupt, too sudden, and snapped me out of that atmosphere.

Maybe if you could create a stronger link to the part about the tree, at the beginning, it would help to round it out better?