‘Bet I can climb to the top’, Jem Mason says, round blue eyes burning in a sun-touched, freckled face. We all stare up at the roof of the almost finished house.
‘No way,’ Cory Sullivan says.
‘Bet you three strawberry laces I can,’ Jem says, already pacing towards the gates of the building site.
The bet was on.
Us kids weren’t meant to be anywhere near the building site, especially not horsing around on there. Our folks had warned us some kid got trapped and crushed there once.
The builders have padlocked the metal fences surrounding the site, but they’re no match for our ten year old legs. Jem is first over, landing on the gravel lightly. Cory follows. I lumber over last, regretting that school apple pie still lying undigested in my gut.
We walk across to the biggest house, the one that’s almost finished. We stare up at its fancy windows, its red roof tiles. It’s nothing like the chewing-gum white houses we all live in, squashed together like a row of bad teeth. None of our folks could afford one of these places.
We watch as Jem scrambles up the scaffold, skinny legs covered in bruises from similar escapades, leaving us to stare upwards. Nearing the top of the scaffold, no trouble, not even breaking a sweat.
‘You gotta go right to the top of the roof,’ Cory shouts up, ‘not just the scaffold, that’s way too easy’. He spits onto the dirt in front of us, his ugly mug looking satisfied.
‘Course I gonna,’ Jem shouts back, starting to hitch up onto the roof tiles.
‘Nah, don’t! It ain’t safe, me dad says…’,
‘Ah, calm it, Smithy, you fret too much,’ Jem shouts back.
Cory snorts. I wanna thump him. Jem crawls on hands and knees way above us, blue shorts too tight, white school shirt untucked. Reaching the top, Jem turns slowly, pushes up onto feet and stands on one leg at the pointed peak, holding hands out like an airplane, a broad smile.
‘Huh,’ Cory mutters, shoving hands into shorts pockets. He starts to walk off, kicking at the dirt.
But I just stare up at Jem Mason, standing there on one leg beaming into the setting sun on top of the roof and I know for sure.
Someday, Jem Mason is gonna be my girl.
Kate Jones is fanatical about flash fiction, reading it or writing it. Her work has been published widely online, including in Spelk, Firefly, Café Aphra, SickLit and The Nottingham Review. She has also been a three times winner of the weekly AdHoc Fiction contest, placed first in Flash500 and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. To keep things interesting, she’s currently interning for Great Jones Street and is an essayist for The Short Story. Make friends with her @katejonespp
featured photography by badpoem