Ladder To Nowhere

Cleo skipped through the woods as Jak trailed after her. “What do you want to do on your last day?” Cleo asked as she spun around, kicking up fiery leaves with her feet.

“I don’t know,” Jak mumbled as they scuffed their boots in the dirt.

“Hmm, I know! We could climb the magic ladder in the garage!” she plopped down in a pile leaves under the dogwood tree. Her corduroy dress fanned around her.

Jak sunk down next to her. “You know I don’t like heights.” They zipped up their jacket even higher.

“No, silly, don’t you remember? We would sit on the steps and pretend we were in a wizard’s tower.”

A squirrel ran by Jak’s foot and Jak watched it scramble up the tree. “That sounds boring.”

Cleo frowned. “Oh, okay. We could joust instead? You know, with the rolly chairs in the basement?”

Jak threw a pinecone at the squirrel. “I chipped your tooth last time we tried that.”

“No jousting then.” She scratched her head with bubblegum pink nails. “Um, hmm. Oh! Let’s be pirates. The hammock is still in the backyard.”

Jak didn’t reply except to scrape some dirt off their boots.

“Do you just want to sit in silence instead?” Cleo laughed.

“You always lose the quiet game,” Jak scoffed.

“Hey! Well, fine. But still. It’s your last day here! My dads even let me skip school today. And you know how serious they are about class, even in elementary school.”

Jak stood up. “I know I’m moving! I don’t want to play any of those stupid games. We’re not going to see each other again.”

Cleo stood up too. “We both got phones and there’s always facebook.”

“It’s over. I’m going halfway across the world!”

“The other side of the country isn’t that far away.”

Jak threw up their hands in the air. “Whatever, I’m going home. Still got some things to pack.” They started to stalk off towards their house.

“Wait, you’ll stop by my house before you leave, right? To say goodbye?”

Jak stopped and sighed. “Yeah, sure. Bye.”

“Okay, bye.” After Jak disappeared through the trees, Cleo turned and began walking in the opposite direction to her house.


Later Cleo was standing in the garage staring at the ladder with wide steps they used to sit on while playing make believe games. She climbed the first few steps and sat down with her feet dangling. She tried to imagine wizards and dragons, pirates on the blue seas, but all she saw was her dads’ beat up pickup truck. Jak had always been the one to tell the stories.


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