The Blood Trail
When I was a boy, the most frightening thing in the world was the sound of adults arguing in the middle of the night.
One summer night, when I was eleven, I was awakened by loud voices coming from a neighbor's house.
There was shouting, then a scream, and then the slamming of a screen door.
The next morning, while retrieving the newspaper for my father, I noticed a blood trail on the sidewalk at the end of the driveway.
After breakfast, I gave my brothers the slip. I didn't want them tagging along, asking dumb questions, as I followed the blood trail.
I ran to my friend Jerry's house. He ate Devil Dogs for breakfast, stayed up late, and was allowed to watch Sam Peckinpah movies.
If anyone would be up for following a blood trail, it would be my friend Jerry. As soon as I said the word, "blood," he said, "Where?"
"Hold on," I said. "Let's get Joe."
Joe lived across the street. He could turn his eyelids inside out and had taught me how to spit surreptitiously out of the side of my mouth.
"He should be a part of this," I said.
Joe was still in his pajamas watching cartoons when Jerry and I knocked on his door.
When I whispered the word "blood" in his ear, I never saw anyone move so fast.
Joe got his Stingray bicycle out of the garage. Jerry and I didn't have our own bikes and Joe was always rubbing our noses in it.
"Where's the blood?" Joe asked. "Why don't you leave your bike here," I said. I saw the blood first and didn't want Joe to steal my glory.
After some more badgering, Joe finally put the bike back in the garage. "Let's go," I said.
We walked back up the street. Before we reached my house, we noticed the blood trail began in front of my next door neighbor's.
Jerry couldn't help making a joke. He knelt down, touched the blood droplet with his fingertip, put it to his lips, and said, "Still fresh."
That's when I remembered the loud voices in the middle of the night. "This is where it began," I said like some TV sleuth.
We followed the blood past my house and up the block. It was easy to do with the white cement sidewalk.
At the end of the street we discovered several bloody footprints as if the person who was bleeding wasn't sure where to go.
Jerry couldn't resist: "It looks like he was dancing in his own blood."
Then Joe chimed in, "It looks like a sick game of Twister."
We picked up the blood trail again on the sidewalk across the street and followed it past a couple more houses.
By this time our hearts were beating with anticipation. What were we going to find at the end?! A body?!
The blood trail appeared to end in front of a house we were unfamiliar with. None of our friends lived there.
Then Jerry pulled out a magnifying glass he normally used to torture insects and got down in the grass with it.
With a big grin on his face, he turned to me and said like Daffy Duck, "He went that-a-way," pointing toward the backyard.
Jerry was right. When I looked closely, I could see drops of blood splattered randomly in the crabgrass leading toward the backyard.
As I continued to follow the blood trail, I noticed that Jerry and Joe were lingering on the sidewalk.
"C'mon!" I called but they didn't move. When I waved to them, they just shook their heads.
Rounding the corner of the house, I came upon an old woman scrubbing a picnic table with a rag. It was red with blood.
Startled, I started to leave but she called to me to stay. "This is it," she said calmly. "Were you expecting more?"
"Some poor guy slits his throat, decides to run around the neighborhood, and leaks out his life on my picnic table. The end."
"Are you disappointed?" she asked, rinsing the bloody rag in a bucket of soapy water. "You should be."
"That's life. One disappointment after another until you die."
I didn't know what to say. No adult had ever spoken to me so directly, as if I weren't a kid.
I turned and walked slowly back toward the street where Jerry and Joe were still waiting.
"What happened?! What did you see?!" they asked, still excited by what I might reveal. "Let's go play," I said.
I didn't have the heart to tell them.
released July 8, 2015
Story by A.P. Mike
Read by Charley Morgan
Sound effects by Charlotte Morgan
all rights reserved