The Sun of ’61

Story by
Oluchi Nwoke

The 1961 sun blazed lazily in the sky, the sun glinting off her bleached skin, as if casting light off her almost there veins. She flitted through the planes unknowingly, coming out from the wooded corners of the off campground, the parts casted in shadows and vanished footsteps. The campgrounds were familiar to her, the same leaned back chair resided in the shade, her feet taking her around the lopsided tent that she had just helped pitched with Josie. Or was it Macie? The names escaped her mind as she thumbed through possible names of fellow camp goers. She wandered about, furiously looking for who she had pitched the tent with, getting increasingly irate, unable to spot a “Josie” or “Macie”.  

She noticed the backside of Tom Flanderson, or just Tom to her and the rest of the campers, was in the midst of making a midday soup. The camp leader and a volunteer park ranger often trekked with a small herd of giddy talkative children excited to become real “outdoorsmen”, ever so often, spending a couple weeks at the park teaching the dos and don’ts of fishing and knot tying. Sometimes parents tagged along, curious to see what could be learned, not this month though. It seemed like every mommy or daddy had an excuse to avoid the unneeded tedious hike. As she turned each corner or plodded towards every bench, she came to the realization that the only familiar thing was the campground and Tom, every face may have well been blank sheets because she knew none of the children. 

She began to hurriedly dash through the piles of outing gears and lunches, now uncertain of her whereabouts or the whereabouts of her friends. She tried to remember when they had been scheduled to leave, go back to their respective towns. Even today’s date was blurred. It wasn’t until she bumped into a freckled nosed kid throwing a football, did she understand. His short denim clad legs kicked through her translucent skin, running for a catch. She held her breath for the pain, but nothing came except a quiet draft from where he kicked, as if her skin had been grazed with an ice cube. She had never felt the sun on her skin. She hurried away as she peered at Tom from the corner of her eyes.

Tom Flanderson hadn’t expected lunch to be such a grueling task, warming up the soup on the fire had taken most of the afternoon, he deliberated on whether he should even call this dinner. He chuckled to himself at what the new name could be. He did a quick head count as he surveyed the campground, sighing relief as the new border fences had held up. A new initiative the park had taken some months back to prevent more missing children, although Tom asked himself, perhaps too late? One of the kids ran up with a bulky camera, of course a loan from a parent. They fumbled it for quite some time, content with their discovery and beamed up at Tom. “Smile Mr. Flanderson!” as Tom gave a goofy smirk, just as he felt a slight chill pass by his neck. 

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