The Griffon

When Ella got back from riding her bicycle, Billy was in his room, sobbing. She opened the door and peered in. The room was dim, Billy was shirtless, curled on his bed and facing the wall, fresh red welts over older, paler ones crisscrossing his back. Ella was glad she hadn’t been home when it happened. Then she felt bad. She might have been able to help and maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all.

“Billy?”

“Go away.”

She didn’t. When she sat on the edge of his bed he scooted closer to the wall to give her room, but kept his eyes closed.

“You all right?”

Billy nodded, sniffing. “I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“I know.”

He sat up, wincing, eyes red and wet, short brown hair tousled. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. “How come he whips me but not you?”

Ella felt a surge of guilt. Dad never did whip her. Yelled, sent her to her room, grounded her, but never whipped her. He whipped Billy though. For forgetting chores, getting a bad grade, being late, or just about anything. ‘It’s for your own good, he’d say as he swung his belt. I don’t want you to end up like me’

“I don’t know.” Ella found herself wishing Dad would whip her, at least once.

Billy stopped rubbing his eyes. “Tell me about the feathers.”

“Again?”

“Yeah.”

She sighed. He never tired of the story. “They’re the griffon’s feathers,” she began, “that’s what Neil says.”

Neil lived on a few blocks away. He collected a lot of weird stuff. One of them is big griffon feathers hung on the wall. Ella made up a story about the feathers and told it to Billy. she’d told him. “The griffon feather have a special spirit in it and can use their power to fly freely on the sky like a griffon!”

“It’s that real?”

“Yes, it’s real, fly on the sky just like a griffon” she’d replied,

Billy asked the same question he always asked when Ella was finished. “Is it true?”

“That’s what Two Feathers said,” Ella told him. Billy never met Neil. Dad had forbidden them to speak to stranger but Ella visited Neil anyway. Neil talked to her like she was grown up, gave her bread and cheese, sometimes with chilies so hot they brought tears to her eyes. He paid attention to her.

The thin walls of the trailer shook as the front door slammed.

“Home!”

Mom. Ella patted Billy’s arm. “I’ll bring you something to eat.”

“Thanks.” Billy lay back on his side, facing the wall.

Ella left, closing the door and going to the kitchen. Mom was making a sandwich. Dad lay on the couch, watching a show through half-closed eyes.

Her mother spread mayonnaise on a slice of bread. She smelled like french-fries. She’s in her light blue waitress uniform tight around her middle. “Where’s Billy?”

“In his room.” Ella sat on a wooden stool at the kitchen counter.

Her mother’s eyes flicked towards the couch. “He was bad again?”

Ella shrugged. “I guess.”

“What if he do this time?”

“I don’t know.”

Her mother finished making her sandwich before she spoke. “Well, he has to learn to be better. Right?”

“I guess.”

“What did you do today?”

Ella shrugged. “Same old. School. History homework. Rode my bike.” She’d gone by Neil’s, but he hadn’t been home. He’d left his trailer unlocked, but Ella wouldn’t think of going inside if he wasn’t there.

“Finish your homework?”

“I’ve still got math.”

“You’d better get to it then. Lights out at nine.” A slight hesitation. “Billy in bed?”

Ella nodded.

“He get anything to eat?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Make him a sandwich then, take him some milk. Okay?”

She made a ham sandwich and poured a glass of milk. As she walked past her father carrying the plate and glass he spoke without opening his eyes.

“Tell him to make sure he does all his chores from now on. Hear? No playing until chores are done.”

Billy wolfed down the sandwich and drank the milk without pausing for breath. Ella took the plate and glass back to the kitchen and made a sandwich for herself. Mom was taking a shower and getting ready for bed. Dad was gone from the couch, the TV off. He got up early to work construction. He had to be on site by five and worked until two. Mom worked at Wal-Mart during the day and waitressed in the evenings.

After eating, Ella washed the plate and glass and put them in the drying rack next to the sink before going to finish her homework. She finished her math little after nine, brushed her teeth, took a quick shower, and went to bed, falling asleep to the soft murmur of the tiny black and white TV in her parent’s bedroom.

Billy was gone when she woke. Elementary school started an hour earlier than junior high. Ella was glad she didn’t have to get up earlier, but wished she got home at two-thirty like Billy. She didn’t get home until four.

When she came back home, her father was on the couch when she got home. The door to Billy’s room was closed. An ache settled in her stomach. Had he gotten in trouble again? That would be every day this week.

“Is Billy home?” She set her books on the coffee table.

“In his room.” Her father’s eyes never left the TV. “He got a bad grade on a math test. His teacher called and told me. I asked her to call when he gets a bad grade. I’ve told him he needs to study, I’ve told him he needs to be educated, so he doesn’t end up like me. There’s a grilled cheese in the pan on the stove, and some potato chips in the cupboard.”

The sandwich was cold. Ella turned on the burner and warmed it. After eating, she went to her room and put her books on her desk, then went to Billy’s room and peeked in.

It was empty, the brown curtains pushed aside, the window open, the screen gone. Billy’d sneaked out before, though it meant a whipping if he got caught. She had to find him and help him get back. She didn’t want him to get another whipping.

“I’m going to ride my bike,” she said as she passed her father on the way out. Her heart pounded, her legs felt weak. She was trembling. Surely he would notice.

Her father stared at her a long moment. “Back by seven. Bring me a beer before you leave.”

Billy’s bike wasn’t next to hers behind the trailer. Where could he have gone? The playground was one of his favorite spots to play. She’d check there. She’d see if Neil was home since he lived on the way. He’d help her look. He liked to help. Maybe he and Billy would get to meet. Billy would like that, though he might ask about the feathers and find out the story wasn’t true.

She was sweating by the time she reached Neil’s trailer. When she knocked on the trailer door, Neil answered, looking worried. There were two other men inside the trailer, making it seem crowded and small and hot. They talked to each other in a strange language, making large gestures with their hands, looking both worried and angry. Neil said something and they both nodded and left.

Neil looked at her, his expression grave. “Hello, Ella.”

“Hello, Neil. Is something wrong?”

Neil sighed. Ella was suddenly aware of how old he was, how much gray streaked his long dark hair, how many deep lines etched his face. She hadn’t noticed before. He gestured towards the wall above his sagging couch.

“Your feathers,” Ella said, feeling as though someone had stolen her breath.

“Somebody took them while I was at the store. My feathers were gone when I got back.” He shook his head. “Who would take them? They have no meaning to anyone but myself.”

With sudden alarm Ella knew what Billy had done, what he planned to do.

“I think I know who took your feathers.” She told Neil about Billy. “I told him they were magic, that they made you fly.” She shook her head, close to tears. “I just wanted to make him feel better, Neil. I didn’t think he would steal them. What if he tries to use them? What if he thinks the story is true?”

“We must find him.”

The inside of Neil’s truck was hot and smelled like oil. They rode in silence to around the town. Neil stopped at a place called Cliff. It overlooked the deepest, a sheer drop of fifty feet to the rock and sand bottom. All the kids knew about it.

Neil left the truck running and they climbed out. He walked to the edge of the cliff. Ella saw his shoulders slump. When he turned to look at her, his dark eyes were sad.

Ella left the truck, feeling as though she were in a dream. The wind brushed across her arms, tickling the hairs. As she neared the cliff, she dropped to her hands and knees and inched forward, too frightened to stand so close to the edge. Her heart thumped so hard it felt as though it were trying beat its way out of her chest.

She scooted forward on her stomach and hung her head over the edge.

Billy lay on the pale brown sand at the bottom, face down, legs and arms outstretched, a black feather gripped in each hand. It felt as though something inside her broke. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but stare down at Billy. She should have protected him, kept him safe. She shouldn’t have told him about the feathers, shouldn’t have made up a story about them being magic. She should have helped him with his chores, tried harder to be his friend. At that moment, it seemed there were a thousand things she should have done and hadn’t. Now it was too late.

“It’s my fault,” she said between sobs. She wanted to do anything but look down at Billy. She couldn’t look away. It was as if someone else owned her eyes and was making her look to punish her, to make sure she never forgot. Her breath caught and she made a soft whimpering noise. “It’s my fault,” she said again.

“Shhh” Neil knelt and touched her back. “How were you to know what he would do? We each choose our path. It was Billy’s choice, although he was not ready to make it. The griffon has taken him home.”

Ella shook her head, tears dropping into the dust by her face. “There’s no griffon, there’s no magic. Billy’s dead.”

“The spirit never dies.” Neil helped her to her feet and led her back to the truck. “We need to tell the police.”

When he opened the door she shook her head, brushing at her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’m going to wait here.”

It looked as though Neil was going to say something, but all he did was nod. The truck raised a cloud of dust when he drove off.

When she found a place to make her way down. The bank was steep and loose. She slipped near the bottom, scraping her leg on a rock. She was dimly aware of the pain. She walked toward Billy.

His hair was matted with dried sweat and full of sand. His neck looked funny, swollen and bent. There was dark blood on the ground around his head. Flies gathered in it. Billy’s pale fingers were wrapped loosely around the feathers. Ella knelt beside Billy, reaching out to touch his hand.

There was a noise behind her. A large griffon, feathers glistening blue-black, stood on a rock. It watched her, pointed pink tongue peeking out, then bobbed its head twice before spreading its wings and launching into the sky, a dark shape against brilliant blue. It circled three times, then flew towards the horizon in the direction of the setting sun.

Ella sat by Billy’s body to wait for Neil and the police.

The Griffon

When Ella got back from riding her bicycle, Billy was in his room, sobbing. She opened the door and peered in. The room was dim, Billy was shirtless, curled on his bed and facing the wall, fresh red welts over older, paler ones crisscrossing his back. Ella was glad she hadn’t been home when it happened. Then she felt bad. She might have been able to help and maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all.

“Billy?”

“Go away.”

She didn’t. When she sat on the edge of his bed he scooted closer to the wall to give her room, but kept his eyes closed.

“You all right?”

Billy nodded, sniffing. “I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“I know.”

He sat up, wincing, eyes red and wet, short brown hair tousled. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. “How come he whips me but not you?”

Ella felt a surge of guilt. Dad never did whip her. Yelled, sent her to her room, grounded her, but never whipped her. He whipped Billy though. For forgetting chores, getting a bad grade, being late, or just about anything. ‘It’s for your own good, he’d say as he swung his belt. I don’t want you to end up like me’

“I don’t know.” Ella found herself wishing Dad would whip her, at least once.

Billy stopped rubbing his eyes. “Tell me about the feathers.”

“Again?”

“Yeah.”

She sighed. He never tired of the story. “They’re the griffon’s feathers,” she began, “that’s what Neil says.”

Neil lived on a few blocks away. He collected a lot of weird stuff. One of them is big griffon feathers hung on the wall. Ella made up a story about the feathers and told it to Billy. she’d told him. “The griffon feather have a special spirit in it and can use their power to fly freely on the sky like a griffon!”

“It’s that real?”

“Yes, it’s real, fly on the sky just like a griffon” she’d replied,

Billy asked the same question he always asked when Ella was finished. “Is it true?”

“That’s what Two Feathers said,” Ella told him. Billy never met Neil. Dad had forbidden them to speak to stranger but Ella visited Neil anyway. Neil talked to her like she was grown up, gave her bread and cheese, sometimes with chilies so hot they brought tears to her eyes. He paid attention to her.

The thin walls of the trailer shook as the front door slammed.

“Home!”

Mom. Ella patted Billy’s arm. “I’ll bring you something to eat.”

“Thanks.” Billy lay back on his side, facing the wall.

Ella left, closing the door and going to the kitchen. Mom was making a sandwich. Dad lay on the couch, watching a show through half-closed eyes.

Her mother spread mayonnaise on a slice of bread. She smelled like french-fries. She’s in her light blue waitress uniform tight around her middle. “Where’s Billy?”

“In his room.” Ella sat on a wooden stool at the kitchen counter.

Her mother’s eyes flicked towards the couch. “He was bad again?”

Ella shrugged. “I guess.”

“What if he do this time?”

“I don’t know.”

Her mother finished making her sandwich before she spoke. “Well, he has to learn to be better. Right?”

“I guess.”

“What did you do today?”

Ella shrugged. “Same old. School. History homework. Rode my bike.” She’d gone by Neil’s, but he hadn’t been home. He’d left his trailer unlocked, but Ella wouldn’t think of going inside if he wasn’t there.

“Finish your homework?”

“I’ve still got math.”

“You’d better get to it then. Lights out at nine.” A slight hesitation. “Billy in bed?”

Ella nodded.

“He get anything to eat?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Make him a sandwich then, take him some milk. Okay?”

She made a ham sandwich and poured a glass of milk. As she walked past her father carrying the plate and glass he spoke without opening his eyes.

“Tell him to make sure he does all his chores from now on. Hear? No playing until chores are done.”

Billy wolfed down the sandwich and drank the milk without pausing for breath. Ella took the plate and glass back to the kitchen and made a sandwich for herself. Mom was taking a shower and getting ready for bed. Dad was gone from the couch, the TV off. He got up early to work construction. He had to be on site by five and worked until two. Mom worked at Wal-Mart during the day and waitressed in the evenings.

After eating, Ella washed the plate and glass and put them in the drying rack next to the sink before going to finish her homework. She finished her math little after nine, brushed her teeth, took a quick shower, and went to bed, falling asleep to the soft murmur of the tiny black and white TV in her parent’s bedroom.

Billy was gone when she woke. Elementary school started an hour earlier than junior high. Ella was glad she didn’t have to get up earlier, but wished she got home at two-thirty like Billy. She didn’t get home until four.

When she came back home, her father was on the couch when she got home. The door to Billy’s room was closed. An ache settled in her stomach. Had he gotten in trouble again? That would be every day this week.

“Is Billy home?” She set her books on the coffee table.

“In his room.” Her father’s eyes never left the TV. “He got a bad grade on a math test. His teacher called and told me. I asked her to call when he gets a bad grade. I’ve told him he needs to study, I’ve told him he needs to be educated, so he doesn’t end up like me. There’s a grilled cheese in the pan on the stove, and some potato chips in the cupboard.”

The sandwich was cold. Ella turned on the burner and warmed it. After eating, she went to her room and put her books on her desk, then went to Billy’s room and peeked in.

It was empty, the brown curtains pushed aside, the window open, the screen gone. Billy’d sneaked out before, though it meant a whipping if he got caught. She had to find him and help him get back. She didn’t want him to get another whipping.

“I’m going to ride my bike,” she said as she passed her father on the way out. Her heart pounded, her legs felt weak. She was trembling. Surely he would notice.

Her father stared at her a long moment. “Back by seven. Bring me a beer before you leave.”

Billy’s bike wasn’t next to hers behind the trailer. Where could he have gone? The playground was one of his favorite spots to play. She’d check there. She’d see if Neil was home since he lived on the way. He’d help her look. He liked to help. Maybe he and Billy would get to meet. Billy would like that, though he might ask about the feathers and find out the story wasn’t true.

She was sweating by the time she reached Neil’s trailer. When she knocked on the trailer door, Neil answered, looking worried. There were two other men inside the trailer, making it seem crowded and small and hot. They talked to each other in a strange language, making large gestures with their hands, looking both worried and angry. Neil said something and they both nodded and left.

Neil looked at her, his expression grave. “Hello, Ella.”

“Hello, Neil. Is something wrong?”

Neil sighed. Ella was suddenly aware of how old he was, how much gray streaked his long dark hair, how many deep lines etched his face. She hadn’t noticed before. He gestured towards the wall above his sagging couch.

“Your feathers,” Ella said, feeling as though someone had stolen her breath.

“Somebody took them while I was at the store. My feathers were gone when I got back.” He shook his head. “Who would take them? They have no meaning to anyone but myself.”

With sudden alarm Ella knew what Billy had done, what he planned to do.

“I think I know who took your feathers.” She told Neil about Billy. “I told him they were magic, that they made you fly.” She shook her head, close to tears. “I just wanted to make him feel better, Neil. I didn’t think he would steal them. What if he tries to use them? What if he thinks the story is true?”

“We must find him.”

The inside of Neil’s truck was hot and smelled like oil. They rode in silence to around the town. Neil stopped at a place called Cliff. It overlooked the deepest, a sheer drop of fifty feet to the rock and sand bottom. All the kids knew about it.

Neil left the truck running and they climbed out. He walked to the edge of the cliff. Ella saw his shoulders slump. When he turned to look at her, his dark eyes were sad.

Ella left the truck, feeling as though she were in a dream. The wind brushed across her arms, tickling the hairs. As she neared the cliff, she dropped to her hands and knees and inched forward, too frightened to stand so close to the edge. Her heart thumped so hard it felt as though it were trying beat its way out of her chest.

She scooted forward on her stomach and hung her head over the edge.

Billy lay on the pale brown sand at the bottom, face down, legs and arms outstretched, a black feather gripped in each hand. It felt as though something inside her broke. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but stare down at Billy. She should have protected him, kept him safe. She shouldn’t have told him about the feathers, shouldn’t have made up a story about them being magic. She should have helped him with his chores, tried harder to be his friend. At that moment, it seemed there were a thousand things she should have done and hadn’t. Now it was too late.

“It’s my fault,” she said between sobs. She wanted to do anything but look down at Billy. She couldn’t look away. It was as if someone else owned her eyes and was making her look to punish her, to make sure she never forgot. Her breath caught and she made a soft whimpering noise. “It’s my fault,” she said again.

“Shhh” Neil knelt and touched her back. “How were you to know what he would do? We each choose our path. It was Billy’s choice, although he was not ready to make it. The griffon has taken him home.”

Ella shook her head, tears dropping into the dust by her face. “There’s no griffon, there’s no magic. Billy’s dead.”

“The spirit never dies.” Neil helped her to her feet and led her back to the truck. “We need to tell the police.”

When he opened the door she shook her head, brushing at her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’m going to wait here.”

It looked as though Neil was going to say something, but all he did was nod. The truck raised a cloud of dust when he drove off.

When she found a place to make her way down. The bank was steep and loose. She slipped near the bottom, scraping her leg on a rock. She was dimly aware of the pain. She walked toward Billy.

His hair was matted with dried sweat and full of sand. His neck looked funny, swollen and bent. There was dark blood on the ground around his head. Flies gathered in it. Billy’s pale fingers were wrapped loosely around the feathers. Ella knelt beside Billy, reaching out to touch his hand.

There was a noise behind her. A large griffon, feathers glistening blue-black, stood on a rock. It watched her, pointed pink tongue peeking out, then bobbed its head twice before spreading its wings and launching into the sky, a dark shape against brilliant blue. It circled three times, then flew towards the horizon in the direction of the setting sun.

Ella sat by Billy’s body to wait for Neil and the police.


by /u/uninoooos 

From: Reddit


 

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