His mangled hands were proof that his father loved him. Shoving them deep into the pockets of his tattered hoodie, he hurried away from the lights of the flower shop on the main street of the little town and into the darkness of the alley. He didn’t have much time. His father would finish in a few moments and would come looking for him. He knew where he was supposed to go. Find the nearest convenience store and hide in the shadows. Sometimes, he went a little farther than the nearest one, hoping that his father wouldn’t find him, but his father always did. He seemed to have a sixth sense of which direction Elijah would take and where he would end up.
Tonight was going to be different. He wasn’t going to let his father find him. He was going to go to the one place where his father would never return. He walked to the end of the block and turned left. The alley was just behind the café on the corner. Full of dumpsters, it was clean for an alley. Lights from the rear entrances of the businesses along the street shown on the red brick of the building. Too much light. He was hoping he could hide in the darkness. He would have to crouch behind a dumpster and hope no one saw him.
Elijah walked down the alley, passed the back of the café, passed the back of the dress shop until he got to the flower shop. The back door was propped open. Perhaps, the owner of the flower shop had been getting ready to take the day’s trash out to the dumpster. A breeze lifted his dingy bangs and he could smell the cloying scent of decaying flowers. He heard the rumble of his father’s voice and the woman answering him. Then he heard her cry out. Her voice was quickly silenced and then he heard nothing.
A horrible thought occurred to him. What if his father came out the back way? He hadn’t thought of that. He didn’t know how his father left a building once he’d given into the impulse. That’s what his father called it—the impulse. His father had impulses that he couldn’t always control. When the impulse became too strong, he sent Elijah away and did what he needed to do. Elijah turned and ran back to the café and hid behind the dumpster. He had just crouched behind the dumpster and turned to look at the flower shop when the back light went out and his father stepped into the alley. Elijah squeezed himself between the dumpster and the rough brick wall. He was only twelve and small for his age, but he barely fit into the small space.
He heard the slap of his father’s boots against the concrete bed of the alley, growing nearer to Elijah’s hiding place. Elijah held his breath and stayed still. His father paused at the corner of the café and Elijah tensed. He was sure that his father had seen him, but when he heard his footsteps begin to recede, he realized his father must have paused to check the street before leaving the alley. Elijah gave him a few minutes more and then slunk down the alley back to the flower shop. The door was closed now. Elijah prayed that it was unlocked.
Luck was with him. The door pulled open easily and Elijah slipped inside to visit the aftermath of his father’s latest impulse.