Sticks and Stones

For the Daily Prompt – the word Superficial


Austin stared at the small wound on the back of his hand; a trickle of blood oozed from the broken skin. It was superficial, no need for stitches, even a bandage was unnecessary. He opened and closed his hand, testing out his knuckles. They were sore but nothing a little ice and time wouldn’t fix.

What happens now, Austin thought as he sat on the ground and leaned back against the brick building; his knees drawn up toward his chest. He closed his eyes and waited.

The groan came seconds later, but Austin didn’t open his eyes. When the sensation of another body beside him unnerved him for second Austin sat still and exhaled.

“Feel better?” Luke said.

Austin opened his eyes and looked at the guy beside him. Luke’s right eye had already swollen shut; a bluish tinge had begun to replace the reddened area. It wouldn’t be long before it was black as night. A trickle of coagulated blood ran down from Luke’s lip and stopped mid-chin.

“You should get some ice on that.” Austin closed his eyes.

“Where’d you learn to fight like that? I didn’t think you had it in you.” Luke chuckled.

“My brother.” Austin didn’t move.

“Should’ve thought. So do you?”

Austin looked at Luke again. “Do I what?”

“Feel better?”

Austin thought about it for a second. It did feel good for the time it lasted, now he felt remorse, at least for the moment; he was sure he’d get over it. Austin shrugged. “A little, I guess.”

Luke attempted a smile. The temporarily healed skin of his lip split again and fresh red blood dripped from the wound. He pressed a couple of fingers to his lips. “Well, you should.” Luke held out his hand.

Austin stared at the proffered hand. Dried blood streaked across the back of his knuckles. He narrowed his eyes. An area of on his left cheek bone stung a little; he hadn’t noticed it before.

The good side of Luke’s lip pulled into a partial half-smile. “Ya, I got at least one in.”

Austin patted the area with this fingertips. It was a bit tender but nothing more. If it hadn’t already discoloured it probably would. “Hmph! I guess you did.” Austin let his hand drop. He flexed and curled his fingers again.

“Well I better take-off.” Lucas rose to his feet. “Catch ya later.” He walked a few steps before he turned around again and looked down at Austin. “I guess I pretty much deserve this after all that time. Sorry about that.” Luke turned and walked away.

Austin remained seated. He leaned his head back against the hard brick and closed his eyes. He still felt bad for the fight and would never engage in something like that again, violence wasn’t the answer, he knew that for sure.

He inhaled and let his whole body relax with the exhale. He was glad he was older; he’d developed a thicker skin, though sometimes words still hurt, he shrugged it off. With Luke though, it had been a different story. Luke had tormented him when they were much younger and those words had cut deep into his psyche.

Sticks and stones, his mother’s voice whispered in his ear. Austin shook his head, a barely noticeable movement. They were always her attempt to soothe a teary eyed little boy who’d spent his day teased at school.

Superficial, Austin thought and looked at his hand again. Cuts and bruises hurt, but they didn’t leave behind painful reminders, not like the words – they were never superficial. The words shaped Austin. The words made him believe he was not good enough, made him question his choices, made him worry. No, the name calling wasn’t superficial, but Austin was determined they weren’t going to define him anymore. He was a work in progress, and while the words would forever remain, Austin would bury them as deep as he could under his successes.

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