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Horseshoe Magazine



John Clarke went by many names. John Clarke, of course, but also Johny, John C., Clarkey, JohnClarkegetoverhere and occasionally JohnClarkeyou’regonnagetitthistime. He thought it was just splendid; only important people got blessed with names to add to their collection. 

It was tough work, being him. His role in his community was understood and necessary. Who else was going to tantalize the neighborhood dogs or steal plump pears from the display cases in the market? Who else would keep the elderly young and his parents on their toes? John Clarke knew exactly what his role in the world was and he could not be more content.

On this day, John Clarke had to work excruciatingly to move his body down the walk; the sun was practically melting the bottoms of his shoes onto the porous concrete underfoot. It was like walking on a giant ball of wadded chewing gum: all stretch and saliva, no flavorful bubbles to save him from the labor. 

The streetlamps would awaken anytime now, bathe the houses in its artificial firefly light and cause his mother to be cross and throw a fit before dinner. Anger did not pair well with peas, he had learned. He always did try his very best to be prompt, but the tendons of gum kept him in place, they guided him places, told him secrets he couldn’t deafen. He always followed and it was never voluntary. Now John Clarke was trying to make it home, but he kept slowing down, thinking of his masterful getaway scheme. He chuckled to himself, picked up a nearby rock and pantomimed the whole event as his feet carried him toward wherever.

That was what led him to being late to dinner, much to his mother’s chagrin. John Clarke had found himself trying to fill as many gutters as he could with the stones he acquired from the goose pond nearby. They were round for the most part, not the most aerodynamic, but perfect for this job. It just so happened that, as he was a few stones away from doing a thorough inspection of the structural integrity of the gutters on the sides of Ms. Murdock’s house, that her son came home early from baseball practice. 

“JohnClarkewhatdoyouthinkyou’redoing?” He exclaimed from down the street, his voice booming right into John Clarke’s reddening ears.

John Clarke’s face picked up a sly grin, all teeth, no remorse. That was another name to add to the mental collection. “Don’t worry about it Thomas. Just go inside, I’ll be done here in a minute.” Of course John Clarke did not think this would work, it never did, but it did buy him enough time to fling a few more rocks into the air. They landed next to their brethren, shining against the waning sun. 


As Thomas Murdock, red as a bull, pawed at the ground and took off, his color trailing behind him, John Clarke assesses the situation at hand. He took notice at Thomas’s speed, his position relative to the animal at hand, and his options. He could a) stay put and apologize after getting beaten to a pulp, b) fight back against the much taller, older, and stronger Thomas, or c) run away like a sissy. Just as he thought, John Clarke would have to come up with his own solution. 

He waited for Thomas to get as close as he could, tossing the stone in his hand up into the air and catching it with a soft thud a few times while he waited. Just as Thomas was about to reach him, John Clarke whipped his arm back, remembering the anatomy of his muscle, and chucked the stone as hard as he could at the creaking gutter above. The metal hissed and groaned, straining against the house. It finally released, raining rocks onto Thomas. At this, John took it as a sign to book it to his side of town. 

Now John Clarke was trying to make it home, but he kept slowing down, thinking of his masterful getaway scheme. He chuckled to himself, picked up a nearby rock and pantomimed the whole event as his feet carried him toward wherever. 

When he finally did reach home, through an open window, he could hear an ongoing conversation between his mother and one of her phone friends. They were phone friends because that is where they existed. Never in flesh, only through soundwaves and curly cords. “I just don’t know what to do anymore,” she said, a green floral dress swaying against her calves as she paced the hallway, “It’s like he has no authority, he won’t listen to anyone! Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I weren’t a mother.” She shook her head as she said this, blond curls springing to and fro similar to the way all of John Clarke’s organs were moving inside of him. It was one thing to hear the town say that, but his own mother? 

He made his steps sonorous as he opened the front door; he did not have time for awkward confrontations with Pearl Clarke. As he stomped up the stairs, his mother was mysteriously quiet, but he knew she was just waiting for him to disappear before the tirade of disappointment began again. That predictable woman.

In his room, John Clarke grabbed a red bandana he had stolen from one of the older boys in the neighborhood. It was red, and fringed, and wonderful. He ransacked his room, tossing all of his valuables onto a precarious heap in the middle of the fabric. He planned on taking his limited stamp and coin collection, his favorite baseball, his metal whistle, and a glass pop bottle that houses his pet slug. He grabbed the red fabric from each order and tied it together. With that all settled, he snapped a thin branch from the tree that grew next to his window. He has seen this in one of his comic books. This was how people made a statement. This was how he would respond to his mother. 

He straddled his window sill and took one final look at his room. He breathed in the familiar air and wished all of his belongings goodbye. He would not be returning. He pushed himself off and flew for a few seconds before hitting ground again. He bent his knees like he had learned to do in order to avoid the doctors and off he went. He ran into the night without looking back. 

No more John Clarke, no more town. He had no name now. He could be anyone he wanted. He was everyone all at once.

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Kaylee Salazar
Kaylee Salazar, Executive Editor
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