In The Ramp, a gruff school bus driver drops off a load of teenagers at an unoccupied field and tells them to “go have fun.” In the middle of the field sits a mysterious concrete ramp to nowhere.
About the Author
David lives in Chicago and is fourteen years old. David started writing when he was eight but didn’t take it seriously until, at the age of eleven, he began writing for the school newspaper. He’s been writing fiction since he was twelve. This is David’s first published work . . . but not his last . . . not by a long shot. In his spare time, David enjoys interacting with his family and playing card games.
You can follow David’s writings -- mainly poetry -- on his blog: Extemporaneous Fiction.
The Ramp by David McDermott
The faded yellow bus rattled noisily into a patch of dry, dead weeds among the grass. Dirt matted its side, and an ugly mixture of dust and exhaust filled the air. The children inside poked their noses against windows caked so thickly with mud and mold that they were practically opaque. The bus jerked to a stop at the corner of an old metal fence, overgrown with weeds and vines, littered with holes, begging for a renovation.
The bus was an ugly yellow color, though upon further inspection, you could tell it used to be a beautiful, vibrant yellow. Through years of reckless use, it had gathered patches of dirt along the side, faded and blended in with the yellow. The wheels were rusty and the tires worn. The driver puffed on a dying cigarette, glancing carelessly at the children through the rear-view mirror. A blue checkered trucker’s cap with years of fatigue was plopped lazily on his head. He wore a thick plaid shirt, splattered at random with coffee stains and ash marks. On his feet were tan construction boots, heavily matted with mud and soot. His pants were fresh Levi’s that stood out against the rest of his outfit, crisp and clean.
He yelled to the back of the bus in a gruff voice, “We’re here, go have fun.” The kids rose uncertainly. They filed down the aisle and dismounted slowly. They jumped down the steps from the bus, landing in a dusty, dry ditch sitting inconveniently directly in front of the doors. Looking around, their eyes met an unconvincing landscape. To their left the fence was overgrown hideously. Grasses and bushes stuck through the gaping patches in the wiring. The overgrowth crowded their path, partially obscuring the view of their surroundings. To their right, loomed a cement structure, emotionless and colorless. Its shape represented a parking building, but it lacked an entrance, paint, and lighting. It was about four stories high, grey and uninviting, and the material was chipping along the corners. A gravel path served as a meager walkway that continued for a few hundred feet before trailing off into nothing.
As they walked forward through a gap in the fence that appeared to be an entrance, the kids looked to their left to see a field previously hidden by the overgrowth. Before them stretched a field of tall, vibrant green grass, its beauty underscored with the foil of the crumbling concrete building. The grass was a little shy of five feet, up to the nose of most of the children. Out of the grass rose a single concrete ramp. It looked like a wedge—perfectly cut into clean angles—and rose seven or eight feet into the air. Past the ramp, the grass seemed to flow on into a peaceful oblivion save for a faint outline of willow trees in the distance. The trees stayed stock still, daunting and brave against the clouding sky.
As the kids gazed at their surroundings, they heard the bus pull back behind them. A cloud of exhaust covered their faces, and the bus zoomed away, not to return until the end of the day. The kids glanced around, unsure of what to do or where to go. A few of the more adventurous kids ran off to explore the crumbling building. The others, inspired by their classmates’ courage, soon followed suit. They sprinted toward the building, jumping and shouting raucously, the thought of adventure igniting their childish curiosity. Only two of them remained.
The first was a boy. His hair was a light brown tint, a few shades lighter than his eyes, which were a rich deep brown. He was average height, but his limbs were unusually long. His stance was confident, but not confrontational, resembling a lioness watching over its pride. He glanced over at his partner, a taller girl, and an engaged expression crept over his face.
She had hazy eyes, their color unclear but leaning towards a pale green. Her long hair flowed past her shoulders, with streaks of red accenting its rich dark color. She wore a yellow t-shirt and stylistically ripped jeans, with sneakers to finish her appearance. Her face was dotted uncertainly with freckles, covering her nose, but not extending much farther up her face. She turned toward the boy, and, understanding his look, waited for him to start into his surroundings.
He gestured to the grass, and she nodded in response. Walking slowly, with his arms outstretched, he stepped into the ocean of green, the thin blades reaching up to tickle his nose. Taking a deep breath, he absorbed the cleanliness of the atmosphere, enjoying its honesty and serenity. The girl watched him, observing his actions with curiosity. Then, slowly, she followed him. She stepped into the field, the breeze blowing the grass into her chin and chest. The wind whipped against her face, and she closed her eyes, letting her other senses take over. The two of them stood there in silence together, a sense of peacefulness hovering in the air.
They waited, silently, patiently, and then the boy looked over at the girl, and a smile crept onto his face. He took a tentative step, and she opened her eyes. Then he charged forward, running through the grass as it rippled against his body, tickling his cheeks and tingling his arms and legs. A laugh escaped his mouth. A feeling of freedom rushed through his body, warming him and inspiring him. The girl, intrigued, did the same. She ran through the field, creating waves with her movement. That same freedom compelled her, and she continued, running past the boy before slowing down. She turned, laughing and out of breath, to look back at the boy. He grinned and zoomed toward her. They stood together for a moment, smiling wildly.
The boy took off again, running in a circle and returning to the girl, who copied his movements. They waited again, and this time, the girl started first, with the boy in pursuit. Instead of completing the circle, the girl pulled up in front of the ramp that was placed inconveniently in the middle of the field, and the boy came alongside her. The girl stood with her hands on her hips, breathing heavily. She walked in a small circle, and the boy ripped the top off of a tall blade of grass, twisting it in his hands. She looked up at the ramp, inspecting it, as if to figure out its purpose, to gain some meaning from its build.
“Why do you think this is here?” She gestured towards it. The boy looked up for a second, and then shrugged. “Don’t know…” He trailed off and went back to inspecting his blade of grass. She walked up the ramp and stood at the top, looking around at her surroundings from this new angle. Returning her hands to her hips, she inhaled deeply, smiling a little at the view. It seemed so odd to her, the lush fields contrasting so obviously with the uninviting structure. The discord between the two settings intrigued her, piquing her interest in a welcome way. She loved the feeling of curiosity it inspired. The clashing landscape was somehow beautiful; the imperfection seemed to wink at her; the lack of consistency was, in a way, inviting.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the boy climbing next to her. He stood beside her, the two of them confident and majestic. He surveyed the landscape and was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. An inconvenient wave of fear, sadness, hope, and joy crashed into him, receding and advancing like the tide. He lowered himself to sit on the edge of the ramp, his feet swinging. The girl slid down next to him, and they sat side by side, arms grazing against each other, thinking. Thinking about the emotions that had flowed through them. Thinking about their surroundings. Thinking about each other.
The boy swung his legs around and lay on his back. He cushioned his head on his hands, his elbows pointed to the sides. The girl looked back at him and then swung her legs around to lie down beside him. She tucked her hands below her head, mimicking how he was positioned. Her elbow rested just below his, but the tips still touched. She turned her head to look at him, and he did the same. They smiled, and then turned their heads back to look at the sky, now littered with dark clouds.
The boy sighed, the emotions still flooding his brain. He was happy, but there was something else in him. He felt like he had found something that had been previously lost, had fixed some broken part of him. It was as if the last piece of an intricate puzzle, which had been pronounced gone, had been found, and placed dutifully in its place. The beauty of his surroundings, of this feeling, was so refreshing, so welcome. He loved this moment, wanted it to last forever. He hoped he would never leave her side.
The sound of the other kids moving toward him broke up his thoughts. Their voices were drawing nearer, and he realized that the moment would soon be lost. Clutching at the last of those fleeting emotions, he uttered two words. “I wish…” He tried to finish, but found he couldn’t. He was too overwhelmed, the feeling too complex to be put into words.
The girl turned to look at him, but understood. She nudged a little closer, and they lay there together, united as one body. The others’ voices drew nearer, the clouds loomed in the sky, but neither of them dared move. Neither wanted to end the moment. But, with its cessation drawing near, they took a collective breath and rose to meet the newcomers.
About the Story
The Ramp is a story about two adolescents who are on the brink of maturity but still young enough to enjoy the exuberance of a spontaneous moment. As the moment passes, and their peers draw ever closer, they relish an act of innocence togetherness.
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