Displaying items by tag: fiction
Chapter Eight - It's Not Any Better
Hayley and I stomped our feet on the way up to the back door of Aunt Georgia's house, trying to get feeling back in our toes. This time of year was always cold, but it was twice as cold here, out in the middle of nowhere with no trees around. The wind blew hard enough to nearly knock us down. It stung our eyes and cheeks, and our fingers ached pretty quickly. It was worse for me because I didn't have gloves. Sometimes I got so mad at the wind, I swore into it, but the wind just took my words away. We had started riding our bikes to the stable in the mornings because it was faster. I had mostly forgiven Hayley for abandoning me at the party, so we were back to normal, laughing little frozen clouds out of our mouths as we rode.
Chapter Seven - My Education
Who needed school, anyway? I learned a lot from Hayley. Stuff like how to take care of horses, where to download music for free, how to ride a horse, and how to bum rides into town from Jared, one of Aunt Georgia's four farm workers. Hayley also taught me how to ride a bike, since Momma had never had the money to buy me a bike and we would've had to leave it behind somewhere, anyway. Most important, I learned how to keep quiet and stay out of Great Aunt Georgia's way. That old woman was every bit as mean as she was that first day when she yelled at my sister for singing.
Jack stood on the front porch shivering as snow fell around him. With a deep breath, he rang the doorbell. A second later, the door flew open.
“Rah!” yelled a boy dressed in a pair of Superman pajamas with a red cape trailing behind him.
“Hi, you must be Walter,” Jack said.
“Amanda, your boyfriend’s here,” said Walter as he ran away with the cape flying.
After a few awkward moments alone on the porch, Jack walked into the house. It smelled like gingerbread and hot apple cider. He heard Christmas carols playing in the background. The outside of the two-story house was outlined in white lights, and inside he noticed more festive decorations. So different from his parents' house where they didn’t even have a tree. He usually cringed at commercialism. But he had to admit, it was cozy inside.
Chapter Six - Beginning Again
Bo had never met Great Aunt Georgia, so her place was the safest place for us to be. That was why Momma packed up Sydney and me and as many of our things as fit into the car and drove us the entire length of the state. We left everything else behind. While all the other kids in the last town were getting ready to start school with their new backpacks and shoes, we were eating gas station donuts and watching Illinois go by out the window. There was no air conditioning in the car, so we kept the windows rolled down. Wind blew our hair all over the place, and Momma blasted the radio louder than the wind. We yelled along instead of singing along with the music, and Sydney hooted and screeched with laughter every time we went over a bump and the pile of bed pillows fell onto her.
Flat cornfields and soybean fields whipped past us, and Momma seemed happier with every mile she put between Bo and us. I didn’t remember much of anything about Bo, but I felt lighter as Momma’s mood lifted. For the whole day, it felt like we were back to normal, just the three of us and a new start. Everything that had happened over the summer seemed less and less real.
Chapter Five - Once Again
Life didn’t have time to settle back down to some kind of normal before everything changed. We never saw Justin again, though for a while strange men knocked on our door at all hours. I never opened it. Finally they must have figured out he was gone and left us alone. But it seemed that just as soon as Justin's losers stopped coming around, we got that phone call.
It was the night before school started, and the cell phone Momma left for us for emergencies rang. Momma didn’t give that number out, so I thought it must have been her. Without checking the number on the screen, I pressed the talk button and said “Hello?”
“Well, hello,” a man’s voice said. Something about the voice sounded familiar, but I didn’t know how. The only men I knew were teachers at school and Justin's freak show. The voice made my stomach tighten up, and I was scared.
Chapter Four - Busted
All that long summer, Momma worked all day, stayed out most of the night, and ordered us around like she was a boss and not our mother whenever she was home. She growled in frustration when Sydney made messes. She wouldn’t color anymore, not even faking it like she used to do. And she always smelled like the bad smoke. She also started drinking little bottles of what she told Sydney was grownup Kool-aid in the mornings after she got home and finished her daily routine of barfing into the toilet and asking me to bring her ice water. We didn’t have an ice cube tray, so I could only give her cold water from the tap. It made her barf more sometimes, but I wasn’t sorry. I knew full well what that special Kool-aid was because I could read the labels for myself. I knew how bad that stuff was for you. They told us at school. But what could I do about it? She was no longer on our side. She was on Justin’s side.
“Hey, Cara, could you check on Sydney? I don’t want her light on all night,” Momma said as she yanked open a kitchen drawer and fished around inside. She was running late as usual. That made her rush around and drop a lot of things and cuss a little under her breath. She worked all night taking care of old people at the nursing home. I was her helper. I was eight years old. That meant I was big, so I got to stay home and take care of Sydney by myself all night. I didn’t turn on the stove or answer the door while Momma was at work.
I left Momma to make her lunch in peace and went down the hallway of our tiny apartment to our bedroom. I left the light on for Sydney and me every night, but Momma said electricity was expensive. I shouldn’t leave a light on unless we were awake, even though the dark was scary. But I always did; I just didn't tell Momma. Right away when I opened the door, Sydney turned toward me and smiled her big, silly smile.
I’m not crazy about Sundays to begin with, and this particular Sunday, with me being awkwardly in love didn’t help. Every Sunday, all day long, I keep thinking about having to go back to school on Monday, and how I’ll have to wait until baseball practice on Wednesday to see Betsie Newton again. So there I was, lost in my same old Monday-is-tomorrow, Sunday evening funk-mood, walking home from my friend Alex’s house, when I heard someone calling me in a sing-song voice: “Rob–ert…”
I barely heard it.
“Rob–ert…” I looked behind me and I saw someone riding a bicycle toward me. She was pedaling slowly. Soon I could make out that it was her: Betsie Newton. “Well, now I don’t have to wait until Wednesday after all,” I thought.
And I smiled.
Betsie is my little league coach’s daughter. She started coming to games and practices with her father and brother a couple of weeks ago, and things have gotten progressively more complicated for me ever since. I should have known that it was her, since she’s just about the only person that ever calls me “Robert.” Most everyone else calls me Bob. My mood improved significantly, and I tucked my shirt in.
I turned and waited for Betsie as she eventually, finally peddled to where I stood.
“Hey, how’s it goin’?” she said. She smelled like strawberries.
“Okay, I guess. I’m just hoofin’ it home for dinner.” I looked vaguely in the direction of my house. Alex’s dad had invited me to stay for dinner, but I didn’t even bother to call my mom and ask her if I could stay; I knew she would probably say yes and then torment me later with subtle, soft psychological torture designed to induce maximum guilt, so I declined. You see, Alex’s mom pissed-off my mom for an undisclosed reason, and even though Alex’s mom didn’t even live there anymore, I guess it became a kind of ‘guilt-by-association’ kind of thing.
The hot Texas air filled the bathroom with a humid smell of cattle and tobacco; Tanya’s lavender scented bubble bath barely knocking a dent in the heavy atmosphere. She absentmindedly flicked the purple bubbles with her pinkie finger, watching them explode from perfect spheres into nothingness. The smell of nicotine began to drift up the stairs, signaling that her mom’s new boyfriend had lit up a smoke. She pictured his brown hair and side burns, his pale blue eyes, trying to remember what his name was. Henry? No, that wasn’t right… maybe Joey? Wait, that wasn’t it either. Her mom had broken up with him a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t really matter anyway; none of the men mom brought home were around for long. Her mom didn’t seem to notice this ever-present cycle, but it was there. The man would be brought home from some sort of bar or club. He’d then be introduced to Tanya as “yer new daddy.” When Tanya had been real young she had sometimes called them that, “daddy”. She always wanted a dad; but ever since she was old enough to understand the cycle, she’d realized it wasn’t worth getting her hopes up. Now she just nodded curtly, then waited a week or two for her mama to break up with the man and find someone new. That was the system, the way her life worked.
Over the Top by Richard Fay
ILLUSTRATOR BIO: Richard H. Fay currently resides in upstate New York with his wife and two cats. Formerly a laboratory technician-turned-home educator, Richard now spends his days juggling numerous art and writing projects. History, myth, folklore, and legend serve as inspiration for his creative endeavours.
Mom looked at us as if we had just said her favorite soap opera had been cancelled. She wasn't happy.
"You boys have been fighting again, haven't you? Who was it this time? Can't you walk home from school just one day without getting into a scrap?"
Which was a major exaggeration. I quickly calculated that actually we averaged two and half fights per week. Which is quite acceptable when you consider we had to walk past the front doors of the Protestant School 4 times a day, twenty times a week (except for Catholic Holidays of course) which works out to just over ten percent. I decided not to bring this up to Mom, at least not at that moment. By the way, I got an A+ in math. Grade six was a cinch.
The thing is, we hadn't been in a fight. Our torn and muddy winter jackets, missing mittens, scrapes, bruises, and cuts were a result of something much worse. Something we could never admit to. Something that would surely get us grounded right through until after we were dead. No, it wasn't a scrap at all.
We had been bumper sliding.