Max Gibbons, Middle School Runaway

July 2, 2008
Max Gibbons was most likely the most ordinary 11-year-old kid in the history of the United States of America. He was the kind of boy that you could go to school with from kindergarten all the way to twelfth grade. Then, once you got out of school and had a successful career and happy life, you wouldn’t think about poor Max ever again. You would forget that he had ever existed.

Max might never have worried about this, except that he had three siblings, all of whom were perfect in one way or another.

His sixteen year old brother, Shaun, was most likely the greatest athlete that had ever lived. He was the best quarterback in the history of Glendale High School, and batted a .511 average in baseball.

Max had never been a good athlete. He was all right, but everyone always seemed to get more goals or runs or touchdowns that he could. Finally, he had just quit in disgust. What’s the point of playing sports if you can’t be good?

Shaun’s twin sister was Gloria. She was an amazing singer who always got the solos in high school choir. She was also in the marching band, a first chair trumpet.

Max couldn’t even sing a tune.

The youngest was eight year old Ben…the genius. He was already in fifth grade and had never gotten a “B” on his report card.

Max was lucky to get higher than a “C”.

Max considered all of this as he walked into his yard. It had been another one of those days at school. He had gotten a “D” on the biggest math test of the year and his whole Wiffle ball team was furious at him for striking out and blowing their chances at winning the championship. Of course Ben would have gotten an A+ on the test and Shaun would have brought his team to victory.

He opened the screen door and let it slam behind him. He could never be good at anything. His siblings would always be better! It wasn’t fair!

Shaun and Gloria were in the living room, arguing as usual.

“Why can’t you just shut up? Nobody cares what you think,” Shaun yelled angrily.

“Yeah they do,” Gloria exclaimed, “Why do you always have to be so stupid?”

“Well, you’re just…”

“Both of you shut up!” said Max, irritated. “Why are you arguing anyway?”

Gloria rolled her eyes and stalked out of the room.

“Gees Max, why do you always have to get into everything?” Shaun demanded.

“Why aren’t you glad? You and Gloria would have killed each other by now if it wasn’t for me,” Max raged, getting angrier by the second.

He became the second person that day to stomp out of the living room. Shaun sighed and flipped the T.V. to ESPN.

Ben was sitting at the kitchen island, already doing his homework.

“Hey Max,” Ben chattered. “Well, today I finally decided what my science topic is. I was going to do volcanoes, but everyone is doing volcanoes, they’re so juvenile...”

At this point Max decided that he didn’t really care about Ben’s science project, so he left the kitchen and went into his room.

Max sank down on his twin bed and glanced around at the dirty clothes and cardboard boxes piled around his room. He really should be getting started on his homework. He opened his math book, but the first paper he saw on top was his test. “72%-D. See me for help.” Max slammed his math book shut and decided that he didn’t feel like doing any stupid homework.

“Why is everyone else so much better than me? Why can’t I be good at something? I try way harder than any of those other people, but are they better than me? Yes! Why? It’s just not fair! I’m leaving. I’m going to someplace far away and I’m never coming back! Then they’ll be sorry.” Max stood up. He was running away.

In the kitchen, Ben was still talking to air about his science project. Shaun was watching some football game.

“Hey, do you want to go play baseball. You know, practice?”

Shaun never seemed to remember that Max had quit baseball.

Max ran out of the house, over the patio, across the front lawn, and turned left. He didn’t know where he was going and he didn’t care.

Max ran for what seemed like a very long time. He wasn’t in the best of shape, so finally he stopped, panting and gasping for air. He was in front of a gas station. Max realized that he had run less than a mile. But he still told himself that he was never going to return.

He started walking, through neighborhoods, past the library, past the community center, cutting behind the park. He didn’t really think about where he was going or what he was going to do.

After Max had a little bit of time to think about what he was doing, he realized that this whole running away deal wouldn’t work out very well. Where would he sleep? What would he eat? He didn’t even have any money with him. Maybe he would be run over by a car, or get lost and die.

Max looked around the neighborhood that he was in, and shivered. It didn’t seem to be a very welcoming place. The houses were all broken down, and trash littered the alleyways and streets. The world was a big, scary place.

Max made a quick decision to go back home and get some money and other necessary items, then leave again.

He was still in a bad mood.

Max retraced his steps, walking slowly and thinking. Maybe he didn’t have to be great at stuff. No, he did. It was important to be athletic and smart and all that. That’s all that mattered. Wasn’t it?

At last Max arrived back at his own house. He was a bit disappointed not to see police cars parked in front, but he hadn’t really been gone that long.

Back in the house, everything was the way he had left it. Shaun was sitting on the couch watching T.V.

“Hey, Shaun,” Max said, “I’m running away. When Mom and Dad get home from work tell them that I won’t be home for dinner.”

“Huh?” Shaun mumbled, not taking his eyes off the flat screen T.V. Then he seemed to register what Max had said. “That’s stupid. You won’t last a minute.”

“Yes I will!” Max shouted, “You don’t know. You don’t even care if I run away or not. I’m leaving, RIGHT NOW!”

“Dude, take it easy,” Shaun said, seeming for the first time to be a bit worried. “You can’t run away. We, um, need you,” he finished lamely.

This heartfelt conversation was interrupted by Gloria storming back into the room.

“What’s the deal with this?” she almost screamed, “Sam just called me. YOU TOLD HER THAT I THOUGHT I WAS A BETTER TRUMPET PLAYER THAN SHE IS! I can’t believe you!”

“Well, you did say that you were better than Sam,” Shaun said weakly.

“You don’t have to go broadcasting that to the whole world!”

“You don’t have to yell at me just because you said something stupid!”

This was officially getting out of hand. “Seriously, does Sam or whatever her name is even care that you think you’re better than she is?” Max asked quietly.

Gloria deflated slightly, “Um no...she said she already knew that. But you still shouldn’t have told her,” she said, turning to Shaun again.

“Um, sorry?” Shaun said desperately, glancing over at Max.

“THANK YOU!” Gloria shrieked.

“Well, that was a stupid argument,” Shaun commented softly.

For some reason Gloria started laughing. “Yeah, it was,” she said finally, between giggles. “I have to go call Sam now. She wants me to come over tomorrow.” She left the room.

Shaun rolled his eyes. “Apparently, no lasting harm was done. Um, are you still going to run away?”

Max suddenly realized that running away might be a bad idea. Maybe his family really did need him. He was the only who could (usually) stop Gloria and Shaun from biting each other’s heads off and he was the only person who actually cared about Ben’s intelligent ramblings (most of the time). He felt his anger evaporating. What had he been so mad about, anyway? Some stupid Wiffle ball competition?

Shaun was staring at him, and Max realized that he had been standing there, unmoving, for a long time.

“Um, yeah,” Max said, “You know what? I think that I’ll, um, run away tomorrow. I have math homework to do.”

Shaun looked relieved. He wasn’t used to dealing with emotional outbursts from his middle brother.

Max walked into the kitchen in a better mood than he had been in for weeks. Ben was still chattering away, apparently oblivious to the drama that had unfolded in the room next to him. “So, I really think that I’ll have to try raising chickens for my science project.”

“Hey, that’s cool,” Max said. “If you need help, just let me know.”

Ben smiled. “I don’t anticipate requiring any assistance.”

Max stepped back into his messy room, the sunlight streaming through the open window. He took a deep breath and opened his math book.

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