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I let the wetness on my face dry into what felt like glue sticking to my skin. I checked the closet door to make sure it was still locked tightly. This way no one could open it to see me inside and hear my excessive whining. Momma said it was just like me to sit around and whine. She never even asked “what’s wrong honey bear?” not anymore.
“Where are you boy? I need you to clean up this darn mess.”
I knew it was best to not hide out any longer. I tugged open the door and walked out the closet and into my room, Thomas was laying on the bed. His tail made of orange fuzz and white cotton swung back and forth, nearly hanging off the bed. Momma was waiting for me in the kitchen. Her plump figure shadowed the floor; she stood with a broom and dust pan at hand. I wondered what was in store. Even if I was ill like a dog momma would make me clean up.
“I’m too tired from working”
One day I hoped she would choke on her excuses. I swiftly dusted the spilled crackers into the dust pan. It swallowed dirt and honey grahams all at once. I flipped the lid on the trash and let the pieces fall. I let my feet trail me back to my bedroom, opening the door and flipping on the light; I hopped onto the ragged sheets of my trunk size bed and began to think. The first thing that came to mine was Dad.
I kept counting silently to myself. It has been about a week since Dad had bolted out the door. All I remember is high pitched voices mixing with the sound of the slamming screen hinges. I remember momma’s exact last words that reflected of his back side as he walked out.
“I’d rather live alone anyways.”
She said as he closed the door. Those words bothered me the most because then I knew who was really alone, me. I propped myself up against the rail of my bed and let my head comfort on the pillow.
If only she would…this is all so...I was five. I think it was five. My feet supported by the blue pedals as the wheels kept on spinning, I did it.
“You’re doing it Joseph, ah that’s my boy!”
Mom smiled at me as I learned to master the childhood dream of riding a bike.
She used to have a lovely smile. Then I was eight not to long from that, two years had passed with a great neighborhood birthday barbeque when I was seven and my first attendance award when I was seven and a half. Things were good; elementary school was fun with slides and play time, girls and their cooties and crayons, I learned about spiders and mom would bring me cupcakes on my birthdays.
My favorite day of the young years was getting Rover, we had gold fish and cats but man Rover was the first and best dog we ever had. He always licked behind my ear and made me spit out a little laughter as I scratched his butt. When I was 10 I decide to celebrate my birthday with his because he was becoming a “man” but in his case I guess you could say he was changing from a puppy to a dog. He ended up jumping on the table and eating the cake. I still have the picture of him with his birthday bandanna and all the icing on his nose; I was surprised he didn’t get sick. Mom laughed till she was blue in the face, she wasn’t even irritated that the hours of baking and decorating that cake had been put to waste, she just smiled. We enjoyed those years, and then I headed in for middle school.
I didn’t feel the need to change like everybody else, little Susie from the 2nd grade was now sexy Susie and Kickball Kenny was now the new jock, I was just Joseph. I had best friends named Thomas and Willy who came over to my house when they weren’t worried about missing parties and all the unnecessary things. Sometimes I went with them, to observe what made smoking so much fun, it wasn’t all that great, so most of the time I was with Rover out back throwing twigs and bones, sometimes I’d even help dad out at the factory.
One day I came home from school I was in 9th grade at the time, it was unusual because I didn’t smell dinner food and I couldn’t hear mom’s classic rock drifting from the kitchen. Thing were normally ready to be served or we go out for a night on the town. I could always sit in the candle light rooms and finish up school work while momma hummed and dad scurried through the door with a bright smile. Tonight, well it was different; the only light on was coming from the bedroom hallway I thought maybe she had to run to the store, she always left at least one light on for rover to run freely through the house when she went on a quick errand. Even then she usually leaves a lamp on not the hall light. So I walked over to turn off the light, not sure what to expect but I was hoping there wasn’t a wild man standing around the corner. As I walked forward I thought of numerous possibilities, maybe a suspicious sells man that got momma to open up then abruptly made his way into the house and killed them off or simply a wild man from the psych ward who specializes in getting into homes for his prey, or simply the idea mom was off at the store. Next thing I knew my curiosity had me at the light switch and nothing seemed wrong. So I casually flipped the switch and started walking back toward the kitchen to phone momma on her cell.
As the phone went from a bland dial tone to ringing I heard a vibrating noise behind me. I turned to see momma’s cell phone with her keys and purse all lying right up on the counter.
“That’s right her car was in the driveway, what am I thinking”
I thought out loud.
Then I realized there was the possibility she was tired and was resting until dad got home. So I walked back down the hall pass the turn for her bed room and I was almost to mine when I heard something faint and odd. I couldn’t make it out, then t came a little louder, it must be Rover.
I called; he wouldn’t come from anywhere bark, just whine, like I should come to him. So I listened hard.
I said again, he was locked in mom’s room.
I knocked a few times.
“Mom, you in there, I’m home, Momma?”
I knocked a few more times, nothing.
Now Rover wouldn’t stop whining and crying, something was wrong, really wrong. I ran to the kitchen and got out Moms drivers license out of her purse. I hurried back and began trying to pick the lock. Finally after a few tries, I heard the click and the door opened right up. The blinds were closed and the darkness in the room felt like a heavy feeling of fright sitting on my shoulder. I could see Rover lying next to some pillows or something, but only because his eyes were florescent in the dark. He whimpered at me slowly lifting his head but not moving.
I walked in closer and turned on the night lamp next to her bed, rover was curled up next to momma’s head, and she was lying there naked. At first I thought she was sleeping, but I noticed her breathing was short like and when I walked to the other side of the bed, I screamed. I wanted to wake up but it was real. I saw a kitchen knife next to her and I was scared to see where the blood on the pillow was coming from, a pool of red rested under her wrist. I never understood why, I didn’t know what had happened; I thought she was happy, I thought she loved me but this, this meant she wanted to leave the world, she wanted to die, and she wanted to leave me.
I could barely scream through my crying, this was the first time I ever felt myself really cry, even in the fall at football I’ve never cried like this. Luckily it wasn’t too late, they stitched her up and she came home a few months later, all she did was sleep after that, dad and her fought over bills and I never knew the true conflict.
One night I went into the garage.
I said getting his attention.
“Are you ever going to tell me why she would…why she would do that, its been almost a year and I don’t even know why my own mother would want to do such a thing?”
I tried not to cry like the night I found her.
“Well son, the truth hurts.”
That’s all he said, but the thing was I knew how much the truth hurt because, truth was she had forgotten I was someone she couldn’t leave behind and she came to the point to forget me and leave me behind, I hated her for that.
A year passed and she became worse, always making me do extra so she could lie around and it’s like I wasn’t good enough for an answer about all her whining. A whole year, and she didn’t care enough to tell me anything, so I gave up on her, I let her digest her sleeping pills and ignore everything about her life and I gave up. Dad did to. I let out a big yawn and decided to stop with all the reminiscing because I was starting to ache from it.
Time had slipped so far past me with all the thoughts I could make and all the thoughts I had made. I heard the vast ticking and wondered where the minutes had flung themselves to. “12:00”. Momma was sleeping by now. Sleeping to her is like drugs to and addict. When her ears etch into the pillow she starts hibernating the hurt. The only time she is sweet is when she is asleep. I got up from the bed and grabbed my things and crept in down the hall and turned to see mommas state of awareness.
I cracked her bedroom door slowly. Perfect, she was out from the Nyquil she had downed. I was ready, tonight I would escape from the truth and be free from someone who doesn’t care enough to stick around or stay wake for me, I had planned this since the day I saw her attempted suicide. My bags were packed. I made my way to the same screen door not sure if I was ready to put myself into the world with nothing. I was breathing as softly as I possibly could, not like she would wake up but in the anxiety of the moment I didn’t want to make a disturbance to Rover. I heard her snore a few times and then change position on her squeaky mattress and then go back to her heavy sleep. I headed to the kitchen and grabbed bottled water. Slowly turning out the lights then rushing to the door, I opened it and shut it softly so it fell like gentle snow to its frame behind my ankles. I punched the key in the hole and locked her inside. A sigh slipped from the edges of my lips, and I was out, the tension built to tiny excitement. I turned and took my last looks of memories gone badly, I spoke to her,
“Now you can be alone like you wanted. Goodbye Momma, maybe for once you will miss me.”
I said, hoping she would be hearing this in her dreams. If only she could see the laughter in my eyes as I left her cooped in that old home alone. Now for once, being alone felt more like being free. I headed quickly, out the mildew grass of the morning, through the old patch of woods, and down the dirt road and into the neighborhood streets. I couldn’t live with someone who isn’t alive.
So I walked and
I walked and
I kept walking.
My first idea of leaving was just walking away but I never thought about where to go. I felt comfortable because I passed the familiar scenes of my casual neighborhood as I headed somewhere that seemed like a road you could call gone. I was mid way toward exiting Atwood Dr. , where my house sit around a few corners and on the left, I came upon the torn tire swing that was knotted on a tree in the middle of Billy Souter’s front yard. I stared at it for a second; that guy always occupied the neighborhood kids with that dirty little swing. I think he regrets setting it up now that it had been worn down by every child’s butt, except for his daughter Maybelline who stopped visiting when she turned 9.
I cautiously walked up the hill of his empty drive; I wasn’t sure if he still had that hounding mutt tied around back. Every time someone came to the door that darn dog would hoot and growl in the most uneasy way, he could hear water fall from a leaf. There was no barking so my tension was vague and I headed out onto the grass. I looked at the great pine branching out like lightning and shading half of Souter’s yard. Barely able, I fit one of my legs through the doughnut hole of the rubber circle, it was a tight fit but I managed both legs after a bit of twisting and hoping around like a one legged monkey. My bottom filled the hole and settling, swinging back and forth slowly, my mind wondered back to age six.
Shaun, who was age 10 at the time, took me under his wing. He was four years older and the brother I never had. One day, Shaun took me and a few of the neighborhood kids around to help him sell candy for the Wild Hill Elementary School dance. We were hitting all the local houses block to block. Eventually we came near the end of the neighborhood, some ways down from our house. We had sold almost 125 candy bars. I was getting every house on the left while Shaun stood and waited for me at the end of the drive, the other kids were old enough to split apart.
Mister Souter was outside cleaning his porch, so I decided to make an approach. Before I started to walk into the yard, Shaun whispered
“Be careful for that mutt alright.”
I smiled at him and carried on.
“Good afternoon sir.”
I said standing on the stepping stones leading to the porch where Mister Souter was sweeping.
He stood there hesitating for a moment then licked his lips. Suddenly he set his dust pan down next turning slowly focusing on the ground, he spoke.
There was a short pause, and then he continued.
“Do you know where the ground is?”
I remember just giving him the most dreadful look as I thought what kind of question is that? I couldn’t just walk off; Momma had taught me it was rude especially if you didn’t know the worth of what you were hearing, so I just stood there.
“Yes sir, it’s under our feet.”
“No son I asked you…do you know where the ground is?”
His voice became more firm as he repeated the words.
“We are standing on it.”
That’s all I could think to say, what else did he want me to say?
He paused again.
“The ground is in you, one day you will be rained on and from that naturally you will grow.”
I didn’t understand that then but I couldn’t forget the look in his eyes, so sharp, it carved the words inside my head. Those words became an irremovable bullet shot by a man who I sold candy to. One of the least important people existing around me had given me some of the most encouraging words I have ever heard, that was when I was old enough to read the words from my head and know what they meant, and now I do.
After exchanging his money for the chocolate bar, I said thank you and looked at Shaun, told him I needed to be walked home, and left.
I am now 15 and I and that bullet are swaying back and forth in the yard of the same man who planted the first seed in my ground. I knew he did, I felt he did, because you don’t forget the seeds inside you and I didn’t forget Mister Souter. In all my thought I didn’t feel obligated to excuse myself from the property because in all the chaos in my life, for once being back in the past was more relaxing than ever.
I stayed there a while and thought about all the little incidents like the one here but I came to realize I have only planted seeds and grown nowhere. I would die to sprout fourth from soil, but how do you do that when there is no rain? I thought.
About 15 minutes or so and I heard the roar of the wise man’s engine chugging down the street. 9 years and he still had the same truck. I laughed a little at that. Mister Souter pulled in his drive slowly rolling down the window, with an odd look on his face that was caused by my presence here. I hadn’t been back since age six; I always just passed on by paying no attention to this house.
“More candy?” he laughed.
“No Mister Souter, this time its rain.”
“Where are you heading.”
He said with a puzzled stare.
“Well sir I’ve got to run, I’m afraid it’s growing season.”
Then I walked straight out of his yard, just like that day but this time I wasn’t going home.
The sun imbedded heat into my skin. I began not to notice the sweat that veered off my lapping wrinkles onto my hanging cheeks. My face was tired, my body was tired. The freedom has worn me down. I felt as though the prison had just released me to the streets and though I’m so happy to be free from that prison, I have no place to go. I wasn’t a captive that has been set free to caring relatives or a family or a home. These are the streets. There was no family for me; there is no home for me. The earth is out there waiting for me to die, yet I die with freedom. The only thing I could do was have my feet follow that death and that’s what I did.
I passed a corner street light and turned cautiously into a neighborhood area. The trees hunched over the streets and created an uneasy feel for my empty stomach. A young sweating mother jogged on by me, her husband followed behind, well I suppose he is her husband, I wasn’t really sure of that. I kept going. Things seemed peaceful here, the wind blew the trees and the sun would peek through and brighten the ground. Three flowers bloomed from a stoned dirt garden on the house in my view; I noticed as I walked closer there was a nice little mini-van parked. It must be the house of a grandmother, not a working mom. I know this due to the lack of toys in the front yard, no tricycles and basketballs or any sign of little younglings that come with the typical stay at home mom and her super minivan. Plus there was the dangling handicap sigh for parking. My grandma use to garden, it was something you grow into when your aging I suppose it’s pretty average for an old lady. The stubborn grandmothers are the ones that smoke and knit.
The street turned and coiled and I was now Dorothy in the intersection of a yellow brick road. There was no scarecrow to talk to, I was alone. I decided to go left; mother always did things “right”. I wasn’t a “right” type of guy, I liked left. My dad had told me to try different things, I think changing my sense of doing things “right” was considered to be doing just as he said. I moved down the road and things become more and more spacious. The houses would have looping stair casings and embroidered windows, the rich color white and company mowed lawns. Sprinkles showered the acres and would dribble a few splashes on the tips of my shoes as I walked by. I tried to catch the dribbles on my tongue. After a few failing attempts and soaking my face I moved on, I didn’t need the angry rich man to call police on me.
Once the day began to empty out and the road carried on, I began to hear less music from the blue jays. I noticed the sun didn’t visit the ground anymore and the trees hid me in the dark shadowed path. I noticed the playing children, headed in as their mothers called from the safety of the porch step. They stared as I obliviously stumbled on by. I know what they must think, its better not to care. I wish I didn’t.
I walked and
I walked and
And I kept walking.
My heels were rough, my toes screamed as I paced on. This continued until finally black night fell around me. The neighborhood streets came to an end and yet I had no need to turn around. I figured it was better to confine myself in the little play ground that sat un-played upon just ahead of the woods that covered the dead end street. It was empty of fussing kids and watchful mothers. I knew this meant it was close to 6:00. I stepped off the ending concrete and onto the sand the play ground was filled with. There were no houses very close so I didn’t concern myself with bothersome property junkies. The sign clamped to the ground clearly stated “This off course play ground is for Hannah Neighborhood Reserve residents only this includes the daytime hours of 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Thank you.” But I was sure during the late night the perfect people of this “Reserve” wouldn’t give me no trouble. So I wiggled my body into a confined space behind the spiraling blue tunnel next to the slide. I didn’t want to be too close to the woods behind the play ground; I wasn’t a fan of night critters.
I still couldn’t get comfortable. My exhaustion was overcome by the anxiety of the noises night made. Sirens ran through the congruent streets like raccoons at late night. Soon things fell silent.
I still couldn’t come to the point of shutting my eyes. I needed to rest from the walking but my body was still moving it felt like. I stared blankly at the stars and began to dig through my small duffle bag. Digging thoroughly, I could see the flashy wrapper of the granolas I had packed. I tugged it out from beneath my belongings. Slowly, I tore the perfect edging of the wrapper and began top feast to my first night of escape. I sat and let the grains stick to my teeth and tried to fill my stomach by eating slowly. The night hasn’t even begun to become an early morning and I was restless and not feeling so ambitious as before. I realized I was more gone then free and more lost then free. The only thing I had really got away from was the metal arms of my mother. I never wanted to leave the warmth of my bed or the fill breakfast and dinner and all the good filling things. And Thomas must be so lonely, sitting on my bed swinging his tail back and forth like a time bomb waiting for my return. Who would feed him? Who said I would return? Then it came again, just like when dad had left. My heart began to beat slower then each of my single breaths could handle. The drums in my chest caused my eyes to water and I thought of screaming. Was I dying? I let my head slump farther and farther until I was rocking oddly in the dirt. My eyes were closed and I just lied there. And I quickly prayed Thomas would be taken care of. When my breath felt more proportioned throughout my body I pushed my body up to try and feel some comfort, the ground had given me none and now I was even dirtier than earlier. The sweat and filth didn’t help my mood much. I took out the stolen booze and looked and contemplated with it. I knew I would be sixteen in 12 days. Age never mattered much to me, I always knew I was growing old and I hated being old like my mother. I would be a better old than her. I secured myself with that. But by filling up on alcohol wouldn’t make me anymore of a man nor would it help. I know the truth behind drinking is it only makes you feel good if you let it. I see it as a mind game I guess. Truth to me is the things that we convince ourselves to honesty even if they really aren’t. That makes everything truth to us. I threw the bottle. I know better than to become an insufficient and impaired person like my mom had become. I know her being like that made her incapable to love and I needed to be able to love. That may sound odd or bizarre but in order to get through this and carry on I have to provide the love I need for myself, I have to love myself. I have to be strong, maybe not strong, but strong enough.
I thought morning would come to me soon. It didn’t, the deep black in the sky stayed for a long time. Grandma always said the moon was like a blue freckled face child. And that child was the only one that shined throughout the dusk tonight. His company made me grateful and I finally could lie back in the dirt and not feel as dirty. I cleared myself of thought and actually laid still, no heavy breathing, just my still body and my blue faced friend. I tossed and turned every now and then of course and little stray pebbles in the sand would scrape the backs of my upper arms where my t-shirt stopped and my skin began. Still morning never came. My lids hovered over my eyes waiting for the faintest noise to spring them open. But it was quite, for a while I heard nothing but the hum of silence. I haven’t heard that sound in sometime. The re-accruement of silence and its hum was better than the voice of bickering parents, o well. I nearly then gave up on their situation [because it was their situation, their problem and not mine] so I settled at that and began to doze off.
Mumbling, I could swear that’s what it was that woke me up. I heard something and it was loud but now it was soft but I could hear it. At first I tried to ignore it, with the hopes of a stray cat, not a lion, but a cat. Then the noise was mumbling and groaning and all these little noise conjoined And got closer and louder and it wasn’t a cat. I thought it could be a hobo, maybe someone that was like me, I know it wasn’t the child in the sky because he was still shining in the sky and it wasn’t a disturbing neighbor because they are more disruptive. I couldn’t make out the sound. Whatever it was I wished it wasn’t. My human nature was choking me and curiosity sent my eyes looking out into the surrounding area. I picked up my head and hunched my body a tad inch from the tunnel where I had been most of the night. It was then I realized how sore I was.
I kept peeking until I finally saw the direction the noise had come from. I turned behind me and I saw the back of two men pulling and struggling with something. I couldn’t tell. They were lifting the something and being awfully rough with the something as the something wrestled in the grip of their fingers. Then a loose blonde curl started dragging the ground and the something I had saw was a woman. I couldn’t tell before, her dressed look like a ripped bag and her face was taped and she was the “mumbler”. They pulled and she mumbled and they kept on going farther in toward the woods. I felt like I couldn’t breathe by staring at the silver duck tape sucking to her lips.
I watched in agony as the men shifted her off into the thick of the trees. I inched like a sluggish caterpillar; I was less hesitant than I thought. She needed me to see, to know, maybe to help. I came up to the bush in front of where they began pealing her clothes and I watched between branches. I was scared being so close to crime. 16 and I didn’t know what to do with myself, at that moment I felt typical, clueless like someone in horror films, practically waiting for death. All I did was keep peering between branches trying to see. My mind kept saying “they will hurt you and you will be like her.” I didn’t want to accept my coward instinct but I let it control me without acceptation.
I held my breath conscience of them being able to hear my heavy exhaling and I couldn’t get my body to stop. So I had to try and not breath, I wasn’t all so good at that.
Her kicking couldn’t throw them off. Her battle had been lost. She was a bug, on the ground, squirming and kicking to turn over, to breathe, and to live. These men had squashed her like the bug on the pavement or the pest in your house, where it doesn’t belong. The last thing I saw was the fall of her kicking legs. I started crawling backwards, awkwardly, I couldn’t gain leg strength. I didn’t know if it was from the long walking or the heat or the things I’ve just seen. Every part of me has no comprehension to the witnessed act. My foot cracked a twig, cracked and I knew I better find the strength to run. “Oh sh**.” I picked my body up and let myself stumble into a running mode. I didn’t get very far before the men had noticed, I, an adolescent child, very capable of telling their secret, had just saw them and was destine to get away. Trailing on me foot after foot, I was getting nowhere. Running deeper into woods I knew nothing about, slipping on stumps and wet mud. I began to notice it was harder to run yet my will kept me moving to the best of my ability. “I would not die like this” I thought. The last stump did me in. my feet slide out from under me as the tip of my toes toppled over the monstrous oak.
My hands began to bleed from breaking the fall. Roots nailed into my sides and my upper back and I could feel a sharp a pain in my ribs and then I noticed maybe I wouldn’t die alone. The child was still shining. I could hear them breaking ground as they came closer, I couldn’t see the man standing at my feet but I felt the cast of his shadow that very moment. I couldn’t see the Childs light no more. His bulking body was blocking it. I saw a flash of his gray cap as he laughed at my limped body. I noticed light stubbing on his chin as he opened his mouth and the gray light hit it. I could see the outline around his face. I could see the man inside him, more so the coward he was. I was scared of a coward. He laughed again
“Well the little rat is pretty banged up down here, Jimmy!”
The second man joined him causing greater darkness and I felt so distant from my only friend there in the sky. He took one glance and said
“Finish him off.”
That last word, phrase whatever you want to call it came so slowly to my ears. It was like the last bit of freedom I felt drained from me with those last words, my escape was left to die inside those words. I knew what was next. I knew even as I felt him pressuring the cold metal barrel against my forehead. The child left sky and it became blank for a moment and the Sun began to enter the horizon coming up to watch me die in the heat o the gun fire. I closed my eyes. Somehow I thought that would make it all hurt less. Then I accepted the child was gone, my freedom was gone and I told myself “it will all be over in a minute just sleep, like momma, just sleep. Goodnight-the truth hurts-