A story about a thirteen year old boy who just wants his life to make sense and break free the bonds of his Christian town and strict mother.
Couldn’t Do It Alone…
Chapter 1: Uncle Rich’s Funeral.
Today was my birthday. It was also the day of my Uncle Rich’s funeral. I hardly knew him. My birthday did not really matter. Despite turning thirteen only happened once and having the pleasure of not wearing a tacky and itchy new suit. My Aunt Gladys had picked it. The moment she saw me within the suit she had tears in her eyes and said I was the splitting image of Uncle Rich. Apparently, it was the same kind of orange plaited suit Uncle Rich used to wear. The moment my Aunt had said that I resembled Uncle Rich in the suit, I had an image of Uncle Rich wearing the same kind of suit in his coffin. I shuddered at the thought, not wanting to resemble a dead person, relative or not.
My mum practically had to drag me on the way to the car to attend the funeral at the town church. I put up a great struggle but eventually gave up. On the way, I kept fiddling with my orange bow tie. The high collar kept on threatening to strangle me and I kept on scratching, which only made the itchiness worse.
“Don’t fiddle with it, Henry,” stated my mother in a disapproving manner as she kept on driving.
Huffing slightly, I crossed my arms in a disgruntled manner and glanced out the window.
I stopped looking at the lighter and glanced up at my dad’s face, slowly nodding my head. I didn’t care what my mum thought at that moment, the lighter was cool and it wasn’t like I would burn the house down. Flipping the lid back on top with a flick of my wrist, I placed the lighter into my orange plaited pants.
“See, Caroline? Our son is a natural,” stated dad smugly to mum.
Mum did not say anything else but I knew that look on her face. She was against this in a big way.
My birthday went for thirty minutes, nothing much else happened besides we were all having cake. But, then, as my dad put down his empty plate, he stated something my mum and me were not expecting yet again.
“Claire and I have decided to move into Dunsville for a while,” he stated clearly.
I heard my mum’s fork clatter onto her plate.
This did not disturb dad for he had learnt to ignore my mum over the years.
The tension in the air was so thick, I could tell mum and dad would get into another fight soon.
“Does that mean I’ll see you tomorrow in Church, dad?” I asked, not really caring but wanted to keep the fight at bay.
My dad did not seem to expect this question, but then again he wouldn’t, he had never went to Church with mum and me when we were together as a family. Maybe that was one of the ways my mum was able to escape from dad, so she’d be able to watch Brother David do his sermons.
But, eventually my dad smiled at me.
“Yes, son. We shall join you and your mother at church tomorrow,” he replied.
Claire did not seem perturbed by the notion. Maybe she went to church on a regular basis. But, she smiled sweetly and I could judge by that smile she thought it was a good idea.
Mum on the other hand was not as enthusiastic about it. She stood up from her chair and walked over to the counter, placing her plate down with slight force.
“Well, Henry, it is getting late. Would you kindly set the dishes in the dishwasher for me?” asked my mum in a tense but curt tone.
I glanced at the kitchen clock that was beside the refrigerator.
“But, it’s only one o’clock…” I started to say but my mother interrupted me.
“I am sure of that Henry, but your…father may need to be elsewhere,” she stated sharply, glancing at my dad.
My dad seemed to understand he stretched the limit this time and slowly nodded his head.
“Yes, it was time we were off. Need to have a conference with the real estate people about finding a house,” he stated as he and Claire wandered out into the hallway.
Mum and I followed them, my mother holding my shoulder slightly as my dad opened the front door.
He turned and smiled at me kindly.
“Well, nice party, slugger. See you tomorrow, okay?” he asked to me in a farewell manner.
“Yeah,” I managed to say before my mother squeezed my shoulder.
Claire smiled at me and my mother, turning in a beautiful way that almost made my jaw drop open again.
“It was nice meeting you both. I sure hope we get to become great friends and neighbours,” she said kindly.
“I’m sure we shall,” stated my mother with a false voice.
After that, my dad and Claire left the house, shutting the door behind them. We heard their car drive away until we heard it no longer.
My mother swirled me around, a look of disdain upon her face.
“Get upstairs and changed Henry. Then clear up the mess in the Kitchen,” she ordered evenly.
I nodded to her, knowing it was better for me to do as I was told because of the state she was in.
She let go of me and wandered into the Living Room.
I went upstairs and had a bath, then went to my bedroom to change into some other clothes. I carried the orange suit draped over my left arm as I was wearing a towel around my waist. Dropping the suit to the floor, I rummaged in my chest of draws to find some clothes. I changed into a white t-shirt with a thin red collar, blue jeans, white socks and my white sneakers. I was actually grateful not to wear the plaited orange suit anymore.
But, before I forgot, I took out the lighter my dad had given me from the pocket of the orange plaited pants and felt the lighter within my hands. Flicking open the top, I pressed down firmly and it clicked, a spark ignited and a small flame came from the metal area.
Smirking slightly, I knew my best friend would like to see this. I stopped pressing and the flame went out, the metal area slightly warm from where the flame once was. Flicking the top back on, I placed it into my jeans pocket before going downstairs again, dumping the orange suit and the towel from my bedroom into the laundry hamper as I went past the bathroom.
I went into the kitchen after heading downstairs, clearing up the plates until there was nothing left on the countertop besides my wooden soldiers and the rest of my birthday cake.
After placing the plates in the dishwasher I picked up the plate with the remainder of my cake and opened the refrigerator door with my free hand. After placing it in the fridge, I shut the fridge door and sighed to myself as I turned to my wooden soldiers in their box. I did not feel like touching them for some reason. I mean I knew Claire put in the effort but wooden soldiers were kids toys, not for a person like me. I decided then and there that my Dad and Claire were more alike then I thought, they both probably thought of me as a little kid.
‘I’ll take them to my room later,’ I thought to myself as I left the kitchen into the hallway.
With my hand on the front door, I wondered to myself wether it was worth telling my mum I was going out. Though better judgement told me not, I felt in my heart to at least tell her I was going. Because it would only make her worry what I may be up to, without any notion of where I was.
Grudgingly I let go of the doorknob of the front door and turned to the right, which led to the Living Room.
I walked into the Living Room, seeing my mum sprawled on the couch reading a woman’s magazine.
“Mum, I’m going out for a while,” I muttered, my voice sounding slightly odd as I uttered these words.
My mum glanced up at me with a look of curiosity.
“Where are you going?” she asked me with a slight sternness in her voice.
“Just going over to my friend’s place,” I stated casually.
My mum looked sceptical, she would not let me go that easy.
“Which friend?” she asked me.
“Well...” I started but my mum interrupted me once more.
“I hope it’s not that no-good Tom Eccles, Henry. That boy is a bad influence,” said my mother with disdain.
I was going to protest on Tom’s behalf, but knew better of it. Because what my mother said was true. Tom Eccles was probably the first kid on the list of having a bad reputation. I was second on the list because the other parents that went to our Church thought I was a bad influence on their kids, since they were accustomed in this God-loving community to my mother’s “wily ways” with men.
It wasn’t as bad as they put it, but my mother was a big flirt. That was why I didn’t have that many friends and why nobody wanted to come to my birthday party. Also, since I had been hanging out with the “bad kid” in this small community, it was no wonder they thought I was rotten as well.
So, I did what any kid in my situation would do, lie to my mother.
“No, I plan to go see Billy Watkins,” I muttered flippantly to my mother, picking the kid I knew was like Jesus to this community.
“Good, hopefully he will teach you a thing or two that is pro-active,” stated my mother.
‘That’s because you Don’t let me go anywhere,’ I thought sourly but just nodded.
“Very well, but Don’t stay out too late,” muttered my mother as I left the Living Room and went back into the Hallway.
I was not sad at lying to my mother. I could make up for it in Church tomorrow. Besides, she had no idea what Tom was really like. He had a personality unlike any other in this town, something special. He had a bad boy attitude, only because of what people originally thought of him.
Opening the front door, I closed it behind me as I left. I felt free at last!
Grabbing my red bicycle, I hopped onto it and started pedalling like mad, leaving my house and driveway behind me in a cloud of dust.
It was a great feeling. The wind ran across my body as I pedalled, the trees and the dirt road going by me as I cycled along, pumping the pedals as fast as my legs were able to.
The dirt road broadened slightly, houses on both sides of the street as the trees thinned out until it looked like an odd Suburbia. The more expensive houses and the town district lay ahead, but this was where my friend lived, a mere ten-minute ride on my bike from my house.
Tom Eccles lived in a shack, really. His father was a lazy bum who did nothing to improve the state they were living in.
I found Tom on his front porch. He was gazing out at the street with eyes that were so serious it was scary.
He was leaning against the wooden post, wearing a black jacket and white shirt underneath. His blue jeans were slightly torn and his black trainers looked scuffed. He seemed to smile as I rode up his short driveway, which looked in need of a trim.
I stopped my bike up against the porch steps and got off, walking over to my best friend.
“Hey, Henry, how are things?” asked Tom with a wry grin.
He pushed back his mangy black hair fringe slightly away from his eyes.
“Nothing much, just my birthday,” I stated as casually as I could.
Tom’s eyebrows seemed to rise slightly.
“Well, in that case, how bought a smoke?” he offered as he took out a packet from his jacket pocket and put a cigarette between his lips.
(to be continued...)
Note: I do not smoke and do not encourage smoking.
Tom Eccles is a year older then me and I respected him deeply as a friend but when he offered me the cigarette I merely shook my head.
“Nah, man. You know I Don’t smoke,” I stated with a smile on my face.
I recalled a time when I had asked Tom why he smoked. He responded to me that if God wanted him not to, He had better do something about it. This seemed to make sense, though Tom never smoked in front of adults, meaning he at least knew it was wrong.
Tom shrugged and put the pack back into his jacket pocket. I watched him as he tried looking for his matches.
“Hold on, I got it,” I said to him.
Tom seemed confused until I pulled out the lighter my dad gave me for my birthday and tossed it over to him. He caught it as it landed in his hands and inspected it before flicking open the lid.
“Cool,” he merely stated before igniting the small flame and lighting his cigarette.
Tom threw back my lighter to me and I caught it. I put it back in my trouser pocket and watched him as he took a long Puff on his cigarette and blew the smoke out of his mouth after taking the cigarette out from his lips in between two of his fingers.
He looked tired to me but in a cool way. He was my best friend and I could tell him anything. So, I told him the whole situation as he listened silently, only smoking his cigarette in a thoughtful manner.
After explaining everything I stopped talking to await Tom’s answer. Sometimes he gave the best advice ever.
“Well Henry, you’re basically screwed, man,” stated Tom simply.
I was a little upset by this advice from my friend.
“You got to be kidding me! Is that all the best advice you can give me??” I asked him in an almost desperate voice.
“Hey, I call it like I see it, pal,” muttered Tom plainly, shrugging his shoulders.
“But what about tomorrow?” I asked him.
“What about it?” he asked then after the look I gave him he seemed suddenly sheepish. “What’s tomorrow?”
”Tomorrow is Sunday, Tom. You know, church day,” I stated.
“Sunday’s the worst. It drives a kid nuts it does,” stated Tom as he adjusted his black jacket slightly.
Tom was a part of our Church community, possibly the only redeeming feature of Tom to the other members of the fold.
“Yeah, man. I know that, but my mum makes me go anyway. It isn’t like I can just not go. It will make it worse that my dad will be there, I’m sure of it,” I stated, feeling a little down at the turn of events a mere hour or so ago.
“Dude, I said it before and I’ll say it again, you are screwed. Best to deal with it and get it over with,” stated Tom.
“Gee, thanks,” I muttered sarcastically to Tom before leaving his front porch and riding back home on my bicycle.
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