Chapter 2 – Running Late
Tom woke up and looked at his alarm clock glowing softly. He snuggled his head deeper into the pillow and tried to remember what he had been dreaming just then. Suddenly, his eyes jerked open, and he was wide awake. Tom realized he was late for school. His alarm hadn’t gone off.
He leaped out of bed and jerked out the same pair of jeans that he had been wearing yesterday. No time to take a shower this morning. He always took a shower in the mornings before school. Not taking one made him feel sticky and stinky for the rest of the day.
There was a pile of folded clothes on his desk with a red t-shirt on top. Marshmallow washed and folded his clothes, but never put them away. She said that was his responsibility. Not that he ever did. Usually, he just tossed them on the floor behind the bed where she wouldn’t see him and get after him.
He slipped the red shirt on over his head and slid the rest of the pile of clothing under the bed. Tom turned to look in the mirror to check his hair. It was almost too low after the growth spurt he had experienced that, and he had to duck to see the top of his head.
The thick blond hair surrounding the cowlick at the back of his head stuck out in all directions. He tried to smooth them down with his hand, but they stubbornly shot back up. He tried the brush, but that didn’t make them any more obedient.
Tom grabbed a towel and flipped it over his back so he wouldn’t get his shirt wet while wetting his hair in the sink. He dried it out and brushed at them again. It looked a little better, but a few unruly, rebel strands refused to comply with his demands. So, he splashed a few more handfuls of water from the sink on the crown of his head. This time they all stayed in place.
He sighed with relief. Tom had run out of hair gel two weeks ago, and Marshmallow told him they didn’t have the money to waste on frivolous stuff like that this month.
Tom walked back into his bedroom and slipped on his old blue sneakers. They were loose enough to slip on and off without having to untie the laces. Then he gave himself one final glance in the mirror before heading out the door.
He paused to admire himself. Tom liked the way he looked now. The summer had been kind to him. And the hard, physical labor he did for his neighbors to make some extra cash definitely seemed to improve his strength and the overall build of his body.
Tom flexed his muscles and pulled up the sleeve on his right arm to check out his bicep. Certainly not bodybuilder quality yet. None of the girls at his school would swoon over him, but it was enough for him to be pleased. It was a good start for a seventeen-year-old young man.
His jaw had squared out quite a bit. And his nose seemed longer and straighter than ever before. Tom grinned at himself one last time in the mirror before grabbing his backpack and heading for the door.
He raced down the steps to the kitchen, preparing to get after Marshmallow and chew her out for not waking him up earlier. He had his little script planned out by the time he walked into the room, but no one was around.
“Marshmallow? Pops? Uncle David? Anybody around?”
Tom wondered where everyone had disappeared to. This wasn’t normal. Usually, the kitchen was a bustle of activity as Marshmallow made breakfast. Then they all sat around the kitchen table till about ten.
“A bunch of losers,” he thought to himself.
Tom walked over to the shabby-looking old pantry to grab some cereal. There was only one box. And it was empty.
He growled and crushed the box in his hand. So, much for grabbing a quick bite before heading to school. He opened the cabinet door under the sink and tossed the cereal box into the wastebasket. Then slammed the door shut angrily.
The worn-out, old thing popped off its hinges and clattered to the floor at his feet. Tom jerked his foot back before it landed, barely missing his toes.
The corner of the laminate chipped off and particles of wood scattered across the floor.
“Great! Just what I needed,” Tom muttered.
He grabbed the door and shoved it back into place. It slid back in easily and didn’t look too bad. You couldn’t even tell that it had chipped from the outside. Tom breathed a sigh of relief and swept up the mess before any of his uncles got a chance to see it.
Not that they would really care. The house was rented. And they probably wouldn’t live here more than a couple of months before moving off to another city. But whoever saw it would probably yell at him and then go tell everyone else.
Then they would perform what they felt was their moral duty by giving him some long lecture about the importance of caring for our belongings and being good stewards of what we’ve been given.
Not like they really cared much for the things they had. But that was beside the point. They would act like it was the most important thing they had.
Tom looked back in the pantry for something else to eat. But it was bare, and so was the fridge when he looked in there. Not even an apple or yogurt that he could eat on the run.
He pulled out his wallet and counted how much money he had. Fourteen dollars from the last job he had mowing lawns just a few weeks ago before they moved here to Walden.
Suddenly, a hand reached out from behind him and snatched the wad of cash from Tom’s hand. It startled him because he hadn’t even heard anyone enter the room. Tom leaped forward trying to hang on to his money, but it didn’t do any good.
“Oh, C’mon, Uncle Torvald. No fair. Give me back my money.”
“I always tell you that you gotta watch your back. Protect what’s yours. If you don’t do it, nobody else will. Consider this a lesson.”
Uncle Torvald peeled off several bills and shoved them into his pocket. Then pushed back a strand of long blond hair out of his face before handing five dollars back to Tom.
“What’s this?” Tom screeched. “It’s my money. I worked for it. And I need it to buy some breakfast.”
“Five dollars is enough for a meal on your way to school. Besides, I’ve got to scrounge up enough money to pay the light bill. It’s for a good cause. You wanna have the lights on when you come home this afternoon. Don’t you?”
Tom knew it wouldn’t do any good to argue. Worse, he’d probably get slapped if he complained about it. He glared at his uncle who stood there smiling back with a wicked gloat in his eyes.
Torvald reached out to put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a shove. Tom wanted to use one of the Aikido moves he had been training to use his uncle’s force against him and swing his face around into the fridge door. It wouldn’t be too hard. His uncle wasn’t in very good shape, and the drugs and alcohol didn’t help much either.
But he refrained from doing anything rash. Tom just moved with the flow of energy and let the push turn him on his heels. Not having much resistance threw Torvald off balance, and he barely managed to catch himself before crashing into the fridge anyway. Tom didn’t wait to hear his uncle’s threats.
Besides, if he stuck around, Torvald would have seen the smirk on his face and would want to smite it out of him.
So, he grabbed his backpack and headed for the front door.
Continue Reading Chapter 3 – Family Pow Wow >>>