JOSH SITS ON THE BOTTOM STEP. Mom’s glass is empty except for a single ice cube, half-melted. Scotch, he can tell by the thin line of yellow rimming the bottom of the glass. The refrigerator does its shuddery thing, followed by the clatter of ice cubes released into the plastic bin. He wonders where Absalom is, whether he’s curled up on his parents’ bed or hiding in the baker’s rack with the cookbooks and herb pots. Without mom, the house feels too quiet, too still, and she didn’t lock the door on her way out.
His thigh vibrates, and at first he thinks it is Absalom, his tail wrapping around his leg when he wants a treat, but it’s his cell phone, wedged in his pocket. It’s Nikko, texting him.
to fire your dad
indeed special k called-does your mom know?
she drives when she gets upset
so she knows
wanna come over?
Josh wants to be with his best friend, he feels all nervous and twitchy inside, but he doesn’t want to walk the five blocks by himself. And he doesn’t want mom to come home and find him gone. Absalom pads down the steps. Josh pulls the cat into his lap.
who signed the petition?
Josh pushes his phone deep into his pocket. Absalom throbs against his chest. Josh settles his chin in the cat’s fur. He suspects Nik’s mother signed the petition. Last Sunday, her face looked plastic, she kept smiling this weird fake smile through choir practice, joys and concerns, even the stupid story for all ages, and then, when his dad stood behind the pulpit, her face slid into her usual disagreeable expression: lips pursed into a hard line, forehead furrowed.
What a phony. Even Nik and Gemma can’t stand their mother. Nik calls her Jill the Pill.
Then later, during coffee hour, Josh saw her talking in the corner with Miss Kay and Miss Carrie. The three women clumped tight, sharing hard whispered words, fingers jabbing the air between them. Jill pulled out a paper and Carrie read it and laughed, that big horse laugh of hers, and everyone stopped and stared at her for a minute before resuming with mini-bagels and coffee.
That paper was the petition.
Head beams splatter against the living room wall. Mom’s Civic pulls into the driveway. Josh pushes up from the step, Absalom under his arm, and hurries up to his bedroom. He shimmies out of his sweats and flicks off the light and the stereo.
The hallway light sheds a long yellow line across the wooden floor. Downstairs, keys drop on the hook, banging the door. The cupboard under the sink creaks. Then the thud of the half-gallon J&B on the table, the scrape of chair legs against the linoleum. She’ll sit there until his father comes home from the board meeting; the first Wednesday of every month is like this.
The sheets float cool against his bare legs. He dreads school tomorrow, dreads being tired all day, dreads seeing his mother’s face grim and grey as she butters toast for him. His stomach buckles, a noose, and he thinks about texting Nikko, asking him if his mother signed the stupid petition, but if his friends says yes, then Josh doesn’t know what he’ll do, so he shuts off his phone, throws it gently towards his backpack piled near his closet, and buries under the blankets.
The second installment of THE RUNAWAY, my story in progress. To read the first, go here.
MUCH appreciate any help on the texting 'dialogue'.
Happy Friday all, and thank you for reading. Peace...