Castle Roland

Rock and a Hard Place

by Hans Schreiber


Chapter 26

Posted: N/A

Nothing to be Done

My mom looked like she'd been wrestling in the dirt with a badger. Her blouse was torn, her scraped up arms had dried blood on them and her hair was a mess. Behind her were three cops and my nurse. "What's going on?" I asked. The last time she had been in my room, she had to be forcefully removed by the guard and now she was being escorted by three officers.

"We have to get you out of here," my mom said. "I was at the house gathering up some things when those gang boys showed up. I escaped out the back door and climbed over the fence into the Harbaugh's yard." I immediately figured out why she looked the way she did.

"Did Brutus mess you up?" I asked. Brutus is the Harbaugh's dog and he's fiercely protective. If I ever lost a ball in their yard, I always just waited for them to throw it back over the fence.

"Yes, it was horrifying. Thankfully, Katrina was home and called Brutus off and I was able to call 9-1-1. Those filthy creeps vandalized the house, stole what they easily could, and got away."

The news hit me like a ton of bricks. My first thought was how lucky my mom was to get away. My second thought was how stupid I was to think they were just going to overlook Renaldo's death. "I'm glad you're safe." I said it sincerely. As infuriating as she was at times, she was still my mom and I didn't want to see her get hurt, especially as a result of something I had done. Then denial kicked back in. "Are you sure it wasn't just a random robbery? You don't know it was the gang that did it, maybe it's just a bad coincidence."

The young Officer Milsap spoke up. This time, he was apparently fully informed. "It was definitely them. They painted their signs all over your house. They painted obscenities and threats in your bedroom, all over the walls. The most disturbing thing, and something we'd never seen them do before, is leave a dead dog with its genitals all mutilated in your bed. That leaves little doubt why they targeted you. An inside source tells us that they know you're in here." It frightened me that the gang so easily got into my gated neighborhood to trash our house. If they could do that, they probably could get to me in here while the bored cop was napping outside my room or something.

"Hurry and get dressed and we'll get you out of here, provided the doctor says you're well enough to go," said a second cop. As he said that the doctor rushed in. He asked everyone to stand back and he drew the privacy curtain. He pulled down the covers and I pulled up my gown. He inspected my damages, giving each ball a slight squeeze and asking if I felt any pain. I told him they were more just tender and he nodded. He stuck a thermometer thingy in my ear and when it beeped, he simply said, "Good to go." The nurse was already working to remove my IV. When the needle was out and the gauze was taped to my skin, she untied my gown for me. I slipped on an athletic supporter that the doctor ordered with an extra large pouch and then boxers over that before I removed my gown. I pulled on the rest of the clothes they brought for me, athletic shorts and an ugly yellow t-shirt. I only had the flip-flops from Juvey to wear on my feet. They insisted I ride in a wheelchair and the friendly Officer Milsap pushed me in it. The nurse gave my mom a bag of medicines along with instructions, which I was sure were going in one ear and out the other. I strained to listen and managed to hear "… for pain as needed." That was all I cared about at the moment.

They took me out a back entrance to a waiting squad car and my mom got in with me. We traveled mostly in silence about an hour and fifteen minutes outside of town. Two blocks after we passed Campbell Christian Academy for Boys, next door to Campbell Community Chapel, we came to the Campbell Village Apartments. I quickly deduced that we were in Campbell, being the bright boy that I am. The apartments were a bit run down but not trashy. They were typical beige stucco, two story apartments with dark brown siding, four units to a building. The architecture was unimaginative and dull. The cop walked with us to the office where my mom got a key. Hers was still in her purse which had probably been stolen.

I was shocked to discover that I would be sleeping on a couch in the living room with a small white dresser and the narrow coat closet to house my clothing. At that point, it didn't really matter since I was wearing the only clothes I owned. The single bedroom was my mother's. The cop was talking with my mom when I excused myself to go pee. We shared a single bathroom that contained a small tub/shower combination. The shower curtain was decorated with brightly colored tropical fish. A jar of seashells sat on the counter. I was surprised at the décor since I wasn't sure my mom had ever even seen the ocean.

The cop was gone when I came back out. My balls were sore and I asked for some medication. My mother hurried to the kitchen and brought me a pain pill along with an antibiotic and a glass of water. I thanked her and she smiled as I gulped it all down. I sat on the couch that would double as my bed and was pleased to see it was reasonably firm. "We're safe here. You don't need to be frightened." Mom patted me on the bare knee.

I moved my knee out of her reach and said unkindly, "I'm not frightened. How long before I can go back with dad?"

She looked stricken. Her smile faded and the room darkened along with her mood change. In reality the sun had just slipped behind a cloud, but it gave the ominous effect. She rubbed her temples as if caressing a throbbing headache. "You can make this difficult or you can make it easy, but you cannot change being here." Then as an afterthought she added. "You're probably in pain and people aren't themselves when they are in pain. Are those pills effective for the pain?"

"Yes. But they make me tired." I couldn't read the look in her eyes. It was almost a dazed, confused, subdued anger mixed with fear. "You're right, we're safe here. I'll try," I said softly.

"Try what?" She asked rubbing her temples again.

"Try making it easier. But I still want to go back home as soon as I can."

"Home? There is no more home. The gang you drug into our lives took that away from us. It will be repaired and sold. Then, we will purchase a house here with our share of the proceeds. Kyle, this is your home now. Here with me. Get used to it."

"No. No it isn't. I'm going back with Dad. He promised I wouldn't have to leave my school or my friends even if you made us sell the house. I don't care that much about the house, but I'm not giving up my friends and wrestling. I'm not."

"We'll discuss it later when you're not in pain. I need to get cleaned up and go help out at the church. You can settle in. I'll be back around six o'clock to fix us some dinner." She stretched to pat me on the knee before standing and heading to the kitchen. I stared, numb and a little cold, at the blank wall across from the couch I was sitting on. I didn't want this time with Mom to be a constant argument. I was stuck there for a while and while I was, I needed to just make the best of it. Dad was right to suggest I just roll with the punches until all this gang shit blows over and I can go back with him. Maybe having them sell the house was a good idea. I could move to a new place with Dad and it would be a fresh start for me and him both. I was still undeniably angry with him for sending me to Juvey, but in fairness, he was reacting to a bad situation that was dropped on him, and it isn't like I've never made a bad decision with good intentions before.

I got up and rounded the partition dividing the small kitchen from the living room area as my mom tossed something into her mouth, tilted her head back to swallow, and then washed whatever it was down with a glass of water. When she recognized my presence, she jerked nervously, acting like she was a guilty child caught with her hand in the cookie jar or something. She recovered quickly and asked what I wanted.

"To apologize. I'll try and be better to you." She relaxed and smiled.

"Good. Settle in and I'll be back for dinner." She patted my cheek and flashed her artificial sweetener smile as she brushed past me and went in to shower. I went back to the couch and sat down staring at the blank wall and replaying the experiences of the past week. It was like a bad movie. Forty-five minutes later, my mom came out of the bathroom and looked fully put back together except for the skinned up arms. "See you at six," she said as she rushed out.

"How will you get there? You don't have a car."

"Settle in," I said out loud. I tried to figure out what that could possibly mean. I had no clothes to unpack besides the crap I was wearing. It looked like Mom probably just grabbed it all off the rack at Wal-Mart in a rush while the cops followed her around. The sizes weren't even right. I would have figured out how to use the television except there wasn't one. For the lack of anything else to do, I looked in the cupboards. There were a few dishes and mismatched cups. A small set of silverware in one drawer, odds and ends utensils in another. I recognized the dish towels and hot pads as coming from our old kitchen. Nothing was fancy and I had the sense I was in a college student's pad. There were the basic pots and pans. The pantry and the fridge were stocked well enough and all the canned goods were sorted by type and in a perfect line, but there was no teen type junk food at all. I didn't really mind because I was determined to keep on weight for when I went back to my wrestling. I was hoping for some low fat popcorn or some Triscuits or something, though. I found a box of graham crackers and broke those open. Being gone from my school so long would almost certainly eliminate my chances for State, but I could go cheer Scotty on. Now that he was working with Dig's private coach, I had no doubt he would make it.

I wandered to the solitary small bathroom and checked in the cupboards in there. I was surprised to see that she had gotten me my own deodorant, even if it was Old Spice, and even separate razors to shave with. Pink ones for her legs, I supposed and green ones for me. I'd just started shaving a little bit on the upper lip and was kind of proud of the fact that I needed to. I thought that was uncharacteristically nice of her to think of me like that. There was even a blue toothbrush hanging next to my mom's pink one in the medicine cabinet. It all actually helped me feel like maybe she really was sincere about wanting me to live with her. I hadn't expected this at all.

The linen closet held towels and bed sheets along with extra toilet paper and various cleaners. I expected to find some single sheets and blankets I could use on the couch in there, but I guess she had overlooked that detail. I didn't see an extra pillow either. I'd have to steal one off my mom's bed and I hoped she had two. I couldn't stand to sleep without a pillow. I stared at the closed bedroom door and shrugged. What the hell, I was settling in, so I might as well see how my bachelorette mom lived and see if she had an extra pillow. I opened the door and crept in. I chuckled to myself as I realized I was sneaking around all nervous and tense in a completely empty apartment and I relaxed. Everything was neatly arranged. No surprise there. There were some pictures and knick knacks that I recognized as coming from our house. In my mother's typical neat and orderly fashion, the room was meticulously arranged.

I started to leave but my curiosity got the better of me. I walked over to look in her dresser drawers. There on top of the dresser were two pictures. One was of me, smiling brightly at the age of ten with my new mountain bike I'd gotten for my birthday. It made me happy that she had a picture of me there. The other picture annoyed me as it showed Reverend Rick in his sharply tailored black suit, hugging my mother with one arm while holding their opposite hands in front of them. The church I'd seen up the street was in the background. They were looking at each other and smiling like it was a posed photo from a high school formal. It struck me, looking at it, that mom's smile appeared more genuine than the Reverend's. I pulled myself away from the photo and snooped in her top left drawer - bras and panties, neatly laid out. The top right drawer held a box of various small tools, screwdrivers, a crescent wrench, small hammer and some screws, nails and tacks. There were also assorted spare keys, pens and pencils - basic drawer junk. There were two treasures in there, though - my cell phone and wallet. I grabbed the phone and pressed the on button. The battery was completely dead. I searched, but there was no charger to be found. I tossed it back in the drawer. I checked my wallet and except for the money, nothing else was missing from it. I assumed either the guards or my mom had taken the cash. There was another shoe box in that drawer full of greeting cards. I took it out and sat on the bed.

I started to tear up as I looked through them. It was probably every birthday and Mother's Day card, I'd ever given to her and even a Valentine's card or two I'd made as a small boy in grade school. It touched me that she had kept them and that they were important enough to her that she brought them with her. She'd brought relatively little with her when she'd left. As I reached the bottom of the pile, I found an envelope that was stuffed with cash - her emergency stash. I opened it and thumbed through guessing it to be a couple thousand dollars. That left me wondering if she only brought my cards because the money was in the box with them. I chose to believe she wanted the cards.

She hadn't even brought many shoes with her when she left. Or so I thought, because I remembered all the shoes still left behind in the closet at our house. I'd never forget the high heel that jabbed me in the ass while I was hiding in the closet from my dad. I put the box back and thumbed through the stack of miscellaneous paperwork in the drawer. Nothing interesting was there except for her copies of the divorce papers. I glanced at them, but it was not really interesting and I put them back. Maybe if I got really bored, I'd return and read through them. The remaining drawers contained her other clothing, socks sorted by color, and panty hose that I actually thought about trying on, just for kicks. I'd always sort of wondered what they would feel like against my skin. I liked silky feeling things. There were also scarves and belts.

It was what I found in the bottom right drawer that really chapped my ass. It had men's boxers, dark socks, and a handful of ties in it. I went to the closet and sure enough, there were a few men's white shirts and black slacks. There were two pair of men's dress shoes and a ton of my mom's shoes. She must have a real thing for shoes. Back in the drawer, I picked up a pad of pills encased in plastic on a card and read the label - Loestrin. There were 28 of them labeled Sunday through Saturday. My mother was on birth control pills. The good Reverend was fucking my mother right in the bed behind me. My blood came to a slow boil. I already knew it was happening, I suppose. My father told me they had an affair going on when he told me Mom was never coming back to us. I'd just chosen to believe an affair meant they were dating, not fucking. I just couldn't let myself think about that. I understood the photo on the dresser better now. I recognized the smile on the Reverend's face. It was like the young stud at the prom who knew he was gonna score for the first time later that evening. That bastard was getting what my poor, pathetic father had been denied and was only dreaming about when he fucked his pillows. I put the pills back and shut the drawer with my foot.

I went back to the closet and continued snooping. I was struck dumb and frozen in place at what I saw on the shelf. It was a recognizable filing box. I was awash in fresh embarrassment as I realized it hadn't been my dad who came home and found the mess I'd left in my bedroom that day when I left to go to the decorating committee meeting. It had been my mother who had tidied up after my solo sex-capade with the dildo, making my bed and confiscating the sex toys. "Shit. No wonder she drew the conclusion I was fucking with Scotty. She found the messy dildo and then reading my playful texting to him, she's putting it together." I stepped back and sat on her bed, staring at the box. I didn't even become aware of my growing erection until it was straining hard against the pouch in the jock strap. Jocks are definitely not conducive to boners. I stood up and kicked my flip-flops off, peeled off my shorts and boxers and then carefully removed my jock strap. I pulled my shirt off and sat back on the bed, stark naked. I took my throbbing dick in my hand and slowly stroked it, contemplating my next action.

With trembling hands, I pulled the box off the shelf and carried it into the living room. I set it on the small coffee table and locked the front door. I opened the box and lifted out the long, thick, rubber replica of a penis, complete with thick veins running over the exterior. I took out the bottle of lube and noticed I was not the last to use it since it was almost ¾ gone. I popped the cap and spread the slippery, clear gel over the rubberized dick. I rubbed some gel into the entry of my ass with my middle finger and then pressed the tip against my clenching hole. I closed my eyes and the first mental image to emerge was frightening. I saw Renaldo's face in frustrated rage as he repeatedly tried to force his way into me. The second image was better as I saw Dig's frustrated confusion while he pressed his massive dickhead to my virgin hole. I lay there, still, frozen in space as I had been in the cabin, wondering if he would go through with it. I pulled the artificial penis away and Dig's image faded into Scotty's. I saw his eyes. His beautiful green eyes were smiling into mine melting me into a porous mass under his spell. I relaxed from head to toe and almost imperceptibly, Scotty entered me slowly and steadily until he filled me up and consumed me.

Then began the slow dance - a dance of love and infatuation. With each long slow stroke, fresh waves of immeasurable pleasure coursed through my body. Brilliant colors exploded behind my eyelids and music, soft and low at first, rising steadily to the impending crescendo played in my mind's ear. I lifted one leg to the top of the couch and the other heel found the coffee table giving my imaginary lover access to drive deeper into me, deep, deep into the depths of my body and soul. "Oh, Scotty," I moaned over and over, "take me, fill me up."

The music was rising, the maestro whipped his baton about in wild abandonment as I writhed about in splendid ecstasy moaning louder and louder until that moment of truth when fireworks exploded in my brain and molten cum spread itself from my chin to my naval in explosion after uncontrollable explosion. My ass quivered and clenched feverishly to the impaling penis and I reached to press Scotty's thick red lips to mine only to have my hand press into my own face. I cried out in agony as I opened my eyes and realized, there was no Scotty. There was only me and my pathetic fantasies, no different than my poor father and his fantasies. "Noooooo!" I cried and ripped the plastic dick from my ass too quickly and threw it across the room. I winced at the pain, both physical and emotional, and then brought my legs back together and drooped on the couch, trembling and crying softly. "Oh God, I don't think I can bear this anymore." I came to a decision right then that I was going to the Fall Formal. Cinderfella was going to the ball, dammit. I would be with my prince, Scotty. I would claim what he promised me and have him inside me, holding me and filling me up. All I needed now was a fairy God Father and a pumpkin to make it all happen.

I lay there a long time, alternately thinking too much and then thinking too little. Confused thoughts wandered through my addled brain. At length, I gathered up the dildo and washed it off in the bathroom sink. While I was in there, I checked the Old Spice deodorant and sure enough, it was half used. On closer inspection, the men's razor already had bits of leftover beard in it and the blue toothbrush's bristles were crusty. I stared at the toothbrush, turning it around and around in my fingers. I smiled wickedly and reached it around behind me and slipped it up into my ass and back out again. I sniffed it, smiled wider, and hung it back in its place. "So Reverend, you wanna be my male role model and fuck my mother at the same time? Well, you can just kiss my ass."

I put the box back together and placed it back on the shelf in the closet. I supposed what I had just done probably counted as "settling in." I dressed in my only set of "new" clothes and went for a pain pill. I swallowed it, and went back into my mom's bedroom for one last check that I'd put everything back the way I'd found it and closed her door. I still had a couple hours to go before Mom would be home. I wondered if she was really working at the church or getting worked on at the church. The thought disgusted me and I forced myself not to think about it any longer.

For the lack of anything else to do, I walked down to the center court area. Four rows of apartments surrounded a small pool area with some grass and a picnic table next to it. There was a broken bar-b-que grill next to the table. The pool was too small to be useful for laps. It was more or less a kiddies' splash pool. But there was a hot tub next to it that would fit maybe five or six people. I thought I could put that to use once my balls healed up. It was a little chilly and I rubbed my arms against the afternoon breeze. I suddenly had a good idea and headed back up to the apartment. I found the bag of stuff I brought from the hospital, including my urinal bottle. Why they sent that home with me, I had no idea. I found the book about Corrie ten Boom that I'd been reading and a lightweight blanket and carried them back down by the pool. I lay in the afternoon sunshine that was warm enough, with the small blanket draped over me, to be comfortable. I was in one of two lounge chairs near the pool. I chose the least broken one.

I started reading and was so engrossed in the book that I barely noticed the increased activity around me. Latch-keys were coming home from school and passing through the center court giving hard, curious stares in my direction. Only rarely did I look up and catch one of them. When I did, they quickly looked away and scurried off, clearly afraid of the stranger in their domain. As I finished the book, tears were trickling down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed at the power of the book. I would never forget Corrie's description of meeting one of her guards after a speaking engagement, years after the war was over. She wrote how she remembered him and how he had been a particularly cruel guard. He asked for her forgiveness. She wrote that she didn't think she was capable of it. She wrote about reaching out after a long pause and taking the hand he had extended, "For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then." Just thinking about that caused the familiar warmth of God's love to course through me again, even as it had done when I'd read it.

I held the book in my hands, staring at it and thinking about all the wisdom and courage it contained. I thought about the deep and abiding faith and the unbelievable capacity for good and evil that the people within its pages had displayed. How could she have forgiven? How could she overcome so much? How could people be so cruel to their fellow travelers here on earth? How could God's love overcome all that hate and anger and how? How could they express thanks to God? I thought about a passage where Corrie's sister Betsie, who did not survive, expressed thanks for the biting fleas. When Corrie scolded her for such a ridiculous thing as that, Betsie replied that it was those very fleas that kept the guards out of the bunkhouse giving them a break from their cruel treatment. How could Corrie forgive that guard?

Suddenly, I became aware of being stared at. A boy, about my age and dressed in a white polo shirt and blue Dickies, had his forearms leaning between the iron spires of the pool fence and was staring intently at me. I stared back at the thin waif with jet black hair and immediately noticed a pencil thin dusting of a mustache on his upper lip. His skin was pale like William's and contrasted with his black hair just as William's did. He was not as tall and certainly didn't resemble William in the face, but somehow his presence reminded me of my friend. I met his gaze and he spoke to me in a shockingly deep voice that did not match his slight frame. "Are you okay? You're crying."

Embarrassed at that, I quickly wiped my eyes on the sleeves of my t-shirt. "I'm fine. I was just reading an emotional book. Thanks for asking, though."

"I'm Justin," he boomed out. "I live here."

"I'm Kyle. I just moved here with my mom."

"That's cool. See you around then, I guess." He pushed off the fence with his arms, saluted me and sprinted up a flight of stairs, disappearing like an apparition. I stood, folded the blanket and walked gingerly up the stairs to our apartment. I swallowed another pain pill and spread myself out on the couch using the folded blanket for a makeshift pillow. I drifted off to sleep until I was awakened by my mother returning home as she had promised to do at six.

I got up to pee, washed my hands and went to the kitchen to see if I could help. Mom was just finishing up heating some tomato soup mixed with milk instead of water to make it creamier, just the way I like it, and also making a grilled cheese and tuna sandwich. I set the table then got in the fridge and pulled out some pickles, fruit cocktail and coleslaw. I put ice in cups and filled them up with water. I picked up the can and asked, "So is this shi … shtuff made here in Campbell?"

"I don't think so, dear." I read the label. It wasn't. It's made in New Jersey. That's a long way from Campbell, California.

We sat together and Mom asked for my hands. She took my hands in hers and spoke a perfunctory grace over the meal. "So how'd things go at the church?" I asked. I watched her reaction for any trace of guilt. There was none I could detect.

"Fine. We have so much to do to prepare for tomorrow night."

"What's going on tomorrow night?"

"Oh, it's so exciting. Reverend Rick is taping his first local cable prayer service. It'll be aired on Sunday evening. We have to have the chapel all cleaned up and they are building platforms for the cameras. I sewed his new, blue velvet, preacher robe and was fitting him for it among other things."

"Oh cool. Like what other things?" I took a bite of my sandwich and let my eyes bore into her. She remained completely nonplussed and talked about hanging the newly cleaned drapes and helping arrange the stands where the fresh flowers would be placed.

"I heard preachers go naked under those robes. Is that true?" I stuffed another bite of tuna and cheese into my mouth to keep from snickering.

"Goodness, no! Maybe that Pastor Morgan does something disgusting like that, but Reverend Rick wears a conservative black suit."

"Hmm. Guess I was told wrong. So he wasn't naked today when you were checking to see if he fit?"

"Heavens no. I swear, what strange notions those public school boys have put into your head. What did you do while I was gone by the way? Did you sleep the whole time?"

"No, I went down by the pool and read my book. I finished it. Oh, and I met a kid my age who lives here. His name's Justin."

"Oh, that's nice I suppose. Did the two of you chat and get to know each other?"

"No he just introduced himself and then disappeared into the apartment building next door."

"Is that all you did while I was gone?" Mom was turning the tables on me and I didn't like it. I started to wonder if she had the place bugged or something.

"Pretty much, yeah. So why don't you have a TV in here?" I asked hoping to move the subject away from me.

"I haven't had a need for one but now that Rick … er, Reverend Rick is going to be on cable, I need to get one." Mom stared at me almost dreamily and I knew it wasn't me she was thinking about. She was really under this Reverend Rick asshole's spell.

"Good, because it could get really boring here without friends, sports or my computer. Something else I need is something to wear. I can't wear this every day. Any plans about that?"

"Your school clothes are already in your closet, but I guess you will need some casual clothes. We can go to Wal-mart after we clean up here."

"Seriously? Wal-mart? You shop at Wal-mart? Since when? If it wasn't Nordstrom's or Macy's you wouldn't even step foot in the door before. And besides we don't have a car, remember?" I was stunned.

"The maintenance man lives in building A, and he offered to let me use his truck until I either get my car back or can rent one. As for Nordstrom's and Macy's, Reverend Rick has helped me to overcome the ways of my materialistic lifestyle. He has helped me come to understand the importance of using our resources for the benefit of man and spreading the word of the Lord to the world. This cable show is just the first step in a bright future for us. Someday, we will be on AGN spreading the word and we'll build schools and hospitals in Africa. We can send missionaries all over the world to spread Christianity and goodwill. He has big plans for rehab centers for the weak minded like druggies and gays and plans to help the homeless get back to work and change their lives. It'll be just like Reverend Rick says, 'Clovis, we will be tools in God's hands. We're just a couple of wide mouth shovels for God to use in shoveling people out from underneath their personal dung heaps of sin.'"

I stared dumbfounded and wild-eyed at my mother. I held a spoonful of New Jersey Tomato soup partially en-route to my gaping mouth. I'm sure my mouth was gaping. It had dropped steadily as she rambled on until it had fallen as far as it could go. I returned the spoon to the bowl and would have laughed out loud had I just witnessed that little speech on a sitcom, but in real life, coming from my real mother, it was not the least bit funny. "So, have you been giving all the money that you've been getting from Dad to Reverend Rick?" I already guessed the answer. "Holy shit."

"Kyle, watch your language. I'm anxious for you to meet him."

"I've met him already. He used to come over to the house with all your pho … I mean all your charities he got you involved in."

"Well of course you've met him that way, but I mean to really meet him and talk to him and understand the calling within him. You won't believe how wonderful he is when you really get to know him on a personal level." My mom glazed over again.

"I bet you're right about that, I probably won't be able to believe how wonderful he is." I shoveled the remaining soup into my mouth and wondered just how wide mouthed the shovel would need to be to shovel all the shit off of me. It sounded like I was in for a real experience. I cleared the table, rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. I walked over to the narrow coat closet and opened the door. There were five pair of navy blue Dickies pants and five white polo shirts. There was a pair of no name, black, tennis shoes. I checked my drawers and found two packages of plain white boxer shorts and a jumbo pack of black crew socks and one black belt with a silver buckle. The shirts had a crest over the left breast, with Calligraphy lettering - CCA. I groaned audibly and shut the door.

"Can we go to Wal-mart now?" I asked. "Oh and hey, I'll need a suit for going to church on Sunday. How about a nice black one like Ricky wears?"

"Do NOT disrespect the Reverend by calling him Ricky. You will address him as Reverend or as Reverend Rick, do you understand?" My mom was suddenly fuming and rubbing her temples again.

"Sorry. I didn't mean anything by it. But can I get a suit?"

"No you may not. The youth in the church don't wear suits to church. We'll purchase you some suitable casual clothing that can be worn to church." I'll be damned if I didn't just lose out on my dress for the ball. How was I going to meet my prince at the ball without a suit? I'd never get into a Fall Formal in blue Dickies and a white polo.

The trip to Wal-mart was humorous. The maintenance truck was an old Dodge ram and the brakes were really sensitive. Mom almost launched us through the windshield at every stop sign. When we got there, things got worse. I argued over nearly everything Mom picked out and she grumbled over everything I picked out. In the end, I wound up with some passable running shorts, running shoes, ankle socks, a half dozen t-shirts that weren't completely God-awful, some Jeans and some chinos like William liked to wear. I got a couple of collared shirts to wear to church and that was it. The best discovery was finding some full support boxer briefs that could double as the jock and the underwear. One other treasure was two paperback novels I could read to keep from going bonkers without a TV or computer. Sadly, the Wal-mart was much too far away to walk to and there wasn't really any other places we passed that would sell a suit. I felt despondent. That night I lay awake pondering my situation. I thought about appealing to Reverend Rick and leveling with him about my desire to go to one last event at my old school and say my goodbyes. If it was his idea, Mom would surely buy into it. I fell asleep with that happy thought on my mind.

The next morning, I woke up with kinks in places I didn't even know existed. The couch made a very poor bed. I stretched and pushed off what little of my bedding wasn't already on the floor. I trotted to the bathroom to find it locked. "Mom, are you in there?" I heard wretching. "Mom, are you okay?" More wretching, then gasping breaths and finally her weak voice.

"Yes, I don't feel very well. Do you need in?" More wretching.

"No, I'm fine, but are you sure you don't need my help or something?" I asked.


I went to the hospital bag and retrieved the urine bottle and was suddenly thankful for it. I dropped my shorts and jock/boxers and began filling it up. It was a great relief. I capped it and set it by the couch until I could dump it. I folded my bedding and put it back in the linen closet in the hallway. This would become a daily ritual for me, making and unmaking my makeshift bed.

Finally, my mom emerged from the bathroom rubbing her temples. "Are you gonna be all right?" I asked with genuine concern.

"Yes, this comes on me sometimes. It passes though. Just really bad migraines." I felt for her. I'd heard that migraine headaches were brutal.

I emptied my urine bottle, took a sponge bath since I couldn't yet shower and then I fixed some oatmeal for myself. I cleaned up the kitchen and dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and walked outside. I really wished I could go for a triple J, but my balls couldn't handle running yet. I supposed, I would take care of the jiggle part whenever my mom left the house. I'd just barely sat down in the pool chair when Justin bounded down the metal stairs. He stopped and snapped to attention before saluting me. "You're up early. Umm, Kyle, right?"

"That's me. And you are Justin."

"Yes sir."

"Hey do you go to the Christian boys' school?" I asked noticing the emblem on his shirt.

"Yes sir, good old C-CAB. If I don't get going, I'll be late," he said, saluting again.

"Oh, okay. Well maybe when you get home we can hang out a little, get acquainted." I asked hopefully desperate for someone besides my mother to talk to.

"I'll be home at 1500 hours. See you then." He smiled, if you could call it that. One side of his lips turned up and the other side drew into a downward pull. Both of his eyes lit up, though.

"Cool." I watched him jog off toward the street and make the turn onto the sidewalk. "Interesting character," I mumbled. No one else was even remotely close to my age and several kids pointed and whispered to their mothers or other caregivers about me.

Not too long after the school crowd was gone, my mother came down looking as well as her usual self. "You feeling better?"

"Yes, much. Thank you. I'm headed off to the church to help get ready for tonight's taping. I might be a while. Can you fix your own lunch?" she asked.

"Sure, but how about I come along and help?" I wanted a chance to get Reverend Rick's ear and work some of my charm on him. I went down in flames, though.

"No, you're not up to it yet. Just stay here, relax and heal. It is a time for physical healing now, spiritual healing later." She gave me the patented smile and headed for the street. I sighed and watched the sun slowly rise over the apartment roof behind puffy white clouds.

I took a leisurely walk around the block. It was a lower middle class area with lots of apartment complexes. All were as nondescript as ours. One was called the Family Apartments, a place for kids and their parents it advertised. I could see a small tot-lot playground between the buildings. I was glad we didn't live there. I returned and was thirsty, so I went upstairs for a drink. I had just gotten a tall glass of water, retrieved the toy box from my mother's closet, stripped naked and settled in on the couch when a firm knock came at the door. I peered out the peephole and saw Officer Milsap. "Just a minute," I called. I quickly closed the toy box lid, pulled on my clothes and went to the door.

I opened the door and invited him in. "What's up?"

He carried in two large black trash bags. "There's more in the car downstairs. We recovered your mother's car and everything she put in it. Amazingly, they left the garage untouched. I have a list of it all. I need your mother to verify and sign off for it. Where is she?"

"She's at the church, up the street. I'd call her but I don't have a cell phone."

"You're here alone without a phone? That is a horrible idea. Does she not understand how dangerous the people are that want to get at you? Come get in my car and take me to her." I followed Officer Milsap to the parking area and was struck by how out of place Mom's new Audi looked in the carport amidst the older model Fords, Civics and beat up mini-vans. It punctuated my own feelings of not belonging. I directed Officer Milsap to the church and I could tell from the body language that Mom didn't like the way the nice cop was talking to her about being irresponsible and leaving me without a cell phone. She signed the paper and walked over to me.

I stepped out of the cop car and everyone was staring at us, of course. I could feel my mother's acute sense of embarrassment spilling over. "Sweetie, I didn't think about the risk of you not having a phone. I'll get your phone back to you as soon as I come home. I need about another hour here. Can you be a sweet thing and check all the contents on the policeman's list for me?"

I started to say that I could just get it myself, but luckily held my tongue. I certainly didn't' want her to know I'd been snooping in her room. "Sure Mom. Be glad to. But what about a charger for it?"

"I don't know. I can't think of everything. You figure that part out. I'll see you in an hour." She snapped around and rushed off in a huff. Officer Milsap and I just sort of shrugged our shoulders and headed back to the apartments.

When we unloaded the car, I was ecstatic. There was my black suit and a white shirt, but no shoes. There was my laptop, backpack, some bedding and towels, some other clothes of mine, my iPod and even Mr. Giggles' look alike. I sat the big monkey in the corner of the living room and started to hang up the suit. Then, I decided instead to cover the suit with one of the large plastic trash bags and hide it under the couch. No sense taking any chances. When I had opened everything Officer Milsap had brought to us, it felt like Christmas when the last package was opened. You hoped for more but knew it was wrong to do so. I was very happy with all that I had gotten. I was only really upset by the lack of my trinkets. Things I'd collected over the years and things people had given me. I twisted the Screw Crew mood ring on my finger - things like that I would miss.

I signed under my mother's name after checking it all off, and before Officer Milsap left, I couldn't resist giving him a giant hug. "You don't even know how happy I am to get all this stuff back. He was completely taken off guard by it, I could tell. I told him, "You're like my Fairy God Father." He wrinkled his brow and then laughed a bit.

"Glad I made you happy kid. Be careful, all right?" He stepped backward and tripped over the toy box. It fell over and spilled its contents as he hop-stepped over them. He looked down in clear surprise, uncertain what to say or do. I stood there staring equally dumbfounded, until I found my voice and attempted to make a joke out of it. "I didn't see that on the list. Did you?"

"No, kid," he said. "How about you add it. I gotta go." Before he left the doorway, he stopped and turned around. He pulled a card from his shirt pocket and handed it to me. "That's my phone number. If you got an emergency call 9-1-1, if you ever just have a question or need to talk, call me."

I rotated the card in my hand and wondered why he would do that. Looking at the time, I rushed downstairs and sat in the wobbly, pool deck chair so I wouldn't miss Justin. He marched around the corner right on time - 1500 hours.

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