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Voice Week entry!
The sound of the gunfire exploded in my ears. I looked around. No blood. No blood anywhere.
“Leave him alone.”
It came from Henry Foster, that old drunk who lived above that old shop of his. We’d broken in a few times, stupid stuff. Nothing big.
“Mind your own business.” I said.
The old man didn’t move.
Adam let go of the kid’s arm. He made a move as if to run and I pointed my knife back at him. He froze.
“Don, put the knife down. He ain’t worth it.”
For a moment, I didn’t know if I would. I’d killed a kid before, cut him up real good. Spent a year in juvie but I came out pretty clean. But now, with a gun pointed to my back, the situation seemed heightened, more real.
I smiled, tucked away my knife.
Fourth entry to Voice Week. Same prompts, different perspective.
Tommy sped up ahead of us. I heard Adam give a big whoop and I smiled. We followed him to the lake. Panting, sweat dripping down his arms, on his face, he jumped off that old bike of his. The lake to his back, he didn’t have nowhere to go. Don laughed. The kid’s eyes darted from the knife in Don’s hand to his bike. Don laughed louder.
“No running from here on, kid. We’ve got you cornered.”
He gave a big swallow but didn’t move. We closed in on him. As we got closer, I saw how afraid he was. He wasn’t scared like the others we’d messed around with. He was terrified. Smiling, I took one of his arms. Adam, I think, took his other. All the while, Don flipped the knife up and down, juggling it like a circus performer.
“So kid, you wanna die today?” He asked.
Third entry for Voice Week. Same prompts used, different perspective.
Yessir, I saw them boys. Jimmy’s boy, the one up front was. He was speeding along on that old bike of his. I’d know him anywhere-used to deliver paper but he stopped that when Fred gave him the job busing tables at that place of his. The Tattleing Turtle. Man, I used to go down there and dance every night before Fred bought it. It used to a nightclub. Fred fixed it up, made it into a good ole’ bar and eatery. Fine place too.
Anyway, this kid’s peddling like crazy. ‘Bout six of ’em were following him. Crazy looking fellows, gave me a bad feel. That’s when Henry came out. Must’ve seen ’em go by him because he got a queer little look on his face, like he was sick or somethin’. Well, he goes back in his shop and he comes out with a gun, a real fine one, a shotgun.
I put my head right back into my work. Anything with a gun and those kids, I didn’t wanna see.
“There are many reasons why I dropped out of high school.”
This is my starter line, my excuse as to why I dropped out when I, apparently, had everything going for me. AP Scholar. Decent grades-before I stopped caring. Scholarship to the University of Iowa by virtue of the color of my skin. I keep saying this line, over and over. It’s become my mantra, so much so that I’ve forgotten the real ones or just buried them somewhere where I wouldn’t have to look at them. But really? The reason I dropped out?
Well, there are many reasons why I dropped out.
Firstly, I was unhappy. I would like to take a moment to thank my wonderful mother for giving me her debilitating depression. Depression isn’t some soap opera disease. Maybe I’m just predisposed personality-wise or something but I believe that a certain extent of depression-clinical depression-is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. There’s a point that you come to where nothing makes you happy anymore-the things you loved, the people who used to make you smile. Nothing. And so you sit through life wondering why all the color has drained out of the world. I used to call this the Grey. I also used to be suicidal. I am neither now. By junior year, I was hospitalized and finally medicated and by senior year I was back in the hospital. I never slit my wrists or cut myself. I never told myself that I was a failure of a person and cried myself to sleep. Yes, I was a bit shy in classes (sometimes) but I’ve always been the loud, outrageous friend, the one who makes obscene jokes and always laughs the loudest. And yet, internally, I was feeling completely empty. Everything took twice the effort. So yes, I was unhappy but that wasn’t the only reason why.
I didn’t feel like I was doing anything that I wanted to do. All my life I’ve tried to please people. I want my grandparents to be proud of me. I want my teachers to like my work, to give me A’s. I want the people around me to view me in a certain way and when I fail them, when I disappoint them, I am devastated. I hate disappointing people. So I was going to go to Iowa because one of my best friends was going there, because my mother and grandparents didn’t want me to leave. I was going to succeed in school because the people around me wanted me to and, I suppose, a little because I simply got used to seeing my name in bright lights on everything at school. I was going to study linguistics not because I love linguistics but because I thought that this was the acceptable career for me, the career where I could still please my family by not running off to art school to study writing and please myself by doing something that I enjoyed. And when the Grey came, I realized that all the things I was doing didn’t make me happy and that none of them meant a Goddamn thing to me. So I quit.
And the final reason: because I could.
I could drop out. That was something that I had control over, something that no one could take back but me. I was convinced that I was going to start doing the things that I wanted. I would get my GED because a high school diploma was not a validation of my intelligence. I would start writing my book, move to Chicago with my dad, get a job there and start living a life of my own. And in reality, all of my great little ideas were one thing: fucking stupid. I think, in reality, I knew that dropping out was a shitty idea. It just took me an entire summer to figure this out.
After a summer of writing, of attempting to convince everyone around me that what I was doing was what I wanted, of avoiding people, namely my grandparents, I went on a Youth for Christ trip to Colorado. I’ve done it every year since I started high school, besides my junior year. And it doesn’t matter that I don’t really worship God-I believe in him but I’m still working out the kinks of worship-but going there completely cleared my mind. There’s something about being in the mountains, just hiking and having all aspects of technology besides a bus and a camera absent that allows you to truly delve deeply into yourself and examine your very soul. And, with the help of a sign from God, I decided that I wanted to go back to high school.
I’m there now, just finishing up my Super Senior trimester. Welcome back to Kennedy High School. I can tell that some of my teachers are disappointed in me. Some had already given up. I don’t blame them but nor do I let it bother me like it used to. I’m getting A’s and B’s and maybe a C or two. But the reason that I came back, the reason that I came back to everything that I took for granted, was because I wanted my diploma. For the first time, I truly wanted it not because it would make high school end, not because I wanted to please people but because I wanted it. And I may not be truly happy now but I feel like I’m on the right path because I’m doing things for me, as cliche as that sounds, and because I’m doing things that I want to do.
My second entry for Voice Week. The first one is here. My prompts: the old man, a bar, a junk shop and a small town. This one’s a bit longer than allowed (about 160 words) but I couldn’t help myself. I’m long-winded and I always will be. And I have to thank everyone who commented on my first entry! I love any sort of feedback, especially critisism.
There was a decidedly bleak tone to the shop. It was two blocks from the dump and when the winds blew east, the sickly sweet smell of decay and rot drifted into the solitary brown-brick building. It sat alone on the street, like a house that’s left standing when all the others have been torn apart by bombs. The sign, which I had scribbled out years before in red paint, “Foster’s Antique’s”, had faded into nothingness.
I sat behind the desk, staring into the abyss, the old bits and pieces of former lives that had gone into the afterlife with their masters, leaving behind only faded paint and half-missed scratchings of “Johnny’s” and “Cindy’s toy”. It wasn’t until the clock struck seven that I pulled on my coat and edged out the door. That was when I saw Tommy, a boy I’d only glimsed working tables at the Tattling Turtle, racing on a beat-up bike. Six others followed him, yelling angry slurs.
They held malice in their eyes.
This is my entry for the first day of Voice Week. My prompts: the old man, a bar, a junk shop and a small town.
Harry Foster came into the Tattling Turtle every Thursday after work. Someone once told me that he owned an old junk shop down by the lake but I never saw it and Harry, with his sweat stained t-shirts and habit of rolling his own cigarettes at the bar, was forever unemployed to me. He was one of those guys that my dad complained about, those no-good crooks who laze around waiting for a welfare check.
I suppose I wasn’t ever really fair to Harry and it wasn’t until he saved my life in the summer of 66′ that I really found out who Harry was.