Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ranging about (plus more of the capricious tale)

Well, CM and I are on vacation visiting family. We've spent the better part of the past week dwelling in a yurt (which was surprisingly comfortable) and roughing it on the shores of a lake in Utah. Right now my nose, cheeks, hairline, and possibly part of my brain are burnt to a crisp. (Aloe vera is your friend.)

While we were there I had plenty of time to write, so I tried my hand at more of the capricious tale of Brad.

*strum strum*

RAD woke early to the sensation of being smothered. One of his little cousins -- Timmy? Tommy? -- was sitting on his chest. He slid the child off onto the floor and tried to turn over, but the child climbed right back on.

"GET OUTTA MY ROOM!" yelled Samuel, who had just realized his little brother was trespassing. Startled at the noise, the child started to wail. Between his loud sobbing and Samuel's continued yelling, Brad realized there would be no further chances for sleep in this room. He grabbed a blanket and stalked off toward the living room couch.

"Hey, Brad honey! How'd you sleep?" asked his aunt cheerily. She was busy dusting.

"I don't know. Ask me when I've had some sleep." Brad had a hard time with perky morning people. Both he and his mom were night owls. This household, by comparison, seemed to wake at the crack of dawn.

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," his aunt clucked. "First time in a new place will sometimes do that to you. But you'll adjust soon enough."

Brad reflected for a moment on how many new places and first times he'd experienced in his life. He suspected the difference this time might have something to do with being treated like a sofa, but he said nothing. His aunt was trying to be pleasant.

That morning was difficult for Brad. He spent most of it babysitting his four cousins and running errands for his aunt. By mid-afternoon he was beginning to look for an escape route, and he found it soon enough when his aunt asked him to run to the corner store and pick up some things for dinner. Brad quite literally ran the three blocks to the Jubilee and stood outside a while, taking huge gasps of breath. He felt as though he'd climbed out of a well. How much more of this could he take?

There was a pay phone outside the Jubilee. On a whim, Brad took out a handful of change and dialed his mom. The phone rang six times.

"Hello?" said an unfamiliar voice on the other end. It sounded like a man.

"Wait," said Brad confusedly. "Uh, is this 698-2124?"

"Uh, yes it is. Were you looking for Melanie?"

"Yes!" said Brad, relieved to hear his mother's name. "Yes, I'm looking for Melanie. May I speak to her, please?"

"Well, she's a little busy at the moment," the man said, and Brad swore he could hear soft giggling in the background. "Would you like to leave her a message?"

Suddenly Brad realized what was happening. His stomach dropped like a lead weight. "Tell her her son called," he said heavily.

There was silence on the line for a second or two. Then the man's voice said, "I see. I'll be sure to give her the message." Just before the line went dead, Brad caught the words: "Mel, that was your son. Why didn't you tell--"

That was the end of that escape route. Mom had obviously sent him off to his uncle's because she didn't want him getting in the way of her current love interest. Brad felt set adrift. He sat down heavily on a bench, put his head in his hands and tried not to cry.

After a few minutes, a girl in a yellow dress came out of the store. She was a few years younger than Brad, with a dark tan, deep brown eyes and smoky hair held back in a ponytail. The moment she saw Brad, she dropped her shopping bag, knelt beside him and gave him a hug. Brad was startled at this touch from a complete stranger, but he also really needed the hug, so he didn't shy away. After a minute or two, he stopped sniffling.

The girl looked up at him. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Brad shook his head.

"It's all right. I was just curious." She sat down beside him on the bench. "You new here?"

"Just got here yesterday."

She nodded. "Thought so. Hey, you've got a green thumb. That must be handy."

"It would be if I lived in a place with a garden," Brad murmured somewhat bitterly.

"Well, I do. We've got a huge backyard, but I don't have the knack for growing things. Maybe you could come over some time and help us plant?"

"Maybe," said Brad guardedly.

"I'm Victoria," the girl added. "I live over on McTavish, about four blocks that way."

"Brad," said Brad. "I'm staying with my uncle George and his family. Over that way." He couldn't bring himself to say he was living with his uncle's family; it seemed so final.

"I'm glad," said Victoria simply. "We'll be neighbors. Oh, did you need something from the store?"

Suddenly Brad remembered his shopping list. "I'm getting some things for my aunt," he said.

"Well," Victoria said, "I have to get home before the milk gets warm. Guess I'll see you around later." She grabbed her bag and headed off in the direction of McTavish, twirling every now and then and swinging her shopping bag around aimlessly.

Brad stared after her. She was odd, he decided, but in a good way. He kept thinking about her all through the aisles of the store, on the three blocks back to his uncle's house, and most of the rest of the evening.

(This is as far as I wrote. I'll think of more later.)

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