Authors: Tim Mettey
Andy looked at me like he just had a brilliant idea with the light bulb still shining above his head. “I’m going for their clothes!”
Before I could stop him, he was over the fence. He was like a human vacuum, grabbing every piece of clothing he passed. He was halfway across the back deck when someone shouted, “Look!” from the dock. He was nearly to the other side of the yard by the time they started getting out of the water. He threw the clothes over the fence, hopped over, and disappeared.
I sprinted to the front of the house. Andy was running down the middle of the street, dropping clothes as he went. I ran up to Andy, grabbed him, and pulled him into a side yard a couple of houses down from Marshall’s. We slid down into a ditch. Andy was terrified. His face was frozen with fear and he was shaking violently. He was breathing hard, but not loud enough to drown out the angry screams coming from Marshall’s front yard. They had just seen their cars and they were mad!
“Let’s go!” Andy whispered to me in a shaky, out of breath voice.
“No,” I said. “We need to stay here to see which way they’ll go before we move.”
Cars began to leave one at a time. We waited for twenty minutes. Only two cars remained in the driveway when we finally popped our heads out of the ditch. Andy had calmed down, but he was still shaking.
The last two cars roared to life, and in front of them was a large group of guys. I could barely make out how many there were from where we were hiding. This had to be the search party to track us down.
“We should have run when we had the chance,” Andy said. “We would have made it.”
“Maybe, but they would have seen us,” I said very confidently.
“What do you care? You are moving!” He was right. I would have been gone, never to see them again.
“Well, you were nice enough to throw this great going away party for me. I had to thank you in some way.”
Andy flashed a nervous smile. The engine of Marshall’s Mustang roared, sending a wave of panic through Andy. His expression changed back to fear, but I didn’t feel scared at all. I was calm. I was in complete control, but I didn’t know why. I was usually a worrier and this was definitely a time to worry.
The angry mob, minus the torches and pitchforks, got into the cars. Both of the cars went in opposite directions, very slowly down the street. I could feel Andy starting to get up. I easily pinned him down with my arm, making sure he didn’t try to run. He squirmed for a second and then stopped.
The car passed by us slowly. Beams of light came from inside the car searching for us. They were almost out of sight before I let go of him.
“Gosh, Nick, next time you want me to stay, just say so! There’s no reason to crush me,” Andy said, rubbing his chest.
“Sorry, I thought you were going to run for it and blow our cover.”
“Well, we better start running now before they come back!” he said.
All of the houses in Marshall’s neighborhood had fences in their backyards, so we could only run from front yard to front yard. Then we could duck into the woods at the end of his street.
“Nick, you have to admit that this is one night you’ll never forget.”
“Yeah, seeing you run down the middle of the street with those clothes was pretty funny. It looked like you had just robbed a laundromat!”
We stopped jogging after a couple of minutes and walked for a while, making sure to stay close to the fronts of the houses to try to stay hidden. Up ahead I saw the woods. We were only about ten houses away when I heard the familiar growl of Marshall’s Mustang behind us. We both began to run as fast as we could. If we made it to the tree line, we would be in the clear. The car was not far behind us, and they were gaining on us quickly. The car accelerated. I realized that they were not on the road anymore, but in the front yards. They didn’t want to catch us; they wanted to hit us!
Andy was now down by the street for some reason, making him an easy target. I was closer to the front of the houses. The car lunged forward to hit Andy. Suddenly my muscles tensed hard, jerking my body toward Andy with an incredible burst of speed. I was moving as fast as the Mustang, maybe even faster. I yanked him behind a large tree. In that moment, Andy’s body was like a rag doll. It moved without any resistance. He had no choice but to do as I wanted.
We kept sprinting toward the tree line. A second later, I heard a sound like an explosion. I turned to see that the car had hit the tree head-on. Pieces like shrapnel from a bomb went flying in different directions. The Mustang was wrapped around the large oak tree. They had swerved to hit us and hit the tree instead.
Andy had already made it into the woods. I stopped. I had to make sure they were okay. The Mustang’s doors swung open, and one by one everyone stumbled out of the car onto the lawn. No one looked really hurt; they had some scratches but that was it. Porch lights from several houses flicked on. I ran into the woods to find Andy.
“Hey, Nick! Over here!” He was leaning against a tree. “What were you thinking? Did you want to get caught?”
“No, I was making sure that they weren’t hurt.”
“Hurt? Are you kidding? They tried to kill us! Did that slip your mind?” He looked disgusted, then turned and started to walk.
We walked in silence for most of the way home. He was mad at me for checking on Marshall and his friends. I would have tried to make him understand, but I was preoccupied with wondering how I had saved him from getting hit by Marshall’s Mustang. The question lingered in my mind most of the way home. My muscles were still sore from the sudden explosion of speed.
Five minutes from my house, Andy stopped and turned to me. “Well, have a nice life, Nick. Stop by Rukker’s if you’re ever in the neighborhood.”
“Sure, if I’m in the neighborhood,” I said. He smiled and walked off.
I turned toward my house where I knew Cora would be waiting for me. The lecture about how I had broken the rules would be horrible. I wasn’t scared about being hit by the car, but walking through the front door made me sick to my stomach. Maybe I should have let the car hit me to save me from what lies ahead.
opened the door very slowly, careful not to make a sound. I was praying Cora had fallen asleep while she was waiting to kill me.
“So how was your night?” Cora’s question sent me flying across the floor. “Wow! Someone’s jumpy!” Cora was standing in the kitchen door, staring at me with her arms crossed. I couldn’t tell if she was mad or not.
She turned and walked into the kitchen. I followed her. Cora was packing the last of the glasses into a box.
“We went over to Andy’s house,” I said.
“Well, that sounds fun, but I thought there was going to be a party.” She didn’t turn to face me. She just continued packing.
“Oh yeah, after Andy’s we went over to a friend’s house for the party.”
“Oh, okay. It sounds like fun. You should go up and try to get some sleep. I put your toothbrush in the downstairs bathroom, and the inflatable bed is already set up in your room.”
“Thanks,” I said, dumbfounded. I escaped to the bathroom and shut the door.
Why didn’t I get in trouble
? I thought as I was brushing my teeth.
The inflatable mattress was in the middle of my dark, empty room. It was comfortable, but I still couldn’t sleep. The ceiling was staring back at me as hard as I was staring up at it.
The next morning came too early. The alarm clock was buzzing a loud, obnoxious buzz. The clock on the floor said 4:30 a.m. Cora must have set it for me.
I was sick. I didn’t want to sit up too fast because I was sure I would throw up all over the floor. How come I was always sick? You would think that I’d get used to feeling this way, especially after waking up like this every morning for the last five years. I used to tell Cora about being sick, but it happened so frequently that I just accepted it as part of me and saved her from all the gory details.
The sickness forced me to lie very still, making me unable to move in fear of getting sicker. I searched along the side of the inflatable bed for the only thing that helped me feel better, the only way I could cope with this horrible morning curse. My hand hit something that made a familiar, soothing rattling sound. My Tic Tacs. I popped three into my mouth, and the cool mint flavor started to make me feel better almost instantly. I sat up. On the floor next to me I saw a pair of khaki shorts and my favorite orange Izod shirt that Cora had bought me before school started last year. She must have laid them out for me last night after she was done packing the kitchen. I put my clothes on slowly and deflated the bed, still feeling kind of sick.
I could smell Cora’s coffee brewing. The smell turned my stomach, making me feel worse, but I was used to it now after waking up to that smell for the last five years. I’m positive that Starbucks has made most of its money from Cora.
I tenderly ventured down to the kitchen.
“Hey, sleepyhead, how did you sleep?” Cora was leaning against the kitchen counter, drinking her coffee and looking over her planner.
“I don’t think I slept.”
“Do you want something to eat?” she asked.
The question turned my stomach, again making me grab a couple more Tic Tacs. “No, I’m fine, thanks.” She knew I was sick. That’s why I had a fresh pack of Tic Tacs next to the bed. She knew me well. “Cora, do we have anything else to put into the truck?”
“No, I did it all last night. Just grab the stuff in your room and anything you have in the bathroom. I’ll grab the coffee maker, and we will be on our way.”
I walked back upstairs and got the deflated mattress, my clock, and the clothes I had worn the night before. I grabbed my toothbrush from the downstairs bathroom and walked out of the house. I didn’t notice last night when I was brushing my teeth, but I had used the same toothpaste Andy had used on the cars at Marshall’s party. This brought a smile to my face.
Cora was already outside. She was hooking up the light to the towing trailer for our old Ford truck. “Nicholas, just throw that stuff in the back of the moving truck.”
I shoved the stuff in the small space behind the passenger seat and walked back over to where Cora was standing. She took my hand, closed her eyes, and said in a whisper, “God bless this house and the people who will live here. Please guide us, and may we have safe travels to our new home.” She squeezed my hand and just like that, we were off. I always wanted to ask her why she prayed the same prayer, but I figured it was something between her and God.
We were leaving town right as the sun rose. The truck bounced every time it hit a crack. The constant jarring reminded me of how my mom used to rock me and sing to me before bed when I was small. I reclined my seat, put my feet up on the dash, and let the truck rock me to sleep.
I was suddenly surrounded by darkness, the same darkness that haunted all my dreams. It was a suffocating, never-ending pressure that covered my entire body, not allowing me to move. I was paralyzed as usual, but this time it was different. The darkness was the same suffocating pressure, but it was like a black smoke surrounding me, not the usual nothingness. I sucked the thick putrid smoke into my lungs. My muscles tensed to fight against it, to expel it out of my lungs. During my struggle, I could feel each muscle in my body pushing against the darkness, and there was a bitter acidic taste in the back of my throat. My lungs seized, and I spit the putrid smoke out, gasping for air.
“Nicholas, are you okay? Wake up! It’s just a dream, hon.” Cora was shaking me with her free hand. I took a deep breath. The truck air burned my lungs. I gagged, almost vomiting into my lap.
“Nicholas, your Tic Tacs are on the dashboard.”
She didn’t wait for me to reach for them. She thrust the pack into my hand. I opened it and dumped almost half the pack into my mouth. Cora cracked my window and I leaned up against it. The combination of Tic Tacs and fresh air helped me recover from the dream. I waited a couple of minutes with my eyes closed and then put my seat up.
I nodded, not able to speak yet.
“Well, let’s talk about where we are moving. That should get your mind off of being sick and your bad dreams. You are going to love our new place. Well, not that we didn’t love the other places, but this place is not a small town. It’s bigger.” Cora was talking to me like she was talking to one of her girlfriends about some juicy piece of gossip. She continued, “It actually has a mall, movie theaters, and nice restaurants. Can you believe it?” I would have laughed if I had been feeling better.
Cora bought all of our stuff on the Shopping Channel and the Internet. She even got most of our groceries from the Internet, too. So to have a place big enough for her to shop and still be able to blend in sounded like heaven for her. Yet I knew that even though she had those new places nearby, she still wouldn’t use them. And the restaurants were nothing; she could do better herself. She was a gourmet cook. So her excitement over these places was more of a hope and dream of hers than a reality.
“Now, the average class size will be around 400 students, not the 100 you have been accustomed to.”
“Why are we moving to a bigger town? I thought that there is less chance of people recognizing us and discovering my secret in a small town.”