For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14
My saturday night wasn’t terrible, but since I was grounded, and mom wanted to feel like she was actually punishing me, she picked out the movies we watched. Desk set, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, was one of her favorites. She followed that up with the Swiss Family Robinson. Even though it was from 1960, it had been one of my favorites as a kid so I’m pretty sure that’s why she chose it. It held up surprisingly well, and I actually enjoyed watching both of them, but I wouldn’t admit that to anyone else.
“I think I’m going to head to bed,” I said as soon as the second movie ended.
“Are you feeling alright?”
It was just after 11:oo so she had every right to be a little concerned. I hadn’t gone to bed before midnight on a saturday night since I was twelve.
“Yeah, I’m just tired. It’s been a long week.”
It wasn’t a lie; I was tired. Tired of not knowing what was going on with Shawna, tired of school, tired of my deal with Lucifer.
“Okay, well you sleep well; I’ll try to keep the noise down.”
“You know that’s never an issue,” I replied as I headed upstairs.
Even though I was tired, I wasn’t quite ready to sleep, so I just shut off the lights, cracked my window and lit up a cigarette while staring out into the darkness. I’m sure mom knew that I smoked, but she pretended not to know so I made it as easy as possible by not doing it in front of her. And normally I wouldn’t smoke in my room when she was home, but that night I needed one, and then another, and another. But the cigarettes didn’t help me, they just gave me something to do while all sorts of thoughts swirled in my head.
When the tobacco didn’t work I thought about lighting up my emergency joint, but then decided against it. Instead, I turned on one of my favorite movies, Point Break. I’d watched it at least two dozen times, and I would probably watch it two dozen more. Sure, I was grounded, though mom grounding me usually just meant I wasn’t allowed to go out and have fun. But I didn’t want to take a chance of pissing her off so I kept my door shut and the volume down.
Something about that movie always draws me in and by the time Utah goes night surfing for the first time I’ve usually forgotten about anything else, but for some reason it wasn’t working that night. After watching the whole thing, I decided to switch gears and put in Shawshank Redemption. It was a great movie too but I figured it would be slow enough to help lull me to sleep. It worked, but with some less than pleasant consequences.
That night my dreams were all sorts of messed up. At one point the Sisters were chasing me through the showers and I woke up just before they caught me, and just before I started screaming.
The alarm clock let me know it was only three am but my heart was racing so I was not about to go back to sleep. I thought about going over to Weed’s to see if he was still awake, but I doubted it. And if I was being honest with myself, he wasn’t the person I really wanted to see.
Out of desperation I lit up the last joint I had hidden in an altoid can at the back of my desk drawer. It, along with another couple of cigarettes, helped ease me back to sleep, and this time my dreams weren’t quite as messed up.
By the time I woke up Sunday morning the sun was shining a little too brightly through my bedroom window so I forced myself to get up and head downstairs.
“About time you got up,” Mom said.
She was stirring a large pot on the stove, and from the smell I was pretty sure it was chili. That really wasn’t one of my favorite foods, but it was cheap and easy for her. She could start a batch early in the day and it would be ready by dinner time without a lot of effort, so I never complained.
“I thought you were going to sleep all day.”
“It’s not like I have anything else to do.”
I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth.
“Do you really want to get into this?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I just didn’t sleep well,”
“So you’ll just go to bed a little early tonight.”
“I can hope.”
“Well this might help,” she said, handing me a slip of paper.”
“A list of things you’ve said you’d help with around here. It should give you plenty to do while you’re grounded.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“And I accept your apology. Now would you like a bowl of cereal before you start on that list?”
She was serious, and I knew better than to complain, or worse yet, try to fight her on it. I had told her I’d help with each and everything on the list, but I’d just kept putting them off.
“Thanks, but I’ll just grab a Mountain Dew and get started,” I replied.
The grass was getting a little long, and the garage did need cleaned out, but that wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend my Sunday, especially with the KZ sitting in the driveway begging me to go for a ride.
I started off by mowing the grass, but we didn’t have much of a yard so even with an old push mower it didn’t quite take an hour. Then it was time to start on the garage. Over the years the garage had become the place to store anything and everything we no longer used, but couldn’t get rid of; and we couldn’t seem to get rid of anything.
The garage was supposed to be a three car garage, but there were so many boxes stashed away that we could only ever fit one car in it. I didn’t know exactly what my mom’s plan was, but the idea of cleaning it out enough that Pamela might fit in it was exciting, so I jumped right into it, starting towards the back of the garage where there was sure to be plenty of stuff to throw away.
Forty minutes later, I finally made it to some boxes not labeled “precious memories” or “do not throw away”. The first couple were filled with all sorts of old paperwork; tax documents and receipts from the 70’s. I knew mom couldn’t justify keeping them, so I moved them to the driveway, starting my trash pile. The pile slowly continued to grow over the next hour and a half, until I reached a lockbox with the key still in the lock. I was sure mom wouldn’t want the lock box thrown out, but I had no idea why she had it stashed out in the garage instead of in the house.
“Mom?” I hollered, then glanced at my watch and realized she wouldn’t answer. It was three oclock on a Sunday afternoon, which meant she’d be taking a nap before her shift at the diner, followed by another one at the hospital.
I set the box off to the side, so I could continue clearing out other junk, hoping to at least make enough room for the KZ to have a new home, but every time I passed by that lockbox, I stopped and stared. After another half-hour of tormenting myself, I finally couldn’t take it anymore.
The lockbox couldn’t have weighed more than a couple pounds, but it felt very heavy as I carried it to a small workbench I’d managed to clear off towards the back of the garage. I told myself that if it was important she wouldn’t have left it out there, but I knew that wasn’t necessarily true. I hesitated once more, with my hand gripping the key, but only for a second.
The key turned easily, releasing the lid with the slightest click. Inside I found nothing but a pile of papers, some in envelopes, and some just stapled or paperclipped together. I skimmed through the stack pretty quickly, not finding anything of interest until I reached the final envelope at the bottom of the box.
My mom never talked about my dad, and he’d never been in my life, at least not that I could remember, so I never cared to ask about him. Maybe I should have, or maybe she wouldn’t have told me the truth about him if I had asked. I really don’t know, but the restraining order in my hand told me everything I needed to know about him. And as I put it back into the lockbox, I was truly happy that I’d never known him.
As I continued cleaning out the garage, I couldn’t help but think about the restraining order and about what it actually meant. Things had to have been really bad for mom to go through the trouble of getting a restraining order. So what did that mean about the type of person my dad was? What might have he done? What did she have to put up with? They were thoughts I didn’t enjoy having so I pushed them out of my mind, but the questions continued to bug me, even as we ate dinner that evening, but I didn’t want to bring it up. I don’t know if I was uncomfortable discussing it, or if I just really didn’t want to know the answers. It was probably a combination. But regardless, mom could tell something was bugging me, though she seemed to think it was just me grounding.
“You did a great job on the garage,” she said. “So, I think that was enough punishment.”
I looked up from my bowl of chili, a little surprised.
“And I’d be fine with it if you want to have Weed over to watch a movie, or something.”
“Uh, thanks. But I think he’s busy with his mom.”
“Okay, then maybe Shawna…”
“Uh, she probably has plans with her boyfriend.”
“Well it couldn’t hurt to ask.”
She was wrong about that. It could hurt quite a lot to ask, but I wasn’t going to argue with her, especially right after getting ungrounded early.
“Thanks, I’ll think about asking her.
“Good. Now I’ve got to get ready for work.”
After she left for work I thought about heading to Weed’s to wait for him to get back, but I didn’t really know what good that would do. Instead, I went upstairs and put on Revenge of the Nerds. It’s one of those movies you can watch over and over again whenever you need a laugh. And it worked, for a little while. As soon as it ended, I started thinking about my mom, again, imagining several scenarios that might have caused the restraining order. To take my mind off it again, I put in One Crazy Summer. I was definitely an outsider and had wanted to be an artist and a cartoonist as a kid, so I kind of related to John Cusak’s character on multiple levels. It was another movie I could watch too many times without getting tired of it, and I had. I’d watched it so many times, in fact, that the VCR tape was beginning to wear out. Eventually I’d have to get it on DVD, but that would require a DVD player, and who had an extra thousand dollars sitting around to pay for one of those?
When I woke up at midnight, I realized that the movie’s had finally worked. I also realized that Lucifer must have taken the night off because the tv was filled only with static, and not his face or voice in any form. I stayed awake long enough to shut off the tv then rolled over and got the night of sleep I needed.
It was such a good night of sleep, that I hopped out of bed a few minutes before the alarm went off, and was even done eating breakfast earlier than normal.
“Are you going to make it to dinner tonight?” Mom asked as I cleaned up my breakfast dishes and gathering my things for school.
“Definitely,” I replied, glancing at the clock one last time before throwing my backpack over my shoulder and heading out the back door. I was leaving a few minutes early but I didn’t want to take any chances by stopping by Weed’s or even by taking the scenic route, so I headed straight towards the school. Two blocks away, though, all my plans changed.