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Yes, this is a short story competition entry that never made the final round <sigh>. Not the first time. Won’t be the last. I’ll wear them down eventually. (I’m more durable than they are)
“Arlene!!! Come down here I need to talk to you.”
Sal GTGN Mom’s yelling. TTYL
“Yeah Mom what’s the panic? “
“Arlene – you know we have guests for dinner tonight and all I get from you is silence. Or you hunker down in your room. I need a break here. I can’t do it all alone.”
“Ah mom……… I don’t see why I gotta be into this – like this is not my scene – totally. These are your friends and I’m going out tonight. I don’t even want to see those people. And you want me to help get their meal.”
“Arlene, listen to me and listen to me straight – this is my boss and her husband. They put food on our table. And I need to be sure they have a very good time here. No hassles and everything super cool. You get it?”
“Yeah Ok I get it – wait a second.” Sal I’m chained to the ktchn tble – not gettin out anytime soon. Tell thuh guys
I figured if my mom rolled her eyes up any further they’d go right over the top like one of those casino machines. She’s what they call a “luddite.”
“Here Arlene,” she said with a 200 db whine, “start polishing the dinner plates and get the dishwasher stacked up again. And when you finish that, go vacuum the living room.”
Oh God – and I thought there were laws against slavery.
So I stripped and stacked and tried to get this cursed job out of the way so I could get on with my life.
My “life” in this house pretty well wound up when I got into high school and I discovered from my new friends that I was living in either a convent or in Dracula’s torture chamber.
Adults rant on and on about how they love the burbs but it just grosses me out. 9 to 5 you could shoot a cannon down any street. And it’s LIGHTS OUT at 10PM. What’s weird is that I wasn’t smart enough until I got to central high to know how grossed out I was.
But now I know – and at least I got some sanity hanging with my buds.
“Arlene you’re daydreaming again. Get on with that vacuuming. You know what I know? I know that in the crunch I can’t depend on you. You are so self-focused you don’t care about me, my situation or what I have to contend with. ”
Wow. I like stop still for one second and she’s on me like a lawnmower.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mom this floor is clean! What do you want me to do polish the shag rug with my tooth brush?”
“You’ve got a smart mouth Arlene and I’ve told you about that before. Now until I hear that vacuum going I have nothing more to say to you.”
And she didn’t – not then, or after I finished. So I went out.
I don’t know where I’d be without my friends. They’re all I’ve got. They’re my anchor. Home? Home is where I’m not. But outside of what I’m not I really don’t know what I am. I do know that I’m more like my friends than I am with anyone else, home, school or anywhere.
I suppose I’m not much to my buds though they’re a lot to me. They’re all so alive! Me, I’m just a rubber tree plant in the corner. They don’t seem to mind me being around. That means a whole lot to me. And it means a whole lot that they never yell at me. I told Sal once I wanted a navel pin and she said “Wow!” If I told my mom that she’d cream me with a spatula.
Yeah – whazzup Sal? No I’m on the bus. Late as usual and near froze to death at the station. Yeah. Ha ha. That’s what I thot. SYS
I’d die without my pod. If I had to exist one day without being tied in I think I’d kill myself. No, I’m sure I’d kill myself. If all I had was school and that house I’d end it right there.
ARL GIT ON THUH BUSS. I NEEDS SEE U. BUBBY
<Sigh>. It’s one thing to have a boy friend. It’s something else to have someone who thinks he is. What a dork. Orders me around like I’m his dog. And it’s not like he is smart and kool. No. He’s a total dope. Dropped out and working as a cashier. Now cause he got money he’s inner circle. Guy’s so stupid with his money he’ll be broke all his life. But that’s none of my business. I got enough to worry about.
“Arl, bout time you got here. We gotta head out and we ain’t got all night. Time’s a-wastin.”
“Where we goin’ Sal? “
“We’re gonna break into Bubby’s grocery store.”
“Yeah. Bubby stole a key from work and he’s gonna get us in. So we can go get a load of junk food and wine from that shop they have. Gonna be a blast.”
“But Sal, if you use a key that’s not breakin’ in. That’s goin’ in. That’s stupid.”
“Nah,” said Sal, “there’s no way they can trace that key to Bubby – and we’re gonna jimmy up the lock so it looks like someone forced it.”
I know the gang didn’t want to hear from the rubber tree plant. They never ever asked my opinion on anything because I always went along with what they were doing. But this was different. I thought about the cops. And about the cameras that were every these days. And maybe the store had a security guard. And shit that’s just the stuff that pops right into my head right now.
Bubby grabbed my arm. “What’s the problem Arl – not chicken are you? You the big brave silent one. Are you a chicken? “
“Bubby. I don’t think this is the smartest thing I ever heard of. Are you going back in that store tomorrow as if nothing ever happened?”
“This is a piece of cake Arl. I was talking to some of the guys on my shift and they said it was nothing. Fact is if we don’t get in there tonight they’ll probably hit it this weekend.”
So the guys at work know all about this. Cripes.
“C’mon Arl get in the car we gotta roll.”
The next day in science I couldn’t stop shaking. I waited all day for the cops to come. To be called to the office.
And there was no text from nobody. That really worried me. I figured they were all arrested and I was the last they’d come for. I pinged Sal three times and nothing back.
BUBBY C’mon tell me what’s going on!
HEY ARl TOLE YA NOTHIN WUD HPN. NOTHIN SAID HERE. THEY FIGGER ITS GUYS ON DRUGS OR SOMETHIN
So maybe the cops won’t be coming. And maybe I was scared for no reason. But I guess Sal is not talking to me because I didn’t want to go along and I ALWAYS go along.
Finally, science class was over. I got to call somebody and see what’s happening. I know. Freddie would tell me.
“Your party is not available at the moment. Please leave a message.”
Freddie, what’s happening? I haven’t heard a word from anybody. Call me. Arlene
Oh my God that was stupid. Why didn’t I just give the police my home address if they got Freddie in jail? Now I’m really into it.
The more I think about it the more I’m sure that bunch will rat me out if they’re caught. They liked me – I think – but now I am wondering if they really were my friends. If they were my friends they would have listened to me when I said the idea about going into that grocery store was plain stupid.
One thing I know for sure for sure, and that’s that I am never going to see Bubby again no matter what happens about all this. And maybe it’s time I got a new gang.
Arl – we’re really in shit. Bubby got picked up
Oh My God. What do I do now? They’re all going to get arrested. Just because it was Bubby’s idea and Sal’s car won’t make any difference. Anybody that’s connected with our bunch is going to be in it. I’m dead.
I need to talk to somebody. Like who?
Not my mom that’s fer sure – she is like totally decided against me. The school guidance counsellor. Hey, whoa brain. Get serious here.
Wait a second. There was that woman at the school workshop I went to…..it was on …….. what the heck……………of yeah…..”You Being You.” For some reason I trusted that woman even though I didn’t talk to her. But that’s what I’m going to do right now.
“Ms. Simmons? This is Arlene. You don’t know me but I went to your seminar on “Being You” and I kinda really need to be me. Which is to stay out of jail. Can you help me?”
“Arlene. Thank you for remembering me. Let’s have coffee tomorrow morning at Starbucks. 10 o’clock? OK?
“So, you have – you think – got yourself in a real jam. With your best friends, and maybe with the police. Have I got that right?”
“Yeah. I’m skrewed. And if my mom and my school hear about this I am like totally fooked (if you know what I mean).
“Well,” mused Ms. Simmons, “it seems to me that you need to spend a little time thinking about guilt, and responsibility, and what you need to do right now.”
“Ms. Simmons, all of that is what is rattling around in my brain. And I can’t think straight. I really, really don’t think I got the greatest life but I don’t want any more hassle with my mom or the school, and I don’t want to go to jail.”
“What you have to do Arlene is take one thing at a time. You have to figure out exactly what you did and why, and who you need to explain all that to. When you do all that, I think things will be a whole lot clearer for you.”
“Mom. I need to talk to you. You know my buddies. Well they got a crazy idea together and – well you have to know that they are – like – super – important to me. So I went with them. They took Sal’s car. They pulled up in front of this place where they were going to do something. But I was sitting there thinking two things. One. This is stupid. And two. You are going to murder me. That decided me. I got out of the car and walked away.
But here’s the problem. I’m afraid the police are going to come after me and ask me if I went in there and stole stuff and ask me about my friends. What am I going to do? I don’t want to hurt you. And I don’t want to hurt my friends.”
“Arlene. You are not going to hurt anybody. And you are not going to deal with this all by yourself. I am your mom. And I am your best friend. And whatever you run into now, or any time, is something that I will be there to help you work through. So stop worrying, and help me unload the dishwasher.
And by the way, daughter-of-mine, forget everything I ever said to you about how you handle yourself in a crunch. You did just fine. Now get over here and let me give you the hug of your life.”
“Wow Mom. Thank you.” I wiped a tear away from my eye. “Say, would this be a good time to talk about where we live?”
Like this story? Please leave me a LIKE and a comment. Interested in management and conflict prevention? Here’s my work on the subject – it’s called The School of Sun Tzu. It’s available at Amazon.com and iuniverse.com