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After forever, p.12
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       After Forever, p.12

           Krystal George
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  Bottles enjoyed meeting up with the other wall rats. They chatted and shared a bag of popcorn, but once the game started, they were all business. Someone passed out hand-drawn paper scorecard. The group was ready.

  By the bottom of the ninth, the score was zero-zero. The game went into extra innings. The Raccoons scored the winning run in the twelfth. The fans went wild.

  Realizing the time, Bottles headed home. He knew Aunt Louise was not going to be happy. Sure enough, she was waiting for him.

  “Where have you been?”

  “At the baseball game.”

  “How can you afford a ticket?”

  “We all watched from outside the fence. That’s free.” He hastily added. “I’m sorry I missed supper. It won’t happen again.”

  “That’s for sure. Get to bed,” she pointed her bony finger towards the cellar door. “No supper for you.”

  “Yes, ma’am.” He stopped. “Aunt Louise, can I have a slice of cheese to set the rat traps?”

  “Make sure you only take one slice.”

  “Yes, ma’am.”

  He skedaddled to the cellar, unlocking the door to his room. Once inside, he unlocked the outside entrance, pulled his bike inside and secured the hatch door. Then he went to work setting the traps. He was sure the threat of rats would keep everyone upstairs. Then he locked his door.

  He made a sandwich of bread and boloney and settled back in the chaise lounge. While he ate, he looked around for a new spot to hide his money. He knew there were a couple loose bricks min the wall. He decided to hide it behind them, until he found a better place.

  With a full stomach, Bottles fell asleep, dreaming of the Raccoons.

  The next morning, he awoke early. Making sure everything was locked up, he went upstairs. He nearly tripped over a basket filled with dirty clothes. Bottles shook his head. He knew doing the laundry was part of the price for creating the rat problem. Shrugging, he dumped the first load in before heading outside to mow whatever grass still grew.

  Opening the garage doors to get the push mower, his eyes opened wide. The fender of his dad’s candy apple red ’57 Chevy was dented and the paint scraped. He looked toward the house as his eyes filled with tears. “You bullies. You have no respect for anything!”

  He touched the damaged vehicle. “What’s dad going to say when he gets home?” He yelled to the wind, “Come home, dad, come home!”

  He had part of the lawn cut, but stopped to swap the loads of laundry, putting the wet ones in the dryer. Seeing no one else was up, he made himself a PB&J sandwich and went to finish mowing. On the far side of the property, he found tire ruts leading directly to a tree stump, which had streaks of red on its side. “What did those idiots think was going to happen to the stump when they hit it with dad’s car?” he mumbled. “I hate them, dad. I hate them! Why did you make me promise to listen to them?”

  He shook his head, finished cutting the lawn and hosed off the mower.

  Back inside, he put the last load in the washer along with his sweaty clothes and ran upstairs to take a shower. No sense in letting them know I can shower down here, he rationalized. Then they’ll never let me upstairs.

  He just finished drying when one of his cousins pounded on the door.

  “Mom—you in there?”

  “No, it’s me.”

  “Open the door, squirt. I have to piss.”

  “I’ll be done in a minute.”

  “Open the door now!” Jimmy pounded. “Now, I said.”

  Bottles opened the door wearing only his briefs. He barely had time to grab his clothes before his cousin pulled him out and slammed the door shut. The noise, of course, woke his aunt, who stumbled into the hallway. Though her eyes were barely open, she wasted no time chastising her nephew.

  “Ralphie—how dare you run around in your drawers? Have you no dignity? Get dressed.”

  “Jimmy kicked me out of the bathroom. I was taking a shower.”

  “Why would he do that?”

  Bottles just shook his head, dressing on his way downstairs. He stopped long enough to make another PB&J sandwich, then went to his room. As soon as the last load of clothes came out of the dryer, he got his bike and rode into town.

  After cashing in his accumulated empties, he headed to the stadium for the game. At the wall, he talked to several friends about his dilemma. Though none of their suggestions would help him, he felt better venting his frustrations.

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