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After forever, p.13
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       After Forever, p.13

           Krystal George
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  This routine went on for another week. By getting up early, he avoided any confrontations with his family.

  But, and you know there is always a but in any situation, while in town, Bottles spotted his dad’s ’57 Chevy on the street. He was happy to see his aunt drove and not his cousins.

  He was returning the last of the bottles for the day when Jimmy and Biff spotted him. They watched with interest as Jon Flanders put the coins in his hand.

  Flanders saw Bottles’ nervousness.

  “What’s wrong, son?”

  Bottles shook his head, but glanced outside.

  “Them?” Jon gestured.


  “Who are they? They look like shady characters to me.”

  “They’re my cousins. Dad left them living at home.”

  He put a fatherly hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Are they bothering you?”

  “Nothing that I can’t handle, sir…right now anyway.”

  “You let me know…”

  “Sure, Mr. Flanders.”

  Bottles got on his bike, but the cousins blocked his way. Flanders watched as they pulled the boy off the bike. While one held him, the other shoved his hands in the boy’s pockets, pulling out his precious pennies.

  They laughed as Bottles began to cry. Humiliated, he pedaled away.

  At home, the scene was even uglier. Aunt Louise sat him at the table demanding to know where he stole the money from.

  “I… I didn’t steal it. I earned it from my… my job. I have a part time job.”

  “Who’d give you a job?”

  “It doesn’t matter who. I have one and I have to do it every day.”

  “We’ll see about that.” She turned to her sons. “Boys, I think it’s time you entered the world of finance.”

  While they discussed the boys finding a job, Bottles ran out and rode into town. With school starting in a few days, he decided to go to as many games as he could. Yet, as much as he loved the team, his heart wasn’t in it. He lasted to the seventh inning and left, slowly riding back home.

  Had he stayed, he would have seen the grand slam that sailed over the fence right into his friend’s glove. Not only that, he would have been invited inside the stadium along with the other wall rats.

  He pulled his bike into the cellar and went to bed.

  It was not every day the Raccoons made the playoffs with home-field advantage for the first games. Because of that, the first day of school was delayed.

  Back at home, the cousins came up with a novel way to earn money. Bottles would do the work, and they’d take it from him. Bottles figured as much, so as soon as he finished his chores, he headed into town. After cashing in the first batch of empties, he headed to Myer’s Hardware.

  “Hi, Mr. Myers. I’m here to—“ Bottles stopped talking. Sitting on the counter was a baseball holder with an autographed ball inside it. “Wow!”

  “Nice, huh? The team is giving this away along with these.” The man showed the boy an album of autographed team photos. ”There are four of these, that stuffed raccoon over there, and a few other things.”

  “How do you win them?”

  “It’ll be drawings of ticket stubs. Are you going to the game?”

  “I’d sure like to, but…”

  “Say Bottles—I didn’t see you in the stadium on Tuesday. Weren’t you at the game?”

  “I was there. In the stadium? No, I was outside the fence.”

  “It’s a shame you missed catching that grand slam home run ball. Jack Marshall caught it. Then everyone that was outside was invited inside. Why didn’t you come inside? I know you love the team.”

  Bottles lowered his head. “I’ve been having some problems at home since dad left. Guess that happened after I left the game.”

  “You dad walked out on you?”

  Bottles looked up. “Oh, no sir. He went out of town to look for work.”

  “Who’s looking out for you?”

  “My Aunt Louise is there. But so are her two sons.”

  “Tell me what’s going on, son. Start at the beginning.” He gestured to a chair behind the counter.

  And so, Bottles revealed the ugly details of life with his surrogate family.

  “You listen to me, son. There are laws against what they are doing to you.”


  “No buts. You let me deal with them.” He glanced at the autographed baseball. “You do know the manager of the Raccoons, don’t you?”

  “Yes, sir. Joe Kiski. He used to play in the majors. I only saw him once when I tried to get my ball signed. But he was busy.”

  “Joe is my brother-in-law.”

  Bottles’ eyes opened wide. “Really?”

  Mr. Myers nodded. “Let me make a few calls.”

  “Wow. Your brother-in-law.” Bottles shook his head. He put his hands in his pockets. Feeling the change, he remembered why he was there. “Oh, Mr. Myers. Here’s my money to pay for the padlock. I almost forgot.”

  The owner pulled out the ledger and marked the charge entry paid. As he was putting it away, he spotted the familiar red ’57 Chevy driving by.

  “Bottles—I thought you said your dad was out of town.”

  “He is.”

  “Then who is driving his car?”

  The boy ran to the window. “My cousins. They’ve already dented a fender. They’re looking for me—to steal my money again.”

  “Do either of them have a driver license?”

  “I don’t think so.”

  He picked up the phone. “Mabel? Ring up the police chief will you?” He hung up the receiver.

  “What are you gonna do?”

  “Don’t you worry none.” The phone rang; Bernie answered. “Hey Bill. A couple of young hoodlums are driving Bottles’ dad’s car. No. no license. They’re his cousins, but I doubt they have permission. Pull them over will you? Great.”

  “Are they going to be arrested? They sure deserve it, but what will Aunt Louise say?”

  They watched as the police chief flagged the car down to stop. Both boys got out of the vehicle. Bottles and Mr. Myers could see there was an argument going on, but couldn’t hear. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, the chief escorted the boys to the town’s jail.

  “They sure don’t look happy,” Bottles observed.

  “No they don’t,” Bernie chuckled.

  Bottles looked at the clock. “Oh, I’m late. I have to go, Mr. Myers. Thanks for having them arrested.” Bottles laughed.

  “You’re welcome son. And Bottles, don’t worry. Everything has a way of working out.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  When the boy left, Myers picked up his phone again. “Mabel? Connect me to Joe Kiski over at the stadium.”

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