"Boy, get out here!" Pa roared. I carefully hid my worn copy of Poppy's Return, my only book, under my mattress, checked on my sister, Jenny and our pet flying squirrel, Nilly to make sure they were still sleeping, and opened the door.
"Boy, I said GET OUT HERE!" Pa roared again. I scampered down the hallway and met Pa in the filthy kitchen. "Didn't I tell you to have my dinner ready when I got home?" Pa demanded.
"It's right here, sir." I explained, showing him the ten-pack of hot dogs I had just finished fixing. They were buried in ketchup, mustard, and onions, just how he always ate them.
"Well, I see something missing." Pa replied. I swallowed back a comment about how he couldn't technically see something that wasn't on there, and examined the plate, looking for what wasn't on there already. Oh. I'd forgotten the sweet relish. I flung open the refrigerator, not remembering seeing the jar anywhere. Sure enough, we were clean out of relish.
"Well?" Pa prompted.
"We don't have any relish, sir." I explained, gesturing toward the almost-empty refrigerator.
"Well, then go get some." Pa commanded, pulling a twenty out of his wallet and mumbling something about the price of food these days. He handed the money to me; I shoved it into my pocket, and walked out the door.
I knew this part of Seattle well; I was the errand-runner in the house. I knew it even better in the dark; I snuck out almost every night after ten o'clock, while Pa slept off the effects of the alcohol he drank every night.
I made it to the local food-mart and walked inside, checking my watch. If I hurried, I could make it back in time to get Jenny and Nilly out of there before I took off for good. I had made preparations, rescuing a map of Seattle from a garbage can, saving up the money I got from keeping the change from all of the errands Pa sent me on, and making sure I had some good blankets for keeping Jenny, Nilly, and I warm. I'd also salvaged and old backpack that Pa was going to throw away. It was still in pretty good shape, a little torn and stuff, but I figured we could use it to hold our stuff while we were on the run. It was even big enough to hold Jenny and Nilly while we were running.
Walking quickly, I made it to the section with the relish. I picked up a jar, a few packages of Gram Crackers, and a thing of juice boxes. I paid for the stuff with the twenty Pa had given me, and walked home with the bags of food.
Silently, I hid the Gram Crackers and juice boxes under a bush, and entered the house. Pa was still standing there in the kitchen, tapping his foot impatiently. "There you are, boy! I've been waiting!" Ignoring Pa, I pulled the jar of sweet relish out of the plastic bag and set it down on the countertop.
That was when I made my grave mistake. The receipt I'd forgotten to stash with the stuff fell out of the empty bag and fluttered to the floor. I lunged for it, but Pa got it first. He frowned as he read over it, and I tried to decide between running alone and leaving Jenny and Nilly with no one to take care of them, or taking whatever punishment Pa decided to give me.
Before I could make up my mind, Pa asked the question I knew he'd ask; "Where are they?"
Panicked, but trying hard not to show it, I asked, "Where are what?"
"The other food items." Pa clarified. "There are two more transactions than what I asked you to get. Where are they?"
Quickly, I thought up a lie. I just hoped Pa would believe it. "Um, the cashier said he accidently put the items on my receipt. They were supposed to be for the lady in front of me." I really hoped that Pa couldn't detect the tremor in my voice as I openly lied. I hated lying. But I guess it wouldn't matter, because tonight Pa would be drunk, and we would be gone.
"Fine, now get to your room and let me eat." Pa replied, handing me a hot dog. "That's for you and your sister. Don't come out of that room tonight."
I scampered off, clutching the hot dog. When I arrived in our room, I fastened the deadlock and broke the hot dog into thirds. I gave two of the pieces to Jenny and Nilly after waking them up, and split up the last of the Cocoa Puffs from the box under Jenny's crib.
I sat down on my mattress, munching on the Cocoa Puffs and hot dog and watching Jenny and Nilly playing quietly. I had only one reason for running away. I just wanted Jenny and Nilly to have a better life than this. I really didn't care about myself, only to the extent of wondering who would take care of Jenny and Nilly if I wasn't here. I knew Pa wouldn't, I could hear him getting up to go to the bar now. Only a few more minutes and the three of us could make our escape.
I listened quietly to the sounds of Pa leaving. At last, I judged it safe to run and I reawakened Jenny and Nilly, who had fallen asleep again. Doing a fast last sweep of our room, I placed Nilly and Jenny into the backpack, opened the window, and climbed out. This began our journey as runaways.