Jason walked the long wet trek home hoping that his abusive druggie aunt and uncle would be asleep by the time he got back. He needed sleep or at least a way to dry off from the rain.
Slowly, he opened the door and it responded with a loud unsettling creak.
The lights were out. There was the sound of snoring on the couch and the smell of vomit on the floor.
Carefully, the boy maneuvered around the stacks of half-opened chip bags and empty pizza boxes. How they managed to afford all of this and still couldn't feed him well was anybody's guess.
His stomach growled as he smelled the half-eaten food. Jason absentmindedly reached for an open box of chicken wings and grabbed a miniature drumstick. He quickly stuffed it into his mouth and reached for a second and a third. When he took a step back, though, his foot touched something soft.
"Ow!" someone on the floor yelped.
Jason backed away, but the figure he'd kicked leaped up in a rage and grabbed Jason.
"You good for nothing, kid!"
Before Jason could say anything, a fist connected with his jaw, causing him to eject the contents of his mouth. Unfortunately, it landed on his uncle's shirt. That won him another punch to the jaw. This time Jason's lip split, and he tasted copper as blood flowed into his mouth. As the boy was recovering, his uncle hit him with another punch. This time Jason was on the floor. A foot connected with his ribs and face.
"See how you like it!" the drunk enraged man yelled.
"Oh!" Jason groaned.
He tried to crawl away from the man's assault, but then he heard the click of a pistol.
"Where d'y'think youse is goin?"
It was one of the drug dealers. Apparently he'd slept over. Just his luck.
"Harry, I thought I said no visitors,"
"He's...he's ar kid," Harry answered, slurring his words.
"Well, right now he's in the way. We got sales ta make so youse can pay y'debt ta me,"
Jason stared at the barrel of the gun and swallowed hard. It looked like this was it.
Suddenly, someone yelled for the gunman's attention. The gun was lowered, and the kid was spared, for now.
This was no place for a young boy to grow up.
As silently as possible, Jason stilled away out the back door. It was better for him to take his chances on the streets than go back there.
The kid passed a dumpster and found an old comic book, still in the plastic.
Jason loved comic books. Carefully, he put the book in his jacket and continued walking.
Lightning flashed overhead. Apparently the storm wasn't over just yet. He still needed to find shelter for the night.
There was an old paper mill not too far from town. It had warehouses where they stored the pulp wood and chemicals. He could sleep there if he was quiet and didn't let anyone know his whereabouts.
Carefully Jason made his way to the factory and worked on breaking in to one of the warehouses. His entrance was noisy. Luckily no one heard him, and there were no alarms.
The kid found a pile of sawdust and made his bed, spreading his jacket over him like a blanket. It beat sleeping outside. Wearily, he closed his eyes and found sleep.
Jason and his mother were walking down City Square.
"Mom, when is dad coming home?"
"I don't know, dear, I don't know," his mother replied.
"Tell me another story about daddy!" Jason yelled.
"Your dad was the most intelligent man I ever met. Suave, handsome...you've got some of his charm," she said while mussing Jason's hair and pulling him into an embrace.
Without warning, he felt his mother wince.
"Ow!" she screamed.
Jason turned around.
"Mother, what's wrong?" he asked.
"It's nothing, dear. It's nothing,"
Jason noticed her walking strangely. She had one hand on her stomach, the other on her side. Then, she suddenly collapsed and fell onto the sidewalk.
"Mom!" the boy yelled.
Jason shifted uncomfortably on the sawdust bed.
The ambulance arrived. Flashing red and blue lights reflected off of midnight blue waters in the fountain.
"What happened, ma'am?" an ambulance worker asked.
"It's it's probably probably the...the..." she trailed off.
They drove her to the hospital, and a few weeks later, she was pronounced dead. The cancer took her life.
"Mom..." Jason said as he again shifted.
The boy stood looking up to a tombstone. He put his hand on the cold stone.
"Mom," he whispered. Tears started to run down his cheeks.
The priest came and put his hand on his shoulder.
"Not to worry. She's in heaven. If you're a good little boy, you'll get to join her one day..."
The boy turned and looked at the priest.
"Why can't I do it today?"
"Because..." the man never finished the sentence and instead walked away.
Jason awoke, longing for the past still in his heart. He sat up on his sawdust bed. It was still pitch black outside, and the warehouse was still quiet. He had gotten his nap. There was no reason to outstay his welcome. The boy collected what meager belongings he had, including his new comic book, and quietly made his exit.
The boy looked up at the night sky. It glistened with stars.
Mom and I used to star gaze.
Jason let out a sigh and shook his head.
"Why can't I do it today?" the boy's thoughts echoed.