The thirteen year old boy had woken up to this same morning thousands of times; following his routine to the ‘T’ as it was expected of him. At 5:30 am, exactly, he was woken up by his stepfather. Shower- no more than 5 minutes. Teeth- to be rubbed with a frugal finger full of bitter baking powder. Dressed by 5:45 and ready for breakfast before chores started.
As the boy poured his serving of shredded Wheaties-generic brand- he looked outside of the polished barn window panes at the black morning. There was a sort of comfort to beating the morning sun to rise. A small victory. He snapped his attention back to his cereal as he heard the pounding thunder of his stepfather’s footsteps descending the staircase. He quickly pulled a spoon out of the cutlery drawer and closed the drawer as quietly and as quickly as he could to be seated at his spot at the kitchen table before George entered the room. The oak stool screeched just as George’s steel toed boots entered the room.
George had been married to the boy’s mother for about 4 years now and life with a recovering alcoholic is not an easy burden. George’s work uniform was dirty splattered with the yellow and white road paint of previous jobs. Looking at George, the boy imagined just how tedious and careful George must be. It was hard for the boy to imagine George being careful or delicate with anything. How precise and steady your hands have to be to paint the straight lines on hot bubbly pavement. That’s why George wakes up so early. Apart from working 2 other jobs, painting roads required an early riser to beat that brutal morning sun. No one wanted to be hunched over bubbling pavement in a Noon sun.
“What the hell are you starin’ at boy? Why don’t you eat your damn cereal.”
The level of annoyance in his voice was just enough to tell Adam that George was not in any mood for his spaced brain today. Some days George was more patient, but that greeting was enough of a bitter taste to warn Adam to just shut up and get to school without angering his obviously upset Stepfather.
He ate his cereal like lightening, while George poured himself a tall glass of orange juice. As Adam went to put his bowl in the sink he crossed George’s path, frustrating him enough so that George rolled his eyes far back and snapped his large fists forward smacking the ceramic bowl out of Adam’s hands straight to the floor. Startled Adam immediately bent down to clean up the shattered fragments of the bowl as George repeated that same lecture–
“What are you stupid- You saw I was right here- But you had to be in the way, right? Goddam sonufabitch”.
Eager to get out of the too small Kitchen, Adam grabbed his school books and left the house, not able to handle another morning of being screamed at.
George screamed after him as he ran out of that 2 story barn house–
“Wait til you get back here boy. We’ll have a nice talk then. Hey! Don’t you run away from me”.
Adam ran down the long drive way and headed west towards the bus stop. His neighborhood was a bit nonexistent and the borders drawn between houses were unclear. He knew there was a short cut to the bus stop and honestly walking along the main road made him a bit nervous. Adam knew George’s route to work followed this road and couldn’t shake the fear he may leave for work early just to antagonize him on the way. Adam headed north, steering away from the lined pavement George had probably painted with his own hands, and into the grassy bed of the neighborhood.
The sun was just starting to burn the back of Adam’s t-shirt when he heard someone running toward him from behind. Without taking a moment to look, Adam took out into a sprint convinced by the voice burning the back of his brain that George was chasing after him eager to finish him off after dropping the bowl at breakfast.
Adam panicked feeling sweat pop out from his temples as he ran swinging his books in his clenched fist ready to swing at George if he got close enough, and he was getting closer. With each step, Adam could hear the panting of his pursuer get closer. For an old man, George had speed and was gaining on Adam fast. Just as quickly as when Adam took off, he was grounded. George had lurched forward grabbing him by the heels, causing Adam to trip forward, landing in the soft earth on his belly arms forward, desperately trying to fly away from this confrontation.
Adam kicked his legs as wildly as a swimmer. With each kick there was a tear on his left leg. Something was wrong. There was a white pain blanketing over Adam’s eyes. This sharp pain clenched deeper and deeper into the tissue of his calf unrelenting to let go. Adam flipped onto his back as the force dragged him backwards-staining the front of his shirt- and smacked his attacker with his books. Only then did Adam realize, George was not pulling him back with his large hands, but a German Shepherd had clenched its jaws into Adam’s calf and was tearing away in an attempt to protect the property Adam had trespassed.
The boy kicked and kicked but the dog wouldn’t let up. It was no longer clenching but had started chomping on his leg grinding into the raw muscle that was now clearly reflecting the fully revealed sun. Finally, Adam got the ball of his right foot square into the pointed nose of the German shepherd. The dog whimpered chops blood stained and retreated. It stared at Adam, hesitant now to approach.
As Adam lay in the fresh grass, leg as open as a fresh surgical wound, dog still ready to jump, all he could think about was how he would now be late to school—and George would not take kindly to that news.