David had just turned 10 last month. He was quiet and polite child who wore glasses slightly too large for his small face. He was a slight child, using an extra hole in his much too large belt. He had a passion for learning and reading which caused him to be the subject of a couple of bullies at St. Peter’s Elementary. It was a common occurrence for David to be tripped, laughed at, stole from in his five years of schooling. David became accustomed to the taunts of the bigger boys, “Where’s your books Nerd?” Raymond Mullins would shout after him in the hall, David pretending not to hear while he shoved his fears deep down in to the pit of his stomach. When David was called upon in class, his shyness overwhelmed him to the point where he could feel his face flushing several shades of pink then red, this would ultimately lead to a stutter fest while he desperately reached for the answer in his troubled mind. This resulted in more sneers and jeers from his classmates until his teacher took pity on him and called on someone else.
Throughout the taunting he experienced in his daily school life, it was nothing compared to what waited for him at home. Each day at 3 o’clock he would bundle up his books, reach for his jacket out of the cloakroom and slowly head home with his head down, occasionally kicking a rock out of his way pretending he was kicking the winning goal in one of the soccer games his father so loudly enjoyed with his beer on the weekends. As soon as he crossed Poplar St and stepped on to Oak Avenue, his heart would sink, his mouth would get dry and his heart would begin to race a little faster. “Please let Mum be OK today.” He’d pray under his breath as he approached the rickety stairs of his front door which were in desperate need of repair. He reached for the key he carried on a shoelace around his neck and hesitantly opened the door peeking in apprehensively as he entered. He could see his mother standing in the kitchen staring blankly out the window, a glass with clear liquid and ice rested on the counter next to her and David immediately knew that today was not a good day for his mother.
“Hi Mum, I’m home.” He said meekly. Nothing. No reply. His mother simply turned around to look at him or through him, he was unsure nowadays, only to say, “Go to your room and do your homework, I’m not having a good day.” Saddened, David made his way to his small back bedroom. All that was inside was a single bed, one nightstand and one dresser. He had a small desk that he used to do his homework in, which he didn’t have today so he simply threw his bag on the floor and hopped on his uncomfortable bed and opened the book he got at the library today. It was Lord of the Flies. His only friend, Nelson had told him about it. It was an old and tattered copy which only led David to believe this book had been enjoyed by countless boys his age for decades. He had gotten about two chapters in when he nodded off.
A loud crash and thud woke David up; he accidentally threw his book to the floor as he jumped up wondering what it was. Then it began the yelling. Dad had gotten home early and it sounded like he had been hitting the beer and watching soccer all day.
“I come home from working all day only to come home to a fucking ghost of a woman, no meal, no clean clothes and where the hell is David? What the hell is wrong with you Eliza?” His father screamed at his mother, David heard loud sobs coming from her. “You don’t care how I feel you selfish bastard!” His mother screamed back at his father, “You’re never here, you don’t help me, and you drink all of our money! What the hell am I supposed to cook for dinner when you can’t even keep a fucking job?!” SLAP followed by a smash and a thud. After that, the door slammed shut knocking Mom’s “Bless this mess” plaque clear off the wall breaking it in to several pieces. This was not an uncommon occurrence at the Sullivan house. The neighborhood knew it, the police knew it, having been called several times by concerned neighbors, and David knew it. This was no place for him and he prayed nightly that this terrible life would end and a better one would begin. He found solace in the books and stories he read. His favorites were the Harry Potter novels. His parents wouldn’t buy them for him but luckily Nelson’s parents had and then he lent them all to David one by one. David couldn’t get enough of the young sorcerer especially when Harry made an arse out of Malfoy who totally deserved it! David loved these books so much in fact that he experienced a mild depression when they were all done. They were his escape for a couple of years. No matter how bad things got, he always looked forward to checking in with Harry, Ron and Hermione at Hogwarts every day. These characters became his friends who comforted him when his parents fought; when David did something wrong that earned a whooping or when he was all alone in his empty house not knowing where his parents were. When the books were finished it felt like he was being abandoned by friends. It took him a couple of months to find new books to keep him occupied and that came with a 3 book series called, “The Hunger Games”. Sometimes David identified with the lead character, even if she was a girl, Catniss Everdeen. Catniss understood how David felt. She was the strong one in her family too. She had to take care of her sister and her mom, just like David did. Although David’s baby sister Caitlyn had been gone for quite some time now, he still thought about her. He often wondered if she could see the mess she left behind that day she got in to that man’s car and left them forever. The police had found Caitlyn’s sleeping body by the brook near the quarry. No one ever figured out who the man was or where he went. All David knew was that his family had never been the same since. They were never a really happy or loving family, but they were together and David loved his sister more than his parents ever thought to ask. Since that day in December a couple of years ago, his parents weren’t the same. They argued, they yelled, they fought. Dad had punched holes in most of the walls in the basement and Mom took a lot of pills, drank a lot and slept a lot. This was when David learned how to use the washing machine and how to make scrambled eggs and toast, which he was a pro at now. Many nights, dinner was a bowl of cereal and a tiny bit of milk, not to use it all as there would be none for breakfast. His mother stopped paying attention to him, as did his father. It felt like they were afraid of him and David never understood why. He just figured it was because he was a nerd, the kids at school didn’t like him so why should his parents?
Tonight he sheepishly opened his bedroom door and looked out seeing his mother crumpled and heaving on the floor. He approached her slowly and bent down to pick up the broken pieces of the plaque. He gently tugged on her robe, “Mama, are you OK?” She didn’t respond. “Mama?” He repeated. His mother lifted one empty up at him and simply said, “Don’t call me that, I can’t be your Mama.” His mother occasionally said things like this to him when she was at her worse. Sometimes he took it to heart, today he just looked at her and said gently “It’s OK Mama, let’s get up and make some dinner.” For the first time in a long time, his mother’s eyes met his; she reached up softly to brush his cheek. “Mama’s so sorry” and she began to cry heavily. He reached his skinny arms around her and hugged her tightly, tears rolling down his own face now. He thought back to Catniss and collected himself; he felt he needed to be strong right now. He got up, started cleaning up the kitchen and getting eggs out of the fridge; 4 in total, 2 for him and 2 for his mother.
“Mama? Can I tell you about some of the books I’ve been reading?” He never tried talking to her about the books he read, although she was constantly picking up stray books left around the house, he thought this discussion would distract her, to which she actually agreed. Happily, David puffed his little chest out and began telling his mother all about the school of Hogwarts as he scrambled the eggs on the stove, and for one afternoon, she listened to him as he spoke of far off places, colorful characters, castles, bullies and tricky plots and for one afternoon David was happy. He didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but today, he was thankful to have someone to talk to about his books…
Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,