I Looked at the clock, and a slight beam of panic flourished me. It was 7:15 and I had 15 minutes to be in 1st period. Mrs Haines, gave me a pass on my 4th tardy after I told her that I was late because my father was having another one of his episodes. I found him hiding in the dumpster behind our apartment complex on Belmont avenue. My father suffered severe schizophrenia and paranoia during his deployment in iraq. He was gone for 7 years and we would only see him on webcam. The first few years were great. I was in the 6th grade and Caycee was in kindergarden. I was proud of what my father was. He was a hero and I wanted everyone to know. I would do presentations in school and make posters using the pictures that my dad sent me in his uniform. My mother wasn't so enthused however. One night I heard my mother crying in bed. I grabbed Caycee off of her air mattress and we climbed in bed with momma. Momma, I don't want you to cry, I told her. Aww, Jason, my strong little man. You're going to be alright. You've got your father's brain and your momma's heart. If anything ever happens to me I know you're going to love and take care of your little sister. You promise me something Jason, she looked deep into my eyes, and lowered her eye brows. You stay out of them streets and you keep your mind right, she lectured. I don't want my kids in them streets and that goes for Caycee, you do whatever it takes to keep her straight. Yes momma, and then I nodded off to sleep.
I jumped out of bed and threw on the clean clothes that I had folded and laid over my dresser. I shoved my feet into my only pair of sneakers and went to check on Caycee. Good, she was already gone and hopefully at school. Caycee grew into a beautiful young woman. She's got my mother's piercing green almond-shaped eyes, my father's curly hair passed her shoulders, and light golden skin that beams in the sunlight. You could imagine how hard it is to keep the little boys away. Like me, Caycee has our mother's brain, she makes straight A's and participates in many after school programs. I kept my mother's word, Caycee is everything that she wanted her to be. She's not trouble unless, you tell her no. Although I believe every 14 year old girl is that way. Still mother would be proud, if she were still here she would say," What I need to open my mouth for?, Ya'll alright" She said that whenever we would take care of things without her telling us to. Dad!, did you get your breakfast?, I walked into my dad's room to see if Caycee fed him his usual breakfast of oatmeal and boiled eggs. Dad set up and looked at me with lost eyes, and shouted "I don't need to be in this hospital no more, I need to go home!. I went downstairs to see what we had quick to eat for dad. I rummaged through our cabinet full of half-eaten bags of chips and stale bread. Ah Ha!, I saw a bag of graham crackers and a can of peaches. I quickly opened the peaches and poured them into a bowl. I ran upstairs and delivered dad his breakfast and was off to school.I started sprinting and flew through Belmont avenue. I felt like I was flying. The Chicago air was kind of smug, but I inhaled deeply and dove into the street.
I ran in front of speeding cars angering drivers. "Are you crazy!!?, One yelled. I could see my school's marquee sign. Track and Field practice's start today! Meet with coach Julius Mayfield today at 3:30 pm on track. I was on campus and still sprinting. I ran past two girls " Yes Lonnie got her pregnant!, one gossiped. I ran past a familiar looking man in a grey jogging suit. The man had a look of astonishment on his face. As if I was the fastest runner he had ever seen. I was walking now, that I had two minutes left on the clock and blended with the rest of the crowded hall-way. I walked into Mrs Haines class. Just on time Jason!, she said excitedly. Here,pass out the worksheets and we will get this project started. I accepted the papers from Mrs Haines. She was a very thick woman, with curly black hair and dark skin. She always smelled like a fresh coat of nail polish. I started handing out the papers to my classmates and then I read."Heroes,research and report on somebody you admire." That wouldn't be too hard in Chicago. We've had dozens of people make it big from our city. I instantly thought about my dad. Why wouldn't I use him? he's a war veteran. I was done handing out papers and took my seat.
I also remembered that I forgot my backpack. I borrowed a pencil and a sheet of paper from Carlos. He's one of those people, who you've known for a long time but you still don't trust. Man you stink!, what you do? run a marathon this morning? he joked. No!, my phone was on vibrate and I woke up late,So I ran to school. One more tardy and Im getting detention! I responded. Aye, so you going to this track and field try out? Carlos questioned me. You might as well you're a runner, he joked. No!, I don't have time, my dad's sick and I got to keep Caycee out of trouble. I reminded him. Man, you gotta stop living like an old man!, Put your dad in a group home and let your sister be a teenager!, Carlos suggested. Im not putting my father in a group home, he is my family man. One day I'm going to make enough money to pay for his medicine. He's going to be better again and we're going to be a real family again. We can both work and get out of Belmont. Maybe move into a house. I said. Man whatever, if you do this track thing you could get big! you never know. Carlos responded. I looked at Carlos, he was tall, skinny and had a face full of acne. His hair was wavy and he had a chipped tooth. Im not interested man, Im going to try to get this weekend job and save up a little more money. I worked at a grocery store, I was the meat man, I chopped, and skinned meat. I was looking for a weekend job to save a little more money for my father's treatment. Man, You going to work two jobs?, and go to school?. You might as well just drop out partner! Carlos said. Sometimes I think about it, why do I need school if I have to work anyway. I could work two full-time jobs and make more money. I carefully remembered what my mother told me that night. I guess I'm doing this for her. I can't disappointment my mother. Even though she's gone, I feel it's my life's mission to keep my promise to her. Dropping out of school was not an option.
Jason, I wrapped you and Caycee up a plate of leftover's from last night. I might be a little late tonight so just pop them in the microwave. Make sure Caycee takes a bath and don't stay up all night playing video games! Do y'all homework and don't open the door for nobody! My mother said. She was off to work her second job.She was a pharmacist during the day, and She was a cashier at a local gas station at night. My mother worked the night shift with my uncle Ray, and my cousin Jimmy. So I wasn't too worried about her working nights. I walked to the window and watched my mother head to the parking lot. I always watched her get into the car and drive off. It gave me a sense of security. Momma said that I can have ice cream Jason!, Caycee squealed. Mom didn't mention anything about ice cream to me, so I popped open the carton of ice cream and put two scoops in a bowl. Cookies and cream!, Caycee squealed again. We sat on the floor in front of our tv and watched crime shows. If anybody ever tried to break into the house I would beat them up! I said. Im strong like daddy! he said I was!. I wish daddy was here to beat the bad guys! Caycee said. Let's play hide and seek!Caycee said, well then turn off the lights and hide I shouted. We played hide and seek for about 10 minutes before Caycee got scared and wanted the lights back on. Im hungry! she said. I heated up the leftovers and served us. Meatloaf and a baked potato. We ate and then I ran Caycee's bath water, she put on her pajama's and asked me to lay with her until she fell asleep. She hated being alone in the dark like. I dozed off with Caycee's curly head on my shoulder and awoke to several knocks. "Thump Thump Thump, I remembered what my mother told me about answering the door. I laid in bed and waited for the knocks to stop. "Thump Thump Thump", I crept to the door, slowly peaked my eyes through the side window blinds. I saw two officers at the door and my heart froze. I instantly thought about my mother. I opened the door and said yes officer? The officer's asked me if their was an adult present, I told them no. They asked me if I had any family to call, and I told them my mother would be home any second. They asked me if I had any other adults to call. I gave them my aunt Sophia's number. Aunt Sophia arrived and through the blur of police lights I was sitting in her car. Sophia came back with a irritated Caycee in her arms asking for momma. When we were all in the car Aunt Sophia broke the news. My mother, along with my Uncle and cousin were shot to death during a gas station robbery. When my father got word that my mother was murdered while in Iraq he called everyone until he got a hold of us. The sound of my father's voice comforted me. Like when a baby is covered in a blanket to block out the sunlight. He told me to stay strong and that my mother was not dead. Her spirit is still with all of us, and somehow he was right. My father didn't take the murder lightly. In iraq he would drink on every ounce of alcohol he could find. He couldn't bare the slightest feel of being sober, because the instant pain of loss would pinch his heart. After watching more of his fellow soldiers die in front of him, hunger,and heat exhaustion took a toll on my father's health. He slowly developed a variety of mental issues, including schizophrenia. We stayed with aunt Sophia for a while. As time went on, aunt Sophia's concern ,grew lighter and she began to become annoyed with the idea of raising kids. When I was old enough to work she got me a job at the local grocery store. She told me that I needed to help pay the bills and become a man. Caycee was turning 12 and developing. Sophia would shows signs of jealously whenever she would comb Caycee's hair. Growing up Sophia was quite jealous of my mother. She was the pretty one. My mother had green eyes and light brown skin, She got the attention from all of the boys. Sophia wasn't so lucky. She had short thick hair, darker skin, and she struggled with her weight. Constantly being compared to my mother made Sophia insecure and develop eating disorders. Now at 42 my aunt was heavy on drugs and using us for welfare. She didn't work, she would leave during the day and come home with another man. A different man every night. Their was one man that she brought home that we liked. His name was Peter, but we called him Flyman, because he had really big eyes like a fruit fly. He took Caycee and I to museums, restaurants and bought us toys. Aunt Sophia got rid of him because she said that he was too nice. I don't want you to cut my hair!, I heard Caycee scream. I walked up stairs to see what was going on. Aunt Sophia pulled on Caycee's hair and cut a few strands. You think you too pretty huh?, You think you got all this hair and you all that? I looked at my aunt's eyes and she looked spaced out. I guess she was high on drugs, because she only talked to us when she was high. Leave her alone auntie!, she looked at me and said, aint nobody bothering this girl!, she stuck up!, think she too good!, I raised her!. Aunt Sophia stormed out of the room and went into the bathroom. It was ok, it would soon be over, daddy's coming home soon.
Thank god!, school is finally over and I can go home. I said. What now, work? I looked over and stared at my girlfriend. Yes babe, I have the night shift, it's friday.I reminded her. You always working baby, You better take off for my birthday!. Naya warned. I grabbed my girlfriend's soft chin with my thumb and index finger, then stared into her light brown eyes. She was beautiful, long silky black hair, she was puertorican and black. She had the lightest caramel skin and the sassy attitude to compliment the fierce look she always had in her eyes. She's a cheerleader, but too shy to be captain. We were both shy actually, we kept to ourselves and didn't go to parties. We actually started dating after being lab partners last semester. I will call you tonight, I said. Yea, babe I'll stay up, I'm going to knock out my book report tonight so that I can go with Angela this weekend. she said. Go with Angela where?,I questioned. I told you Jason, her mom is letting us go with her to this spa get away.she said, with a glare. Oh ok, cool, have fun! I said sarcastically. Don't be mad baby, call me tonight ok? she said. I kissed her and she walked to the end of the hallway to meet Angela. Flash!I snapped my head around. It was the man that I ran past earlier during my rush to school. Uh…what? I laughed. Flash!!, you were gone this morning, I could of sworn I saw smoke, The man said. You look really familiar, but I'm not sure. I responded. He smirked and told me to turn around. I eased my head around and looked at the wall, it contained portraits of our athletic hall of fame. From the years 1961- to present. My eyes scrolled left to right until I looked at the track and field section. Their he was, Julius Mayfield state champion 1975.Best male track and field. I turned around astounded. That's you? 1975 was a long time ago son, wait til you get about my age. he joked. Although he had a few grey hairs on his chin, Julius still looked like he was about 35. He was tall, toned and had the body of someone who's serious about being old and staying in shape. He was wearing the jogging suit that he had on earlier with a blue cap on. Why don't you come out to try outs? he said. Oh?, well I really can't, my father isn't well and I have a little sister to watch, besides I have to be at work in an hour. You've got talent!, if you could run like you did this morning, at every meet, their's no reason for you not to have your picture on this wall someday! he said. I turned around and stared at the wall hopelessly. People like me don't have their pictures on walls. Besides what are the odds of me having a future in running? Nobody has ever been to college in my family, and I don't see it ever happening with me. Maybe a community college or something. Are you serious? he sounded a bit let down. There is no reason that you can't have your picture on that wall, no reason why you can't make it to state, and no reason that you can't get a scholarship? Let me sit down with you and go over this,maybe monday?. he asked. Thanks Mr Mayfield, but I have to get to work, I shook the former track star's hand and walked out of the school's door.