I was the bitch boy in the kitchen where I worked. That was
rightfully so, I suppose, I was the youngest, the newest, and the
dumbest. I was sixteen working from the hour I got out of school
until sometimes ten 'o clock at night. Dad had croaked six months
ago and mom needed help paying the bills. My older sister,
Caroline, had dropped out of school to work full-time as a
waitress at Denny's. Caroline was a year older than me, a lot
smarter, and very pretty. Also, unbeknownst to my mother, she was
over a month pregnant.
It was nine 'o clock and the head chef, my bastard of a boss, let
me go home. I was tired from running up and down the stairs to
the pantry or the freezers, standing on my feet for hours on end,
being yelled at for things that even if I wasn't in the kitchen
when it happened were my fault. I was the scapegoat, the whipping
boy, the bitch.
I didn't have a ride home, which was three miles away. It wasn't
a terrible distance to travel if it was daylight and you could
feel your legs. I'd thought of calling Caroline from work but I
knew she was more exhausted then me. Caroline had a lot on her
mind these days, helping mom, worrying about me, trying to figure
out how she's going to support this baby on the way. She told me
in confidence, I was to say nothing of it to anyone, and I didn't
ask any questions. Often, though, I wondered who the father was.
She never said, and I took that as a sign that I wasn't to know.
It was a crisp, windless March night, two days before St.
Patrick's. I was not of Irish heritage, though my friend, Frank,
and I had plans to get piss drunk anyhow. I was looking forward
to that, I tried to think of the bliss of inebriation to get my
mind off my aching calves and back. We lived outside of the town
perimeter, but as the light from the streetlamps began to fade I
realized how bright the moon was glowing. As my steps led me
further from the town a peacefulness grew around me. Being
beneath those streetlamps felt like being under interrogation.
I pulled out my pack of smokes from my jacket pocket, then pulled
my Bic from my jean pocket. I lit the Camel menthol and tried to
enjoy it. Frank is the one who got me started on this, man, I
don't even know how I afford it. Fucking expensive, dirty,
cancer-giving habit. If mom or Caroline knew they'd kick my ass
I was starving when I reached home, I hadn't eaten since lunch at
school. The light above the oven was lit, the only light to greet
me as I entered the old brick house. There was a faint smell in
the air, a stale, warm smell of leftovers. I hoped my nose wasn't
deceiving me when I smelled meatloaf, Caroline made it the best.
I took off my jacket, kicked off my sneakers and went to peek
into the warm oven where my plate of dinner was awaiting me. Mmm,
I was right. A plate of a chunk of meatloaf, boiled carrots, and
a baked potato came into view as the light within the oven popped
After finishing my dinner, I went into the living room and
flopped down onto the couch. Mom was gone to work, she slept days
and worked nights. Caroline wasn't home, though I didn't know
where she'd went, maybe out with friends. I was home to rest in
peace. My aching calves were relieved to be non-vertical, my
stomach was no longer growling with hunger pains, and my
bloodshot eyes were surrendering to the sweet comfort of sleep.