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 good.
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 on.
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.