Featured Review on this writing by Robert Helliger

Taking Summer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Adam has to face loneliness as summer nears its end.

Submitted: October 23, 2019

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Submitted: October 23, 2019

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Taking Summer

 

 

 

Summer 1998

Adam grabbed the cordless phone and frantically dialed Chris’ number.  He shoved each of his fingers hurriedly and forcefully into the digits.  Chris wasn’t Adam’s favorite friend, but he was his go-to.  Adam’s favorite friend, Robbie, happened to be on a family vacation in Mukwonago.  Still, However, Adam and Chris both had a fair amount in common and Chris was always the one likely to be available due to his carefree nature of blowing off his chores. 

The dial tone hummed into Adam’s ear several times until the answering machine picked up.  “You’ve reached the Sutter residence.  We’re not available right now, but please leave your name, number, and a brief message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!”  A beep sounded afterward adding to the loneliness Adam felt from being an only child.  An only child with bouts of anxiety, angst, and depression that seemed, sometimes, to surface from nowhere.  Adam shook his head and hung up the phone.  He began to miss Robbie and thought of the perfect summers they’d spent together when Robbie happened to be in town.  During the summer anything was possible when Adam was around his friends; or, at least someone his age.  Otherwise, he’d just sink into a feeling of hopelessness he had grown to know until one of his friends was let go of their parent’s authoritative grasps.  Some days dragged and others went by way too fast.  Especially when Chris and Adam would jump on the trampoline for an entire day which only seemed to them like an hour. They’d drive Adam’s dad crazy going in and out of the house to cool down and grab a Pepsi which likely wouldn’t have quenched their thirst anyhow.  Adam’s dad would always chime in at the door being opened more than twice in an hour; “Stay in or stay out!  The damn AC is running!”, he would shout from the living room.

The scent of fresh grass clippings danced through the open window and into Adam’s nostrils as he lazily set down the phone and got out of bed.  With his hair matted and breath mossy, he went to the window and saw his dad hard at work in the pristine, emerald rows imprinted into the lawn in front of 11612 Matthew Ave.  While gazing out the window at the many neighbors improving their curb-appeal, Adam stole a glance at his television set that his grandmother won for him on a gameshow years back.  He had the temptation to flip the on-switch to the Sega sitting so astutely atop the CRT television, but he shrugged off the idea.

At 9:00 a.m. it was likely that Chris would either be mowing the lawn or watching his little brothers.  Could be one of those days where his mom got sick of his shit and made him stay home as punishment with even more chores.  Adam was usually considered the spoiled boy amongst the neighbor kids.  He never had to mow or sweep or wash the cars.  Instead he would fill his time with aimless introspective strolls around town on his BMX bike he got for his twelfth birthday.  He’d search the town looking for anyone to hang out with.  He’d even ride by his friend’s houses on the way to and from no particular destination to see if they were around—but, he usually had no luck using this method.  He spoke to more parents at the front door telling him “no, he’s busy” or “no, he has chores to do” than he did his actual friends throughout the summer.  Or, at least it seemed that way; his time was precious, and parents never understood that.  There were so many video games to be played, chocolate shakes to be drunk, burgers to be eaten, miles to be ridden, girls to be gawked at, and Nerf gun battles to be fought.

Aside from the other parents, however, Adam’s parents wanted one thing during the summer:  Adam out of the house.  He wasn’t sure why his friend’s parents didn’t want the same.  The amount of mud puddles he rode his bike through, the amount of time he spent climbing the huge rock at the park, the sunsets he watched turning to dusk as he pedaled furiously ten blocks back home--were too many times Adam spent alone.  And, other times, during the summers that Robbie was away on his family trip were spent with Chris.  Adam scoffed at the thought.  Chris was an okay friend, but Adam hated his lust for showing off, which is why Chris was second on the “friend totem-pole”.  But, of course, Chris didn’t care because everyone wanted to hang out with him anyway.  But Adam was rather the type of person that only needed one or two close friends to really be happy.

Adam pulled his thoughts away from the doldrums and threw on a sleeveless shirt, jean shorts, and skate shoes.  He bolted into the kitchen and tore open the garage door to see his bike standing on its kickstand in the middle of the driveway in all its splendor.  The chrome glinted brightly in the summer sun like it never had before.  He ran to it with his mouth agape and brushed his fingertips over the frame adorned with decals.

“Oh, hey! You’re finally up!”  Adam’s dad said while emptying the mower bag.  “Since I already had the hose and bucket out for the car, I thought I’d revitalize your Cadillac”.  Adam’s dad chuckled.  “I took some steel wool to it as well to get rid of some of the rust. The pad is over in the toolbox if you ever need to use it.”

“Awesome!  Looks brand new!  Thanks, dad!”

Adam clambered his way onto the chrome-gilded bike, hiked the kickstand, and started coasting down the driveway.

“Hey!”  Adam’s dad shouted.  “You want a few bucks for a chocolate shake and a burger?”

Adam smiled and circled back toward the house.

“Thought so.”  Adam’s dad grinned. 

Adam reached for a crisp, green, five-dollar bill in his dad’s grip.

“You’ll have to work for this eventually, you know.”  Adam’s dad said glaring under his eyebrows.

Adam hated when his dad reaffirmed that he’d have to “work” for everything one day.  It kept him humble, though.  He never took anything for granted even if it was a simple five bucks for a shake and a burger.  They were operating on only one income which Adam very well knew.  Adam paused for a moment after folding the bill and putting it in his Velcro wallet.  “Could I have an extra three dollars?”

Adam’s dad withdrew and stood up straight.  His hedge trimmer dangled at his side.  “Oh?  And, what for?” 

“I wanted to get a pack of trading cards at the supermarket…”  Adam looked down at his feet.  “Chris and I have been playing this new one that has creatures on the front of each card and each one has its own ability and they have stamina that you have to get other cards for and Chris got a really cool one the other day and…”

“Alright, alright.  Here’s and extra three.  That’s all for the week though.”  Adam’s dad shook his head and laughed.  He never understood what Adam and his friends did to have fun, but he was glad to see Adam happy and out of trouble.  Adam was always quiet, withdrawn, and stammered when he spoke, which is why his dad tried slowing down conversation when Adam would get overzealous about a subject.

Adam smiled up at his dad, tucked the three extra singles into his pocket, vaulted his leg over his bike, hiked the kickstand, and took off.  The wind blew through his hair as he rounded the next block and tore up the street.  He looked at the ground sternly as he stood to pedal faster due to the incline of the pavement on Kathleen Avenue.  Weird Wally was lumbering down the sidewalk on yet another one of his strolls around town in his tattered matching pajamas and worn slippers.  Adam waved to him and Wally happily and overzealously waved back.  Wally was truly…weird, Adam thought to himself.

As Adam approached the apex of the hill, where Chris lived on the left-hand side in a colonial style two-story, he noticed two people conversing in the middle of the road.  The two children chattered amongst one another as the young boy rode in circles on a bike and the young girl attempted to balance herself on a pair of inline skates.  Adam stopped pedaling as he heard the familiar tenor of Chris’ voice.  His heart sank into his stomach.  After a moment he began pedaling again, slowly and cautiously.

“Hey.”  Adam said quietly. He stood straddling his bike watching Adam in confusion.

“Oh, hey, dude.” Chris said.  He was unphased by Adam’s presence and went back to circling the young girl.

Adam’s depression laid over him like a blanket of fog.

“You didn’t call me….” Adam said

“What?” Chris darted back while amid conversation with the girl.

“We always hang out together.”

Silence fell over them.

“Adam.  Relax.  I just wanted to introduce myself to her and show her cool places to hang out around town.”  Chris explained with a smirk while popping a wheelie.

Adam looked over at the girl.  She smirked.  Adam frowned as he looked back at Chris.  After a deafening silence, Adam threw his bike down in anger.

“What the hell, dude!”  Adam shouted.

The young girl stopped in her tracks and stared at Adam, but Chris was still unphased – or acting as such. 

Adam advanced and shoved Chris off his bike but Chris still landed on his feet as his bike toppled over; he was as suave as usual.

“You need to chill, Adam!”  The girl said before blowing a bubble with her gum.

“What the hell WHAT, Adam?” Chris sneered as he re-mounted his bike still playing coy.

Adam thought back to the previous week when he had told Chris about the new girl on the block while at lunch.  He now wished he hadn’t.  And just days prior, Chris had stopped at Adam’s house to show him his new bike; a bike that was identical to his own.

“You always do this shit!  Anything I want you always have to want it even more than me!”

“What the hell are you talking about?  I was just hanging out with the new girl!”

“Her name’s Kelly!”  Adam retorted.

“I know.  Just wasn’t sure if you knew.”  Chris raised his eyebrows and shrugged sarcastically.  Kelly laughed which made Chris smile.

 “You know what? Fuck you, Chris!”  Adam shouted as he kicked Chris’s identical yellow BMX bike. “Go take a flying leap off that fuckin’ dirt in the park!  Remember, the one you pushed me off last year and I broke my damn ankle?”

As Adam went to hoist himself back onto his bike Chris shoved him from behind.  He toppled over and scraped his knees on the ground.  He laid still for a second as a lump formed in his throat and tears welled in his eyes. 

“C’mon, Kelly.  He isn’t usually like this.”  Kelly rolled her eyes at the two of them.

There was another hard silence as Chris rode his bike slowly in the other direction.

“Adam, are you okay?”  Kelly asked with some care in her voice.

Adam didn’t answer for fear that Chris would hear him cry.  For fear that SHE would hear him cry.  He liked her too much to let Chris win.

“Okay, then.  Bye, Adam.”  Kelly grabbed onto Chris’ seat as he began to pedal harder away up the street.  “Chris!  Chris!  Not too fast!”  Kelly’s giggling echoed off the homes and down the street.

Once they were gone Adam sat up kneeling slumped on the ground and wiped stippled blood and gravel off his hands onto his shorts.

Dusk.

Thunderheads had rolled in and the bright summer skyline was transformed into a dour, grey hue as a storm swept the town.  Adam rode his bike aggressively through every puddle he could find.  His tears mixed with the rain.  As he avoided turning down his street as he should have done at dusk, Adam veered onto a path leading to the nearby public park.  He tore down the pathway; wet gravel cracking beneath his bike tires.  A colorful wooden sign next to the walking path read Rock Creek Park District.

Adam headed for a shelter with picnic tables that he liked to visit when he felt alone or had nothing else to do.  But, as he rode nearer, he saw through the hazy downpour that a man was sitting under the shelter on one of the picnic tables watching the rain hit the mud.  Adam slowed his approach and hopped off his biked letting it fall to the ground.

“Wally…?”  Adam said.

Wally lifted his head and looked sadly at Adam.  Adam sat down next to Wally on the picnic table, which made Wally perk up a bit.

“What you are doing out here, Wally?”  Adam inquired.

“ I dunno, Adam.”  Wally paused, “I don’t know where to go and I don’t have any friends here.”

Adam was silent.  He stared at Wally with a puzzled look.  Wally’s tattered dingy robe, sweatpants, and slippers were even more puzzling now that he thought about it.

“Well, I can be your friend, Wally!  I could use some new ones…”

Adam smiled big and peered through his wet, shaggy hair at Wally. 

Wally hugged Adam tightly until some air escaped his lungs.  “Really?”  Wally asked letting Adam go.

Adam nodded in approval.  “So…you don’t know where to go, but do you know where you came from?”

Off in the distance there were faint sounds of sirens whining.

Wally’s facial expression went from happy to fearful in an instant.  “Bad…bad place.” Wally began slapping the side of his head.  He brought his knees to his chest and buried his face in his arms.  “I came here to get away from them.  This is the only place I feel safe.”

 “Wally, it’s okay.  Wherever you came from you don’t have to worry anymore.  We’re friends.  I’ll look out for you.”  Adam patted Wally on the back.

“No! No, no!  They always make me go back!” Wally whimpered and sobbed.  The sirens grew louder.  Tires screeched.  “See!  They always take me back!”

At that point Adam knew something wasn’t right with Wally.  He was…different.  Very much unlike Adam’s other friends.

Police cars rolled into the public park entrance as Wally’s panic grew worse.  Each vehicle drove in with haste coming to a hard halt in front of the shelter.  Adam shielded his eyes with his arm from the piercing flash of the lights.  A man in a grey uniform emerged from a vehicle that didn’t look like a police car.  He stood holding a coat over his head.

“Wally!”  The man in grey shouted.

Wally started to sob.  He didn’t move.

“Wally…it’s time to go home!”  The man in grey gave what seemed to be a final warning.

A police officer emerged from one of the squad cars.  He detached a club from his belt and held it firm.

“Kid, would you mind stepping away from Wally and hopping inside the police car, please.  We’ll take you home.  But Wally has to come with us.”  The officer said.

Adam didn’t know why they needed Wally, but he was raised to obey authority.  He stood up while looking at Wally; a big pile of shivering man.  He patted him on the back, but before Adam could walk away Wally pulled a pack of trading cards from his pocket and handed it to Adam.  Adam shoved the pack in his shorts pocket before the police officer could see. 

“I don’t know what the police want with you, but, you’re a good friend, Wally.  Thank you.”  Even more sorrow filled Adam’s stomach as the events of the day had weighed heavy on him.

Adam entered the squad car drenched in water, wrapped in a towel.  He watched Wally be escorted to another vehicle farther from the one he was in.  He read the words on the driver’s side door:

Rock Creek Mental Health Facility’.

Summer’s End.

Adam sat on his bed analyzing each card that came from within the pack he received from Wally.  Each and every one was a holo-foil special 1st edition card.  Adam knew this was either a mistake or Wally found almost every card Adam needed, put them in the package and glued it shut.  But either way, Adam was grateful. 

Adam jolted at the sound of knocking on his bedroom door.

“Adam? Are you decent?”  Adam’s dad said as his bedroom door swung open.

Adam continued to shuffle through his cards.

“Whoa, dude.  Where’d you get those?”

Adam was silent for a moment.  “A friend gave them to me.”

“Well, cool, man.  Looks like you got a neat haul there.”

Adam’s dad exited the room without closing the door.  Adam hated that he never closed the door.

“Oh, I forgot!”  Adam’s dad poked his head back around the corner, “Wanted to let you know I’m making burgers on the grill.  You’re favorite.  I figured we could end the summer the proper way.” He declared.  “And, don’t get too excited, because you’re still grounded.”

“Yeah, for a month.  Keep reminding me.”  Adam groaned and hung his head as his dad left in haste toward the kitchen.

As Adam continued to flip through his cards, he heard a commotion of kids playing outside.  He knew that watching everyone having fun made being grounded even worse. However, his burning curiosity got the better of him and he peered through his bedroom window at the children playing and riding their bikes.  Among them was Kelly and a boy.  A boy who wasn’t Chris.

Adam grinned.


© Copyright 2019 Ryan K. Mallegni. All rights reserved.

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