WARNING – DARK THEME, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
THE AWAY GAME
Rated M+ for strong subject matter
I once heard someone say that happiness was a state of mind, something you could even choose if you were of a mind to do so. They lied. I didn’t ever remember being happy, not until I met Edward. All I ever remembered was Mikey. Mikey was bad. He liked to do things that hurt and he scared me.
I hated Mikey.
I was only two the first time Mikey came into my room at night. He always came with my stepfather, Phil. Mikey went to work with Phil after dinner and they didn’t come home until very late, after my mom and I were already in bed. Mom said that people thought Mikey was funny and paid lots of money to see him and Phil and we should be grateful we had him. I didn’t understand that.
Phil was the love of my mother’s life. She left my real dad, Charlie, before I was even born so he never knew about me. I didn’t even know about him until I was older, until after…
When I was three and a half, my mom died of a fatal fall down the stairs of our house. Her neck was broken. I remembered hearing her arguing with Phil right before it happened, but being so young, I really didn’t know to tell the police about it. It had started happening all the time, so it wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to. Besides, Phil said it was an accident.
Phil had adopted me and given me his last name, so I was left with him after mom was gone. And Mikey. Mikey insisted I sleep with him and Phil then and the things Mikey did to me started happening every night. I buried my head under the pillows and cried. Sometimes I screamed from the pain.
When I was five, I started school. That was where I met Edward. He was sitting alone behind the kickball screen playing with the blades of tall grass growing there. He taught me how to braid that day with some of the longer ones. He was two grades ahead of me and lived in a foster home down the street from my house. He said there was no one like Mikey in his house, but he had two older foster brothers named James and Laurent who did some of the same things to him as Mikey did to me. Like Mikey, James and Laurent told him they would hurt him worse or even kill him if he told anyone what they were doing. He believed them like I believed Mikey. I didn’t want to hurt any worse so I kept quiet, as did Edward.
He hated them as much as I hated Mikey.
Edward taught me a game he played when James and Laurent were hurting him. He called it the away game. He pretended he was away from them, living in a place where he was loved and where nobody hurt him. “I can go there in my head and it doesn’t hurt so much, at least some of the time. Sometimes, though, what they do is in my face and they make me keep my eyes open and watch them do it, so it’s harder then,” he said quietly. I knew what he meant.
By the time I was eight, my chest had bulged out and I had started bleeding regularly. This wasn’t so bad because for those few days, Mikey left me alone. I was still hiding my head under the pillows, but at least I had kind of gotten used to what Mikey was doing, so it didn’t hurt as much.
That was until I turned twelve and Mikey started lying next to me while Phil took over. I learned to play the away game for all I was worth then. The first time this happened, I could barely walk at school the next day. Edward noticed.
“What’s the matter, Bella?”
I couldn’t say anything. Phil had figured out that Edward was my friend and he said he would kill him and bury him in the backyard under the shed if I talked. I somehow knew he would do it, too, so I lied and said I had fallen down and hurt myself. I didn’t think Edward believed me, but he understood and didn’t ask any more questions.
By the time I was thirteen, Mikey was doing really well with Phil at his job, so they were gone overnight a lot more. They left me home alone and I loved it. On some of those nights, Edward would sneak out of his foster house and come stay with me. On those nights, we both slept better than we ever did otherwise. We always slept on the couch because I didn’t want to be in the same room where I had to sleep when Phil was home.
Mr. Yorkie was the counselor at school, and he was one of Phil’s best friends. They were also very good friends with Edward’s foster dad, Mr. Newton, as well as Mr. Crowley, who was Edward’s caseworker. We lived in a very small town, so this wasn’t all that surprising. I was fourteen and Edward was almost sixteen and just a week from his birthday when he finally said he’d had enough after a night where James had been particularly rough with him. James and Laurent were just months from turning eighteen themselves and leaving the foster home, but they had promised to make every day they had left with Edward count. When they weren’t going at each other, they still went after Edward, sometimes both at once now. He suggested we be brave and talk to the counselor and his caseworker about what was happening to us. They didn’t believe us and called Edward a troublemaker, accusing him of defaming two upstanding citizens who had served the community diligently for years. They were going to ship him off to a military-type disciplinary school the next morning, and they said they were going to talk to Phil about what I had said. I knew that would be deadly.
As soon as school let out, we ran and never looked back.
The Big Brother
As the only child I was the center of my parent’s attention. We traveled around the world, entertained many people from cruise ship guests to the President of the United States of America; yes Ronald Wilson Regan. That guy is so cool. I have a picture of us together on my nightstand. I find it comforting to stare at our picture at night, it helps me drift off to sleep imagining him say “Read my lips, No new taxes” repeatedly fills me with an indescribable tranquil peace.
I’m getting off track, where was I? Oh yes, life was good. My mother was the perfect image of what a mother should be. She constantly told me how much she loved me and played with me when dad and I weren’t rehearsing for our shows. I had a dress suit for everyday of the week. My mom was the best and she has excellent taste in designer wear.
We traveled the world entertaining the rich and privileged. Mom was always cheering us on in the front row of every show.
Little did I know all that was about to change. One night while mom was tucking me in my corvette bed she told me soon I would have a brother or sister to play with. I didn’t quite understand her, I asked her why? She said the treatment worked something about test tubes and DNA as she patted her stomach. It was all too much to comprehend.
That night sleep did not find me easily. Not even my cassette of Ronald Regan’s 1992 election speech being played on my walk man would help me. I just couldn’t sleep. Why would they want another child? Was I not good enough? Wasn’t I a good boy? Were they getting rid of me?
Curses! Cures I say. I need to know and I need to know now. If I couldn’t sleep, then no one can.
I shimmied my way out of my car bed, grabbed Teddy Ruxpin’s hand and made my way down the dark corridor to my parent’s room. Drat I should’ve grabbed my Glow Worm it’s really dark and creepy at night.
Knocking ever so gently I said “Mom, Dad.”
“Son?” my dad said
“Dad, was I bad? Did I do something wrong? Am I being replaced?” I couldn’t help myself I was rambling.
“No son, of course not” dad said as he picked me and Teddy up.
I guess you’re old enough now to understand and I’ll start from the beginning. You see while traveling in little Italy I meet a nice fellow named Geppetto-litto he was frantic he said in a thick Italian accent “Hey ah you ah Mister comeah here, and takah me boy, They come to takah me away.” As he shoved me into his trinket store of handmade wooden goods.
He shoved a large leather case in my hands and said while shoving me out the door “Promise me you takah good care of me boy, he’s ah special boy”.
I nodded my head and started to walk away looking over my shoulder. No sooner did a large white van show up with large black lettering that read: STATE ASYLUM.
I thought to myself this can’t be good. As two large uniformed men in white pants and button down shirts exited the vehicle and barged into Geppitto-litto’s shop and took him away in a straight jacket.
Once home I told mom what happened and we opened the large case together. “Do you remember that day, Pino?”
I was so enrapt in the story I simply shook my head No.
Well that was the best day of me and mom's life, that was the day you came into our lives. Once we opened that case there you were, sleeping like a little prince and when you opened your eyes, you looked at us and smiled. I’ll never forget that day Little Pino, that was the day you made me and moms life complete. We couldn’t have children of our own and here you were thrust into our arms. God finally answered our prays.
“Well why did mom say I’d have a brother or sister coming?”
“Oh, Pino mom is pregnant” dad said “That means she has a baby growing inside her stomach not like you but more like mom.”
“The baby will grow and grow and eventually be as tall as me or mom”, dad said. But you’ll always be their big brother dad said as he rubbed my head.
“Ok dad”, I said as I snuggled into him
That night dad let me stay in between him and mom and I drifted off into a deep sleep. In my sleep I dreamt of our family and my new brother or sister taking our family picture together. When I turned my head to see my brother or sister I noticed they were wearing my brand new “We Are The World” T shirt!
Sharing my parents fine but sharing my favorite T shirt, wait a minute I hope they don’t think I’m sharing my Ronald Regan speech collection, I have on cassette tapes! Because that’s where I draw the line.
Janet and the Dummy
Janet had lost it on her last date. The man not only smacked her in the face with the door which he did not hold, but he wanted to split the check after a horrible dinner discussing his bowel movements, completely ruining her appetite. Who on earth could eat sausages after a discussion like that? Especially when he started pointing out how his sausage looked very much like what he had pooped just before the date.
Yes, horrible was an understatement.
When she got home, she flipped on the TV, only to be stuck watching an idiot with his hand shoved up a doll’s behind. It was supposedly a ventriloquist act, but they sucked. Janet figured she could do better, so she went to the second-hand store and found a ventriloquist dummy and decided to call it Timmy. She practiced for hours and hours and thought how wonderful it was that she could converse with Timmy and he never once mentioned anything gross or crude. Yes, Timmy was a perfect gentleman.
She even took him to work with her at the funeral parlor to help cheer up the sad people who had just lost a loved one. Timmy was her best friend and she wondered if she ever needed a man after him.
Then one day, a woman had an odd request. Her husband wanted to be stuffed and mounted next to his animals that he had hunted. He was supposed to strike a pose with his bear. The woman ended up making her odd request, asking if we could stuff him so he could be posed.
It took a lot of work and help from Janet, but her father was finally able to stuff the man and make him able to be posed for his wife. Jokingly, Janet practiced her ventriloquist skills, scaring the crap out of the receptionist.
It was then the little seed of a plan was formed.
She used her funeral home connections to get into a morgue and steal the body of a nice looking man. She remembered and used all the skills her father had taught her and stuffed him so he could be posed as well. He was perfect. He never spoke out of turn and listened to her every word. She made up a fake job for him, saying he was an accountant and introduced him to all of her friends and family as her boyfriend. They supposedly eloped and then she decided she wanted a baby. She knew she couldn’t have one with her ‘husband’ and so they decided to adopt.
Her little girl was not as well-behaved as her husband or her ‘brother,’ Timmy, but she was cute and would do. They took a family picture for Christmas and her daughter sat holding her stuffed kitten while Janet held her stuffed husband. Yes, Janet was sure she would raise her daughter to be just like her.
~Rose von Barnesly