Runaway
  

                 Saturday, 6:20 am

                Stuffing his backpack with one last t-shirt, Jake turned to his little brother to say his goodbyes. 
                “You sure you don’t want to come with me, Danny? Last chance,” Jake offered.

                   Danny, sitting on the edge of his bed wiping the tears off his cheeks, looked up at his big brother. “Jake, I’m only five. I can’t live by myself. Y…you can’t either, where are you gonna go?”

                “I’m twelve, Danny, I’m almost a grown up. I…I don’t know, I’ll figure it out. All I know is anything’s better than staying here with those maniacs. I can’t take it anymore.”

                Danny put his face in his hands and started crying again. Jake sat down beside him. “Danny, please stop crying.”

                “I can’t.”

                “I told you, I’ll come back for you, as soon as I find a place to stay. You can come live with me and we’ll never have to worry about mom and dad again. No more screaming and fighting and dishes breaking. We can stay up late and eat junk food and watch tv all night. It’ll be fun, won’t it?”

                Danny sniffed and wiped his tears again, showing the smallest hint of a smile.

                Jake gave him a friendly push. “C’ mon, you know it’ll be fun.”

                Danny finally succumbed. “Okay,” he giggled.

                Jake got up and grabbed his backpack. It was heavy for such a small bag. Jake made sure he stocked all the essentials: A week’s worth of clothes, five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, five bottles of water, comic books, baseball cards, and  a box of chewy granola bars. He checked his pocket for his money. He had thirty-eight dollars saved from cutting grass over the summer. He felt rich.

                He leaned over, kissed Danny on the head and climbed out the window.

                “They’re gonna wake up soon. Remember, don’t say anything. If they ask, you don’t know where I am, okay?” Jake said from outside.

                “Okay.”

                “See ya, buddy,” he said to Danny.

                Danny sniffed and waved back. “Bye.”

                Jake headed for the woods in his backyard, beginning his journey towards freedom.

                Some time later, Jake continued through the forest and headed towards a clearing he spotted in the distance. The sun peeked through the trees as it rose to greet the day. Jake could tell it was going to be another hot one. He was glad he wore shorts. When he got to the clearing he spotted the train tracks he was hoping to find. Now, he thought, all he has to do is follow the tracks to wherever they lead and then…well, he’ll figure out the rest later.

                Jake sat down against a tree and opened his first sandwich and granola bar. As he ate he rifled through his bag to find his baseball cards. Shuffling through his cards, he hoped he’d meet someone along the way to trade with. Otherwise, what was the point of bringing them?

                After reading a few stats on the backs of his cards, Jake finished his breakfast, put the cards in his pocket and started following the tracks. As it got warmer he took out a bottle of water and carried it with him, sipping it on occasion. With nothing else to do, Jake started to think about his brother. He wondered if he was okay. Last night was scary, even for Jake, who thought he’d seen it all. His dad came home late from work again in a bad mood as usual. His mom was already in a bad mood because dinner was sitting on the table for five hours. They started shouting and slamming doors. His mom took the plate of roast beef and potatoes and threw it all the way across the kitchen at his dad, missing him and smashing it against the wall. When Jake went to the kitchen in the middle of the night to pack his bag, the wall was still covered with chunks of beef and dripping gravy. Potatoes and carrots sat on the floor. He thought about cleaning it up but decided against it. What was the point? He was leaving anyway. Time to get out of this crazy house. He wished that

Danny would have gone with him, but, like he said, he’s only six. He needs to be with grown-ups right now.

                Jake jumped at the sound of a horn blowing. Up ahead he saw the single light of a train coming in the distance. The horn blared again. He jumped off the track and walked over towards the tree line. Jake felt the ground shake and the wind rush through his hair as the train rushed past him. He watched all the passengers go by and wondered where they were all going. He suddenly wished he had more money so he could buy a train ticket. It would definitely be better than walking in this heat.

                Jake stood there, mesmerized by the train zipping by, wondering just how long this thing was. There sure were a lot of cars. Seemed like hundreds, thousands maybe. Jake was beginning to feel a little dizzy as the last car finally made its way past him. He looked to the other side of the tracks only to see a man staring back at him. Jake took a step back as the man crossed the tracks towards him. The man appeared to be in his fifties or sixties and was dressed in rags. His gray hair was a mess and he had a very unpleasant odor, which Jake quickly became aware of. Although a stranger, Jake sensed a familiarity about this man. Where had he seen him before? The man approached Jake and stared at him sullenly.

                “Hello, Jake,” the man said.

                 “Hello. Do…do I know you?” Jake asked, taking another step back.

                “Better than you think, my friend. Better than you think,” the stranger replied.

                “What’s that mean?” Jake asked.

                “Look closer, Jake. You don’t recognize me?”

                Jake squinted from the sun and looked closer at the man’s face, noticing a small scar by his right eye. Jake had a scar in the same exact spot.

                “That’s right, Jake. I’m you,” the man whispered.

                Jake backed up quickly. “What?” Jake looked around, as if expecting a television crew to jump out and tell him he’s just been tricked. Everybody’ll laugh, he’ll feel like a fool, it’ll all be in good fun. Except that nobody jumped out from anywhere. This practical joke was very real, and suddenly Jake became a little frightened.

                “Don’t be afraid, Jake. I’m not gonna hurt ya. Why would I do that to myself?” the man asked.

                “I don’t know. But ...what I do know is that you’re nuts. So, uh, I gotta go.”  Jake turned and began to walk quickly away further down the tracks. What the man said next stopped Jake cold.

                He hollered out to Jake. “Jake, stop! Please. Okay, okay, listen to me... I have a brother. His name is Danny. He’s seven years younger than me. My parent’s names are Robert and Elise. I grew up at 1544 Bluebird Lane. I had a pet turtle named Speedy who died when I was nine. I loved comic books, baseball cards, and action movies. When I was eleven, the girl I had a crush on found out that I was her secret admirer and then blabbed it to the whole school, making fun of me every chance she got. And when I was twelve, I packed up all my belongings, kissed my little brother on the head, and climbed out my bedroom window, leaving my loved ones behind never to see or hear from them again.”

                Jake dropped his bag and wiped a tear off of his cheek. He turned around to face the man.

                “H…how did you know all of that?” he asked the man.

                The man wore a sad smile on his face. “I told you, Jake. I’m you. Forty-seven years from now. If you continue to choose this path, I am what you’ll become. Alone.”

                “But, why?”

                “Because I left, Jake.  I left and did not want to be found. I didn’t complete my education, I had no skills, no ambition, and now I constantly wonder where my next meal is going to come from. It’s a lousy life, Jake. I’m telling y…”

                “Where’s Danny?” Jake interrupted.

                “You never went back for him. But don’t worry, he’s doing great. Your brother is a high school principal and has a wonderful family of his own. Mom and dad got divorced the same year you left. Their marriage just couldn’t take any more stress.”

                Jake ran his hand through his hair, contemplating.

                “Go back, Jake. Everything will be fine. Trust me. This is not what you want,” the man said. “Here, I want you to have this.”

                The man pulled something out of his pocket. It was a little chrome fold-up pocket mirror. He handed it to Jake. “Take this and don’t lose it,” he told him.

                “I want you to keep this, and every time you look into it, you make sure you see you, Jake. Not me. You. I don’t ever want you to see me in that mirror, you understand?” the man asked.

                “Yeah, I understand,” Jake answered. He folded up the mirror and put it in his backpack.

                “Good. Now go live your life, love your family, and breakfast is on the table, it’s gonna get cold.”

                Jake looked at the man like he was from Mars. “What??”

                All of a sudden the man smelled like bacon and then disappeared. Jake opened his eyes.

                He was in his bed and Danny was shaking him awake.

                “Wake up, Jake, c’mon. Mom made breakfast. It’s on the table and it’s gonna get cold,” Danny said repeatedly.

                Jake sat up and got out of bed wondering what the heck was going on. He went to the kitchen and his parents were sitting there eating breakfast with Danny.

                “Good morning, pal,” his dad said, putting down the morning paper.

                “Hi, honey. Did you sleep ok?” his mother asked.

                “Yeah, fine, I guess,” Jake replied. He looked over at the kitchen wall and the mess from last night had been cleaned up.

                “Jake, come sit down, honey. We have something to talk to you boys about,” Jake’s mother said sweetly.

                Jake had a seat next to Danny and picked up a piece of bacon. Jake’s dad spoke next.

                 “Now, I’m sure you guys have noticed that your mother and I have been having some problems…” he started.

                Oh no, Jake thought, this is it. They’re getting a divorce. Please no.

                “So,” his father continued, “your mom and I have been talking and we decided to see somebody and get some help with fixing our problems.”

                Jake exhaled a sigh of relief. This may actually work after all.

                Mom kissed the boys on their heads. “We love you guys so much and we’re going to do everything we can to keep this family together,” she beamed.

                “Cool!” Danny said, making his father smile.

                When breakfast was over, Jake and Danny retreated to the living room to watch some cartoons. On the way there, Jake asked his little brother, “Hey, Danny, was I home all night?”

                “When?” Danny asked, confused.

                “Last night. I didn’t…go anywhere?” Jake asked.

                “No, of course not, dummy. You were asleep all night. You kept snoring, too. Man, I can’t wait til I get my own room,” Danny said. “Why’d you ask me that, anyway? That’s kind of a dumb question.”

                “No reason,” Jake answered.

                “You’re weird,” Danny stated.

                Jake looked at his little brother and smiled.

                Jake’s mother called out from another room, “Boys, can you bring your dirty clothes in here so I can do laundry?”

                “I’ll get them,” Jake told her heading off to his room. When he got there, he opened his closet to pull out his laundry basket. Behind the basket something caught his eye. It was his backpack. He pulled the basket out, grabbed his backpack and set it on his bed. He took a deep breath and slowly unzipped it. He dumped the contents onto his bed: a week’s worth of clothes, four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a half bottles of water, comic books, baseball cards, an open box of granola bars, and, reflecting brightly from the sun shining through his window, a small, chrome pocket mirror.

THE END


Comments:
 
penmage   penmage wrote
on 8/5/2009 7:36:53 AM
I liked this. You made Jake's emotions very real.

G_Money   G_Money wrote
on 10/16/2008 1:33:22 PM
Nicely done :) A familiar story in a way but the way you tell it makes it seem new again

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