This is a little something I wrote a while ago (about 10 years ago). It's a novella that I couldn't place genre-wise. I think it would be considered a coming-of-age story, but it definitely isn't YA. It is told from the point of view of a 12 year old boy. If enough readers seem to enjoy it, I will happily post chapters of the novella over the course of the next month. Let me know what you think. :)
Chapter One (2002)
The entire neighborhood watches as the man and woman move into the corner Spanish style home, with crimson bougainvillea framing the front archway. Liz Strangel watches from behind the Pottery Barn curtains she hangs from inside her feng shui-organized living room.
Mr. Dick watches while mowing his lawn, like he does every Saturday morning. He intermittently stops, wipes the perspiration from his forehead and rubs his head, which is suffering from the intake of two bottles of wine--ones he drank alone-- the previous evening.
Jane Evans watches from her porch, peering up on occasion over her Bible to witness the move-in across the street, wondering to herself how she could go about “saving” the new neighbors. For the end is near, that much she is certain, and the rest of the neighborhood doesn’t have a prayer. That, too, is certain.
Jay and William watch as they bathe their two matching poodles, Picasso and Monet.
“Oh God, that poor man,” Jay says.
“No joke, he has no clue where he’s moved to,” William replies.
Even Trudy Signorelli watches in her own weird way as she walks her imaginary cat, talking to people on the sidewalk that are not really there. “Do you like my pussy? Isn’t she pretty? Do you want to pet her?” Trudy does, however, understand that today no one seems to be watching her. They are all watching the man on the street corner.
And, of course, the boys watch from the tire swing on the big tree out in front of Tad’s house. “What do you think is wrong with him?” Connor asks. Connor is the youngest of the group and by far the most naïve.
Tad, his older brother by three years at twelve, rolls his eyes.
“Duh, stupid. He’s a retard,” Pete says. Pete is the largest of the clan.
“Hey, don’t call my brother stupid. I’m the only one allowed to do that,” Tad tells Pete.
“Well, he is. Anyone can see that dude’s a retard. Even my own dumb ass little brother can see that, can’t you, Joey?”
Tad knows it’s wrong to make fun of the man sitting on the street corner. Occasionally the man gets up and tries to help the movers by taking something from the truck to put inside. The woman with him says, “Sit down, Brother Man.”
“Please, Sister Girl. Please let me help.”
“No. Now sit down,” she says.
“And what’s up with that Brother Man crap,” Pete says a little too loudly.
“Why don’t you leave it alone? My mom already came out once and told us to quit staring.” Tad gives Pete his best dirty look. The one, that always seems to wind him up in his room when he pulls it on his mom.
“So. Dude’s a retard. He’s funny to watch. Look at him over there drooling and throwing rocks.”
“You know Pete, I feel really sorry for you that your life is so mundane that you have to insult those who appear to have less intellect than yourself. However, I’m certain even with the spit spewing from his mouth, that man over there is far more intelligent than you could ever hope to be,” Tad says feeling quite smug at his own intellect to come up with such a put-down. He loves insulting Pete who is famous around the neighborhood for using his fists to get his way. But Tad’s brainpower never ceases to put the other kids to shame.
“Are you making fun of me, Tad? 'Cause if you are, I’m gonna kick your ass.”
“Well, Tad, I’ll let you decipher whether or not I am, in fact, insulting you. And as far as kicking my ass, I’m afraid to inform you that I don’t have one.”
“Huh?” Pete’s mouth drops open.
“But I do think my uncle in Washington does.”
“What the heck is he saying?”
“Donkey. He means donkey,” Connor tells him.
Tad smiles at his little brother who is usually a bit slow on the uptake.
“Hey, is your mom making cookies?” Joey asks.
“No, brownies,” Connor replies.
With the topic changing to food, Pete quickly forgets the man across the street and Tad’s insults. “Let’s go get some.”
Tad follows the other boys into the house. Sting’s voice blares over the stereo in the family room. The boys enter the kitchen. It smells like a bakery. Tad’s stomach growls at the buttery, chocolaty smell. Raquel Andrews turns around with baby Hope on her hip. Flour is spread across both their mom’s and Hope’s faces. The dishes from breakfast are stacked up high, and the place is pretty much a disaster, as is Tad and Connor’s mom. But, God, Tad loves his mom. She is the best.
Sure, she can be totally annoying, and she is a little kooky to say the least, but he loves her all the same and knows that their lives couldn’t function without her. She is what Tad refers to as "the glue." She keeps them all together, and maybe it is because she’s a total nut.
Baby Hope giggles at the sight of her brothers and their friends. Mom smiles. “Hi guys. Want some brownies?” Thank God, that Mom has obviously already had her Prozac, otherwise the offer for brownies wouldn’t have been remotely possible, and she could’ve been crying over all the dishes she has yet to wash. Yes, Tad does love mom.
“So, the new neighbors about moved in?” Mom asks.
“Guess so,” Tad answers, acting as if they hadn’t been watching the activities from across the street all morning.
Hope reaches up and pulls their mom’s hair. “Ouch, no no, baby.” As she pries the baby’s fingers from her hair, she accidentally knocks the mixing bowl off the table. “Oh shit.” The boys laugh. “Oh God, okay guys get your brownies and go back outside.”
“I think she pooped Mom.”
“Thanks Connor, now go, go!”
The boys grab more than a handful of brownies each and head back outside. Tad feels kind of guilty about all his mom does for him, Connor and their buddies. He is the leader of the neighborhood boys, kind of like a real life Harry Potter without the magic. But he’s sure he could convince these knuckleheads if he wanted that he was capable of performing any amount of magic tricks.
He did at one point have them believing that he’d put a spell on Mr. Dick next door, and that was why the dude never seemed happy. It was all just crap, but hey, when you’re dealing with guys who are lacking in the brain department you do certain things just for the kick of it.
On any given day after school, and all day on the weekends there could be anywhere from four to ten boys tramping in and out of Tad’s house. His mom does her best to supply them with goodies and keep her sanity as his ten- month-old sister screams constantly for her attention. Tad can see his mom struggle during these times. She tries really hard to put on a happy face and assure the neighbors that, “It’s really okay their kids are all over playing, screwing up her house, so that Tad’s step-dad Austen can freak out on her and all of them. Which is something Austen does on an every other day basis. Tad does feel bad about that. He doesn’t like to hear Austen carry on at his mom.
But the facts are his house is the best and his mom is the coolest in the neighborhood. No one else’s mom let’s them jump on the beds. Well, neither does Tad’s mom. It’s just when she gets mad, it’s not totally believable.
However, having the coolest mom in town does have some drawbacks, like she does way too much yoga--so much so that his friends stand at the window and watch her. “Quit checking out my mom,” he finds himself yelling, ready to go ninja on them if he needs to.
She also gets pretty frustrated at times with all the kids and when she does she usually yells at Tad, opens a bottle of Merlot and puts some crappy eighties music on and dances around their family room, with Hope giggling and doing her version of dancing, too.
But Tad does understand his mom--kind of. He used to understand her better, but since she married Austen she’s a little more psycho and a lot stricter. Tad thinks of the good old days often with fond memories of when he could easily manipulate his mom into getting pretty much anything he wanted. That was because mom felt guilty about leaving their dad. But Tad doesn’t blame her. He’s figured out his dad’s deal. He’s thirty-nine, going on twenty. A blonde with big boobs is always at his side and Tad and Connor are a convenience when he wants to impress one of these brain-dead, blonde, fake boobed women that he is a family man.
Now mom is married to Austen. And, with all of Austen’s quirks, Tad does know that his step-dad is a family man. Some days Tad thinks that Austen is a real pain in the butt, because if Tad could have it his way he’d be the boss of the household. But Tad has learned over the last few years that isn’t possible. He’s continually reminded of his status as a twelve-year-old boy.
Austen is the all American pie guy who digs sports, watches football religiously on Sundays, and plays golf for fun. He’s not always at home because he’s a pilot and that can be cool because Mom’s not so strict when Austen isn’t around.
Austen was raised military style and mom is so not military, that their biggest fights are always about the way the house should be run. Tad thinks mom always seems to win these squirmishes because her points make the most sense. Tad knows that Austen is a better dad, because Mom has made him one. And, if truth were told, Mom is a better mom because of Austen. Tad has recently been considering calling him Dad. Especially since he did the coolest thing last week.
Connor came home filled with excitement over selling wrapping paper for his school. He could earn some gay Digimon thing, and begged Tad to go around with him. “I’ll let you have my Playstation time, if you go with me.”
Tad agreed because Playstation is as close to being God as possible.
The first door they knocked on was Mr. Dick’s. Before, Connor even got the words out; Mr. Dick slammed the door on their faces. It wasn’t like a “No thank you,” or an even, “I’m not interested.” It was open the door look down at Tad and Connor who looks like a freaking commercial kid and Mr. Dick says, “What?”
And before the boys can explain what they’re doing he slams the door in their faces. Tad says, “What a jerk.” And Connor busts out in tears. Austen was home; Mom was at some art class. So Austen walked over carrying Hope. Connor and Tad followed and hid behind Mr. Dick’s front bushes. Austen knocked on the door. “Mrs. Dick answered this time. She’s hot—blonde, long legs, blue, blue eyes. The boys in the neighborhood can’t decide who they like better--Mrs. Dick or Tad’s mom.
“Hi Stella, is your husband here?” Austen said.
“Sure,” she said smiling. Tad thinks Stella likes Austen, but Tad knows that Austen only likes--no loves Mom.
“Richard, Austen is here to see you.”
Mr. Dick came to the door still dressed in his button down and tie.
“Hey Richard, how’s it going?”
Tad thought that Mr. Dick looked irritated.
“Good, hey look my boys just came home and my youngest was crying. I’m sure it’s all a big mistake, you know, he’s a little sensitive. Anyway I was wondering did you yell at the kids and slam the door in their face?”
“I guess I did.”
“Don’t you think that was kind of rude? They are only kids. They were trying to sell something for school, granted you didn’t need to buy anything but a simple “no thank you,” would’ve really been the right thing to do.”
“Let me tell you something, Austen, my wife and I have lived here a lot longer than you and your bratty kids. Every fucking Saturday and Sunday, in fact, every day for that matter those kids of yours scream and holler and run around this neighborhood like banjees. They drive me up the fucking wall. And your crazy ass wife makes too much goddamned noise, as well. I can hear her playing her music and singing out loud like she thinks she’s fucking Madonna or something. And that baby of yours, well pal, it might be nice of you tried getting her to shut up too, once in awhile. Maybe you should try and control that brood of yours a little better.”
Tad had never seen blood rise so quickly from anyone. One minute Austen was his normal color and the next he was purple. “Tad come here, please,” he said, his voice shaking.
Tad came out of the bushes. “Take your sister please.” Austen handed Hope to Tad. “Now go back to the house. I’ll be right there.” Fat chance of that. Tad wasn’t going anywhere. He took Hope and stood back behind the bushes and watched while his little sister pulled his hair and laughed as his step-dad cold-clocked Mr. Dick right in the face.
“Ooh, that hurt, that definitely hurt,” Connor said bringing his hand up to his own face. Mr. Dick fell over backwards and scrambled to get on his feet. Mrs. Dick yelled, blood spewed all over coming from Mr. Dick’s mouth. Tad tried not to laugh but that was impossible. Mr. Dick yelled something about calling the cops and Austen yelled back, “Next time buy some magazines from my kids!”
He plucked Hope out of Tad’s arms and said, “Come on boys.”
“It was wrapping paper, Austen,” Connor said.
“What?” Austen asked.
“I was selling wrapping paper, not magazines.”
“That was so cool, Dad,” Tad said. “I can’t wait to tell the guys!”
Austen looked down at him, a smile spread across his face, “That was pretty cool, huh?”
“Yeah, you like totally kicked his butt.”
Austen ruffled Tad’s hair. Connor hugged him, and said, “Thanks. No one has ever stuck up for me.”
“That’s what I’m here for buddy,” Austen said.
The cops showed up at the house half-hour later, just as Mom walked through the door, covered in paint. “What’s going on?”
“Tad fill your mother in, and Rocky, I’m going to need you to pay my bail.”
Tad told his mom everything as the cops drove Austen away. Tad was shocked that Austen had been so calm the whole time the cops were there. He was nice and explained why he’d done it. Tad could see that the cops even had empathy. They were family men, too.
Tad knew his mom was upset, but also got the feeling that she was proud of Austen. Mr. Dick was a dick and everyone knew it. Except now his parents had received some papers saying the Dicks were suing them.
Mom has started turning up her eighties music even louder and encouraging the boys to wrestle on the side-lawn facing the Dicks. Austen is trying hard to remain cool, allowing the boys to play rougher than normal. He has achieved the status of hero amongst the boys in the neighborhood, and with that seems to have come a more tolerant step-dad.
As the boys hoop and holler, swinging each other back and forth on the tire swing, Tad notices Mr. Dick watching the man across the street. He hopes Mr. Dick doesn’t turn his anger towards the poor man and berate him like he does to all the kids. He hopes he’ll leave the man alone. But looking at him right now and seeing the sneer on Mr. Dick’s face, Tad feels certain that Mr. Dick will not be leaving the man alone.