Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Hunter’s Son by BE Jewell (Excerpt)

Chapter 3

“G’morning kiddo,” James says instantly regretting it. The last time he called his son something other than “Hey You” or JC was last year when JC missed curfew.

“What’s good about the first day of school, Dad?” JC mumbles as he walks into the kitchen. “I didn’t expect to see you before I left this morning. I went to bed after midnight and you still weren’t home. I thought last night’s job was supposed to be quick.”

“Yeah sorry about that. Ran a bit later than I thought it would. Want some breakfast?” James holds up a pan with some burnt goo mildly resembling scrambled eggs.

“Ummm…I guess. I was just gonna nuke something. Since when do you make breakfast?” JC asks. He tries to hide his astonishment, but his eyes are open way too wide.

“Oh, well, I haven’t been to sleep yet and figured you might want it for your first day. Got to make a good first impression,” James says with too much energy.

He moves awkwardly around the stove. The spatula in his hand flops back and forth between too many pans. Eggs and grease slop all over the stove. It looks like more than a few shells will end up on the plate.

“So anyway, why’d you pick this place to start cooking? We had that huge kitchen back in St. Louis and you never touched anything in it,” JC says with a smirk and sits down at the kitchen table near the door.

“It’s not that small. We’ve had much smaller places. Get ready, it’s almost done.”

JC looks around at the small box of a room with its terrible yellow-colored walls spotted with age. The room is so small it makes JC want to get to school, which is saying something. It’s much smaller than the rest of the house. But at least it doesn’t feel stale like those huge rentals they usually live in with their white walls and breakable decorations. They always seemed more like a psych ward than a home.

“Doesn’t matter I guess. My room is big enough. Got the entertainment center set up last night. And the living room looks great. I like the sofa you rented,” JC says with no response from his dad. He looks down at the table and picks at a big scratch in the finish. “So how did it go last night anyway?”

“JC, you know I can’t tell you about my job. We went over this yesterday. Security clearance and all that. It’s best if you just don’t ask. We’ll unpack the boxes tonight when you get home from school. Now eat.”

With that, James shoves a huge plate of burnt eggs and bacon in front of JC. He eats what he can with as much gratitude as he can muster. An egg shell crunches between his teeth, and he finally gives up. He drops his fork on the plate with a loud clink and stands up. He grabs his bag and walks toward the door, but stops abruptly. A feeling that he should say something hangs in the air. But feelings are not discussed in this house. Every conversation should have “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” as its main components.

He stands near the doorway with his shoulders slumped and his hand on the knob. No words will come out. He turns the knob and starts to walk out, all the while saying a little prayer in his head that his dad will keep doing the dishes in the washtub sink. He takes one step out and the sound of his dad’s voice nearly makes him trip over his own feet.

“Look son, I’m sorry. I know I should have come home last night like I said but sometimes being an adult means you have to do things that you don’t want to. I know some day you’ll understand all this. Hopefully someday soon. Anyway, Happy Birthday. I have to leave early this afternoon for work. I’m going to leave your present here on the table.”

It hits him like a hammer. His birthday. His birthday explains his dad’s motivation more than a sudden want to be a good father. How could he possibly forget? Most kids look at their sixteenth birthday as a rite of passage. They get their driver’s license or have a huge party to try to get on some stupid reality TV show. JC’s license already burns a hole in his pocket. He got it a state or two ago at when he turned 15. And if he has a big party with a bunch of TV cameras, they would be shooting an empty room because he does not know a soul in this town. A mix of sadness and embarrassment burns through his face. His whole body feels hot. Maybe the dishes are enough of a distraction that his dad won’t notice.

The only birthday JC can really remember was in Phoenix, AZ. He turned ten that day. It was 80 degrees outside. The hottest birthday he ever had. His dad took him to see a baseball game. He can’t remember the score or what teams were playing, but he remembers the feeling of being there with his dad at the park. He got a hot dog and a big soda, probably the biggest his dad ever let him have. But, of course he spilled it all over the people sitting in front of him. His dad was not pleased and he ended up having to go to the merchandise table to get the people new t-shirts. There were no toys, just his dad. Since then it has been year after year of gadgets and electronics for presents. All of them left on the table with twenty dollars for a pizza. It looks like this year will be no different, except he might get extra cheese this time.

“Um thanks. I…um…gotta go,” JC says, contemplating what piece of electronic garbage he will get this year.

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Genre – YA Supernatural Thriller

Rating – PG13

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