Brandon Jones pulled the stocking cap over his ears. He opened the door with his gloved hand and left the church for the walk home. It was cold outside with a light snow fluttering to the ground. Maybe this year we’ll have a white Christmas.
Once he heard the heavy wooden door slam shut behind him, his demeanor changed abruptly. The jovial smiling boy sitting in the choir loft rehearsing the Christmas song repertoire with the other members of the choir was replaced by the sad dour face of a young teenager deep in thought.
He barely felt the bitter cold as he rehashed in his thoughts what has been going on in school, recently. Today was the worst. He could handle the name calling, books being slapped out of his hands, even the activity the cackling boys solicited from the initials of his name. But, when things turned physical, he didn’t understand what he did to illicit such hatred. Three boys had cornered him in the showers after gym and streamed their liquid waste all over him as he crouched to the floor. Boys he had known since grade school.
He always knew he was different than the other kids in school, but it didn’t seem to matter in elementary school. He was quiet, very bright in class, but athleticism was nowhere to be found. Middle school was three years of nightmares. Brandon thought that once he moved on to the high school, everything would get better. He was wrong.
He grew taller, exercised in his basement to lose the baby fat and cleared up his skin. Nothing he did seemed to help change the image others perceived of him. He was marked.
He didn’t mention anything to his parents because they had enough problems of their own. In this economy, Dad took a pay cut to keep his job and Mom worked two part-time jobs because she couldn’t find a full time job. They lived paycheck to paycheck and many nights he could hear them arguing in the kitchen when they thought he was asleep. He felt alone in the world.
As he turned, the corner to walk the hill heading home, Brandon smelled smoke. As he heard breaking glass, Brandon went running up the hill, and at the top saw smoke billowing from a second story window of the corner house. He grabbed his cell phone calling 9-1-1. He heard a baby cry and woman scream from inside. He placed the cell phone into his pocket as he ran up the porch stairs and into the burning building…
Matilda leaned out the front door and picked the newspaper off the front porch and closed the door behind her. She shivered as she walked back into the kitchen. She handed her husband, Wally of 42 years the newspaper she carried into the house. As she placed two slices of bread into the toaster her husband opened the newspaper and said, “Matilda, the house on the corner of Main and Center burned down last night killing four.”
“The one with the paint pealing and the shutters falling off,” she asked.
“Yes, it says here that the house was used for the manufacturing of drugs and caught fire when one of the cookers exploded.” He said.
“Drug making in our small town?”
“Two adults and an infant died on the second floor, their names pending identification. A teenager was found on the stairway, says his name was Brandon Jones.”
“Larry and Jill’s son?”
Wally scanned the remainder of the article. “Yes, that’s the one.”
“Well, I’m not surprised he turned into a druggie, he was an odd young man.”
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