Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Extra (08/29/13)
- TITLE: Outside Looking In
By Mike Newman
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He had done the homework three nights ago while he listened to Brahms' 2nd Symphony and his parent's fight. He had heard both countless times before, but he thought the Brahms piece had a better shelf life.
His father had provided the note last night along with an ill-disguised look of disgust. At forty-two his dad played rugby and spent lunch hours on a treadmill. Tommy imagined him running nowhere and trying to wrap his head around how his son had fallen out of the family tree without hitting a single athletic branch on the way down.
The gun? That was a gift.
On an art-class trip to New York last spring (where he managed to get both his heart and his jaw broken) he noticed a casting call on a flyer taped inside a bus stop shelter. Woody Allen was shooting and needed extras for a scene on Fulton Street. He was paying eight bucks an hour; Tommy had been scenery his entire life ... and had been doing it for free.
On the trip home from NYC his thoughts turned to guns. His dad had purchased a handgun as an in with the boss, who split his evenings between the range and the bar. When his dad found that the nights at the bar were more to his liking, the gun got comfortable in its lockbox home. It still came out one night a week for cleaning; a ritual that Tommy suspected was maintained so that his father could continue to refer to himself as a gun enthusiast. Tommy expressed interest and his father, eager to feed any inclination fitting his version of manliness, bought him a gun. When his dad's enthusiasm waned and he returned his focus to women-not-his-mother and the Red Sox, the gun remained.
He planned to arrive early to first period, turn in his Physics paper (hopefully get Mr. Olsen's feedback on it before class begins), use his note to bail on gym, kill three people and then himself.
He shouldered the pack, closed the door behind him, and angled through the yard on grass mown short and wetted by overnight rain. Before he hit the walk and turned east up Chelmsford his mother had called from her upstairs window.
"Seriously Tommy, we bother you with what, like ... three rules? And you still manage to break them? How difficult is it to stay off the grass?"
"You rarely bother with me at all."
She moved from the window and either did not hear this or found it unworthy of a response. If he had always been an extra in the movie of his life, his mother was a castaway on the cutting room floor.
He could cut his walk in half by taking the path that ran between houses where Chelmsford bends south, but that takes him by Mrs. Wood. He stopped when the break in the fence appeared.
It was the same every morning. Part of him (the part past consolation, bent only on getting even) thought of her as a crazy old lady who pestered him with Jesus talk, and would go out of his way to avoid her. That day, like so many others, he manufactured a reason why he needed to make up time and took the shortcut.
Mrs. Wood was waiting for him. "Good mornin' sweetie!"
"Morning Mrs. Wood." The part of him that had wanted to go around and avoid this told him that no one is this sickly sweet. She can not mean the stuff she says when she knows so little about me. Another part, thirsty for someone to notice him, someone who wanted to see how this movie turned out, wished that this path went on forever.
"I know you got school, and you're always rushin' to get there, but why don't ya come in? I won't keep you but a few. Breakfast is 'bout ready and I have an extra plate with your name on it!"
Tommy looked up the path and saw a corner of the parking lot of Spruce Hill High, already busy with cars. He turned to Mrs. Wood, her head cocked at an angle, smiling her question at him. He headed up her walk, slipped his pack from his shoulder down to his hand, and hoped she found a reason to peer inside.
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