Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)
TITLE: Fourth Grade in the Fall
By Carol Scott
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“You do!” exclaimed her mother, helping Abbie remove her backpack. “That sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll bet you have a permission slip somewhere in here for me or Daddy to sign, don’t you?”
Abbie, now somewhat breathless in the aftermath of dispatching her news, nodded and began to unzip the pack. “And you can come along to chaperone if you want. It’s on a Tuesday.”
“Well, that sounds like a lot of fun,” replied her mother. “I’m sure at least one of us should be able to arrange for a day off to pick out pumpkins and apples.”
“And don’t forget the gourds and Indian corn,” Abigail reminded her. “We always get those.”
Smiling, Mama nodded and said, “Maybe we should save some of those things for our family trip to the orchards. You know we go at least once a year. And we wouldn’t want the other children to feel sad if they didn’t bring back as many things as we do, would we?”
“No, I guess not,” Abby replied thoughtfully. “But I didn’t even mention the apple cider and the fresh apple pies, or the caramel apples. And we always, always get some of those.”
“Don’t worry,” smiled Mother. “I’m sure we’ll get a little bit of everything, just like we always do.”
Abigail smiled contentedly and sat down to begin her homework in order to finish early and still have some daylight to spend outdoors with her friends.
In another city in another state, the boy who would someday become Abigail’s husband peeled himself cautiously off the ground as soon as he knew the boys who had knocked him down were far enough away not to notice. The dry leaves clung to his clothing, along with a coating of fine dust that had been kicked up during the attack. Tyrell couldn’t help it that one of his brothers had made them angry again. It wasn’t his business. Someday it would be, he knew. Someday, not too long from now, he would have to stand up for himself against the other kids on the streets, or he would end up with a lot more than a bloody nose and a black eye.
But Granny wouldn’t notice Tyrell’s injuries as much as the torn shirt. She had told him to keep it decent because it might be the only new one he would have until next spring. The thought of wearing old clothes most of the time didn’t bother Tyrell much; it was really the only thing he knew. If some of his things from last year still fit, he could use them again, and everything else would be his brothers’ old clothes. If he had to turn up a cuff on the pants for a few months until he grew a bit taller, so much the better; they’d last a little longer that way. At least he had this one new outfit, which was more than he could say most years when he was living at home with his mother. One year he had asked if Santa Claus might bring him a new shirt for Christmas, and she had just laughed in his face. “Don’t no Santy Claus come to no ghetto,” she’d said. “They ain’t no Santy Claus’d ever dare t’ set foot in this place.” Then she’d slapped him across the cheek for asking.
Living with Granny was better. Now Tyrell could eat an entire bowl of cereal by himself. Back at Ma’s house, he had to share the milk with his brothers, youngest to oldest. They used a fork and got their cereal out, then passed it to the next in line. Claude always got the milk because he was the oldest. The boys still made him bring most of his hot lunch home from school for them so they could eat the meat. Sometimes they let him have the vegetable, but the meat was always theirs.
So now, dirty, bruised and chilly, Tyrell scuffled through the leaves to Granny’s, hoping he might find an apple somewhere in the house so he could eat today.
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