I totally had my Sunday Sample prepared last night, then realized this morning I’d only saved it as a draft. >.< So, here’s my Sunday Sample… on Monday!
I poke around my old writing quite a bit – sometimes to remind myself that I’m not as terrible as I think I am, and sometimes to look for inspiration or a new project to work on. While I was reading through some older stuff, I found this scene that made me smile. It is meant to be part of a young adult novel about a 17-year-old homeless boy who’d been booted from his home after he told his dad he was gay.
Got another post I’m working on for this evening, but for now this will have to do! =)
I leaned up against a wall across from a convenience store and pressed on my aching stomach. I’d been standing here so long, pretty soon someone would chase me away for loitering. Every time someone passed me, I wondered if they could read my thoughts, or see my life written on my face. But I never got a second glance.
For the last half hour I’d been eyeballing the corner store and the Subway next to it. My stomach felt like it was trying to eat itself. Never thought I’d contemplate theft, but the option became very real when I ran out of money three days ago.
The pounding in my head made it hard to think straight. My stomach roared, and I pushed my fist into my gut. I shut my eyes against a flash of dizziness. When I opened them again, I watched in envy as two more customers went into Subway – a girl wearing a pink bikini top and shorts, and a kid who actually reminded me of myself, wearing a dark beanie and tucking a skateboard under his arm.
Maybe it was the hunger, but at that moment I had an odd sensation come over me. I witnessed all these people going about their daily lives – people with jobs, money, friends, homes – and I felt a sort of detachment. They had no idea how lucky they were. Too many people went through life without appreciation, always grasping for more, never satisfied. They didn’t even look twice at those of us who yearned for just the tiniest fraction of what they had.
A shout from across the street pulled my attention. The kid with the skateboard came flying across the street, Subway bag in hand. He brushed past me and skidded around the corner.
An employee in a green polo shirt ran outside and stopped on the sidewalking to search my side of the street. His face darkened and he ran straight toward me. Well, lumbered, really. He pointed and shouted, “Stop that kid!”
A shirtless guy who looked a lot like Thor in swim trunks and sandals dashed across the street to play the good citizen. It was then that I realized how I looked to them: Exactly like the kid that had just pilfered his sandwich.
“Shit,” I hissed. I spun and hauled ass around the corner.
I thought maybe the sandals would slow Thor down, but a glance back showed me he was closing the gap between us. Maybe they were some kind of crazy Odin-issued super sandals.
Or maybe I was delirious.
Either way, I booked it. I turned another corner and slipped between a Wings and a pizzeria, shouting apologies behind me whenever I bumped into someone.
This guy was serious. He pumped his arms in a tireless rhythm. It was just a sandwich. He didn’t even work there. Just some random do-gooder surfer guy.
Part of me wondered why I ran. Why the hell didn’t I just tell them it wasn’t me? But another part of me rooted for the kid to get away with his sandwich. His delicious, freshly-made Subway sandwich. My gut screamed at me.
I didn’t have much energy left – I started to feel dizzy again, and a surge of bile ran up my throat.
Please don’t barf, I pleaded with myself. Not that anything would come up. But it would slow me down.
In front of me, a hand shot out from behind a wall and grabbed a fistful of my jacket. I lurched into an alcove as I was yanked around the corner. The Subway thief shoved me up against the wall behind a decorative pillar. I grunted with the impact. My mouth opened to yell at him – or throw up all over his shoes, whichever – but he lifted his index finger to his lips.
For some reason, I obeyed. I could hear Thor’s sandals slapping on the asphalt as he ran past. The noise slowed to a stop. The kid pinning me to the wall risked a peek around the pillar. He stood motionless like that and I just concentrated on controlling my breathing.
As my heartbeat calmed down, he flashed a triumphant grin at me. His eyes – the bluest eyes I’d ever seen in my life – gleamed with excitement.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” he said. He let me go and straightened my jacket. “Didn’t mean for them to go after you.”
“Don’t worry about it.” My vision blurred and I sagged, sliding to the ground on weakened legs. I rested my head on my knees, and vomiting became a probability.
“You okay?” The kid crouched down in front of me. God damn, his eyes were blue.
“Y-yeah,” I said. “Gimme a minute.” An angry growl filled our little alcove, and he looked down at my stomach.
“Here,” he said. He untucked the half-smashed Subway bag from under his arm, unwrapped it, and held out half of the sandwich.
I stared, first at him, then at the offering. I didn’t know if I should take it.
“Turkey,” the boy said. He waved the food in front of my face with a smile that said, “Come on, you know you want it.”
My hand trembled as I took it. I murmured my thanks and took a small bite, leaning back up against the wall.
“No prob,” he said. “You look like you ain’t eaten in a while.” He took a bite and leaned up next to me. “And you worked for that shit as much as I did.”
I had to laugh.
“I’m Liam,” he said.
I took his outstretched hand and shook it. “Eric.”
We ate in silence for a while. I tried to take my time to savor the sandwich, but before long I shoved the last bit into my mouth and stared at my empty hand. Who knew turkey, lettuce, and tomato on wheat bread could be so heavenly. I could only hope it would stay down in my stomach, where it belonged.
I glanced over at my companion and chuckled when he picked at the tiny bits of shredded lettuce stuck to the paper wrapper.
After a moment, he sighed and rolled his head to the side to look at me. “Wanna split the paper?”
My laughter echoed in the small space. It had been a while since I laughed like that.
“So, Eric,” he said. “How long you been on the street?”
I blinked. How did he know that?
“Seen you around lately,” he said in answer to my unspoken question. “You’re new at this, huh?”
Looking myself over, I wondered if it was that obvious to everyone that I was homeless. “Yeah,” I said. “Maybe two months.”
“First few weeks are easy,” he said. “Then you wake up one day under a bush in a parking lot and think, ‘Fuck. This is real.’”
That revelation had hit me this morning – my third day with no more than a few crackers I unearthed from the bottom of my backpack that must have slipped out of the package a while ago.
Curiosity got the better of me. “How long for you?”
Liam took a deep breath and crossed his legs on top of his skateboard like it was a footstool. “Two years?”
“Holy shit,” I said. Was I going to be out here for two years? Five? Forever?
“Yeah,” Liam said. “Thinkin’ about workin’ on my bum beard.” He stroked his face, and I laughed again.
“How old are you?” I asked. He couldn’t be much older than me.
“Nineteen,” he said. He jerked his chin in my direction, batting the question back to me.
Liam nodded. He shrugged his backpack off and opened it, producing a plastic water bottle. He opened it and offered it to me.
I took it with thanks, trying not to drink too much of it. At least I’d never go thirsty; if I had to be homeless, I was glad it could be here, by the beach. Had a bathroom and a free shower with all the ice-cold water I could ever want.
A sense of camaraderie came over me. Having company might make my life a little less shitty, especially if it was someone who knew what I was going through. I sent a silent prayer up into the cosmos that Liam wouldn’t bail on me after our shared lunch. No one ever talked to me – their eyes just slid over me like I was furniture. It felt good to be treated as a normal person.
Even though I’d only known Liam for all of thirty minutes, a tiny tendril of fear crept up my spine at the thought of facing the world alone again.
Liam backhanded me on the shoulder, jolting me out of my thoughts. “Come on,” he said.
I staggered to my feet, legs feeling a little sore. “Where?”
He only shrugged. “Wherever,” he said.
I poked my head around the pillar. “Think Thor’s gone?”
“Thor…? Oh!” An amused light filled his eyes and he doubled over laughing with a hand on his stomach. He patted my shoulder as he stepped out of the alcove, still chuckling.
“Hey, thanks again for the sandwich.” I felt a million times better than I had an hour ago, though I thought I could have eaten about ten more sandwiches and still have been hungry.
We wandered toward the boardwalk closer to the beach, boards tucked under our arms. We made a wide circle around Subway and kept an eye out for Thor.