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The Acolyte


The kids on the bus and at school are just people I talk to during the day. Some of them are
actually pretty cool to me, unless I happen to be the target of the day, in which case I can only count
on them to follow the crowd. My real friends, though, the ones that really matter, are online. They
are others like me, scattered around the world, who prefer our electronic lives over those we
actually live. They don't care what I look like, how tall I am, or what my grades are.
But, I'm drifting.
I try to bring the feeling back again. In my mind I run down the street, fallen leaves
crunching beneath my feet, as soon as the bus pulls away. I cut through the neighbor’s lawn even
though I'll get yelled at about it later. I try to see the old lady that lives there in my mind, standing in
the kitchen window, as I run down the back of her house.
I make it home, and after checking the mailbox, I burst through the front door and yell for
my mother.
"Mom?"
"I'm in the kitchen."
I drop my book bag on the couch, another thing that I will get yelled at for. "Did my game
come?"
"Yes," she says. "It's over there on the counter." She points across the kitchen to a pile of
mail sitting next to the sink. I can't believe it.
"Geez, Mom. What if it would have fell in the sink?"
"It wasn't going to--"
"Mom," I say, "Look at me." She half-heartedly glances over her shoulder in my direction.
"Do you know how many months I've been waiting to play this game?" Clearly she has no idea. I
thought that she would know me a little bit better by now.
"No," she says, "but I know how much your father and I paid for it."
Ugh. She always had to bring up that part of it. "Fine. Where's the controller?"
She does turn around to look at me then. "Ohhh...I'm sorry. I forgot."
"Jesus Christ, Mom."
"Jesus Christ, Brian. I said I was sorry."
I open my eyes.
The little girl across the aisle begins to cry. Nadine, her mother called her. She can't be more
than four or five. Her mother tries unsuccessfully to prevent an outburst, but the child is adamant
about whatever it was that she wants. Probably food, if I had to guess.
Nadine and her mother are filthy and their clothes are worn and tattered. The garbage smell
that now fills the air is more tolerable than the decaying old man smell, but it is still enough to make
me pull my shirt up over my nose and silently curse my Uncle Dylan.
I don't know much about him, but I know that he is successful doing something. From what
I heard Mom telling Aunt Linda, I am pretty sure that he could've sprung for a plane ticket without
hurting his pocketbook too much. Besides that, my father has money as well. I understand that he's
not here to get it from the bank, but surely there was some kind of system in place for just this kind
of emergency.
His agent, Walter, could have even loaned it to me. My father has written several successful
fiction novels, vampire and monster stuff. And he is constantly in his office writing, so I'm sure that
another one is on the way. Which means Walter would have another paycheck on the way. I
wouldn't need much, a couple hundred to last me until my parents came back. Was that too much to
ask after all the money he and my father have made together?
Nadine's cries lower to a soft whimper and she curls up in her seat. She rests her head in her
mother's lap and stares at the seat in front of her, thumb firmly in mouth. Watching her mother
stroke her hair makes me a little envious. That's when the first wave of despair falls over me and I
shamefully remember how the rest of Friday went.
I had not been quick to forgive that day. Mom and I stood in the kitchen and screamed at
each other for another ten minutes about that damned controller. After that I went to my room and
played for hours. Mom came up at some point to tell me that dinner was ready, but I refused.
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