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The Acolyte


"I'm not hungry," I said.
"But your father is here and waiting for you."
"What do you mean my father's here?" I demanded. "He's been here all day and hasn't
wanted to see me."
Mom's shoulders slumped and she let out a long sigh. "You know he has to work. If he had
any other job, he would be gone all day."
"He might as well be."
"Please, come down for dinner," she said.
But I never went. By the time I got hungry enough to pause the game and venture into the
kitchen, my parents were already in bed. I ate a leftover meatloaf sandwich and went back up to my
room. I played Galaxy Wars until I passed out with the controller still in my hand. The next morning
there was a note on the refrigerator from Mom telling me that she and Dad had gone shopping for
the day. That was nothing unusual. They often used their Saturdays to "window shop" as my Mom
called it. Basically walk around the mall and look at things that they wanted, and could afford to
get, but couldn't stand to pay the asking price for. Most Saturdays they were back by early afternoon
and Dad would be back in his office, not to be seen until dinner. Once or twice they stayed out into
the evening, but Mom had always called if they wouldn't be home until after dark.
I suppose a better son might have been concerned to come out of his room to find a dark and
empty house. Dinner hadn't been cooked, but there were still leftovers in the fridge, so I grabbed up
an armful of plastic containers and soda cans and went back up to my room. I didn't even look
outside to see if their car was back in the driveway.
Nadine begins to snivel again and she turns her head to look up at her mother. "Mommy."
Her voice is a high pitched quiver. "I'm really hungry."
Her mother leans her head down close and whispers. "I know, baby. We'll try to find
something at the next stop."
I am pretty sure that by that she meant that the two of them would get off the bus, search for
the nearest restaurant, and take a walk out back. Nadine's mother would probably hop into the
dumpster and search for anything that was salvageable enough to make her daughter's hunger go
away. I wish I could say that my first thought is selfless and noble, but it isn't. My first thought is
that they would get back on the bus and smell worse than they do now. My second thought is of my
uncle. Maybe he was too cheap to give to someone in need, to make their life a little easier, but I'm
not. I ate before I got on the bus, and was wise enough to pack a “survival kit.” Granted, the bulk of
it consists of my laptop, my hand-held game system, a few extra games, and a tangle of power
cords, but there are also two candy bars in there. I reach under the seat, take them from my book
bag and lean over the aisle toward Nadine.
"Hey," I whisper and tap her on the leg.
She turns to look at me. Her cheeks are pink and clean where she has used her shirt sleeve
and tears to scrub the grime away. The rest of her face is just as filthy as the rest of her, though. I
hold the candy bars out to her. She smiles, but then stops to look up at her mother for permission to
take them. Her mother nods and Nadine grabs the candy from my hand. She rips the wrapper from
one with her teeth almost immediately.
"Thank you," her mother says.
"Yeah, Thanks," Nadine says with her mouth full of chocolate. A half of a slimy peanut rolls
out of her mouth as she says it.
"You're welcome."
I lean back and check my cell phone. For now, I have enough service to play some multi-
player games, but that might not last. I still have several hours of bus ride ahead of me, so I plug in
my ear buds and load up the zombie-shooter that I downloaded the last time I had service.
Hopefully I can waste the rest of the ride killing the undead, assuming I continue having service or
the battery doesn't run out.
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