Chapter 9: In The Heat Of The Night
All great things must come to an end and it finally did for the household on 1121 Dobbs Lane. The grandparents packed and went back to Texas and there was now one week left before school started. What was Aaron going to do? He would be entering the 6th grade and they would crush him if he did not try to reinvent himself.
On this particular day Rhonda was scrubbing the kitchen floor, on her hands and knees, trying to clean up the mess that the boys had made throughout the week. She sometimes wished that there were another girl around the place. Thank God her mother lived down the road. The Nelson household was a frequent stop for the Carraway clan. Rhonda had a great relationship with her mother, father, and two sisters. Her father C.B. Nelson (Gran for short) was a tall white haired man who had the strength of a lion and the gentleness of a lamb. He was the local piano tuner in town. He also owned two music stores around the corner. C.B. was a retired Air Force mechanic that loved his family, especially his grandchildren. He couldn't wait to see "the boys" each and every day. They went on fishing trips together habitually. Today was not a fishing day — it was a yard one. C.B. had his grandchildren picking up pinecones and raking pine needles into stacks.
The only boy that stayed behind with their mother was Billy. He helped his mom a little bit but then went into the woods to play with a buddy of his named Bryan Grove. The other two would have been extremely mad if they knew that their brother had gotten off pretty easy. Billy grabbed a pack of matches from the kitchen drawer and hid them in his pocket. He loved the smell of burning matches. When he went into the woods Bryan was on the ground digging a hole.
"Hey, help me out Billy. I need you to grab some leaves to stick over the hole," Bryan blurted out after he saw his friend.
"Why?" Billy responded.
"I'm making animal traps," Bryan quickly interjected.
"Cool," Billy said.
Bryan and Billy made traps for several hours until they began to get bored.
The day was winding down as the sun was setting. Aaron and Charles were tired from burning the pile of pine needles. A car pulled in to the driveway. Their mom was coming to pick them up. Aaron was so thrilled because he hated physical labor. He loved his grandparents but it seemed that they were always in the yard raking. It didn’t take long before the boys noticed that Billy was not in the car with her. They knew that he was playing outside because the boys always begged to stay home and help their mother during "work" days. This really meant that it would take about 5 seconds to clean whereas it took “All Day” to rake. It was getting dark when they opened the front door to their own house. Billy was nowhere to be found. He still had not come home yet. The boys’ rules were to be in the house by dark and it was definitely dark.
Their mother lost it. Rhonda was usually the angel and kept her cool but she had her "crazy" moments. And I mean crazy.
"Where is that boy?" Rhonda shouted. "He knows better than this. He will be grounded for Eighteeeeeennnnnn weeeeeeks!"
Just then a siren sounded. It was super loud. When the fire alarm went off in the neighborhood it meant an evacuation was underway since the national forest surrounded this area. Panic set in. The boy's dad had not come home from work, which caused the rest of the clan to go insane with fear. Danny was usually the calm one of the bunch. The Carraways began to run in every direction. The boys grabbed a few clothes and every single pet they owned — one cat, one bird, one dog, and a turtle. This was going to be an interesting trip. A door slammed in the living room and Aaron ran to see who it was.
"Mighty Dad has come to save the day," he sang.
It wasn't his dad — it was Billy. He was out of breath and his face had black stuff all over it.
"Billy, there you are," Aaron squealed with happiness. He was glad that his brother was all right. "Get your stuff there's a fire about to burn the entire neighborhood down."
Billy swiftly grabbed a bag and packed his ninja throwing stars since they were his most important possessions. Clothes, who needed clothes? When they all got outside it soon dawned on Rhonda that Danny had the vehicle. The only means of transportation to accommodate this traveling carnival was — the school bus. You're probably wondering why there was a school bus parked in the driveway, huh? The boy's mother was a teacher's assistant and the administration required them to drive. They clambered on to the bus and set off for an adventure of a lifetime.
Once the door shut the chaos began because the animals were always separated. The dog leaped for the cat that jumped for the bird that flew on top of the turtle. The animals were in pursuit of their next meal. Aaron tackled the dog while Charles blocked the cat and Billy caught the bird and then stumbled over the turtle. Their mom was driving like a maniac. Police cars were all over the roads and fire trucks could be heard just ahead. When the bus was at a stand still Rhonda yelled to be heard, "Billy, now that we have a moment, where were you?"
Billy looked nervous and started stuttering, "I, I, I, lost trrraack of time."
The subject was dropped, from that point on, because the police officer instructed Rhonda to slide her window open and then proceeded to tell them to turn left at the stop sign. It would get the family safely away from the fire that was spreading rapidly….
When they arrived at their Grandmother Lillian Nelson's house she ran out to help. She was so happy that her family was safe. Grandmother Nelson was a lady if there ever was one. She was a beautiful, sophisticated woman who always looked her best, except now. She had on her robe and curlers with a heating unit sitting on top. It looked like a shower cap. Once inside the family put the animals in different parts of the house. The dog was chained outside while the cat was placed in one of the bathrooms. The news was turned on to Channel 12 and Skip Waters reported that the weather would not be slowing the fire down anytime soon. Police had no leads on how the fire was started. A couple of days passed and the Carraways were back at home.
The forest was damaged pretty bad but thankfully the homes were safe. A loud knock came at the door. Charles opened it and saw a cop standing directly in front of him. He was nervous. I wonder if he saw me stealing that wood the other day?
"Mom, it's for you," he nervously blurted out at the top of his lungs.
His mother came out of her room and when she approached the door she was stunned at seeing the police officer.
"Yes, officer, can I help you?" she apprehensively asked.
"Do you have a son by the name of Billy Carraway?" the officer sternly replied.
"Yes, sir," she stated.
"Well, Ma’am, it looks like he might have been involved with starting the forest fire," he added.
Just then Rhonda fainted. Could Billy do something so horrible? And why didn't he say anything to anybody?

Chapter 10: In The Heat OF The Day
Boy, was Billy in trouble. Thank God the police found out that he only supplied the matches and that his friend Bryan Grove actually set the forest on fire. Well, that's at least what Billy said. He swears up and down that he didn't know that Bryan was going to do something like that--sure. Legend has it that Billy got 100 licks that day and that people from miles away could hear him screaming. Some say that to this very day you can still hear Billy's screams on a cool summer night.
It was now Saturday, just two days before school started, and the boys’ mom was already out the door. She had rented a space at the local flea market to sell homemade items. The family was trying to make some extra money to keep up with the bills. One year, in the distant past, the household income was a mere seven thousand dollars. They were forced to go on welfare and this highly embarrassed the boys.
"Mom, I'm not going into the grocery store with you since you have to give them the coupons," Aaron said derisively.
The next thing you know, his mother reached back and gave Aaron the loudest pop right across the face.
"Let me tell you something boy!" she angrily declared. "You are lucky that you have a roof over your head and clothes on your back. Who made you God's gift to the world? If your Gran heard you say that!…”
Aaron slumped down and closed his eyes without saying a word. He knew that his mother was right but he didn’t want to admit it because he was upset.
The day was beautiful and the sounds of cartoons could be heard coming from the living room. He stretched in his bed trying to wake up slowly. The light from the window was bearing down causing his eyes to be scrunched up. He rolled out of bed and stood up. He grabbed his blanket and put it around himself. He resembled E.T. at the moment. Aaron walked down the hall and dropped his blanket when he got to the bathroom. He did his business and then proceeded in washing his hands. The living room seemed soooo far away. The journey was now over as he stood in a haze looking at the television.
He-Man was on.
"By the power of Greyskull, I Have The Power!"
He then glimpsed over and realized Billy was standing next to the T.V. holding on to the antenna with some tin foil wrapped around it.
"What are you doing?" Aaron curiously inquired.
"The television is all staticky unless I do this," Billy groaned.
"I'll get you a chair," Aaron said as he walked to the kitchen.
It was not an easy task to get a chair while a blanket was also wrapped around you. He didn't want it to fall because he was in his underwear and Gremlins t-shirt. After some maneuvering he managed to get the chair over to his brother.
Saturdays were awesome. The boys usually watched Pac Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dungeons and Dragons, The Jetsons, Snorks, Smurfs, Spider Man and His Amazing Friends, Transformers, Super Friends, and Thundercats. A couple of hours passed and it was getting near lunchtime. Their dad was frying French fries on the stove and the smell was entrancing.
"Hey, let's go see your mom at the Flea Mall," Danny said to the boys.
Billy jumped up and said, "Autobots!!! Transform and rollout!!!"
Aaron and Billy robotically ran as fast as they could and then rolled to their destination--to throw on some clothes. Aaron tried to tame his hair down with some water but it was no use, it had a mind of its own. Charles was too cool for that now, even though, when the other boys were not looking, he did an Electric Boogaloo break dance. The Flea Mall in Morehead City was the 'happenin' place'. You could buy throwing stars, BB guns, and many other cool gadgets. Plus, the smell of funnel cakes and cotton candy was a true treat not to ignore. Aaron threw on his Member's Only Jacket, since it could get windy at that location, and off they went.
It was not long before the car pulled into the parking lot and the boys and their dad made their way to the booth that was occupied by their mother. Rhonda was happy to see her boys. She loved it when they came to visit. It wasn't long before they were asking for a couple of dollars to go and "play". Even though the boys knew that the family had been on welfare they never knew just how bad the finances were.
It was a grand sight to see. The place was a huge maze with tables and tables of stuff that made them get a rush just by looking at it. Aaron was going to get a throwing star since Billy and Charles had purchased one last time. Billy and Aaron still had birthday money saved up from earlier in the summer and it was beginning to burn a hole in their pocket. Billy wanted to buy a pellet gun. Aaron remembered that his brother had shot him in the butt at the end of the school year. He wouldn't shoot me with a pellet gun? He thought. Nah! Charles wanted a Led Zeppelin record although he knew that his father would disapprove. It didn’t take the trio very long to find their new "toys".
After a funnel cake and some Pepsi, it was time for them to head back home. Their mom stayed at the Flea Mall to sell, sell, sell. When they rounded the corner of Dobbs Lane. the boy's father noticed smoke. It couldn't be the "Old Jalopy", even if that was their first instinct.
"Man, I hope it's not another forest fire," Danny said as he looked behind him. "Nope, you're in the car Billy," he said with a large grin.
Billy scrunched his face to look like a bulldog and then looked the other way with his arms crossed in defense. As the Buick putted down the road, they all leaned in closer to try to get a hint at where the smoke was coming from. It looked like a house was on fire.
"Dad, could it be our house?" Aaron animatedly asked.
"No, it's too far down," Danny answered back.
The car slowly made its way down the street when they noticed a fire truck zooming by.
"Boys, I feel really sorry for them," said Danny.
Just when he was finishing his sentence, it dawned on Danny that the fire truck was now in his yard. His heart sank and the boys’ mouths dropped.
Danny parked the car and they all jumped out. And then he remembered. He had left the French fries frying on the stove before they left for the Flea Mall. The neighbor's were standing around the yard looking at the blaze before them.
"Charles, go to Mrs. Looney's house and ask if you could use her phone," Danny stated. "Call the Flea Mall and tell your mother to come home because it is an emergency."
Charles ran as fast as he could. He knew that his mother would freak out and wouldn't let him finish. And that's exactly what happened. He said "fire" and she automatically shut down. Charles ran back to the burning building and was now officially panting. The fire was under control and rapidly smothered. But half of the house was burnt down. The kitchen, dining room, and half of the living room was destroyed. Blackened soot covered the rest of the house. Rhonda arrived minutes later and once she stepped out of the taxi and onto the grass she fell to her knees. Tears began to slide down her face. She lifted her hands and cupped them to hide her weeping eyes. She sobbed and sobbed. She knew that they did not have much money and that they would not be able to replace any of their belongings.
To make matters worse the Carraways found out that their insurance was bogus. They had been ripped off which means that they would not be able to salvage the area that was burnt to the ground. A woman emerged from the crowd and walked toward Rhonda.
"Mrs. Carraway, my husband is a carpenter and he would be glad to rebuild a kitchen for you," said Mrs. Evans who lived two doors down.
Rhonda looked at her neighbor with gratitude in her eyes but she knew that they would not be able to pay for the wood or any of the labor fees.
"Thanks, Mrs. Evans, but we can't afford to pay your husband right now," Rhonda said with a quivery voice.
"My husband and I want to donate the wood and his time because we can't let your family live in a place like that," Mrs. Evans responded.
Rhonda thought about what the woman said and then humbly accepted their offer.
Thank you Lord, she silently mumbled.
School started Monday and Aaron didn’t have any new clothes to wear — so much for the MTV generation. He had just watched the movie, Can't Buy Me Love. Maybe he could get Amanda, the most popular girl at his school, to pretend to be his girlfriend. The only problem was he didn’t have any money to pay her.
At least he would have some clean clothes because they were at the dry cleaners. The Carraways had to live in a tarp-covered house for a while but as long as they had half a roof over their heads and a piece of clothing to wear they would be all right. They cleaned the soot with soot cleaner and eventually got new carpet. The neighbors were true to their word and rebuilt that part of the house many months later, but let's not jump the gun here. The new school year's just beginning.

Chapter 11: Wha’chu Talkin' ‘bout, Mamma?
The first day of school was approaching fast since Aaron was up half the night looking through a GQ magazine that his mom had picked up for him. He was searching frantically for a new look. As he turned the pages he saw the sophisticated worker (too old), the punk rocker (too much for a first day), the prep (too expensive), and the surfer (that was it). He noticed that the surfer was wearing a name brand pair of shorts called Jams. Aaron already had a pair of these. Well, not really. His grandmother Nelson had made him a pair to look just like the real thing.
And then there was the shoe issue. Bert’s Surf Shop carried the latest shoe fad, the splattered paint slip-ons. Every boy and girl in Morehead City was sporting this work of art, except Aaron. When he told his parents about the shoes it was a shock when they actually brought them home. Aaron tore the box open. He was so pumped that his parents had purchased him a pair of the coolest shoes around and then he turned them over. The name brand on the bottom of the shoe read, K-Mart. Now, who would ask to look under a shoe to guarantee that they were the real thing?
Absolutely nobody!
Aaron knew that he had his look and couldn’t wait until the school day began; which was approximately three hours away. He collapsed on his bed and fell fast asleep.
We Built This City, On Rock and Roll… began to blare as the radio alarm went off. Aaron jumped out of bed and landed on his feet with his hands sprawled out to defend himself. He looked around in every direction until he finally noticed that it was morning. Once he picked the gook out of his eyes he slowly walked over to the radio and turned it up. He began singing to the top of his lungs as he got undressed and grabbed his towel. While he was soaping up and singing he began to laugh. He remembered his favorite movie, The Lost Boys. There’s a scene in which Corey Haim is in the shower singing to the top of his lungs. He thought Corey Haim was the coolest so this had to be a good sign. After drying off he began to get dressed.
“Man, I forgot about a shirt,” Aaron muttered.
He slowly tiptoed in to his brother Charles room and grabbed an Ocean Pacific t-shirt from the closet. Aaron ran around the corner like 007 and threw the t-shirt inside of his backpack. He was safe from the fists of his brother the bully. He then walked out of the room and into the bathroom where the mirror was and took a quick look at himself. He grabbed a bottle of gel and squeezed a big glop of it into his palm. Aaron slicked his hair back and knew that something was missing. A light bulb went off inside of his head and so he ran into his room and grabbed two items. After returning to the bathroom he slammed the door. He stuck on his Panama Jack hat with a flap and dark black sunglasses. Yep, he was ‘lookin’ good.
Charles left for his first day of high school, and so Aaron took out the t-shirt he had “borrowed” from his brother and put it on. It wasn’t too long after that when the other boys walked out the front door. They were headed for their bus stop. The big yellow bus rolled around the corner and Aaron and Billy ran as fast as they could to catch up. Everyone else stood in line waiting for the bus to stop and for the doors to swing open. The boys made it in time. The lady in the driver’s seat smiled. Aaron took a deep breath due to fact that he was as nervous as all get out and said, “Hey, mom.”
Once they found an empty seat both boys sat down quietly and began to daydream about their first day of school. Aaron hoped that this was going to be a different year, a year where he would not be picked on every single day. He was tired of being scared.
“Aaron, what are you thinking about,” Billy said as he elbowed his little bro.
“Nothing,” Aaron quietly responded.
“You two over there have a mark for talking on the bus,” said a voice from beyond.
Aaron and Billy looked in the direction where the voice was coming from and saw that it belonged to a tall, wiry, thin girl with long dark brown hair who had a pad in hand and a pencil stuck in her hair?
“What,” Aaron shot back at the tall, wiry, thin girl with dark brown hair.
“I said you two over there have a mark for talking on the bus,” she mockingly stated with her head bobbing back and forth.
“You can’t do that,” Billy chimed in, “we’re the bus driver’s sons.”
“Yeah, so there,” Aaron replied in a slow, “you’re dumb” sort of way.
“Mrs. Carraway put me in charge of writing down the names of those student’s who are talking,” the tall, wiry, girl with long dark brown hair snottily remarked.
“What’s you’re name tough girl,” Aaron said in a low gangster voice.
“Michelle Johnson!” she barked.
Aaron walked toward the front of the bus and began to speak to his mother. He looked over in Michelle’s direction with big beady eyes of disbelief. Michelle stuck her nose straight up in the air and smirked.
“But mom she is mean,” Aaron whiningly said.
“She just moved in to town and she seemed really scared when I picked her up,” his mother calmly acknowledged. “I wanted to make it a little bit easier on her, Aaron. So, you better be nice.”
Aaron walked back toward his seat with glaring eyes. He definitely didn’t like the new girl and neither did his brother.
The ride was a thousand years long since they could not speak the rest of the way to school. Once Aaron started to get off the bus his mom pulled him aside.
“Aaron,” she whispered. “Please, show Michelle around today at school. I told her that you would and she thanked me. She is a very sweet girl if you will just get to know her.”
“Wha’chu talkin’ ‘bout, Mamma?” Aaron exclaimed. “Why did you do that? I want today to be the best day of my school existence and you are trying to ruin it.”
“You do look cute,” she mumbled as she pinched his cheeks. “Please, do this for me,” his mother swayed.
“O.K., Mom, but that does not mean I have to like her,” Aaron replied.
When he jumped off the steps of the bus he was thankful that his mother did not recognize the t-shirt that he was wearing because if she did and Charles found out that he had worn his clothes then Aaron’s last whereabouts would be found on a milk carton.
“Michelle, wait up,” Aaron hollered as he ran after her.
Michelle stopped and looked back and saw the kid that she had not gotten along with earlier.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said.
“Look, I know that we had a little fight back there but let’s just forget about it and start over,” Aaron grudgingly stated.
“O.K.,” Michelle replied.
They both talked about their hobbies and other interests until they arrived at the front steps of the Morehead City Middle School building. Aaron wiped away the sweat that was pouring down his face. His stomach began to ache. He glanced over at Michelle but she did not seem to be fazed at all.
“Who is your homeroom teacher?” Aaron asked.
“Mrs. Kirk,” Michelle said as she looked down at her paper.
“I have Ms. Lafayette,” said Aaron.
“All right I will see you at lunch,” he stated.
“Your mother said it would be O.K. with her if you wanted to come to my place after school and get some snacks,” Michelle apprehensively asked.
“Whatever,” Aaron nonchalantly said. “Later,” he mumbled as he walked away toward his homeroom.
BAM! Aaron bumped into this guy who looked like he should be in the 10th grade. The boy was tall with blonde hair. He was right out of a skater’s magazine. “Watch where you're going, punk,” the tall, 10th grade looking boy growled.
“Sorry,” Aaron stuttered as he got up off the ground and then noticed that his brother's shirt was ripped. He quickly ran around the big guy.
When he walked in to his homeroom class he saw the girl of his dreams: Amanda Collins. She resembled Alyssa Milano and Aaron loved some Alyssa Milano. Amanda turned her head to see who came through the door and then turned back around and resumed talking with her friends. She was standing with two snotty brats that he could not stand: Natalie Young and Trisha Ayden. Yes, they were hotties but they were also the meanest girls in school. Aaron momentarily looked around for a seat and found one near the back of the room. When his teacher walked in she was a tiny, itsy-bitsy redhead who must have been in her early 50’s.
“Class, I’m Ms. Lafayette, and when I call out your name, say here.”
“Amanda Collins.”
“Tommy Hill.”
After the entire role was called Aaron noticed that his name was not on the list.
He raised his hand.
“Ms. Lafayette, I didn’t hear my name.”
“What is your name son?” she curiously questioned.
“Aaron Carraway.”
“Let me see….Yes, there it is. I have a check mark by your name, which means that I did call out your name. Pay attention!” she said in a soft tone like no other.
Aaron noted a few snickers and then Natalie leaned over and whispered, “Hey, are you wearing Bert’s slip-ons?”
“Yeah,” Aaron said hoping that she would not catch on.
“Really, could I see the bottom?” she asked not convinced.
Yeah, he was in trouble. He knew she had figured it out.
Aaron looked down and heard all of the giggling. Ms. Lafayette told them to pull out their Math books. This was a subject that Aaron did not understand. It was completely foreign to him.
“Now, class, you must speak up when asking questions because I am hard of hearing.”
This was something that she should have kept to herself because students at this age could eat a teacher alive.
“ARRF,” barked one kid.
"Fart," said another and thus began the daily ritual of random noises that could be heard around the room.
Ms. Lafayette was oblivious to the noises. She would get on to a few of the kids about talking but it was not even the students that she blamed. Then she would walk over to a particular student and ask them if she handled the situation correctly. What in Sam Hill was she thinking? To make matters worse Ms. Lafayette fidgeted at all times. Aaron observed that she always messed with her hair or the cuff of her sleeve and that she wore her keys around her wrists, which jingled every time she moved. He even observed that the students would get up in the middle of class and just walk out without her ever seeing them.
This class was going to be wild. Ms. Lafayette couldn’t even stick to one subject. I guess the entire class would be in Special Ed after a few short weeks because she was going to drive them bonkers. At least they only had her for Math and Science. The bell rang and it was time for the students to switch periods. Aaron was walking across the parking lot when he noticed that a few people were following him. He glimpsed back and saw the Huge Blonde Skater Guy that he had bumped into earlier. He began to walk faster and faster but the boys caught up with him.
“Hey, kid, what’s your name,” the huge blonde skater guy said with his arm around Aaron.
“It’s Aaron.”
“My name is Jared McNally. Are you scared of me, Aaron?”
What kind of question was that? he thought.
“Why do you have a girl’s name?” said the huge blonde skater guy while laughing with his buddies.
He then tripped Aaron and his books went everywhere. Aaron scuffed his knees on the concrete and small drops of blood were starting to form. He slowly got up and wiped his knees off and then picked up his belongings. The huge blonde skater guy went from laughing to a serious I’m going to kick your butt look and said, “Faggot!”
Aaron was scared that these three guys were going to start beating him up but they just walked away.
Why does it have to be this way all the time? Aaron thought as he walked to his next class.
He knew that people would like him if they would just give him a chance. He loved to make people laugh and be the life of the party, but he never got the opportunity to prove that to anyone other than his own family. Aaron was known to start dancing wildly no matter what.
He entered the school trailer around the corner and was caught off guard.
“What is your name?” said an older very tall and thin lady with a boy’s haircut.
“Aaron Carraway.”
“Aaron, the last time I checked it was past the time for you to be in your seat,” she stated.
Aaron found an empty desk near the front of the room and he sat down immediately. He looked around the room and noticed that it contained some of the most popular guys like Buddy Thomas and Chris Alexander. They were the local surfers who only wore designer clothes and were the captain of this and the captain of that. Aaron played baseball for the local community but his allergies and asthma prevented him from doing a lot of other activities. It also didn’t help that he was just a little clumsy.
Aaron looked at the chalkboard and he read the name Mrs. Black. She would be his English teacher for the year. His first impressions were not the greatest, but he was determined to make it work. This was his full intention until minutes later when he began snoring. Mrs. Black was the most boring teacher he had ever encountered. He tried and tried to stay awake but it was just no use. The sad part about it was that he loved, loved English. Books were an escape for Aaron. He could be found late at night in the dark reading Stephen King novels with a flashlight. Without a shadow of a doubt, he loved to get scared. And now he had a teacher that made reading as fun as sitting in a chair.
“Mr. Carraway! I suppose education is not on your top priority, but I suggest you wake up and make it one,” roared Mrs. Black.
Aaron jumped and his pencil went flying. It shot to the front of the room and landed next to the teacher’s foot. The class began to laugh and she went crazy. Mrs. Black stomped towards Aaron’s desk and stopped directly in front of it.
“How dare you,” she bellowed.
“But Mrs. Black I was startled and my pencil went flying that is it,” Aaron responded.
“Well, I guess you will have to find a new pencil,” she said as she walked toward the front of the room.
Mrs. Black bent down and picked up the pencil. She then looked at the class and broke it. Aaron was humiliated. Mrs. Black must really hate him he thought.
He leaned over to the girl sitting in front of him and whispered, “Can I borrow a pencil?”
“Mr. Carraway, pick up your junk, and go to the back of the room,” Mrs. Black shot out.
“I was just asking for a pencil,” Aaron fumbled.
“I have already received a letter from your parents regarding the medicine that you are currently taking for asthma and it said that you might act a little strange but this is ridiculous. Pick up your junk,” she stated.
Aaron was astonished. He didn’t know that his parents had sent a letter to his teachers. If Mrs. Black had read his cumulative folder, she would have found out that he had almost died from an asthma attack last year and that the medicine he was currently taking could alter his mood.
“Mr. Aaron Paul Carraway, that letter was probably not true and was just an excuse because their baby can do no wrong,” the Bride of Frankenstein said harshly.
Everyone in the room gasped and that got Aaron’s blood boiling.
“Mrs. Black this junk will cost more than you will ever cost on a street corner!” he proudly remarked.
She flew at him and barely pulled herself together before she screamed, “To the office young man!”
Aaron tried to act cool by shrugging his shoulders but that didn’t last long. After all he was headed straight for his doom. If the principal didn’t give him a harsh punishment that wouldn’t matter once his dad got a hold of him.
Aaron sat outside of the office for quite sometime but it wasn’t too much longer before he saw the door open. He received a weeks worth of after school detention and was told to go back to class. English and History were now over and so the last class of the day was P.E. He ate his lunch when he was sitting outside of the principal’s office and it didn’t seem to be settling with his stomach to well. And now it was time for Physical Education, what a combination.
When P.E. ended, Aaron ran out to meet Michelle who was waiting in the courtyard near the front entrance. Once he arrived he told her all about his day’s events and that he had after school detention starting the next day. She laughed and they both walked to the bus. It was not long before they were dropped off at Michelle’s trailer. Aaron was nervous for some reason. It wasn’t the kind of feeling a boy gets when he likes a girl. That was pretty clear since Aaron didn’t find Michelle attractive. Maybe, it was the fact that he was about to walk into an unknown territory and that was a little scary. Or, maybe, it was the fact that he had a gut feeling that terrified him.

Chapter 12: People Are Strangers
It was so dark in the trailer that Aaron jumped when the screen door shut behind him. The room looked like something out of a horror movie. It was cold and uninviting and it had a presence that lingered in the air. Shadows were illuminated on to the ceiling by objects that Aaron dared not to look at. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them almost immediately trying to make the room look normal. Michelle walked over to a lamp and bent down to turn it on. The light blinded Aaron almost at once as if a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling had been placed directly near his face. He took a deep breath hoping to get out of this alive. Over in the left hand corner was an old dark blue recliner. Directly behind it, and a little to the right, sat an even older blue couch with lace fabric hanging down the middle. A deep mahogany two-story coffee table could be seen near the front of the couch with Adult Magazines decorating the glass top. Why would they keep magazines like that on top of a coffee table? Aaron wondered.
The room didn’t look as scary in the light but there was something that he couldn’t shake. The atmosphere was unpredictable. It was as if something horrible had gone on in this small trailer and something atrocious was about to happen.
Michelle walked in to the kitchen that was connected to the living room, and opened the refrigerator door. She took out a pitcher and poured them both a glass of grape kool-aid.
“Follow me,” Michelle stated.
She walked toward a long narrow hallway that connected to a bathroom on the right. Straight ahead was a dead end. It ran right into a closed door. Michelle reached for the doorknob and slowly turned it until the door creaked forward. She flipped the light switch and the tiny room became very bright. Everything was white. The only color in the room was her stuffed animals that were all lined up perfectly on top of the bed. They all had fake smiles and huge lifeless eyes. Aaron gulped and stepped forward. This room had more of an angelic feeling than the previous one. He began to relax a little.
“I hope you like my room,” she said.
“Yes, it’s nice,” Aaron replied.
The front door of the house opened and Aaron and Michelle both looked at each other.
“It’s probably my older sister,” Michelle grumbled.
That is when Aaron noticed that she had a lisp. He never noticed it before but it was apparent now. It made him smile when she would talk. It reminded him of the little girl in Fire Starter, Drew Barrymore.
“How many sisters do you have?” Aaron asked.
“Two,” she responded.
“Really, I have two brothers,” Aaron replied.
“Cool, I guess we have a lot in common. We are both the youngest and we both have older siblings,” Michelle said.
A face popped around the door and said, “Hey.”
“Hey, Kristen, this is my new friend from school, Aaron,” Michelle said.
“Nice to meet you Aaron,” Kristen responded.
“You too,” Aaron said.
He could not stop staring at the older sibling—she was very pretty.
Then she disappeared.
“Aaron, I need to go to the bathroom,” Michelle stated.
She walked out of the room and Aaron sat on the bed sipping cool-aid. When the door reopened it was not Michelle at all, it was Kristen on the telephone. She was talking to someone as she walked directly towards Aaron. She stopped leaned forward and gave him a kiss directly on the lips. Then she stood straight up, resumed talking on the phone, and walked out the door. It took Aaron by surprise. It wasn’t his first time kissing someone. He remembered he tried to kiss his kindergarten girlfriend and she slapped him. And the last kiss he recalled wasn’t too long ago. He had a girlfriend named Melissa and they kissed in the 5th grade stairwell. But now he was shocked because he just had a beautiful woman lean down and kissed him for no reason. Michelle entered her bedroom and sat down on the bed next to Aaron.
“What’s the look for?” Michelle curiously asked.
“You won’t believe it, but your sister just walked in while she was on the phone and leaned over and kissed me,” Aaron whispered. “And then she left like nothing ever happened.”
“What,” Michelle said angrily.
She got up and walked out the door leaving Aaron paralyzed. His mind was racing a mile a minute. It wasn’t long before Michelle came back in to the room.
“What did she say?” Aaron asked.
“She said she didn’t do it,” said Michelle.
That was usually Aaron’s luck.
“I believe you,” Michelle replied.
The two walked out of the bedroom and into the living area and sat on the couch. Aaron looked over at Kristen, who was still on the phone. He was puzzled at her behavior.
Why did she kiss me? And why is she denying it? Maybe, she didn’t want Michelle to find out, he thought, but why would a 21 year old do that to a 6th grader?
A car door slammed outside and heavy footsteps could be heard approaching the front entrance. A huge shadow loomed over the door and Aaron’s eyes bugged out. He was wondering why the terrifying feeling in his gut suddenly came back. The door crept open and a nightmarish figure appeared. Half of the man’s face was covered by darkness and the other half only revealed an eye. The man stepped forward and shut the door. When he turned back around he looked more normal. Michelle’s father was a tall thick man who had salt and pepper hair and a goatee. He did come across as a beer-guzzling man since he had a huge round belly.
“Who’s this here boy,” asked Michelle’s dad.
He seemed to be a little tipsy at the moment and you could tell that Michelle was embarrassed.
“Dad, this is Aaron. He is the bus driver’s son,” she said.
Her father walked across the living room, took off his boots, and then plopped into his recliner.
He leaned over and picked up one of the magazines, “You ever seen this, boy?”
Aaron didn’t know what to say because he felt very uncomfortable.
“No, sir,” he finally got out.
At this point Aaron wanted to go home but it seemed like the man of the house had other plans.
“Hey, girls, why don’t we take your friend Aaron to the beach? We can walk around and look at the ocean.”
Aaron’s heart started pounding. He remembered when he was younger. He had a classmate named Hope. She told him out of the blue that her mother was dead. And all of a sudden she began to cry. Aaron later found out that her mother was walking on the beach one evening and three guys grabbed her and did horrible things and then shoved sand down her throat. That story has haunted him ‘til this very day.
He didn’t want to die. Could this be the horrible feeling that terrified him?
“Aaron, call your parents, and ask them if it is okay, and then we will pick up some dinner on the way down to the beach,” Michelle’s father drunkenly said.
Aaron’s nerves were on edge as he grabbed the phone from the man’s hand. He barely could dial the numbers but within seconds he heard his mom’s voice.
“Hello,” Rhonda said.
“Hey, mom, it’s me Aaron.”
“Hey, sweetie, are you having a good time at Michelle’s?”
Aaron did not want to honestly answer his mother.
“Yes, ma’am! Michelle’s dad invited me to dinner and then they were going to the beach to walk around. He wanted me to ask if that was o.k. with you.”
“Yes, that sounds fine. Make sure to be home at a decent hour because you have school tomorrow. By the way, Aaron, your principal called and wanted to speak to me. Is there anything I need to know?”
Aaron hesitantly responded, “No, Mom, everything’s great.”
“All right, I will see you soon. Love you.”
Aaron looked at the others in the room and then whispered, “I love you too, mom.”
He hung up the phone and handed it back to Michelle’s dad.
“It’s settled then,” the tall thick man slurred.
The front door opened and another girl walked in to the trailer.
They looked over and Michelle said, “Hey, Joanne, this is Aaron from school.”
The girl was around the age of 18 with dark wiry hair. She walked very masculine and it seemed like she wanted to present herself as a guy.
Michelle, the very masculine, uglier sister Joanne, their dad, and Aaron all gathered in to a station wagon. It was extremely quiet on the way to the beach. Aaron didn’t know what to expect. He just met these people and now he was headed for a large body of water, the drowning kind.
They made small talk as they picked up some burgers. Chomping could only be heard during the rest of the car ride. It was getting dark and the sky was beautiful. The sun was setting and it reflected on the water. Aaron got out of the car and so did the rest of the gang. They walked along the beach for a while and admired the beauty of it all. Maybe, Aaron’s imagination got the best of him? He seemed to be enjoying himself now. They were all laughing it up. Time flew and it was starting to get late so they headed back towards the wagon. The girls climbed inside of the car but Michelle’s father walked over to Aaron and took him aside.
“Hey, do you like my daughter?” he said.
Aaron began to fidget and finally responded, “I just met her and we are just friends, sir.”
“I don’t mean like that. Do you think they both are pretty?” he asked.
Aaron knew that he did not but the truth could end in tragedy.
“I guess so,” Aaron slowly muttered.
“O.K., which one do you want?” said Michelle’s father.
Aaron was confused. What did he mean by that?
“You pick one, I will take the other,” the tall thick man responded.
Aaron’s head began spinning. His insides started to separate and he thought that he was about to throw up. This was the terrifying gut feeling that he had felt once he walked into that house.
“Sir, um, I want to go home. I am not feeling too well,” Aaron garbled.
The man’s expression went from all smiles to as mean as the devil. Aaron was scared to death, and yet, he also felt sorry for Michelle. She was such a nice girl and she had to live with this disgusting secret. How could this man do something like that?
Michelle’s father grabbed Aaron by the arm and flung him toward the car.
Aaron tripped but got up quickly. He managed to open the door and jump in next to Michelle. Her face was down. She would not look at him. Aaron was petrified. He was shaking all over as death filled the air. Her father opened the front door and got in. He drove off. The speed limit was not an option at the moment because the car was flying. After a little time passed, the tall thick man looked back in Aaron’s direction.
“If you ever tell anyone about this, I WILL KILL YOU!”
They were approaching Dobbs Lane and Michelle pointed to Aaron’s house. The station wagon came to a halt and Aaron jumped out and walked slowly toward his front door. When he opened it, his mother noticed that he looked white as a sheet.
“Aaron, what’s the matter?” she asked.
“Nothing, mom, I think it was something I ate,” he replied with his eyes staring through the floorboard. “I think I am going to go to bed.”
“Goodnight dear and let me know how you are feeling in the morning,” his mother said with a concerned tone.
Aaron practically sprinted to his room. When he was safely inside of his own environment, he sat on the edge of his bed and began weeping.

Chapter 13: Cry Little Sister
The sky was crimson red as if the secret was being revealed. A storm was brewing and as long as there was silence, Aaron was safe, for now. The next day was already a living nightmare. Michelle avoided him at all cost. She was a ghost, a lost soul, haunting the school. He would catch a glimpse of her hair or her face at random times throughout the day but then she would vanish without a trace. Aaron knew that he had to tell someone but he also knew that Michelle’s father would hunt him down and go in for the kill.
Rain pounded the roof as he sat in Mrs. Black’s class. He was her new pet project for the year. She managed to find every flaw that he possessed and made sure to use it against him.
“Class, we are going to begin daily journals, today,” the Bride of Frankenstein eerily affirmed as she walked up and down the aisles. “This journal will be between you and me. I want you to write your personal feelings down. Don’t worry I will not share these with another soul.”
Aaron began to write ferociously. He wanted Mrs. Black to know what he was going through. “Starting off on the Wrong Foot” was the headliner. His number two pencil had a mind of its own scrambling to reveal his inner most thoughts. He hoped that Mrs. Black would give him a second chance, to start over, to wipe the slate clean. Aaron looked at his masterpiece and then peered to his right where the outside window was located. Jared McNally was walking by in the rain, which caused Aaron to swiftly slump in his seat. I hope he didn’t see me, he thought. But like always, he did. Jared stopped and looked straight at Aaron and mouthed that he was going to kick his butt. Then he had a huge mischievous grin spread across his face. It wasn’t long before Jared walked away. He had to get to class but Aaron knew that he would cross his path eventually and that it would end in disaster.
Outside, the wind screamed and the classroom became a dark basement. The dim room was now a cage and Mrs. Black was beginning to look more like their master. Holding his breath, Aaron handed his paper over to her while his hands trembled wildly. He thought he saw Mrs. Black's eyes glow faintly red for a moment. Was this lady bewitched or was she the Son of Sam? She stood over Aaron as she read his paper for a short while. Then she gave him an infuriating look and sprang toward the front of the room. Aaron squirmed in his seat and pressed the palm of his hands to his face, as if he had been wounded. Sweat began to pour and a spell fell over the class. Disaster!
Mrs. Black screamed in a rage of fury, "Enough!"
Horror personified the look in Aaron's eyes. Jared McNally, the most feared 10th grade looking boy in the middle school, no longer held that title. It now belonged to the Bride of Frankenstein: Mrs. Black. She pulled him up by the back of his neck and pushed him toward his public execution. She cleared her throat and began to read his journal in front of the entire class:

Starting Off on the Wrong Foot” by Aaron Carraway
It was a hot summer's day when I first entered the tin trailer located at Morehead City Middle School. I was late and a stranger’s voice made sure that I knew it. It was the first time that I met my new 6th grade English Teacher. She was an attractive woman who looked more like a governess — not the typical stereotype. I was scared senseless when she scolded me for showing up to class tardy. I wanted to tell her that a gigantic 10th grade looking boy just assaulted me and I was picking up my books. But I was too embarrassed to tell her my story in front of the class. You see, I have never been well liked at school. And by telling her my tale it would bring more attention upon myself—which is exactly what I avoided daily. I hoped this year would be a different time for me, a new beginning. The day surely did not start out that way and I was hoping that my teachers would at least like me. My life has been a constant battle with health and every little bit of happiness goes a long way. A couple of years ago, I almost lost that battle when I collapsed from appendicitis on the track at school. It erupted within, sending poison throughout my veins. My mom saved me that day. The school nurse told my parents that a stomach virus was going around and that with the proper fluids and rest I should be all right. Thank God, that my mother was a sensitive soul because she had a premonition that it was much more than that. The doctor told her that I would have been dead by morning if she had not listened to her intuition. Last year was even worse. I turned blue one scorching, humid night. My parents rushed me to the hospital and found out that I was having a severe asthma attack. My mother didn't even know that I had asthma. Tubes were placed down my nose and throat and I was hooked to an oxygen tank. The doctor said that I would probably be brain dead if I survived. I remember that horrible moment. I don't think they realized that I could hear them talking. A needle about the size of an elephant's trunk had to be placed into my main artery in order to check my oxygen level. It would take three or four people to hold me down. My mother would cry and cry because she knew the pain that I was going through. I didn't want to die. I fought to live and here I am sitting in my new classroom, hoping that a teacher would give a student a second chance—to realize that they both started off on the wrong foot. I am sorry that my mom wrote you the letter about the medicine that I am currently taking. I did not know that she sent it. I hate the medicine. The doctors say that I must take it in order to live a better life. It's a pill that is supposed to help with the flow of oxygen but it is also a pill that I dread taking daily. It makes me shake and get agitated easily and so I am sorry if I offended you when I told you that my junk cost more than you will ever cost on the street corner. I was wrong for that. Can we wipe the slate clean and start all over?

Mrs. Black's thoughts turned and turned and turned and minutes passed, which seemed like hours. She grew irritable. What was to be done? Tommy Hill snickered and threw a piece of paper at Aaron.
"You will be punished!" Mrs. Black shrieked, "For blaming me for your hardships, like I am the one in the wrong! Not a word," she said as she stopped Aaron from retaliating.
What Mrs. Black did not know at that moment was that Aaron's mom was standing outside the classroom door listening to every single word. She had taken off from work to talk to the principal about Aaron's conduct in Mrs. Black's class. Rhonda was a teacher's assistant and she knew that kids could be cruel. In fact, she had stopped by Mrs. Black's room to apologize for her son's behavior but after overhearing this brash humiliation that her son was enduring she would set out to stop Mrs. Black from doing it again.
As the days and weeks passed, the weather got cooler and Aaron knew that, deep down, he must tell someone about Michelle's father. He needed to pay for what he was doing. But fear was Aaron’s downfall and the reason that his mind mingled with frustration. Aaron knew that today would be the day that he would turn a dangerous man in. It was urgent that he went through with it because grief filled his heart for that lonely girl. She looked as if she wanted to cry every time he saw her. He must be put away!
A force overtook him and he headed for his mom's bedroom. He knocked.
"Come in," Rhonda muttered. When he opened the door he saw his mother sitting on her bed reading her diary.
"Hey, mom," Aaron said.
"Come and sit beside me Aaron," she replied as she patted the top of the bed.
"I was just reading something that I wrote in my journal last year about you boys."
“What’s it about?” asked Aaron.
“Did you know that I almost lost all three of you boys within three weeks last year?” Rhonda inquired.
“Huh?” Aaron muttered.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” she said as she began to think of back on those dreadful events…

“Mom, I can’t breathe,” Aaron wheezed as his face turned a shade of purple.
“Oh, My God! Danny, Help!” Rhonda cried out.
They grabbed Aaron and shoved him into the backseat of the car. They rushed him to the hospital and waited for the doctor’s verdict.
“Rhonda, where is Aaron’s breather? He is lucky,” stated Dr. Brady.
“Dr. Brady, what are you talking about?” Rhonda asked.
“His breather for his asthma,” he sternly replied.
“You never told me that he had asthma,” she said agitated.
“Well, he does. Okay, you both can see him now,” Dr. Brady said as he escorted the couple to the room.
When they walked in they saw Aaron hooked to oxygen tubes. His body looked lifeless lying on the table.
"I love you," his mother said.
Aaron couldn’t talk but he squeezed her hand. As Aaron recovered from his asthma attack, Danny convinced Rhonda to go home and take a shower. Back at the house, Charles was planning on going to a friend’s party while his brother Billy was hoping that he could play in his first football game, even though the 102 fever told him otherwise.
Once their mother arrived, Charles ecstatically belted out, “Mom, Turtle will be here to pick me up for the party. Will you hurry and iron my clothes?”
“Sam’s mother told me that she will be in the same room with you guys. Is this correct?” Rhonda said as she ironed Charles’s Billabong shirt.
“Yes, ma’am. Will you calm down? Everything will be all right,” Charles stated.
A car pulled into the driveway and beeped. Charles ran to the ironing board and grabbed his shirt. He quickly put it on as he fled out the door.
When Charles arrived at the party, he walked in to a room that was full of his buddies.
“Hey, it’s Charles,” echoed Sam. “What’s up buddy? Want a drink?”
Charles looked at Sam and smiled. He noticed the liquor cabinet was open and everyone was enjoying themselves. Charles didn’t even once think about the fact that he was only in the eighth grade and took the bottle and began drinking. Meanwhile, Billy was at home in bed praying that he would be able to play in tomorrow’s game. Football was his life and it meant the world so he decided to take it upon himself. He crept into the kitchen and found his brothers medicine sitting there and staring at him. He picked up the bottle and looked at the strength. Each pill was 1500 milligrams. He took a handful with a glass of water and then he went back to bed. Charles was living it up in the living room at the party.
“What’s up?” Charles said as he danced on the coffee table. Everyone around him cheered him on. The next thing that happened didn’t seem like a big deal to the other kids but one girl in particularly noticed. Charles fell off the table and passed-out. Everyone laughed. But Sam’s sister couldn’t help but think that it was worse than what it appeared. She slipped out of the room and called 911. Charles was picked up hours later and his stomach was pumped just in the nick of time. Before the hospital alerted Rhonda about Charles, Billy stumbled into the living room.
“Mom, I am not feeling so hot,” he said as blood poured out of his mouth.
“Oh, Jesus! Billy what’s happening?” Rhonda screamed as she dropped to her knees. Rhonda jumped up and ran for the phone. She dialed her best friend Maryanne’s number. When Maryanne picked up she frantically explained what was going on and Maryanne instructed her to keep him awake at all costs before she got there.
A small amount of time went by before Maryanne ran into the house. Mammaw (Lillian) arrived almost at the same time. They saw Billy lying on a gurney in the living room with paramedics all around. He was being hooked to a heart monitor. Rhonda frantically grabbed some clothes for her son and asked her mother to ride with him on the way to the hospital. As Lillian climbed into the back of the ambulance she looked at her grandson with pure love and not judgment. The van started down the street and that’s when the heart-monitor flat-lined. Lillian jumped as the paramedic began to work on Billy. She then screamed a scream that only her daughter could ambulate. After the earth-shattering scream, the heart monitor began to beep again

Rhonda closed the journal and looked at her son that was sitting next to her on the bed. She was crying.
“Asthma attacks, alcohol poisoning, and an overdose were almost the end to all three of you. I am so happy that you are still here, Aaron,” Rhonda cried.
Aaron put his arms around his mother and allowed her to cry on his shoulder. He then decided that it was time.
"Mom, I need to talk to you, about Michelle," Aaron cautiously mumbled.
Rhonda looked at her son and knew that something serious was on his mind. She was puzzled. Aaron proceeded to tell his mom about the incident between Michelle and her father. He didn’t know the outcome of his cry but he knew that the unknown was scarier than facing it head on.
A week sped by before he heard the news. He received it in the most unusual way. He was preparing to leave when the phone rang.
"Mom, Phone!" he screamed but no answer.
Aaron reached and placed the phone to his ear. It took less than five seconds before a girl's voice started cussing him out. It was Joanne, Michelle's sister.
"I know you told on my dad. The police came by to investigate. He might be going to prison. If he does, you better watch out!"
Click! She had hung up the phone. Aaron was speechless. His fright was spiraling toward panic. He didn’t tell a soul. Later on that evening Aaron went to bed. His parents were already asleep in the other room and his two brothers were spending the night elsewhere. The bunk bed faced the door to Aaron's room. He left his door propped open because he felt a little safer with his parents' door in bird’s-eye view. Aaron awoke by hearing the sliding glass door in the kitchen open. It startled him but it was not unusual for his brother to sneak in and out.
"Charles," Aaron whispered.
The air was silent.
"Charles," he whispered even louder but there was no answer.
He then heard the rustling of drawers. Once again, this did not surprise him because his brother would also cook late at night.
"Charles!" Aaron whispered but still there was no answer.
It was a night that was beginning to repeat itself since Charles’s brush with death last year. He would sneak out and meet up with his friends in the neighborhood on many occasions. Footsteps were coming down the hall. Aaron started to get a little perturbed. Charles could at least answer him. More rustling of drawers could be heard except this time it was next door. Yep, it was Charles, safe in his own room.
"Charles," Aaron whispered for the fourth time.
A shadow appeared in the hallway. Aaron froze. It was much larger than his brother. The figure stopped right in Aaron's doorway and stared directly in to his eyes. For that one moment, he thought he was having a nightmare, but this was no nightmare—Michelle's father had come for him.
Terror! Aaron's heart almost exploded as he quickly shut his eyes. He tried to scream, to alert his parents of danger, but nothing would come out. Then suddenly Aaron felt like he couldn't breathe. His eyes were closed tightly hoping that the intruder would think that he was asleep. Why couldn't he scream? Panic was choking him. He squinted to see if the shadowy figure had left. Aaron gulped in shock as his eyes saw the man standing in silence. The air was filled with an unearthly chill.
Aaron jumped up in fright and wailed, "Help!!!!"
What he saw next was bizarre. He noticed that the harsh sunlight was shining through his window and that there was no longer a man in his doorway. He blinked several times trying to make sense of it all. Was I dreaming, he thought? Aaron ran into the hallway and saw his parents standing in the kitchen. They looked upset.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"We've been robbed," his dad stammered.
Aaron rambled extremely fast, “Oh, no!”
"I heard the sliding glass door open last night and I thought it was Charles but then he didn't answer and the next thing I knew there was a big burly man standing in my doorway and I couldn't scream because I was practically choking and then I finally got it out but there was sunlight and it was morning, which caused me to be extremely confused but now I understand, I must have fainted…."
"Take a breath, honey, and try to tell us exactly what happened…slower," his mom explained.
Aaron began to tell his creepy tale of the man who almost killed him. It would set a tone over the next couple of weeks as the leaves changed and October entered the picture.

Chapter 14: Poltergeist
October was a time for roasting marshmallows, drinking hot chocolate, and telling haunting tales around the campfire. The stories that were buried deep beneath the earth now surfaced for a chilling ride. What made the classic urban legends even scarier was the fact that the woods would always take a life of its own during the changing season. The bare limbs and the damp cool air brought forth an eeriness that would only appear during the weeks before All Hallows Eve.
And to top it off, Charles was having a sleepover. His mother loved October as much as the boys did and when Charles asked if he could have a few friends over, she agreed. The agreement included pizza, soda, his brothers, and two scary movies. The date was set for Friday the 13, just two days away.
Aaron pretended to be sick the next day in order to avoid Jared McNally's beating in the courtyard. It was also rumored that Michelle's father was arrested and Aaron wanted to stay away from any possible trouble.
"Mom, I'm not feeling well this morning," Aaron frowned.
"You can stay with your Mammaw today," Rhonda replied.
She knew that Aaron had been acting different lately but she assumed it only dealt with Michelle's father since that can take a toll on a young boy. But now she wondered if Mrs. Black was the cause of this ill-fated acting. When Aaron was sick, it was very obvious and today it seemed like a script being rehearsed.
"Go and get dressed and I will call mother to come and pick you up," she said.
Rhonda walked out of the bedroom and found Billy in the bathroom.
She whispered, "Billy there's something wrong with your brother. I think it is something at school. Will you check into it for me and let me know?"
"Sure mom, not a problem," Billy answered.
When Billy arrived at school he began to ask around and found out that a kid named Jared McNally was giving his brother a hard time. This investigation was just beginning, he thought.
Friday arrived and the boy's mother was true to her promise; she picked up two movies and ordered a pizza. The doorbell rang around 6:30 p.m. and Billy ran to open it. Sam Morris and Dennis West (Turtle) stood in the doorway laughing and talking. The semi-darkness wickedly taunted Billy as he looked behind the boys. The crisp night air was calling all ghosts and corpses to come out of their resting place for an evening of mischief. A gust of wind let Billy know that the dead were approaching. Billy remembered hearing once that when a person’s breath looks like they are smoking a cigarette it actually means that the corpses are breathing down your neck. Billy looked tough on the outside but when it came to spooky tales or movies he was the biggest scaredy-cat of them all.
He let Charles friends in the door. As they passed him he glanced outside and a shiver went up his spine when he saw his own breath. His eyes scanned beyond the entrance and he knew that something didn't feel right. His brother told him of the intruder that came to their room when he was away. Maybe that was the reason he was feeling uneasy. He shut the door and tried to forget about the break-ins. The five boys sat down in the dark living room where candles were burning. They grabbed flashlights and sat in a circle. Dennis was a hyper 9th grader who was goofy. Charles said that when he met Dennis in Kindergarten he was wearing a brown three-piece suit and his hair was cut in the shape of a bowl. Dennis also resembled a turtle. Charles thought he was a dork but soon found out that Turtle was a loyal friend who could make anyone laugh. And they have been best friends ever since. Sam was one of the most popular freshmen at West Carteret High School. He was tall and had dirty blonde hair. The girls went crazy over him.
Charles interrupted the silence, "Hey, let's tell scary stories."
"Yeah, Charles, tell the one about the time when we were over at Patricia's house," Turtle chuckled.
Charles looked at Turtle and smirked and then began to speak in an eerie tone.

"A few weeks ago on a night similar to this one," Charles began, "My girlfriend, Patricia, called. She asked if Turtle and I wanted to come over for a couple of hours since Kimberly was staying the night. I questioned her about her parents but she said they would be out for the evening and that the two of them were babysitting her little brother and baby sister. I quickly told her that we would be there in 30 minutes. Turtle and I walked over to Patricia's house, which was only a couple blocks away, and we rang the doorbell. Kimberly Zant answered the door. I wasn’t too fond of Kimberly because she was known for popping pills. I mumbled hello and looked around for Patricia. Turtle stayed behind chatting with Kimberly. You know Turtle will make-out with anyone.
“Hey, that’s not true,” Dennis chimed in.
“You know its true Dennis,” Charles muttered.
“Okay, maybe it is,” Dennis said giving up.
“Let me get back to the story,” Charles said agitated.

I found Patricia upstairs tucking her brother into bed. I waited until she came out of the room and then we headed for the living room. I looked at her with a huge grin on my face. She knew what this meant—it was make-out time. The phone rang and Patricia picked up. "Honey, its mom, make sure to give Abby a bottle before she goes to bed.” “Kimberly already did that, mom, and put Abby in the crib. Don’t worry, everything is taken care of,” Patricia responded. Patricia went back to the couch and leaned over and kissed me. I asked her if she was sure that Kimberly actually did it and she looked at me with curious eyes. Patricia interrupted Kimberly and Turtle’s make-out session on the couch and asked, “Kim did you feed Abby and put her in the crib?” Kimberly swore that she did but we decided to investigate. So, we slowly went up the steps. With our hearts pounding we approached the first door. I hit the door with the tip of my foot and it creaked open. We walked over to the crib and we were relieved to see the baby wrapped in a blanket. Once we were downstairs we went back to making out but Patricia immediately jumped off of the couch and ran for the kitchen door. “Where are you going?” I asked. “Kimberly put the turkey in the oven earlier and I’ve got to pour juice over it,” she added. She was in the kitchen for only a minute and then she began screaming. I ran in and found Patricia sitting on the floor rocking back and forth. “What’s going on?” She mumbled something about the oven. I looked over and saw Patricia’s little sister dead in the oven. Police reported later that Kimberly had been taking drugs and accidentally wrapped the turkey in a blanket and put it in the crib upstairs. But the most bizarre part of the story was when I took the baby out of the oven I saw... AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
Billy and Aaron jumped ten feet in the air as they screamed for dear life. Charles, Turtle, and Sam were all rolling on the ground howling with laughter. The three of them knew that they had tricked Billy and Aaron.
“You idiot,” Aaron growled. “You scared the crap out of me!”
“You should have seen the two of you,” Charles laughed.
“Whatever!” Aaron mockingly shot out.
Billy started laughing because he knew when he’d been had. Aaron cooled down a bit and chimed in with the others. They were now all laughing and having a good time. The doorbell rang and it meant only one thing—Pizza time. The smell of freshly baked bread topped with cheese, pepperoni, and gourmet sauce—Dominoes, yum. They ate their pizza within minutes and then sat down to play Atari. Billy pulled out the two joysticks and then the ultimate game in the Universe: Journey.
Rhonda was in the kitchen pouring soda and heating up the burner in order to make popcorn. She put just the right amount of oil inside the pot and then spread the kernels over the bottom. She placed the lid on top and then went about making rice crispy treats. It wasn’t a party without the goodies. Rhonda brought it out into the living room and told the boys to dig in. A second wasn’t wasted and the boys grabbed a rice crispy treat, a handful of popcorn, and a glass of Pepsi. They were hootin’ and hollerin’ for Aaron as he tried to beat Billy’s score. And he did. Once everyone got a turn they decided it was time to watch the movies that they rented.
Charles wheeled out a twin bed from the back bedroom and placed it directly in front of the television. They couldn’t wait! Rhonda was about to place the video in to the VCR when she glanced at the cover. She saw that it had nudity and bad language. “Wait a minute, boys,” she scolded, “You didn’t tell me that it had this type of stuff in it.”
“But mom,” Charles whined, “I was told it’s not bad.”
“No, I am sorry, I can’t allow you to watch this,” she replied, “Besides you have another movie that you can watch.”
“Oh, all right!” Charles agreed.
The movie was about a patient who winds up in the hospital and there’s a killer on the loose. When it ended they were all happy because it was creepy.
“That was good,” Rhonda stated, “But I think that I am going to bed.”
“Goodnight, Mrs. Carraway,” the two guests replied.
“Goodnight boys and be sure to get some rest.”
The five of them smiled mischievous grins. When the coast was clear they popped in the other video, the forbidden, Christine. It was about a jealous possessed car that kills. The five boys took turns looking out for any signs of an adult on the prowl. It made the movie even scarier knowing that they were doing something they shouldn’t. It was quiet and the music playing in the background was dreary, which made it even scarier when the boys heard, Bang! Bang! Bang! The window next to the roll away bed was rattling to the rooftops. They all scrambled and ran for safety. A witch’s cackle could be heard from outside. Whoever it was they were now opening the window. It was unlocked? What! A face appeared through the curtain and screamed. The boys screamed even louder from their hiding spaces. It was a woman, it was their mom.
“That’s what you get for disobeying,” she cackled.
Aaron, Billy, Charles, Sam, and Turtle all sighed with relief. Rhonda walked around the house and walked through the sliding glass door. She locked it behind her and then walked into the living room and shut the window.
“How did you get out Mrs. Carraway?” Sam questioned, “We were all looking down the hall at different times!”
“I guess you will never know, Sam,” Rhonda giggled.
“That was a good one,” Turtle snorted. It was a night to remember.
“Can we finish the rest? It’s almost over, Mom?” Billy begged.
“I guess that will be all right,” Rhonda gave in.
Billy, Charles, and Aaron jumped and gave her a big hug.
“Thanks mom,” they said.
Rhonda left the room and went to bed for real this time. The boys fell to sleep one after another in the living room. Billy peeked to see if anyone was awake and decided to go to his room. He had a tendency to still wet the bed and he did not want anyone to find out. After all, he was pretty popular at school and this could leak out, no pun intended. Billy blamed it on an inherited weak bladder (Grandmother Carraway). It was dark so he slowly walked with his hands out like a blind person, feeling everything around him. When he arrived, he shut the door and climbed up the ladder of the bunk bed and sprawled out to get a good night’s sleep. An hour passed and Billy rolled over with the slit of his eyes half opened. He noticed something, which caused him to stir. Someone was in his room.
He groggily replied, “Aaron is that you?”
But there was no answer. It was a boy about the size of his brother and it would not be unusual for Aaron to walk in to the room since they shared it. The boy was walking away from the bunk bed toward the door.
“Aaron?” he whispered.
But there was still no answer. Aaron had a tendency to sleep walk when he was stressed or scared. So, this was not totally shocking to Billy. The boy stopped where he was and began to turn slowly. In fact, it was an abnormal pace. When half of the face was visible he stood still. Billy didn't recognize the face. It wasn’t Aaron. His heart began to race and he knew that he had to do something. Billy had his throwing star stuck in the wood that framed the bunk bed. He lifted his arm slowly above his head and felt around for it. When he realized that he had a hold of it he yanked it out and threw it straight for the boy. It went right through the apparition and landed in the wall. What? Billy stared at the figure in shock and wondered why it would not look at him fully. The boy started to move and Billy noticed blood on the other side of his face along with a gash…. Billy screamed and jumped off the bed and darted for the light switch. Once he turned the lights on, the ghostly presence vanished. Billy grabbed his covers and headed for the living room. He made a pallet near his older brother and fell fast to sleep.

Chapter 15: Nothing Else Matters
The wind was blowing and the clouds were gloomy on that fateful morning of October 31. Aaron stayed up pretty late the night before watching a marathon of horror movies on television that included Carrie, Halloween, and The Shining. This made a restless evening of twists and turns causing him to be grouchy when he woke up. Aaron had his costume hanging on his door. He was to play the infamous Dracula. Amanda never once looked at Aaron this year, so he had moved on to bigger and better things: Cindy Thomas. He had heard that she was going to be Dracula’s bride and the rest was history. Cindy had smooth caramel, mocha skin with big brown eyes and natural curly hair. What a creature! The only problem was that she was in the 8th grade, a cheerleader, hung out with the popular crowd and had a crush on Aaron’s older brother Charles. A mere setback, he thought. Besides, Charles had a girlfriend named Patricia. Who would dump the most popular girl in high school for an 8th grader?
Aaron got dressed and walked in to the kitchen. His mom made pancakes—his favorite. She was in a chipper mood and told him that he looked great. When she bent down to kiss him on the cheek, he turned and grumbled.
She left him alone because today was going to be a new day for Aaron. She made sure of that. A few days ago she had met with the principal and laid out her concerns about Mrs. Black. He assured her that the situation would be dealt with properly. She thanked him and went on her way.
Billy jumped around the corner and said, “Boo!”
Aaron sat eating his pancakes with a straight face. When Billy took off his mask his brother screamed of fright.
“Ahhhh!” Aaron pretended.
“Ha Ha, very funny,” Billy shrugged.
Aaron barely got a smile out because he was still irritable. Usually Billy would call his brother names or punch him for pulling a stunt like that but today was going to be different. Billy and a few friends of his were going to take care of Aaron’s “problem” at school. When Billy told his dad about the bully, he was instructed to take care of the situation and that’s exactly what he planned on doing. Aaron looked over at his brother wondering what he was thinking about. Billy took a sip of his chocolate milk and smiled. Aaron looked bewildered.
When they got off the bus, the first bell rang shortly after. Aaron made his way down the hall hoping to avoid Jared. What he did not know was that Billy lagged behind him. Jared rounded the corner and spotted Aaron. It was hard to see him because he was like 10 feet shorter than most of the other sixth graders. Aaron ran into Ms. Lafayette’s class. The students were already on top of their desks and making noises. Jared knew that this teacher would never spot him if he badgered the little guy for a couple of hours. When Jared tried to slip through the door Billy put his leg out to bar the entrance.
“Follow me, Jared!” Billy demanded.
“What!” I don’t think so,” said Jared. “Ow! That hurts!”
Billy pulled Jared all the way out the door to the secluded courtyard.
“Get off me, man,” he yelled.
Billy shoved Jared to the ground. Standing a foot away were two football players.
“If you ever pick on my brother again…,” Billy yelled.
“I don’t pick on your brother, man,” Jared fumbled.
“Aaron Carraway,” Billy stated.
“That brat is your brother?” Jared laughed.
“Shut up!” Billy shot back.
“Make me,” Jared dared.
Billy’s backpack dropped to the cement and that’s when he stooped over and grabbed Jared by the hair and pulled him up. He then proceeded to pound his face in. The other boys stood by Jared to make sure that he did not escape while Billy warned the hoodlum.
“If we ever see you or any of your friends talk or even look at my brother again, you better believe that we will be back. And if I ever have to deal with the same problem twice then you might as well know that the black eye and broken nose that you are wearing for Halloween today is just the beginning. I have lots of friends here that will make sure you pay. Do you understand me?” Billy screamed.
“Yeah, I understand,” Jared mumbled.
The other boys kicked Jared who was lying on the ground and the three of them walked away. Billy had been planning this for a while because they had passes to get back to football training. He knew that the courtyard would be empty at that time of morning and he made sure that he did it on a day when the Principal would be in a meeting.
Meanwhile, Aaron asked Ms. Lafayette if he could go to the bathroom and she gave him permission. On his way there, he saw Cindy coming out of the front office. You're so fine, you're so fine, you blow my mind. She looked like a goddess. Dracula’s bride never looked that hot, Aaron thought. Cindy saw Aaron and ran up to him.
“Hey, Aaron, cool costume,” she said, “You’re Dracula and I’m your bride.”
She put her arm through Aaron’s and walked with him. Aaron forgot that he needed to use the restroom. Besides who needs to pee? She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. Well, she was slightly taller than him.
“Gotta go,” she said.
Aaron’s pale face was suddenly flushed. He almost bumped in to the wall as he stared at her running to class. And then it hit him hard. His bladder kicked and he almost lost it when he entered the bathroom. Aaron managed to make it to the toilet. As he was flushing he heard the faucet running. Aaron opened the door and saw Jared washing his hands. Jared looked over and didn’t say a word. He resumed what he was doing.
Why isn’t he over here flushing my head down the toilet? I know that he saw me.
Aaron walked as fast as he could to get out of there. He hated not washing his hands but it was either germs or his face.
When he got back to his class Ms. Lafayette looked over at him and said, “Aaron, where have you been?”
“Ms. Lafayette, you said that I could go to the bathroom,” Aaron replied.
“No, I didn’t!” she contested. “You need to write a reflection paper.”
Aaron did not argue because he was happy that he escaped Jared’s wrath. Ms. Lafayette had the class vote for the best costume. The students nominated a person of their choice and then they put the finalists on the board. Aaron knew that Jared was not in his class but he nominated him anyways. Even though he was a bully he deserved to win because his bruises and scars on his face looked real. The bell rang and Aaron headed for Mrs. Black’s class. When he arrived at his destination there was no sign of her. Instead, there was a substitute. This day is getting even better, he thought. The next hour and a half went by extremely fast.
And instead of P.E. today, Aaron had jazz band--score. When he walked in to the auditorium he set his trumpet down. The band teacher had not arrived yet so everyone was standing around talking. It was Halloween! Aaron scanned the room and began to look at the different costumes. There were a few boys and girls on the stage. Aaron noticed Nathan Billingsly standing on a chair. He was the class clown. He was always joking and playing around. Lately, he was not his usual self since his mother had gone into the hospital. Aaron remembered Nathan talking about it not too long ago. He said that the doctors didn’t have much hope for her recovery. Nathan seemed to be holding up today because he was joking around. Aaron looked over and saw Erica Holt and Mark Stine talking with Nathan. He noticed that they weren’t dressed in costumes. I guess they are too cool for that. Erica and Mark were snotty. Aaron never understood why Nathan liked them.
Ashley Graves walked over to Aaron with a disgusted face.
“Why haven’t you talked to me lately?” She asked.
Ashley flirted with Aaron constantly but the fact that her nose took up her entire face made it a little hard for him to like her.
“Ashley, you know that I haven’t been avoiding you. I just have a lot on my mind that’s all,” he insisted.
“Weird,” she said, “So, is it true that you got that man arrested?”
“Huh? No, way,” Aaron said in disbelief that anyone knew about that.
“Oh,” Ashley laughed and then there was an uncomfortable silence.
Aaron was hoping that the band teacher would hurry up but there was still no sign of that happening.
Ashley playfully changed the subject, “Do you like my costume?”
Aaron could not figure out what she was?
“Yeah, its way cool,” Aaron hesitantly replied.
“Thanks, but don’t go around calling me Barbie,” she laughed as she slapped him on the shoulder.
Trust me, I won’t.
Just then a girl screamed to the top of her lungs. It was Erica Holt. Aaron turned toward the stage and saw Nathan hanging in the air with a rope tied around his neck. The chair that he was standing on earlier was now lying sideways on the stage. The room panicked. A huddle formed around Nathan and a few of the guys took control. One of the sixth graders yelled to go and get some help while another one cleared the stage and told everyone to remain calm. Nathan was just hanging there. His face was a light blue and his lips were as pale as a ghost. Aaron felt nauseous.
“Should we take him down?” Aaron asked one of the other boys.
“Get a chair,” the boy responded.
A few teachers ran into the auditorium and told everyone to get out of the way. They called the ambulance and were instructed to carefully take Nathan down but to protect his head with something flat so it would not move. A large man carefully undid the knot while two other men held Nathan securely. Once they placed him on the stage the large man began CPR. It wasn’t long after that when the ambulance arrived. Students were crying and being held by instructors while others sat in silence, in shock. Aaron could not get the picture of Nathan hanging out of his head.
“Did you see Erica and Mark up there?” a student whispered to another student. “Yeah,” the other responded.
“Well, I saw Nathan playing with the curtain rope. He tied it into a hangman’s knot and kept putting it around his head joking. You know how he is.”
“Well, I then saw Erica kick the chair out from under him.”
Aaron could not believe his ears. Could that be true? Rumors were rampant around the school. Some students said that he did it on purpose because he was upset about his mother. While others said that it was a pure accident. Counselors were on hand for the remainder of the day and Aaron decided to see one.
After walking out of the office the principal got on the announcement, “Students, due to today’s tragic event we are letting you go home early. Counselors are available for each and everyone. Please be safe tonight when you are trick or treating and remember to keep Nathan and his family in your prayers while they are at the hospital.”
Aaron found out later that Nathan was in a coma.
The daylight left and darkness soon fell with a full blood moon at its side. Trick or Treaters were in rare form tonight. The evil that lurked was celebrating. The night dragged for Aaron as he shivered every time he closed his eyes. The picture of Nathan haunted his every thought. The pumpkins were lit all over the neighborhood and the creepy music played on. This was usually an exciting time but Aaron walked in silence as he rang each bell. Nothing else seemed to matter.
“Trick or Treat,” he said in a monotone voice.
They would plop the candy in his bag and he repeated this house after house.

Chapter 16: Stairway To Heaven
The news about Nathan’s death came just 12 days after Halloween. That day replayed in Aaron’s mind every single time he went to sleep. It was now a recurring nightmare. He would wake up drenched in sweat right after Nathan’s face zoomed in. If Nathan was depressed about his mother being in the hospital it made the case even more devastating because she recovered. The whisper around town for months after the tragedy took place was that Mrs. Billingsly went crazy after the death of her son.
The seasons changed from fall to winter. Aaron had been in a fog for so long that he would not have known that it was already December if he had not received his GQ Magazine from his mother.
He sat on his bed and began to flip through the pages. Aaron wanted to find a new look since the surfer incident backfired on him. This time he had to buy the real name brand. His parent’s didn’t have any money, but he knew someone that did. Aaron ran for the phone and dialed.
“Hey, Mammaw,” Aaron slyly said.
“Hey, honey,” she replied. She could sense that he wanted something.
“Mammaw, I am just going to get it over with,” he threw out. “If you are planning on buying me clothes for Christmas then I would like to pick them out.”
He knew the exact sweater—it cost a fortune. No one could make fun of him now.
“That would be fine,” she responded.
“I love you,” Aaron added.
“I love you too and goodbye dear,” Grandmother Nelson replied.
They hung up the phone and Aaron resumed looking at his magazine. He wanted to look like he had money. Aaron jumped up and ran to get a pair of scissors. He looked in the mirror and started to cut some of his hair in the front to make it look just like picture he found. This reminded him of the time when he decided to cut his eyelashes off. Aaron had huge dark eyelashes that any girl would pay thousands of dollars for. The only problem was that he owned them. Aaron walked over and locked his door because he did not want his mother to find him this time. When she found him at the age of five, with no eyelashes, all hell broke loose.
Aaron looked in the mirror at his new hairstyle. He was satisfied. It looked a little uneven but he still thought he was ‘stylin.’ He fell back on his bunk bed and he began to think about the only other gift that he desperately wanted. It was a big silver boom box. They were the latest craze and everyone had one. You were instantly cool if you walked outside with one of these bad boys on your shoulders. A crowd would automatically form around you and everyone would take turns break dancing. Aaron knew that they were not cheap. Luckily, he had put it on his list over a year ago. This would give his mother, the bargain shopper, plenty of time to find the best deal. Aaron jumped off of his bed and pretended to have a boom box on his shoulder while he walked around the room.
“Hey, man, would you like to break dance?” Aaron said to the imaginary person next to him.
“Just make sure to have a hottie for yours truly,” Aaron said to the air.
A knock at his door suddenly got Aaron to snap out of it. He quickly scrambled to hide the scissors and hair in the trash.
As he unlocked the door his mother asked to speak with him in the living room.

How in the world did she know that I cut my hair?
It was strange because his two brothers were already on the couch and his dad was sitting in the recliner. Aaron sat down. It was a family meeting.
“Boys, I have to have surgery. I need a hysterectomy,” Rhonda seriously stated.
“A what?” Aaron asked dramatically?
Rhonda answered, “It’s a simple surgery. Beverly, Tressa, and my mother have all had it done.”
Tressa and Beverly were Rhonda’s sisters. It went Tressa, Rhonda, and then Beverly.
“How long will you be there mom?” Billy asked.
“They are not for sure but I have arranged for Charles to stay with Mammaw since she lives close to the high school and the two of you will stay with your Aunt Beverly. Your dad will be with me at the hospital most of the time.”
A few weeks passed since the boys got the news about their mom. And school was now out for the Holiday. A white Christmas looked bleak since it was approaching rapidly. Christmas Eve arrived and the family sat down for a great feast at their Grandmother Nelson’s. She was the best cook in the world. Billy drooled when anyone mentioned Mammaw’s famous mashed potatoes. The woman was a true artist. Everything was made from scratch. After dinner was over, the boys begged to go home. The quicker they got to sleep, the quicker morning would come.
Aaron was dreaming when he heard his parents maneuvering the gifts under the tree. Sadly, he had been told that Santa was not real when he was five years old—it was around the same time he had cut his gigantic eyelashes off. When Aaron knew it was safe, he snuck in to the living room. There it was—the huge silver boom box that he had wanted sooo badly. Aaron started dancing around. He tripped over a gift and froze after he hit the ground. He waited to see if anyone would get up but when time passed and there were no signs of life, he rushed back to his bedroom. He could not wait to pump up the volume….
It seemed like forever as Aaron waited and waited for the adults to announce that it was time. It was like three seconds when the boys made a mad dash for the new toys. Aaron ran to his only love. He began to look at the directions when his mother rounded the corner with a cup of coffee in her hand. She took a sip and looked at Aaron strangely.
“Aaron that belongs to Charles,” she said.
Aaron’s mouth dropped open and Charles responded, “Cool!”
He did not even care about the silver mega boom box. All he could say was, “Cool!”
“Honey, I did not know that you wanted a boom box. I would have got you one if I did,” she stated.
“Mom, I told you a year ago and every other day since then,” Aaron replied trying to fight the tears.
He ran to his room. Aaron knew that his mother mixed the gifts up on accident but that did not take the sting away. Aaron knew that his mother would eventually come down to his room and rescue him. He knew that his mother would apologize about the mix-up and that fine piece of machinery would be his.
Well, that never happened. Rhonda was the type of person that forgot things when she was stressed. The surgery was occupying her thoughts at the time. At least his Grandmother Nelson got him the expensive clothes that he wanted. Rhonda walked to the back bedroom and told Aaron to get his things, because it was time for her to drop them off at their new temporary homes. When they pulled into Beverly’s drive way she ran out to give her sister a big hug and kiss. Aaron looked over at his pregnant aunt and noticed that she was a beautiful brunette who didn’t realize how gorgeous she was. Aaron came out of his daze when she told the boys to go inside and put their things away. The boys walked into the house and put their belongings up. They got ready for bed since it was getting late. Beverly made snacks and they all watched a few television shows. The boys were having a blast. When bedtime was announced Beverly went to tuck them in.
“Aunt Bev, can I ask you a question?” Aaron said.
“What is it dear?” she replied.
“I told my mom that I wanted a boom box for Christmas and she got Charles one instead,” he said, “I know that mom forgets a lot but I just don’t understand.”
“Aaron, let me tell you a few things about your mother,” she said as she sat down on the bed next to him.
“You and your mom aren’t so different—you both are dramatic,” Beverly began. “I remember when we were young and your mom used to gather all of the kids in the neighborhood to have a church service. Aunt Katherine and Uncle Horace used to take her to some prayer meetings so I guess she learned it from them. I remember it like it was yesterday.”

“Now, Beverly, go and round up the other kids,” a much smaller Rhonda commanded. “I will get everything ready.”
“Once the kids arrived she would begin,” Beverly told Aaron.
“Good morning everyone,” a younger Rhonda dramatically declared. “Let’s start this service off by singing a song. It’s called, He Walks With Me.”
“Who walks with you,” a small girl in the audience blurted out?
“Jesus, of course,” she responded, “Don’t you see him?”
“Aaron, everyone’s head in that audience bobbed up and down,” laughed Beverly.
“He walks with me and he talks with me,” the children sang.
Beverly continued telling Aaron the story. “When they were finished Rhonda started her sermon,”
“Psalms talks about the importance of song. Now, we did that, so let’s pray.”
“Your mom looked around and coughed at anyone who had their eyes opened,” Beverly stated.
“Dear Jesus, thanks for listening to our song, Amen.” And all of the guests responded, “Amen!”

“It’s time for offering,” a younger Rhonda flared. “Beverly, go and collect.”
“And the funny thing about it was that I would actually go and do it,” Beverly giggled.
“What did you do with the money, Aunt Bev?” He questioned.
“We would go and buy ice cream,” she said as she laughed until she snorted. Aaron and Beverly started cracking up.
“You guys were bad,” said Aaron. He looked at his Aunt and realized that he wanted to know more about his mom. “Tell me some more stories.”
Beverly rubbed her belly as she stared at her nephew. “I hope my baby will be half of what your mom is.” Aaron wondered what she meant by that. But his curiosity got the best of him and he couldn’t wait any longer.
“Please, tell me more,” he begged.
“Okay, but you have to promise me that you will go to sleep after this,” Beverly stated.
Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye,” Aaron said as he made the appropriate gestures.
“Your mom used to sing this song, Where The Boys Are, to me every night. I was the youngest so this would make me feel safe. I remember one night when I was lying in bed waiting for her to show up but she never came,” Beverly explained.
“Why?” Aaron asked.
“We were playing pirates on the play ground earlier that day,” Beverly described.

“Hey, you want to be a pirate?’ The boy asked a younger Rhonda and Beverly.
“Yeah, that sounds great,” they both replied.
“Your mom changed our names and began speaking like a true pirate,” Beverly continued.
“Get to the ship Mattie’s; I will take care of this here hooligan.”
“When she turned around a stick landed straight in her eye. The stick was lodged in deep. When she got to the hospital they could barely save her vision. She is now blind in one eye.
“Are you serious? She never told me that she was actually blind in one eye,” said Aaron.
“The boy who did it felt horrible but your mom was such a forgiving person that she didn’t blame him,” Beverly reassured.
“Was she always so nice?” Aaron asked.
“No, she hated doing chores and she could get mean if you asked her to do any. Everyone is human but it’s the good that out weighs the bad,” Beverly replied.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before but I always thought it was just adults trying to make me throw up,” said Aaron.
Beverly laughed to herself.
“Oh, yeah. There was another time that your mom made an effort to be nice to someone,” Beverly continued.
“Except this time it did not involve a stranger. I was just 13; Rhonda was sixteen; Tressa was out of the house; and our brother Randy was eight years old.”
Aaron looked puzzled.
“Don’t you remember your mom telling you about Randy?” she asked.
“Yes, but she really never talks about him or what really happened,” he stated.
It all happened so fast. I was taunting Randy with my new squirt gun. I kept squirting him. This made him beg to have mine but I told him to get his own. I knew he had enough money so I just figured he could buy it at the little store down the road. Randy got on his bike because of me that day,” Beverly mournfully remembered.
“Aunt Beverly what happened?” Aaron prodded.
“Your mom walked up to me later on that afternoon and just held me as tears ran down her face,” she said.
She told me that he had been hit by a drunk driver on the way back from the store.” Aaron was stunned.
“It was my fault that he went in the first place,” Beverly wept. “She kept repeating over and over again that everything was going to be alright. If it wasn’t for your mom I probably could not have made it,” Beverly quietly said. “I just wanted to die.”
Aaron put his hand on his Aunt’s shoulder. He saw her wipe a tear away.
“I love you,” Aaron whispered.
“It’s getting late and you need to get some rest,” said Beverly.
“Aunt Beverly, don’t stop,” he hastened.
“I guess a few more stories won’t hurt. Let’s see. Have you ever seen anyone get teased at school for being different?” She stated.
“To tell you the truth I have and I joined in because I was scared,” Aaron said remembering Lena.
“It happens to the best of us. That’s why your mom is so great because she never wavered. We had just moved from California to Texas. We were instantly popular at our new school. Your mom was so pretty and everyone wanted to be her friend. But one day that changed,” Beverly stated. “The other students were teasing a girl in the courtyard. They were teasing her about her brother. It was because the girl’s brother acted feminine. She told them to leave the poor girl alone and that they should not judge people.
Rhonda walked right over to the girl and told her that it was time to leave. The girl was crying and looked over at Rhonda and smiled. Your mom lost her popularity real fast. But the funny thing was she didn’t care because she had made a new friend. She was always doing things like that,” said Beverly. “Do you remember Mr. Ted?”
“Yes, I do. He was the slow man that used to walk everywhere,” Aaron replied. “I remember when you boys were little and your mom was driving down the road on this one day in particular,” Beverly explained. “Your mom rolled down her window and asked Mr. Ted if he wanted a ride.

“You don’ mind bein' seen wit me?” The man replied.
“Of course I wouldn’t mind. I see the way you treat the children in town. Your drawings that you give them are beautiful. Besides, who cares what other people say,” she responded.
“Man, I knew she was great but,” Aaron said.
Beverly interrupted, "Your mom used to go to the hospital each and every night to help a woman who had Encephalitis.”
“What’s In set ti titus?” Aaron asked.
“It’s a disease that literally means an inflammation of the brain. It usually is caused by a virus. It's a rare disease. Rhonda would bathe her and put her make-up on,” Beverly pointed out. And she would sing to her while she combed the ailing woman’s hair. The woman in the hospital miraculously got better and she told everyone that an angel visited her on many occasions. She said that the angel had the most beautiful singing voice,” Beverly finished.
“And if she wasn’t helping adults she was contributing clothes to the children in need. Your mom had a way of getting stores to donate clothes for this cause.”
Beverly leaned over and kissed Aaron on the cheek and whispered, “Listen, the point of me telling you all of this is that your mom needs you the most right now. She didn’t want to tell you but Gran is dying from esophagus cancer.”
“What? But he looked fine just the other day,” Aaron blurted out.
“He’s trying to be strong for you boys,” Beverly replied. “When dad finally told us we all couldn't believe it. And then we found out that your mother needed surgery. It’s all been very fast.”
She walked over to the switch and turned out the lights. Aaron no longer cared that his mother goofed on his present. He realized that she needed him and his Gran did too.
The next day when Aaron went back to school he was wearing his new clothes. As he walked in to Ms. Lafayette’s class, feeling mighty fine, he noticed that Chris Alexander was wearing the same sweater!