Story: A Life Like This (ch. 4)

This one's a little longer. :| I think this is the last of Tim's middle school chapters. :U By the way, Tim's mom is actually 29 in this chapter.
Sorry for the strange dialogue. "orz WHAT DO MIDDLE SCHOOL BOYS TALK ABOUT...?
Also. Describing setting is fun because you don't have to keep saying "I".


Ch. 4
8th Grade

“...And I was like, ‘are you serious?’ Who gives four pages of math homework on a weekend? The teachers here need to like, chill out. And I hate it when they act all surprised when we don’t turn our homework in. Like, what do they expect? It’s their fault for… Timmy? Are you listening?”

I jerked my head up; I had been intently staring at my shoelaces, noticing how one of the laces looked longer than the other. A dull “Huh?” escaped from my mouth when I noticed Clair had been talking the whole time.

“Tiiiim,” she whined, though her face still smiled brightly. Too brightly, at that. “You need to stop spacing out like that!” She wrapped herself around my left arm and leaned her head on my shoulder.

It was lunchtime. I sat with Jake and a bunch of other kids who flocked around him; he attracted students like a magnet. Glancing around, I noticed I was the only one who hadn’t been paying much attention to Clair’s oh-so-exciting story.

“Sorry. I was just thinking about the last math class.” It was a blatant lie (what kind of 13-year-old ponders about math?), but I said it so smoothly that even I would’ve believed myself.

“In fact...” I continued my fake excuse, “I need to study. Mom’s gonna kill me if I do badly this quarter.” I shrugged Clair off of my shoulder and got up from the table. She pushed her mass of blonde hair gracefully over her shoulder. Looking up at me with heavily made-up eyes, she fluttered her fingers as a goodbye.

“’Kay, see you in science,” she chirped. For someone that called herself my girlfriend, she didn’t seem too interested in hanging around me. But then again, I did say I’d be studying...

I shuffled to a far away table where no one was sitting and slumped myself into one of the open chairs. Obviously I had no intention of studying. In fact, I never studied for anything; school was easy enough already. What had Clair been talking about... how teachers gave to much homework on weekends? Could she really have so much going on the entire weekend that she couldn’t finish a couple math problems? Maybe I should think of it conversely: Did I have so much time on my hands that I could finish a couple math problems? All I could do on the weekends was stay home and do work since mom’s never ho--

“Hey!” a spirited voice said.

I looked up from the table, moving my ginger hair out of my eyes to see clearly. A boy with jet hair and bangs that came just above his cerulean eyes faced me. Another boy stood behind the first, wearing a red hat and light hair. He stared curiously at me with sincere brown eyes. I recognized the two as Dare and Rick from my English class.

“Uh... Hi there.” I waved weakly at the pair with mild confusion.

“You mind if we sit here?” the first boy asked. He began taking a seat before I even answered.

“Sure, go ahead.”

He sat directly in front of me, with the blonde boy to his left. “I’m Dare Cromwell, by the way.”

Dare held out his hand for me to shake it. Was he serious? I glanced back up at him; his cerulean eyes were attentive and clear. I guess he was.

“Yeah, um... Okay. I’m Tim Ackart,” I replied, and awkwardly shook his hand. Well this was weird.

Dare released my hand from his grasp and pointed to the blonde boy. “Oh yeah, and this is Rick.”

Rick smiled nervously, and mustered a quiet “Hi.” I waved lightly in recognition.

“He’s a little shy,” Dare said simply. He began fumbling through his brown paper lunch bag.

“How come you’re not sitting over with your friends like you usually do?” He asked this without looking up, but moved slightly in the direction of the table Jake was sitting at.

I shrugged. “Didn’t feel like it, I guess.”

Dare’s blue eyes looked up briefly before returning to his lunch. He nodded and replied, “’Kay. That’s cool.” His hands pulled an apple from his bag, which he began munching on.

“So Tim. Do you like video games?” he asked, totally changing the topic.

I stared at him for a moment. “Why?” I asked back. The randomness of his question confused me. Actually, his whole presence confused me.

Dare shrugged. “I dunno. Just wondering.” His eyes had the curiosity of a child. It seemed like he genuinely wanted to have a conversation with me.

I shrugged again. “Yeah, I guess. I have some games.”

“Oh yeah? What do you play on? Like... what game console?”

“I have an N64...”

He immediately brightened up at my answer. “Whoa! You have a 64?!” He leaned in with excitement. “Where’d you get one?”

“It was my mom’s, I think.”

“Dude, those things are so old.” Dare turned to Rick. “I’ve always wanted to play one, y’know.”

He leaned back toward me and continued with energy. “What games do you have?”

“I have some racing games. They kind of suck, though... The graphics are terrible.” I thought for a moment. “But they’re so bad that they’re fun, in a way,” I said with a smile.

Dare grinned back. He went back to his lunch bag and pulled out a sandwich. After looking deeper into the bag, he frowned slightly.

“I’m gonna go get some milk.” Dare said, abruptly getting up from the table. “Be right back, ‘kay?” he said in a quieter voice to Rick, and patted him on the shoulder.

With Dare gone, an uncomfortable silence rang between Rick and me. The blonde boy sat with his hands in his lap, staring at his lunch with a distant expression. I decided to speak up.

“Does Dare always talk so much?”

Rick’s head shot up at the sound of my voice. He sat still for a moment, as if trying to comprehend the situation.

“Yeah, he talks a lot...” he finally said. It was the most he’d said since he sat down. His voice was soft and timid, almost difficult to hear. “He’s just good at being friendly with people.”

I leaned forward and crossed my arms on the table.

“You don’t talk much, do you?” It was an observation, but Rick took it like a question.

“Well I just... don’t know how to start a conversation. Or keep one going, really.” his voice trailed off, and he whisked his hand quickly through his hair.

I continued to stare at him. He was basically Jake’s complete opposite: quiet and shy instead of loud and attention-getting. It was kind of a nice change of pace.

Surprisingly, Rick broke the silence this time.



“You can sit with us at lunch again if you want. With Dare and me, I mean.” His eyes warmed up a bit, and his expression relaxed. A small smile snuck its way onto his face.

I smiled as well.



The only thing interrupting the enveloping silence was the rattling from the subway moving on the tracks. A couple lonely souls sat around me, and none of them said a word. I sat staring at the tan carpeted floor, rocking every now and again with the train. The fluorescent lights reflected off the white walls of the subway car, making it too bright to look up.

The train stopped, and the doors swept open. I forced my head up and squinted to see where the train had arrived. One or two of the other passengers shook to life and shuffled slowly through the exit. I followed a distance behind, keeping my head low to avoid their gaze. Was it really so weird to see an 8th grader out on his own at night?

I exited the subway station and entered the night. Streetlights that gave off dull yellow lights lit the sidewalk. Every now and again, a car would zip by with a burst of wind and color. The sky was a murky dark purple, splattered with a couple pale stars here and there. A cloud covered itself over the moon, turning the moon’s brilliant shine into a hazy glow. Shady houses rested in the night, their windows dark. I walked down the familiar streets a couple blocks down to my destination.

I came before a local bar-and-restaurant with a blinding neon sign that read “Charlie’s Pub”. As I opened the door, a gust of air hit me. It carried to me the scents of strong alcohol, beers, and tobacco. My nose twitched at the scents’ appearances. The building was significantly dimmer than the subway. A warm amber color lit the brown wooden floors and ceiling. To my left and right were wooden tables and booths with flushed red cushion seats, many of which were empty. A small stage sat at the far left wall; it was cluttered with chairs and boxes however, possibly due to underuse.

Straight ahead I could see the bar. It ran across almost the entire width of the building. Empty beer bottles, shot glasses, and ash trays were scattered along its high counter top, which was slowly being cleared by the woman behind the counter. She noticed I arrived and gave me a look of recognition, her cerulean eyes gleaming with a kind of mischievousness.

But she was not the woman I was here to see.

Almost in the direct center of the bar sat a skinny woman who appeared to be in her mid twenties. She slumped violently in her chair, her bare arms crossed on the table with her head burrowed in between. A curtain of deranged and feathered dirty blonde hair draped over her, keeping her face from visibility. Her back was arched, revealing skin from underneath her spaghetti-strapped tank top. She looked to be passed out, but it was questionable; she still had a lit cigarette nestled between the index and middle fingers on her right hand. There was no doubt she had been drinking, though. Several shot glasses laid around her curtain of hair in a disorderly manner.

I came forward to her. She didn’t move. I stepped in closer. She remained inattentive. I dared not touch her, and spoke only for a moment.

“Mom. It’s time to go home.”


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