Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 7:27 pm
Location: Singing Fortepiano
Re: Housepets: Matt
52. Matt walks out
When Matt wipped the steam off the mirror, he barely could keep himself from wincing, as seeing his face made him sure that what it shows is adequate to what he was feeling.
Eyebags seemed to be darker and more swollen. Eyes didn't seem to look straight, red veins were occupying most of the white surface. Lips were dried out and without any color. Even his skin was more pale than it usually is.
He placed his hand on his stomach. It just reminded him that all those sweets and chips he consumed so late at night, and that cola he drank, all of that was still there, inside, trying to get through the process of digestion, but it was going like an old train that should have been on final station a long time ago.
That's how Matt was feeling and how he looked. Sick. And tired. And the hot shower did not help him to ease discomfort of zombie syndrome. He should've been in his warm bed, not in the bathroom preparing his poor body for a hard day at school.
Although Matt often has such days, as he belongs to this group of people who regulary plays the night sport of combating multiple enemies by using computer and proper games, where challenging deathmatches or PvP/ PvE MMORPG combat are performed frequently. Matt not only is a multichampion of cyberfighting arts in many fields, but also his stamina to not fall asleep and then function somehow during daylight had improved during those years. But... that was before his parents decided to give him a dog.
Last night, Matt had to face a situation he never encountered in his young life. Even living in same room with his older brother could not prepare him for that. He did not calculate the fact that the dog is not just a dog, but an extremely stubborn, whimsical pest who, by using his incredible creativity in cunning, is able to use a wide pallette of possibilities to make an experienced PC gamer, the man titled “pro” in this environment, to loose patience and ragequit from gameplay right on the spot.
Later, in the dark, he could see those eyes. The green eyes flashing at him, watching him carefully, observing his every movement in bed. Eyes like they belonged to a snake, who patiently awaits for the right moment to sense insecurity of its prey and make a swift movement to attack. Matt was alert all the time, because he knew that a moment of weakness means to wake up with mouth and limbs sealed with isolation tape. Even now, before stepping into the shower, he found a piece of tape on his arm. He was thankful for not having any hair on it.
Taking away his glance from that sorry face on which he couldn't look at anymore, he splashed some cold water on his burning eyes, used deodorant, pulled black t-shirt on himself and got out of the bathroom, having to support himself on the wall as his stomach was refusing obedience.
The sound of radio was coming out of the kitchen, as usually at this time. Dad changed the channel again, as Matt winced at the sound of kitsch music, where he could not tell did the voice of the performing singer belonged to a man or woman, or was it his/her actual voice. He scented the strong smell of fresh coffee. Before entering, Matt had to give a good stretch to his poor spine and rub his eyes, as his vision was still quite blurr. Looking around, he saw the same familiar morning view – his father sitting at the table, today's newspaper covering most of his wide body, and a mug (only allowed to be used by Dad) filled with hot coffee right next to him. Matt was fine with that. He was not up for any provocation this day and his dad may be too occupied with newspaper to make any conversation.
Matt said something that resembled word “hi” but he wasn't sure was he heard, yet he didn't bother to wait for any response as he already was on his way to shelves. Though his stomach was having malfunctions today, he still wanted to get through breakfast.
Reaching with his hand up for the cupboard, he begun searching for his object of desire, but after a while he slammed the sink with his fist and groaned.
“Aww, maan! Dad, why there's only oatmeal??” Matt whined, turning to his father, “I asked for specific cereal! You know well I hate this junk!”
“Matt, I don't know. Mom was doing all the shopping.” Mr. Sternfeld remained unfazed and kept sitting in same position.
“But you were there with her! And you know that I prefer 'Rickie's Puffs' and 'Grapefellows' from cereals! I've been telling you so many times and you still forget to buy me what I want! Gee, do I need to start writing you notes before you go shopping so you'll remember to buy something that at least contains some little bit of chocolate or honey?”
“Matt, what's your problem?” Mr. Sternfeld peeked through his newspaper from curiosity, “Is there really a difference if you'll neat something that is natural instead of those... choko-something?”
Matt wiped his forehead.
“Dad, you totally do not undeartand. Flavors are one thing, but that really important is sugar, you get it? Sugar, dad!”
Matt leaned all of a sudden to Mr. Sternfeld, making the man to shield himself with newspaper from impulse.
“Every morning you drink coffee. You need your coffee, right?” Matt pointed at Mr. Sternfeld's cup, “You need a dose of caffeine so you can get energy for your daily activities, right? Now look, I'm a young man and I don't drink coffee. But still, just like you, I need energy for daily activities, and though you may believe me or not, I actually do something more than just sitting in room and simply bum as you so much like to point that out, but that's not important now. What I want to say is that, to us, young people who not doze themselves with caffeine, our only hope to survive the day is a substitute of our morning meal. And this is where sugar enters. Only this sweet substance will allow us to live through school, garbage day or watching TV without ending up drolling on a pillow. That's why my demand to eat sweet cereal is justified and whenever you go to shop and look upon them standing on shelves, you should think of my condition, because by buying oatmeal, you condemn me to suffering.”
Mr. Sternfeld listen to this with raised eyebrow, as such speeches were not common for Matt.
“Okay, here is my response to your lecture about contemporary youth's demands: stop complaining and eat what we have. Eating something that contains good nutricional value will not kill you. And if you're really that upset on what we have, we always have bread...”
“You know what dad? You know what?” Matt's finger was now pointed at his dad. “This time you may came out victorious from this psychological skirmish, but that does not mean you've totally won. Soone or later, I'll repay you with the same. You'll just see!”
Matt returned to cupboard. He took out a plastic board and placed it on a counter in a manner like he was fighting himself to not destroy the object. He was angry on himself. He said to himself that he won't even speak a word to dad and five minutes did not pass when he got sucked into this little skirmish, and his mood became even worse than before. And all of that happened because of oatmeal! He promised himself to not let be provoked by the unexpected again, and remain speechless.
He grabbed the pack of oatmeal and gave it a look. There was nothing special about it. No colorful, awesome name of product. No funny mascot of the cereal, who would give that smile which promises happiness when you open that bag. No bowl that is being filled with milk, where those glittering, creatively shaped flakes were about to pour out. The box was simply gray, with a simple name of the product, giving an impression that what awaits inside of it is dullness and no excitement.
Stomach reminded of itself. Though full and sore, Matt's mere though on flavored flakes changed that, as if was empty and it begged to be stuffed with something sweet, but because of dissapointment of not finding the expected thing, stomach became more unbearable, like an angry dog whose owner took his bone away.
“Matt, hurry up or you're gonna be late for school bus.”
Matt grunted as he was closing the fridge. He was about to throw a long bouquet of complaint at his father, but he clenched his teeth just in time to not fall for another trap. He approached the table and placed all his stuff on it, without any trace of aggression this time, to not provoke the beast behind the newspaper. Taking his place, he gave a glance on bowl, bottle of milk and box of oatmeal. He sighed. He was so unhappy that this will soon have to be comsumed. If it would depend from him, he would walk out of the house without eating a breakfast and simply find some local store, where he would satisfy himself with a simple candy bar or pack of sugared almonds. Unfortunately, in Sternfeld household, going out to school without eating breakfast first was absolutely out of question, not because the chief of family would cause a fuss over it, but being feed by mother, who would sense immediately that something's wrong with her son and would rush to help regain apetite, was something that Matt would actually want to avoid, for the sake of his teenage dignity.
“Matt, you look horrible!” Mr. Sternfeld, who could not help himself to not check is his son eating already, have spoken, “Did you not sleep well at night or something?”
Of course Matt looked horrible. But how could he excuse his poor appearance, and the fact that he's not so away from slamming his head against the table and falling asleep? By telling that he was stuck in same room with a little devil? And he had to spend most of the night struggling for his own self security?
“Don't even ask...” Matt replied shortly, giving his tired face a rub.
“Was it that cold?” Matt couldn't help but sence a nute of sarcasm in his dad's voice, “Hat was not enough?
“Well, I was actually thinking on getting a hot water bottle, but I remembered that those are used by gramps. And I did not want to make you feel upset by taking yours.”
“Hmph...” Mr. Sternfeld's face gained a little pinkish hue, and his glance went back to his newspaper. “Well then, quite unusual situation, giving a fact that your mother and I could barely sleep under covers, as it was pretty hot outside, but you live on the rooftop so maybe temperature there is different. Unless...” The man gave his son a side-glance filled with suspicion, “... you were playing those games on your computer whole night again.”
Matt almost dropped the bottle of milk as he tried to surpress the cough.
“Me? Playing games? No. Of course not,” Matt had to look elsewhere when telling this small, innocently looking lie, “We had a talk about that, remember?”
Matt does remember this talk very well. He was pinned into sofa for like two hours, and conversation looked more like trial, where dad played the role of prosecutor, pinning the accused right to the wall by presenting long list of heavy accusations. The talk ended with a threatening that Matt's computer will get ripped off along with cables and thrown out of the window. Plus no allowance for whole month. Which sucks.
“Yes, I do...” The newspaper rustled and Mr. Sternfeld was back to reading. “I hope we achieved a long term agreement this time. Honestly, you're spending too much of your time in front of your computer playing those violent games, your brain will melt if you'll keep doing that . In my times, the way of spending day having fun was going outdoors and playing with other neighbor kids.”
“My sincere condolences on being born in times of youth's despair.”
“Matt, I'm being serious. You can't live all the time some sort of loner. You really should make some friends. Maybe you will find here some. Or pehaps in your new school.”
“Did you at least try to socialize in school? You didn't tell me about your school yet. Do you like it there? Is it better than the one you attended to back in Chicago?”
“Dad, I don't want to talk about this...”
“And when you want to talk about this?” Mr. Sternfeld said with indignation, “It's always like that, whenever I want to make a conversation with you, at once you go for 'no'. Matt, you can't speak to me like that. Sometimes you talk with other people better than with your own father!”
“Dad, please, I'm too tired to argue with you about this again. I only want to eat breakfast...”
“What ever,” Mr. Sternfeld said with resignation, “Just eat quick. I want you to get the school bus on time, you're too old to be drive to school by me.
When that was clear, Matt opened the bottle and poured the cold milk into the bowl, filling it to the edge. That was the easy part. But when he unwrapped the box, his hand shook, and he could swear to himself that he smelled the disgusting scent of wheat. The process of puring the flakes into the bowl was very slow, like Matt was trying to delaying the unavoidable. A mountain of flakes was formed, as the food did not want to sink and combine itself with milk, which Matt found upsetting. When the process of adding oatmeal flakes to the bowl was over, he kept sitting in his place and kept looking at his ready meal like at something terrifying.
He took a piece with a spoon and lifted it on his eyes level, giving it a curious look. There wasn't anything unusual, except the flakes were simply yellowish, ordinary like. Then he took a whiff of the portion, to be sure it's actually an eatable food, not a poison.
“Matt, I told you not so long ago to hurry up. If you won't get out of the house in right time, you won't be able--”
“Dad, stop it!” Matt dropped the spoon right into the bowl, “Can't you understand it's a very difficult situation to me? You're not letting me focus right!
“Okay, sorry...” Mr. Sternfeld felt a little abashed, as he was unaware of getting such reaction from Matt. He decided it will be better if he'll return to sipping coffee and keep reading the newspaper, thus not stressing his son.
Matt took the portion of flakes again. His mind was sending him alerts all the time to not allow this food to enter his mouth, providing him with couple of imaginations of how this may end up for him, beginning from feeling the horrible taste for most of the morning, to ending with spitting on the table, and on his dad, which would totally cross the line today. But at the same time, he did realize there's no other way, but stay strong this time and face the nightmare of many children across the world. He took a deep, relaxing breath and opened his mouth. The trial commenced.
The spoon entered Matt's mouth, teeth closed right behind the head. He waited a bit, then, took the spoon out and placed it back into the bowl. Tongue began to work first, then Matt's cheeks began to move as slow chewing began, teeth cracking the crunchy flakes. Suddenly, he stopped. Matt's shoulders trembled, there was a clear grimace on his face. His mouth puffed. His eyes became glassy, and a long, muffled moan came from his throat, as he could not open his mouth.
He felt the burning urge to spit out everything. To avoid that, he went for emergency swallowing. Leaning back and raising his chin, he tried to force himself to send the food right down the throat into stomach. Strange, gurgling sounds came out from his throat when swallowing begun. This, however, was proven to be not so easy, as the cereal was not chewed completely into mash, so it was like swallowing heavy iron with spikes. Throat seemed to resist, but eventually Matt found strengh to give a strong push. It went down very slowly and painfully, landing in base with a crump. When it was done, Matt immediately took lots of air to his lungs and had to bent and give himself time till the wave of discomfort coming from his unhappy belly will cease.
There was no time to rest, however. Though it was a horrible experience, Matt had to continue before the feeling of resignation will took him over. Now it was not just a breakfast. Eating this oatmeal was a challenge now. A war. And though he was the one receiving a beating, he still could not let the awful oatmeal win over him. Without hesitation, he took another portion with his spoon.
Mr. Sternfeld couldn't resist taking a little peak at his son to check how he's doing. What he saw was not eating brekfast, but more like a torture, where victim is forced to eat pieces of glass.
“You know, maybe if you put it into microwave and warm it--”
“Shush! I think I'm getting used to it.”
It was still awful to his taste, but indeed, with every portion he took to his mouth, eating was becoming easier and less uncomfortable. Even his stomach decided to give up and stay at bay, though it let out a quiet growl sometimes.
Fives minutes passed. The bowl was half empty. Matt decided to take a small break and placed the spoon down.
“Disgusting!” He exclaimed, giving a stern stare to his bowl, “How people can eat that. It tastes so... normal.”
Mr. Sternfeld assumed its safe to look at Matt again. He gave his son a comforting smile.
“I did not like grain food when I was your age, too,” He said to him, “I actually did not eat most of food. But when a person gets older, a lot of habits change. Oh yes, a lot changes...” Smiling to himself, he leaned back on his chair, falling into reverie.
Matt looked at his father. More precisely at his red woolen sweater, in white-black stripes laying in different, granny-like patterns. The sweater was barely covering a well round belly, sleeves and uneven collar of a shirt sticking out clearly.
“When cruel fate of time and space will claim my juvenility, I hope it won't leave me that much destructed.” Matt commented while watching his father's fashion, then took a spoon into his hand.
Matt took a portion of food on his spoon. He opened his mouth and was just about to put the food into his mouth, but at this moment, it hit him that a certain chair at his side is empty.
“Hey, have you seen the dog?”
Mr. Sternfeld lifted his eyes from the newspaper and looked around the kitchen.
“He was here somewhere...”
“He was here?”
“I think so. No... wait, he was here. For a moment. But I don't know where he is now.”
Matt placed the spoon back to the bowl. “How strange...” He said to himself, with a tune of suspiciousness.
And suspicous it was. Since that little devil appeared in this house, the only place where Matt could be alone was the bathroom. Other than that, no matter where Matt went – was it his own room, living room, kitchen, attic, basement, garrage, porch or yard, the dog was there with him, reminding with his existence and pert snout what a pain in a certain place it is, making Matt's life miserable in the process. But the dog's absence in the kitchen at morning, where he usually was found devouring his dry food vigorously and saying snappy comments, happened for the very first time. Normally, Matt would find this as a blessing, but he already knows this dog enough to understand that this is kinda wrong.
He began to look around the kitchen. There was no one, except his occupied with daily news dad. Nothing furred was hiding in a corner, glued to a window or hanging on chandelier, there was nothing that would indicate a surprise assassination attempt. He looked down the table. No mean spirit was found there and his shoelaces were alright. This time.
“Matt, will you finally finish your breakfast or not?”
“Alright, alright!” Matt fumed. He took the spoon into his hand and dig it into cereal in a way like he performed a stab with a knife. “I'm eating already!”
“You don't need to speak to me in such way!” Mr. Sternfeld gave a reprimend.
“Because you're hustling me!” Matt talked back, “First you tell me to eat, then I can't finish my eating peacefully because you're hustling me all the time! How am I supposed to eat breakfast when you're stressing me?”
“Matt, don't fuss! If you weren't straggling, I would not say it to you!”
Matt knew he's getting into rooster fight again. Anger swelled in him, because he was sure he's the one with most right, while his father sees his defence as exaggerating. However, reminding himself of his decision not to fall into any fight, and calculation the fact of being way too tired for this today, the ticked teen managed to put his emotions at bay and just let it go.
“Fine...” He murmured, and put the spoon into his mouth quite unwillingly.
After this moment of tension, where Matt was being pushed to finish his breakfast as fast as possible, the oatmeal seemed more disgusting to him than at the beginning, probably because he had another reason to hate the food. But after some time, where couple of minutes seemed to be eternity of agony, the bowl of bitterness at long last got emptied. Metallic spoon fell into empty bowl, ringing sound announced hard chieved victory. He was feeling satisfaction of his achievement, yet he knew that as soon as he will get out of the house, he must find some local shop and stuff himself with sweets, as an apologetic offering to his stomach for showing it such contempt, and feel as a normal self again.
The kitchen was not a safe zone, and as long as he was here, along with his dad, Matt risked another conflict. Not wasting any time, he took the bowl into his hand, stood up, approached the sink, bet over the sink and rest his forehead on his palm as he moved too fast for his tired organism and had to rest for a bit to not fall unconscious on kitchen floor which would be incredibly embarrasing to him, threw the bowl unceremoniously into the sink, turned on his heels and approached the exit with a fast pace, as he wanted to get to coat hanger as soon as he can.
“Matt, dishes will wash themselves?”
The boy did not make it in time to kitchen exit to not hear this, and his father's notice worked as an obstacle, blocking the way. An answer was already formed in Matt's head, but his mind also formed dad's answer on his answer, which would be how can you make your own loving mother clean after you, aren't you too old for that?, so at this case he could only shuffle back to the sink with a long face and turn the water on.
“Dad, we do live in a twenty-first century, you know?” Matt said, as he waited till the water will get warm enough to start washing, “And people who live in twenty-first century do think about getting a wash machine to kitchen when moving to a new house, you know?”
“Oh, I'm sorry, but as a conservative person born in previous century, where there were no technical wonders of household, from my personal experience of using water, sponge, and dish soap, I believe if I was able to do that for more than four decades, I don't see any reason why anyone in this house wouldn't be able to perfom such not so complicated physical activity, especially my quite lazy son, for who this might be helpful, as he will at least move those thin arms from time to time. Saving on water is a different subject, though.” Mr. Sternfeld sumed up, taking an occasional sip of his coffee while doing so.
“More like conservative caveman...”
“What was that?”
“I didn't say a thing.”
“I hope so.”
Matt somehow washed the bowl and spoon without using detergents or a sponge. It was all too useless and boring to him, therefore quick rubs with his fingers were considered to be enough to make dishes clean. As he placed the stuff on dryer, not caring did he do it properly, at once he made an attempt to reach the exit.
“And the dog will feed himself?”
Matt froze just before the exit. When he turned around to face his father, his brow was twitching.
“Oh, you just can't be serious!” he said to him reproachfully, “Dad, he has thumbs! Besides, you said yourself not so long ago that we have a fridge!”
One glance through the newspaper helped Matt understand that saying to a conservative person born in previous century such obviousness above obviousnesses is like saying it to a blank wall. He approached, or rather stomped, to one of the counters, took out a plastic bowl along with a bag of dry food for dogs, filled it barely, and showed it into a corner of the room, ina manner like he actually wanted to throw it out of the window. With this being done, Matt began the third attempt of escape.
'WILL YOU DECIDE FINALLY?' flashed through Matt's mind. He was not sure anymore does his father really want him to go to school, just mock him around, or has a flat sence of humor. With trembling fists and curved lips, he forced himself to look upon his parent once more.
“What is it...”
Mr. Sternfeld folded the newspaper and placed it on the table, right next to his cup of coffee. Clasping his fingers and placing his hands on his round belly, he gave Matt a very serious, filled with concern look. At this moment Matt knew that right now he's about to hear something he won't find enjoyable.
“My apology, I forgot to tell you,” He began, “You see, this morning, there was an accident with the couch again.”
Matt did not show any reaction at first, except of widening his eyes when hearing this. Then he covered his face in his hand, sighed, and shook his head from disbelievement, as he knows well what the couch accident means to him.
“Don't sulk, Matt!” Mr. Sternfeld said to him sharply, “I told you so many times to solve this problem and yet it still happens! I'm getting tired of this, you understand me? It's the third time in a row!”
“But daad! What can I do about it?!”
“What do you mean 'what can you do about it'?” Mr. Sternfeld seemed to get angrier, “What kind of answer is that? I said clearly that dog is not allowed to be on the couch, and I ablolutely do not want to see him mark it as his zone! Do you understand me?”
“Do you u n d e r s t a n d?”
“But that's not fair, dad!” Matt whined, “You can't blame me for things that were done by the dog!”
“Now listen to me, Matthew”, Mr. Sternfeld narrowed his eyes at his son, “The dog is yours, therefore he is your responsibility. You know very well there are strickt rules in this house which I demand to be followed. When I say that dog is not allowed to be on the couch, since the dog is your responsibility, I expect from you to teach him to follow this rule. And if the dog will cause some mischief, you are the one who will take consequences for that, because dog's behavior depends from how you educate him! Our couch is brand new and was not cheap, and I don't want it to get ruined because of your dog!”
“Okay, that crosses the line!” Matt quickly approach his dad and pointed his finger at his face, making the man the lean back a bit from surprise, “First thing, it was not my idea to get a dog to our house! You got that thing without even asking for my opinion on that! Second, when you purchased that dog, all you did was saying that it's mine, and you placed him in my room, without asking for my opinion either! You want to know how I felt? Horrible! Like I'm not even being here! You treat me in a way like whatever I feel or say has no importance to you and to mom, and all what you care is what you want the most, not what I want, more like you were forcing happiness upon me, not even caring do you actually throw anguish upon me! My responsibility, you say? Well, let me share my personal thoughts on this matter: you may say that dog is my property and my responsibility, but I totally do not feel that way. I do not feel like I own the dog, or feel responsible for him. I don't give a care about him. I don't like him. For me, he can do whatever it pleases him, even if it is destruction of the house, I will not bother. If you expected that you will teach me some sort of lesson that there's also love, care, cuddles, or some other junk that will prove to me that world is also constructed from rainbows and cupcakes, then you're totally wrong! If you're so sore about your not so cheap couch, then take care of this problem yourself, because I do not care, and I will not care!”
Mr. Sternfeld was looking at his son in complete daze. None of them said anything, only radio with some recently popular teenage vocalist was playing in the background.
“That's all of my statement,” Matt broke the silence with a softened voice, “Now excuse me, but if I remember well, I'm supposed to be hurrying for the bus. So... cya.”
Matt turned on his heels and went straight for the exit, leaving his astonished father behind him and not waiting for any response from him. Just when the young teen dissapeared, a frown appeared on Mr. Sternfeld's forehead, and the man began to breath heavily.
“M-matt... Matthew! What was that supposed to be?! Matthew, I'm not done talking to you, you hear me?! Get straight back here! Matthew!”
Mr. Sternfeld was about to lift himself from chair and make a chase after his son, but to his dismay, his mobile phone rang. Pulling it out from his pocket, he saw on the screen it's one of his customers, and he could not neglect the call.
“When I'll get back home we're gonna have a serious face to face talk on the couch, young man!” He yelled loud enough to be hear. But Matt pretended to not hear this anymore. He was too busy with putting on his leather jacket, but he was in such fury and so frustrated that he found it difficult to put his arms into sleeves.
As he adjusted his spiked bracelets, so they could keep gloves on hands properly enough to not show any flesh, he rushed to the frontal door of the house. He unlocked the lock, and as he placed a hand on the door knob, he heard a sigh of dissapointment behind his back. He knew very well to who it belonged and why this person expressed it. Letting out a low groan, he hung his head, turned around, and approached the person.
Matt's glance went up. Before him was standing his mother. He was looking at her son with glittering eyes, like he was made of pure gold. Under her nose was the same smile – very cheerful and covered in a thick layer of lipstick. Her lush, brown hair was being tied by a green bandana in white spots, while she was wearing an apron in same design. The only thing not matching his mother's choice of fashion were yellow rubber gloves. It was obvious that today mom is going to have grand battle with various types of dirt in the house, and there's no way there are going to be any survivals, as she's pretty skilled with her usage of deadly tools, such as different types of cloths specially made for different surfaces, a brand new mop that was designed by experts from Switzerland (that's what at least the TV aid said), and ultrasilence vacuum SuperSucker 3000 Plus.
“Good luck in school, sweetie,” Mrs. Sternfeld spoke to her son with a soft voice, which made the boy sick, “I made you some sandwiches so you won't be hungry. And don't look inside until lunchtime!”
“Thanks...” Matt said without enthusiasm. He stretched his hands forward, so his mom could give him packed lunch, fastened with a red ribbon, which Matt found shameful.
“Now give your old mom a goodbye kiss!”
And that was even more shameful to the boy, as he believed he's not a little kid anyone, but a grown teenager who hates to be treated like a kid. Yet he did not dare to dissapoint his mother, so he bent down and gave her a light kiss on the cheek.
“I'll be going now.”
Until he could move, Mrs. Sternfeld stopped him in doing this by resting her hand on his chest.
“Oh, you grew up so handsome!” Her hand went up and clutched his cheek caressingly, “It won't be too long till all girls in school will be hunting for you.”
“Mom, come on...” Matt felt incredibly embarrased by this statement, which could be seen by his slight flush on his face. Having his cheek being touched like that was embarrasing too, but it felt really weird when it was being done with a rubber glove on.
“And you have such shapely ears!” Mrs. Sternfeld seemed to not have any intensions to quit, as now her hand was pulling on Matt's ear, “You clearly have them after your mom.”
Now the gloved hand was rummaging in Matt's thick bush of hair, which made the boy wince, as he hated when someone was doing that.
“And your hair is so thick. If you were born a girl, I would plait you braids all the time.”
“Gee, mom, thank you very much for making me feel so awkward on my self existence...”
Matt managed to free himself from his mother's hands, but not from the awkward feeling of combined shame and creepiness she left in his mind. When he was opening the door, he could hear her how she giggles.
“When you'll get back, we'll try the pyjamas I bought you!”
Matt sighed with relief as he finally found himself outside, leaving the problematic inhabitants of his house behind him.
He stood on roofed porch for a moment. He did not want to be outside actually. He would prefer to be buried in his bed sheets, or just stay in his room and do some things that will help him rest. But he did not want to be home either, not after what he experienced there. He could not eat what he wanted, he could not eat in peace, and dad had to keep complaining to him instead of giving him a break for once. And what's worst, he got blamed for something he did not do.
The dog... even when not being physically nearby, he still drags Matt into troubles. The boy was so mad. At lack of sleep, his tired body, at oatmeal, at the sink, at dad, at dad's complaints, at dad's stubborness, at the dog, at his jacket, at mom's girlishly made lunch pack, at the house he despises, at the porch he's currently standing on... actually, everything alive or not alive was ticking off Matt. The dog mostly.
The day barely began and it sucks already. He could stay on this porch and keep complaining in his thoughts, but he was fed up with the house already and decided to step down
“Augh! The sun!”
Matt immediately shielded himself with his arms. When being on porch, he was hidden in a shadow. But now he was fully exposed to the sun, a thing he truly dislikes. It always felt to him like it was burning his skin, and Matt hates when he sweats. To his discomfort, the sky was clear from any clouds, so the sun, to his great dismay, will shine on him with full potential of its solar power.
He had to wait for moment until his eyesight will adjust, as the sun was shining right at his face. Shielding his eyes with his palm and narrowing his eyes, he could see the wicket. He stepped forward.
Just when he was halfway there, a sudden though struck him. Something was completely wrong and he knew that. All of that was going too easy so far. And he knows why that was impossible. He knows all too well.
All of a sudden he began to feel like he's in grave danger. And the worst of all was that, while standing in frontal yard of his house, it was like being in center of a frying pan. Matt felt defenseless. He was completely exposed to danger, which might lurk anywhere on the open field.
He slouched, then crouched. He was not safe here. Attack may come any second now. He began to crouch to the wicket. All his way he kept looking around. There was no place where potential danger could hide, as all what was there was mainly grass and only a lawn mower left somehwere in the middle. There was also nothing on the rooftop of the house, or something in a window, from where a sniper attack may take place.
He got to the wicket. No damage so far. He carefully lifted himself up a bit, only allowing his forehead and eyes to be seen. First he looked is there anything dangerous on the other side of the fence. When he was sure that the sidewalk under the fence is clear, he lifted his eyes to see rest of the surrounding. Everything seemed to be normal. Entire street was peaceful, as there was no living soul to be seen. There was nothing unusual with neighbor houses either. Also trees seemed to give shelter to birds and small critters, rather than any potential assassin.
It would seem to Matt that street is clear. He can't see the familiar dog anywhere. But he still wasn't sure is it safe. He let go of the wicket and slowly lowered himself to hide again, placing his palms on the ground while doing so, and touching a furred foot by accident.
“AAAHHH!!!” Matt shouted as he felt he touched a foot of some animal and immediately leaned against the fence as much as he was able to, shielding himself with his arms and legs.
“Shhh!” The animal lifted his bronze-furred hand and covered Matt's lips to silence him, “Keep it low profile. I'm not here to cause any trouble, okay?”
That was not the familiar voice Matt expected to hear. When he felt his lips being freed, he opened his eyes. What he saw in front of him was not his dog, but a wild raccoon, who also appeared to be startled by sudden contact.
“Look, I know what you're thinking,” The raccoon spoke, “That I'm here to steal your trash. I know I look really suspicious because I'm a racoon and we tend to steal your trash, but believe me, I'm not here to do that. I'm just a wild animal who just tresspasses your lawn, who seeks no trouble but want to get on the other side of your property. See, I don't even hold anything in my hands.”
He presented his body in a way like he wanted to proof he's truly naked, which was already obvious to Matt.
“Besides, we don't do it in daylight, while, you see, raccoons steal during night. Wait, did I said steal? Oh, sorry, bad choice of words! It's actually trying to obtain food in order to survive. Ahahaha! Haha!” The raccoon laughed at himself, which made the crittel feel at ease, “So really, there no need to be worried, or be suspicious about me, because as you can see, there's absolutely nothing suspicious going on your territory.”
“Fals, I'm done here! I'm throwing bags through the fence!”
All of a sudden, a big, black bag containing garbage appeared right at raccoon's side. Few seconds passed and another bag came down on the ground. A sound of scrapping was heard on the other side of the fence, and soon another raccoon appeared. He jumped down and approached his companion.
“I did as you told me, placed the trashcans back on their place and cleaned the place, so it will look like a garbage truck passed this way,” The racoon, who appeared to be smaller and chubbier than his companion, explained, “Hey, why are you giving me such look? I did something wrong again?”
Instead of telling him, the taller raccoon raised his finger to point at something. The small one looked that way and gasped.
“Hey, who is this kid. Do you know each other?” he said, pointing his thumb at curled Matt.
“Okay! I can explain this!” The taller raccoon showed his small companion aside and approached Matt, “I can explain!”
“Seriously?” Matt couldn't help himself from saying this.
“Look, I know this looks bad to you, but we really have no intention in stealing your garbage!”
“We don't?” The small raccoon spoke, for which he received a foot on his face and a shove from his colleague.
“We're not doing this because we want to be malignant to you or something,” The raccoon kneeled down in front of Matt, “Mother nature created us this way and it's our method to feed ourselved and our families! We're doing this because of hunger, not egoism! Besides, we're actually doing you a favor! Because... what's the use of waiting for trash day when we can pick your trash instead? That way, we can both be beneficiaries instead of enemies. You get your trashcans cleaned and we get food. Isn't that more ecologic? And you support nature's children, too! So what do you say? Did I help you get a better view on our motives?”
The raccoon looked deeply into Matt's eyes, hoping to find there compassion and understanding. Instead, there was only indifference. That's why the animal's glance went at something that was making his nose twitch for quite a while.
“SNATCH AND RUN!” The raccoon snatched out the lunch bag from Matt's hand and took off, taking one of the bags on his way. Yet there was one, noticeable thing he left behind.
„Please don't feel upset,” The raccoon, who apparently missed the point, said to Matt in apologizing manner, „I wish we could greet each other in a better way, but Falstaff says we're not rabed and we should not get close because humans in gen-- ACK!”
The coon was not able to finish, as his companion yanked him by his scruff and took him, yet he was able to grab the other bag by reflex.
Matt watched them running to back side of the yard. As they got to the fence, both of them throwed the bags on the other side. The taller coon climbed on the fence and dissapeared. The other tried the same, but had great difficulties, as his stubby leg could not reach the edge of the fence. His partner showed up again. He pulled the small coon by his arms to help him get on the other side, but had a lot of difficulties in lifting the weight. After couple of huffs and puffs, the raccoon managed to pull his friend and soon a noise of falling bodies and cries could be heard from neighbor yard.
„Hey Fals, I'm sitting on something that feels really weird.”
„That's because you're sitting on my face, you dolt...”
„Phew... just some stupid raccoons.” Matt said to himself as he wiped his forehead. He was feeling relief. For a moment, when he felt he touched that foot, he was certain he met his doom. That, luckily to him, did not happen. Getting up, he brushed his pants from dirt and went back to the wicket.
Opening the wicket, he went out carefull, looking around himself. Looking on his left, he only saw empty street, couple of trees and houses standing in line. Looking on his left, the scenery looked the same. View behind his back was also not unusual, his house seemed to be the same as when he looked at it the last time. As he found himself on the sidewalk, he carefully closed the wicket and could not help himself from letting out a sigh of relief he kept surpressed in his lungs for so long. A simple walk through the yard that would take him only a couple seconds turned into a slink at the edge of risk, where mistake would lead him to fall into trap. And he knew that. Yet it was now when confidence was slowly getting back to him.
Matt scratched his head. He just found himself outisde of his family possesion, on street. And still the presence of malicious being was not near him, which was strange, because he knew that the dog will still crave for revenge for gaming night. But on the other hand, some small part of his consciousness was trying to suggest him something. Matt looked in direction of the bus stop, then on his watch. He actually still has a lot of time till the school bus' arrival. He felt that familiar sweet sensation. That sensation which was telling him to use the occasion given by life. He made up his mind. He looked once more at the house, more precisely at the kitchen windows, to be sure is there no face of his father visible. It was clear. He adjusted his jacket and slowly he began to walk away, in opposite direction where he was supposed to go.
Thoughts focused on doubt, suspiciousness, awareness and false security were slowly fading away, as the boy's mind was now trying to focus on some ways to spend time. Matt does not know Babylon Gardens at all, as he did not bother to explore his new place of living yet, but he already knew there's no such place as arcade zone in this boring place. Now it occured to him – is here any interesting place to spend the time well and away from any pets? Is here any place that is specifically for humans, not pets? He knows there's an ice cream parlor not too far, but he does not want to spend whole day there, and also it's too risky to be too near home. The only solution may lay in nearby town, but that's still too far away to get there on foot. Matt frowned from his effort on focusing. It would seem he is stuck here, with no place where he could wait till school is over. He remembered something. There's a forest near the neighborhood. He can go there. Yes, that may be the way. He may explore the forest, taking a stroll among the tall trees. If he'll get tired of walking, he'll just find some place where he can take a rest and pull out his old walkman and listen to the music, perhaps taking a nap. Maybe there's some lake? Or a cave?
All this time his glance was glued to the ground and his arms were crossed as he was deep in his thoughts. The pale face birghtened a bit. He made up his mind. Today, he will go hide himself deep in the forest. After the stressfull talk with his father, serenity may do him good. He lifted his head to look which way will lead him there. His eyes squinted. There was something on the road in distance. Matt could not tell what it is, as it was too far away. The thing was getting bigger and it began to gain shape. Matt thought it's some kid riding a scooter. A kid here? Matt can't recall did he see any kids here since he moved into neighborhood, so this one may be the first he will see here, which he found intriguing, as he had a funny impression of being the only one here of 'youngling' species.
The kid was getting close, and he seemed to drive his scooter with a great speed as his left leg was working hard on propelling. When he was not too far, his shape was getting clear, and Matt discovered, much to his horror, that it was not a kid, but a dog. Yes, a dog! A brown one, with his tongue lolled out and his long ears waving on both sides of his head. Matt was breathless. Heart leaped up his throat. He had no doubt what a dog it is. The confidence, that not so long ago shyly came back to him, was gone for good, and screaming fright took its place. Hearing the squeaky sounds coming from small wheels brought Matt back to his sences. At once he turned on his heels and began to run. That, however, lasted very shortly, as there was a crooked place on the sidewalk and Matt found himself flat on the ground.
When he looked up, he had no chance to yelp as two brown hands were already leaping at him.