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Happy Chapter 3

by michaeld

I promise… I promise I tried my hardest. I fought so hard, mom, I fought so hard… But I guess my hardest was not hard enough.

Each day seemed like the last, get up, shower, get dressed, and go to hell. Josh’s body was getting so sick and tired of this monotonous routine. He hated being weak and sore every time he got out of bed, hated trying his hardest not to kill himself in the shower every morning, and hated being tormented daily at the place where you spend your whole day, and the first quarter of your life. He hated having only one friend and hated being made fun of for days on end over something that he just couldn’t change, because if he could have, he would have changed long ago.

Every day added more physical, verbal, emotional and mental abuse from his peers at school and from Samuel at home. Every day, he would come home with a new problem: he was sobbing with tears, he had a bloody nose, he had a black eye, someone had punched him… each time that he walked in the door with one of these, Sam and his mom would be sitting at the table, laughing and drinking coffee, completely ignoring their son in need. He would just walk past them, give a slight move of the hand to acknowledge their existence and keep walking towards his room where he was safe. Of course they didn’t notice him. Or at least pretended not to.

Once in his room, he was sheltered from the outside world and he could do whatever he wanted, at least until Sam would bombard in. Sam would intrude Josh’s safest haven maybe once every two or three days but it seemed like every day to him. It would always be for “dressing too gay” that day, or “listening to ‘too gay’ music”, or “sounding to gay when he talked to his mom that day”… all of these things were legitimate reasons to punish someone in Sam’s mind, but to the rest of the world, not so much.

During these interventions, Josh would keep his head up high, act tough and pretend like it wasn’t hurting him, when it reality it hurt… a lot. After Sam would leave, he would just break down and cry for however long his body would make him.

Josh tried his hardest to never cry. He had been raised in a family that didn’t believe in crying and that tears should be punished. The whole rule had eventually been given up on, as the parental unit(s) at the time saw that this just caused more tears. But once Sam entered the world of Josh and his mother, the rule came back.

Lots of rules came back with Sam, just as lots of new ones came. Sadly, they were only enforced upon Sam and completely ignored when it came to his mom. This was because Sam loved her… but she didn’t love him back.

Josh and his mom had been struggling for as long as he could remember just to get by. He’d never ridden a plane, he’d never been to a movie theatre, and he’d only been to a restaurant once, but he was too young to remember. He probably would never get a car of his own, never be able to afford the finer things and not be able to go to the college that he preferred. All of these things frustrated him because he didn’t do anything to deserve them.

The things that frustrated Josh the most were the things that he couldn’t change. He couldn’t change himself so he was frustrated with himself, he couldn’t change his problems, so he was frustrated with his problems, he couldn’t change Sam, so he was frustrated with Sam, he couldn’t change life, he was frustrated with life. The one thing that he felt the most upset about, was that he couldn’t change his dad’s decision.

When Josh was around two years old, his dad walked out on him and his mom. He said that he was going out to get groceries, but he never came home. He had left with the car, all of the money, almost all of the clothes and most importantly… his wife’s heart. That was the last they ever saw of him.

Josh’s mom sat at the kitchen table with a smile on her face for three days, swearing to herself and anyone that would listen to her that he had just gone out to run some quick errands and that he would be back shortly.

It took another week or two for her to finally realize that it was all over. He was gone. She had to go to therapy sessions for three months to barely even start to get over him and face the fact that she needed to get a job and get money as soon as possible. If she didn’t have a job by the month after therapy ended, the Child Protective Services would have to take Josh.

Josh’s mom eventually get a job as a waitress at a local Mexican restaurant, but that barely brought in enough money every week to buy a loaf of bread, a few apples and a bag of chips. She could have gotten more, but she could only work part time as Josh was still little and required a lot of attention. The amount of money that she made and the amount of food they could buy with this money wasn’t enough, so they eventually were provided with welfare.

This was the only life Josh knew. He couldn’t have the sugary cereal, the fancy toys, the cute puppy; he couldn’t be normal. With all of this going on, his mom frequently was hired at different businesses and different areas of the working world. Every time his mom got a new job, it normally meant a new city or even a new state. He and his mom had lived in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all because of her frequent job changes.

Every few months, his mom would come home with a new job change. In the sixteen years that Josh has been alive, his mom has been a waitress, a car-wash attendant, a gas-station check out attendant, an exotic dancer, a janitor, an amateur singer, an extra in a movie, a failed author, a failed journalist for the local newspapers of four different cities in three different states, a bus driver and worst of all, a prostitute.

Josh’s mom used to sell her body for money, just to feed her five year-old boy. He was five. At five years of age, you start to realize things and question them. That’s exactly what Josh started to do. He started noticing that mommy would go down the hall with one man in the morning and be back home with a different man that night. His mom quickly gave up on the idea, as she didn’t want her son to be scarred emotionally or start growing a hatred for her because of her past and the things that she’d done.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, she hadn’t contracted any STDs or been harmed in any physical way because of her actions. She’d only become mentally unstable for the rest of her life, but she was fine by that. It wasn’t too bad anyways. She could still fall asleep at night and stay a sleep for a few hours or so and only got up two or three times in the night… this was pretty good for her standards.

On the other hand, she had been pregnant… twice. She had gotten an abortion… twice. Both of them were predicted to be girls, but they obviously never found out. This was the part of her life that she regretted the most.

She’d never told Sam of her past and he honestly didn’t question it too much. But if he did, she was sure that he would not accept her and that she’d have to go find someone else, which she was not prepared for. So she decided that if he ever brought up her past, she would just lie to him.

Josh’s mom was the type of person that liked to think that if they didn’t face their problems, they weren’t there. The thought that if they ignored their problems, maybe they’d go away. She decided that if she pretended that nothing had ever happened, and that her past had been full of love and caring, then it would all flow smoothly.

She knew that if she ever told Sam what she used to be like, he would never stay. She needed him… she needed him to survive. He was the one that provided the family with their financial needs, he was the one that put food on the table, he was the one that provided discipline to the child; he was the one that controlled everyone… he was the puppet master.

The only reason Josh’s mom started dating Sam was because of his money. He was probably the richest man in their neighborhood and he definitely didn’t hide it. Although they all lived together in a one-story house in the middle of a clearing where only two other people lived, he owned a separate “summer lodge” that he would visit twice or thrice a month.

When at the small, one-story house, Sam would check the mail in his most valuable sleeping robe and wear his most fancy, most expensive watches. He would take his time at the mailbox, slowly going through each and every sheet of mail they received, look back in the box to “see if he had left any stray pieces of mail behind the first time”, use a lot of hand motions to flash his watches around and then just stand at the edge of the driveway, waving at anything that passed by. Normally it was only deer and other animals that passed, but that didn’t stop him from waving.

All of their neighbors became extremely annoyed with him, and we (or should I say he) would receive about one letter a month regarding his rude and extremely exaggerated behavior at the mailbox. He simply tossed those pieces of paper into the burn pile. Normally, we would have s’mores and hot dogs with all of the letters that we received about his morning routine as the fuel for the fire.

When around my mom, Sam would pretend to be kind, caring and modest. He wanted to prove himself worthy of her. It was like he was a knight trying to gain the affection of a princess that didn’t want to be saved. In a way, Josh felt sort of sad for him because he saw how much Sam loved and cared for her when she didn’t have any sort of feelings for him back. But Josh’s feelings of hatred seemed to overpower his feelings of sympathy so that was that.

As Sam and Josh’s mom were together for longer and longer periods of time, she started slowly seeing how inconsiderate and abusive he was to Josh. She started noticing how harsh and loud he was with him but she didn’t want to risk losing all of the money supply that she and Josh lived on, so she kept quiet.

What Sam said was law; the punishment for breaking the law; death. Well, not that dramatic, but it sure felt like it. He would take away all of your privileges, talking time, music and sometimes even homework because it was a “form of writing” and Sam knew Josh loved to write. The worst punishment was when he took food or water away from you. He wouldn’t let you eat for days, even if you said you were sorry a thousand times a thousand times. Even if you gave him the whole world, he would still keep your food from you until he was satisfied with the amount of time you had suffered.

When he took water away, he would take it away for three days at a time, but only gave you a cup of water at midnight on the third night and would then resume your punishment for a day or two longer. The pain of not getting anything to drink was unimaginably indescribable. It was like your throat was endlessly dry and you felt like you were suffocating every few minutes. You were constantly dizzy and nauseated and your vision would go blurred, side-ways, you would see double or you would see all of these symptoms combined. That was the worst.

It sucked being called into the principal’s office on account of “seeming to be under the influence of drugs on school property”. Of course Josh was too scared to admit that he was being abused at home, so he just said that he hadn’t been sleeping well lately and that he thought he should start going to bed earlier. This seemed to please the principal, so he let him off.

Josh’s mom never wanted anyone in the small family to know what had happened between her and her choices of “raising money”, but Josh would drop different clues and hints to show that he actually did know and wasn’t very happy about it. He would type and journal about it often, not quite sure what to think about it except anger.

The one person that Josh knew he could talk about anything with, was Laura. But this was the one thing he had never told her. He had never told her how he truly felt about his mother. He never wanted her to think that he disliked the person that had raised him since birth and he didn’t want her to think that he was ungrateful. But he still thought that he needed to tell someone.

He needed to tell someone about how he really felt about his mom, but he honestly didn’t even know how he felt about her himself. He knew that she had messed up once or twice in her lifetime, and that some of the things she had done needed to be forgiven, but he felt like for some of them, they couldn’t be. But he had messed up too, and she seemed to forgive him… sort of.

The feeling that you need to let something out, but your heart doesn’t want you to is excruciatingly painful. It’s like the feeling when you like someone, and you have the strongest urge to tell them about how you feel about them, but you’re too scared to even text them. It’s the exact same feeling.

At random moments in their conversations, Josh would have a sudden burst of courage and start to say something about his situation, but then he would mumble off and pretend he forgot what he was going to say. He always beat himself up emotionally afterwards.

He absolutely hated himself for not having the courage to tell Laura or even anyone about the problems that he had with his mom. He hated himself for hating himself and he hated himself for being too scared to even find out how he felt about her himself. It was just so frustrating and confusing.

He would always feel like his mom didn’t love him enough because if she did, then she would give up Sam for him. But according to Josh, she obviously didn’t love him enough. According to him, Sam was the center of the universe and Josh was just one of the lowly outer planets.

Josh was too narrow minded to see that the only reason his mom stayed with Sam was because she was doing it for him. She was staying with Sam so that she could get money to survive. So she could get money to keep Josh alive. So she could get money to hopefully one day escape the boring, old town and live an exciting new life with no pain and suffering. But that day seemed so far away in both of their minds.

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58 Reviews

Points: 4801
Reviews: 58

Mon Jun 25, 2012 2:17 am
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reason wrote a review...

Each day seemed like the last, get up, shower, get dressed, and go to hell. Josh’s body was getting so sick and tired of this monotonous routine. He hated being weak and sore every time he got out of bed, hated trying his hardest not to kill himself in the shower every morning, and hated being tormented daily at the place where you spend your whole day, and the first quarter of your life. He hated having only one friend and hated being made fun of for days on end over something that he just couldn’t change, because if he could have, he would have changed long ago.

As Madam Lunatic noted, some sentence structure variety is due. I figure that I might as well give it a stab with this paragraph. Here I go:

The same routine, each and every day: get out of bed, shower, get dressed, and off to hell. His body grew weary. It became sick. It tired from the monotony. Being sore and weak, Josh rose from bed. He held back from ending it all there and then –in the shower. Every morning, the boy went to school –to be tormented. The first quarter of his life destined to be this way. A single friend stood by him. For days on end, he withstood bullying. They targeted him for things he had no power to change. If he could, Josh would have changed in a heartbeat.

Notice how I sometimes insert his name instead of “he” –also, I shifted the focus from the character to other aspects. You could take advantage of addressing him by his physical features –the lanky teenager, the brunette/the blonde, the green-eyed boy, and such titles. Shifting the attention from “he’ and the character gives the story some pacing. There are no passive sentences which makes it all that more potent. There’s a drive and it’s pushing forward.

Every day added more physical, verbal, emotional and mental abuse from his peers at school and from Samuel at home.

I advise to show examples of the abuse rather than state that it happened. What particular set of circumstances did this transpire? Did his peers notice, want to say something, but held back so they would not become victims themselves? I say this for the piece in general –show rather than tell us what’s going on. Raise the stakes; show the reader how important this is. Why should we care?

This story has a great potential: however, it's being lost by so much exposition -all this telling. Show us how abusive and controlling Sam can be, prove to us how badly Sam needs an audience to entertain him, and how he deludes himself by buying love -enforcing rules. The desperation that the antagonist inherently has this need to prove himself to others. How the mother sees no other viable options and how it hurts to see her son like this, but this is for the best.

It's a possibly riveting tale -there's all this untapped conflict. I hope to see more from you, mate.

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14 Reviews

Points: 857
Reviews: 14

Sun Jun 24, 2012 5:19 am
MadamLunatic wrote a review...

Where is chapter one?

To make this more interesting, please use some sentence variation and some dialogue.
I think this is what the story is missing.

I like this story and you could totally edit it to take it to another level. :)

michaeld says...

Thank you so much both of you for reviewing! I wrote this novel during last November's NaNoWriMo, so my writing has slightly improved since and most of these scenes were written on a sleep-deprived mind :P

Find wonder in the everyday, find everyday language to articulate it.
— Maurice Manning