by Sterling Meeuwen

A week before, was my eleventh birthday.  My stepmother had made a chocolate cake for me.  My stepbrother and stepsister were complaining that we couldn’t eat any of it until my father came home.  We waited for hours, the whole time my stepmother was on the phone crying.  She did this every time my father didn’t come home.

I knew where he was, he’d take me there when my step-siblings would go visit their dad.  I always loved when he would take me there.  He would hand me a hand full of quarters and I would play the video game or the pool table.  He would just sit there at the bar watching the game and drinking.  When it got late more people would come in and when he ran out of money, he would have me sneak around and steal beer people’s tables.

When he finally came home, my step mother flew from the back room and started beating him.  My father was a stout man who, I had never seen let another man hit him but, my stepmother was not afraid of him.  He never once hit her back he just stood there and took.  She quit beating him when he fell on the couch and passed out.

When I woke up the next morning my birthday cake was still on the kitchen table, an envelope with my father’s name on it laid on top of it.  I moved the note and cut a piece of cake.  My stepmother was gone, my brother and sister too.  The icing on the cake had become hard and when I swallowed it my stomach hurt.  Later that day, my dad said we were going on a camping trip, I never saw my brother or sister again.

We had been at this camp ground for a week and despite my father’s best efforts, I knew we were homeless.  Every day my dad would get up and walk to the little store they had on the camp ground and come back with four forties, some beef jerky, and potato chips for breakfast.  The rest of the day he would sit by our camp fire and drink.

At night he would have me walk through the campgrounds with him and sneak food out of people’s cooler while they slept.  One night he noticed that the lady at the end of our site had not been there for three days.  He had me go through her tent and take whatever I could find.  She had a ton of nice stuff, IPod, a mine-stove, and some money.  When we got back to our site he had me stash all of her stuff in my tent.

The next morning I heard footsteps walking toward our tents.

“Hello!?” the footsteps said. It was a man’s voice and it reminded me of my principle.

“Who is it and what do you want!”  I heard my father grumble.

“It’s the sheriff; do you have a boy about ten years old?”

My heart started pounding so hard I was sure the sheriff could hear it.  My father stumbled around inside his tent and then, I heard the zipper opened.  My stomach was in knots and I squeezed my eyes shut and hoped the man and his voice would go away.  I could barely hear them talking, then my father yelled.

“Boy get your ass out here!” I shot out of the tent at once.

“Did you take some lady’s stuff?” As he asked this the sheriff pulled back the flap to my tent and saw all of her things. I stared at my father.

“Damn it boy! What did I tell you about stealing! I’m sorry sheriff, rest assured he’s going to get an ass whopping for this.”

“Now I don’t think there is any call for that.” The sheriff interjected. “So long as he admits it and says he sorry, I’m sure the lady won’t press charges.  Well boy?”  He looked me dead in the eyes.

“Yes sir, I did it and I’m really sorry.”

“Well then, boys will be boys.  Son you just load all that stuff in my car and we’ll call it settled.”

My father shook the sheriff’s hand and thanked him for letting me off the hook.  An hour after the sheriff pulled away, we packed up and left.