By o1si

I started the twenty-minute walk home at about five-thirty in the evening. The sun was setting in an amazing array of autumn colors. For about fifteen minutes the sun dipped beneath the cloud level and illuminated the heavy gray clouds into soft hues of orange, pink and red. As the it sank behind the cloudbank, its veiled vantage burst into a radiant glow, shafts of light spun and swirled entangled in a fandango with the vaporous form.

This is how I felt as I started the twenty-minute walk home.

I walked down the calm, darkening street; the houses and trees adopted the soft orange pallet of the sun. A few argon-street lamps flickered on, adding to the warm orange shades of the late fall. The street was peaceful at this time: rush hour long over, school already out, people gone on vacation. I passed by my block two or three times before I realized that I was aimlessly wandering. I felt a complacency in walking, yet was torn between my mom and the beckon call of the brisk, cool night. Responsibility won over knowing that the freedom of a freshman relied upon his relationship with his mother. I ran the last block home, duffle bag rustling, backpack bouncing, thighs chafing with each leap and bound.

My pace slowed considerably as I neared the door, partially because I wanted to linger outside and partially because my body would no longer sustain a jogging pace. Now that I think about it, I was beat and could collapse at any minute. I walked up to the door cutting through the small lawn of crab grass, whipped out my key and plunged headlong toward the door. I slipped the key into the tumbler and with the twist of the wrist, pushed into a homey hallway that borrowed its welcoming atmosphere from the autumn outside.

I kicked my shoes off at the door and shuffled in towards the kitchen at the end of the short hall and kicked up a leaf of paper. It fluttered, spun, then fell back to the floor as fresh as it was before I kicked it, save for the shoe print. I bent over with a low, steady groan, took up the sheet and read: "Good match, Craig. I'm sorry we couldn't stay to celebrate with you, but your father has a speaking engagement. Don't worry about your brother, he has a recital tonight and will be spending the night at his friend's. Get some rest tonight, you deserve it. There's cash on the counter for dinner. Love, Mom." Well, it turns out I didn't have to be home, but at least I'll have some money. I sloshed over to the bare counter, finding only a tented note on the white tile.

The note was from my little brother, Eliot. It read "sor-ee, bro. I took the money, needed it for dinner. Hope you make out ok." The fat jerk. He was probably going to waste it at the PC Center. Didn't he realize he could do those kinds of things here for free? He can stand to play outside for once: he could use the exercise, the nerd. Well, I probably wasn't going to eat anyway, I might as well not get mad at the kid. I might as well go outside and walk around a bit. It was an exceptionally wonderful evening, anyway. Why let it go to waste?

Well, I was tired, and I could feel hunger start to turn my stomach inside out. The extra-large boxers had been riding up the entire walk and I considered going in to change into something more comfortable. Maybe I should just sit here and think about what happened today. I could watch T.V., my favorite show is about to come on. Then again, I could start my homework and have the entire weekend free. But, then again, there was outside... I slipped my shoes back on, tossed the duffle bag and backpack into the hall in front of my bedroom door.

I wandered, aimlessly, for about ten minutes and ended up on the older, richer side of town. The houses were farther apart with nicer lawns and expensive cars pulling in and out of driveways as I passed. The older ladies were pruning their gardens in the twilight breeze, while the elder men preened cars and boats from on back, beneath their machines. The kids were on their skateboards, collecting at hand-crafted community ramps, in their designer shorts and coordinated tees. Here they crafted their own daylight, they crafted their own fun: a wonderful world of their own making. The stock, suburbian tranquility was almost surreal. Pleasant and welcoming, but surreal.

My feet were throbbing by now. A short walk around the block had turned into a six-mile stroll. I took a seat on the curb in front of a massive two-story, split-level combination house. It was freshly painted white with golden fixtures that flittered in the crisp, pure white-light form the golden, colonial style lamps at the fore of the house.

The sun had set and the cool air grew damp and cold. The house looked warm and inviting. I thought it was a bit odd that I should feel so drawn towards this house. I had never seen it before, never had any inclination towards it before, nor any reason I should be feeling these feelings now. The garage door slid open to the metallic whirring of the engine, spinning, winding, lifting. I looked, waiting for a car to drive up, maybe I could see who lived in this modern-day castle. But no car came, in fact, there were three cars already in the garage: a luxury SUV, a beamer, and a new Tundra. I recognized that stocky, gray Tundra. This was Shane's house. I meandered in to the garage, led more by curiosity than sanity.

I stepped into the garage and stood underneath the soft orange column that cascaded from the garage door opener. The garage was empty, save for thousands of random bits of family memorabilia and sports paraphernalia. On the west wall, behind the Tundra, hung racks of sports equipment, Shane's mother's bike, his father's 1960s tennis racket collection, his brother's hockey gear, neatly stacked, hanging out to dry. On the other wall was a honeycomb of cubbies, filled with heirlooms and trinkets strewn among newspapers and magazines and cardboard boxes. These too were neatly kept.

The garage door lurched, grunted and started to close. Startled, I looked to find the garage still empty and my route of escape growing smaller and smaller. The heavy blue moonlight gave way to slivers as the door rumbled closed. Footsteps boomed from above. I could hear them walk in a small circle, directly above me, make their way northward, muffle as they marched down stairs and stop before the door to the garage. My heart was beating a mile a minute. What would Shane think if he caught me in here? Would he beat me up? Would he kick me out? What if he just invited me in?

The thick, white door squeaked open on its golden hinges. Shane's head peeked through the crack. I turned my head, ashamed to be seen, but he would have none of that. He slipped his shoulder into the garage and offered a meaty hand and said, "hey, Craig. I've been waiting for you." •

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