Chapter 17 of The Peace River Chronicles Book III

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Chapter 17 Book III

Mickey was running as fast as he could go. He kept looking over his shoulder. Oh, what had he done? Why did he have to get so mad? He hadn’t meant to kill Carly. It was a reflex reaction. She had taunted him, called him fat and stupid. Like she had any room to call anyone fat. She was trying to keep up with Fanny in the weight department, and good progress. He himself was just stout. It wasn’t the same thing. He could have ignored her if she had just shut up. He told her to, didn’t he? He told her to shut up or she’d be sorry. But she wouldn’t listen. She just kept at him, like a dog gnawing on a bone, or a woodpecker pecking on a metal pole. The bat had just been laying there, left in the yard. Even when he had picked up the bat, Carly kept on. She said he didn’t have the guts to hit anyone. She said he was a wimp. Well, now who was the wimp? Huh? He showed her, didn’t he? Only now he was in the biggest, worst trouble he could ever have imagined. Where could he go?

At last he stopped for breath and looked around. He had run without direction. Where was he? He couldn’t even see the orange grove anymore. How far had he run? He was only eleven years old. What would happen to him now? Where could he go? Stop panicking and think. Look around. Is anything familiar? What can I use? Where I can I hide and be safe? Good thing this is Florida where it doesn’t get very cold. I can do this. I can. I can do this. You’re only eleven. What do you mean, you can do this? You’re stupid! No, shut up. I’m not stupid. I can too do this.

This was not a neighborhood with which he was familiar but it was a neighborhood, middle class he guessed. He was in an alleyway behind the houses. The other side of the alley was lined with fir trees and blue spruce. Most of the houses on this side had privacy fences around their back yards. The house three doors up had a big tree house that rose above the fence. Maybe he could hide there. The house four doors down was being remodeled. He could tell because it looked like it was wrapped in aluminum foil. If it was being remodeled, or if it was just being built there would probably be a dumpster in the yard he could hide in. There was no sound coming so there must not be any work going on right now.

He tried the back gate on the house with the tree house first.  He lifted the handle and started to pull when he heard a growling dog rushing toward him. He quickly closed and re-latched the gate and ran down to the other house.

No dog growled or barked when he opened the gate so he crept into the yard, looking for the dumpster. He had never seen a yard as big as this one. The dumpster was near the far corner but awfully close to the house. I’m stout and strong. I can climb in there. I’ll be okay for tonight. I can find a new place to hide tomorrow. I’m tired. I’m hungry. What am I going to do for food?

He went back out to the alley. Maybe there would be something wild he could pick and eat. Maybe he could crawl through the trees and find a vegetable garden. Vegetables. Ugh. Why hadn’t he thought to pick some of the oranges when he was running through the grove? That would have been the smart thing to do. See? You are stupid. You’re just a dumb clod, just like Carly said you were. Shut up! Go away. Stop tormenting me!

Mickey put his hands over his ears but the sneering voice kept mocking him. It kind of sounded like his stepfather, the man who almost killed him once. The man his mother had run off with because he didn’t like kids. Now you know. You have no value. Life has no value. Kids are just inconveniences. Nobody likes kids. Nobody wants them. Moms have kids and throw them away. No, Mickey. It’s not all kids. It’s just you. If you had been a good boy, your mom would have loved you. But she didn’t; she loved that man she married that didn’t like kids. You’re like a disposable diaper. You’re worthless. Hahahahaha.

He dove under a tree, scratching his face, arms and legs on the branches. When he got through on the other side there was a glass-enclosed swimming pool attached to the house   . It sure would be nice to be able to get into the cool water. But that would get him in even more trouble. He looked around the yard. There was a mango tree to his left and a fig bush to his right. There was food! He went to the fig bush first and filled his pockets. Then he went to the mango tree. After he had picked enough to satisfy his hunger he crawled back through the trees and went back to the dumpster.

It only took one rap of the mango on a piece of wood to break it open so he could get to the meat of the fruit. Once finished with that, he began peeling and eating the figs. That made him thirsty. He’d have to climb out of the dumpster to get water. It was getting pretty dark. Where would he go to find water without being seen in all of these street lights and back porch lights?

Kevin and Kyle could hardly believe they were allowed back in their own home, even if it was just for a few minutes. The eagerly went to their room and started grabbing all the games and toys they wanted to take with them.

Kayla poked her head in the doorway. “Hey, guys, I hate to tell you this, but if you take that stuff it’s probably going to get stolen or broken by the other kids already staying at the foster home. Just grab what you need and maybe a toy that will fit in your pockets.” She walked away amid whines of “It’s not fair,” and “Who left her in charge, anyway?” But they complied because they knew she was right.

Back in the hallway Kayla was looking through the linen closet.  Maybe if we take some of our own towels or something, maybe we’ll all feel a little closer to Mom. She began ruffling through the towels, wondering what she could take when she saw a small cardboard box behind the stack of towels. She gently lifted it and pulled it out. When she opened it she realized she had found just what she needed to help them all feel a little closer to their mother. It might even hold clues to other family members.

“Come on, kids; we gotta go,” Officer Saunders said.             Kayla put the item in her backpack, went back to the boys and helped them gather what they needed. Maybe the next place would be better.