Short Story (unfinished)
The long burgundy curtain fluttered in the wind as a small figure ran across the room and plopped down at the window seat. Gigantic wooden bookshelves lined the walls and an oversized mahogany desk protruded out of the corner next to the window. Compared to the largeness of the room, Reed Wright seemed a miniature doll that might go unnoticed by an onlooker.
A mess of auburn ringlets cascaded across his pale forehead as his brilliant blue eyes scanned his surroundings. The curious countenance of the child had a hint of sadness as though there was a story behind them. His cheeks were flushed from a recent rush of adrenaline. Under the cherubic face, his mismatched wardrobe looked like he had dressed himself, an orange and blue stripped polo accompanied with bright red shirts. His thin legs and bare feet crossed as he sat looking around.
The sound of a slow tapping neared the room and Reed, fearing being found, pulled the curtain tightly around his little body. A minute later a sleek dark creature came sauntering into the room. Shadow, the family black lab, gazed around lazily, only half seeking his hider. The child stirred slightly behind the curtain and the dog’s ears perked up. He gave a small “ruff” which seemed to echo around the large library, making Reed giggle behind the curtain as their game came to an end.
Continuing to giggle, Reed jumped down from his perch and threw his arms around the dog. Shadow turned his head and licked the boy’s cheek, causing the child to shriek in delight. Letting go of his grip on the dog, Reed began to run around the room and Shadow followed. Soon the room was filled with sounds of barking and shrilling shrieks mixed with laughter. The two companions were in a world of their own, nothing could ruin their fun.
“Reed, God damn it! Keep it down!” a deep voice yelled, as a tall, slender figure of a teenage boy appeared at the door.
Fear struck Reed’s face as he quickly responded, “I sorry Adam.”
“Aiden, Reed, Aiden! Ugh! How many times do I have to tell you!” The irritated teenager said angrily as he turned and stormed out of the room.
Ever since he could remember, Reed had had so much trouble telling his sixteen year old identical twin brothers apart. Both had curly dark brown hair that hung over their ears and sometimes got in their blue eyes. Although they had a slender build, they were athletic and a small ripple of muscle could be seen through their tight Hollister t-shirts. Their intense love of sports had kept them in good shape. Aiden and Adam always were concerned with how they looked; at school, they had to maintain the persona of the popular jock. At home they were totally transfixed on the technological world, spending most of their time watching TV, playing video games, listening to iPods, or talking on cell phones. The two distracted boys had been put in charge of watching their younger brother for the summer while their parents were working at the family law firm, although so far they had not been very attentive to him.
Shadow growled as he starred towards the door. Ill treatment of three-and-a-half year old was not well tolerated by the aging dog. Turning his muzzle towards the child, Shadow tried his best to comfort Reed as best he could. It took a few seconds for Reed to recover from the shock of his brother’s rebuke; he scratched the lab’s head and began moving around the room again.
He took note of the contents of the tall bookcases that lined the walls. Only being familiar with the picture books in his bedroom, he curiously grabbed a thick black hardback book off a low shelf. The book fell from his grip causing a big thud as it hit the ground.
Both Reed and Shadow looked with apprehension towards the door, expecting another reprimand, but none came. Looking down at the book, Reed noticed the lack of pictures and the abundance of words. Fascinated by the tiny characters of black ink, Reed ran his fingers across the pages. The desire to read, the desire to write suddenly grew within him.
He recalled on numerous occasions his brothers sitting at the kitchen table completing their homework assignments for school. Pen poised in hand as they scanned through gigantic textbooks, taking note when they read something that grabbed their interest. Frequently the boys would pull papers from their overstuffed book bags and present them to their mom or dad with a smile. The twins were always rewarded with a smile and a hug from mom or a “Good job, son!” and a pat on the back from dad. Reed could see the pride beam from his parents on those occasions.
Reed longed for such praise. In his mind he came to the conclusion that he needed to read and write to gain his desired acceptance and love from his family. Setting the black book down on the ground, he glanced over at Shadow with a mischievous look.
“Be very quiet, Shadow,” the boy whispered, putting his index finger over his lips.
The two snuck out of the library. Trying not to be conspicuous, Reed bent down and tip-toed past his two older brothers, who were so absorbed in some violent video game, they took no noticed. Once making it upstairs, Reed stopped in front of the twins’ room. Shadow gave a small whimper and looked quizzically at the little boy. The sign on the door read, “Enter at your own risk!”
One of the main rules of the house, set by the twins, was never enter their room. Reed remembered a few months ago when he and Shadow innocently wondered into their room during a game of hide-and-seek and ended up getting a spanking from them; their harsh beating causing him to run to his room in tears. Shadow had curled up next to him, as though he felt the same shame Reed had felt.
Reed’s face shone with determination. He had to have those books his brothers were reading out of those nights at the kitchen table. His parents’ love was more important than breaking a house rule.
The large bedroom door creaked as it was being pushed open by the small boy. The sound seemed to ricochet off the walls in the hallway. Reed’s eyes went wide and Shadow lowered his head as though he wanted to hide himself. The two fugitives waited until it seemed safe to enter the room.
Mountain ranges of clothing and sports equipment invaded the twin’s floor space, making any journey into the room quite hazardous to any who choose to enter. Two unmade beds sat in the two farthest corners of the room. An extra long wooden computer desk sat along the wall next to the bed diagonal from the door, where Reed was standing. Two computers were stationed at either side of the desks, both screens flashing pictures of the boys’ high school friends and sports teams. The twin’s bedroom had a distinct smell or stench, rather, of teenage boy. A syrupy sweetness mixed with the sour odor of bodily excretions and sweat caused Reed to cringe as he glanced over at Shadow. The dog sniffed the air and seemed rather encouraged to go roll in it rather than turn away.
Reed’s eyes scoured the mess in search of the beloved book that would bring him his deepest desires. He scrambled over the mounds of clothes to where the desk sat, almost tucked away behind the mess. Climbing up from the ground to the chair to the desk, he spotted the big text book that had once sat on the kitchen table, now placed nicely on a shelf above the desk. He giggled to himself and whispered, “Shadow, look. I found it!” The dog wagged his tail in delight. There mission would soon be over and they could return to the safety of the halls.
The desk was stable; Reed was able to stand easily on the flat surface. He was able to find an almost clear spot, avoiding the computer on his lefts and the dirty plates, half-full soda cans, pens, paperclips, and rubber bands scattered everywhere. The paper he was standing on seemed unimportant enough, with doodles occupying most of the sheet.
Reed stood up as tall as he could and attempted to reach the book. His fingertips just barely glazed the glossy cover. “I can’t reach it, Shadow,” Reed said with effort. Shadow whimpered and looked apprehensively toward the door.
Extending his toes to full tip-toe length, Reed attempted to gain a few more inches in his height. As soon as he began to reach for the book, his feet started to slide out from under him. Looking down, he saw that the doodle-covered paper was the cause of his sudden movement.
Shadow, quick to act, pushed the chair in the way of Reed’s fall. Clunk! His little body hit hard, but luckily the degree of his plunge was lessened by the padding on the seat. The force of his weight caused the chair to spin around and around. Ehhhhhh! Reed’s initial shock turned to squealing as the room spun around him. The sound of running footsteps came through the open door.
“What the hell was that?” one enraged voice yelled.
“What has that little brat gotten into now?” another similarly sounding voice angrily questioned.
As the footsteps got closer, one boy yelled out. “In our room?? He should know better than that! Reed, you better not be in there!”
Reed curled his tiny body up in the slowly circulating chair, hiding his head between his knees. Shadow found a heap of clothes and buried his nose, hiding his face as well.
The twins stormed through the bedroom door.
“What the hell, Reed?!?” Adam yelled out (or it could have been Aiden, Reed really wasn’t sure which).
Reed lifted his head slightly with fear-filled eyes. He was unsure of the next move. All of a sudden, Shadow started to growl at the boys. Turning their attention from the curled up ball on the chair to the angry snaring dog on the floor, Adam hissed through his teeth, “Shadow, get the hell outta here now.”
The trusty lab held his ground and his growl turned a little fiercer. Adam picked up an abandoned shoe laying at his foot and chucked it at the poor dog, hitting Shadow square in-between the eyes. He let out a surprise grunt.
“SHADOW OUT!” Aiden screamed. Still Shadow held his ground. Aiden bounded towards the dog, stepping on mounds of clothes as he went. Shadow followed Aiden with his eyes, still growling, yet cowering at the same time. Lifting his foot, Aiden struck Shadow in the side. A painful “yipe” escaped Shadow’s muzzle as he stood and ran out of the room in fear of another strike.
Reed cried out in shock and tears began to stream down his face.
“Stop crying you little baby! Now fess up, what were you doing in our room??”
Adam looked up from the fear-struck boy only to see the mess on his desk. A soda can had been knocked over during Reed’s tumble. Brown, syrupy liquid leaked over the contents of the desk and dripped onto the floor.
Another angry outburst escaped from Adam’s mouth, “Reed! Look at the freaking mess you made!”
Reed curled his body tighter in the chair. “I just want book,” he said in a weak voice.
“What? Speak up, brat! We can’t hear you!”
“I want book,” Reed managed to say a little louder in a shaky voice.
“What the hell do you want that for?”the twins said glaring at their little brother.
“Read and write,” he said quietly, as though it was a felony to desire such things.
“Humph!” Aiden smirked at his twin. “Get a load of this, Adam! The kid wants to read!” sarcasm leaked out of his voice. “Reed, you’re only three years old. You don’t know how to read!”
Tears ran down Reed’s face, dropping off of his chin onto his shirt. For a second a flicker of anger flashed in Reed’s eyes. “I just want learn reading and writing!” He screamed in a high-pitch voice that seemed to surprise everyone in the room, even Reed himself.
At that moment, Reed sprung from the chair and ran out of the room screaming, “I just want read and write! I just want read and write!”
Reed’s little legs carried him quickly to his room, Shadow followed. The twins did not follow which surprised Reed. He stopped crying and peered out his door into the hallway. The two boys were still in their room and they seemed to be arguing about something.
“I don’t know, he’s just a little kid, ya know? Maybe we are too hard on him,” one of the twins supposed.
“But he came into our effin’ room, man. Look what he did to our desk!” the other exclaimed.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m still pissed at the little shit and that dumb dog, but part of me feels bad.”
“Yeah, I guess. What was he saying about reading?”
“He wanted to get that text book.”
“Why the hell would he want my geometry book?”
The twins laughed. Reed glanced at Shadow with a quizzical look. “What’s geomety?” he whispered. Shadow stared blankly at him.
“Yo, dude! Remember that old computer game we used to play when we were little? The one where you had to match the letters with the sound? We should find that and let Reed play it!”
“I don’t know, I’m still mad at him. It’s like rewarding him for breaking in our room.”
“Well think about it, at least he would be out of our hair for a little while.”
The twins appeared at the doorway, almost knocking into the snooping duo. “Ohh, haha. Listenin’ to our convo, are ya squirt?”Aiden said. “Well come on then, let’s go to the office.” He swooped down and picked the small boy up, carrying him in his arms.
Reed had only understood half of the conversation between his brothers, so he was very surprised at the change of manner of his older brothers. They had been so angry just moments before. “Geomety?” he asked. The two brothers laughed in response to his question.
When they got to the office, Aiden set Reed down at the desk and began digging through one of the desk drawers. “Here it is!” he exclaimed pulling out a cardboard box with a picture of a bowl of soup on the glossy cover, “Alphabet Soup. Reed, I think you’ll like this”
Adam reached across the desk and pressed a button on the computer. The wide screen flashed to life, turning from midnight black to an ocean blue automatically. Musical notes accompanied the change of screen and within seconds the computer was humming with life.
Reed had always been leery of these glowing machines because they were so distracting to the rest of his family. His brothers were always hunched over with artificial light glowing on their faces as they stared into the computer screens, methodically stroking the little handheld object attached by a long cord. Sometimes when he watched them while they were sitting at the computers, he would see them laugh at the screen and even, at times, he would see them talk to the screen, which usually responded with a synthetic-sounding ding!
Reed wanted so badly to distrust this object of distraction, but as tiny items began popping up on the screen he was fascinated. Adam pressed another button on the computer causing a thin rectangle door to pop open, which startled Reed making him jump in his seat. The twins sniggered at this. Aiden handed Adam a circular shiny object that came from inside the Alphabet Soup box, Adam slide it inside the rectangular opening.
Reed watched this whole process with curiosity, waiting for the next dazzling object to appear on the screen. It flashed, changing in an instant to a colorful display of a bowl of red soup with little yellow letters floating around.
Where my story is going…
Ø Reed is completely fascinated by the game; he plays it constantly for a couple weeks.
Ø When the boys are showing him the game, they also show him how he can print out charts to practice writing. After a few weeks, Reed gains confidence in his ability to read and write. Shadow sits by the computer everyday as Reed plays the game.
Ø Reed decides that he now needs to take action. He compiles all his papers of his alphabet practice and goes to the dining room table. Instead of writing, again, on the paper, he decides his message would be more noticeable on the dining room table. Taking a big permanent black marker Reed begins writing A…B…C… Singing the alphabet song as he worked. The alphabet fit on the length of the table, Reed was very proud of his penmanship. He only made one minor mistake. After he finished, he didn’t tell his brothers because he wanted to surprise his mother and father.
Ø He waited patiently for his parents to come home. When they finally arrived, they seemed too busy to pay any attention to him. They were always bringing home work to finish up or making calls. They barely noticed Reed’s attempt to get their attention. Reed and Shadow finally succeed in getting his mother’s attention. When she walks in the room, she sees the black pen all over the table and screams. Then she begins yelling at Reed—the opposite affect than he was looking for. He breaks down in tears and runs to hide. He hears his father downstairs, joining in on his mother’s rage.
Ø Reed is punished and the twins are punished too, but Reed doesn’t really understand why.