This is the first chapter to my first novel, Away From Home. I’m trying not to feel discouraged, but a lot has happened lately that has called into question the trajectory of my life and where I have unwittingly ended up.
So I guess to try and find comfort, I decided to go back to my roots. There’s so much hope in these roots. There’s so much potential. But I just don’t know if that means anything. I don’t know if it can mean anything. All we have, though, is our roots. We have what we do. We have what we are. Where and why you feel: I feel like I am Samuel Callon in a sense, running away from home as if to find some way to unabandon myself. But all of that feels false. All of it feels, well … where and why you feel. I’m letting go. It hurts, but I don’t care. I just don’t believe. I can’t believe.
I do hope to publish this book one day, though. That would be cool. For now, the first chapter is on my blog. I hope you enjoy this chapter. I just write. That’s all there is to it. I just write. I just feel. That’s it …
Three years passed. Samuel spent that time blaming his brother. He should have been there. He could have done something to prevent what had happened.
But Samuel blamed himself more. As much as he hated his brother, Samuel knew he should have been smart. Quick. Useful. Standing there like a moron had accomplished nothing. He should have—
“Hey, watch where you’re going,” someone shouted as he shoved Samuel.
Samuel caught his balance, ignoring this. Normally, he would have said something, but he needed to get to class.
As he walked to the physics teacher’s room, he looked down at the ground, seeing how dirty it was. Either the janitors didn’t care about their work, or the building housed a bunch of snot-faced snobs. He figured the latter. In his lifetime, he’d seen enough “lower class” people do astonishing work—people that had served his father, for instance.
He concluded that no matter how much great workers in the school scrubbed, scraped, or swept, someone in the school would do something to make it dirty again. Something he assumed was applicable to humanity’s nature. Not to sound stout, but sometimes, he wondered.
He went into his classroom and took a seat. Instead of pulling out his textbook from his backpack, he pulled out his pocket knife.
“Hey, no knives in school,” a random, blond-haired kid said.
Samuel had never seen this kid before. How odd.
What was usual was the conformity in the kid’s voice. That was all Samuel had heard ever since his parents had died. Adolescents that seemed afraid of authority. Which wasn’t acceptable in his opinion. People needed to respect authority, not fear it. That was something his father had always told him.
In a type of trance Samuel was only partially aware of, he returned the pocket knife to his backpack and pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil. He didn’t hear the instructions his teacher was giving. But right now it didn’t seem to matter.
He wasn’t sure what he was doing, but he didn’t care. There was only one thing on his mind: his parents. How much he wished they were here with him. How much he wished that—
“Sam,” his teacher said. “Is there something you want to show the class?”
Samuel was drawing an obscene picture, and at last he realized this. The picture was a graphic drawing of two people shot down, blood pooling. Before he had stopped, anyone looking at him would have seen his right hand moving quickly and calculatingly as it scrawled something across the page.
“No,” Samuel said.
“Are you sure?” the teacher questioned, sarcastic. “Apparently your artwork is more important than this class. Maybe you need to go to the principal?”
“No, actually,” Samuel said. “Instead, I’m going to stay here and keep drawing.”
The class suppressed their overall gasp.
“Samuel,” the teacher said. “Stand up.”
“I don’t think your parents would approve of your mouthing off. Do you?”
“Apparently you do.” A pause. “Stand up, and go to the office.”
There was more silence.
Then Samuel said, “At least I don’t talk like a high-pitched druggie, like you. Just listen to yourself. You sound like you’re enduring a castration.”
The teacher looked surprised. “Very well,” he said.
He went to Samuel and grabbed him by the shirt collar. Dragged him down to “the office.”
The office was familiarly offensive right down to the smell. It had a strong odor, like termite-infested wood smeared with vomit. Samuel looked in the trashcan next to the desk in front of him, seeing that someone’s half-eaten lunch was in there. He did his best to block the smell.
Behind the desk was a fat man, someone Samuel had seen too many times, with bulging glasses over his beady eyes. The magnification of the lenses didn’t do much for the eyes. Samuel believed he didn’t want to know what he would see if the glasses were removed.
Samuel sat there, indifferent, while the principal looked around, pretending to be occupied with thought.
At last, Samuel’s foster father, Matthew Soleless, stormed in.
“Mr. Bigchawt,” he said, almost desperately, “I’m really sorry for—”
“It is with due consideration that I am expelling your irrelevant child from this school,” Mr. Bigchawt said.
Samuel laughed at this. The rehearsal, that is. Mr. Bigchawt wasn’t even going to listen to what Samuel or his babbling pleading foster father had to say. Which showed a serious social issue. Attempting to sound smart without absorbing the surroundings. According to Matthew, the principal wasn’t the only one with something to say.
But in defeat, Matthew calmed down and said, “That’s it?”
“It is with due consideration that your child is not fit for this challenging setting at Wutherford Element—I mean, High School.”
“Not fit?” Samuel said. “Look who’s talking.”
Mr. Bigchawt did not look troubled. He merely grinned.
“I will not deny that I am pleased to know that I am finally taking action against your irritating little stooge. I recommend a correctional facility, down in Stifle.” Then he snorted. “Hnnndt, look at that little pun. Something that your fake son needs to do. Oh, sometimes I amaze myself.”
There clearly wasn’t anything amazing about this.
“Are you sure that—”
“Good day!” Bigchawt barked, and hurried Samuel and his non-father out of the office.
Samuel had nothing against foster parents. He had heard many success stories, of foster parents that had done more than make up for the loss that some children felt when placed in their new homes. He knew that there were people out there that took children in with nothing more than the desire to love, to help. But Samuel was not settled with such people; he had come across the opposite breed of such foster parents.
The incident with Mr. Bigchawt had not troubled Samuel. He didn’t mind getting kicked out of school, simply because he hated that particular school, as everyone there treated Samuel like the garbage in Mr. Bigchawt’s trashcan. Samuel was hoping that he would be relocated to another school, where he could start over.
But his foster parents were not knowledgeable of that idea, as their “secret” conversation told him.
They were talking downstairs, Samuel poised at the top of the stairs, able to hear them clearly, wishing he could interject any moment.
His foster mother’s voice, which belonged to Samantha Soleless, was cold and made Samuel consistently shudder: “I’m sick of him.”
“Well, we can’t send him off to boot camp,” Matthew said, “as I’ve already told you a thousand times.”
“We can, and we should. He’s basically gone to the dark side since his stupid parents died. Given us trouble since the day we became his guardians.”
Oooo, the dark side, Samuel thought.
This was ridiculous.
“Well, what do you propose we do?” Matthew said. “Chain him up?”
Samuel drifted to his thoughts. He couldn’t help but think that his life had gone down the sewer, that everything had been taken away, and for no reason. No matter how hard Samuel tried to rebuild his life, he couldn’t. And it seemed that there was really nothing else for him to believe. Because if life takes away your parents indiscriminately, then there is no reason for you to believe you have something to contribute. It’s all a waste. It’s all—
He heard them coming. He hurried to his room, shut the door behind him. His foster parents came in a moment later, apparently unaware that he had been eavesdropping.
“We decided,” Samantha said, “that you’re going to be … deported.”
“Deported?” Samuel was skeptical.
“Yes. Just for the time being, until you shape up.”
“Shape up?” Samuel said.
“Yes, that’s what she just said,” Matthew snapped. “And if you want to make your life more miserable, I suggest you keep talking to us this way.”
“No problem. At least I don’t pretend to be anything spectacular.”
Samantha slapped Samuel across the face. But he wasn’t surprised. They did this often. Usually he didn’t deserve it. But they always thought it was necessary.
“Not deported,” she said, “but sent off to this … camp.”
“A camp?” Samuel smiled. “Sounds fun. Can I take your trailer?”
“It isn’t a vacation,” Matthew said. “Not even close. They’re going to set you right. You’ll be gone for a few months. When you get back, you better be something better.”
“You’d rather not know,” Matthew said.
They left the room.
And that was the last time Samuel saw his foster parents alive.
Samuel lay in his bed for hours. Thinking.
He hated them. He imagined them sneering in their room, even at this late hour. He imagined them laughing with each other, congratulating themselves for being cruel and getting away with it. Samuel knew he hadn’t really done anything, but, did it matter in this world of insanity?
He’d been planning on escaping this house for quite a while now, but hadn’t been able to talk himself into doing it. He was afraid, which was a normal emotion. But he was also curious, and that curiosity, he realized, could come in handy. He needed that type of hope.
Samuel grabbed his backpack. He’d left all his textbooks at school. When he dumped it out, all that fell was a whole bunch of paper and pencils. And the drawing.
He didn’t care much for studying anymore. He had once been a partial nerd, but now … things were just different.
He looked at his waterproof watch. 1:52 AM. He put a few articles of clothing inside. Went down into the kitchen, grabbed some supplies.
A loaf of bread. The full jar of peanut butter. A jar of honey.
He grabbed a few prepackaged water bottles. Shoved them inside.
Went back up to his room and raided all the money from his cash box. Ever since he’d gotten a job, he’d gone to the bank after almost every paycheck, withdrawn some of the money, and put the money inside this box. He had a little over three thousand dollars in the box. Something he never told anyone, for fear that it might be confiscated. Money was just too easy to steal when it was out in the open like this. Too much of a temptation for his foster parents, if discovered.
Samuel took his credit card as well. He still had an account, of all the money his parents didn’t make him spend on his own expenses. He had at least a thousand dollars. Hopefully more.
He opened his drawer and pulled out his pocket knife. It had been a gift from his real father. It had Samuel’s initials on it: S.C. For Samuel Callon.
He put his backpack over his back and quietly walked down the stairs. He opened the door. It didn’t creak, which was what he’d been counting on. But even if they had heard it, they were all the way upstairs, so it was unlikely that it would have been alarmingly noticeable.
There was no denial that he wished he could drive. But the law where he lived had pushed the age a person could legally drive to eighteen, saying sixteen was too young. He hoped they had a better reason.
Even if he could drive, however, it was still too risky. All someone had to do was look at the license plate …
These thoughts didn’t matter. Samuel wasn’t going to make a dramatic getaway.
He walked out the front door, smiled at the quietness and the darkness outside. It was beautiful. A gentle breeze blew in the air, warm. A refreshing difference. Lately, he’d had the same chill that he’d felt when his parents had died. Couldn’t explain it. But knew that change was coming, not necessarily for the better.
He walked down the sidewalk and disappeared, unaware that after this point, his life would never be the same again.
The sun was beginning to climb. He couldn’t see it just yet, but judging by the way the temperature had risen a little, and the way the dark had lightened up, he guessed he’d been walking for at least three hours. He didn’t bother to look at his watch. He felt free, and knowing the exact time would most likely compromise this feeling.
He knew he had had a good start. If his foster parents looked for him, which they probably would, being those psycho life-controlling freaks, they wouldn’t start until they discovered he was gone. By then he’d be long gone. He was sure they weren’t even awake by now. For once in his recent life, he felt safe.
He had walked out of the town, and was now on a quiet road. He wasn’t sure where he was going. Just any area other than where he had been.
He thought of the money he had. Over four thousand dollars. Even if his account were locked, for reasons related to the government’s plan to apprehend him, he’d still have three thousand dollars in cash. He knew this would last a long time. He wasn’t going to spend his money on a place to stay. He knew it would dry up anyway, extremely fast. Besides, if they asked for identification and realized he was the one missing (assuming they sent out pictures of him across the news; most likely, his foster parents would do anything to bring him back), he’d be in trouble. He only needed money for food. He didn’t even need it for water, as he could just go to the local store and fill up his water bottles at the drinking fountain.
For once, life felt good. Everything was taken care of, it seemed. His money would last for centuries, as long as he used it right. Which he would. He wasn’t going to blow it all on restaurants, if he even went to one. Just your local convenience store would do the trick.
He smiled, thinking of the moment when he had left the house. He couldn’t forget it.
The road went as far as his eye could see, presumably farther. That was fine with him. They weren’t going to search for him on a quiet road that led to nowhere. They’d look for him in the town, which he’d clearly left a long time ago.
In fact, time didn’t even matter anymore. It had finally slowed down. Lately, it had been traveling fast, but now, it wasn’t as chaotic. Which signified something good, something that Samuel hoped would stay.
The road became his first path. Not to foreshadow anything, he realized. But he knew that this life of freedom was going to be for real. He turned eighteen in eleven months, and hopefully his money would last that long. Even if it didn’t, he could get a job. By the time they realized where he was working, which would be miles away from his “hometown,” he’d be only a few weeks (most likely) away from the glorious age of eighteen. He knew his parents couldn’t keep him any longer, once those eleven months were gone.
The thought of his brother Dan crossed his mind. Samuel’s brother had split after his parents died, dividing the remaining remnants of “friendship” Samuel had had with Dan. The coward, didn’t even stay to take care of his little brother. Not that Samuel cared about that. Dan was an eternal flake, in a winter of cowardice. But staying was the least Dan could have done.
Dan hadn’t even bothered to tell Samuel where he was. Which was, needless to say, a good riddance, but it still would have been nice to know that he at least had one member of his family left. Both his grandparents, from both sides, had died, one side of old age, the other from a car crash. He didn’t know anything about his extended relatives. All he knew was Dan, and his real parents.
Samuel had assumed Dan had gone to college. Samuel’s father had given Dan a huge amount of money to pay for college and other expenses. Dan was a crazy jerk, but he was also smart. He had been old enough to get his own life when Joseph and Jane died, not having to worry about Matthew and Samantha.
Samuel pulled over and got a drink of water. He’d already drained one water bottle, but he had three left. He was thirsty though.
“No wonder,” he said. He looked at his watch. He’d been gone for five hours now.
The sun was climbing. He wished he could just teleport to the sun. Which was impossible, of course, but, if he could, he wouldn’t mind it. Would harness it, instead. Relish it. Maybe he’d even meet people up there that actually cared about him. People that maybe even resembled his parents. While at this fantasy, maybe someone would even bring his real parents back.
Right, Samuel thought. Such hopeful things didn’t happen. They were stupid thoughts, senseless—like Dan. Why would such things happen, anyway, even if they could? Life didn’t care about Samuel, who had been left with nothing.
He’d always wished that he’d been eighteen when his parents died. He didn’t think this out of selfishness, but if it was going to happen, no questions asked, he could have at least been eighteen. That was when his father was going to give Samuel a huge amount of money, like he’d done with Dan. But his parent’s huge money estate went to the foster parents, and hundreds of other places, most likely.
Samuel never understood why his parents chose his foster parents, chosen before their death in case something happened to them. Samuel had known a really nice teacher who would have taken care of him. It didn’t make sense. Surely there was some reason, he just couldn’t see it.
It wasn’t fair that all of his father’s money evaporated the way it had. He wished Dan would have at least gone through the trouble to bail him out. Give him money and let him buy his freedom, get out of his imprisonment.
It was never about money though. Well, it was for many people, including his foster parents, but Samuel only wanted money to buy his freedom. Could buy a house, even pay off his foster parents. But no. All he had was a few measly bills in his backpack, and a mostly empty account. His foster parents had never bothered to give him any money whatsoever, not even an allowance. “Get a job,” they had said. “Get off your couch. Work for your needs.”
Which wasn’t even true, the part about being couch-ridden. He’d worked hard in school, at least in regards to memorizing what he learned, getting good grades, and doing the work. He didn’t bother to study, as studying brought back memories of him studying with his father. But he did manage to get good grades regardless, and grades were all that mattered at his school, with the exception of conduct. Even with his lack of interest in life, he still wanted an education so he could get a good job. Maybe even become a good businessperson like his father. Own his own company.
The sun was almost directly above Samuel. He’d started sweating, and by now, had drained two other water bottles. He didn’t want to know what the time was. He guessed it was a time long past when Matthew and Samantha had woken up.
If his foster parents were going to be as obsessed with finding him as he figured they’d be, he needed to get off the side of the road and on the grass. So he walked down the slope, onto the grass patch that extended for miles beside the road. It would be more difficult for people to see him down here.
To be honest, he didn’t understand why his foster parents even cared about him that much. He wasn’t much of a moneybag anymore, certainly of no value to them. He knew they hated him, and he hated them just as much, maybe more. And yet, they were going to be determined to find him, he knew it. Didn’t know why, he just knew they would.
He wished he’d brought his mp3 player, but he knew he had to hear. In case he heard a police car, or someone shouting at him. He had to hear. There was no telling who was searching for him by now.
Before he knew it, it was the evening. He was surprised he wasn’t hungry at all, just thirsty. He’d finished his water, but had eaten nothing.
Though he wasn’t hungry, he sat down on the grass and pulled out a loaf of bread. He opened the jar of peanut butter, dipped it in, then poured a little honey over the treat.
It was his favorite thing to eat. He wasn’t sure why.
He also finished his last water bottle.
In spite of his persistent lack of hunger, he took another piece of bread and did the same thing he’d done before. He wished he’d taken two loaves, as there had been two. But he hadn’t wanted to carry too much. He did enough of that as it was.
He put everything away, and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. It was useless. Just a piece of paper, the thing that people killed each other for. The stupid thing, where all it did was wave in the air like a flag. Flags had meaning, yes, but paper … well, it was only good for writing things on. He didn’t understand why money was such a pointless, useful thing. He wanted it, yes, but only for reasons of absolution. Other than that, it was just … useless.
He put it in his backpack, pulled out his pocket knife. His father had given it to him on his twelfth birthday. He wasn’t sure why, but he liked it, was no doubt his favorite gift, ever. Probably because it was customized. Maybe even because it came with a speech: “Take care of it,” his father had said. “Only use it when you desperately need to. Unlike your brother, I know you won’t do anything insane with it.”
Well, not much of a speech, but important enough to be considered so. He remembered those words exactly, couldn’t forget them. Sometimes it felt that those words and this pocket knife were all that was left of his father.
He put the knife away, deciding he didn’t need to worry too much about keeping it handy for self-defense, at least for now. It was such a comfy place here, so peaceful. It was unlikely that someone had anything unruly to commit against Samuel, at least right now, in this area. He wasn’t sure people had even seen him. The cars went speeding by, like time would very soon. No cars pulled over. Just kept on going.
Night had come before Samuel was ready for it. He pulled over, set his backpack down, and curled up in a ball. He felt like such a kitten, but being tired, didn’t care.
He fell asleep before he was even ready. Maybe he should have thought more about the possibility of getting mugged, but it hadn’t really crossed his mind. He had other things to think about.
His parents. In his dream, he was talking to both of them, about his fears of going into middle school. They told him it wasn’t for a while, that he had nothing to worry about. But he was afraid, and even though it was indeed for quite a while, felt nervous, very shaky. Went to bed each night with the tremors. He wasn’t sure why, just did.
They sat on the couch. His mother was giving him her soft words on how there was nothing to fear. Then she hugged him, and kissed his cheek. His father stood and hugged Samuel as well. They smiled at him, and Jane put her hand on Samuel’s shoulder.
Then he saw Dan. His parents were both facing Samuel, but Samuel was facing Dan. And Dan had a gun. Samuel whispered something, probably a meaningless word of protest, but then Dan shot them.
Samuel woke up, his heart beating faster than it needed to. He felt his eyes. They were moist. He knew why.
After the dream, he couldn’t sleep for quite some time. He’d woken up at 1:52 AM. Seemed strange he woke up at exactly the same time as the day before, when he was getting ready to leave.
It didn’t mean anything.
Samuel felt tired, and yet energetic, his pulse wild. He was hyperventilating a little, the annoying reaction you feel after you’ve been crying a lot.
He tried to forget the dream. It hurt too much.
He tried thinking of the good things that had happened. He had everything he’d brought with him, except for the snack he’d had earlier, and the water—he was out of water. The good thing was that he’d consumed enough prior to this moment that he didn’t need it right now. But the bad thing was that he still felt he needed it.
Anyway—he needed to think of good thoughts: he’d been gone a day, with no trouble.
He began walking again. At that moment, he realized how close he was to another town. He could see the lights gleaming. He walked under a sign that said “Welcome to Saamville.” He wondered why it had two A’s. Didn’t make much sense.
He walked, forever it seemed, toward the town. When he finally got inside, he saw a grocery store open twenty-four hours. He didn’t bother to read the name, in case it was Saamville Maart, or something dumb like that.
There, he filled up his water bottles. He was glad his body had put his need for water on hold during the day, because if he had arrived hurriedly to the town feeling this thirsty, with people swarming all over, he might have had more apprehension than he needed; someone might have picked up the receiver and phoned him in, like the phony stick figures they were, feeling no guilt about apprehending him.
He waved at the sleepy clerk, and walked into the night.
With his water bottles filled, he felt fulfilled himself. Only temporarily, of course, because he was getting sleepy.
But before he slept, he needed to do his preliminary setup for escaping his former idiotic life.
His plan was to walk straight for a little while, then deviate from his linear path and take a right. It wasn’t official, but he needed to get off this main road. It had already been a day, and he needed to start making his trail jagged. It was the only way he’d be able to stay away from surveillance. There was no telling what his foster parents had done by now to try to find him.
After about another day, he arrived at another town. It was more like a shack, assuming the previous two towns had been castles.
It had one barbershop, and a little souvenir store. The town was called Dallis, certainly not to be confused with Dallas. If the former Dallas of Texas stepped on Dallis, there would only be specks after it was crushed.
He got a fairly cheap haircut. He had kept his hair long after his parents died, but now he needed to disguise himself. He gave the barber six dollars, glad that was the price.
The sunglasses he bought in the souvenir shop were a little more expensive, but he didn’t care so much. He needed them to block his eyes. Anybody that saw a picture of him and saw him in real life would most likely recognize him first by his eyes. It was always the most obvious trait he had, the easiest to recognize. People said looking into his eyes was like looking into a sapphire sky. He couldn’t take that risk.
He bought a soda pop, a big bag of chips, a couple of cheap sandwiches, and a blanket. It wasn’t too cold yet, but he knew it would be soon. Winter was coming.
He stuffed the blanket in his backpack, walked out of the shop, pulled out a piece of bread, and ate it instead of what he had bought. He was going to save the fancy lunch for tomorrow. Open the chips for breakfast.
Joseph had always thought it was gross that Samuel would eat potato chips for breakfast, but Jane had always thought it was cute. She had found out when, instead of eating his infant breakfast, he went right for the bag of chips that had been left out the night before. And …
Samuel couldn’t think any more about it. She’d tell him that story every time he did something a little rebellious. Said that sometimes rebelliousness can be useful, if used right.
He stopped by a fast food joint. They had a water fountain, so he filled his water bottles. He’d already depleted his supply, and it wasn’t even the evening yet.
On his way out, the woman at the register said, “Hey!”
He turned around slowly.
Please don’t recognize me, he thought.
For sure he thought she was going to identify him, even with the glasses. But instead, she said, “Weren’t you going to try our new raspberry shake?”
Relieved, he kindly went to her and paid for a small raspberry shake. He gave her a tip and walked out the door.
So it started out smoothly. Samuel worried that wouldn’t last long. But of course, he could only take this moment by moment, and thinking too far ahead wouldn’t accomplish much, would just make him nervous.
But he realized that maybe he had set out to find something. He wasn’t sure what, and he wasn’t even sure if he was being rational. It was just a feeling, about as light as a feather on the neck. Noticeable, subsequently, but not very resonant. Annoying, but not as hard as an anvil on the chest.
Regardless, he had the feeling that this wasn’t coincidence. His foster parents treating him badly had just been ill fate—but somehow, something somewhere had used that to get Samuel on the road. He wasn’t sure what the reason was, except that there was something he needed to find.
Whatever that was, he didn’t know.
And he of course wasn’t sure if he was even correct on that.
But he still felt something pulling him, and he knew he couldn’t get caught. Because he needed to find the anonymous thing.
Before disaster struck.