Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Pact (A Short Story)

        In order from left to right, Danny, Tom, Jim, and Carey; the four adopted sons of Sam and Edith Cone, sat around the table on the first Sunday of May. The agreement they had made to Edith was that they would come eat dinner together on the first Sunday of each month. The agreement was made individually with each child on the day they were adopted.

        Danny was the oldest; adopted from an orphanage just outside of Baltimore. He was found living on the streets before being arrested for loitering and taken into custody. The Cones had gone to visit him three times before having the courage to adopt him. Edith couldn't have children of her own, so it was her decision to adopt only children that were considered too old or too troubled to be adopted. She told Sam that it was such a waste to adopt a new baby, when there were all of these older kids running out of time. She sat down with Danny on the playground slide and made him the deal. "Once you are old enough to leave my home, you must come back every Sunday to eat with us. That's what real families do, and we would really like to you to be a part of our real family." He agreed and the papers were signed that day. Danny struggled to find his way for a while, but as he grew closer to Edith and Sam, he started to see himself inside instead of outside.

        Tom was adopted from Fort Lauder-dale, Florida. Tom was in and out of foster care homes as fast as they could place him. Tom really, really liked to burn things down. He was smart about it and methodical. He would never leave any evidence that the fires were started on purpose or by him at all. At first Tom was polite and quite with the Cones. He ate properly, got good grades, and kept up after himself. About 5 months into his residence with the Cones, their garage went up in flames, burning down all of their photos and keepsakes that were put in there to make room for his bedroom. Sam awoke early the next morning and got Tom out of bed and took him to the pier. They sat down on the edge of the pier, kicking their legs over the side for a couple of hours until the sun came up. Sam didn't mention the fire to Tom and Tom didn't speak at all. The next week, when all of the debris was cleared, Sam built a large fire pit in it's place. He handed Tom a box of wooden matches and told him that if he felt the need to light fires, this pit was the place; not their dinner table.

        Jim was adopted straight from an emergency shelter that was housed inside of a juvenile correctional facility in Cleveland, Ohio. He had been severely beaten by his father and had been hospitalized. Jim didn't speak much at all; only offering direct and short answers to specific questions. Despite his dismal non-verbal communication tactics, he excelled in communicating with his fists to anyone who would listen. This behavior got him bounced from school to school and kicked out of church forever. Jim would often be taken home by the police and handed over to a very weary Edith and Sam. Jim raised his fists to everyone but those living in Edith and Sam's home. They were family.

        Carey was adopted from a juvenile correctional facility he had earned residence with a year prior for spray painting penises all over the interior walls of his school. Carey was the jokester. He had a way of making Edith laugh at inappropriate times, such as church and ceremonies. Of the three other brothers in the Cone house, Carey was the easiest to get along with. To him, everything was a joke and he seemed to never get angry. He was the smallest and youngest of the kids, and relied on his three older brothers to keep the bullies at bay. He made a lot of enemies with his mouth and they, (mostly Jim) had to back him up.


         The four were all adopted within 5 years of each other and did not become instant friends. They did gradually become brothers, sharing in the hobbies and talents of each other. Danny would help them with mathematics and wanted to become an engineer. Tom was the best basketball player they had ever seen and eventually got a scholarship to a small university. Jim played hockey throughout high school and would eventually become a brawler in the boxing ring for small change. Carey always said he wanted to own and run a rubber chicken factory. They would all laugh, but they had all seen him staring at the stars and reading books about other planets and constellations.        


        When Sam had died, they no sooner got his funeral arrangements settled when Edith passed too. The four boys buried their parents next to each other in a cemetery just two blocks from where they lived. They made a new pact: They would walk here to see their parents after they had eaten together on the first Sunday of every month.

        The pact held up and they broke bread together and visited their beloved parents at their grave every month until the first Sunday of April that year when Carey didn't show up. They would find him dead at his home after having succumbed to the side effects of using too much heroine. A side effect of being a clown to people who don't know better. He hadn't fooled them though. He was cremated and his ashes given to his brothers to decide what to do with. It didn't take long before they figured out what to do with them.


        "Hey Tommy, you gotta light?" said Jim. "Ha! Funny Jimmy, you got any teeth left? I got an extra apple right here..." Tom replied while pulling out a middle finger from his pocket. Jim reached across the aisle of the plane and punched him in the arm. Jim continued, "Hey Danny, what do orphans get at Christmas?" Danny sighed, "what do they get Jimmy?" "Lonely," Jim replied. Tommy sat silently shaking his head, then spit out some of his drink trying not to let Jim notice he was laughing. "Still not sure why we have to do this on Christmas. We are leaving the snow in Boston on Christmas for the desert? I like the sun, but not on Christmas," said Danny. Tommy replied, "Like you got anyone but us to celebrate with anyway Danny. Might as well do it where things are easier to burn."


Danny: Well, here we are. How do we do this?
Jim: You didn't forget Carey's rocket did you? If you did, you're going over this cliff with him.
Tommy: I got it in my bag. Should we say something?
Danny: No Tommy, we are just gonna chuck him off the Grand Canyon and walk away.
Tommy: Come on man.
Jim: I'll start. You guys shut up. Alright, what's got 5 arms, 3 legs, and two feet? The finish line at the Boston marathon.
Danny: (Holds his hands over his face, feeling terrible that he is laughing). Carey would have liked that one. Ok, my turn: A man is talking with his wife the other day and he asks her to tell him something that will make him happy and piss him off at the same time. His wife thinks for a moment then replies...Your penis is bigger than your brother's.
Jim: Funny because it's true isn't it Tommy.
Tommy: Wait, you slept with my wife?
Jim: Size don't matter.
Tommy: Alright idiots, my turn. In kindergarten class, the teacher tells the kids to come up and write something exciting that happened this morning. Little boy Johnnie walks up to the front of the class and grabs a piece of chalk and writes the word "Period" on the blackboard, then sat back down. The teacher looked in bewilderment for moment, then needled Johnnie for an explanation. "What's that mean Johnnie?" He says, "I don't know, but this morning my sister said she missed one. Then daddy had a heart attack, mommy fainted, and Uncle Bob shit is pants.

        Danny and Jim stood silently shaking their heads at Tommy. Jim cracked a grin, then reached into Tommy's backpack and pulled out a small model rocket. He sat it down on the red rocks that overlooked a vast hole in the earth, too large and deep to fathom it's origins. Danny said, "I did the honors of putting Carey in it at the hotel, so we don't have to taste him in this wind. You're welcome." The three brothers sat down on the rock and waited for the sun to finish it's descent below the horizon exposing the innumerable amount of stars in the galaxy. "I can kinda see what he saw in looking at this," Jim said. "Yeah, me too," Tom replied then continued, "Let's send him off, I'll take care of the pyrotechnics." Danny hands him a lighter while grinning. Tom puts the fire to the wick and sends the homemade rocket into the Christmas night sky. They watch it flash, burn, fade, then go dark as it soared into what looked like space to them.

        Jim asked, "You guys ever wonder where we would have been with ma and dad?" They all look at each other and nod. He continued, "Me either." Jim pointed out into the sky. Danny put his hand on Jim's shoulder and watched his tears fall to the dirt. Tommy, picked up his bag from the ground and said, "Goodbye you little bastard, may God kick you out of Heaven for that mouth." Danny said, "Merry Christmas my brothers.



Thanks for reading...Z