Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009
JD gripped the
handle of the lawnmower, pushing with all his might to get it rolling toward
the back wall. Then, spotting a folded up tarp, he decided to use that to cover
the unsightly mower. He didn't really like having the mower in there, and
he briefly wondered if Chris would mind if he just pushed it right on out of
the shed. Course, if anyone found it set outside, they might get suspicious
about who was inside the shed. Oh well, he'd just have to learn to live with
Looking around, he grimaced at the amount of clutter scattered on the floor: old paintbrushes, tools, newspapers and rags, among other things. If he could just get rid of some of the junk, this would be the perfect place for him, but then again . . . maybe the clutter wasn't so bad after all. He kinda liked it, in a way. For some reason, it made him feel more protected.
Still, if he was gonna live there forever, he'd need a little more room. Eyeing the two shovels that were leaning against the wall, he decided to move them to a back corner, close to the lawnmower. He placed some of the paintbrushes and other odds and ends into a large bucket and hung the bucket on a big nail sticking out of the wall. A minute or so later, the nail, the bucket and its contents all fell to the ground with a loud clatter. Sighing, he tossed the items back into the bucket and shoved it into the corner opposite of the shovels and decided that was good enough.
He unrolled his sleeping bag, and with great effort managed to spread it out flat on the dirt floor; then he grabbed his backpack, set it in the middle of his new bed and plopped tiredly down beside it. Boy, runnin' away from home sure was hard work. He wondered if he should eat one of his peanut butter sandwiches now, or save it for later. He unzipped the backpack and looked inside. Two peanut butter sandwiches, a Twinkie, three packages of Ninja Turtle fruit snacks and two juice boxes. Maybe he shoulda waited 'til after they went to the grocery store to run away?
His tummy rumbled and he licked his lips as the heavenly smell of peanut butter sandwich tempted him. The sound of car doors out in the driveway distracted him for a moment. Closing the bag, he jumped up to peek out the dusty window. Unca 'Siah and Unca Ezra were just arriving. Soon, Unca Nathan would be there too. He watched Vin run out of the house in his stocking feet and launch himself from the porch right into Unca Ezra's arms. With a sniffle, he turned away from the window, dejected. They were gonna have lotsa fun this afternoon, grilling out and watching basketball games. Nobody would probably even miss him. They were probably all glad he was gone.
He hadn't meant to do it and he'd tried to give Vin all his money so he could buy a new one; but Vin had said no, and even yelled at him! Vin had said he was a killer and then he'd drawn pictures of JD that said "Wanteb" on them. JD didn't think the pictures looked much like him and he thought it was kinda funny that Vin made his d backwards, but he didn't say anything 'cause he didn't want to hurt Vin's feelings. And then Chris made Vin take down all the Wanted Posters and 'pologize to JD, which had made Vin even madder.
The truth was, though, he was a killer. The awful images -- the results of his misdeed, as Unca Ezra might say -- began to swirl around in his mind, just like the beloved, tiny orange creature had swirled round and round before disappearing down the toilet. "It was an accident," he whispered pleadingly, but nobody was there to hear him.
He hadn't meant to kill it! He'd only meant to feed it! Even though Vin, Chris and Buck had all instructed him not to feed it -- ever, without permission. He'd kinda forgot that rule in the excitement of the moment.
And when the lid had fallen off of the container and all the food had spilled into the fishbowl he'd sorta panicked. Instead of telling anyone like he probably should have, he'd closed the bedroom door and prayed that nobody would notice until Nemo had eaten all the food. How was he supposed to know that you could die from eating too much food?
Now Vin hated him and Buck and Chris were 'very dis'pointed' in him. So here he was, on his own -- running away forever. He tried to swallow the sob forming in his throat then took a deep breath and reminded himself that this was for the best.
He sat down on his sleeping bag and opened his backpack again. His tummy was growling and he was ready to eat lunch, although he had no idea if it was lunchtime. He wasn't sure what he'd do when his two sandwiches, Twinkie, and fruit snacks were gone, but he'd figure out something. Vin had always made sure they had enough food when they were living on the streets. So, if Vin could do it, JD could too. At least he hoped so.
As he was reaching for one of the sandwiches there was a knock on the door. He wasn't sure who would be visiting him, or even if people were supposed to visit people who were runned away. He set down the sandwich and went to the door, opening it hesitantly. When he realized it was Buck standing before him, he was unable to contain his pleasure. "Buck!" he shouted, joyously.
"Hey there, li'l bit," Buck greeted with a warm smile.
"I missed you!" JD blurted. Then he remembered that he was runned away and his enthusiasm faded. "What are you doing here, Buck?"
Buck stepped into JD's new home and looked around. "Well now, I was just about to ask you the same thing."
"I runned away," he said matter-of-factly.
"You're kidding me," the big man replied, looking surprised. "You ran away?"
JD shook his head sadly. "No . . . I mean, yes, I runned away."
"Now that's a coincidence, because you know what?" Buck poked him in the belly.
"What?" JD smiled in spite of himself. He couldn't help it, Buck always made him smile.
"It just so happens that I'm running away, too."
JD puzzled over that. He didn't think grown ups could run away. "You runned away, too?" he asked skeptically.
"I sure did. I was plannin' on staying in here," he looked around the shed speculatively, "but since you're already here, well . . . I guess that means you've got squatter's rights."
"That means the place is yours, since you were here first."
JD nodded. "Oh."
"Well then, I guess I'll be goin'."
"Where ya gonna go?"
"Oh, I don't know," Buck answered, sounding wistful. "Reckon I'll find someplace."
"Well then . . .." He started out the door, then turned back to JD. "You got enough to eat?"
JD nodded, making his too-long bangs flop into his eyes. "I got two peanut butter samwiches, a Twinkie, some Ninja snacks and juice."
"Well, all right. That's good thinkin', son."
"D'you got 'nuff food too, Buck?" he asked, looking at the blue Wal-Mart bag his foster dad was carrying.
"Well, I got me some chips, and a couple of apples, but I didn't think to get any sandwiches. Darn."
JD chewed on his lip, scuffed his shoe into the dirt then said, very quietly, "I guess . . . we could share? If ya want to." He did have two sandwiches, and he didn't want Buck to be hungry.
"Really? You wouldn't mind sharing with ole Buck?"
"I wouldn't mind." He wouldn't 'cause he loved Buck.
"Well then, I'm much obliged to ya." Buck smiled and set his sack on the sleeping bag then folded his lanky body down beside JD. "Help yourself to the chips." He opened the bag of potato chips and placed it between the two of them then winked. "Always hated eating alone anyway."
JD hated eating alone too, but he was pretty sure runned away people always ate alone. He supposed it would be okay to eat this last meal with Buck, though.
"So, why you runnin' away Buck?" he asked, handing over a peanut butter sandwich. He couldn't understand why Buck would want to run away. Buck hadn't killed anyone's fish. Vin didn't hate Buck. And Chris wasn't dis'pointed in Buck.
"Well, when I woke up this morning and I couldn't find you, Vin told me you'd run away from home. So, I got to thinkin' -- 'cause it was so quiet and lonesome inside that house, there wasn't much else to do but think -- so, I got to thinkin' well, if JD's gonna run away, maybe I ought to run away too. Guess I didn't want to stay in that big ol' house with no JD."
"But, what about Chris and Vin?"
"Well, I reckon they won't even notice I'm gone. Hell--" a brief look of guilt flashed across his face -- "I mean, heck, you know how Chris is always getting mad at me about something or another. The way I figure it, he'll probably be glad I'm gone."
JD took a bite of his sandwich as he thought that over. He didn't think Chris would be glad Buck was gone, and he knew Vin wouldn't be glad at all. "Vin needs you."
Buck laughed. "Vin's none too happy with me, pard. Remember who it was that flushed Nemo down the toilet."
Oh, yeah. JD wrinkled his nose. He'd almost forgot that it was Buck who'd done that deed. That's why Buck had been holding Vin and telling him he was sorry and being so nice to him.
JD squinted up at the big man. "Ya shoulda buried him in the garden," he admonished gently.
Buck shook his head with dramatic regret. "Don't I know it!"
"Um . . . Buck?"
"Yeah, li'l bit?"
"If ya want, you can live here with me."
Buck looked at him seriously for a long moment, and then a big smile blossomed across his face. "Really?"
JD nodded solemnly. "Really."
"Well, thank you, JD. That means a lot to me." For a minute JD thought Buck looked like he might cry, but instead, he winked. "It's much better runnin' away together, ain't it?"
JD didn't know how they would both fit in the tiny shed, but he 'spected they'd manage somehow. And it was much better being with Buck. He looked up, noticing that the door was opening slowly, and then, he could hardly believe his eyes.
"Anyone in here?" There in the doorway were Chris and Vin, with sleeping bags tucked under their arms.
"Hey, JD," Vin said, looking a little sheepish.
"Hi Vin!" JD smiled happily, almost forgetting about the fish incident. When he remembered, he looked down at his lap, the guilt welling up inside him again.
"Well, what are you two doin' out here?" Buck asked, jovially.
Chris grinned at Buck, then raised his eyebrows at Vin.
Vin cleared his throat, shrugging a shoulder. "We's fixin' to run away, like y'all are."
JD's head shot up. Chris and Vin were running away too?
"I'm sorry I yelled at ya, JD," Vin continued. "I didn't mean them things I said. I know you was just trying to help me take care of Nemo."
JD's lower lip trembled. "I'm sorry too, Vin!"
Chris gently nudged Vin with an elbow, and Vin shifted from foot to foot, seeming nervous and uncomfortable. He cleared his throat again then looked sorrowfully at Buck. "I'm sorry I called you a liar, Buck."
Buck smiled sadly. "No, Junior, you were right. Nemo ain't down there livin' with the Tidy Bowl Man. I just made that up."
"Course I do! I ain't a baby like JD."
"Hey! I ain't-"
JD's indignant reply was cut off by another knock on the already open door.
"Unca 'Siah? Unca Ezra?"
"Master Dunne," Ezra flashed him a gold-toothed smile. "Fancy meeting you
"What are you doing here?" JD couldn't believe it. Almost everyone was here.
"Why, we're running away, son," Josiah explained. "Just like the rest of
Now, this was getting downright ridiculous, JD thought. There weren't no way they could all fit in the little shed.
"How come you're runnin' away?"
"Everyone else was." Josiah shrugged. "It seemed like the thing to do."
Ezra rolled his eyes at the lame explanation. "We decided that if the four of you were going to relocate then it would be much too painful for the rest of us to remain here . . . alone, without you. Especially you, Masters Dunne and Tanner. We couldn't bear the thought of you leaving us."
"Ya mean you was gonna miss us too much?"
"Ya wanna run away with us?" Vin offered, even though JD felt Vin shouldn't be the one making the offer. It had been his idea to run away in the first place.
"Would you mind?" Ezra asked, looking at JD.
JD shook his head. What could he do? He didn't want to hurt his uncles' feelings, and he didn't want them to be sad and miss them, but he thought it was kind of silly for all of them to run away to this little bitty shed. "I don't mind, but maybe . . .."
"Maybe?" Ezra prompted.
"Well, maybe we should find a bigger place to run away to?"
"You know, that might be a good idea," Buck said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Ya got a place in mind?"
JD looked at each of the men, suddenly realizing what they were all up to. The grin on Vin's face confirmed his suspicion. He couldn't help but grin back, feeling happier than he could ever remember feeling before. "Uh-huh," he answered, nodding with enthusiasm. "I think I know a perfect place."
Buck gave him a big knowing grin and poked him in the ribs. "Well, all right then."