A Honeysuckle Home
Aaron knew it was bad news when he opened the door and saw the look on Tina’s face. “What’s wrong?” He asked in a shaky voice.
“He was on the way back to the office after a meeting with a client. An armed robber fleeing from the police ran a red light and broadsided him. According to the police, it was instantaneous.”
Aaron was in shock and stood frozen when he began to wail. He and Tina sat on the couch and cried together. They were still crying when Kathy came home and asked, “What in the hell is going on here?”
“How does she always just show up when someone that I love dies?” Aaron asked himself.
“Eric was killed in an auto accident,” Tina said.
“I hope the hell he left me my rent money,” Kathy said.
“You callous bitch,” Aaron yelled as he lunged at Kathy. He had every intention of punching her in the face but, Tina stopped him.
Kathy was sober enough to realize the hostility exhibited by her son and left immediately. “Come with me to the funeral home,” Tina said. “Eric had made prearrangements, but we have to let the funeral home know what day and time to have the funeral. Pack a few things and come and stay at my house until after the funeral.”
“I’ll be fine here,” Aaron said.
“I know you would be, but I think we need each other at this time,” Tina said.
“Eric had planned everything,” Ken Kirkland explained. “I have contacted all of those he listed to be pallbearers. The only person not available is Monty Ayers. His secretary said that he’s on vacation in Europe and won’t be home until next Friday.”
“That’s Eric’s attorney,” Tina said. “Do we need to find someone else?”
“If you know someone, that would be great,” Ken said. “If you don’t, we can get someone.”
“We could ask my Boy Scout scoutmaster, Luke Oliver,” Aaron said.
“I’ll give him a call,” Ken said.
“I’ve never been to your house before,” Aaron said when they drove to Tina’s house.
“It’s small, but comfortable,” Tina said. “I moved here when my husband and I got divorced five years ago.”
Tina and Aaron spent their time together before the funeral laughing and crying as they recalled memories of Eric. “Are you sure you’ll be okay here?” Tina asked when she dropped Aaron off at his house after the funeral.
“I’ll be fine,” Aaron said. He then went into the house and emptiness brought on another long cry.
Two days later Kathy appearing somewhat sober returned with a man that had a street thug look. "Coy and I are moving to Las Vegas,” Kathy said. “Coy has a friend that you’ll be staying with until I can send for you. Go pack your things and we’ll be back to pick you up in an hour or two.”
Aaron didn’t bother to protest. He concluded that regardless of what Coy’s friend was like, it couldn’t be as bad as living with Kathy and Coy in Las Vegas. He went about packing his possessions and put them by the door and waited for Coy and Kathy to return.
When they returned he put his possessions in Grandma Rose’s old Buick. He was surprised that it still ran since Kathy had possession of it. The inside looked as bad as the outside. His grandma had always kept it clean and serviced.
“This is Gavin’s house,” Coy said when he pulled into the driveway of a large nice home in a better part of town.
“Maybe it won’t be as bad as I thought,” Aaron said to himself.
Gavin appeared to be in his early forties, about ten pounds overweight, and well dresses. “I’ll take good care of him,” he said as he shook hands with Coy.
Aaron was sure he saw an exchange of something during the handshake. He assumed it was an exchange of money for drugs.
“I’ll show you your room and then the rest of the house,” Gavin said after Karen and Coy departed.
After touring the house Aaron went to his room with the intention of unpacking. However, he didn’t have the energy to do so. Although it wasn’t his intention, Aaron fell asleep. He woke to a knock on his door and Gavin said, “Aaron, dinner is ready.”
Aaron wasn’t looking forward to spending any time with Gavin, but he was hungry. “We’re having chicken Kiev, steamed broccoli, and scalloped potatoes,” Gavin said. “Have a seat and I’ll serve you.”
Aaron could tell that Gavin had been drinking when he placed the plate of food in front him. Gavin kept his hand on Aaron’s shoulder longer than Aaron thought necessary. Even though the food was good, Aaron ate quickly and returned to his room, locking the door as he entered.
Still dressed, Aaron drifted off to sleep in spite of the fact that he suspected that Gavin had ideas about him. He woke to a knock on his door and, “Aaron, open this door.”
Aaron ignored the request hopeful that Gavin would go away. The knock and Gavin became louder, “Aaron, open this goddamn door. I paid good money for you and I intend to get what I paid for.”
Aaron jumped from the bed terrified. He was strong, but even drunk Gavin was larger and stronger than he. He began to look for a place to hide when Gavin began to push against the door, harder and harder. He was standing behind the door when the lock broke and Gavin came stumbling into the room. Aaron ran out the door and out of the house with Gavin chasing after him.
He ran to the street when he heard a thump. When he looked back, he saw that Gavin had fallen off the steps and not moving. Aaron knew that his possessions were still in the house, and with caution he went back toward the house. He decided that Gavin was probably dead and in his young mind thought that he could be charged with murder.
Aaron quickly gathered his possessions and started out the door when he noticed Gavin’s wallet on a table. He looked inside and saw that there was rather large amount of money inside. He took the money and then decided that it would appear as a robbery if there was no money inside. He put back a few dollars and then decided he had better get out quickly before Gavin was discovered.
As he picked up his possessions, Aaron recalled seeing a bicycle in the garage. After securing his belongings to the bicycle, he peddled away without looking back. Aaron had gone about an hour when he realized he was headed in the direction of Springfield. He decided to find a place to sleep and then continue to Springfield. He thought that Springfield would be as good a place as any in which to go. It was a moderate size city, yet small enough that he could get around on a bicycle.
Aaron pushed the bike into the woods away from the highway. He used his backpack for a pillow and fell into a deep sleep. He woke when the sun was about an hour past daybreak. He also realized that he was thirsty and that in his haste he hadn’t filled the water bottle that was on the bike. He continued on his way to Springfield. A few miles later he noticed a convenience store. After purchasing some bottled water, a breakfast sandwich and a good supply of snacks he continued his journey.
Aaron judged that he was about three miles from Springfield when he saw a state policeman pass him in the opposite direction. The patrol car stopped and made a U-turn. In a panic, Aaron left the shoulder of the highway and headed for the woods. In doing so, he crossed what had been a railroad track that was converted to a bike path.
The wooded area became very thick and Aaron had to dismount his bike and push it through the woods. He came upon an animal trail and decided to follow it. He wanted to get as far away from the highway as possible. The trails lead him to a small hill covered in honeysuckle vines. He pushed forward and was startled when a deer bolted from the vines and ran up the hill.
He probably wouldn’t have notice it if the deer hadn’t run in that direction, but there was a concrete block building. It was approximately the size of his small bedroom at home, and almost completely covered by honeysuckle vines. Aaron opened the door and saw a small window in one end. There was a work bench on one wall. There was a wood stove in one corner and large oval wash tub hanging on a wall. There were a few plastic buckets and an assortment of other items.
Aaron explored the area and discovered the foundation of what had been a house. There was also an old barn that had partially fallen in and an outhouse with the door partially hanging. What had at one time been a road was becoming overgrown with brush. Behind the block building was a spring. He filled one of the empty water bottles from the spring and tasted the water. It was cold and refreshing. “This might be a good place to live,” he said.
After Aaron counted the money he had taken from Gavin and determined that he had $486, plus the $40 he already had. Since it was still early in the day, he decided to go into Springfield and purchase a few things. He backtracked his way to the bike path. He rode past a bike shop and decided to go inside. He purchased a bike lock and a grocery basket for hauling items on the bike. His next stop was at a Burger King for lunch.
Aaron next discovered an outlet store that sold practically everything. He purchased an air mattress, a sheet set, a pillow set, and some toiletries. He looked at a camping stove. But he decided to buy a case of meals ready to eat since he wouldn’t be able to haul everything back in one load. He had spent just over $150.
Aaron thought about making another trip into Springfield, but decided he should clean his new home first. He found a broom and swept the place out. He used the battery operated air pump and inflated his air mattress. He put his new sheets on, and he then decided the trip to town could wait until tomorrow. For dinner, he enjoyed a hot MRE of chicken and noodles with vegetables. It came with its own heating pack, plastic utensils, some dried fruit, and a cookie.
After dinner Aaron took his toiletries and a towel to the creek for a bath. The water was cold, but refreshing. When he returned to his newly found house nightfall was approaching. Aaron wished he had remembered to buy a flashlight and maybe even a gasoline lantern. Having no light and no reason to stay awake anyway, he went to bed. Surprisingly he fell asleep immediately.
Aaron woke to the sound of birds singing, and it took him a few minutes to realize where he was. After crawling out of bed he went out to pee and to the creek to wash up. A breakfast bar washed down with spring water sufficed as breakfast. Aaron wished he had a cup of coffee and decided he would purchase a cup on at the Shop N Go on the way to town.
“Will there be anything else?” the Shop N Go clerk asked when Aaron paid for his coffee.
“Yes, I saw a flyer for a yard sale on the bulletin board,” Aaron said. “Could you tell me where 2581 West Magnolia might be?”
“Sure, go down to 25th Street and take a right. Magnolia will be about three blocks from there.”
Aaron followed the directions and found the address for the yard sale. The flyer listed camping gear, and he was anxious to find a good bargain before the good stuff was sold. “Are you looking for anything in particular?” the elderly man asked.
“I’m looking for some camping gear.”
“Aren’t you a little young to be going camping alone?”
“My dad said we would go camping after we got some camping gear.”
“Do you have money to pay for it?”
“I have money I earned mowing lawns,” Aaron bit his tongue. He wanted say, “Fuck off you old bastard. If I were an old fart like you, there would be no questions.”
“I have a camp stove, cooking utensils, a couple of mess kits, and a lantern. There is an oven that goes with the stove too. I’ll take $25 for the whole lot.”
Despite not liking the old fart, Aaron knew the sale was a bargain. After paying for his purchases, he managed to get everything secure on his bike and head back home. Aaron realized he had scored a real bargain when he unpacked the box. There were a couple of frying pans, a large and small kettle, a coffee percolator, plates, cups, bowls, and cutlery sets.
Grocery shopping was the next task of the day. Wal-Mart was a good choice since could pick up groceries as well as a gas container for the stove and lantern. He found in addition to the usual items, a camp stove toaster, non refrigerated liquid milk, dehydrated eggs, dehydrated hash brown potatoes, and even a crank combination radio/flashlight. After buying what he thought he could carry home on the bike, Aaron headed home with a stop at Shop N Go to purchase gas.
After putingt away his groceries, Aaron checked the stove and lantern and was pleased to see that both worked perfectly. He cranked up the radio/flashlight and discovered that the radio wasn’t as good as a battery operated one. He decided that since transistor radios were inexpensive, he would pick up one his next trip into town.
Breakfast reminded Aaron of the many breakfasts that he had enjoyed with Eric on their camping trips. He was thankful that Eric had taught him the how to camp. While enjoying his second cup of coffee Aaron decided to calculate how much he could spend each month until he reached age 18. He figured that he would have earned close to $500 in interest on his account. He speculated that he would have around $180 a month to live on. He would have around $6.00 a day for food, gas and miscellaneous items. There was no way around it; he would have to figure a way to earn a little extra money. If he found a job he might be traced. Whatever he earned would have to be on a cash bases.
Aaron soon learned that yard sales were a great way to save money. He realized that if he shopped around he could usually find what he needed. As he neared the end of the month he still was using Gavin’s money and hadn’t dipped into his account. He discovered an outlet store that sold many different canned foods, including canned meat, at half the price of other stores.
Subsequent to seeing aluminum cans along the streets and highways, Aaron decided he could earn a little extra money collecting these cans. After his first week of collecting can Aaron earned $5.32. This was hardly enough to live on, but as he figured it every penny counted. One day while collecting cans an older lady stopped and said, “If you want to earn some extra money, I’ll hire you to mow my lawn.”
“I’d love to, but I don’t have a lawnmower.”
“I’ll pay you $10 a week and provide the lawnmower and gas.”
“That sounds good to me.”
“See that two story gray house down on the corner?”
“That’s my house. I’ll meet you there.”
“I’m Eleanor Hughes, what is your name.”
“The lawnmower and gas are in the shed out back. Come to the house when you’re finished and I’ll pay you. Would you take a check or would you rather have cash?”
“I don’t have a bank account and it would have to have cash.”
When he had finished mowing, Aaron saw a weed eater and filled it with the gas and oil mixture. Once he finished he rang the doorbell to let Mrs. Hughes know that he had finished. She came out to inspect his work. “You ran the weed eater too?” She questioned.
“Yes, wasn’t I supposed to?”
“Most charge extra for that. I see that you did a superb job. Would $15.00 be enough for both jobs?”
“I was only expecting $10.00.”
“Would you be interested in doing my lawn each week? I’ll pay you $15.00 each time.”
“I’d be happy to do that.” Aaron quickly calculated that he could earn about $60.00 a month mowing. “I may not have to withdraw money from my account until after the mowing season ends, he said to himself.
Collecting cans turned out to produce little cash. Consequently, Aaron decided that hauling the cans back to his place and saving them until he had enough to sell was hardly worth the effort.
As the fifth of the month came around Aaron knew he would have to go back to post office in Clinton and pick up his bank statement. He feared that if the statement was sent back to the bank they might freeze the account.
Following a good breakfast, Aaron filled his water bottle and departed for the two hour bike ride to Clinton. The monthly bank statement was in the post office box, and to his surprise there was just under $7,000 in the account. Aaron decided that Eric must have added money to the account.
On the way back home Aaron noticed a boy about his age with oriental features sitting on a park bench. He had his head down and had blood on his clothes. As Aaron approached him he looked up briefly and then dropped his head down. “Are you okay?” Aaron asked.
“Yeah,” he answered without looking up.
“Are you sure? Is there anything I can do?” Aaron asked.
“You could go kill my dad.”
“Your dad did this to you?”
“Yes, the sorry piece of shit beat the crap out of me and threw me out of the house. He said that if he saw me again he would kill me.”
“Why would a dad to that to his son?”
“He found some gay stuff on my computer.”
“Yeah, I’m gay so you can just go.”
“Do you have a place to stay?”
“Under a bridge with the rest of the homeless people I suppose.”
“Look, I have a place. It isn’t much, but you’re welcome to stay with me.”
“What would your parents say?”
“My dad is dead, and mom left me and went to Las Vegas with some street thug.”
“So you’re on your own too?”
“I am. Now why don’t we get you over to that restroom and get you cleaned up.”
After getting most of the blood washed off of his face Aaron saw that the boy was good looking. His face was swollen but otherwise he appeared to be okay. “I’m Aaron Decker, what is your name?”
“Paul Wheat. Where is this place of yours?”
“Over near Springfield. I assume you don’t have a bicycle.”
“I do, but it’s in my garage.”
“Is there any way we could sneak in there and get it? What time do your parents go to work?”
“It’s just my dad and he’s already at his office.”
“Do you have a key?”
“Yeah, but I’d be afraid to go back there.”
“We would be in and out in no time. Besides, I think the two of us could take on your dad. How far is it to your house?”
“I guess it’s about two miles. Maybe we should wait until some other time.”
“Your dad could change the locks before we could get back.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“I forgot about this,” Paul said as he punched the code numbers to open the garage door.
“Why don’t you grab some clothes while you’re here?”
“Good idea. Come on in.”
“You’re packing all summer clothes. It will be cold in a few months, and maybe you should pack warm clothes too.”
“You’re right, I didn’t think of that.”
“Is this a picture of your mother?” Aaron asked when he picked up a picture of a beautiful oriental woman.
“That’s my mom. My dad said she went back to Korea, but I don’t believe him. I’ll tell you about later. I guess I’m ready.”
“Do you want to take this picture?”
“Yeah, I do. I really appreciate what you’re doing for me.”
“Don’t mention it. You should fill your water bottle before we leave. It’s a two hour ride home.”
“Shit, I just thought of something,” Paul said after he filled his water bottle. “Mom always kept extra money for household expenses. I’ll bet Dad has forgotten about it.”
Paul opened a cabinet door and took out a recipe box, and pulled out some money from the back of the recipes. After counting the money, Paul said, “There’s $256 here.”
“We’d better go just in case your dad should come home,” Aaron said. He noticed the panic look on Paul’s face when he mentioned his dad.
“What’s that I smell?” Paul asked when he smelled the aroma of the honeysuckles around the block building.
“You smell home,” Aaron said.