(almost makes you wish you were carrying baggage…ah shucks…we ALL have baggage. The difference among people is whether their stuff is folded inside a Gucci or crammed in a duffel bag)
I received this entry to our contest Once Upon a Time about a week ago, but I declined to post it until I had sorted out my relationship with that pesky and deceitful DISQUS. We broke up. Anyone who has ever broken up knows that breaking up is not an event, but a process. I gave Disqus every chance; we went to counseling. But Disqus just kept giving me mixed messages, sometimes completely functional, sometimes accusing me of browsing and inflicting severe retribution, like not letting others post comments, or scrambling the messages that they posted. I wanted an open relationship where anybody could post comments but that jealous Disqus would just not have it. I started loosing friends. People stopped visiting because they could not post or read comments. So I have dumped Disqus, in favor of someone new. She is not perfect, but as Disqus will tell you, neither is moi. (I know… hard to believe). I have moved on…Does that make me a heartless, macho male?
I was ESPECIALLY concerned that I would post Claudia Barillas’ story and people would not be able to comment. Claudia is one of the finest young writers I know, and I sincerely want people to be able to respond to her story entry and give her the feedback and encouragement she deserves. She has been a finalist a number of times in past contests and eventually, maybe even this time around, I expect her to win. Some people write from the head, some from the heart, and some from the gut. Claudia is that rare, trifarious writer. Here is
Friends Like These
by Claudia Barillas
One, two, three, four. Two rolling suitcases full of clothes and personal items, the box with his new computer, and a trash bag carrying his bedclothes all sat by the door to the bedroom that Francisco had slept in. It wasn’t his bedroom. It was supposed to be, but it wasn’t. The only reason he had slept there the night before was that his grandfather was coming early to pick him up, and the older man was not supposed to know that the room did not belong to Francisco.
One, two, three, four. Though he could see that all of his luggage was in front of him, Francisco counted them, just to make sure one wasn’t missing, would not be forgotten. He would be gone a long time. Until mid December. He could not afford to leave anything behind. One, two, three, four. He patted the pocket of his khakis, once sturdy, but going thin from wear. He felt the bulge of his wallet there. Good. Definitely couldn’t afford to forget that.
One, two, three, four. It looked like everything was in order, then. All he needed was…. He looked around the room. Where was it? His stomach tightened slightly. He couldn’t leave without it. There was no way. He wouldn’t last the one-hour drive, much less the three-month academic quarter. He moved around the room in a near-panic pulling open drawers he had spent the night before organizing, peering behind the temporarily immaculate dresser, dropping onto his stomach on the floor to search under the carefully made bed. He was flushed now, from the anxiety and darting through the room like a trapped bird trying to find a way out, and his red camp shirt—the kind of shirt he preferred, but was too expensive to justify owning many when t-shirts were so cheap—was now wrinkled. He stood, pausing for a breather. With a sigh that he hoped would be calming, he grabbed the brim of his hat and lifted it off his head to run his fingers through his hair. Mid-gesture, he froze. Hand still on his head, fingers buried in the thick, dark mess of his hair, he glanced up and there it was in his other hand. His hat. He had been wearing his hat the whole time. His expression dropped into one of annoyance. Idiot. He shook his head. He had spent several minutes looking for his headwear; it was almost time for his grandfather to arrive.
One, two, three, four. Francisco carried all of his baggage out of his room and set it down by the front door, where he counted it once more. Still all there. From a pile of sheets on the couch there emanated a deep, loud snore. Francisco glanced over, his stomach tightening once more, though this time for different reasons. He was leaving soon, any minute now, and the man sprawled on the sofa could not even be bothered to wake up and say goodbye. A glance around the living room explained why; there were empty bottles all over the floor, evidence of his father’s late night with Lady Tequila and her uncultured friends. A wave of anger washed over Francisco, twisting his expression, and he threw out both hands towards the man’s sleeping form, middle fingers extended. Outside a car horn blared, startling Francisco enough to make him jump. Dropping the offending hands to his side, Francisco looked at his father, but the man did not stir. Exhaling deeply, Francisco put a hand to his chest. He turned to the door to open it for his grandfather, the owner of the horn.
One, two, three, four. Francisco and his grandfather made short work of loading the luggage into the truck—along with the printer the older man had bought his grandson—and securing them, particularly the bedclothes, which might not have the weight to hold themselves down. Francisco’s grandfather let out a heavy sigh with a shake of his head as he eyed the man asleep on the couch, but when he looked at Francisco he managed a smile before asking the boy if he was ready to go. He was. Patting his pocket again to feel for his wallet, Francisco locked the door behind himself before climbing into his grandfather’s truck and buckling up. He looked at his grandfather and forced a smile of his own.
One, two, three, four. The older man turned the truck around and drove down the driveway, past the other houses on the lot, all four just as tacky and rundown as the one the boy lived in, though none with a lawn as green and well-kept. Francisco suspected that wouldn’t last long, and he wondered how tall the grass would be when he returned three months from now, presuming it wasn’t dead. As the truck turned out onto the street Francisco checked his wallet once more. Still there. Mind at ease, or as at ease as it could be, considering the circumstances, Francisco gazed out the window at the familiar stores and houses. He would not be seeing them for a while, and he didn’t mind one bit.
To enter for a chance to win fame and fortune in our contest, here is the link