Chapter 11: Rude Awakening

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Ben Torrance smiled to himself. He was getting better at concealing his deceptions. He was thinking more clearly than ever before. For too long his temperamental emotions ruled him and made him fear what his parents and his teacher thought of him. No longer. Now, he embraced those feelings.

For when he did, wonderful things happened.

Anything he ever wanted was within his grasp. All he had to do was want it enough. He thought of his latest desire, and stared across the room. Billy Righton laughed with his friends at one of Ben's classmates again. He made her cry.

Strangely, that didn't make Ben angry, or even upset. Instead, he smiled to himself, reveling in Billy's dominance over those smaller than him. He smiled because that dominance would soon be his. Billy might have been bigger and stronger than him, but Ben had his ways to get even, and then he would know what being on top felt like.

"Ben? Ben! Snap out of it, dreamer."

Ben looked up to see Mrs. Greenfield smiling down at him. "Huh?"

"Come along now, dear. We are going back to the classroom."

"Okay, Mrs. Greenfield," he said. With a last look toward the older boys – where one of the other teachers was scolding Billy for teasing the younger girl – Ben turned to follow the other first graders back to the classroom.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully as Ben went through his exercises with the other kids. Mrs. Greenfield even told him she was very impressed with his reading and thought he was extremely "sharp." He beamed under her praise, glad she thought well of him.

She must have told his mommy too, because when he got home, she gave him a giant hug and said she was so very proud of him for how good he was doing in school. She traced her fingers down his face and then stood up.

"Hey, for being such a good boy, how about you help me make some fish sticks?" she asked as her fingers tapped the pendant she always wore.

Ben looked at it curiously, thinking about how she always wore it and how it made her prettier. He wondered where she got it. Did she steal it? He wondered if other things from Wall-aknia were as pretty – at least he thought that was where she said it was from. Some gypsy thing.

"Ben? Would you like to help me make the fish sticks? You know you get dessert if you do."

"Yes, mommy! Can I?"

"Of course," she said and smiled at him. "Go put your school things away, and I'll set it up for us, okay?"

Ben scampered off to throw his bags in his room. Of course, he stopped to put Mrs. Greenfield's keys in his secret stash. He reminded himself to be careful, or they would find his stuff, and then he'd be in trouble again. They would look at him with the fishy eyes, and his parents would be sore at him again. He crawled under his bed and removed the small grate over the vent in the floor and dropped the keys in. Then he put the grate back before running downstairs to help his mommy, thinking of yummy fried fish.


*****


The next morning, Ben finished up his breakfast when his daddy came into the room all ready for work. Ben smiled at him through his mouthful of cereal.

"Hey there, sport," he said. "Can you get a few more bites in that mouth of yours?"

"Hi, daddy!" Ben tried to say with his mouth full.

"Oh, don't encourage him, Benjamin! You should know better!" his mommy said.

"Daddy's in trouble!" Ben laughed and cereal splattered on the table.

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