Part 1 - Chapter 9 - An Inconsequential Death

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I survived my first week of school. Despite the incident with Trent, Dr. Boone granted me a weekend pass to go home. I caught the bus Friday afternoon after my last class.

Mama met me at the door and gave me a big hug, wrapping her one arm around me. "I prepared your favorite meal for dinner."

"Mac and cheese?"

"Sure 'nuff and it's ready. Do me a favor and go get Jacko. He's in the bedroom."

I found my brother sitting on the edge of his bed, head hanging down, an open composition book between his knees.

"Hi, bro. Doing homework?" I asked.

He ignored me, wearing a dull look and vacant expression.

"What the hell," I blurted. "What'd you take?"

Jacko wore a sheepish grin. "Dunno, some yellow pill that my friend, Terence, gave me."

My temper seethed. "If Mama finds out you're using, it'll break her heart."

"She'll never know unless you give me up to her."

"Mama may not be book smart, but she sure isn't stupid. She'll see it on you just as easily as I did."

He massaged the side of his face and mumbled, "She don't care. Didn't even walk with me to school."

That surprised me. "She was supposed to. What happened?"

Jacko hung his head. "You ask her. No big deal. Terence and I are walking together from now on. He's my new friend."

"He's not your friend if he gives you pills," I said. "Who is this kid anyway? Where does he live, and what grade is he in?"

"Terence is thirteen, and he lives in the adobe apartment down the street."

Mama shouted from the kitchen table. "You boys get out here. Food's getting cold."

"I'm not hungry," Jacko said, "'specially not for nasty mac and cheese."

I took his wrist and hauled him to his feet. "Mac and cheese may not be much, but Mama's trying hard. Don't you make her feel bad. Get your ass out there."

I followed Jacko from the bedroom practically pushing him along from behind. Mama waited for us at the table. God, she looked tired.

None of us had much to say. I was too upset to carry on a conversation, Jacko stared at his food and ate mechanically, like a robot, and Mama wouldn't look me in the eye. Something was going on that I didn't know about.

After we finished eating, I volunteered to clean the dishes.

"Thank you," Mama said. "That'll give me a chance to watch the news at six on the TV." She loved watching the news.

"That reminds me," I said, "you'll never guess who sat with me on the bus Monday morning." I went on to tell her about the TV reporter, Tracy Kline. Mama didn't act all that excited which left me feeling a bit hurt since I thought Tracy was a big deal. Jacko gave me a sidelong glance like he didn't believe me.

I shrugged it off and cleared the table.

When done with the dishes, I joined Mama and Jacko on the crummy old sofa. The TV screen displayed a long flat building with high pillars, sort of like the way the Lincoln Memorial looks on the back of the five-dollar bill, except it wasn't the Lincoln Memorial. I knew that, because the caption at the bottom of the TV screen read: Berlin.

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