Chapter 3.1: Andrew

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All weekend Andrew felt like a shitheel

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All weekend Andrew felt like a shitheel. On Saturday morning his mother had woken him up from his cocoon of blankets to ask him to mow the lawn. "Do I have to do it right now?" he snapped, dragging his covers back up over his head. She left, letting him sleep in, and when he finally dragged himself out of bed sometime near noon, she asked him again.

"Why does it even have to get mowed," he complained. "It's almost winter. The leaves will cover it soon."

"I can't take care of this entire house by myself!" Her voice wobbled and Andrew knew where this was going, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.

"That lawn mower sucks. It's too hard to push with one arm."

"It wouldn't be so hard to push if you'd wear that prosthetic I paid thousands of dollars for," she said. "I'm going to trim the hedges, can't you do this one thing for me?"

He didn't respond to that. He was suddenly not hungry, so he shoved the box of cereal back into the cupboard and stomped off to the garage.

First thing, he had to fill the gas tank, which involved balancing the gas can on his knee while he used his one arm to pour. Then there was starting the damn thing. After seven pulls on the ripcord, the engine sputtered to life, and now he had to wrangle the machine out onto the lawn. The wheels were rusty and prone to stalling over any bump in the earth. Andrew had to use his chest to push the thing until, sweaty and exhausted after the first row, he left the mower running and slammed back inside to haul out the damn prosthetic.

The arm strapped around his chest and under the armpit of his right arm, and it had to be tight to get the top to fit into the joint of his shoulder. All metal and wires, it wasn't a cosmetic arm at all, and wearing it made him feel even more like a freak. In his physical therapy sessions he was still learning how to use the muscles of his shoulder to get the claw at the end of the arm to open and close. He didn't need it to do anything like that right now.  He just needed it to push.

Despite being covered in sweat, Andrew pulled a flannel shirt on over his t-shirt before heading back outside.

He had to lean his left side in to get the right pressure, and yes, that did make mowing easier, a fact which made him grit his teeth and swear under his breath. But it also hurt more. He wore the prosthetic so rarely that the sensitive scar tissue on his shoulder protested the friction.

The lawn was enormous. And all front lawn, too. The back was filled with his mother's flowers. Good, because it wasn't anything he had to mow. Bad because the whole time he was mowing, he was on display to anyone who drove by. Or walked by. He was on display when two kids, riding their bikes slowly in front of their power-walking mother, stopped and pointed and gawked. The mother ushered them along.

He was on display when he had stopped pushing the mower at the end of a row, lifting the prosthetic arm to try to reset it in his shoulder joint, when a familiar car rolled down the road.

Everyone knew Matt Welch's car. His father had bought him the cherry red convertible for his sweet sixteen, and it had become the unofficial mascot of the football team. The backseat always overflowed with burly guys in letter jackets, while Matt and Nina took the front seats, hair blowing in the breeze.

Andrew, unfortunately, was right up at the sidewalk, and Matt had probably seen him from halfway down the street. He didn't have time to pretend he hadn't seen the convertible coming. He'd been looking right at it, too tired to focus on anything until they were right there.

"Hey, it's Edward Scissorhands," called out one of the guys in the backseat as Matt rolled by at the street's posted speed limit of twenty miles per hour.

The insult didn't make much sense, and Andrew didn't have time to tear his gaze away from Nina to see who'd thrown it out. He felt his face heat up anyway, as he dropped his arm and his head and hurried back inside, the laughter from the car echoing in his head.

"Are you finished with the lawn already?" his mother had called out over the sound of the vacuum from the living room.

"Mow it yourself!" he growled.

Up in his room he couldn't get his shirt off fast enough. The fabric kept getting caught on the claw hand and he wrestled with it until he heard the seams rip and he was free. Free to rip the straps off his chest and hurl the prosthetic to the floor with a primal scream.

"Jacky, you cannot leave the lawn mower running in the middle of the yard!" Mrs. Jennings said before she rounded the door to see into his room. "Oh, honey."

"Get out!" he yelled at her, and slammed the door in her stunned face. He turned the flimsy lock so she couldn't just barge right back in. Then he turned on his radio – luckily his iPhone docking station had an old-school radio, and once he'd found a hard rock station, he spun the volume dial as loud as it could go... which wasn't very loud. After about five minutes, during which his mother had probably gone out to turn off the mower and put it away, he heard her back at his door.

"Jacky! Turn your music down now! Or I'm unlocking this door!"

"Fine!" he yelled back, and plugged in his earbuds.

So after that, Andrew had waited until his mother had gone grocery shopping before getting on his bike and riding over to Cody's house. There he'd found Cody getting reamed out by his stepfather. Cody blinked sleepily at the guy, then waved at Andrew and dragged him out back to the dilapidated camper that Cody used as his own private hangout. Extension cords ran from the house out to the trailer, and inside Cody had an old TV hooked up to his Xbox, plenty of snacks, and a supply of weed stashed in the narrow linen closet. 

"Your stepdad's an asshole," Andrew commented while Cody assembled the necessary tools.

Cody shrugged, flicked the lighter, and finally Andrew felt like he could breathe again.

Naturally, his mother was none too pleased when he came home after midnight reeking of pot, but he was too stoned to care. She got back at him on Sunday, yanking off his covers. "What the hell, Mom," he groaned.

"We're going to church. Get dressed."

He groaned again, pushing his face into his pillow. He felt clothes being tossed on top of him.

"Something needs to change around here. You aren't the only person affected by this, you know."

"I know, Mom," Andrew muttered.

The mattress dipped beside him as she sat down on the bed. Her hand stroked the back of his head. He hated how much he liked that small measure of affection. "I know things are hard for you, but I think it's time for you to stop wallowing and realize how lucky you are."

It's only an hour, he kept telling himself, sitting in the hard wooden pew and trying to keep his head down. He hoped he wouldn't see anyone from school, especially not wearing khakis and a black sweater his mother had bought for him three years ago, before the accident. He'd stuffed a t-shirt into the sleeve to make it look fuller before tucking the cuff into the pocket.

As they waited for mass to begin, his mother opened the church newsletter to read, leaving Andrew to do nothing but look around. Oh, god. There was Monica Johnston. He shook his head so his hair fell into his face. Hopefully, with his black hair and preppy clothes, she wouldn't notice him.

"Here's something we could do," his mother said beside him. "We can make freezer meals for this woman dying of cancer and her son. Maybe doing a little charity work will help you feel a little better about your own situation, hmm?"

Andrew glanced at the newsletter with narrowed eyes, then saw a familiar name jump out from the page.

I am a total shitheel.

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