Thursday, November 26, 2015
The Anger Games 5
The next morning Dave was awakened in the early hours by someone gently shaking his shoulder.
"Dave. Dave!" Hunter whispered urgently.
Dave opened his eyes and focused on Hunter. "What is it? Is there an emergency?" He glanced at the clock radio by the bed and saw that it was only 4:24 am.
"Dave, what's your address again? Never mind. Come with me, I think you need to see this." Dave responded to the quiet insistence in the younger boy's voice and he quickly followed Hunter to the living room where the TV was on and showing news footage of a massive fire.
'... suspect arson but won't know for sure until the fires are out and the Bomb and Arson unit is able to enter the buildings to conduct a full investigation.'
'According to witnesses the fire began in a basement unit.'
The camera cut to one of the residents who was standing on the opposite side of the street.
"Yeah! It was one of the lower apartments, ya know? When I was coming home from work I saw it! It turned the whole street orange! It was completely in flames! Fire was just shootin' out the windows!"
'Firefighters responded to the twelve-unit building after reports of a fire which came in at 3:55 a.m. When firefighters arrived on the scene they observed that the fire which had started in the building at 3327 East Lyme Street, quickly engulfed the upper floors and spread to the neighboring buildings. So far three apartment buildings are ablaze and two more are smoldering despite the efforts of the fire department to keep them under control. Firefighters from neighboring cities are on their way to help contain the blaze.'
'According to fire captain James Marshall, the fires have displaced 43 occupants from the five buildings. The residents of the two peripheral buildings have been evacuated for safety reasons.'
'Several people were reportedly trapped by the fire and escaped by jumping from their windows, luckily only sustaining minor injuries from the fall. Eight more are being treated for smoke inhalation, and two residents, apparently husband and wife, suffered second-degree burns while trying to escape. They have all since been transported to the hospital.'
'No other injuries have been reported so far, and no one has been reported missing. The Red Cross has responded and is currently helping to find food, shelter and clothing for those whose apartments have been lost to the fire.'
'We'll keep you updated on this story as it progresses. Now back to you, Trey.'
'Thank you, Stacy. Today's weather...'
Hunter muted the television. "One of those was your apartment building, wasn't it, Dave?" he asked, half afraid of the answer.
Dave sat on the couch, in shock from what he'd just heard. His apartment. His books. Gone. Everything he'd worked so hard for the past two years. No, not everything. The bulk of his clothes were here. His car was outside in the driveway. But his birth certificate. His social security card. Dave shook his head, it should be easy enough to replace those things. He couldn't let this upset him. It was just... stuff. He could replace it.
Heck, he thought, maybe he could even get a computer from this century next time. He liked to joke that the Mac he'd bought at a garage sale for $50 had been one of the first internet ready computers ever made and it had been on it's last legs for a long time. He would have had to replace it soon anyway.
He'd gotten the TV at a tag sale for $40. The elderly microwave and drip coffee maker had also come from that tag sale and had put him back around $15 combined. The DVD player had come from TW's Pawn Shop and had only cost $20. While he had been collecting a new movie every pay day for as long as he'd been working, the bulk of the DVD's had been bought at an estate sale for a whopping fifty cents apiece. He'd found the vacuum, desk, chair, end tables and couch on the side of the road in front of an old house with a big sign in front that said FREE! Now how could he pass that up?
He'd gone up to the house and spoken to the owner to ask him to keep the things until he could transport it all to his apartment. The elderly man had recruited his sons and fired up his old van. They'd helped Dave load the items into the van and then helped carry them to the apartment. They had adamantly refused to accept the money Dave had offered to pay for their time and gas. They'd even given him the plywood sign which he'd eventually used as his coffee table.
He'd found the lamps beside a dumpster. Sure they were ugly as sin but when he'd taken them home and inspected them he'd found the loose wires and had been able to fix them up with the application of a small screwdriver, a little bit of electrical tape and new bulbs.
The silverware, dishes and glasses, pots and pans, linens, blankets and comforter had been lucky Goodwill finds that he'd paid a king’s ransom of $32.29 for. He was really going to miss those coffee mugs though. They'd been special finds at the local dollar store, but when he'd gone back to buy more they were all gone.
The box-spring and mattresses, pretty much the first things he'd ever purchased after leaving home, had been bought at a consignment store and had cost about $125 for the three pieces. He'd used bungee cords to attach them to the top of his car and had wrestled them, one at a time, into his apartment. Oh, he groaned mentally. His apartment! Where was he going to find another rent that cheap?
But no. It wasn't the time to worry about that now. None of it was a big loss after all. Was it? What had he lost that couldn't be replaced. Maybe the books. He'd had some of them for years and he wasn't sure they were still in print. But all things considered, it could have been worse. He could have been in the building when it went up. Right now he could be one of those luckless people who were standing on the street in the cold, watching their home burn to the ground. Or worse, he could have suffered the same fate as those poor people who'd been burned.
Lost in thought he didn't hear when Cam came into the room, summoned by his shaken son.
"Dave?" Cam sat down next to the boy and put an arm around him. "Dave, it's ok. You're all right. Thank God you weren't in the building when it went up."
Dave nodded. "I'll find a hotel nearby and I can stay there 'til..."
"What are you talking about?" Cam demanded softly. "Why would you go to a hotel?"
"I was only supposed to stay here a few days. I..."
"David Elijah, stop that nonsense right now," Cam said, gently smacking Dave on the shoulder. "You're not going to stay at a hotel, not when there's a perfectly good room right upstairs waiting for you. Do you think I'd let one of my kids live in a hotel room when there's plenty of room here?"
"But nothing. You're staying put. Got it?" Cam raised an eyebrow.
"Then we need to talk about rent, and me pitching in for food and cable and stuff while I'm here," Dave said. "I can't just keep living here for free."
"We can talk about that later, Dave. You're still out of work for another couple of weeks until the doctor clears you to go back. We'll figure something out then."
Dave opened his mouth to protest but Cam interrupted. "You want another smack? Keep it up and you'll get one only it won't be on the shoulder! Now shush you, and get back to bed. You too Hunter. We need a winch to get you out of bed on time during the week but you wake up at some ungodly hour on a Saturday morning with no problem! To bed, both of you." He gave Hunter a firm swat on the seat of his pajamas to send him on his way, and turned off the television before returning to his own warm bed.
Dave loved being part of the Mancuso family, but he longed to be able to return to work. The doctor that Cam had brought him to had insisted on at least two more weeks of rest before returning to either job, even though Dave protested that neither job was strenuous or required the use of two eyes. The warm compresses he'd been using had reduced the swelling, and the bruising was a little less, but the doctor was worried about the blurred vision that Dave had admitted to experiencing in his right eye.
The following Monday was busy. Dave had called to cancel his cable, phone and internet service. Lissie had called the electric company to explain the situation and arrange to have Dave's current bill sent to the house. Cam had picked up the change of address form from the post office so that Dave could receive any other bills and mail. Dave had protested at first but Cam insisted that he would be there at least until he found a new place to live so it only made sense to have the mail sent to the house.
Dave passed the time by helping in the house and yard as much as he was able but Lissie was a whirl wind and the kids were all good about picking up after themselves. Other than the usual large-family clutter the home was always clean and well maintained, so there was relatively little to do. He'd scanned through the books on the shelves in the living room but didn't find anything that caught his attention.
He read the paper daily, checking out the Apartments for Rent section in the want ads, but as soon as he mentioned that he was eighteen he was, usually, politely refused. He'd also tried to contact Marve in hopes of getting a reference but his number was not in service. It had been a land line, not a cell phone, which had most likely burned along with the apartment building, and Dave had no idea where to get a hold of the guy now. He wondered if the Red Cross would be allowed to tell him where they'd relocated the people who'd been burned out that night. He'd called the main office and left a message there as well.
He had looked up the name of the realtors who had owned the buildings and had left his name and number for them to call back. They must have had a record to show how much he'd paid for rent and some documentation to prove that he'd always paid in full and on time. It might not help in his search for another apartment, but he figured it couldn't hurt to have it either.
On the fifth day after the fire, Cam had gotten the kids off to school and left directly afterward to work inventory at the restaurant. Lissie was about to leave for her job at the insurance agency when he finally asked permission to use their computer.
"Of course!" Lissie had said, "It's in the family room for a reason. The only stipulation is that if one of the kids needs it for research for school that takes priority. Since you'll be home by yourself most of the time you won't have much competition for it. If you do use it while the kids are home our rule is that you keep the content kid friendly. The rule of thumb is that if it isn't appropriate for the twins to see or hear, it shouldn't be on our computer."
Dave smiled and thanked her. He'd been without internet access for nearly a week. He was sure his inbox was full, and that some of the folks from the GLBT chat line had missed him by now. Cam and Lissie were nice, but they didn't know about him and he wanted to keep it that way. He was afraid that as nice as they were, once they found out, they'd be like his parents and want him out of their house. The chat line was the only place he knew where he could open up and be 'himself'... or as close to himself as he could be using a pseudonym.
The first thing he did when he logged on was check the browser history. His GLBT chat friend, the Kev half of Kev-Lar, was a computer whiz and had told him how to keep his browser history clear to keep his transactions private. As he'd suspected, the history was full, showing where everyone had been and what they'd seen for the past month. He knew how to delete individual items on the history so he wasn't worried about leaving a trail. He closed that screen and pulled up a fun site he liked to go to.
Lissie walked over to him and gave him a hug around the shoulders and a kiss on the top of his head. "Ok, young man. I'm off to work. Stay out of trouble, no wild parties. Hear?"
"Ok, I promise that my parties will be very tame."
"Good boy." she'd smiled. "I'll be back around five. Would you get dinner started for me around 4:30? Everything is in the fridge, you only need to set the oven to 350 and put the casserole dish in when the preheat signal goes off. I'll be home in plenty of time to take care of the rest, OK?"
Dave smiled and tipped a mock salute.
With a last pat on his back she'd left him to his own devices.
He'd immediately logged onto his email and began sorting through the backlog. That took him nearly an hour and a half, reading and replying to as many of them as he could before his vision began to blur. He looked at his watch and blinked several times to clear the fog. Cam would be coming home around one and it was just about eleven o' clock now. He grinned. He had time.
The kitchen door lead to a large mud room where they kept snow and rain boots, unused winter hats and scarves and umbrellas. The mudroom had three doors. The one on the left led to the front yard. The one on the right led to the back yard, and the one straight ahead led to the garage where Cam had an extra refrigerator which contained food that didn't fit into the one in the kitchen, as well as a shelf full of bottles of beer.
He'd been taking a bottle a day for the past four days and had rearranged the remaining bottles to hide the empty spots. So far so good. He was sure that if he just took one more bottle Cam would never notice, and he would have time to dispose of the empty before Cam got home. He realized that he'd have to find some way to replace the missing bottles and thought about going back and finding Matthew, or maybe one of the guys from the garage. After all, he figured, he'd promised Cam that he wouldn't have anyone buy alcohol for him, he never said that someone couldn't buy it if he was going to give it to Cam.
He seated himself back on the comfortable computer chair, twisted off the cap to the beer, cleared his email site from the history and logged into the chat room.
Coronach has entered the room.
Efffew has left the room.
shockem has entered the room.
Smiley: Cor! Where've ya been? WB! Hey shock! Eff just left. She's gonna be pissed she missed you.
CoffeeBean: Heya Cor, what's up? Heya Shock. So what else is new, she's always pissed about something. LOL
T-Bone: Cor my man! Get aressted fr indeecint exposuur again? LOL Hit me wit ur best, shocks!
shockem: hello all hi cor nice to see you again
G-L-o-R-I-A: Corrrrrrr! Heya shock!
Coronach: LOL Hi all! Miss me?
shockem: sure did i got s*** aim
CoffeeBean: You got it Cor. Where you been?
Smiley: Forget to pay your internet bill?
T-Bone: spil Cor!
Kev-Lar has entered the room.
CoffeeBean: Heya Kev! Heya Lar!
Coronach: Kev! Glad you're on. How's Lar?
Kev-Lar: Sweet and hot as a cinnamon bun just out of the oven and he's all mine, so hands off, honey! Hey there Cor! Where've ya been!
Coronach: Long story. It's great to see you guys. What's going on, you all bulling work?
Smiley: Look who's talking?! Aren't you supposed to be at the garage now?
Kev-Lar: I got time for a story, Cor, shoot.
T-Bone: Cor wuz bout to tel us wht heppaned.
shockem: hi kev and or lar now will everyone shut the f*** up and let the guy talk
G-L-o-R-I-A: s'up Kev-Lar
Shockem: pretend everyone said hello to everyone else already and just tell us what the f*** happened to you for nearly a week
Smiley: Heya Kev, tell Lar hello. Eloquent as ever, aren't you, shock?
shockem: dont make me use punctuation you wont like me when i use punctuation
T-Bone: Hey, Deth is pming wit Phish. Sumwon go nock on teh dor an get em owt hair!
shockem: guys shut the f*** up!
Coronach: He pulled out his punctuation! Cover your eyes!
Kev-Lar: He's turning green! It's the Incredible Hunk!
Smiley: You're a cl*** act, shockem!
Smiley: Dang this profanity filter! Come on! Cl***?!
CoffeeBean: My MIL says that *** isn't even really a swear. It's another word for a donkey. She's the queen of the clean mouth so she should know.
G-L-o-R-I-A: Tell that to the mediator!
G-L-o-R-I-A: Terminator! I don't care! Cor talk fast or forever hold your peace!
shockem: uhfreakinnuff i wanna hear what happened
T-Bone: Yeh gies, bfor Shock usez puctuaton agen. My hart can't taek mutch mor.
CoffeeBean: Ok, on the count of three Cor... one...
CoffeeBean: shock! You messed me up! Now I gotta start all over again!
shockem: first one to say anything gets the punctuation just talk already cor
Coronach: Sorry shock! Keep that punctuation in your pants! I'll talk!
Coronach: I had a run in with a fist and got a little bruised up. My friend M called the police and they suggested that I stay with someone for a few days til the swelling goes down.
CoffeeBean: Big Bad Wolf took a shot at you again?
Coronach: What makes you think it was him?
T-Bone: muthr ******!
Smiley: Son of a gun!
G-L-o-R-I-A: oh, man, Cor. Did you finally file a report against the *******?
Kev-Lar: If it'd been a mugging or a fight you'dve just said so. Go on w/ your story.
(After a short pause to let what they'd said sink in, Dave continued to type.)
Coronach: Yeah, ok it was. And no, I didn't. He's sick, and no matter what else he's my father.
shockem: like they say you can pick your nose but you cant pick your relatives
G-L-o-R-I-A: That's just gross, shock man.
Smiley: Try not to live up to your name today, eh shock?
Kev-Lar: What? Did he change his name to grossemout? Why'nt someone tell me?
CoffeeBean: OK that was just... ick.
Coronach: Anyway, my boss brought me to his house to stay with him and his family. I was only going to be here a few days til the eye healed enough for me to see out of it again.
Coronach: Then my apartment building burned down and I lost everything. My boss wouldn't let me go to a hotel.
Coronach: I'm home bound for a couple more weeks and I was bored out of my skull, so I asked if I could use the computer, and here I am.
CoffeeBean: Wish I had a boss like yours. Mine wouldn't give me a tissue if I gave him a bj for it.
Smiley: Yeah, he sounds like a great guy. And wash out your mouth there, CB.
T-Bone: Fond yerself a Daddy huh? LOL, CB.
Coronach: No, T. It’s not like that. He's not my *Daddy* but I like to think of him as my dad. He's just that good to me. Always has been.
Smiley: So how long are you staying?
Coronach: I'm looking for apartments but haven't found anything yet. I have some money saved. I can cover 1st and sec dep. But then there's the problem that I don't have any
Coronach: furniture, so even if I did find an apartment right now I'd be sleeping on the floor. I'd like to be able to at least have a bed or couch to go home to, so for now I'm staying put.
shockem: didja get the talk yet
Coronach: What did you mean, the talk? I've known the facts of life since I was about 10. LOL
shockem: not that talk you nimrod the as long as you’re living under my roof you’ll obey my rules talk
T-Bone: oh bruther! *taht* tak! Mi fahther stil givis me taht tak!
G-L-o-R-I-A: No name calling allowed, shock!
shockem: sorry not
(in a private message to 'Coronach': yes i am sorry dude)
G-L-o-R-I-A: As long as you're contributing to the household expenses he can't give you too many rules to follow, can he?
Smiley: I dunno bout that, Glor. It *is* his house and his rules do apply, so contributing or not, be respectful and follow the rules for as long as you're there.
CoffeeBean: Has he gone over the rules of the house with you yet, Cor?
Coronach: Kinda. When I first agreed to move in he told me a few of them, but he hasn't actually sat down with me and given me a list. And so far, Glor, he hasn't asked me for any
Coronach: money. I did offer though, before you ask. I'm out of work until the eye completely heals so I think he's trying to help me save what money I have.
(Private message to 'shockem': s'all good!)
T-Bone: oi! Think hell adop me? I wanna daddy liek taht!
CoffeeBean: Hey Cor? Can I ask you a personal question? This guy, he doesn't care that you're gay?
Coronach: I didn't tell him.
(There was a long pause where no one said anything at all.)
CoffeeBean: Think he'd be like your folks?
Coronach: I don't know, and I don't want to find out. I'm afraid. I mean... oh h*** you all know what I mean. I'm preaching to the choir here.
Coronach: The old fairy tale... supportive family and all that happy crappy ever after s***.
shockem: who you callin a fairy twink
(Private message to Coronach: just kiddin twinkie)
Coronach: If I lost the M's... if they kicked me out... I dunno, you know? I like this job. I like my coworkers. I like the M's. A lot. They're the closest I've had to a real family.
(Private message to shockem: No problem, poofter.) God, he thought, he loved Monty Python and thanked them for such a great word.
T-Bone: Ok, were geting maudelynn here. Chanje of supgect?
Just then Dave heard the door to the kitchen opening and Cam's voice raised in greeting.
The message 'Coronach has left the room.' appeared before any of his friends had a chance to say goodbye.
Dave quickly grabbed the empty beer bottle and tucked it down between the desk and the wall to dispose of later. He opened the History tab, selected his last site and deleted it, then opened the screen of 'Funny Stuff' he knew would pass inspection if Cam looked.
He turned toward Cam with a smile, hoping that the thudding of his heart wasn't visible through his shirt. Cam and Lissie would be out the next day, and while he knew his depth perception would be off with only one eye he was pretty sure that if he took it slowly he could take a drive to his neighborhood and hook up with Matthew.