Don’t be Curt

So I thought today I’d share something pretty spesh with you! My latest work called Don’t be Curt.
It’s true that I haven’t done much on this novel yet but I thought I would share it anyway.

Time is the silliest thing ever created my man, my mum always says to me that there’s not enough time to do all her work in the day; not enough time to spend with me. But I’ve always been in the boat there’s too much time to spend going through the motions when all you want is an escape. That is why every day I sit in this warm, cosy library reading a novel – I finish one every day. When you don’t go to school you can afford to waste your time like that.

     “Oliver Twist,” the assistant librarian, Ellie, reads from the cover. I’ve been coming in here every day since before she graduated with her library degree. She must think I’m a public loser for coming in here day after day reading about stories which came from someone’s imagination. “You must be hungry today?”

     I choke on a snort and feel my cheeks heat up. “Hungry?”

     “Well I only remember that one line from the musical, ‘Please, Sir, may I have some more?’”

     “The musical isn’t as good as the book,” I murmur.

     She plonks herself down beside me, that’s when I smell the musk stick perfume she’s wearing. “That’s the longest string of words you’ve ever said to me – well done.”

     Ellie’s been about the only young person who’s ever bothered to talk to me. When she talks to me I forget I’m a freak who wets the bed nightly and has a worse sleeping pattern than my three month old baby brother. When she talks to me I feel normal.

     “I’d best check this book out,” I say, getting up.

     “Sure,” she says, following my lead. “I came to ask you, though, if you wanted a lift home – it’s pouring outside.”

     “That is such a nice offer, but I have an umbrella and I need the exercise. Thank you though.”

 

Ellie wasn’t wrong about it pouring, it was also blowing gale force winds as well. Mum rushes me inside when I open the door after walking home. “You should have called, Curtis, I was so worried. I could’ve picked you up.”

     “Forgot my phone,” I lie.

     “Like always,” Mum rolls her eyes. “Jayden’s napping, d’you mind watching him while I go out to the shops?”

     “Fine.” I feign a smile and wait for her to leave, then count to exactly ten seconds before my brother starts wailing. Like most people, Jayden hasn’t developed a great bond with me – he hates me. I told my mum this a month ago and she burst into tears. I didn’t know why and frankly I’d seen her cry so many times I was conditioned to it.

     “Coming, Jayden,” I yell.

     Once excluding that Jayden wasn’t hungry and after I’d changed his nappy and he was still discontent, I lay down on my back on the couch with Jayden on my tummy and sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Jayden stopped crying just as I was falling into the realm of my nightmare.

 

     I wake with a cold washer on my forehead and my pants wet – but Jayden’s gone! “Where’s Jayden?” I scream.

     I hear someone rush in from the kitchen; my step-dad Lucas. I have absolutely nothing against this guy as he’s made Mum happier than she’s ever been and he’s kind – but he’s the only one who questions me about my nightmares. “He’s in his bed,” he says. “In considerably better health than somebody we know.”

     “I’m going out,” I murmur, pushing past him, but he blocks the door.

     “No.”

     He does this every day and the same thing gets to him. “You’re not my real father. You can’t tell me what to do. Now move or I’ll pack my bags!”

     Normally he moves away but this time he doesn’t. I smile slowly, realising how much freedom I’ll now have and start packing my old schoolbag, finally I can leave this hellhole.

 

     I can’t remember when I last enjoyed life because all my life I’ve wet the bed; all my life I’ve been picked on for being the freak I always know I have been. What kind of kid enjoys reading books rather than playing Aussie Rules? What kind of teenager deletes their whole connection with social media because of a bit of teasing? What kind of adult would rather stick pins in his eyes than go out ‘clubbing’? I realise after I’ve left the house and started running, how unfit I am. I run for a minute down the road before stopping with my hands on my legs, completely out of breath. If I’d learned how to skateboard this would be much easier. I walk the ten blocks to Lakeley shopping plaza before sitting down and literally figuring out my plan of attack.

     “What’re you doing ‘ere, homo?”

     I close my eyes as I recognise the voice of the boy who made school so miserable, Danny Webber. “I’m . . . s-studying,” I manage.

     “Learn to talk, retard,” he sneers. “Word around the street is you’ve quit school?” I guess everyone had to find out someday. When I decide not to comment he says, “Y’know I might’ve actually seen that as cool if you didn’t spend all ya days reading Shakespeare in the library, wishing you were at school.” Danny wouldn’t come within one hundred metres of a library if he wasn’t forced to. He draws all the phlegm from his throat and spits on my head. I feel the cool, wet texture of the tar-infected mucous on my scalp. “I thought I might shower you with a bit of masculinity – you gay piece of shit!”

     I can feel my knees trembling, unable to stay steady. When he kicks me I fall over, he proceeds to kick me in the head, back and groin before whispering in my ear, “Gayness is a choice.”

     I don’t actually know whether I’m gay or not. I can’t say I’ve ever been turned on guy who plays Jacob Black in Twilight like most of the girls in my grade but I’ve never felt turned on by Miranda Kerr either like most of the guys in my grade.The more you stand up and tell the world you’re straight – the more it feels like you’re telling yourself that.

     I technically cannot move but I push through the inflammation from the beating but I do manage to pull my pants and underwear up that Matt left down after the beating. I hear my phone ring but don’t bother answering because I know it will either be Mum worried out of her mind or Jeremy choking with the guilt that I left him with.

      Jeremy is, on so many levels, way better than my real dad. My real dad wouldn’t have given a shit if I got up and left but it hits Jeremy hard every time, even if it is only for Mum’s sake. I was the one who convinced them to have a baby, I thought this would give Mum an incentive to move on from a lost cause, which is why, immediately after the nine-point-three pound baby boy was born healthy I decided to attempt something that I’d wanted to do since way before Mum got pregnant . . . and I failed . . . miserably. I landed an extended hospital stay and Mum landed a heavy bout of post-natal depression.

     I let the phone ring ten times before deciding to answer it. “Yes, Jeremy?” I can hear Jayden wailing in the background.

     “Oh thank God, I was going to call the police! Where are you? I’m coming to get you?”

     “A much better idea would be to feed Jayden, do some meditation and go to bed. You’ve got work at six and it’s,” I glance at my watch, “nearly midnight.”

     “If I don’t find you I will not be sleeping, Curtis, I can assure you of that and neither will anyone here.”

     “What if I don’t want to be found?” I say softly. “Look, I know you’re worried about Mum-”

     “You always say that, Curtis! Whether or not we have the same genes doesn’t matter to me. I love you just as much as Jayden-”

     “Logically imposs-”

     “You can shove logistics where the sun doesn’t shine, Curtis, I’m sick of you getting around my discipline by using the ‘you’re not my real dad’ excuse. Yes you’re eighteen, but how the hell am I supposed to give you trust when you won’t get help for this depression and go out running onto a highway because you can’t take the pain anymore.”

     I feel the burn in my throat of tears, but hang up before Jeremy can hear me sob. I’m not crying for that long when someone touches my shoulder. “Hey.” To my surprise it’s the voice of Ellie the librarian.

     Embarrassed and ashamed I wipe the tears off my face. “Sorry . . . I don’t usually . . .” I can’t finish the sentence.

     “Brave is a man who can let go of emotions without bottling them up.”

     “Where did you get that?”

     “Well I think I made it up, but don’t quote me because knowing me some psychologist quoted it first.” She looks at the sticky mucous on my head. “That is definitely not bird poo!”

     I laugh. “No. What do you think it is?”

     “It’s hard to see in the dark but it looks like someone’s sneezed on you.”

     “Very close.” I shuffle my foot. “Can I ask you something?”

     “Sure.”

     “Have you ever felt . . . like . . . life is a jigsaw puzzle and you just don’t fit in it?” I feel my face redden. “I can’t believe I just asked a stranger that?”

     “Strangers are the best people to talk to.” She smiles. “And the answer is yes. My dad died three years ago and I’ve been trying to see how my world fits without him in it – but I’m getting there.” She gets distracted from her train of thought and lies down beside me. “When I was little I used to wish upon stars.” She smiles.

     “What did you wish for?”

     “A trip to Disneyland, meeting JK Rowling and my dad’s remission.”

     I don’t really know what to say. “I’m sorry.”

     “Don’t be. We had so many good years together, and a few good years is better than fifteen terrible ones.”

     I feel a stab in my breastbone as she says that. Does Ellie know something about my father? There’s just too much irony. “I, uh, have to get home. Thanks for the talk.” Too late I realise I cannot actually walk properly with hobbling like a pathetic cripple who doesn’t even have anything broken.

     “What happened to you?” Ellie asks. “Did someone hurt you?”

     “No. I’m fine.”

     “At least let me take you home.”

     “No, but thank-”

     “Sorry but it’s my duty of care.” She tugs my arm and I limp stupidly over to the Honda parked in the car park. I’ve never had someone go out of their way as much as Ellie. I don’t know why she bothers but it feels nice all the same. I tell her my address and directions then let her drive me home. I feel myself drifting into sleep when she turns the music on and in the weird in-between stage of sleep and wakefulness I hear Jeremy thanking Ellie for taking me home.

     “I think someone was bullying him before I came and discovered him there. He can barely walk.”

     “Thanks heaps for letting me know, I’ve been suspecting that ever since I saw his absentee list.”

     When Jeremy starts to pick me up out of the car seat I fight him off. “I’m awake, Jerry.”

     Ellie passes me a business card, where she writes her mobile number. “Any time you want to talk or need a car to crash in.”

 

Jeremy has already taken the time to uninstall the lock on my bedroom door. I express my gratitude by putting two tablespoons of salt and not two teaspoons of sugar in the coffee I make him. That lock was my only method of keeping myself safe in my darkest days of adolescence.

     As Jeremy tips the coffee down the sink, he sighs. “I need to know that you’re safe. Some parents even take the door away-”

     “Forget it! I’m going to bed, goodnight.”
     As if Jeremy hasn’t done enough, the next morning I wake to sound of Jeremy’s snoring. He went to sleep beside the door so if I decided I needed to go out I had to bump him out of the way. It’s the first time in a long time that a man had slept in my room, though, it was also the first time that the sheets weren’t drenched in wee, which is such a great feeling.

     Deciding I can’t go back to sleep with a chainsaw in my room, I dodge Jeremy. He must be so exhausted because he doesn’t even flinch when I open the door on him. With Mum’s postnatal depression it was essential that she was getting enough sleep to function during the day. So Jeremy decided he would feed the pumped breast milk to a baby that wanted a feeding up to four times a night, before he got up for work at six am. He was the husband Mum wished she’d first had and the dad I wished was my father, though I never tell him that because then I’d have to treat him like a real father.

     My mum’s up with Jayden in the carrier cooking eggs when I come out of my bedroom. “Morning, Curtis,” Mum greets. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you get up this early?”

     It’s five o’clock, I don’t usually get up until noon. “I felt . . . brighter this morning.”

     “Good to hear. Have you seen Jeremy because I haven’t seen him since I went to bed?”

     “He’s in my room, on the floor, sleeping.”

     She makes a face. “Did you two have a talk?”

     “Yeah.” I nod, but I figure some things are better left unsaid.

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