Hey everyone. I've decided to write a children/young adult series. This is the first chapter that I wrote today.. it will hit very close to home for many of you. It is going to be the Valley's version of Harry Potter... ha ha. A poor kid from the city who enters a magical world. Tell me what you think so far.
The Secret Life of Sammy Nichols
By Jeremy Wells
The wind blew through Sammy’s tattered clothes like a train on the old Lackawanna Line. It was gray, dark and stormy with swirling flakes of snow all around. Hunger ached in his belly as he trudged through the deep white powder toward his little house on St. Stephens Place. The street was small, maybe 20 houses or so, and his house was the third last on the right. He had heard his mother say it that way for years when describing it to friends or family members who were in town to visit. That was the way people described where they lived here on St. Stephens. He could barely see past the Humphrey’s house, which was fourth from the corner, when he turned onto the street. “Another Buffalo winter night…” he thought to himself. The thought was gray and cold like the thick lake effect snow falling from the sky all around him.
Everything seemed to stand still except the big oak tree that swayed to and fro in front of Mrs. Mendola’s house. That tree was the one thing you could always see when you were on the street. It didn’t matter what the weather was doing, you always knew where the Mendola house was because of that mighty oak that stood in between the sidewalk and the road at the end of the street. Heck, you could practically see it anywhere in neighborhood on a clear day! Tonight it looked like a big black monster waving it’s arms about in the stormy weather. Mrs. Mendola’s house was the second to last on the street, next door to his.
The street was deserted and Sammy was happy to see the faint light glowing from the front of his old clapboard house. That old antique lamp perched in the front window was handed down from great grandma Nichols and had stayed in the front window of every house that it was ever in. It was always on too, like a lighthouse on the cold shores of Lake Erie. Some of the kids in the neighborhood would make fun of Sammy about it and sing the old song of the Edmund Fitzgerald while marching around like sailors on the deck of a ship. He sometimes wished they had gone down to a watery grave with the doomed craft. In his mind, they certainly deserved as much.
“Where have you been Samuel Nichols!” mother cried as he dropped his snow covered book bag on the floor in the kitchen. “Is there any food left mom?”, he asked nonchalantly. He had been playing floor hockey at the community center after school and he was starving. “Samuel, I have been sick worrying about you. You know the rules…” “Come home when the streetlights are on… I know Mom…” he interrupted. She came over and wiped all of the ice and snow from his face and started undressing his winter clothes. “I couldn’t see the streetlights with all the snow flying and the boys wanted to finish the game. Sorry I’m so late.” “Well, you can stay home tomorrow after school and think about it for a night!”
He knew that was coming. He could almost predict down to the second the exact time he was going hear his punishment. He usually could predict the amount of time that his infraction would cost him as well. Coming home more than five minutes after the streetlights would cost a kid a day in the house. More than fifteen minutes would get you two days, and more than that could cost you the week. The week would usually get shortened to five days tops if you did your chores and didn’t mouth off too much. This was never a problem for Sammy, because he mostly kept to himself and his siblings were too young to get him in any kind of trouble.
“Look at you, all bruised up! What kind of hockey are they playing down there these days! You know I can’t afford to take you to the doctor again! I’m going to have to talk to George about these crazy hockey games that are happening down there!” mother said as she peeled his last, wet sweater from his body. He didn’t dare tell her that the bruises were from Jimmy Babcock. Jimmy and his friends would sometimes wait outside the community center and bully him around. It was more than sometimes. Almost everyday something would happen with that gang. They preyed on smaller kids like Sammy and most times he was fast enough to lose them on the street, but today they had tripped him from behind the dumpster when he was walking and started hitting him immediately. He was used to it by now, and just curled up in a ball, protecting his face and head while the rest of his body took the punishing blows. A car had pulled up with its high beams on and honked the horn, scaring away the boys and saving him from any real damage.
“Food Mom… I’m really hungry.” Sammy said sitting at the old wooden table in the kitchen. Mom grabbed a bowl from the dish drainer in the sink and filled it with cold macaroni and cheese from the big pot on the stove. It was the third day in a row that they had eaten “mac n cheese” for dinner, but tonight he didn’t bother to say anything. It was filling his stomach and stopping the hunger pangs and that was good enough for him. He and his little sisters hadn’t had more than one good meal a week since their father died in an accident at work a few years back, and mother was always talking about what they were going to do when the big check finally came. It used to excite him in the beginning, but he had heard the stories of moving out of the city, better schools, safer streets, fresh meat and vegetables for dinner almost every night since his father was buried. The check hadn’t come. Maybe it would never come, so he didn’t get his hopes up about it much anymore. He knew he was a Valley kid that would probably end up working at the mills or hopefully someday getting a union job in a trade like his dad.
His teachers had told his mother what a brilliant mind he had for mathematics and science, but they had also told her what a waste he would become always daydreaming and falling asleep in class. Mom had started a college fund for him in an old pickle jar on the refrigerator, but there was never more than twenty dollars in there at a time, and most times she would end up having to use it for riding the bus or buying groceries. She would always look at Sammy with sad eyes each time she pulled the jar down and say, “You know Sammy, when we get that check I’m gonna put $50,000 in that jar so you can go to college wherever you like. You can be a Harvard man if that’s what you want! Your father would love to see his big boy on that stage in a cap and gown!... your father… your…” At this point she would collapse in a chair and start crying. The poverty was getting to her and she missed dad so much. Sam missed his dad too, but he didn’t cry about it. He just went to his room like always and got into his bed. He would look at the peeling plaster on the ceiling and imagine far away worlds where wild things would happen. He loved space, and would often look at the poster of the Milky Way on his wall for hours, imagining what kinds of planets and living things resided in the distant realms of the universe. He fell asleep with the light on and slipped away for another chilly night of dreams.