Off the Cuff
All he could do was run. The bus started to pull away with a hiss, a sputter, and a belch of diesel. Late. Again. And that’s how the walk began.
On a normal day – that is, a day when Henry Marsh found himself late for school – the walk took thirty minutes, give or take a couple minutes depending on crosswalk traffic. But something on this particular day (Tuesday) drove Henry to look for the abnormal. Maybe he’d tired of the rut, but at any rate, his walk took him not towards the big red building with twenty rooms, but towards the meat packing plant where his Grandpa had earned enough to just barely hope for better days.
Henry’s normal neighborhood was comfortable. His parents earned a decent living – an honest American living – through a corner market and restaurant three blocks from their three bedroom home. They valued their active lifestyles so they walked the four blocks to work every day. This led to their lack of a car and put Henry into his current nomadic state.
The weather cooperated. Often, Henry braved hot and humid conditions to get to school, left to stew in his damp, sweaty clothes until fifth period gym class. The principal, Mr. Rodgers, gave Henry special permission and a special pass to use the showers if he needed to before school. It was a nice gesture, but since Henry only walked when he was late, it didn’t do him much good. Besides, at his age, Henry looked for any excuse to avoid being special in any way. At thirteen, he just wanted to make it to eighteen as quietly as possible.
He passed an alley and heard stirring behind a trash can. Inquisitive bravery compelled him to see what caused the noise, and he stumbled upon a scrawny, abandoned house cat rummaging through garbage – chicken bones and pizza crusts and old cheese and plastic wrappers and aluminum cans that had avoided the recycling bin. Everything but the things a cat should find appetizing.
—-more to come—- sorry for the false alarm