The house just didn’t feel right today. But I had just walked my usual walk home, passed the same buildings, and crossed the same field. All after an ordinary, pointless day of being force-fed knowledge I will never use. Cut the same class with the same two friends, and stumbled around in gym class after that. Normal.
Our lawn crunched under my shoes, it hasn’t rained for weeks. The few flowering trees mom planted swayed lightly with the hot, early autumn wind. Their leaves were wilting, and stared at the ground. And the house…it loomed over me, covering me in a shadow that made me feel strangely nervous. It seemed like today I finally was noticing how menacing the creeping vines that ran up the side of our porch were; they ensnared everything as they climbed. One of the shutters was moving with the breeze as well, creaking and screeching its hinges. I opened my door with a strange lump in my throat.
“Jim. Hold on. Come here.” Dad. Dad was home. I walked towards the direction of his strong voice, hoarse from the cigars he liked to smoke each summer night. When I saw him, standing straight backed, his thick eyebrows pulling together with one hand clenching the top of my mother’s chair, my mouth dried.
“Jimmy, we’re glad you’re home. Can you please e-explain something to us hun?” Was that a catch in her voice? I stepped cautiously towards my mother, my body folding into itself under my father’s stare.
“You okay mom?”
“What the hell Jim!” Dad exploded. He slapped something down on the table. It was a Ziploc bag crumpled and moulded to the shape of the green clumps inside. Oh shit. “What the hell is marijuana doing in this house? And why the hell did your mother find it under your bed?”
My body perked up and I turned to glare at my mother. She was staring at the wooden table top, her eyes were unnaturally bright.
“I was va-vacuming.” She started to cry.
“Jim, I’ve had enough of your shit! I’m sick of your screw-up’s. First you throw away your position as pitcher for the team, then the grades, then those good-for-nothing friends of yours, and now this!” He was advancing towards me, trying to stare me down. We were the same height, it wasn’t going to work. Yet as I stood my ground, taking in the insults, the disappointment, the tears, I couldn’t help but see the lines. The wrinkles and the folds of skin that were beginning to age my father stood out starkly against his red face. His hair was hiding streaks of grey. Was this why was he so intent on me living this particular life?
“You can’t do this dad.”
“Do what.” He spat. He held his stance, but I could see it in his face that for a moment, he was confused.
“You can’t relive your life through mine.” He seemed to flinch back, and for a minute there was almost utter silence in the house. Only my mother’s quieting sniffles and the upstairs creaking let me know that time was still moving forward.
“This isn’t about me you stupid kid! It’s about you!” He screamed this, the tendons on his neck stretching with his anger. I clenched my jaw and narrowed my eyes. “This is about your life, and your plan! You’re spiraling down kid, and it’s your own fault.”
That last line really stuck with me as I stormed up the stairs an endless moment later. I was almost to the door to my sanctuary, and my bed, when the creaking upstairs got deliberately louder. I looked up and stifled a yell.
“What… who… the hell?” I managed to squeak out. All I could see were his big green eyes, peeping under a full head of curling, matted hair. I was looking up, he was looking down…from our attic door.
“So I heard the hoopla downstairs. Wanna smoke a bowl and talk about it?”
I haven’t been in our attic since this sleepover I’d had with my friends when I was eleven. The sleeping bags were still up here. Cinci had actually done a nice job turning them into a makeshift bed for himself. Most of the rest of our junk was under these grey white sheets. They were all ruffling, creating shapes and shadows in the fabric as they caught the wind from the large circular window. Apparently he had climbed in using the vine’s trellis a week ago. It explained the resent creaking we’ve been hearing. I suppose I should tell dad to call off the house inspector.
“It’s cool that I’ve been pinching off the leftovers for the past couple nights, right? I ran out of peanut butter Tuesday.”
“Is your name really Cincinatus?”
“It is now. I figured I should change it to something more Greek to fit in with the locals once I get there.” I couldn’t stop staring. It was just too unreal. Everything about him screamed pathetic. His plaid shirt was ripped in a few places, his shorts were patchy, and his shoes were so multicoloured, I couldn’t even guess what the original what have been. But his bong was perfect, and his weed was magical.
“So you’ve been hitchhiking for a month now, and you want to go to this Eleusis place? Dude, how do you hitchhike across an ocean?”
“Well, I figure once I make it to New York I’ll find something. The gods will provide.”
“yeah…right. And this ritual thing, the Eleusinian myths or something? You really think it’s going to make you a better farmer?” I was in awe. Entranced. I wasn’t sure if this man was crazy, or an inspiration. I knew more about this man’s life after three hour, and then I did about my own father. He was fearless, telling me his tragic story of bankruptcy and divorce as if it were some sort of comedy. Cinci was perfectly at ease, and in complete belief with his Eleusinian pilgrimage, and the Greek gods. He prayed once to Demeter, and it rained a second later. No more proof needed, he packed up what he could carry, and stuck his thumb out as he waited by the road. I think I’m going to give him the rest of our peanut butter.
“So Jim, your dad was kind of a dick down there.”
“He’s just … scared, I think.”
“You’re a good kid. He shouldn’t worry. Plan’s come and go, you know?” He said this in between bites of the potato salad I had snuck up for us. It was easy. It was four in the morning, which seems to bring out the best conversations. I was glad I found such a treasure.