Paul stood up, shivering as his foot hit that strange wet spot in the floor where Nobody had appeared. He walked over to investigate the window. Sure enough, there were two levers on the top of the cracked pane of glass.
Paul quickly unhooked the broken window and replaced it with the one Nobody had left. He thought about how Nobody had brought it. It definitely couldn’t have fit in the backpack he had. Maybe he just brought it with him and set it down before Paul had rolled over to see him. That still didn’t really explain how Nobody got in Paul’s bedroom and out of his closet with nothing but a strange shift in temperature and a flash of light.
Paul kept trying to figure it out even as he crept down the hall. His father lay passed out on the couch like always. Sure, the window wouldn’t be noticed, but if Paul woke his father up trying to sneak the broken part out of the house, nothing else would matter. His father had an odd habit of never being as drunk as Paul wished. The man would be dead to the world when Paul wasn’t even making the slightest noise, but then he’d jerk awake and angry after Paul used the bathroom.
It had something to do with how drunk his father was when he’d passed out, but Paul never really could figure out the pattern.
There was nothing to do but go for it. Paul rose to the tips of his toes and crept through the living room. The brown carpet made it easier to muffle his footsteps. Paul held the window close to his chest to keep it from hitting the coffee table or the wall. Then he reached the living room door.
It was big and heavy. It almost always could be heard opening and closing through the house. Paul considered trying to go back through the living room for the sliding glass door. It was quieter, but it was also less than two feet from his father’s head. Paul looked from one door to the other. The choice could mean his life. Waking his dad up was life-threatening enough. Waking his dad up while holding a broken window, no matter that the replacement was already up, would mean the end.
Paul took a deep breath. He’d already walked through the living room. He turned the doorknob as slowly as he could and opened the door. As always, there was a soft crack as the seal of the door separated from the frame. The strange bristly bottom of the door, maybe there to keep dust from forming along the door’s path, whisked as Paul opened it just enough to fit through.
“Shut that door!” Paul’s head jerked to see his father shift his body on the large leather recliner he’d passed out in. He was just getting more comfortable. Paul let out a breath of relief. An empty bottle of booze fell over as his father repositioned himself. Maybe he would trip on it when he got up to pee.
A tear rolled down Paul’s cheek. Am I the only kid who dreams of his father tripping and dying? I don’t really want him to die; I just don’t want him to hurt us anymore!
Paul shook his head and used a shoulder to wipe away the tear. The screen door was much easier to keep quiet than the main door was. Paul dipped out, rushed to the trash can at the top of the driveway and gently pressed the window into the bin. There was no need to worry his father would see it there. Paul was always responsible for the trash. Paul once considered running away. He could easily tie a bag of clothes and supplies and hide it there and sneak out, but he couldn’t leave his mother. Someone had to protect her.
Paul made his way back inside and held his breath as he shut the door as quietly as the darn thing could shut. His father muttered and shifted around again. Paul watched, terrified of what it would mean if his father woke. Thankfully, he didn’t.
Paul started to cross the living room again when he saw the bottle that had fallen over. His father really could trip. It was just close enough to the recliner to be unseen and far enough away to maybe roll. The coffee table was right there.
It could happen.
Paul slowly got down on his hands and knees. He reached over and lifted the bottle up the correct way. He didn’t know why he did it. Sure, maybe his father would trip, and maybe he wouldn’t, but it’s not like it would have really been Paul’s fault. Nevertheless, Paul made sure to creep on all fours past the recliner and to the steps before getting up to make the climb.
Even as he crept back to his room, Paul couldn’t understand what caused him to take the precaution. It just felt right. But what was right? Was it right to protect his father from something as stupid as a fall when his father wouldn’t hesitate to beat him to within an inch of his life.
What is right?
Paul crept into his room and looked at the Bible that was still on his bed where Nobody had dropped it. What could it hurt?
Paul grabbed up his little light again and gently got into bed, still trying to avoid the welts and cuts on his back. He opened the Bible and flipped through the first few pages. Genesis. The first chapter was only about five pages. He could read that in no time.
He’d take Nobody’s challenge. It’s not like anyone’s life could really change just by reading a book.
The end of Chapter 1.
… to be continued …