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Michael, Age 14

September 19, 2012

Standing alone in the kitchen, Michael leaned against the counter. The other children were outside playing and sweating in the hot, humid, summertime Florida sun. The adults were either outside sweating with them, or were inside taking in the cool air conditioning, conversation and the giggles of two 7 month old twin baby girls.

As the only 14 year old at a birthday party for a 5 year old girl Michael stood alone and, at 5’8”, towered over the rest of the children.

He wore a loose-fitting white t-shirt and long, baggy, black and gray basketball shorts made of shiny, stretchy material. His baggy clothing belied and hid his lean, muscular frame as he framed himself against the kitchen counter.

He had found the particular counter spot uninhabited, and so inhabited it himself. He slouched against the counter with his head bent forward, his chin almost able to meet his chest. He had a prominent brow, barely touched by his dark sand-colored hair. His eyes were half-open, half-lidded, while his mouth sat as a straight line across his face, neither bent upwards nor downwards.

When asked how he liked his father’s new girlfriend he responded in a soft, almost hushed tone, “She’s okay. She’s around all of the time with her kids. She has two little kids and two in high school.” Michael continued to stand his post at the kitchen counter for about 30 minutes, speaking very little, if at all.

On his way out to the covered porch to watch the Florida State baseball game, he paused at the snack table for a handful of plain potato chips. He wiped the remnant grease on his already shiny shorts and then slowly made his way through the crowd of women fawning over the twins, and outside to the porch.

He found an empty chair directly in front of the TV and encamped, remaining almost immobile, eyes fixed on the screen, for the next two hours. He showed few signs of life with the exceptions of downing Coke after Sprite after Coke, and when he would occasionally react to the sound of cowhide clanging against aluminum. He would also occasionally pause for a question about his impending high school career.

His father, a large, muscular man, smiled broadly as he spoke of Michael playing football in the fall. Michael showed no sign of having heard him. His father then requested that Michael show off his biceps. The request was met with large, tanned, muscular biceps set in a Charles Atlas pose.

As the party wore down, the pizza arrived and I observed, while bidding my farewells, Michael and his father, the first two in line to load their plates with pizza.

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From → Short stories

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