Temperance: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Klark

by John Mendoza


“Listen. Son I need you to pay attention.”

A man pleaded to a small child, the man’s voice wavered. His hands gripped the little boy’s shoulders forcefully, but the boy seemed too terrified to register the man’s words. Despite the grip the man shook the boy gently as if to wake him from his daze. Suddenly, the man tensed. Before he could continue, a pair of voices roared incoherently from the hall just outside the room; his eyes shifted quickly and carefully around the room until they settled upon an empty closet. The father carried his child, placing him in the small empty space. He knelt down and gently caressed the boy’s face with one hand, brushing away the boy’s dark locks to reveal a pair of dilated brown eyes.  

“I need you to stay quiet.” The boy was wrapped in a tight hug, warm and loving. For a second safety was something that seemed real. All too soon it was gone. The man’s lips touched the boy’s forehead for a moment, he muttered something then detached himself from his son.

The boy’s lips quivered, his mouth moved as if trying to form words but they seemed to be trapped in his throat. His hands reached out as his father closed the door; with the turn of a knob and a soft click he was engulfed in the lonely darkness.

Shadows moved from under the closet door. What little light filtered into the closet, made it possible to see the shadows that danced beyond the door. Overwhelmed by a mild sense of curiosity and a small amount of dread, the boy crawled his way to the faint light and lay on the floor trying to peek under the doorway.

What he saw startled him. The boy’s father lay on the other side staring back.  The boy thought he looked funny, in a different sense, odd to say the least.

The door opened and the rush of light blinded the child, he squinted at the figure of a tall man.

“Hello there little one.”

Light filtered through curtains into the messy room of a teenage boy. The teenage boy lay asleep in his bed, drool dripped from the side of his lip and unto his pillow.

A man, his uncle, entered the room. A scowl crossed his face as his dark eyes inspected the unsightly mess his nephew called a “bedroom.”  Those wandering eyes stopped once they spotted the sleeping figure, in a few strides he reached the side of the bed. He glared down at the boy and, as if by magic, his eyes opened and slowly Klark sat up in bed.

“Huh? What happened?” Klark mumbled while stifling a yawn. Klark fixated on his Uncle’s seemingly permanent scowl. Klark began trying to remember if his Uncle had ever smiled but the sound of snapping fingers caught his attention.

“Klark, pay attention.” It was more of a reminder than an order at this point of their lives. Klark poured all his attention towards his Uncle trying hard not to let his mind wander once again. “I’m sure you’re well aware that it’s Saturday.” Klark’s mind wandered again. Something about Saturday seemed very important, he tried his hardest to remember everything that had to do with Saturday then it clicked.

“It’s Saturday!” Klark exclaimed enthusiastically, pushing past his Uncle who was stuck wondering if his nephew wasn’t really an idiot.

“Of course it’s Saturday, I just said that.” His Uncle said it like he was talking to a toddler and Klark had the attention span of one to match it.

Klark slid a gray shirt on and gave his Uncle a weird look, “Yes, but it’s the Saturday.” He bent down and picked up a pair of black jeans from the floor closely inspecting them.

Eh, they’ll do for today, he thought before putting them on. Klark’s Uncle still stood by his bed, a baffled look plastered on his face.

“Where do you think you’re going?” His Uncle’s arm caught the back of his shirt. Klark huffed “Aw come on dude, I’ll be back before sundown. I promise!”

His Uncle glowered down at him. “You can call me sir or Uncle Ernesto, got it, nephew? I’m not one of your punk friends.” Klark nodded silently, any form of teenage rebellion immediately drained out of him.

Uncle Ernesto grinned happily, “Good, now I want this barn you call a room cleaned up before you even think of going anywhere.”

Klark nodded and started picking various clothing and trash up from the floor. Uncle Ernesto maneuvered his way to the door but before leaving he sighed, “I swear. People would think I own a petting zoo.”

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