It’s been a while since I’ve shared a new ‘short’ with you. The following is the first chapter of a new novel I’m working on; one that is really pulling my heart to continue working while being a complete challenge…kinda like parenting a toddler :)
I shared this chapter with a group of 5th graders recently. The room was completely silent as I read. After reading the last line, I looked up from my paper hoping that the silence was a “don’t stop” kind of silence. The room erupted in applause – I feel like I’m on track!
Please let me know what you think – if you see any typos or sentence structure errors. Writing might be a solitary activity, but it takes a team of trusted people to coax the story into perfection.
Russ wasn’t one to believe in superstitions, but when the coin reappeared in his cereal, he knew he was in trouble. Even worse, Matt saw it.
“Isn’t that-?” Matt started by Russ cut him off.
“No,” he lied.
But Matt wasn’t stupid. “Yes it is.”
Russ could see the questions racing through Matt’s eyes. “Why do you have it in your cereal?”
Not wanting to think about it – or eat his cereal – Russ hurried to the trash can and tipped the contents of his bowl into the trash. He left Matt in the dining room and went to his room and locked the door. The bag under his bed, filled with food he had swiped from the kitchen, was for situations just like this. Well, maybe not just like this; Russ had spent many hungry nights alone before he came here, but never because a cursed coin kept showing up in the most inconvenient places.
He knew now for sure it was cursed. He was cursed. Matt had seen him take it from the man at the coffee shop, the dude in the expensive suit with the gold cuff links, the one reading some leather-bound, book. This guy was a perfect target, not only because of the money that oozed from his demeanor, but when he got up to use the restroom, he actually used a hundred dollar bill as a bookmark. Russ followed him, noticing how the man set the book on the sink counter, his briefcase on the floor and turned his back. Easy. Slipping the ‘bookmark’ from the book, Russ was instantly wealthy. Waiting for the flush, he used the noise to hide his quick swipe of a few things from the briefcase.
It was one of his better steals. His hands were getting faster with the locks and the bounty was impressive: a gold watch. Perhaps a Rolex. But he hadn’t seen or heard Matt enter the bathroom. There was a witness to the entire thing.
“Put it back,” Matt said. Russ walked out of the bathroom and straight outside, intending to walk home. Matt raced after him. “You have to stop stealing!”
“Back off,” Russ tried to walk past, but Matt stood his ground. He wasn’t much taller than Russ, but he was older and had an edge over Russ. They weren’t friends, or even enemies. It was worse. Matt was Russ’ foster brother. “Russ, give it back.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
A voice interrupted their stand-off, “Excuse me, boys.” The hundred dollar bookmark man was trying to walk past them on the sidewalk to his car.
“Sir,” Matt started, “I think he stole something from your briefcase.” Matt pointed to Russ.
“Really?” the man opened his briefcase. “You mean this?” He held up a gold Rolex.
Matt blushed. “There’s nothing missing?”
Both boys stepped out of the way.
“I don’t understand,” Matt said.
Neither did Russ, but he wasn’t about to say that. He could feel the gold watch in his pocket. “Maybe next time you’ll trust me. Let’s go.”
But now Russ regretted following that man into the bathroom. The watch, as it turned out, wasn’t a watch. In the safety of his room, he had taken it out of his pocket, doing the math in his head of how much the man at the pawn shop would pay him for a Rolex. Maybe sixty dollars. But no one would by a worthless piece of black metal. It wasn’t even gold. Not even a watch or any other useful thing. Just a disc of black metal, an oversized coin that wouldn’t even buy him an ice cream cone. That was two days ago. Since, Russ had almost burned down the kitchen when the toaster overheated and shot two-foot flames out of the slots. Mr. Kerr, Matt’s dad had been the hero that night, dousing the flames with everything he could reach: the soup on the stove and a box of baking soda. It was quite the pasty, charred mess, but they had only lost a toaster and dinner. Russ worried that the Kerr’s would yell at him for almost destroying their home, but they didn’t. They actually laughed and thanked Russ for the adventure. Mr. Kerr even let Russ pick out the new toaster at the store.
More bad luck followed. Russ’ locker at school wouldn’t open and he was late for class. His sack lunch met an unfortunate end under his rear end when he was knocked down by the football players as they charged down the hallway. His sandwich was flattened and soaked by his juice box, and so were his pants.
Munching on cold pop-tarts and drinking a bottle of water, Russ was on the verge of panic. The metal disc was haunting him. After the lunch-sitting incident, he was convinced it was bringing him some seriously bad luck, so he did what any kid would have done: he threw it away. That afternoon had felt free. He had to walk home because he and Matt missed the bus, but it wasn’t raining too hard and it was only two miles to the house. He had hidden out in his room after school, changing out of the wet clothes and diving into his food bag for an after-school snack of raisins and peanuts when he noticed that disc laying on top of the bag of cookies.
After dinner, he went out to the river just down the street and dropped the black disc into the swirling depths, hoping it would carry all his troubles out to sea. No such luck. Crawling into bed that night, Russ found it under his pillow. He flushed it down the toilet immediately. It had shown up in his cereal.
So it was no surprise when he found the disc once more, no longer in the trash with his soggy cereal, but right there in his shoe.