The Hole in the Wall
bones to think about how Pa had changed. How everything had changed. Suddenly it was the present that didn’t seem real . . . Grum tiptoeing around with her osteoporosis, Jed gone nobody knew where, Pa always blowing up, the house practically falling down around us, the gore nothing but churned dirt, to say nothing of eggs turning to stone and neighbors disappearing. And not a thing I could do to change any of it. So I didn’t let myself think about the present. I just went back to putting the last stone in the castle.

    Until I went flying.

    Seriously! All of a sudden it was like I was sucked off Pa’s shoulders and out into space. I couldn’t see a thing. I couldn’t hear, taste, smell—all I could do was feel myself flying in circles. First in one direction and then swinging the opposite way, like a figure eight. I couldn’t see the shape, only feel it, because I was on the inside looking out, not seeing myself. The swooping went on and on until my whole body began to vibrate.

    Finally, a familiar feeling. I knew exactly where I was. I was in bed, Ma shaking my shoulder in the gray light of a stormy morning.

    “Sebby, Sebastian Daniels. Up’n at ’em!”

    “Maaaaa-aaa! It’s Saturday!”

    “Chickens don’t know that. And don’t forget to close the doors.”

    Getting up was always a shock, but that day it was even worse, with the blankets pressing down on me, the light burning my eyes, the cigarette and mildew smells stinging my nose, and the cookie dough still bowling in my guts. For once I actually wanted to get up. Up and out of that suffocating house, away from Pa’s jackhammer snoring. And forget that crazy dream. Man, it felt so real.

    When I went downstairs, Ma was in her cloud of cigarette smoke, reading her Bible as usual early in the morning. But something was different. Her reading glasses. That was it. She didn’t have them on, but she was staring at the page anyway.

    I heard a little plop sound on the paper.

    “Ma?” I looked at her. She didn’t look at me. “Go do your chores, Seb.” Her words sounded pinched.

    “Ma, what happened?”

    She didn’t look up, didn’t speak. There came another little plop, and this time I saw the tear glisten before sinking into the page she was reading.

    Then I noticed something that made me feel like a big glass of ice water had been dumped over my head. The baggie with the egg in it sat next to Ma’s Bible. Pa hadn’t delivered it to the university after all.

    “Oh, Ma, don’t cry. It’ll be all right.” I didn’t know that it would, but at the moment it was my job to make her feel better, not the other way around.

    Pa had probably only made it as far as the Do-Drop-Inn last night. His truck had a hard time not turning in at the tavern. I knew, because I’d been with him more than once when an invisible power turned the steering wheel that way instead of toward the grocery store for milk. Ma must have been mad when he got home. They must have gotten into it. Maybe while I was stuck in that wild dream.

    As I walked slowly to the door, the cold-water feeling was heating up fast inside me, boiling into anger. I wanted to run upstairs and pound Pa’s face in while he slept. I wanted to grab a knife and stab him. I wanted him to hurt. No, I wanted him to never wake up. And then I wanted to puke because all those crappy feelings made me realize something.

    The way I felt right then was exactly the way Pa talked a lot of the time.

    I never get into fights with guys who pick on me at school, no matter how hard someone presses my buttons, because I’m afraid. Not afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of what I might do if I ever get started pounding on some bully. I get so mad, I might never stop. I just might pound and pound and pound until there’s nothing left.

    I could curl up and take a beating every day for the rest of my life, but that didn’t change what I was inside. Inside, I was just like Pa. With that thought churning in my

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