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Today, I share the first two chapters of the novel I have decided to work on after the completion of my latest novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. I’m several chapters in now. The opening chapters are to introduce the main characters…each of whom is preparing to leave North America at the onset of Summer Vacation from high school. Each of the characters introduced here are enrolled in a program for delinquent teens…wherein they choose to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago instead of serving time in a juvenile detention centre. The novel takes place over the course of roughly two weeks. I’m writing the actual WALK at this point…all of my characters are safely in Spain and they are now on their journey. These two chapters set up two of the three narrators. Each of the three narrators take turns telling the story with alternating chapters. This is Diego Nelson and Shania Reynolds…
CHAPTER 1 – Diego Nelson
It all started with fire. I wanted to show Sabrina Vincent I’d do anything for her. So, naturally, I set fire to the garbage in the first floor washroom. Now I’m forced to take The Walk and Sabrina still doesn’t even know I’m alive. Well, she may know the name of the guy who gave everyone a free period in the second last week of school. But, I mean, she doesn’t know me know me. Unrequited love’s a drag.
I still think it might have been worth it. I mean, I did get my name on the map of her universe, right? Maybe now she wants to know more about Diego Nelson. Maybe she’s intrigued. Who knows? Maybe I’m now a satellite in her night sky. I just have to wait for her to turn her telescope on me.
I know one thing for sure. The first part of the summer is not mine. The Walk Program owns my ass and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. One too many slip ups and your leverage just gets taken away from you. Juvenile detention. Or The Walk.
This Gilbert dude sounds like a total dipshit, too. My life is over. First of all, who the hell is called Gilbert, and why wouldn’t they change their name if they could? A week and a half with him, and I’ll be ready for death. Hell, I was ready for it after fifteen minutes with him in the meeting with Moms and principal Peters. Dude is about as interesting and relevant as a dead cat. I might die of boredom before exhaustion ever even happens.
But I guess The Walk is known to exhaust people. I don’t even know how it’s even legal to take a kid out of his own country and force him to walk a gazillion miles in the hot sun over mountains and shit in a foreign country. I mean, you have got to be kidding me.
By the time I get back summer will be almost over and I will have missed any and every opportunity I would have had to keep myself in Sabrina’s universe. I’ll fade from her sky, probably forever.
Slight exaggeration, I know. A week and a half does not a summer make. But it’s the beginning of summer that’s most important for setting things up socially. Hell, even my best friends will forget who I am by the time I come back from Spain.
Lesson learned? Don’t set fires for people who will never appreciate the gesture, even if you love them with all your heart and would do anything for them. Dude, it just ain’t worth it.
Now I find myself—me, Diego Nelson—packing a suitcase with all this random shit, preparing for a flight across the frigging Atlantic Ocean. I mean, I’ve never even been on a plane before. Moms must totally hate me. Why else would she send her one and only child into the jaws of death just for setting a little fire at school?
“Ma?” I yell as I continue to scroll down the Things To Bring list. “What’s a spork?”
“It’s a spoon and a fork.” I barely hear this. She’s in the kitchen. I know what she’s doing. The same thing she does every morning when I’m getting ready for school and she’s getting ready for work. She’s standing at the kitchen counter having her cup of instant coffee and her one slice of slightly burned toast with a light spreading of cottage cheese. Ack.
This morning isn’t a school or work day, though. This morning is the day of my flight. The bad kids’ field-trip begins.
“Why do I have to bring a spork anyway?”
“Because Gilbert told you to, Diego,” she says. I can hear her walking down the hall now. Coming to lecture me again. Just one more time. Again. “Starting today, he’s your boss. You do what he says when he says to do it. If that includes carrying a spork on your nose across Spain, then you will do it. Do you understand me, mister?”
“Don’t yeah but me, Diego Nelson. You will listen to him, young man. I didn’t raise an arsonist. Do you understand me?”
Yes, ma’am,” I say. Moms has been on high octane since the incident. She’s a tough cookie at the best of times. I don’t know what’s worse, actually. The fact that I got sucked into this delinquent program or that I disappointed Moms so much. I mean, she really does give up her entire life for me. It’s only the two of us, and I go and crush all her dreams with some harebrained scheme to get a girl to notice me. I’m such a loser.
“You’re almost done packing, Dee. Just finish that list and come back out to the kitchen and eat your breakfast. You know I need you to eat before we head to the airport. Breakfast is the most—”
“Important meal of the day,” I say, finishing her once-a-day repeated mantra on the importance of breakfast. “Yeah, Ma. I know. Almost finished.”
“Roll, Diego,” she says, pulling the three single solitary t-shirts I’m allowed to bring out of my backpack and unfolding them so she can roll them up instead. “Rolling is always better than folding when you’re packing. Even for a backpack. Oh my God, I’m sending my baby across the world with nothing but the clothes on his back. I’m a terrible mother. Oh my God, Diego.”
She stands hugging my shirts now. She’s losing it. She said she wasn’t going to. A part of me wants to say, I told you so. How could you do this to me!? But she’s my Ma. I hate hurting her. As soon as she agreed to this, I knew I had to give in and shut up. I’m not a bad kid, seriously. Just amazingly stupid.
“Ma,” I say. “It’s okay. It’s like you’re sending me on an adventure. It’ll be amazing, right? Summer camp in a whole new country. Ma? It’ll be good.”
I smile and I hope it’s fake enough that she buys it. When she looks at me, I know she knows this is the last thing in the world I want to do. But she plays along with me.
“Roll. Less wrinkles.” She gives my shirts one last hug before sending them into the backpack with the assorted randomness inside. I have a toothbrush, a flashlight, a notebook, a spork, Q-tips, Kleenex, wet-wipes, a roll of flattened down toilet paper, a towel, a water bottle, diaper pins, hiking socks, etc, etc, etc. “Looks like you’re ready to go, my baby.”
She turns and grabs me and hugs me tight. She has coffee breath. I love that smell. I don’t drink coffee. It’s disgusting. But when I smell Ma’s coffee breath it just smells so good. So…home. Yeah. I hug her back.
When I feel like she might snap me in half I try to step out of the hug. But she holds on a little longer. I let her. I know she’s crying. How could I even do this to her? I’m like, the worst son in the universe.
“Come, puppy,” she says when she finally lets me go. “Breakfast before we leave.”
CHAPTER 2 – Shania Reynolds
Saturday, June 29th – Suckage Day 1 – The Summer that Never Happened
I hate my life.
What a fitting way to start this stupid journal. In the beginning, Shania declared her profound angsty disgust in the entirety of the universe and everything in it.
They can force me into this bullshit, but they can’t make me like it. I still think I should have been able to pick my punishment myself. I’ll take Juvenile Detention for two hundred, Alex.
But no. Steal one car and suddenly I find myself in this program from hell with Captain Dweeb running the show. Please, oh great Captain Dweeb…please save me from a life of crime and misdemeanours.
I hate my life.
After I write my opening entry in my journal, I squeeze it into the side pocket on my backpack and I’m ready to bust out of this pop-stand.
So, yeah. Bye Mom. Bye Dad. Thanks for being here to see me off. I know you’re sad that I’m leaving. I can tell by the way you’re not here on the day I leave the country for a whole week and a half. If, that is, I don’t die from some tragic unavoidable accident with a bull or a mountaintop or something. I love you too.
I hope this Gilbert guy isn’t a perv or something. The name sure sounds pervy, like he’s some kind of molester or something. Gilbert, the diddler. Don’t they have to at least screen people who work with kids? Even the bad kids? Sorry, troubled youth.
All I’m saying is I better not get blisters. Who thinks walking across an entire country is a good idea, anyway. What a bunch of granola eating freaks. I so entirely hate this.
“You almost ready?” Dillon asks from my doorway. “Bus leaves in five.”
“You know, Dill, you don’t have to drive me to the airport.”
“Oh, so how you getting there? Gonna hotwire the Thomas’s car?”
“Very funny,” I say. “I can just take off and spend the time around here. You can tell the ‘rents you did your duty. Nobody needs to know.”
“Come on, Shania,” Dillon says. “Don’t be stupid. Of course they’ll know. You don’t think this program is monitored like Fort Knox? Hello. Delinquent much?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I say. I flip him the bird as he walks away to head downstairs. “Whatever.”
I put my backpack over my shoulder. I can’t believe I’m going to carry this for a thousand million miles up a frigging mountain. I’m crazy. Gilbert’s crazy. This program is crazy. And Mom and Dad are crazy.
I will shit daisies if I get one single solitary blister. Everyone will pay. They will know my outrage.
I walk downstairs and already I can feel how impossibly heavy this bag is. Unfriggingbelievable!
“Say goodbye to me, Flibber. You might not see me ever again.” I shirk my backpack long enough to curl up on the floor with my Newfoundland. He licks me all over my face like he usually does, but this time I don’t yell at him or call him gross. This time, I like it. For real, I’ll miss him. He’s the only one here most of the time. Mom and Dad are always out there living their uber important lives and Dillon is so whipped by Hattie he might as well be enslaved to her. Pathetic boyfriend extraordinaire. “I love you, boy.”
I whisper this into Flibber’s ear, of course. Show no emotion. That’s my number one motto in this life. I look around to make sure Dillon has already left the house before I kiss Flibber on that soft amazingly smelling spot between his eyes. Flibber does a little whine. He knows.
When I get to the door, I turn back and look at the house before I leave it. Like I will never see the living room again. Or the umbrella stand in the corner of the front foyer. Or the stain on the carpet across the third step where Dillon spilled a slushy and almost died trying to get the blue out. Or the gorgeous Newfoundland looking back at me with drool hanging halfway to the floor. I am having all the feels.
“Bye, boy,” I say. I shut the door and turn around to walk to the car. Great. Speaking of Hattie. There she is. Again. Shotgun. Can’t he do anything without her at his side for just once in his life? His chain is so tight, I bet she holds it for him when he goes pee pee.
I hate my life.
END OF EXCERPT.
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