Levi struggles to come to terms with a potential stepfather
|This is an exert from a story I wrote a number of years ago but never got round to finishing it. Got up to about chapter 30 I think. Needs a lot of work bt just thought I might post it hope of some honest feedback.
Part One: Ira furor brevis est
Sunshine peeped through the parting clouds as Levi latched the metal gate behind him and rambled up the cobblestone pathway. His mind drifted back to the afternoon he had left the house, full of bitterness; vowing never to return, but his anger was now well and truly spent. This was no time for grudges, he needed his aunty's help and needed it badly. She was perhaps his last hope.
He stopped briefly halfway up the path and stared over at the small garden directly adjacent to the fence, wondering whether the carrots he had planted were making any progress. His Aunt Wanda had warned him at the time he was no green thumb. Determined to prove her wrong, he had ventured into her garden shed and spray painted his left thumb with florescent green dazzle. Unfortunately in his haste he inadvertently sprayed his best jersey/ His mother was far from impressed when he arrived home that night.
Levi smiled at the memory, then continued his ascent and finally climbed the three steps onto the veranda. He drew a heavy sigh then timidly pressed the doorbell and waited anxiously.
Maybe she’s out, he thought optimistically.
"She’ll be home" retorted VOP, the Voice of Pessimism whom lived somewhere within his subconscious, constantly filling his thoughts with the worse-case-scenarios. "She always is at this time of day"
"You might be right Levi. Don’t dillydally,” countered VOR, the voice of Rationality who co-shared the subconscious, offering sounder advice. "We can always call by another time."
Levi pressed his face against the glass door and peered in. He could see down the narrow passageway and the first few rungs of the staircase, with that banister he used to slide-down whenever he thought Wanda wasn’t looking. She had caught him on several occasions and banished him to the naughty chair. VOM (the voice of mischief) saw it as a challenge and urged Levi to continue defying at all costs; which he did until the day her paddle convinced him otherwise.
His watch showed that it was 5:35pm. Time was marching on. Glancing over his shoulder he reassured himself that no one was tampering with his bike, down below. The last thing he needed was for some lowlife to flog his only means of transportation back home. Seeing all was well he turned and pressed the bell again.
“Ira furor brevis est…ira furor brevis est” he practised quietly, a quote from Asterix and The Great Crossing (translating to “Anger is a brief madness") “Ira furor brevis est”
On inclement afternoons Levi would sit quietly at the dining table eating peanut butter sandwiches whilst Wanda helped him read Asterix comics. Her favourite characters were Cacafonix and Getafix which she used funny sounding voices for. Levi preferred Chief Vitalstatistix and Obelix Neither of them were too fussed about Unhygienix.
Those were the good memories and he missed them. It had always seemed so strange how one day two people could feel so at peace in the presence of one another. Laugh, play silly games, confide the most-deepest of secrets without the slightest fear of betrayal, and in times of sorrow lend a comforting shoulder to cry on. Then the next have their friendship torn asunder by some transgression or argument and all that was once so familiar suddenly becoming alien. The shattered fragments of Levi’s bond with Wanda would be hard to put together again, but he was willing to give it a shot.
The television was on inside the house and he could hear Judge Judy berating someone about not having bought some sort of evidence to court, calling the person “Stupid!” He thought he could also hear the sound of footsteps. Perhaps she had seen him coming up the path and was avoiding answering the door. In some ways he wouldn’t blame her if that was the case, it was her house after all. If she truly believed him guilty of the alleged transgression then perhaps her wish to have nothing more to do with him made perfect sense. He knew if the shoe was on the other foot Katrina would adopt the same attitude.
Her personality bordered on the realms of schizophrenia; one moment Miss Congeniality, the next a raging bull on steroids, though she always stopped short of violence. Mostly she just scolded or gave him timeouts when he misbehaved, but every now and then if he did something very naughty, he would receive a light smack or a couple of swats on his bottom with a table tennis paddle (just hard enough to deter without leaving the type of welts his previous babysitter had).
No matter how exasperated she had appeared or even the extent of his own bitterness, a truce would always eventuate and then they’d continue their friendship as though nothing had happened. Less said, sooner mended was her philosophy….or at least it had seemed that way, until the swimming pool incident.
“Come on, let’s go. Time is getting on," nagged VOR.
"Yeah,” agreed VOP and even VOM seemed uncharacteristically in agreement.
“Two more minutes and then we go,” promised Levi, pressing the bell one final time.
Behind him came the sound of barking. He looked round and saw a pale blue station-wagon cruising down the road. Its front passenger window slightly down, with a chocolate Labrador head sticking out; its long tongue whipping in the wind. His heart chilled for a few moments, for it looked similar to that of Alexander’s Mother’s car, except for the absence of the roof rack, but even if it had been, he doubted the driver would have been able to see him up on the veranda. He slowly calmed and studied his watch until the two minutes had passed.
Levi reached into the hip pockets of his denim jacket and retrieved a small notebook, pen and cello-tape. He carefully tore off a piece of paper and wrote: "Ira furor brevis est" as neatly as he could then cello-taped it to her door and hastened back down the cobblestone pathway.
Part Two - Commandante y jefe
“Elbows off the table,” instructed Katrina then added “Please.”
Table manners had never really been Levi’s forte and he suspected that it may have been one of the reasons his late father, Esau, had seemed slightly hesitant to take him out to restaurants or dinner parties.
“It tastes good Mum,” he commented prodding the Conejo al Salmorjo with his fork. Compliments were useful pacifiers whenever she was in one of her moods. “Very rabbity.”
“Fernando says he got the recipe from one of his aunts in San Gregorio, Zaragoza...that’s in Spain, sweetheart.”
“I just sure hope this is not one of the Easter Bunny's relations. Bet we’d never get anymore chocolate eggs from him if that was the case.”
“Don’t be silly Levi…now sit up straight and eat you dinner. It’s bad for your back to slouch.”
Levi had done his best to dress nicely for dinner and was now wearing what he liked to refer to as his traffic-light suit: a red jersey, amber shirt and a pair of dark green trousers. Also, at the insistence of Katrina he had agreed to wear his bowtie; the one he’d got for his previous birthday but stuffed away in a seldom used toy-box hoping she would eventually forget all about it, which she did until the bedroom swap.
Katrina was also dollied up. She wore a long silken dress with glittering imitation diamonds and a cameo broach; both past anniversary presents from Esau. Her hair had been tied in a ponytail and lips the same glossy pigment as her fingers nails. Around her neck hung a pearl necklace whilst her lobes were bejewelled with what looked to be recently acquired earrings.
Fernando sat at the head of the table wearing a navy blue suit with gold cufflinks, a creamy white shirt and tan shoes. Similar to the type of clothing Esau would favour whenever he went out somewhere formal.
“Mummy, what do you call a rabbit in a bag shop without any legs?”
“Don’t talk with your mouthful!”
“A hop-less case,”
“Levi I just told you not to talk with your mouth full. You’ll start choking on your food and spit it back up if you’re not careful, and I would have wasted all that time cooking this afternoon.”
He could feel himself wearying under her constant nagging; tears began to well. It seemed nearly everything he had said or done since sitting at the table was the wrong thing, but he was determined not to give her the satisfaction of seeing him cry.
Distraction seemed preferable. He glanced over at the model aircraft sitting in the middle of the table with a tiny umbrella from Katrina’s drinks cabinet attached to it; his humble centrepiece contribution. It was meant to be his artistic interpretation of how “the rain in Spain stayed mainly on the plane”. Katrina and Fernando had both praised his imaginative prowess.
“Mum, why does it rain on the plane in Spain”
“The expression isn’t really meant to be taken literally. It comes from "My Fair Lady" explained Katrina refilling her glass with red wine. The bottle was almost empty and her cheeks had taken on a reddish hue. “Mr Higgins is teaching Eliza Doolittle how to pronounce her words properly. Sort of like how your Daddy used to get you to practice saying “soda, soldier, shoulder," when you were little.”
“Soda shojer showda...Was Elijah, Doctor Doolittle’s wife?”
“No sweetie. That was a different story all together.”
“So one talked to the animals and the other had trouble talking? Soda sholder soldcha”
“Something along those lines"
"Clever boy… now come on honey, you’ve barely touched your rabbit.”
“Soda, soldier, shoulder. I’m not all that hungry…maybe we could send it to Daruka.”
“Just eat your dinner.”
When Levi was about seven he developed an acute dislike of vegetables and refused to be swayed by proofs of their merits or even threats of punishment. Clutching at straws Esau told him a story about a starving little boy from Bangladesh named Daruka who prayed each night for a chance to have the very vegetables that Levi was too spoilt to show appreciation for.
Unfortunately the story impacted more than Esau had intended. One day after school when no one was watching Levi cut up some raw vegetables and placed them in an A4 envelope; which he addressed “Darucar, the starving boy from Bangadesh.” He also wrote a return address on the back as he had seen Katrina do many times. He then stuck half a dozen stamps to the package and mailed it the next day on the way to school.
A few days later it was returned unopened and he had no choice other than to admit that he was the one who sent it. Esau commended his empathy, but Katrina was angry that he had helped himself to stationery without permission and assigned him an eight and a half minute timeout: one minute for each stamp he had wasted and a further two and a half for wasting the postman’s time. She let him off with the envelope because she did not want to sweat the small stuff.
Levi’s memories were abruptly interrupted as a fly suddenly buzzed into the dining room, no doubt attracted by the smorgasbord of odours. It circled the table several times and bounced off the walls and ceiling then honed back in on the table again.
“I’ve got it!” yelled Levi as the fly neared his plate. He went to swat it away but missed and hit Katina’s glass over instead. A sizeable pool of wine soaked into the tablecloth. Seconds later, Fernando’s open palm connected sharply with the back of his head.
“Just look what you’ve done to your Mother’s best table cloth, you clumsy little brat!”
“Leave him alone, Fernando! It was just an accident” beseeched Katrina, “No use crying over spilled wine.”
“He should be crying over your lap with a stinging backside…if you want my opinion.”
“Are you going to let this jumped up thug get away with hitting you?” incited VOM.
Rage overcame Levi’s self-control. Gritting his teeth and snarling like a ravaging dog he snatched a handful of Conejo from his plate and threw it.
“Take that you bully!” he taunted as the greasy meat splattered across Fernando’s face.
“Shot!” cheered VOM “Atta-boy,”
“You apologise to Fernando right this minute young man!” scolded Katrina.
“He started it,” retorted Levi, folding his arms defiantly.
“Apologise or you’ll be severely punished!”
His pupils shifted from her scowl to Fernando then back again.
“Don’t give either of them the satisfaction,” advised VOM “You’re the victim here.”
“Best do as she says. You know what she’s like after a few wines,” countered VOR.
“No,” he pouted, siding with VOM. “Fernando’s the one who should say sorry."
“Go wait for me in your room!”
“Fine, I hate this meal anyways.”
Levi sprang to his feet, toppling his chair like an enraged cowboy engaging in a saloon-gunfight, and hastened to his bedroom. He slammed the door behind him and kicked a toy soldier against the far wall before leaping facedown onto the bed and sobbing bitterly.
Time passed by and he slowly settled down. He wiped away the few remaining tears with his hands, and crept to the bedroom door. Straining his ears he could just make out the clanking of cutlery and what sounded like the clink of a glass bottle against crystal. More wine, fuelling her temper, like Popeye’s strength intensifying with spinach. Spinach that he imagined Daruka still prayed nightly for.
Levi’s stomach churned as he dwelt on the consequences his transgression may have unleashed. He suspected that this was all part of the over-all punishment; to make him sweat it out whilst he awaited his inevitable reprimand. Like Wanda she seldom ever resorted to corporal punishment and preferred to tongue lash instead, but given her present inebriation anything was possible. Fear finally got the better of him.
“I’ve had enough of this” affirmed Levi as he snipped the door locked. He then changed into a long sleeved tee shirt, faded jeans and a hooded sweat top. “I’m not hanging round for her to take her shit out on.”
He slipped on his sandshoes (the laces were already tied from when he had kicked them off earlier without bothering to untie them), and then climbed out through the window. His room was on the ground floor, which made times of fleeing a lot easier than it would have been if he was still in his previous upstairs bedroom.
A distant owl hooted as Levi fetched his bike from the shed and quietly wheeled it passed the gate. He drew a heavy sigh, mounted the bike and pedalled up the road for all he was worth with the words soda, soldier shoulder repeating over and over in his troubled mind.