Jamie goes AWOL
The following a possible opening to a story that I have been plotting for the past few months. Any views, comments and constructive criticisms would be appreciated. Thank you
Jamie Radcliffe shivered in the frigid night air. He glanced around the corner of the house. The porch light was off but he could just make out Major's empty kennel at the end of the cobblestone pathway, and two hundred meters to the right of it was Pedro's green Commer Van sitting idle on the concrete pad. All was quiet.
“Coast’s clear, Oscar” he whispered, peeling off his running shoes, without bothering to untie the laces “All systems go."
“Are you sure you want to go through with this?" asked his teddy bear, via telepathy "Your return may not be the happy-ever-after that you're hoping for."
"Yeah, I know...but I don't think I can take it here much longer."
He checked his surroundings again, then picked up the shoes in one hand and Oscar in the other and hastened across the lawn. Lush grass gave way to a gravel driveway. Sharp stones penetrated his socks and more than once he felt the urge to cry out, but gritted his teeth and suffered in silence.
“Brave boy,” commended Oscar, when they finally reached the end of the drive. "Careful now; if they catch you, you'll cop it painful."
Jamie hurled Oscar over the padlocked fence, then wedged his aching feet into the shoes and tightened the shoulder straps of his backpack, before climbing over after him. Retrieving the bear, he began his eastward exodus; slow at first, and then gradually increasing his pace; once he had adequately distanced himself from the section.
“Hush, hark the night is very dark,” he chanted to ease his trepidation “we have to go a mile or so across the Possum Park.”
“Step light, keeping to the right,” added Oscar. “If we stray and lose our way, we’ll be up half the night.”
“So we laughed away and chaffed away, and whistled all the way,”
“Now we’re home again, home again.”
Jamie giggled inanely and imagined Oscar laughing also. It was a strange and curious rhyme his biological mother would often recite during family outings. Though strict and stolid in times of scorn, she had always made him feel loved and protected in her care.
On his eighth birthday she had chased him around the house and eventually cornered him in the washhouse. She had then led him to the living room, placed him over her lap and swatted his butt eight times with her open palm; one swat to commemorate the passing of each year of his life. It was a family tradition, administered lightly and received in the spirit of whimsy. He had often joked with her how painful it would be to turn one hundred.
His mind fast forwarded to his most recent birthday. Seated at the dining table, he had tried his hardest to solve a word-search, in a puzzle book his captors had given him. He had almost completed it, except for two words; Alligator and Hippopotamus. The more he searched the more impatient they became. Finally he threw down the pen and brushed away the puzzle book in frustration, accidently knocking over a glass of milk in his wake. He was dragged from the chair, taken to his bedroom and given a dozen hard swats with the flat end of a wooden banister brush, one swat for every year he had neglected to curb his clumsiness. This was Pedro and Delilah’s variation of the same tradition; administered with scorn and received with contempt.
“Up ahead…look!” announced Oscar, interrupting the boy’s disturbing thoughts.
Jamie shifted his attention to a double story house on the opposite side of the road. Its lights were off and carport appeared empty, but as he drew closer he noticed a number of assorted toys, lawn furniture and other objects lying in the front-yard - hinting that a family lived there, at least some of the time. A picket fence bounded the section with a metal gate similar to Pedro’s. Next to it was a letterbox shaped like a cow. He sat Oscar on the ground and retrieved one of the envelopes from the front pouch of his backpack. Then, just as he was in the process of slipping it into a letterbox, he noticed a set of distant headlights.
“Shit it’s them!” he fretted.
“Hurry!” urged Oscar.
Panic overwhelmed him. He hastily remounted the pack, snatched the bear by one arm and fled as fast as he could manage. His misty eyes darted from one side of the road to the other and finally spotted a slight clearing on the left hand side. He hastened into it and crouched behind the foliage. Seconds later an all too familiar van rounded the corner, and slowed down. Peering between the branches, he saw several envelopes lying on the road. They had no doubt spilt from the pouch that he had neglected to refasten.
“Oh God, we’re done for Oscar.”
“Not yet Little Buddy...quick; get out of sight before they see us.”
He quickly removed the pack and hid it deep into the surrounding scrub, then dived onto his belly and slithered backwards. Sharp twigs grappled at his orange Scooby-doo hoodie; exposing his bare chest to the thorny undergrowth, whilst rigid vines ensnared his ankles. Again he felt the urge to call out. Again he suppressed it.
The van came to a halt. A door squeaked open and Pedro alighted. His large bulk seemed even more intimidating and a nauseous sensation vexed Jamie, threatening to expel the contents of the boy's stomach.
“Jamie!” sounded a sharp summons. “Get your scrawny little arse back here this instant!”
“Keep still, and stay silent,” counselled Oscar.
Something fell onto the back of his neck and tickled about in all directions, before scampering into his chestnut hair. Visions of a large spider engaged arachnophobic alarm bells and he lurched with panic. He released Oscar and frantically brushed at the unwanted intruder with his hands. Brittle twigs snapped and a wave of displaced foliage betrayed his whereabouts.
Trapped with nowhere to go, he had but one futile chance left and that was to meet his enemy head on. He scrambled to his feet and charged uphill, whilst Pedro, a well experienced hiker and pig hunter, negotiated downwards through the scrub as if it wasn’t there.
Jamie threw a punch as they met, but Pedro caught his clenched fist with lightning fast reflexes before it could connect. He stumbled, lost his footing and fell backwards.
“I warned you what would happen if you went AWOL!” snarled Pedro, holding the boy just shy off the ground.
“Please don’t hurt me sir…” blubbered Jamie. “I’m sorry.”
“You’ll get something to be sorry about when we get home.”
Jamie whimpered as he was marched out of the clearing. He began crying out for help, but the house across the road remained unlit and all he got for his efforts was a swift kick to the seat of his track pants.
The side door of the van slid open and he was ushered inside where Delilah was waiting. She held him down firmly on one of the ripped leather seats whilst Pedro secured the door then hastened into the driver’s seat. The engine revved several times then the tyres squealed as the van made a rapid U-turn and headed back his most hated of abodes.
His thoughts drifted to Oscar and the backpack that had been left behind in the midst of the chaos. For a moment he felt obliged to mention their absence, but then reconsidered. Maybe someone would happen upon them, and their discovery somehow help lead the police to his whereabouts. A slim possibility, but hope nonetheless.
That and the contents of the envelope.
-To Be Continued-