“You know I don’t like it when you wear those fingerless gloves, hon…”
“Mom, I’ll be fine. Plus I can’t text if I wear other gloves.”
“What about those texting gloves Aunt Paula got you for Christmas last year?”
It’s the same spiel every time. “Don’t forget to wear a hat! Are you wearing extra socks? You know it’s gonna be cold out today!” My mother exclaims throughout the house as if we had moved to North Dakota yesterday. The same warning of the dangers of the arctic wilderness of suburban North Dakota. But today I was already halfway out the door before she had reminded me to wear boots instead of high top converse. Lucky for me seeing as she usually spouts another five paragraphs followed by a thorough inspection of my winter gear. If only she had seen what I left the house in today. A long sleeve shirt with a light hoodie over that. Jeans, slightly ripped for sake of style. Fingerless gloves; also for style points and the convenience of being abe to text. Only one pair of socks this time, although it was a bit chilly so I wouldn’t have minded a second pair. And my signature charcoal black, slightly stained, partially ripped, authentic, high top converse. To the average western civilian this outfit choice would sound absurd, in fact, most people in my area would probably look at me funny. However,
To the average western civilian this outfit choice would sound absurd, in fact, most people in my area would probably look at me funny. However, I am not just going for a stroll out in the arctic tundra. My high school, which is a brisk 15-minute walk from my house, is also the notorious meeting ground for my small group of friends. And by “small group of friends” I mean Noell, Jamison, and myself. Rain, snow, sleet, or hail, the three musketeers always met on the weekends in the old PE shed behind the school. It was a shabby old wooden shack that looked as sturdy as if it were made out of toothpicks. It was pretty empty except for a few half deflated kickballs and some broken folding chairs. That’s probably why the only lock on it was an old wooden latch across the front of the door. Ironically enough, the old shed had a working outlet that I doubt the school even knew about. Jamison would bring his space heater on cold days, which were most days out of the year, so there was no need for me to pile on clothing that I would remove that would then take up more space in the small shed.
This morning I had awoken to a text from Jamison. The same two-word text I received every Saturday morning. “Usual place?” Noell replied that she would have to see because she lived 45 minutes away and didn’t know if her parents would want her to go out today because of the inclement weather. However, the weather seemed pretty nice so I assumed she just didn’t feel up to it today. I texted back that I would be ready in about an hour give or take a few depending on if my mother would catch me before I left. This was followed by a couple “LOL’s” and a “See you there ;P” from Jamison. Although emojis were a social norm, Jamison thought that the nostalgia of the texted out faces was too great to let go. I saw no point in taking away his joy.
The walk to school was fairly pleasant. most of the way was one long sidewalk followed by a shady alley between the minimart and an apartment complex. The minimart was conveniently placed right across the street from the school so if need be we could run over and grab some snacks. However, today’s pleasant stroll was disrupted by a brutish, yet familiar, voice.
“Look at this little shit!” the voice uttered followed by a bell jingle from the minimart door.
I was just about to cross the street before I heard that voice. I already knew who it was before I turned my head. Ethan Hadaway. Buzzcut-ginger, pig-nose, sausage-fingers. The orange strings protruding from his face looked as if he had smashed a spider with his chin. Everything about him was a mess, as if somewhere during puberty God decided he wasn’t worth the effort and left him somewhere between boy and man. I turned to see him gripping a brown paper bag with his chubby hands. I guess his abnormal features confused the man behind the counter enough to not check his I.D. Although I thought all of these in my head I wouldn’t dare say them out loud. Ethan was about a foot and a half taller than me and his meaty fists matched the rest of his abnormally large stature. One punch delivered from his hand precisely to the side of my head would probably kill me. This would require precision which I doubt Ethan has, but I still didn’t want to chance it.
“Going to play dress up in that doll house of yours again?” slurred Ethan. He had made his way over to me. I was frozen stiff, ironically not because of how freezing cold it was. “Seriously, what do you pussy’s do in there? Suck each other off while Noell records you?” Another one of Ethan’s famous crude remarks. Once you’ve heard one you’ve heard them all. “You just gonna stand there and not answer me?” he said more aggressively while taking a large step towards me.
I couldn’t move. I wanted to step back but I was afraid that if I did he would engage me further.
“You little b-bitch.” I could tell he had already been drinking today because of the way the words seemed to tie his tongue in a knot before they left his mouth. That and the putrid smell of alcohol that came from every orifice on his body. He then lunged at me with his free hand stopping before he actually made contact. I flinched, wincing in pain despite the lack thereof. This resulted in an uproar of laughter on his part. He swung his head back covering his eyes with his hand and laughed as if he had just told the funniest joke in the world. The laugh of a true drunk. He then abruptly stopped laughing and peered at me from behind his hand. “What? You didn’t think that was funny?” I could tell he was angry. But instead of the real punch I expected to follow this remark, he just grunted and said, “When are you gonna become a real man?” motioning to me with his bottle. He stared at me for a few more seconds, which felt like an eternity, and then walked past me shoving my shoulder with his.
I didn’t move. I couldn’t until I knew he was far enough away that he could no longer see me. I then pulled out my phone to check and see if Jamison or Noell had texted me.
“I’m sorry guys, I can’t make it. Mom said its supposed to get really cold and nasty out tonight so she doesn’t want me to be out.” – Noell
“It’s fine, Jamison you on your way?” – Me
I started walking towards the shed waiting for a response. I hadn’t noticed how cold it was until after Ethan had left. I shuffled quickly towards the shed hoping it would be a little warmer. I removed the latch from the door and set it propped up against the outside of the shed next to the door. To my surprise, it actually was a little warmer inside, however, it was probably just the placebo effect. I quickly closed the door so that the wind couldn’t get in. I unfolded one of the chairs, the one that doesn’t squeak, and sat down awaiting Jamison’s reply.
A few minutes later he replied with a, “Yeah man! I just gotta get ready first and pack up the hot box. LOL I had to help my old man back out of the driveway because it’s paved with ice. You aren’t already there are you?!?!”
“No way! I got caught by my mom and her inspection took forever. I’ll be leaving in a few.” I lied just to put his mind at ease. Plus, I didn’t mind a little piece and quite to myself. However, it was starting to get extremely cold and I didn’t want to freeze before Jamison arrived so I decided I would take a trip to the minimart. I texted again, “Want anything from the minimart?” Which was then followed by a Shlunk from just outside the door. An immediate jolt of fear shocked my whole body and before I knew it I was standing on my feet. I knew exactly what the sound was. It was the wooden board being placed back in its latches. I froze for a moment afraid whoever was outside would hear me, but quickly realized they were also my only hope of getting out.
“Hello? I anyone there?” I said timidly.
“Hah! I knew you were in there you little shit! Is your boyfriend in there too? You better tell him to put his pants back on or his little Jamie might fall off! Hahaha!”
This time, however, my fear transformed into annoyance. “No, he’s not, now let me out” I groaned.
“What was that? Does little Mikey have a voice?” Ethan said in a drunken baby voice.
I could tell he had finished off the bottle he was holding moments earlier because he had digressed from vulgar remarks to baby talk. I kicked the door in frustration but it didn’t give and instead shook the entire shed.
“Ooh, baby Mikey has a temper. He needs a time out,” he said followed by more drunken cackling.
“Shut up, Ethan! And let me out!” The wall in between us had given me a confidence boost for sure, but I quickly bit my tongue for fear that he would come in and pummel me.
“Oh no, that won’t do. Mikey isn’t being a very good boy. You’re gonna have to wait until your boyfriend gets here now.” I could hear his footsteps crunching in the snow as he retreated. I scurried to the shed wall and looked through the cracks to watch him walk away. He dropped the bottle that I assumed was empty in the snow and hobbled away laughing to himself loudly over what he had just done.
I slumped how with my back against the wall. “Shit.” How was I supposed to get out of this? I hadn’t noticed it until now but I could see my breath when I spoke. I quickly whipped out my phone and checked the weather. Negative-ten degrees and dropping. “Shit,” I panicked momentarily. And then I remembered that Jamison was coming still. I checked my messages to see if he had texted.
“Nah man, I’m good. I just gotta find the heater and I’ll be headed that way.” – Jamison
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t want anything seeing as I am unable to go to the minimart currently,” I thought to myself. I didn’t think it necessary to reply. Now all I had to do was wait for Jamison to free me from this shed.
The sun started to set pretty fast and about 15 minutes later it started to get hard to see in the shed so I decided to turn on my flashlight. This proved difficult because I started to lose feeling in my fingertips. I should have listened to mom when she told me to wear real gloves. I took this opportunity to look around the shed for a stick or a rod I could fit through the wooden boards of the shed to lift the board from the latches. I found various twigs that were too small or flimsy to move the board on their own. I tried ripping a few stings from my jeans and tying them around a few sticks to strengthen them, but I was losing mobility in my fingers rapidly so it became impossible for me to tie a knot in the string. I checked the weather again; it was now at -19 degrees. Luckily for me, the wind chill didn’t play a factor because I was indoors. Nevertheless, the placebo was no longer in effect and I was feeling the full force of the cold. The air felt like cold daggers on the places where my jeans had ripped. The fingers protruding from my gloves no longer felt like my own. Same with my toes and face. I had been trapped inside this shed for all of 45 minutes and I already felt helpless. This was about the time my phone alerted me that my battery was on 10%. I fumbled around the screen in an attempt to turn my phone’s flashlight off that I had had on this whole time. My freezing fingers in coordination with my intense shivering made it almost impossible to turn it off. I slumped down against the wall again and exhaled deeply watching my breath leave my mouth and fade away into oblivion.
This was about the time my phone buzzed and I lifted it to my face to see that Jamison had texted, “Mikey, I’m so sorry dude but I’m not gonna be able to make it. My dad wrecked his truck in the driveway and I have to help him get it back up to the garage. I’ll see you there tomorrow though? You too Noell?”
I wanted to panic but I was too tired. I then tried to focus all of my energy into texting him that I needed his help but despite the fact that my shivering had stopped all that I could text was complete incomprehensible gibberish. My hands felt like they belonged to a stranger and when I pressed them to my phone’s screen they felt like huge sausages too big for the tiny keyboard. I then tried to hit the talk-to-text button next to my keyboard. After about eleven tries, and a prompt from my phone telling me I needed to charge it because it was now on 5%, I activated the talk-to-text. However, when I opened my mouth all that came out was slurred nonsense. I immediately panicked internally. My heart was racing a mile a minute. I tried again. More mumbles. I reached up to touch my lips but there was nothing to feel. Both my lips and my fingers were numb. I tried again. And again. And again. I was no longer hitting the talk-to-text button. I was only mumbling for my own frozen ears to hear. I then felt a bit of warmth of my cheek. I reached up once again and placed my fingers where I thought the warmth had come from. When I looked at my fingers they were damp. I was crying and I couldn’t even feel it. I began to sob hysterically as I attempted over and over again to text and talk to my phone watching it’s battery life rapidly decline.
A text from Noell came through, “Yeah I’ll be there.”
“Sure, that’s what you said at school on Friday. LOL What about you Mike?” – Jamison
I felt a mixture of hopelessness and frustration. I no longer had control over my body.
A few minutes passed and my phone battery was on 1%. Jamison texted again, “Look, dude, I said I was sorry. You don’t have to be a dick and ignore me.”
I stared at my phone no longer able to tap the screen. My mouth moved but nothing came out. And then, the once illuminated screen became a black mirror. I was completely alone. If only my mother had stopped me before I left and told me to put on warmer clothes. I had no hope.
I had no hope.
My eyes became heavy and I found myself in the fetal position on the floor. My phone was lying next to my face, now a useless brick. I no longer cared. I had accepted my fate and even if I hadn’t there was nothing I could do. I closed my eyes. I had always wanted to die in my sleep. I consciously started to dream of warmth. Not any particular setting like a warm fire or a cup of hot chocolate. Just the feeling and colors associated with it. Vibrant oranges and feeling of your skin when it’s blasted with heat rays from the sun. I was warmth. And just as the warm vapors of my breath, I began to see myself fade away into oblivion…
I was awoken abruptly by a sharp pain in the back of my head. I was dazed and my vision was severely blurred. I could only make out a figure looming over me. It had to be Jamison. He finally came when he realized I was in trouble because I hadn’t responded. I started mumbling apologies. I told him I was sorry for not replying and that I should have told him sooner. I told him I was sorry for making him worried. Jamison then picked me up and began to carry me. I began to fall in and out consciousness. I allowed myself to slip away from consciousness completely in order to conserve strength. I was just happy to be alive.
The next time I awoke I was in a hospital bed. The room was a big white glare until fully came to and could make out the room clearly. The small outdated T.V. was playing the news. The weatherman was talking about how this was the worst snowstorm The Dakotas had seen in years. I began to look around the room. To my left, there was a nightstand with a card from Noell and Jamison. A get well soon card. I didn’t have the strength or mental capacity to read it at the time.
“Oh my gosh! Randy, he’s awake!”
I knew that voice. it was my mother. I whipped my head around to see my mother standing at the door waving my father to hurry. When he arrived she knelt down to the side of the bed asking me a million questions a second.
My brain was still a block of ice because I couldn’t think of the words to say. I just stared at them both blankly.
“I told you not to wear those fingerless gloves,” she exclaimed and then turned to my father, “I told him not to wear those gloves, Randy!” She was getting herself worked up I could tell. Her eyes started to water up and her voice was cracking. Again I felt helpless so I tried to muster up a few words.
“What happened? Where’s Jamie?”
This took my mother’s attention away from what she was getting worked up over. “Oh, Jamie went home a little while ago. He and Noell came by and dropped off a card.”
This confused me. She said he “stopped by” as if I had been here a while. Especially if he were the one that brought me here. “How long have I been here?”
“You’ve only been here a few hours, sweetie. Why? What’s the matter?” She could see the confusion on my and I could tell it worried her. My brain started to hurt as well.
“Did Jamie tell you how he got me here?” I asked. After it escaped my mouth I realized it wasn’t the exact question I wanted to ask but it was all I could think to say.
My mother looked at me perplexed with her eyebrows furrowed. “Jamie didn’t bring you here, babe. He just came by to visit.” After she said this she could tell I was even more confused. “Honey, that Ethan boy was the one who brought you here. He carried you all the way from your high school. He said you were muttering stuff all the way here. Just pitiful. You owe your life to that boy. If he hadn’t of found you, you would be dead.” She continued on with her tangent but my thoughts were too cluttered to both listen and understand.
I let my head fall back over to the left side of my bed where the card stood up next to a desk lamp and some variety of candy I assumed came with the card. I then looked out of my room window to the reception area. Everyone bustling around dealing with all of the aftermath the storm had caused. I scanned the area looking at all of the faces of people I’d never know. Until I found a familiar figure. Ethan. He was standing with his large sausage claws in his pockets hanging his head. he was standing opposite of two police officers who were questioning him about what had happened. It was obvious that he hadn’t told my parents the full truth, but I wonder if he would lie to the police as well. Just then a scruffy older man wearing work boots, and a dirty work uniform stormed through the doors to the reception area. His footsteps were loud and obnoxious.
“There you are you shit! What in the hell do you think you’re doing!” he yelled in the direction of Ethan. He made his way towards Ethan and then walloped him on the back of the head. “I’ll take it from here officers,” he said to the police, but before he could leave he was stopped by the officers. It was hard to make out but it sounded as if they had informed Mr. Hadaway that they needed to hold his son for further questioning. This didn’t settle well with Mr. Hadaway, however, he knew there was nothing he could do. “Fine, but don’t take too long. I’m gonna go take a smoke,” he then looked at Ethan, “You’re in for it when you get home, son.” He then glanced over at me through my window. We locked eyes for a split second before he turned away and stormed out.
The officers informed Ethan that he would have to wait in the reception area until they got back and then headed towards my room. I looked away quickly so they didn’t think I was eavesdropping. The officers walked into the room and began to ask my parents what they knew about the incident.
My mother lead with, “Is that boy gonna be alright? He did save our son after all.”
“He also almost killed your son,” said one of the officer’s matter-of-factly. This shocked my mother. To realize Ethan was not the upstanding citizen she thought he was. “He was the one who locked your son in that storage shed.” This baffled my mother so they went on to explain the whole thing to her.
I tuned out and looked at Ethan. He was rubbing the back of his head where his dad had hit him. On the left side of his face were a bruise and a welt that wasn’t there earlier that day. His head started to raise in my direction so, I snapped back and focused on the officers.
“…according to Ethan, several hours later he and his father got into a fight which leads him fleeing his home. Which was when he realized that the latch on the school shed door was still locked. That’s when he, quote unquote, saved your son.”
My mother’s disposition had changed from baffled to disgusted. To think her son had been bullied and that’s how he ended up in that situation.
The officers had some closing remarks about lawsuits and what not. When they left, my mother resumed her previous conversation with my father but he tone was furious. I stared at the ceiling and tuned them all out.
I stared off into the white speckled tiles. What now? I wanted to speak up and tell my mother not to press charges. But some part of me still feels like Ethan deserves it. Nevertheless, I couldn’t unclutter my thoughts enough to form a coherent sentence. I could only think, but what good did that do me. I thought only of what would happen to Ethan. If we press charges he goes to jail, or his parents pay a hefty fee which I’m sure they can’t afford which would only make Ethan’s life more miserable. Or we do nothing and Ethan still lives his same miserable life. And as I lay there thinking of all the possibilities I begin to wiggle my fingers, and then my toes. I breathe out but can’t see my breath. And then I raised my hand to touch my lips and I utter one simple word.