This was beyond outrageous. I was furious. Livid. The rules of this house were intolerable. I could not stand living here for one more minute. Mom left me no choice but to leave, and to leave for good.
She went back into the other room, expecting me to do what she’d ordered. Stop drawing immediately, go straighten up my room and bring the dishes I’d left there into the kitchen. As soon as she disappeared, I made a break for it.
I ran out the front door and headed left up Sleeper Ave. If she saw me leave, this would throw her off. At the end of the block I turned right and right again on Trice Ave until I got to New Road. Now I had a choice. I could head off through the empty field or stick to the street, where Mom might find me if she came after me.
I decided on the field, but it was hard going. The grass was high, and you could easily hurt yourself stumbling over an old oil can or car part someone had dumped. Plus there were lots of weeds with sharp stickers and I was wearing shorts.
After struggling through the field for a while, I went back to New Road. I looked back, but didn’t see Mom anywhere. We had only one car, an old Chevy and Dad had taken it to work. I was pretty sure I was safely far enough away that she wouldn’t find me.
Now it was time to get serious about my future. I would not be going back to the house; that much was certain.
My super powers had still not arrived, despite my absolute certainty that one day I would be the most powerful boy on Earth. I was a little bitter about it, because flying would sure beat walking, and as a super being I wouldn’t have to worry about what to do next. If I needed money I could rent myself out at $100 a day doing super chores for people, or I could just squeeze a lump of coal until it was a diamond. But that wasn’t in the cards just yet.
In time I would be a famous artist. There was no doubt about that. I smiled at the thought of Mom and Dad seeing my priceless work in a museum, understanding at long last how wrong they had been and what they had lost.
But that would be later. For now, I had to find my way in the world.
It was starting to get hot. In my anger and rush to leave, I hadn’t bothered to pack any clothes. I didn’t even bring my hat, and the sun was beating down on me. Oh, well, when I’d figured out what I was going to do with my life, I’d buy a new one.
I could, of course, join the circus. Everybody knew that the circus was the default choice for runaway boys. The problem was, I was short and skinny and had absolutely zero circus skills. I couldn’t juggle or walk the high wire or swing on the trapeze. Maybe the clowns would adopt me and teach me the trade.
Unfortunately, as far as I knew, there was no circus in Waco at the moment, and I had no idea where to find one.
I could probably make a living drawing cartoons for people. I’d set myself up on a busy corner with a drawing pad and people would pay a dollar for an original cartoon. For two dollars, I’d put the person in the cartoon. This was a great idea! Except I’d left without my paper and pencils and I didn’t dare risk going back to collect them.
By now I had reached Bosque Blvd. I turned right and headed toward the coliseum, the biggest building I could see from where I was. It was getting really hot, and I was starting to get thirsty. Why hadn’t I brought any food or water with me? It occurred to me that running away from home while I was so angry was not the best idea. If I was going to leave forever, there really was no rush. I could have waited a day or two and packed food, water and a change of clothes. I could have saved my allowance instead of spending it all on comic books. Oh, well, it was too late for that now.
I know! I could tell stories, and people could pay me for them. I wouldn’t need anything to do that. I’d go to the shopping center and offer to tell people a story for money. The shoppers would gather round and I would captivate them with my tales of flying saucers and alien invasions, and they’d toss coins at my feet in appreciation.
Once I had made enough, I’d be able to buy a pad of drawing paper and pencils and draw cartoons. And I’d tell stories while I was drawing, and make even more.
But first I desperately needed water. I had already walked well past the coliseum.I turned right onto Lake Air Drive. To my left were a bunch of residential streets.
How about this? I’d walk up to someone’s house and offer to tell them a story in return for a glass of water. It was highly unlikely that anyone who answered the door would know me or my parents, so this should be a good safe test of my strategy.
I started to walk up to a big brick house. I was about to ring the bell, but then I started to worry. What if I was wrong and people I knew lived there? Even if they were total strangers, what if they started asking questions. Why was I there? Where did I live? Who were my parents? I began to doubt the whole enterprise. Why would someone want to hear a story from a strange boy who just happened to ring the door bell? Why didn’t I just ask for a glass of water? Tell them I was on my way home and I got really thirsty. But the more I thought, the more reasons I came up with for not ringing the bell.
There was a garden hose rolled up on the side of the house. Why didn’t I just take a drink from it and be on my way? But what if the person who lived there heard the water running and came out to investigate? That would be even worse. What if they called the police and I got arrested for trespassing and stealing water?
I hurried away from the house and headed back up Lake Air Drive. I was hot, sweaty and thirsty. What had I been so angry about, anyway? What had Mom done that made me mad enough to want to leave home forever? Demand that I clean my room when I wanted to spend the morning drawing pictures instead? Was that all? It would have taken ten minutes and then I could have spent the whole day doing what I wanted.
I’d been gone for hours. I’ll bet Mom was getting really worried. She’d probably called Dad by now and he’d be worried, too. Why had I gone off in the wrong direction just to throw her off? If she was looking for me she’d have no idea which direction I’d gone. If Dad had come home and the two of them were driving around looking for me, they would have no idea where to look. What an idiot I’d been.
I was their son, their only son, and I knew they loved me. If I went home now, I bet they’d be so thrilled to see me they wouldn’t even punish me. They’d be relieved that I was safe and grateful that I’d decided to return instead of running off with the circus. They’d welcome me back with open arms and apologize for being so mean. They’d agree that it was more important for me to practice my art than to clean up my room. We’d negotiate a new set of chores that would give me more time to draw.
Maybe they’d even take me out for ice cream. Over a banana split at Howard Johnson I’d tell them about my plans to join the circus, and about making money by selling cartoons and telling stories, and we’d all laugh at how silly we’d all been.
I retraced my steps and trudged back to the house. It was a long, hot, thirsty slog. In my anger I’d walked an awfully long way. I barely made it home. The only thing that sustained me was a vision of Mom waiting by the door with a huge glass of iced tea, which she would give me the moment I walked in.
When I opened the door, she was sitting in the living room chair, and I could tell immediately that my welcome back would not be a happy one. She had and an angry look on her face. In her hand was not a tall, cold glass of iced tea but one of Dad‘s belts.
I cleaned my room, and I was grounded for the rest of the week.
After supper, which I ate standing up, there was no ice cream.