Gary writes “Grit Fiction,” because life isn’t always smooth. His stories are characterized by wit, wordplay, and plot twists that will leave the reader guessing.

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Miracle on Elm Street

Danny Fleetwood

Grade 6, Franklin Middle School

Period 2

Mrs. Shaye

Literature and Composition, Period 2

Miracle On Elm Street

I know the assignment is supposed to be an essay about myself, and my life so far. And a lot of this is about Jacob. But my story is as much about him as it is about me. And since he got transferred into the gifted program, and won’t get this same assignment, I’m telling you about both of us.

Mom left when we were real little, I guess, and things got really bad for both of us.  We had really scary nightmares a lot. It was weird, because we were still too young to have much of anything to be scared of. We were only three and four years old. The worst thing we ever had seen was the cartoons disappearing on the TV, and Foster holding the remote.

Real soon we knew of a lot more scarier things. Nighttime was horrible. Jacob and I were trapped in our cribs. We were too big to be in them, they were like cages. We didn’t dare climb out, and we never complained to Foster about it. He didn’t want to hear any whining. “I don’t want to hear a peep out of either of you!” he would warn us as he killed the lights and shut us in our little bedroom. It wouldn’t ever take long until I would hear a scraping and scuffing noise, from the wall, or the ceiling, or the door, and Jacob would say “Do you hear that, Danny?” It was almost every night. Something was coming, something awful. It got closer and closer and I tried not to scream but I couldn’t help it. At first Jacob screamed too. But then he would stop, all of a sudden. He wouldn’t make a sound, just shiver, and that’s when the really bad things happened.

The door would fly open, bang! And sometimes it was Foster, and sometimes the monster with the billion tentacles. I would stretch as much as I could, and reach out my hand to Jacob, and he would be shaking without making a sound. He was shaking so hard his crib was moving. One time I heard one of the wood bars crack while he was grabbing onto it.

And then it would be roaring and red and pain and I would scream until it finally ended and I could hear Jacob whimpering quietly. We would cry until we were too exhausted and then finally fall asleep. In the morning we’d wake up and look at the marks we had all over.  Welts and stripes that our clothes would hide, and round red circles that could only have been from the suckers on the monster’s tentacles. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Jacob would keep telling me. I remember one night when the whole room caught fire. I could feel my skin burning, and smell the smoke, and I was screaming and hollering but Jacob wasn’t making a sound. I woke up hurting all over but at least neither of us were burnt up and neither was anything else. Jacob barely talked and when he did it was a whisper. Always, “I’m sorry, Danny, I’m sorry.” For a long time I believed him, that it was his fault.

When we started school at Butler Elementary, Foster got us bunk beds from the thrift store. Nothing else changed very much, though. I slept on the bottom and Jacob up above, and nights were as scary and painful as ever. One night, I woke up screaming, or Jacob did, or we both did. He got quiet and I tried to be quiet too, but it was too late, I had been too loud. Foster was about to come charging through the door, I could hear him cursing and threatening. And then he started pounding. But the door was stuck and wouldn’t open. Foster must have been throwing himself against it, over and over, and after a bunch of thumps I could see him through the gap in the door. I had my hands in front of my face but I peeked through my fingers. Foster looked awful, huge and sweaty and angrier than ever. Jacob wouldn’t look and wasn’t making a sound. Just shaking, I could feel it. I was pleading with Foster to let us alone. He was screeching at us. “You brats blocked the door! Open it right now! You’re only making it worse! You are really going to get it!” I believed him about that, but we hadn’t done a thing to the door. I was starting to think he was going to kill us, after all, we were only six- and seven-year-olds. “Open! This! Door!” Foster pounded with each shout. Without thinking, I threw my damp sheets off and hurried over to grab what was jammed beneath the door. It was Foster’s favorite belt. It had metal beer bottle caps like rivets all the way around it. Sharp edges all over it, Jacob and I hated how it would tear into us. I pulled it out and scrambled backwards as the door flew open. I stood up in front of the bunk bed with the belt hanging in my hand.

The crazy mad look on Foster’s face changed. He kind of looked a little scared. Scared, and confused. He was wearing the bottle cap belt, he had reached down to unbuckle it. He stared at it, and at the one I had, and I did the same. I figured he was about to yank the one I had away and give us twice the beatings with the twice the belts. I was covered in ice cold sweat and I was so scared and shivering so hard, but I stayed in front of Jacob. And I couldn’t believe it, but Foster was sort of trembling himself. He just kept saying “What the!” He couldn’t understand, and I couldn’t either. There was only one bottle cap belt, and we both had it. Jacob stayed turned toward the wall, shaking.

Finally, Foster said some more nasty things, backed out, and slammed the door shut. I think he probably must have hurt himself, or tired himself out banging into the door so many times. I knew he’d be back.

Foster let up a little after that, but the nightmares didn’t. The persistent scratching at the door was nearly every night, but it never got any less scary. A lot of times the door would blast open, and I would shout, and Jacob would hide. Sometimes it was the monster, and sometimes it was Foster, but they never came into the room. It was like they decided it was enough to just scare us and wake us up. We hardly ever got much sleep. The teachers would comment on how pale and thin we looked and point out the dark circles under my eyes. I had a hard time staying awake during class, especially math.

Jacob was older and taller, but I was always protecting him. It was like I had to be his big brother. I guess I resented that. Also the fact that everyone in Springfield, Illinois knew that the “Short Bus” stopped every day at 230 Elm Street to pick the two of us up and take us to Butler. I resented that for sure, the other kids made fun of me and all I did was ride along. Also Jacob always called me “Danny” and I thought Daniel sounded better, but he either couldn’t or wouldn’t say it. He wanted me to call him “Jakey” and I told him it sounded childish, so I wouldn’t and would always call him Jacob. I think at some point I might have hated him for a while. He’d ask me to play with him and I wouldn’t. He would cry and I called him a crybaby. Then he’d hush. But then he would always find something, a ball or a toy truck or some cool cards and we would be friends again. One time he brought me a bicycle, just out of the blue. I asked him where he got it and he wouldn’t say. Just smiled really big while I rode it around. After a while I realized I never really hated him, he was my best friend. And it seemed like maybe things were starting to get better.

We got picked on for a while at Butler Elementary, but it stopped eventually. I remember a couple of bigger kids. Kenny and Logan. They were mean fifth graders who had got held back. The troublemakers walked up on Jacob after his special class one day. “Can you even talk, retard?” Logan kept shouting at him. It made me so mad I felt like giving those kids the monster treatment. I bet they wouldn’t be so tough then. Jacob wasn’t really scared, he was looking at me like he was worried for me. He was kind of muttering really low, “It’s okay, Danny,” and then, “It’s gonna be okay.” Kenny took a step forward and yelled, “What did you say? Speak up, retard!” Jacob ignored the guys, just looked at me and nodded, and said nothing. When he got quiet, I got a feeling like something was about to happen. And boy, did it ever!  A huge fierce-looking dog came running up, snarling, and barking really loud, and snapping at the kids. They didn’t look very mean, then, running away with that dog chasing after them. Jacob was right. We were okay. We didn’t see those guys again. I don’t see them here either, I wonder if they ever got to middle school.

It was just about that time when the scratching on the door at night ended for good. The last time it happened, it was funny, even. Scratch, scratch, scratch! I was scared like always and Jacob was quiet like always, but the door pushed open just a tiny bit and I peeked between my fingers. The door creaked open a little further, and a big fat hamster ran in. I laughed a little, quietly so we wouldn’t get in trouble, and helped it up into my bunk. I petted it and it snuggled up close to me and I fell asleep. In the morning he was gone, but that was okay. Foster would have had a fit and gotten rid of it anyways. Jacob had the biggest smile on his face, I’ll always remember how happy he looked.

When fifth grade started last year, most of the kids were cool. The ones that weren’t too sure about us mostly just left us alone, which was fine. Tyler Taylor was the tallest kid in school, a little taller than even Jacob. He never bought lunch because he always took somebody else’s away. He looked like a real-life Pete Hosey, the cartoon bully in the “Wimpy Kid” stories.  Anyways, he decided to take our lunches one day, even though he already had a bag from some other kid. “Hand ‘em over kids,” he said, like we were kids and he wasn’t. I was hungry and I didn’t want Jacob and me to be victims anymore. You know? It seemed like our whole lives we ended up on the bad side of every possible awful thing. I took a step toward Tyler, I was going to see how he liked having his lunch taken. But I felt Jacob’s fingers pull my sleeve, and he whispered, “Don’t, Danny. Don’t.” So, I listened to him. Tyler said, “Well, Short Bus? Show me what’s for lunch!” My hand started to hurt from clenching my fist so tight.

“Jacob? Daniel?” The side door to the cafeteria had opened, and a lady in a white uniform hurried toward us with a tray. I didn’t recognize her, in fact, I had never seen her before in five years at Butler. “Is this Tyler?” the cafeteria lady said, nodding at him. He was just standing there with his mouth open. “The one you asked to share the cinnamon buns with?” Sure enough, she had three on the tray. “Go ahead, boys,” these extras were just going to waste.” None of us knew what to say, but we did each grab a bun. “They’re still warm,” she said, “And here,” she pulled a stack of napkins out of her apron pocket, “You’ll need these.” And then before we could even thank her, the door shut again and she was gone. Tyler didn’t say a word, either, just walked off with a big bite in his mouth. He didn’t take a napkin, though, I wonder if he wished he had. Jacob was sweating a little bit, but he was smiling. I was too. That was a good day.

This past summer, before we both started Franklin Middle, was the best summer ever.  It made up for every terrible day and night, every awful thing, every pain either of us ever had. All summer, Jacob and I spent every daylight hour far away from 230 Elm Street, exploring in the nearby woods. We came back just before dark. A couple times we were late and Foster screamed at us but he never laid a hand or a belt on us. We had so many adventures, me and Jacob. I know we have to write “How I Spent Summer Vacation” next, so I’ll save those stories. I just want to tell you about one day. The best day.

Jacob and I pretended we were exploring Alaska in the woods out near Duncan Park. This particular day, there was all kinds of bird and insect noises, and the occasional splash in the creek. Then it got super still and quiet, and Jacob got a real peaceful smile on his face. Just then, three mooses walked out in front of us. It was a mother and two young ones. I felt really happy and really sad for some reason when I saw them. We must have spent hours following them around, from a distance so we wouldn’t scare them. Then it got late. I looked at my Spiderman watch that Jacob had gave me, and I knew we wouldn’t make it back before sunset. When we got out of the woods, there was barely a half circle of sun still up, and we had about a forty-five minute hike to get back, even if we ran. So, we didn’t. Who knew what Foster had planned for us, and we weren’t in any hurry to find out. It’s funny, as excited as I was about the day, I didn’t say a word the whole way back. Jacob and I just walked silently, and, weird but true, the entire way, it never got any darker.

So technically, we weren’t late, but it didn’t matter. Foster was waiting, and Foster was angry, just like he always was. His red face and his bellowing voice, they used to be so scary, but they weren’t anymore. “Go inside,” he ordered, “I’ll be in for you two!”

We still didn’t talk, just got ready and got in bed. I reached a hand up and Jacob reached down and held it for a couple seconds. “I love you…. Daniel,” he whispered. I told him I loved him too.

The two of us waited in the dark, quiet room. I stood on my mattress and looked up at Jacob. “You okay, Jakey?” There was barely enough light, but I could see him smile and nod. There was something about that smile that made me feel safe. Like he was going to be my big brother and protect me.

Then there was noise outside the door. Jacob got real still, and squeezed his eyes shut tight, but he was still smiling. “It’s going to be alright,” I whispered.

And it was. And this is why it was the best day of the best summer ever. The door opened, and Mom came in. Foster was gone and Mom was back. I don’t know how or why and I never asked. I don’t even care, why does it matter? Things were finally right. We all hugged so tight for so long. I didn’t ever want to fall asleep, but I finally did. When I woke up, I was worried that it had all been just a dream. But it wasn’t. Mom made waffles and Jakey and I ate about a dozen each. We played and explored and hugged a lot, the three of us. Mom and I do all the talking, Jakey doesn’t say a word, but he smiles like I have never seen him smile before.

Anyways, that’s my life so far. I feel like it just started over, the right way this time.

 

The End