Hannah Alexander
Heart beat
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Second Opinion Excerpt pg 2

“Evan,” Dad said.

Evan blinked and looked at him.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Oh, sorry, Dad. Yeah. I feel ...” He didn’t feel that good right now. His head was starting to hurt. “Fine.” He placed a final forkful of Dad’s homemade Hungarian goulash into his mouth and washed it down with the milk that tasted like dirt. He could feel Dad still watching him. It made him nervous. The pills. Yeah, that’s what he was feeling, and it wasn’t good. All he’d wanted was to stop feeling so bad all the time ... so-sad-so-mad-so-bad-so ... so bad.

Dad cleared his throat again. “So is she still seeing ... uh ... Mr. Tygart?”

“Yeah.” Swallow food. Get out of the chair. Make the excuses. Apologize. Got to do it. Get out of here. Meet Kent. Ask him exactly what was in those pills. Evan felt as if he were a rock being skipped across a pond. He pushed back from the table and stood. Time to get out while he could. “I’m supposed to meet ... some of the guys at the theater for a movie, Dad. I’d better leave now if I’m going to get there in time.” His voice caught, held, vibrated, but Dad didn’t act like he noticed. He just acted disappointed. He’d probably rented a movie for tonight. He was always trying to do stuff like that. Then he would sit and watch Evan instead of the show. Mom said that was one reason she divorced him—because he suffocated her.

“Do you need a ride downtown?”

Evan shrugged. “It’s only four blocks.”

Dad slumped in his chair. “Well, then. I’ll see you when you get home. Hurry back after the movie, okay?”

“Sure, I will.” As Evan grabbed his jacket and pushed his way out the front door, he felt a tingle spread down his back and into his legs, slowly, like cold pancake syrup. He did not like these pills.

* * *

It was starting to get dark, so six-year-old Levi Drake had turned on every light in the house. And now he sat next to his little brother, Cody, on the couch in the front room, waiting. They hadn’t turned on the television, because the rules were no TV when Mom couldn’t sit and watch it with them.

“Mommy’s not home yet,” Cody said, scooting closer to Levi and pressing his head against Levi’s arm. “We go find her.”

“It’ll be okay. She told us never to leave the house by ourselves. She’ll come back soon.” Levi hoped Cody wouldn’t start crying. Cody was only four, and he threw tantrums when he didn’t get his way, especially when Mom was gone.

“Does Mommy have fur now?”

Levi looked down at his silly little brother. “Fur?”

Cody nodded. “She runned away, like the werewolf.”

“What werewolf? Mommy isn’t a werewolf.”

Cody nodded again, and his eyes got big. “Uh-huh. Cartoon werewolf.”

“Oh.” That Saturday morning werewolf cartoon was Cody’s favorite show. Levi liked it, too. He was a nice werewolf who ran away when he started to grow fur so nobody would see him and bashed the bad guys and saved the children. “I don’t know, Cody. Maybe she is.”

“I’m hungry.”

“We can eat when Mom gets back.” She would come back any time. Levi knew it. He turned to look out the window and saw that the cars driving along the street had their headlights on. He hoped she would be able to find her way home in the dark. Would she get lost?

Levi had tried to stop being afraid when Mom left them alone, but this time she’d looked so scared, and she was breathing funny. Cody was right. She did sort of look like that werewolf did on cartoons just before his face grew hair. When Levi had asked her if she was sick, she hadn’t even looked at him, just jerked open the front door and ran outside. She hadn’t heard him when he’d called her. Maybe she really was the werewolf. Maybe she was out there right now, saving other little children from the bad guys.

When she had left before, she had always come back later and said she was sorry, and cried, and told them she thought she was just having bad dreams that scared her when she woke up. She never told them what the dreams were about. She always said everything would be okay. But if she really thought that, why did she cry?

Cody patted Levi’s leg. “Can I have soup?”

“I’ll get you some crackers, and then when Mom comes, we can have soup.” Levi squeezed Cody’s arm and slid from the couch.

Cody climbed down, too, and followed right behind him. “You cook soup, Levi.”

“No, Mom doesn’t want us to turn on the stove when she isn’t here. I’ll get some cheese. You like that, Cody. Cheese and crackers.” Levi got some slices of American cheese out of the fridge and used a step stool to reach the crackers in the cupboard. But when he opened the cupboard door, he knew Cody was going to yell. There were all the cans of soup stacked on top of each other, right next to the HiHo crackers.

Cody caught his breath, getting ready for a long squall. “Soup! I want soup, Levi! You cook soup!” His voice grew so loud Levi wanted to cover his ears with his hands.

“Cody, I can’t—”

“Soup, soup, soup! I want soup! I want—”

“Shut up, Cody!” Levi turned around and almost fell off the step stool. “Shut up! Shut—Be quiet!” Cody knew Mom would get mad if she heard him say “shut up.”

Cody shouted louder. “I want soup! I’m hungry!” He banged his fist against the cabinet door below the sink and stomped his foot.

Levi couldn’t take the screaming anymore. “Okay! I’ll get you some soup! Just be quiet!”

Cody kept banging and stomping, but he stopped shouting. Levi was hungry, too. Where was Mom? Why didn’t she come back? If she were here Cody wouldn’t be this way.

Levi grabbed a can with the noodles on the front picture and set it carefully on the counter. Then he pulled the box of crackers out and set that beside the can. He had to do everything just right. Mom always made him be real careful when he worked with her in the kitchen. He climbed down from the stool and opened the cabinet door where Mom kept the pots. He pulled out the one she always used to cook the soup and closed the door.

Cody stopped the banging and ran across the kitchen. “I can help!”

Levi jerked the pot away and said in his meanest voice, “No, Cody! If you touch anything, I won’t feed you!”

Cody looked at him in surprise for a moment. Then his lower lip stuck out and big tears filled his eyes. A long moan grew in his throat and burst into a loud cry that went through the kitchen like a car horn. Levi tried to ignore the wail as he reached into a drawer to get the can opener and opened the can. It was hard to concentrate with Cody screaming behind him, but he kept trying.

The lid came off and Levi poured the soup into the pot, only splashing a few drops out onto the floor. He reached up and turned the knob on the stove to the place where Mom always turned it. He heard a click, click, click sound, but nothing else happened. He turned it off again, told Cody to be quiet, and then turned the knob back on.

Click, click, click, but no fire. And Cody kept screaming. Levi climbed onto the first step of the stool and turned the knob a little farther ... just a little bit, and then once again ... and a big whoosh of flames licked out at him. He stumbled backward and fell from the stool.

“Mama!” he shouted as he landed with a hard thump on the floor. It knocked the air out of him, and he couldn’t catch his breath.

Cody stopped crying.

Click, click, click.


Second Opinion Excerpt pg 2