A narrative essay by Xavier Fields, written originally for English class.
The edge of the suburban landscape blurs before my eyes. The dull houses seem to merge as I press my bored face against the glass. Nothing would please me more than being back home so I can finish my latest Harry Potter book. Speculations of what the famous trio will do next reel through my brain. I am awakened from my trance by a sharp pain in my side. To figure out the cause, I whip my head around so hard my glasses fly off my face onto the floor. I grab them, but not without first seeing my brother quickly withdraw his finger. Despite the seat belt restriction I kick his ashy knee discreetly, but not discreetly enough.
“What’s going on back there, Zach?” asks my mother from the driver’s side, not taking her concentration away from the road. I share violent eye contact with my brother.
“Nothing,” the five year old mutters. Despite his words, he looks at me with what looks like a promise of revenge. I ignore it for now. After all, why shouldn’t I? I’m eight, practically a teenager. My brother needs to respect his elder.
The momentum of the vehicle slows to a stop. Looking out of the no-longer-traveling window, I see where we’ve arrived. My eyes scan the old snow-gray buildings until I come across the Big Lots sign. I groan, which is met by a furious talking to from my mom.
“If you expect to get ice cream later, you’re going to come in here with me and you’re going to behave,” she threatened. She unbuckles her seatbelt and steps out of the car, soon followed by my brother and me. As we walk across the mundane parking lot Zach refuses to make eye contact with me. Whether or not my mom knows about our scuffle she doesn’t acknowledge it.
The sliding doors smoothly retreat to the sides as we stride into the massive store. My mother grabs a cart and immediately takes off towards the clothing section. Of course. The boredom I feel from accompanying my mom when she was buying clothing is about the same as watching the washing machine go from rinse cycle to spin cycle. I zone out and daydream for what feels like a century. I’m snapped out of it by a familiar voice.
“Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom,” Zach proclaims.
“You couldn’t have gone while we were at home fifteen minutes ago?” My mom questioned as she stopped pushing the cart full of bargain shirts. The small boy shakes his head and my mother sighs.
“Fine. Your brother will take you there.” Now it’s my turn to sigh. Not that my mom can hear me; she was already wheeling the cart away to the next rack. Zach looks up at me for the first time since the car, focusing on me while trying to hide a smirk. To hide my confusion at what he’s smiling about, I begin to pace towards the restrooms.My mom trusted me with this one job. As I am a third grader, she knows that I can handle it. I can handle my reading buddy, and she’s six. We walk two aisles over and my brother looks at me one more time. His face contorts into a mischievous grin. Suddenly, he takes off like an Olympic sprinter.
Taken aback, my legs freeze up for half a second. I take off after his small frame, flying through the toy aisle of Big Lots. The lights of his Spiderman shoes bounce off the clean linoleum, his gray shorts billowing with every stride.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I scream towards him. He answers with shrieking laughter that echoes throughout the atmosphere. I reached out to grab him after traveling through two aisles, but he turns so sharply to the right that he falls over. Zach gets up before I even register that he changed direction. I collect myself and charge after the flying child.
My brother traverses through the furniture section, accidently upturning an office chair in his flight. I almost take the time to clean up after him, but I have to keep the chase up. He has the advantage. He has a head start. He can turn quickly whenever he needs.
There’s no way he can beat me. Five year old Zach absolutely cannot get the best of me. I continue jogging after him, my worn out slate colored sneakers flapping against the floor. There seems to be no slow in pace.
“Get back here!” I yell in exasperation. He ignores me and speeds off towards the school supply clearance. I put my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. Defeatedly, I fall to the ground.
My brother has won. There’s no denying it. The kindergartener outsmarted and outran me. There is only one thing I can do. I lumber back to the clothing section, wallowing in my defeat. I find my mother again. She has only moved a few yards since our last encounter.
“Zach ran away from me!” I bellow, despite being only a few inches away from her. She looks down into my sniveling face and understands what I mean. Swearing under her breath, she puts her palm on her forehead.
“ZACHARY FIELDS!” The sound resonates. By this point she doesn’t care what the other shoppers think of us. My brother knows that voice means business and brings his trail to us. There’s an uncomfortable pause. I glance at my mom’s slanted brows and then to my brother’s sweaty complexion. An “I’m Not Really a Waitress” painted talon grabs onto my shoulder, guiding me and my brother directly out of Big Lots. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. At this point she’s so angry she leaves the cart full of her clearance treasure behind us. No words have to be exchanged to know the deep trouble that we are in.
As the same boring landscape passes in front of me again, I pay more attention to the details. A young woman jogs with a golden retriever, a family plays catch together in their yellow-green yard, an elderly couple sits under their awning sipping iced tea. I can feel my brother staring at the back of my head but I can’t face him. I can’t face the fact that I had failed my one job. Maybe eight years old just isn’t old enough to be responsible. I dwell on this as the small Dairy Queen smiles at me from an expanding distance.