The First Last Boy

By: Sonya Weiss



Shaking off the memory, I stripped down to get ready for bed, wondering if tonight Ryan would be thinking about what it would be like to be with me.



*



RYAN



It took an hour to get home after I left Montana’s house. Normally, it was a fifteen to twenty minute drive, but I needed the call of the road to clear my head. Four wheels, the sweet night air blowing in my window, and an empty stretch of asphalt calmed my churning thoughts, fooling the demons waiting to drag me back to who I’d once been into thinking I had a handle on my life.

Sometimes, those demons were ones others set on me. The foster mom who’d locked me in the trunk of her car every weekend while she got drunk at bars gave me the demon of drinking to forget. The foster dad who liked to heat spoons up on the stove and then stick them to my back gave me the demon of rage. Those demons made me feel like I was bits and pieces of a puzzle that others had put together. Sometimes, they were demons I unleashed on myself. Those were the hardest ones to live with because they made me hate the guy I saw in the mirror. I exhaled, blowing away the thoughts. I didn’t like thinking about the guy I’d been. The way he’d treated people, the things he’d done to stay alive wasn’t who I wanted to be.

Eventually, I turned around and headed home. In my neighborhood, on the wrong side of Southtown Freeway, empty lots intermingled with the occasional abandoned home wearing plywood in place of windows and doors that had become Caldwell, Michigan’s trademark.

I lived with three other foster boys in Mama Leena’s two-story house. The house, built in the late 1800s, had blue-gray siding and was one of the better homes in the area. Everyone in the neighborhood referred to it as “that house with all those kids.” Over the years, the home had seen dozens of kids come and go.

Leena owned a successful temp service helping companies find employees. The Michigan Chronicle did a story on her for one of their Who’s Who features several years ago when she’d run for county council. She was known to take in foster kids who didn’t have any other place to go and she didn’t give a damn what our skin color or story was. She had two rules. Don’t break the law and don’t mess with her teenage daughter, Destiny.

When I pulled past the crooked tree and into the driveway, Juvante, the foster brother I was closest to yelled my name from his spot on the porch. Cooper was beside him and raised his chin my direction. From the time he’d been born, Cooper had only been known by the name Bastard. He was six before he’d learned it wasn’t his real name. He’d been found living in a closet in a house that had made Mama cry when the social worker had shown her the photos. By the time Mama Leena adopted him when he was a teenager, the hardness of the street had taken almost everything that was good in him the same way it had me.

Cooper, Juvante, and I ended up on the wrong side of the law for shit I didn’t get involved with anymore. Not since I’d seen a friend bleed out right in front of me and learned that while blood washes out of clothes, it never washes out of the soul.

Juvante made a dash for me, grabbed me around the shoulders and screamed in a falsetto. “The boy is home from chasing girls. Knock anyone up today?”

I gave him a hard elbow jab to the ribs. “That’s your life story, not mine.”

He shook his head and grimaced, rubbing his side, looking sheepishly between Cooper and me. “I told y’all she’s lying. There’s a reason they call that girl Gym. She’s so loose she can take in the whole damn team plus all the spectators.” Laughing, he sobered up quickly when the screen door flung open and Destiny yelled out that he had a phone call from a girl. Juvante had girls chasing him like he was a rock star.

“How many times do I have to tell you to take a number?”

Destiny looked over her shoulder to make sure Leena wasn’t near and when she looked back, she flipped him off.

“If she was older than sixteen...” Juvante said.

“Leena would kick your ass even if Destiny was thirty. You’re not good enough for her daughter.”

“Bro, fuck you.” Juvante popped the back of my head and then bounced around with his hands up in a boxer’s stance. “He moves to the left. Then to the right. Kidney punch and my brother from another mother is down, crying like a little bitch.”

I gave him a look. A sadistic asshole at one of my former foster homes taught me bare knuckle boxing, locking me in a room with him, drilling the techniques into me for endless hours a day and if I screwed up, he’d make me start all over. No food, no water, no sleep. Those were privileges for winners and losers didn’t deserve them.

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