The Blog For Kids

This blog is for kids!
The posts you find here will be mostly for children ages 5 to 10, with some stuff for younger or older kids.
Happy reading!

Monday, December 7, 2009

White Socks (fiction)

White Socks

The car ran out of gas again today. That’s why we’re staying in this shelter tonight. It’s just for one night, though. Mom said my Uncle George in Ohio will send some money.

She must be reading my thoughts, because she says, again, “Uncle George will send money.” She says it like saying it will make it true.
Then she says, “Go wash up for bed, Ben, but don’t talk to anyone in the men’s room…and be quick.”

She worries about me too much. I’m ten, and I know how to take care of myself. We’ve had this problem with restrooms for a few years. When I was little, she took me into the women’s room, but of course that won’t work now. Technically, my dad took me into the men’s room, mom told me, when I was potty training. But I don’t remember that. Or, him.

I take my toothbrush and soap to the men’s room. There’s an old man with a scruffy face staring into the mirror, rubbing his whiskers like he’s thinking hard about something. He looks kind of sketchy, so I stand sort of near a guy that looks like dad material.

“Here, son,” he says, “have some toothpaste.” He explains that a donation of travel-size toothpastes came in today. I accept the toothpaste and check under the cap for a seal. I brush quickly while the guy lectures me on the best way to brush. I leave before he tries to adopt me.

Back at our room, Mom is talking to a lady about whether we left our car in a safe place. That seems like a pointless conversation. Like we had a choice where to leave the car. I crawl under the itchy green blanket on my cot and hope this place isn’t too noisy. Someone in the next room coughs a lot. I’m glad there aren’t any crying babies. I can hear sirens in the distance, and the wind rattling the window. What I really want to hear is sleigh bells. Because tonight is Christmas Eve.

I know I probably won’t get any presents. We’ve had tough times for a while. Well, really since my dad died of cancer when I was three. It has only been extra bad since mom lost her job and couldn’t pay the rent. There’s always hope, though. Santa has a hard time finding kids in shelters, but I’ve been especially good, for Mom. So, I go to sleep as quickly as I can.

I dream about my cat, Socks. It’s a lame name, but honestly, he does look like he’s wearing socks. He’s all black except for his white feet. Santa brought Socks when I was five. He’s my best friend, and I dream about him every night. Tonight in my dream he’s chasing after a string I pull along the kitchen floor. He pounces on it with those sock feet then I pick him up and snuggle him. He tucks his head under my chin and purrs. He is nothing but softness and warmness. Suddenly he is crying. He is trapped in the neighbor’s window searching for me and calling for me to come get him.

I cry out and wake myself up. I look over to the next cot to see if I have woken my mom. Luckily, she is still sleeping. If she had woken, she would have said, for the hundredth time, “Ten-year-olds shouldn’t be homeless. You’re too young to know so much about heartbreak.” It takes a long time to get back to sleep.

Mornings come early in shelters. The last one sent everyone out at 6:00 am. Mom is shaking me, so I think we’re heading out, probably to see if our car is still there, and maybe to get some money from Uncle George, whoever that is.
“Ben,” she says, “Santa came! He’s here, in the lobby! Let’s go see, maybe he brought something.” She says that last part carefully. I know by now she means Santa might not know we’re here. Since, we got here late last night.

I put on my shoes and we go down to the lobby. Everyone has some sort of new item that stands out against all the old, used, and dirty. A little girl, about 6, has a little plastic doll and an even littler boy has a truck. The guy who gave me toothpaste has a striped hat and gloves.

Santa turns around and looks at me with a surprised face. I know right away he’s just a Santa’s helper. His beard is fake and his buttons are done up wrong. The fake Santa goes to his beat-up Toyota out front and comes back with a package.
He pats me on the shoulder a little too hard, hands me the package and says, “Sorry, Dude. Merry Christmas.”

Inside the package is a 3-pack of boys’ white socks, size medium. The toothpaste guy says, “Man, that stinks. No kid wants socks for Christmas! I’ll take ‘em if you don’t want ‘em.”
The lady Mom was talking to last night starts a loud argument with him. I give a pair to the little boy with the truck, since he isn’t wearing any and his sneakers are holey. Mom is crying, and I tell her, “Mom, it’s okay, I like the socks, really.”

I want the lady to stop arguing with toothpaste guy, so I give him a pair, although I doubt they’d fit. Then she starts arguing with me to take them back. I tell her, “No, it’s perfect, see? I still have a pair for me.”

I sit down on the floor to prove it. I pull off my shoes and old socks. The bare tile is cold. Everyone is watching me like they’ve never seen someone get socks for Christmas.

The new socks feel like heaven. They’re soft and cushy. The whiteness reminds me of laundry and something about home. I look at my white feet and all of a sudden I know something.

I’ve heard the saying about knowing something is going to happen, knowing it in your heart. But, I think I know it in my feet, too. I know it is true with all of me. Everyone is still looking at me. I look at Mom and say, “I think we’re going home.”

My throat is too choked up to say it out loud, but I think it. “I’ll be there soon, Socks. I’ll get you home soon.”

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