Home of the Bellingwood Series – Nammynools

Prelude – Vignette #1 – Andrew

“I’m bored. There’s nothing to do around here.” Andrew Donovan flopped onto his bed, face down. When he didn’t get a response, he lifted his head enough so that he could peek over at his brother, Jason, who was working at his desk.
“Leave me alone, punk. I’m busy.”
“What are you doing? Can I help?”
“What did I just say to you?”
Andrew rolled and sat up, swinging his legs off the side of his bed. “I don’t know.”
“Leave me alone. And quit with the noise, would you?”
He stilled his legs. The only person in the world who had no hesitation beating him to a pulp was his older brother. It didn’t seem like today would be a good day to push things. Jason was in another one of his moods. It didn’t happen a lot, but when it did, living in the same room felt like he was living in a tiny cell.
Andrew leaned across his bed to his own desk and picked off a book. He’d read it and he’d read the other three books stacked in a pile. He needed more but the library wouldn’t be open until tomorrow. This was going to be a long day.
They turned to look at their mother, standing in the doorway.
“Hey, Mom,” Jason said.
“Homework?” she asked.
He nodded.
“What about you, Andrew?”
“Done. I’m bored. I need a dog.”
His mother, Sylvie, laughed out loud. “That’s the last thing we need in this little apartment. I’ll be right back.” She left and the two looked at each other.
“What was that about?” Andrew whispered.
“I don’t know. Moms are weird.” Jason kept his attention on the doorway, though.
True to her word, she was right back, carrying a notebook and a bag of miniature donuts. “I’m going out with Lydia and the girls. Andrew, this notebook is for you.”
He looked at it, then at her. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Write in it.”
“What I am supposed to write?”
“All those stories you tell me. Write them down. If you don’t have books to read, write your own.”
“But I don’t know how.”
“Don’t give me that.”
“You read enough books, you should know everything,” Jason said. It almost sounded like a compliment, but Andrew wasn’t dumb enough to say anything.
“And you’ve written little stories your entire life,” Sylvie said. She walked over to Jason’s desk and set the bag of donuts down. Then she held out the notebook. “Write longer stories. You won’t get better unless you practice.”
He opened the notebook and ran his fingers across the blank sheet of paper. “It’s so clean and perfect, but it’s lonely.”
“Lonely?” Jason asked. “See, you are a writer. All I see on that piece of paper is that someone will ask me to do something I don’t want to do. Write a report, do math, something …” He opened the bag of donuts and tossed one to his brother. “… Boring.”
“Writing isn’t boring,” Andrew protested. He ignored the chocolate donut that had landed on the bed beside him, rolled over to get to his desk, and pushed at the mess that was always there.
“Andrew,” Sylvie said.
“What?” He wasn’t being short with her, he’d already gotten lost in his thoughts.
“Either eat that donut or deal with it. Otherwise, you’ll have a mess when you try to go to sleep tonight.”
“What donut?”
Jason stood, walked over to Andrew’s bed and picked up the donut he’d tossed. “Thanks, Mom.”
“For what?”
“For giving the notebook to Andrew. At least now he’ll be quiet for a while.”
Andrew had climbed off his bed and was rummaging through his desk. “I can’t find my pencils. Where are my pencils?”
“Heads up,” Jason said.
Andrew looked up in time to duck from the pencil flying toward him. It hit the wall and landed on the floor. “Thanks, but where are my pencils? I have a million of them.”
“Look in your backpack, punk.”
“Jason,” Sylvie scolded. “You know I don’t like you calling your brother names.”
“But he is a punk. I’m not wrong.”
She took in a long breath and let it out slowly. “You two stay out of trouble. If you get hungry, eat the donuts. There is lemonade in the refrigerator. I shouldn’t be too long.”
“Where are you going?”
“Lydia said we’re going to meet someone new.”
That got Andrew’s attention. “Who?”
“We’re going to the old school building.”
“Really?” he asked. “Some old lady bought it, right?”
Sylvie laughed. “I don’t think she’s that old.”
“But I heard she’s, like, an old maid. Never been married,” Jason said. “Why would she buy that place anyway? It’s a mess.”
“Have you been inside it?” Andrew asked. “How bad was the mess?”
“I’m just talking about the outside. No one takes care of it. That old playground equipment out back is seriously ugly. Who would want to ever move to this dirty little town when that place is the first thing they see on the highway?” Jason rolled his eyes. “They should just tear the whole thing down.”
“Sounds like she has plans for it,” Sylvie said.
“I hope it’s not another school,” Jason said. “We don’t need any more schools.”
She laughed and shook her head. “No, no more schools in Bellingwood. The town is too small for that. I’m just glad we were able to keep the elementary school so I don’t have to worry about you on a bus to Boone yet.”
“Do you think she’d let little boys visit and explore the building?” Andrew asked.
“Not right now. There’s a lot of construction going on,” Sylvie shook herself. “Mrs. Merritt will be here any minute and I don’t want her to wait for me.”
“You’ll tell me everything about the building, right?” Andrew asked.
“I’ve told you about the building.”
“Yeah, but you saw it before it was abandoned. Like, are there ghosts in there now?”
“People didn’t die in the building. No ghosts.”
He slumped. “But ghosts in an old abandoned school would be a great story. Ghost teachers who make the poor ghost students learn the same things over and over again.”
“Like regular school,” Jason grumped. “It’s never-ending. Always more and more and more.”
“You boys do your thing and be nice to each other while I’m gone.”
Andrew walked out with his mother. “Are you nervous to meet someone new, Mom?”
“Maybe a little. Mrs. Merritt is a good friend, but she thinks I shouldn’t stay home all the time if I’m not at work.”
“I like meeting new people.”
His mother gave him a quick side hug. “You are my outgoing, happy boy. I hope that when you grow up, you find a way to make all your dreams come true.”
“I don’t even know what my dreams are yet,” Andrew said.
“If you could do one thing all the time, what would it be?”
“Read books.”
She laughed. “I set myself up for that one. If you could do one thing as a career, what would it be?”
“Read books. I could work at a publishing company and read all the books that come in. I’d be in charge of what books were published. It would be hard to reject someone, though. They put in all that hard work to write it and then I’d have to tell them that the company wouldn’t publish it. That would be hard.”
“You should write books so amazing that every publisher is begging you to write for them.”
He nodded. “Will you still remember to tell me everything about the old school building? I hope I get to see it someday. Are there old books in the library? Or blackboards on the walls? What about the lunchroom? Did they even have those in the old days?”
Sylvie swatted his arm when she saw his smirk. “You are a naughty boy. It’s a good thing I love you.”
“I don’t know what to write first, Mom.”
“Write about the old schoolhouse. Make up a story about the building in the old days. You know, before even I was born.”
“Has it been around a long time?”
“It has. A lot of people in Bellingwood went to school in that building.”
“Even dead people?”
She frowned. “What? Dead people don’t go to school.”
“That would be a good story, but I meant, even people who aren’t alive any longer. Was it around when they were in high school?”
“Yes. I’m sure of that.”
“I wonder what it would have been like back in the olden days. No, not like you,” he said before he earned himself another swat. “But back when girls could only wear dresses and boys had slicked-back hair.”
“Why don’t you come up with a story about that?”
Andrew tapped his temple. “I have so many stories. They’re always up there.”
“What do you do with them?”
“Nothing. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with them.”
“Write them down. Now, I’m going outside. If Mrs. Merritt is waiting, I’ll feel guilty.”
“Tell me everything when you come home. Promise?”
“I’ll see what I can remember.”
Andrew closed the door behind her and remembered to flip the lock. He went back to the room he shared with Jason. “I’m going to the living room and write.”
“You might as well stay in here, punk. I’m done with my homework. The television is going to be on.”
“I can’t think when you watch television.”
“Like I said. Stay in here. You can keep the donuts. I’ve had enough.”
“What do you want to be when you graduate from high school?”
Jason frowned. Then he shrugged. “I don’t know. Why?”
“I was just curious. Do you want to go to college?”
“No way. I hate school. But you? You’ll probably end up teaching in a college.”
“That’s sounds awesome,” Andrew said. “I’d learn everything so that I could teach. Best job ever.”
“Mom doesn’t have money to send us to college, punk.”
Andrew’s shoulders sagged. “I know. Maybe I could get a scholarship, though.”
“You’re smart enough. And you’re still little. Just don’t get a girlfriend who will distract you from your grades. The way our lives go, you’ll need a big scholarship.”
“You don’t want one?”
“A scholarship? I would never be able to earn one of those. I’m not smart like you.”
“That’s not fair,” Andrew said. “Mom would be mad if she heard you say that.”
“Mom’s not here, is she?”
“You’re smart, Jason.”
“Not like you, but that’s okay. I’ll probably end up driving a truck or being a bum like Dad.”
“Don’t say that,” Andrew scolded. “You’re way better than him.”
Jason shoved the last of his books in his backpack. He tossed another pencil onto Andrew’s bed. “I hope so. What do you think about someone buying the old school?”
“I don’t know. I hope she isn’t old and boring.”
“Me too. It’s weird that nobody knows anything about her, isn’t it?”
“Maybe she’ll lock herself into that old building and never come out. No one will ever see her except in the windows late at night. Like a ghost.”
“Stop talking about ghosts. There aren’t any.”
“Just because you haven’t seen them …”
Jason interrupted. “Neither have you.”
“Well, you never know.”
“I’m pretty sure. Do you want some lemonade?”
“Nope. I’m going to mark up the first page of my new notebook.”
“You are a weird, weird brother.


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