There it is—my alarm. I better get up, though I don’t really want to because I can tell this is going to be another typical Iowa winter day. It’s so cold in my room and, while it feels great under the covers, it is going to be wickedly bitter when I shed these blankets.
I look over at the window and, as expected, it is frosted over with a paper thin sheet of frost. At least it isn’t ice, which means school will be on time. Yep, definitely need to get up.
Then it hits me. Today is my sixteenth birthday! I wonder what the day will hold. Will it be the beginning of an amazing whirlwind chapter in my life, or will it be a continuation of the current chapter that seems like the longest ever written?
Life in the small town of Grinwell, Iowa is nothing but predictable. Every day has the tendency to be the same, which is especially true in the winter when the skies are gray and cloudy for days and days on end.
I jump down from my loft bed and almost knock all my homework off the desk that is directly below. Then I end up stubbing my toe on the desk and realize this is about exactly how I expected the day would start off. A cold, painful start that has me hobbling around, looking for anything warm and clean to slide into before Mom yells at my sister, Jill, and me, giving us both our final warning for breakfast.
I have to take a quick seat and scan the room while I wait for the throbbing pain to stop. It doesn’t take too long to survey my surroundings as, unlike lots of teens, my room isn’t particularly decorated. The main focal point of the room is my bookcase that holds all my favorite books, which is near, if not past, capacity. It’s a beautiful view, if you ask me.
See, I am quite the avid reader. I read as much as possible, which reminds me of why I’m tired, because I stayed up late writing in my poetry journal.
That probably sounds lame to most people, and I would never tell anyone at school, other than Marc who, as my best friend, is fully aware that I have a poetry journal, as I have shared many poems with him over the years. At the same time, I doubt a single person would be surprised. I am pretty much famous, or infamous, however you look at it, for being a book nerd. That’s my own fault, though, because I carry a book around with me everywhere I go and take every opportunity possible to read, even if it is one page while I wait for a class to start.
I love books and the way they allow you to escape the present and explore new worlds. It’s the cheapest form of travel, for sure, and doesn’t require you to pack a thing, wait in any lines at the airport, or get lost as you try to find a landmark. You get transported straight to where you want to go and right where the action is every time.
Yep, I love books.
I’m not surprised I got off track there for a minute, as usual for when I think about my library. So, back to my poetry journal.
Last night, I wrote about what everyone in the school—actually, in town—is talking about. Our P.E. teacher, Mr. Keith, was out hunting when he was literally torn limb from limb by what the authorities think was a bear, but they never found the animal or saw any tracks. Apparently, he was out in the middle of the woods, hunting by himself, which is also unusual since he never hunted by himself. Now he is definitely gone in a mysterious way, which has never happened in our sleepy little town. At least, not that anyone I know can remember.
When something like this happens, I have a tough time processing it and am compelled to write a poem about how I feel or about the people involved. I store it away in my journal and unquestionably avoid posting it publicly. It’s personal, and I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was taking advantage of a tragedy like this to call attention to myself on social media.
I did have a lot of thoughts about Mr. Keith. They kept coming, so I was up late, finishing what was an extensive poem, at least by my standards. However, it was finally enough to clear my mind and allow me to sleep.
Anyway, back to getting ready.
Great! No shirts left in the drawer. I’m going to have to sniff the shirts laying around to see which is the least offensive to wear today. Yikes, not the one I wore yesterday. I don’t need that grief. Then again, I’m not sure anyone really cares what I wear. Half the time, I feel like I’m the invisible man while walking the halls, totally unnoticed.
Ah, here we go! A school sweatshirt, which is always a safe bet. No one can possibly tell when or if you have worn one recently.
Stepping into my favorite blue jeans—dark blue, with no holes—reminds me about how I hate those fashion jeans with the fancy stitching on the pockets and faded just right to look like they are old but not too old. Yeah, those aren’t for me. I like to wear solid dark blue jeans, that’s all. I’m sure it won’t earn a passing grade from the fashion police at school, but what else is new?
I better brush my teeth and at least run a comb through my hair. Not that I really care about how I look; I just want to avoid the inevitable conversation with Mom over the lack of any grooming effort. As if there is a ton to work with here.
I am fairly tall at five-foot-ten, yet I only weigh one hundred and thirty pounds. That means I am so thin that it might explain why nobody sees me walking around. I wear my brown hair high and tight, like I imagine it would be if I was in the military, but I am your basic, average-looking guy with hazel eyes who is easily forgettable but also comfortable to look at in passing.
And … of course. Exactly what I wanted on my birthday—one gigantic pimple, right smackdab in the middle of my forehead! Wow, just … wow. Whatever …
“Jon, Jill, breakfast is ready!” Mom yells. “You have fifteen minutes before we have to leave, so step on it!”
Perfect. Here we go. I better grab a good book for today so I can hide my pimpled forehead behind it whenever possible.
I almost run right into Jill as she leaves her room, which is conveniently right across the hallway from mine. I mean, the builder couldn’t offset these bedroom doors even a little? She is in her usual morning mood, giving me her death glare.
Jill is two years younger than me, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she talks to me or treats me. She could probably pass for my twin, as we share similar facial features—hers obviously more feminine—which is a nice way to say we both have rather long noses with a bulbous tip. She has long brown hair that she frequently braids and has hanging down one side. She is a fan of overalls, or at least is right now for some reason. It must be the current style in her grade level. She is tall, lanky, and loves to dance, something she has done since she was in first or second grade. By now, I have lost track of the countless recitals we have gone to over the years.
“Good morning, Jill.” Seeing as today is my birthday, I give it a shot.
She squawks, “Shut. Up.”
Okay, maybe today isn’t the day we are going to have an early morning enlightened conversation between two loving siblings.