For my friends in the Writers' Hangout, talking about the length of short stories.
For the Sake of Daniel
Daniel put his latchkey in the front door and placed his satchel down carefully on the floor. He sniffed. It was that kind of house.
Stale cigarettes, hamburgers and burnt toast. Nothing new. He knew what to expect. His mum was sprawled on the sofa. He saw the sadness-lines on her face, clear as she slept, and the parcel at her feet. Shiny pink material and tassels.
Shit! Dad would go ballistic. There was no money for tops one size too small; his school trousers showed six inches of socks. When would she learn?
He went to the kitchen and found his dinner – burnt sausages and mash with peas floating in their yellow liquid. He threw the sausages and soggy peas away and put a fresh batch on the hob. While the water for the peas boiled he emptied the ashtray near his mother and took her parcel upstairs to hide in her wardrobe.
Daniel looked at the clock. Dad would be home in half an hour. He ran to the sitting room and sprayed it with air freshener. Anything to take all those smells away before his father came in. He rushed back and forth laying the table for three and grabbed a packet of crisps from the larder to keep him going till dinner.
Suddenly he had an urge to leave them to it. Catch the Circle Line to somewhere? He could go round and round till he knew where he wanted to go. But who would stop his dad when he lost it and smacked his mother’s bewildered face? Brute! Wait till I get big, he thought. Bigger’n you.
Next morning, as he came down for school, his mother was at the fence talking to Sally next door. Nosy cow.
‘I would leave him, but for the sake of Daniel,’ he heard his mother say. You and me both he thought, as he picked up his satchel and left for school.