Fourteen-year-old Maddox entered the house of his new best friend.
Well ... at least Maddox thought that this boy was his new best friend.
He couldn't really be sure about it due to the rather negative attitude that Paul (that was his name) had been displaying toward him since they met. See, in actuality, Paul was Maddox's brother's best friend, and Maddox -- one to tag along -- had met Paul at the same time that his brother had, so Paul must have felt obliged to invite the both of them to his "sleep-over party" (rather than just Maddox's brother -- which he probably guessed Paul would have preferred).
Through the front door with Maddox came his older brother, Kyle (the one who had met Paul in the first place in their first year of junior high school), and their mutual friend Jason who had also met Paul with them in the past few days -- this time during lunch. Maddox had known Jason from elementary school, so they were already fairly acquainted, but both of them needed to become a little more accustomed to Paul and his way of dealing with things (which mostly involved him doing whatever was required to get what he wanted with complete disregard for the feelings or desires of others).
The first thing that Maddox noticed as he hauled his bright red sleeping bag to the lower floor of Paul's house was how disorganized the home was.
Not to say that it was the worst place that he had ever seen (and he had seen worse) -- but the carpet of the house was littered with a variety of inconsequential things, the wooden tops of tables were in desperate need of a good dusting (and one must not forget to mention that they were scattered with days-old dishes), and the bathrooms ... well, they were not very clean to say the best.
Jason was the first to comment on the house's appearance by muttering, "Do you guys ever clean this place, Paul, or do you just let things gather around until you decide you can't take it any more?"
Maddox could not help but laugh at the obviously sarcastic manner in which Jason had made a point with his thoughts. He tried to stifle the laughter, realizing that it was a rather rude thing to do in the presence of a new friend, but he could not help but let out a short sputter of the humor he was feeling.
Paul glared at Maddox as he heard the laughter -- his eyes cutting deep with a sense of ... hatred, almost? -- and then to Jason, where his eyes took an even more serious tone. "My house is fine, and yes we clean it."
Jason (who had noticed the glare that Paul had given both Maddox and him) refrained from making any more comments about the cleanliness of the house. Maddox followed suit, and simply made his way to Paul's bedroom -- Paul's messy bedroom -- where he dropped his sleeping bag, pillow, and "brown bag of goodies" in which his mother had packed his necessities -- toothbrush; toothpaste; comb; deodorant; and his inhalers (Maddox had suffered from asthma since he was very young, and his mother always took the extra precaution of making sure he had his medication available in the event that his breathing cut out on him).
"So what do we do now?" Kyle said, plopping down on the bottom of Paul's bunk-beds. "We've got, like, all night and nothing at all to do."
Maddox concurred with his brother's statement by giving a curt nod, and Jason just agreed with a short "Yeah." This was the point that the children all came to despise in their future sleep-overs (this was their first, yes, but finding things to do would become a continuous obstacle in the future). Paul always had a burning desire to invite people over, or call them, or something -- but he never took into regard what they would do once they did come over or once he did call them.
There ended up being numerous times when Paul would call Maddox and simply say hello and then sit on the phone saying nothing for minutes; or he would invite Maddox and Kyle down to his house, and they would end up wasting time by thinking of things to do.
Why it was such a difficult task to think of something to do at the age of fourteen, no one may ever know. Perhaps it's the transition between youth and adulthood -- the point where children do not want to play G.I. Joe's and He-Man anymore, but they have not yet discovered what it is that adults do to pass their time (not realizing, of course, that most adults spend the majority of their time at work). Or it might just be that there never is anything to do more oft than not -- that time just wastes away ... minute by minute, hour by hour, without anything of coincidence ever happening. Of course, when something of coincidence does happen, a person always has so many other things bogging him down that he's not prepared for it and never has the time when he needs it.
Maddox sighed. "OK, how about we play some video games or something -- or maybe, like, a board game? Like ... Monopoly or something?" He was throwing out any immediate ideas that jumped into his line of thought. Paul perked up at the mention of video games. "We could play Super Nintendo ... but only two people can play at a time. We'd have to take turns." (Maddox later found out that "taking turns" meant Paul would always be playing and that Jason, Kyle, and Maddox would all have to alternate control over the second player's position. It doesn't sound much like "taking turns," does it?)
There was nothing better to do, though, so the children all simply agreed and headed off to the living room -- God help how unclean that place was -- to hook up the Super Nintendo machine, shove in a video game of some sort (they ended up playing so many different games that night that the separate cartridges hold no significance), and "take turns" staring at the television and literally playing God with a figure on a television screen ....
Maddox rubbed his eyes and sauntered over to Paul's room, where he grabbed his inhalers out of the "little brown bag from Mommy" and administered his medication to himself as usual. Then he sat for a moment, the sounds of the video games from the living room (just down the hall) still chirping at him from this far away. They had been playing those video games all night -- it was now about midnight -- and Maddox was becoming exhausted from the repetitiveness of the programs. He couldn't see how his brother, Jason, and Paul could stand playing those things non-stop. They often asked him why he "didn't call" the second game controller to take over when the previous person's video game character died, and he simply stated that he didn't want to play again. They, of course, just nodded and greatly accepted the opportunity at playing another round themselves.
As Maddox finished his medication, he stood to head back to the living room (where he would probably try to fall asleep in the comfortable beanbag that he had been situated in for the last few hours), but he ran into someone on his exit. "I'm sorry," Maddox began to say as the boy whom he had collided with uttered the same thing. Then they both laughed simultaneously, realizing that they were saying the exact same thing at the exact same time. It almost seemed a little cliched to them.
"You must be one of Paul's friends," the boy -- who appeared to be maybe one or two years younger than Maddox -- said to the older boy.
Maddox nodded, acknowledging the boy's correct assumption. "And I guess that means that you're ... Paul's younger brother?"
The boy smiled and extended his hand in a greeting. "Andrew's the name," he said, introducing himself and a hilariously formal manner. "And, yes, I'm Paul's" -- he grimaced as he mentioned the name of his sibling -- "brother. I hate it though 'cause he's always mean to me and stuff, like I don't deserve to live here or something -- you know, like it's not my house too and like everything is --"
"Maddox!" a voice bellowed from the living room. "What the hell's taking you so long out there!?"
Maddox frowned, knowing that this meant he would have to return to the living room immediately and continue their video game excursions. Meanwhile, he noticed that a second grimace had painted itself across Andrew's soft face, making his crystal-blue eyes -- which were partially covered by curly strands of his dark black hair -- look as hard and as cold as ice.
"You ... really don't like him, do you? Like, Paul, I mean ... you know?" Maddox said, trying to understand what had come between Andrew and Paul. "It's like, you hate him and stuff ...."
"Of course I hate him, but you've got to --"
The door from the living room burst open so quickly that it caused Maddox's heart to skip a beat and Andrew to almost cringe away from the door -- as if there was something exploding from behind it and he needed to take cover. Paul came plowing through.
"Andrew, will you get the hell away from my friend?" Paul demanded, moving between Maddox and the younger boy.
Andrew, however, did not seem like one to give up too quickly in the storm of words from his brother. He eyed Paul with a look of defiance and said, "Why can't I even talk to him? It's not like I'm saying anything that's, like, going to hurt him or something. You're acting like by talking to him I'm going to --"
Paul rushed forward and pushed his brother against the wall as Maddox stepped back in fear, not being able to believe that Paul -- this apparently nice fifteen-year-old boy whom he had met at lunch just a few days before -- was now holding his brother against the wall just to make him stay away from Maddox.
"Stop!" Maddox shouted, trying to halt what was occurring before him.
Paul ignored him, keeping his full attention on Andrew. "Just stay away from my friends, Andy. Just 'cause you don't have any doesn't mean that you have to talk with mine and stuff. Got it?"
Andrew wouldn't respond.
"Got it!?" Paul said again, this time hurling Andrew toward the wall, causing a rather loud noise as impact occurred. Andrew, knowing simply what was best for him, stopped and silently murmured, "Yeah," and wandered into his own room, which was across the hallway from Paul's.
That was when Paul turned back to Maddox -- the look of anger that had been painting his face only moments before now something of the past -- and said to him, "Just ignore Andrew. The loser doesn't have any friends so he's just trying to, like, make you be his best friend and all. He's really annoying and if he bothers you again just say something and I'll go beat him up for you again."
For once in his life, Maddox -- a boy who was usually gifted with words and a master at English despite his age -- had nothing of consequence to say to Paul. Sure, he had been witness to violence before -- even a victim at times -- but never in the time that he had lived had he seen such blatant disregard from one human being toward another. Never had he seen a brother attack his own sibling for no apparent reason except that he didn't want Andrew to be Maddox's friend.
"C'mon," Paul said, directing Maddox back toward the living room. "We still have some more video games to play."
Maddox just followed, wondering if such violence frequently occurred between the brothers, or if this was just some "phase" that was going on between Paul and Andrew concerning Paul's new friends (three new ones, that is, which were Kyle, Jason, and himself). Paul had mentioned that Andrew had no friends (which Maddox honestly found hard to believe), but still -- what reason was that for Paul to not be willing to allow Maddox to become friends with Andrew? The younger boy appeared to be nice enough -- even humorous the majority of the time after his greeting -- and Maddox knew that from the point that they had collided, a friendship seemed inevitable.
It seemed that such an attempt at friendship would have to wait though, especially with Paul's obvious disapproval of Andrew even coming near Maddox.
Maddox inwardly frowned at the events that had just taken place, and he turned his attention back to the video game ... that boring, same-old video game ....
The time eventually came when everyone became exhausted from the games -- yes, even Paul, thank God -- and it was agreed upon by all four of the children that bedtime must ensue. As they entered Paul's room, however, they discovered that they might have a little problem dealing with sleep: His room was so messy that there seemed no possible manner in which all four of them could find a comfortable position to rest. The bunk-beds allowed for one person to sleep on the top half (which Maddox' brother immediately opted for), and one on the bottom half (which Paul, unfortunately, always stated was his). Meanwhile, the floor was so littered with objects that there was no way for both Jason and Maddox to arrange their sleeping bags. One of them could fit, but that would leave the other with no place to sleep.
It was at that point when Andrew's head peeked around the corner of Paul's bedroom door, and Maddox saw him there smiling. He quickly made an exit from the room (the other three still trying to think of creative ways to fit four sleeping bags in a room with no space for them) and Andrew whispered into his ear, "Hi again. I didn't mean to, like, get you in trouble or anything with Paul, you know. I was just ... like saying hi and stuff and he must not have liked it."
I nodded, whispering back. "It's no problem, really. I mean, I guess I can understand where he's coming from, maybe, but it just, like, doesn't make complete sense to me, if you know what I mean? It's not like he should just be able to have this Godly power or something that makes him able to say who your friends can be and stuff."
Andrew sighed. "I know exactly what you mean. Anyway, I, like, heard you guys talking about where to put all your sleeping bags and stuff, and I thought I would just say to you that if you want to sleep in my room, you can. I mean, I have a bunk-bed like Paul does and there's room ..." -- he looked away, something near to a look of second-guessing crossing his face -- "... like, if you want?"
Maddox considered it, realizing that not only did he think that it was good idea, but that he almost ... wanted to -- like in a really strange sense ... sleep in his room instead of Paul's. It was as if some strange force had recognized what he was feeling before he recognized it himself, and it had made plans to accommodate those feelings.
"Sure," Maddox said, smiling back to Andrew. "Sure, that sounds like a great idea and stuff. Like, it would take care of the space problem and all, and so we can all, like, get a good night's sleep."
Andrew nodded, and he started to move toward Paul's door, but Maddox stopped him and whispered into his ear, "Wait a second. It's like, you and Paul really don't get along right? So maybe it would be better if I asked him about this instead of you ... like, you know, so we might have a better chance of this succeeding and stuff."
Andrew considered it for a moment, and then whispered back to Maddox, "Sounds like a good idea to me. Just ... like, try not to get him angry at me and stuff, 'cause if you do I'll, like, be in trouble. Is that ... OK?"
Maddox frowned, realizing that there was even more depth to this argument between Paul and Andrew than he had originally noticed. "Sure," Maddox said. "I'll be careful." He paused for a moment, thinking that he should bring up his questions dealing with the indifference between the two brothers, but then he decided that right now this did not seem to be any of his business.
He then re-entered the room, silently finding it amusing that the other three kids were still trying to find a manner in which to arrange the sleeping bags. They had certainly come up with some ... original, shall we say? ... ideas, but none which could accommodate the resting area necessary.
"Hey, I've got a plan," Maddox said, grasping the attention of his friends. "How about I, like, sleep in Andrew's room 'cause he's got a bunk in there and that would make it easier, you know. 'Cause it's not like we're ever going to find a cool way to get things laid out in here, and --" Paul cut him off before he could finish by saying, "My brother asked you to sleep in his room, didn't he?"
Maddox, wanting to protect Andrew from any further confrontations, said, "Well ... no, it's just that I had looked in there and seen that ... seen that it might --"
"Yeah right," Paul said, seeing through Maddox's ruse and stepping swiftly pass Maddox through his doorway, finding Andrew around the corner. Paul pushed the boy back toward his own room saying, "Didn't you understand what I said? I told you I didn't want you hanging out with my friends! Get away, loser!"
Maddox tried to interrupt, but Paul quickly shut the bedroom door, his last glance of Andrew being one of the younger boy appearing to be distraught and angry at his brother's reaction.
"Why couldn't I sleep in his room?" Maddox began to say immediately after the door had closed, his voice little more loud than when he had chosen to speak to Paul in the past. "It's not like I have to be in, like, your personal space when I'm just sleeping and stuff, is it? It's not as if there's going to be some major loss if I spend the night in your brother's room and stuff."
Paul stared down Maddox with a piercing gaze. "My brother is, like, such a loser. Why would you want to hang out with him anyway? He's so ... annoying, and such a moron."
Maddox did not agree. "I don't know, but it's not like --"
Paul interrupted him yet again. "Just go to bed."
Despite everything that had just taken place (his obvious desire -- a strange one at that -- to sleep in Andrew's room; the two arguments between Paul and Andrew which caused him to wonder why there was such distance between the two; and mostly the lack of fun that he had experienced this night) Maddox had to laugh as he sarcastically shot back, "Where?"
Needless to say, it was an uncomfortable night.
|General information: Jeff Walsh|
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