PHANTOM: Phantom By Anne Nassar

Word Count 525
By Anne Nassar

He had four days off from school. He felt like an intruder at home, so he decided to go and stay with his sister in her dorm room. He knew that no matter what else she had going on, she would be happy to see him, and would make time to take him to the ocean. He walked downtown to the train station, which doubled as a bus terminal. From the pay phone, he called his father and asked him permission to go to Boston.

Sure thing, his father said, you need money?

Nope, Alek said proudly – he had money that he’d earned painting his grandmother’s garage.

Tell your sister to call me, his father said.

Sure thing, Alek said, though he knew his sister wouldn’t call. She was opposed to his father’s engagement.

At the window where you bought tickets for the Greyhound, there was a long line of people waiting, checking their watches and sighing. Whenever a new person approached the window, a huge doberman lunged up over the counter, snarling, straining to break the chain that held it back.The old woman behind the counter would admonish the dog, Phantom, quiet down, but she snickered whenever anyone flinched.
When it was finally Alek’s turn, she gave him a price. But he couldn’t hear her over the dog’s frenzied barking. He handed her what he thought a ticket ought to cost. She counted it and said, contemptuously, You don’t have enough.

He rummaged through his pockets and put some more bills on the counter.

If you don’t have the money, get out of the way. I’ve got paying customers behind you.

I have it, he said.

Four sixty, she demanded impatiently, I need four sixty.

Flustered, he drew out some change and pushed it towards her.

Jesus, she said,irritably, can’t you add?

The guy standing behind Alek silently handed him a quarter. She rolled her eyes and muttered, somewhere, a village is missing its idiot. He beaned her with the quarter, it struck her right between the eyes. She began to howl like he’d shot her. A security guard backed him into a wall and kept him cornered until the police arrived He was taken to jail and kept cuffed to a bench. When his father arrived to bail him out, he advised, you should attempt to embrace the absurdity of the situation.

On the way home in the car, Jeanette said, about Alek, as though he wasn’t in the back seat, what he needs is a firm hand.

How do you know what he needs? Alek’s father said.

Nobody in my family gets in trouble with the law.When a kid acts up, he gets punished!

Not the wooden spoon again, Jeanette.

The wooden spoon is for telling fibs. This is serious! If it were my son, I’d make him get a job and pay back the money you just spent.

He’s fourteen.

So what? He can get a job! My brother will give him a job digging graves! But you think he’s too good for manual labor.

Okay, Alek said, I’ll do it.

And so he spent the summer digging graves.

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