Cereal and Ivy League

Chapter 1: Growing up in abject poverty on the Nearest Side of Indianapolis, getting by mostly on leftovers.

Cereal and Ivy League

It's April Fool's day, 1995, but this is not a joke. I'm 15 years old. A tall, lanky kid with hair gel running through spikey blonde locks. Kinda funny, maybe cocky. My jeans are actually women's jeans, but I didn't know it for the first few weeks after buying them from the cheap fashion store, sort of an afterlife for rejected clothing. Initially, I wondered why they didn't fit well in the butt. In fact, they drooped like the skin of an elephant. A few hand-sewn stitches in the crotch solved the problem, so long as they don't bust open in the middle of church or something. The flannel was my first crack at a collection, with new editions hopefully coming soon when the Salvation Army replenishes their inventory, and if I'm lucky.

The corroded cinder block walls and bare wood ceiling are not enough to block the screaming. What's happening two stories up sounds gruesome. This has been going on all day, but it's getting worse as we get closer to midnight. My bedroom is in our wet basement, which is also our laundry room and the drain for the house. I'm listening to the situation taking place in the bathroom above, worried this time that it's really bad. I feel like I'm old enough to fill in as the man of the house while Dad's preoccupied leaning over the bathtub, hoping things don't get worse. The house is dark, and we're all supposed to be in bed, but of course, I'm not. Sarah's not. The younger ones are undoubtedly awake too.

The drafty basement walls always seeped with moisture from the rain. It's usually wet for days after a good rain and worse when the rain really pours. The carpet smelled like an old warehouse, with wet cardboard and stale cat urine. I wear shoes all day to protect my feet from the dirty floors or the splinters from the planks of the staircase leading out of the basement. The shag carpeting in my room has started to dry, so it feels more crusty than soaking wet under my worn-out tennis shoes. I clenched my sweaty hands as I paced the room, praying for a breakthrough. Unfortunately, the screaming never seemed to end, it just got worse as the day went on, except for a moment at a time when Mom paused from exhaustion.

Honestly, she sounds like she’s barely hanging on, and I'm trying not to think about that, but I can hear the alarm in Dad’s voice. I've not really heard such desperation before.

“Come on, stay with me!”. He’d quickly transition into an angry preacher voice, filled with panic “No! Wake up! She will not die! Death cannot have her!”

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