"Nobody ever gave a shit if I got home safe"
Sunday morning, escaping from doomsday Church in a blue shitty truck. Frank felt a little Dukes of Hazards as Gerard rushed through traffic without minding the sidewalks or traffic lights. It’s common fact that no-one should be multitasking behind a steering wheel. Frank silently concluded that Gerard shouldn’t even be breathing at the same time and completely focus on the road (and his speed) and definitely not try to find a decent radio channel. Fiddling with the switch he nearly rammed into an innocent by passer, hit the brakes and cursed while honking and yelling at the car in front of him to move his effing ass.
Suddenly it occurred to the driver of the death mobile there was someone else sitting in the car, fearing silently for his life. Gerard grinned apologetic and finally left the radio for what it was, to Frank’s and clearly to Gerard’s dislike too. Some gold ‘n oldie Country Song chanted through the cabin.
Deciding he didn’t want to die in a crappy blue truck surrounded by the sound of Reba Mcentire Frank leaned forwards to mutt the god awful radio.
For some reason Gerard took that as a hint, conversation wise. “So Frank everything peachy at school?”
Reminding himself to be a polite dipshit and not bitch about the guy’s annoying way with words he shrugged and made himself nod. After all, Gerard was saving him from a torture session at church. He better behaved at his super best today else mister social worker and part-time crash dummy over there might reconsider his offer and drop him off at the house of Jesus.
He chattered, which reminded him of Tamika. He rambled about meaningless classes and thought of Tamika. Her face flashed by when he mentioned some lame joke one of the lunch-table-guys made. She had that perky Averil Lavinge face from Complicated. Black smudges of mascara and that other eyeshit around those shattering Bambi’s. Eyes that asked and wondered and begged for some answers. He was a shitty fake friend, but she’d be alright in a few years. Teenagers, which one doesn’t have a –nobody understand where I’m going through!- phase. In a few years that girl would be alright, fixed by sugar coated words and who knows, maybe some therapy. Some tough love, some growing up. In a few years Tamika would have a job as a… dentist assistant, or maybe a part-time mall clerk so her two precious babies could go to fucking Disneyland around Xmass. Tamika smudgy-eye wouldn’t even remember Frank the Foster fuck.
He did mention her in the conversation though. “And there is this girl, Tamika, I hang with sometimes.” He mentioned, sprinkling with some names. That makes it all more believable. If you say life is good, life is fantastic, let’s bake a cake, you’ll see ‘em scribble notes down and give you that concerned frowning stare. If you say I had a dandy time with Steve and Caleb, they eat that as cherry pie.
Nearing Hope house Frank got a little lost in thoughts and he smacked forward, lungs emptied by the seatbelt who prevented his face to be a dashboard accessory.
“Dude, are you trying to get me killed?!” He snapped without minding the fact that he was talking to his social worker.
Gerard sat completely frozen in his seat, hands clenching so tight around the wheel his knuckles turned white. A dog, no a giant monster tottered onto the street and barked after raising his nose in the air.
Frank wasn’t very familiar with particular dog breeds but he was pretty sure that piece of solid muscle and jaw wasn’t legal in a few states.
Instead of carefully driving further and keeping all limps inside the car, which to Frank seemed like a solid plan, Gerard unhooked his seat belt, opened the door and hopped out of the truck.
For a second Frank didn’t know what to do, scream to Gerard to get the fuck back inside the safe truck or pray that Gerard left his cell phone somewhere in reach so he could call the cops. And an ambulance and probably an organization specialized into humanly euthanizing animals the size of small cars. Clenched into his seat he stared at Gerard who’d started walking towards the monster.
‘Owh fuck I’m going to see someone’s kneecaps being ripped apart.’
The mutt tilted its head curious and wagged with the little stump of tale it has left. It barked but not in a dude you’re so dead meat and an extra protein snack, but more of a hey hello whatsup dawg? Frank shook his head and wondered if he actually imagined a talking dog with a Snoop Dog accent.
Meanwhile Gerard had bended down and petted the dog like it was a mini pooch and not some monster coming straight from Big Wolf On Campus. He grabbed the dog by its leather collar and dragged it towards the sidewalk. The dog happily tottered along, tail still wagging and jumping up against the supposable owner. Janitor creepazoid was holding a leash and struggled to keep his balance when the enormous animal leaned against him.
“That’s Adam.” Gerard reminded him when he stepped inside the truck unharmed. “And that’s Clover, she’s like our mascot. Weird right, Pit-bulls have such bad name.” He made a face like he really didn’t get how an animal mainly existing out of muscle, teeth and bad temper could actually have a bad name. “She’s a sweetheart, just got the habit to take herself out.”
“Boy, the neighborhood must be pleased.” Frank muttered keeping a sharp eye on the colossus. Clearly the sarcasm passed Gerard by or he chose to ignore it.
When the truck was partly parked on the sidewalk and scratched a lamppost on the way Gerard grinned at him, again apologetic. “I got some good and bad news for you. The good news is, you’re going to do some amazing volunteer work today!” Frank suppressed a snort. “And the bad news is, I’m not going to be here to see you working your butt off.”
That sort of freaked the shit out of Frank, not in a way of a toddler being abandoned on daycare for the very first time, screaming his lungs out for his mommy, but more in a ‘owh God who’s going to keep an eye on me now?!’…
“Adam is so kind to show you around and make sure you’ll be spending your hours wisely and productive.” Gerard said, cheery clearly unaware he just declared Frank’s death sentence. Through the car mirror he stared at the janitor having a quick smoke while Armageddon sat right beside him, drooling on the sidewalk.
“And… where are you going?” He asked, using every excuse to stay inside the truck.
Was there a hint of flush on his social worker’s face? Gerard scratched his face and grinned sheepish.
“I… errr, I’m going to my AA meeting. Every Sunday, routine right? And I dunno why but on Sunday you have the most newcomers, they pretty much fixed me up in there so I feel obligated to go, ya’know?”
Was the guy seriously apologizing for going to an AA meeting? Which sort of made him feel bad, because here he sat, making stupid excuses not to do the job he was suppose to do. He eyed again on the guy smoking and the dog drooling. “I get it.” And he sort of did, didn’t stop his shoes feeling ten times as heavy as he walked towards Hope House.
A few hours later Gerard drove back to Hope, chain smoking and fiddling with his radio. One of the guys had a sort of breakdown during their meeting and, well it’s never a pretty sight to see a full grown man cry his heart out. She never loved me, she never fucking loved ME, the new AA’er had wept harsh and uncontrolled. He wondered if the new AA member would make it sober through the night.
But like the switch on the radio he got his head cleared up when he parked a block away from Hope, a small walk would probably do him good.
He spotted his trouble case sitting in the sun on de sidewalk in front of Hope House. One hand held a cane of Coca Cola and the other was occupied with bringing a cigarette to his pierced lips.
Frank looked oddly surprise the moment he spotted his social worker walking by. The boy muttered a short hi through pursed lips before taking another drag of his cigarette.
They said, how did it go, pretty much at the same time and Frank flushed a little bit like he’d appealed a forbidden subject.
“Meeting had some bumps and bruises, but it went alright.” Gerard said, not giving away too much detail, after all Anonymous Alcoholics. “So how did you get along with Adam, you seemed a little edgy when you left the truck.”
“He’s alright.” Frank stated cool sipping from his drink. “Didn’t think you guys would let someone like him work here though.” There was a cold tone of rebellion between his words.
Gerard played along saying: “Their letting me work here don’t they?”
Frank glared at him for a second and shrugged, “That’s different you’re not mental.”
“Depression count, doesn’t it?”
“But it doesn’t make you do crazy shit.” Frank stated stubborn.
Gerard sighed and decided to drop it. “Drink up you’re coke where going to drop some packages off.”
Gerard decided that being in a truck with Frank stood equally to sitting next to a deaf person. Maybe even worse because a deaf person would at least try to make conversation with hand gestures instead of shrugging every once in a while.
It also stood equal to sitting next to a blind because Frank apparently loved to stare blankly into space.
After failing another attempt to make conversation he gave up and started to fiddle with the radio buttons. Raising his hand Frank looked up alerted and quickly asked: “So where are we going anyway?”
Placing both hands back on the steering wheel Gerard answered happily: “We’re going to drop off some food packages at a few cliental residences. In other words, where going to make some people very happy.” He pointed at the back of his truck to a large amount of boxes. “Ever Saturday we drop off some of those to people who can’t get ‘em there selves. Our first destination is at Parker St, Louise has two autistic sons and she can’t really go anywhere at the moment. Brian is still trying to find a decent place to counsel her boys.”
Frank nodded and just as Gerard settled for another fifteen minutes in silent Frank asked: “Why do you give a fuck?”
“Because I know how important it is to have someone to care when you can’t get by on your own.” Gerard answered calm.
Frank hummed and actually turned his head a little to look at him. “But doesn’t it suck to work with guys like me?”
Gerard chuckled and smiled at Frank who quickly went back to ignoring him. “No, it doesn’t. I got sobered up and, I dunno at some point had one epic realization, seeing myself in the big picture. It’s not like I’ve got a message from God or something, to be honest I don’t think that guy would like me very much. I just know how it’s like to fuck up and how amazing it is to get back on both feet. I figured I should be helping others going through that same thing.”
Frank didn’t respond but didn’t shrug either.
They drove through the city to about seven different places. A few apartments, crying kids and elevators smelling like vomit and piss. Their fifth stop was at a bungalow where an elderly woman lived with about nine cats. Frank, who followed Gerard as a silent shadow, scrunched up his noise and held his breath the entire time they were in her hallway. The teen seemed even more discomfortable at their last stop where they had to drop off four packages at the local homeless shelter.
“You’re ok?” Gerard asked careful as they headed back to his truck. In the street lights Frank’s face looked paler then usual and his mouth was a tight line.
“Yeah sure.” He mumbled soft and hunched deep into his hoodie. “It’s just that I used to sleep there too.” Frank paused, licking his lip and muttered: “It’s weird, ‘cause I used to stand there in line.”
“You wanna talk about it?” Gerard offered unlocking the door and stepping back inside.
“Fuck no, not any of your business.” Frank answered sharp yet a little lost.
“Sure, you wanna get some food instead? There is a pizza place nearby and I’m starving.” Gerard offered.
That idea seemed to settle well with Frank because he nodded quick and started fiddling with the radio to find a decent channel because Gerard had the chance.
“One salami, one veggie and two cokes please.” Gerard offered silently hurting to see no smoking signs surrounding him. To occupy himself he start to rearrange his napkin, when it looked like a fucking turd he scrambled it up and moved his focus to Frank. The teen had crossed his arms on the table, used them as a pillow for his head and stared sleepy out of the window.
“So you’re a vegetarian?”
“Jup.” The pile of hoodie and arms reacted.
“Sure do love animals then.” Gerard said trying desperately to ignore the amazing need to smoke.
“Not really.” The pile said and moved, craning his head up and let his chin rest on his wrist. “Just can’t stand the taste.”
When pizza arrive they managed to have a decent conversation about Italian food and why it beat American food by far, both agreed Italy had some good influences. Overall it was small talk but the kind that didn’t have any awkward silences in between. Gerard marked it as a breakthrough.
As the dinner got more quiet and the waitress started to mop the floor Gerard left a tip and called it a day. Frank followed him outside and stared at the street name signs illuminated by the streetlights. A little unsure the teen started to toy with his lip ring and dug his hands deep into his pockets.
Gerard, pleased to be outside in a world of smoking zone didn’t notice at first, was too busy lightening up his cigarette and felt all glowy and smoker lung inside.
“Guess I’ll see you Monday.” Frank said a little taken back and started walking the opposite way of the truck.
The glowy feeling quickly turned in confusion. “Errr… Frank the truck is that way.” Gerard said, cigarette delicately balancing between his lips.
Frank turned around, face all cramped and pained. “I know, but it’s late and I figured I should get home.”
Gerard had to agree, it was passed dinner and Frank should be getting home. He got that. Pointing at the truck he said: “Truck is parked there.”
“I can walk.” Frank pointed out uneasy staring at his sneakers. “You drove me around all day, I can get home by myself.”
“Yeah you can if you wanna get robbed, beaten and murdered.” Gerard scoffed. “Jersey ain’t a place to be after sundown. Don’t be stupid, it’s no trouble to drop you off and I’m not going to let you walk through the shittiest part of Jersey, no way.”
Inside the truck they where back to basic, stage one. Silence and this time Gerard didn’t fiddle to find a right radio channel, to be honest he was a little tired and the silence didn’t bother him as much as it did in the morning. Every once in a while he would peek from the corners of his eyes to Frank. The boy had sunken down on his seat, right foot placed on the dashboard and with one hand he tapped nervously on his knee.
When Gerard parked his car (hitting a trashcan as he’d putted it in reverse) Frank said something that made his heart aches and jaws clench.
Taking his time to sit up and open the door Frank tilted his head down and said: “Thanks”. After a moment of uncomfortable moving he added: “Nobody ever gave a shit if I got home safe.”
Driving home Gerard wondered how it was possible that no-one had given a shit before.
Call it a very early Xmass present ;) I’m very sorry I’m such a fuckup with updating. I blame work and my ability to start up too many stories at the same time, a mighty power I can tell you! Last night I figured I had to finish this chapter and get to the good stuff because I really wanna skin Frank at some point and make you all go WTF and AWW. Or a mix of both, double points if I make someone cry. Strangely I’m always happy if I read that I made someone sad, means I put words in the right order. It’s strange, normally I’m completely on Team Gerard and from time to time cheer for Team Frank. But this story, I like Gerard in it. Sorta the gentle giant (at the moment) but I adore Frank, mainly because I know what shit happened to him and I like the way he just deals with everything. Not that he has a choice.
I’ll shut up now. Again, leave some in the doggy bag else Hope’s mascot will get hungry.
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