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Chapter 6: Scene 20: We got kitchen duty this morning

     


ThinkLink: Do you prefer to get up early in the morning or to sleep late?

       I stare out from my bed across the almost dark room. Eight beds on my side, eight on the other. I hardly got any sleep at all. Every time I'd doze off, Randy, in the next bed, would flop around or make some disgusting noise. Once, when I was sound asleep, I swear he kicked me. Anyway, something nearly knocked me out of bed. Finally, Randy's worn himself out and is snoring too steady to be faking it. I look up at the high little windows over the beds in the row across from me. The sky looks dark gray instead of black so it must be almost morning. Somebody coughs and there's a low moan down toward the front. I lift up on my elbow and look around, but it gets quiet and the humps in the beds around me are still.


       I sink back down on the pillow and try to remember waking up at home. Most mornings I'd sleep as long as I could, so I'd just make the school bus. Sometimes, though, as soon as there was enough light, I'd go out and walk across the fields. It'd be like I was the only person alive. Down in a draw a couple of cows and their calves would be nosing around in dry stubble along the fence. The hay was already cut and we'd piled it into mounds that looked like huge loaves of fresh-baked bread, gold-colored and round on top. Pete, Red and I covered each one with a bright blue tarp . Then Red came in, soaking with sweat and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator . "Pete rode me hard and put me away wet," he'd said.


       A voice bellows in my ear. "Up and at 'em, men."


       I jerk awake, wondering for a second where I am.


       Down at the end of the beds a staff guy I haven't seen before barks out orders for today. He has to talk loud because there's lots of grunts and groans and bodies coming up from under gray blankets. "Make those beds. Showers for A-wing. The rest of you line up for the john ."


       Randy snickers , "Yeah, Johnny-pot. We'll line up for you. Spray you good."


       I lean over my bed, pulling hard on the sheet. Don't let that guy get to you. Don't lose your tag. I'd promised myself, when they showed me that board with the colored tags, that I'd go up on that tag board faster than any guy they'd ever had. The tags get you your privs , meaning privileges . I can't let jerk Randy make me lose mine.


       Tony comes by and gives me a poke. "Get a move on. We got kitchen duty this morning." He grins. "You get to be my helper."


       In the kitchen, I dodge around a kid with a tray of pitchers full of juice. I duck in behind the serving counter next to Tony. He hands me a paintbrush and a pan of melted butter. "Start painting," he says and shoves a plate of dry toast at me. Then he goes off to talk to somebody, and I see what he means by helper.


       Behind me an old woman, at least she's got gray hair, is making pancakes at a six-burner stove. She says to call her Mom Trent. Yeah, like Taylor Cottage's going to have a mother. Randy stands next to her, waiting for her to pile some pancakes from the griddle onto the tray he holds out. "Ma Trent," he says in a fake whisper loud enough for everybody to hear, "we got a real celebrity here. Baby-face Hanson. The assaulter . He howled all night, crying for his ugly mama." Randy dances around with the tray, shows a finger to me and a grin to Mom Trent. I want to paste him one, but I tell myself tags, tags.


       Mom Trent just rolls her eyes at him. "Randy, settle down and let me get the rest of these pancakes off the stove before they burn."



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 Updated on 5/13/04

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