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Chapter 16: Scene 58: At the Montgomerys


       "Come on, boys," he says, as he comes back in the front door. "Pick up your things. We'll drop them off upstairs and then I'll give you a tour around the house."

       Mr. Montgomery leads us up the stairs and into a long, narrow bedroom that stretches across the front of the house. Four beds stick out into the room, with a little chest of drawers between each one of them. "You're the only ones here, right now," he tells us. "We expect three or four more later this month. Choose a bed and put your things down. You can unpack later." I put my sacks down on the floor next to the bed by the window. "You kids don't come with much, do you? Well, we've got a closet full of clothes downstairs. Some we picked up at garage sales, and there's duds other kids left behind. We'll find things you can wear." Yeah, sure. Like I'm gonna wear stuff from his ragbag . He leads us back down and into the dining room. It's as gloomy as the parlor, with no sun coming in under the porch roof. There's an old, stuffy smell, as if the windows haven't been opened for a long, long time. A big mahogany table with high-back chairs around it fills up most of the middle of the room. A few dishes sit on shelves in the built-in cupboard that covers one wall.

       "Cowboy," Sam whispers to me, "this is one creepy place."

       Mr. Montgomery eyes Sam, who shuts up and looks at the ceiling. "We take our meals in here on Sunday, after Sunday school and church. The rest of the time we eat in there," Mr. Montgomery says. He pushes a swinging door open and leads us into the kitchen. I blink. The fluorescent lights on the ceiling are so bright I squeeze my eyes half-shut just to see. Glossy light-gray enamel paint covers just about everything except the floor, and that's shiny gray linoleum. Walls, doors, cupboards, even the big square table in the middle of the room are all painted with the same gray paint.

       "Come on in, boys," Mrs. Montgomery tells us. She looks at my feet. I look down, then Sam does and Mr. Montgomery, too. "Looks like dried mud on those shoes, John. You'll have to look after that. And look around where you've walked to see if any's dropped off." She looked around this shining glory of a kitchen. "This is where you help get the meals and clean up after. Good experience for your future life. You'll be well trained by the time you leave here."

       Sam and I stand next to the long, empty counter. Every cabinet has a little padlock on it. Even the big white refrigerator has a keyhole above the handle. Mr. Montgomery sees us staring at them. "As you can see, we've been forced to lock up the cabinets, and we carry the only keys to the refrigerator. Unfortunately , some greedy young men forced us into this by eating everything in sight." He laughed that TV kind of laugh. "Ha ha. Practically ate us out of house and home."

       "You'll get used to our routine," Mrs. Montgomery says. "We only eat at meals and snack time. You be in here by seven in the morning to help get breakfast on the table and you clean up the dishes right after. Tomorrow, you can take a sack lunch to school. When Mr. Montgomery signs you into school, he'll see you get free lunch tickets."

       "Might as well get everything that you state kids are eligible for, right?" He laughs again. I look close to see if he's joking, but behind his glasses, his pale blue eyes are as cold as ice cubes. "After school, you come back in here for a snack. Mrs. Montgomery will have some bread and margarine out for you, and Kool-Aid to drink."

       Mrs. Montgomery nods. "Now, I'll want you back here in the kitchen at five o'clock today to help with dinner. We eat right on the stroke of six every night. After you've cleaned up the dishes and swept the kitchen, you go back in the parlor to do your homework. Not tonight, of course, but after you start school tomorrow. Tonight you can read a book. When the other boys get here, it won't seem so lonesome ."

ThinkLink: Have you ever met anyone like Mr. Montgomery? What would your first thoughts be?

       Mr. Montgomery looks impatient . Like it doesn't matter if we are lonesome . "When you're not in school, you're to be right in this house. Understood?" He waits for us to nod. "Mrs. Montgomery and I see that we have been led into a ministry to set you boys back on the right road in life. We're here to show you the way, and to give you a respectable God-fearing home to live in. Don't abuse this opportunity ." He glares at us, and then his face straightens out and he laughs again. Maybe it's just his way, laughing at everything he says, but like Sam says, it's creepy.

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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