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Puppy for Sale - 1. Home Away From Home

I kicked a small football through the damp grass towards an old cast iron bench that had sat on these grounds for as long as I can remember. It was autumn, and mushy dead brown leaves were being trodden into the moist lawn by my feet as I followed the path of my ball, finally arriving at the old bench.

The bench was rusty now, void of any care, with even the wooden slats now rotting... covered in bird shit. The old seat was a symbol to me, a symbol that told me how long I had been in this place...this place being Greenstone Children's home. When I first came here, the kind lady sorting my case out, sat with me on this very bench, trying to settle me down. I remember being scared and disorientated, wondering why my parents had gone and why I was in the strange place. That was ten years ago now, and to be honest, much has been a blank since. The time just before that, I have tried to erase from my memory, but still, even now, I often see my dad shooting my mother through the head with a pistol before turning the gun on himself, like it was yesterday.

I was five, and pretty much like all five-year-olds, I didn't know why something like that had happened to me. I knew daddy was angry. I knew mummy was upset with daddy, but at the time, your brain is so primitive you don't understand the full horrors of what drives people to release such devastating anger towards someone they love.

Years later, it would all come out, I would be told why my parents are now dead, and ultimately why, since the age of five, I have been cared for in this place. Over that time, it has been problematic information to swallow. I went through an obsessive stage when I was around thirteen, trying to get more and more information from my carers on what happened. I always felt they were hiding something or missing bits out. After that passed, I thought maybe there wasn't anything more that they could tell me. Until one day last summer, Julie Pipe, one of the in-house psychologists, called by my room and slowly began to reveal those missing parts I was always confident existed.

I found out that my dad was never my dad at all. The trouble was, the day my dad killed my Mum was the day he found that out too. Don't get me wrong, there were problems in their marriage that added to the situation, and I was also suffering from what was described as behavioural problems, which put a lot of pressure on them. So it wasn't just about a random argument that happened between them one day.

I guess you could say the day my Dad put a bullet through her head was created by a perfect storm. How much of that storm was created by me is unclear, but my Mum's Journal that I keep in my room gives insight into a little of what she was feeling.

A cool breeze rustled through the trees as if to tell me not to keep thinking about the past. I was out here alone, and looking back at the old building where I lived, I wondered again if I would ever get out of here. I didn't hate Greenstone; in fact after you get your head around the fact that, as a kid, that you have no parents, the place and the people just become the norm. But I did long for a family to call my own, and I waited every year to see if anyone would take me on. But alas, because of my condition and my sometimes unsavoury mood swings, I keep getting overlooked.

Those behavioural problems I talked about were later diagnosed as Bipolar. This mental condition can affect mood to such extremes you can end up not being able to function as a human being. Of course, families looking to adopt children don't want the hassle of having someone like me to deal with, and I get that. But if only they knew how much love I had to give back. If they could ever realise that, I'm sure they would change their minds.

People looking to adopt a child will typically always see the files on a particular child first and are then told the person’s background. In the case of me? Well, I have a filing cabinet to myself which does not look good, and also, age is not on my side. At sixteen, I am already seen as a handful because of puberty. Add that together with my condition and past violent outbursts; people tend to ask if they can see the next child. I knew how it all worked; after all, I had been doing it long enough...getting my hopes up, having them crushed. Since last year, I really gave up wondering if anyone was ever gonna want me and just tried to get on with life here.

Life past the home was uncertain, I didn't know what I was going to do, and I really didn't have a clue where I was going to live. The trouble with being in a place like Greenstone is that you tend to become isolated from the world and what goes on around you. In terms of the people who care for me, I don't think they have a clue. I don't think they have ever had someone as old as me stay as long as I have. I've seen people come and go; other children and staff too. The other kids sometimes tease me about never finding parents, but being bigger than them, I soon put them into place. They were right, though, and I knew that... I was unsellable!

Twirling the wet ball in my hands, It was tempting to disregard the muck on the bench, sit on it and lose myself in my thoughts as I often did, but the weather was turning, and I didn't go much on a soggy bottom. I looked up, seeing the clouds hanging low, the sun nowhere to be seen. A bout of loneliness attacked me again as I looked back at the structure that was my home. It was a large, authoritative, mansion-style house with gargoyles that hung from the faucet. The whole place was a brown sandy colour with huge compartmented white framed windows that broke up the otherwise intimidating building.

I kicked my football hard towards the house and started to make my way back towards it, eyeing Cindy Batton staring down at me from one of the rooms. Cindy was fifteen, and it felt like she had been at the home nearly as long as I had. She was a pretty girl with long blonde hair that tickled her waist as she walked. Her circumstances were different to mine, in the sense that she was thrown out of her house at the age of ten, with her evil parents jetting off to Brazil and leaving her alone on the street. She was such a sweet girl with soft emotions and a kind spirit. It almost made me cry to think of her cold and lonely those five short years ago.

As I looked up, our eyes locked, and she smiled at me, followed by a small wave with her delicate hands. I smiled back and made her location my destination. Then, picking up speed until I was trotting along, I entered the back doors and stopped in the big bland hallway, hearing the doors bang behind me, the sound bouncing off the walls acoustically.

"Puppy Stibbs, where have you been?" asked Charlotte Grange, one of the live-in carers.

"Just out, with my ball," I replied calmly.

"It's way past dinner, young man, and I doubt there is much left. So run along now, or you will go hungry tonight."

"Yes, Mam."

My Actual name was Jenson Stibbings, hallway, but most people here called me Puppy Stibbs. The name goes back a few years, and it's because all the staff thought I had rather big hands and feet for my body size when I started to enter my very early teens. I didn't really notice, but they would all comment that I was growing like a puppy, starting off with large hands and feet that the rest of my body would grow into eventually. That's when I first started to learn about puberty and my body... how it was changing, and what it would become. I don't know who originally came up with the name Puppy Stibbs, but it's just stuck, and very few people in the home call me Jenson, except for the new children or adult strangers.

Not feeling very hungry and ignoring Charlotte's suggestion I eat, I made my way into the recreation room where Cindy was, still staring aimlessly out of the window. I thought I might make her jump, but I think she could see me in the glass reflection because she turned around just as I approached her.

"Hey Cindy, whatcha doing?"

"What do you do out there... all day, on your own?" she asked, ignoring my greeting.

I shrugged. "Just think, that's all."

"About what, Puppy?"

"Oh, you know... stuff."

"New parents?" she asked, taking my little finger in her hand.

"Yeah, something like that, it sucks, doesn’t it."

"Don't be sad; we have each other, right?"

"Always Cindy, you're the best, you know that," I declared before cracking a smile.

"What? What did I do...why are you so happy all of a sudden?"

"Meh, it's just you always know how to say the right thing when I'm feeling all self-pity and stuff", I responded.

She giggled. "I think we just need to do a sign and put it up in one of the front windows."

"A sign?"

"Yeah... like, Puppy for sale, apply within. That should get you some new parents!"

I chuckled. "You're sweet, you know that? But yeah, I like it...yeah, I really like it!"

Puppy for sale, apply within!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was getting late, and Cindy and I had been chatting for ages, it seemed. We talked about this make-believe world where you could buy parents from a shop, each telling the other what we would look for in potential parents. We talked about them like they were TV's with different features. Cindy said she wanted a mum who could bake, and I said I wanted a dad who could fish. Some of the "features" we wanted were really funny, and now again, we would have to stop talking because our stomachs hurt with laughing so much.

"Something tells me you are going to find some parents soon, Puppy. I just know it."

"Sweet of you to say Cindy, but look at me! I come with so much baggage; who is going to want all this?"

"You know what, Stibbs, you are so hard on yourself. How about looking at how awesome you are as a person and forget the bad stuff for a minute. It's not like you can get a perfect child in this world. I mean, look at Ben Andrews, he was twelve and an asshole, and he went after that nice couple from Wales took him in."

I laughed. "Ben Andrews, yeah, he was a character. I wonder how that went?'

"That's one way of putting it... I hope he calmed down!"

"Didn't he set light to his pillow one night trying to burn a spider?" I asked, remembering, clearly now.

"Yeah, that's him; he was a fool and so immature."

"Hmm, I wonder how he is getting on?" I asked as my mind wandered back to some more of the pranks he pulled.

"They probably have him buried under their patio by now if I look back to some of his ways."

"Aww, Cindy, don't be so hard on him. He was okay, just a little weird, that's all. Plus the fact we don't know what kind of life he had before he came here. For all we know, it may have had something terrible happen to him; after all, no one comes here unless it's for a fucked up reason."

Cindy sighed. "True enough, just look at my parents; now that was fucked up. I wonder if they ever came back to England or whether they are still out in Brazil."

"Don't even think about it Cindy, they are assholes and not worth your time thinking about them."

"I just get curious...sometimes I just want to get them in a room and ask why!"

"It's a natural question, I guess. I've felt like that several times Cindy, so I know how that feels. But I do wonder if getting the answer would make us feel better. So maybe it's just best not to know, and then you don't have to worry about it."

"Wanna watch some TV before bed?" Cindy asked, changing the subject.

"Sure, why not?"

I got up and followed her to the sofa's that were scattered around the recreation room, and Cindy turned on the TV; it was getting close to eight in the evening, and that meant it would be around the time Family Fortunes was on. Cindy and I always watched that together, each trying to get the top answers before the contestants did. I would generally sit on the floor in front of her, and she would play with my hair while we watched. In a sense, we were a little family unit ourselves, and it was nice to have that closeness to someone. Deep inside, I wanted more than anything for her to find a loving family to join, but that also brought dread. I dreaded the feeling of being alone...being without my best friend.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Ok Puppy, Cindy, it’s ten o'clock, time for you both to be heading to your rooms now. Please switch off the TV on your way out. I'll be back in five minutes, so please make sure you are both out of here," said Charlotte Grange, pointing her finger towards the exit of the room.

"You seem to be everywhere, Charlotte, do you know that," I said, irritated she was always telling me to do something. Where have you been, what are you doing? Be here at that time, eat this, go here, bring me that, go see that person, Grrr!

"It’s magic Puppy, maybe I'm a witch."

"No, I've seen Harry Potter and the witches in that are nice," I replied, causing her to roll her eyes.

"Puppy, a life without rules is a recipe for bad behaviour; you’ll thank me one day, now c'mon, off with you; I need to clear this room up."

"C'mon Cindy, let’s go," I murmured, pulling off the seat.

"And separate rooms, I don't want to come by and find you both sitting up until the early hours of the morning. You both have class tomorrow with Elaine Bates."

"Actually, Charlotte, I take it back. Compared to Norman Bates, you are wonderful."

"It's Elaine. Don’t you let her catch you calling her Norman."

Charlotte tried as hard as she could to stay stern with me, but I could see the hint of a smile come to her face with my last comment. I think she hated Elaine Bates almost as much as all the kids did.

Elaine, or Norman as most of us knew the movie character called her, was an old wrinkly woman with a naturally miserable face. She never smiled and never said well done when we excelled in class. Instead, she would find any reason she could to shout at us and had a real passion for harsh discipline. I hated her, and I was scared of her.

I began to leave the room with Cindy in tow. We walked out into the corridor and travelled along with it until we came to Cindy's room. About a year ago, we both requested that we be on the same floor after the kid next to Cindy's room found new parents. So after going on a hunger strike, we both got our way, and I was allowed to move into the room next door. It was a good thing because, after forty-eight hours of not eating, I was ready to give in, but luckily it freaked enough of the staff out to realise it was a request we felt passionate about.

"So, what are you gonna do now?" Cindy asked me as we stood outside her room.

"Watch a bit more TV, I guess. Should probably get some sleep, though; I tend to need all the mental energy I can get when Norman Bates is in town."

Cindy let out a cackle and cupped my jaw in her hand. "You're a funny guy Puppy Stibbs, you know that?"

"Not as funny as you; I’ll see you in the morning. Don't forget your pen; you know what Norman is like."

"Oh, don't worry; I keep that in my case all the time now. But, God, do you remember when I forgot it one morning, and she made me stand facing the wall for an hour and a half."

"She's a bitch, and yeah, I remember, that's why I'm telling you."

Another weird thing about Elaine Bates is that she insisted that all writing be done in fountain pen only. Biros were banned, and anyone using one in her class would have their exercise book ripped in half, and everything written in it had to be copied again into a new book solely in fountain pen ink. It was a mistake any child would only ever make once.

"Well, Good night, Puppy, sleep well."

"And you Cindy, sweet dreams," I replied, kissing her forehead.

I stood and waited until Cindy was in and her door closed before I took a few steps and was in my own room. I opened the door and flicked on the light before chucking myself onto my bed.

There was a rule at the home that all beds had to be made by the child from the age of nine, and it was the first thing that had to be done each morning before breakfast. This was to install routine into us and was one of the many things we were taught to do so that should we be picked for adoption, we would be litter trained, as one of the staff so elegantly put it. Making my bed every morning was one act I had got used to years ago, and if I was honest, I could not imagine ever getting into an unmade bed now; it would just seem odd. So I knew there was some sense in what we were taught.

My bed was up alongside the window, and I liked it that way, as when the room was hot in the summer, it felt nice having a breeze come through I could handle. I reached up and grabbed my TV remote from my small table, and brought the screen to life. Flicking through the channels, I settled on some old black and white western and started to get myself ready for bed. Mine and Cindy's rooms were two of the few with facilities such as a shower, toilet, and sink. My old room did as well, and these were usually reserved for the older children as maybe they thought we were more self-conscious about our bodies. Well, if that was the case, none more so than me.

I was a skinny kid with not an ounce of definition. But this was showing signs of change as my body had started to mature due to puberty, plus the fact I was gifted some weights from one of the workers whose son no longer used them.

I stepped into my tiny bathroom and looked in the mirror. My smooth face had started to become fury above my top lip and on my chin. Luckily I was gifted with good skin and didn't suffer from acne. I kept my hair short in this respect to not let grease from it touch my face. I had seen how acne can affect a person, and so did everything I could to limit that. Although you can probably guess quickly that I am very self-conscious, I worry about my looks and appearance. I think I always have because I saw it as a selling point of myself to prospective parents.

A fat lot of good it's done me so far!

I took my brush and started to comb the product from my blond hair, making it all flat again. I then washed my face and armpits with my face-cloth and brushed my teeth. It was too late to shower now, which is why I settled for a quick wash, but I knew my hair needed washing, so I planned to set my alarm a little earlier to get a proper shower in the morning.

Stopping for a quick wee, I stood there in my boxers, feeling a chill wrapping itself around my legs... legs that had very rapidly become covered in thick blond hair. It was a part of my body I felt very proud of because I felt like a man there.

I pushed the button on the cistern and left for my room, climbing into bed. Propping my head up using my elbow, I tried to understand what was going on in the old movie. But it was no good; it looked like it was about to finish anyway, so I opted to turn it off and attempt sleep. Before doing so, I clicked a few buttons on my alarm clock that sat on my small bedside table and made sure I gave myself an extra twenty minutes come the morning rush to get ready.

It seemed to attempt to sleep was relatively easy as before I knew it, I had drifted off.

Copyright © 2021 James Matthews; All Rights Reserved.
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Good start to what should be a very interesting story. Please keep it going!😊

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It has been a dream of mine to either foster or adopt an older child, but due to other family responsibilities, this dream has never been realized.  And now, at my age, I don't know if I would be considered or think I would have the physical stamina to keep up with the family responsibilities and give the time needed to a teen.  However, I'm not totally letting the dream die.  If my family circumstances should change, I might look into it.  If it were up to me, however, I would adopt a "puppy" in a heartbeat!

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