A Summer to Remember – Part 9

Carter’s dad was standing on the front porch looking at the myriad of police cars littered about the cul de sac, his arms crossed and his foot tapping. Carter saw the exact moment his dad caught sight of him and felt himself slowing down. The cop beside him urged him on.

Seconds later, their screen door flew open and his mom came racing past his dad and down the walkway before enveloping him in a giant hug.

“We were so worried! Why would you try to rescue Mr. Stalnaker all by yourself?” she asked, still holding him in a tight hug.

“I didn’t think you’d believe me,” he said, when she finally released him. “I mean, you didn’t believe him when he said there was a woman being held captive.”

“To be fair, neither did you,” his dad said.

“Well, he seemed crazy.” Carter shrugged his shoulders.

“Exactly,” his dad said. “We might have believed you, but you didn’t even give us a chance.”

“That was insanely dangerous!” his mom added.

Carter looked down at his feet scuffing the toe of his sneaker on the pavement.

So much for feeling like a hero.

* * *

The next day he managed to finish up the rest of garage. After they got home from work, while, his parents were inspecting the garage, Mr. Stalnaker arrived home from the hospital. He caught sight of  Carter as soon as he got out of the car and immediately started walking towards their house, much to the chagrin of his son.

“Thank you my boy!” he said, throwing his arms up in the air as he walked towards Carter and his parents. “If it wasn’t for you I’d still be stuck in that house with that wretched woman and her sons.”

“How did you get caught by them to begin with?” Carter’s mom asked. “That must have been a truly dreadful experience.”

“It was,” Mr. Stalnaker said, grimacing. “I told you earlier that I had seen someone waving for help from the front window. No one believed me, mind you.” He gave his son a sidelong look. His son look mildly chastised and stay quiet. “Turns out, I was right. Her name is Denise and they had locked her in the basement at the end of their last party. Apparently, she was snooping around and discovered that Karen is an alias. Her name is actually Barbara Her and her son Robbie are quite the identity thieves.

“What about Jeffery?” Carter’s dad asked.

Both Carter and Mr. Stalnaker laughed. “Hardly,” Mr. Stalnaker said.

His parents looked at them confused, but Mr. Stalnaker didn’t seem to notice. “Anyway, that’s why the parties stopped. They couldn’t very well have a bunch of people in the house. Someone might have heard her calling for help. But they’re basement wasn’t exactly secure or soundproof, so I guess they brought contractors in to build a soundproof room until they figured out their next move. But, then they had to bring her upstairs during the day and blasted that horrid metal music so no one would hear her.

“And you’re telling me Jeffery didn’t know about this?” Carter’s dad asked.

“Well, not at first. But Denise told me that she was able to get his attention after a few days thinking that he might help her.”

“He didn’t?” Carter’s mom asked.

“Hardly, he used it to secure the landscaping job,” Mr. Stalnaker said.

“So, that’s why his mom hired him.” Carter laughed.

“Yup. I told you there was something fishy going on.” Mr. Stalnaker grinned proudly.

“Yes Dad, you did. Now can we inside. You just got out of the hospital.” Mr. Stalnaker’s son gently put his hands on his dad’s shoulders and tried to steer him back towards the house.

“Party pooper,” Mr. Stalnaker muttered as he was led back to his home.

“See you tomorrow,” Carter called back.

“Wow,” Carter’s mom said. “All that was happening just next door and we didn’t know anything about it.”

“Yeah, cool,” Carter said, already losing interest. “So, do I get to go to Mason’s cabin?” Carter asked, motioned towards the newly organized garage.

His parents shared a look, then finally agreed.

A Summer to Remember – Part 8

It was the following morning after Jeffery had caught Carter snooping around their yard. Carter sat in the middle of his driveway in the sun watching the Brockett house. He was becoming almost as obvious as Mr. Stalnaker had been.

He was almost finished organizing and cleaning the garage. It had taken him all of July and the first part of August and now he had maybe a day and half’s worth of work left. He was so close to earning that last week of summer vacation, but now the garage sat forgotten.

Clearly, Jeffery had bought Carter’s treasure hunting story. First thing that morning, Jeffery had sent home his landscaping crew and was now shoveling holes in the yard by himself. Every few minutes he would stop and shoot Carter a glare, but Carter had other things on his mind.

He was sure that Mr. Stalnaker was in trouble and just as sure that he was locked somewhere in the Brockett house. Metal music blasted from inside the house as the construction crew came in and out. He needed to find a way to sneak in.

His biggest worry was how to get past Karen and her son Robbie. If they were in the house, and he was pretty certain they were, they were sure to catch him. Too bad Mr. Stalnaker wasn’t here to tell him their schedule. He’d been watching them for weeks and would have known that. Although, now that he thought about it, he hadn’t seen Karen leave the house in weeks.

He needed to somehow create a diversion. The minutes ticked by and then the hours, but by 3:30 he still wasn’t any closer to figuring it our.

“What are you doing to my lawn!” a voice shouted from the backyard. Stomping around the holes and mounds of dirt, Karen, in her stilettos came marching around the side of house. Jeffery stopped digging long enough to look up, before ignoring her and getting back to work.

“Answer me! There are holes everywhere!”

Jeffery kept digging. Obviously attracted by the shouting, Robbie came sauntering out the front door and pulled up short after a few steps as he also caught sight of the yard.

“Looks like you’ve added a few more holes. Nice work.” Robbie smirked.

“You think this is funny?” Karen turned her anger on him.

“You hired him,” Robbie held up his hands in front of him and shrugged. “I told you not to, but you insisted.”

“Do you even have a plan?” Karen asked, looking around wide-eyed. “And where’s the rest of your crew?”

“I sent them home.” Jeffery said.

“You sent them—” she broke of her shouting when she caught sight of Carter sitting in the middle of the driveway watching them

“Backyard, both of you,” she hissed at her sons.

“Let’s discuss this inside,” Robbie said, starting to walk back to the front door.

“Not a chance. He’s covered head to toe in dirt. You are not five anymore!” she shouted the last bit at Jeffery before stalking towards the back yard. Robbie sighed and followed while Jeffery set his shovel down and meekly followed. Then he stopped suddenly, whirled around to look at Carter, before going back to retrieve the shovel.

“Now!” Karen shouted.

Jeffery stumbled over the mounds and holes with the shovel safe in hands and they all disappeared into the back.

Quite suddenly, Carter found himself staring at an empty yard with all of the occupants in the back. He waiting a moment, then scrambled across the cul de sac, up the front yard, and was about to go through the door when two of the construction workers could be heard walking down the hall towards the front door.

Carter flew into the bushes lining the front of the house and waited until they passed him. When the coast was clear he quickly and quietly slipped into the house and up the stairs.

If he had known the evening would end with the police escorting him home yet again, he might have given his plan a bit more careful thought.

A Summer to Remember – Part 7

It was 2:30 am and Carter stood at the end of his driveway in indecision. It had been a week since he had seen Mr. Stalnaker and he was genuinely worried. He hadn’t seen him since the day he snuck off to investigate the Brockett’s yard.

Checking the darkened windows of his neighbours carefully to see if anyone might be spying on him, he finally just took a deep breath and crossed the cul de sac. Once he hit their yard he swiped the flashlight on his phone to light a path.

Over the last week the “landscapers” had dug numerous holes throughout the yard and he didn’t want to take the chance that he might fall into any of them. As he carefully weaved his way though to the backyard he listened carefully for any noises that might indicate someone had seen him.

The backyard, if it was possible, was in worse shape than the front. There was a small bulldozer sitting precariously on a small hilltop of soil. Random boulders lay strewn about the yard brought in for what he assumed was some sort of aesthetic look.

He carefully tiptoed up to one of the basement windows and peered inside. It was utterly and completely dark even with his hands pressed against the glass cupping his eyes.

He then slipped over to the next window. Again pitch black. Felling defeated he sat back on his heels when something in the bushes caught his eye. It was Mr. Stalnaker’s hat. He reached out his hand to pull it out when someone grabbed him by the arm and wretched him upwards and back.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” Jeffery shouted at him.

“Ah, I was looking for,” he glanced around the yard trying to quickly think of a possible reason for why he would in their yard at 2:30 in the morning.”

“Well?” Jeffery asked, shaking Carter’s arm in a grip that was sure to leave bruises.

Finally, something clicked. “I was looking for buried treasure. I figured that’s why you’re digging all of these holes. But all I found was this hat.” He held up the hat he’s just managed to swipe

The grip on his arm loosened a bit as Jeffery looked around the darkened yard. “You think there’s treasure here.”

“Well, sure,” Carter said, feeling more and more grateful that Jeffery had been the brother to find him. Robbie wouldn’t have been fooled nearly so easily.

“Well it’s not yours! It’s mine! Go dig up your own yard.” He pushed him forward towards the front lawn. Carter nearly fell into one of the holes as he fought to regain his balance.

“Go on! Get out!” He shoved Carter again.

This time Carter fell flat on his face. He scrambled up and raced through the yard as fast as his legs could carry him. Meanwhile, Jeffery stood with hands on his hips surveying the yard with renewed interest.

A Summer to Remember – Part 6

Carter had been working on the garage for most of July and now he was halfway through the floor to ceiling boxes. He was starting to look forward to the days his dad asked him to work in the yard or mow Mr. Stalnaker’s yard. It broke up the monotony and gave him some time in the sun.

Rock music blasted through the cul de sac from the open window of the Brockett house. It drove Mr. Stalnaker crazy. It started at exactly 6:45 am every morning just before the construction crew showed up and didn’t stop until after they left. If they wanted him to stop peering at them through his binoculars, they were going about it all wrong.

As Carter stepped out of the garage to break for lunch he noticed there was a man laying on the neighbour’s grass sprawled out on his back. At first he wasn’t sure if he should call an ambulance or if the man was simply sleeping.

He started walking down his driveway to investigate when Mr. Stalnaker appeared out of no where and said, “Man’s just sleeping. I saw him lay down earlier.”

“Who sleeps in the middle of someone else’s lawn?” Carter asked.

“You can sleep when your boss is the owner’s son. It’s Jeffery’s landscaping business.”

Carter turned away from the sleeping man to look at Mr. Stalnaker. “Oh yeah, I think my dad said something about him when they first moved in,”

“Your dad was going to hire them?” Mr. Stalnaker asked.

Carter laughed. “No, he said, ‘what do I need a landscaper for?’ he has me.”

“He’s lucky,” Mr. Stalnaker said. “My friend down the street hired them. They destroyed his yard. The yard is dead. It’s a wasteland and then they just dropped him saying it was his fault because the drainage was poor. You’d think seeings as he’s her son she’d have known not to hire them.”

Carter shrugged, “Maybe that’s why she hired him.”

“You didn’t see my friend’s yard. Even my son wouldn’t be allowed near my yard if that was the kind of work he did.”

Suddenly a loud scream shrieked through the music.

“What was that?” Mr. Stalnaker stood upright with attention his binoculars pressed to his eyes again.

“I think it was just the music,” Carter said, trying not to laugh. “It’s heavy metal. They send to scream.”

“No, there was a face! See look!” He handed his binoculars to Carter frantically and pointed to one of the upstairs windows.

Carter hesitated then took them with a sigh. All he saw was a window reflecting back the sunshine. “Sorry,” he said, handing the binoculars back to Mr. Stalnaker.

Mr. Stalnaker glared at him and took a step towards him so suddenly it caused Carter to stumble backwards. For a second, he was afraid Mr. Stalnaker might hit him.

“No one believes me, but there is something going on over there and I’m going to find out what it is. Then all of you will be sorry you didn’t listen,” he huffed, then stomped back to his yard.

The next time Carter saw him was after lunch when he noticed Mr. Stalnaker tip-toeing by the still-sleeping landscaper as he made his way around to the back of their house.

Carter groaned. “What are you doing now old man?” he muttered. He thought about going after him, but instead returned to work on the garage. What was the worst that could happen? Besides, he was determined to finish the garage so he could to Mason’s cabin at the end of summer like his parents promised.

A Summer to Remember – Part 5

“I can’t believe Wally’s plan worked,” Carter’s mom said at the breakfast table. It had been a week since Carter helped had first helped Mr. Stalnaker with his lawn. Since then there hadn’t been any more parties.

“Yeah, well, don’t say that to him,” Carter said, buttering his toast.

“Why not?” his mom asked. “I would think he’d enjoy the credit.”

“He doesn’t think it worked. He’s convinced the parties stopped because they’re up to something.”

“Up to what?” his dad asked.

“No idea. He’s old and crazy.” Carter shoved half the toast in his mouth in one giant bite.

“Carter!” His dad glared at him.

“It’s true though,” he mumbled through a mouthful of bread. “He’s obsessed. He spends all day sitting on his porch staring at their house through his binoculars. It’s creepy.”

“Oh dear,” his mom sighed.

“Keep an eye on him,” his dad said standing up and wiping the crumbs from his fingers.

“Please clean up the breakfast dishes and pull the chicken out of the freezer for dinner tonight.” His mom kissed him on the top of his head as she followed Carter’s dad out the door.

“Sure mom.” Then he shoved the last of his toast into his mouth.

* * *

Carter was on his way to the garage when a low rumbling motor started up. Thinking Mr. Stalnaker was up to some of his antics he ignored it and kept walking to the garage. He began his now daily task of sorting. His dad had already taken a truckload of junk that was broken to the dump.

He’d only been in the garage for about 15 minutes when something caught his attention.

“Psst! Hey boy! Err, Carton,” a voice called softly behind him. “Cartoon?”

Carter turned around and saw Mr. Stalnaker peering around the open garage door. He waved his hand motioning him to follow, then disappeared.

Carter rolled his eyes. What now? He followed Mr. Stalnaker around the side of the garage where they were hidden from view of the street by a giant bush.

“Have you noticed what’s going on across the way?” Mr. Stalnaker loudly whispered over the sound of the motor.

“Err, no,” Carter replied. He tried to step back onto the driveway to get a look, but Mr. Stalnaker pulled him back. “Don’t. They’ll see you.”

“So?” Carter asked.

“They’re very touchy about people watching them.”

“Do you think it might have to do with the fact that you’ve been staring at them through binoculars for the past week?”

Mr. Stalnaker just grunted. “I’m serious. There’s something fishy going on. First that Robbie boy took off in car that wasn’t his.”

“His name you can remember,” Carter muttered.

“Then the parties, which had been going on every night since they moved in just stop.”

“Maybe enough neighbours complained,” Carter suggested.

“And now there’s a construction crew!” He gestured towards the Brockett house which was still hidden from view.

Carter looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “So?”

“What are they hiding?”

“They aren’t hiding anything. They probably just want to renovate.”

“That house was renovated top to bottom last year by the previous owners. There’s nothing left to fix,” he huffed, glaring at Carter.

“Maybe it’s not about fixing anything. Maybe they just want it to look different.” Carter shrugged. Mr. Stalnaker’s mouth dropped open like he was going to say something else, then decided against it.

Finally, he just said, “Fine, so you aren’t going to help?”

“Help with what?” Carter asked, perplexed.

“Never mind.” He shook his head and shuffled off towards the driveway and back to his house.

Carter returned to the garage and continued working. It wasn’t until the end of the day when his parents pulled into the driveway that Mr. Stalnaker came back. “Do you see what’s happening?” he waved his binoculars in front of him.

“Hi Wally,” Carter’s dad said, stepping out of the car. “What’s happening?”

“The neighbours. There’s something f—”

“Fishy going on,” Carter finished for him.

“Yes, Carton here doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal. But that Robbie has been power washing all day long. What can there possibly be left to power wash?”

“Maybe he only has it for a short time and wants to make the most of it.” Carter’s dad shrugged.

“There was screaming.” Mr. Stalnaker raised his eyebrows like he’d made the defining point in their argument.

“What?” Carter’s mom asked.

“When?” Carter asked. He hadn’t heard anything. Although to be fair, he’d been wearing his headphones all day.

“An hour ago. And when I heard it, I looked up and a hand came out the window and was waving for help,” Mr. Stalnaker said, gravely.

“How do you know they weren’t waving hello?” Carter asked.

“Because it was too frantic.” Mr. Stalnaker said, getting visibly frustrated. “And besides, Robbie saw me looking. As soon as he saw the hand, he raced back inside. A few moments later the window slammed shut.” He leaned forward and whispered, “I didn’t hear anything after that.”

“Yes, well, that does sound quite, er, dramatic,” Carter’s dad said, carefully.

“Perhaps you should call the police,” Carter’s mom said. His dad caught her eye and raised his eyebrows. “Well, who knows. What if someone is in trouble? Better be safe just in case.” She lifted her hands and shrugged her shoulders apologetically.

“I did call the police,”Mr. Stalnaker said. “They didn’t come. They didn’t seem to think it was a valid threat.”

“Well, if the police don’t think anything of it, then it’s probably nothing,” Carter’s dad said, putting a friendly hand on Mr. Stalnaker’s shoulder.

“Like father like son,” he grunted. “Mark my words. There is something going on over there and I’m going to figure it out.” He shuffled off back to his house.

“That poor man,” Carter’s mom said, once he was out of earshot.

A Summer to Remember – Part 4

“Up and at ‘em,” Carter’s dad said, walking into his room the next morning and pulling up the blackout shades on the two basement windows.

“It’s Saturday,” Carter groaned, yanking the sheet up over his head.

“Very good,” his dad said. “Remember, you agreed to help Mr. Stalnaker with his project today.”

“You agreed,” Carter mumbled through the blankets over his head. “And I thought he said he didn’t want any help.”

“He didn’t until I called his son and told him what his father was up to. Garry came over last night and took the chainsaw. Now he has no choice but to accept your help. Let’s go!”


When Carter got to Mr. Stalnaker’s yard it was 6:15 am. “What took you so long?” Mr. Stalnaker asked. “We’re burning daylight.”

Carter rubbed his eyes trying to focus. “What do you need me to do?”

“Apparently my son thinks I did terrible job on the lawn and it needs to be redone. Not that that was the point. I wanted it loud, not perfect.”

“Mowing it is,” Carter said, running his hand through his hair to get it out of his eyes. As he started the mower, he braced himself for the inevitable angry neighbours and not just the partiers. No one was going to happy with him mowing the lawn at 6 in the morning on a Saturday.

Sure enough, by the time he finished and shut the mower off he heard shouting. As he turned to look in the direction of the noise, Mr. Stalnaker caught his eye. He was sitting on his front porch with binoculars pressed against his eyes as he peered at the windows of the party house.

“Subtle,” Carter muttered as he turned to look at the house with the shouting. He couldn’t make out what they were upset about, but it didn’t seem to be directed at him for which he was relieved.

Suddenly, a head popped out one of the second story window. It was the Brockett’s eldest son Robbie. He glared at them. “Mind your own business, old man!” he shouted, before slamming the window shut.

“Friendly,” Carter said, raising his eyebrows at Mr. Stalnaker.

“Very,” he gruffly responded.

Two seconds latter Robbie came stomping out the front door, slamming that behind him as well.

Mr. Stalnaker hopped up and ambled down the steps of his porch to get a better look. He still had one arm up holding the binoculars up to his face giving him an even odder gait since he couldn’t actually see what was right in front of him.. “Now where does he think he’s going.”

Carter shrugged. “Out?”

Robbie stalked down the street and hopped into a blue Honda parked just around the corner of the cul de sac almost out of view.

“That’s not his car.” Mr. Stalnaker pressed his binoculars up to his face.

Carter raised his eyebrows. “Maybe it’s a new car.”

“Then why is it parked down the street? Besides, his car is the silver Mercedes in the driveway. It’s 10 years newer and a lot more expensive. Why would he buy that rusted out beater?”

Carter shrugged. He didn’t really care.

“It’s fishy,” Mr. Stalnaker mused. “Definitely fishy.”

Carter pushed the mower back into the shed in Mr. Stalnaker’s backyard and grabbed the weed whacker.  The sooner he got everything done, the sooner he could go back to bed.

A Summer to Remember – Part 3

Carter’s dad finally turned around to face Carter after inspecting his work on the garage.

“Keep going like this and you might actually get that last week of summer at Mason’s cabin,” Carter’s dad said. Carter had been working on the garage all day and now it was after supper.

“Really?” Carter asked, trying not to get his hopes up

His dad picked up a painting of stream running through a forest in a textured gold frame from the “to sell” table. “I don’t remember owning this.”

The “to sell” table was piled high with books and gadgets while the bed of the pick-up truck was half-full already. A number of new boxes had been packed and labelled. However, just looking in the garage, it looked like he’d barely made a dent.

Suddenly, loud crashing noise came from next door. “What was that?” his dad asked as he stepped back to get a better look at Mr. Stalnaker’s house.

“Probably trying to come up with another way to annoy the neighbours.” He went on to tell his dad about his encounter with Mr. Stalnaker that morning. “Check out his lawn,” he said, laughing.

Mr. Stalnaker’s lawn looked like someone had tried to cut it with a weedwacker rather than a lawn mower. There were patches of long grass mixed with trails of short grass that crisscrossed across the yard.

As they walked closer they saw Mr. Stalnaker dragging a small wooden desk from the garage.

“Evening Wally,” his dad greeted Mr. Stalnaker. “What are you up to?”

Mr. Stalnaker grunted as he continued to drag the desk down the driveway. Finally, halfway down the drive, he dropped his end with a grunt. He gave them a grim smile. “Just getting ready for tomorrow morning.”

“Parties have been a bit much lately, huh?” Carter’s father said.

“Ha! Yeah, you could say that. A man needs his sleep.”

“I agree. What’s with the desk though?”

“I’m going to make it into firewood tomorrow. Just bought myself a brand new chain saw,” he grinned at them.

“Er, do you think that’s safe?” Carter’s dad asked.

“’Course it is. I know what I’m doing,” Mr. Stalnaker huffed.

Carter and his dad shared a look.

“How about instead, we join forces?” his dad suggested.

“What do you have in mind?”

“I’m giving Carter a bunch of jobs to do over the summer. How about he spends a couple of his mornings at your house mowing the lawn, weed-whacking, power-washing. Whatever loud things we can think of? But we put the saw away?”

Mr. Stalkner scratched his head and muttered to himself as he thought it over. “S’mightly nice of you to offer, but I’m going to stick with the chainsaw. Nice and loud.” He grinned.

Carter and his dad watched his limped gait as he lumbered back into the house. “Good job with the garage today,” he said, squeezing Carter’s shoulder. “I have to make a phone call. Tomorrow, I want you to head over to Mr. Stalkner’s house first thing and offer to help again.”

“Okay, but I don’t think he’ll agree . . ..” Carter trailed off when he realized his dad wasn’t listening. He was already walking into the house.

“Close up the garage before you come in,” he called back as the screen door slammed shut behind him.

A Summer to Remember – Part 2

“Wake up!” Carter’s dad said, barging through his door. “C’mon, it’s already 6:15.”

Carter rolled over and glared at his dad. “I finished cleaning Mr. Tysowski’s house yesterday. He gave his approval, remember?”

“And did you pay for the broken windows too?”

Carter groaned and threw the covers over his head. “I wasn’t the one who broke them.”

Carter’s dad flung the covers back off him. “Yeah well, I didn’t blast music all last night, yet I still have to pay the consequences of no sleep. Welcome to life.”

Carter kicked his legs out so that he was sitting on the edge of his bed. “Huh?’

“C’mon. I need to leave for work and I still have to show you what you’ll be doing. Meet me in the garage in 5 minutes.”

When Carter finally trudged his way to the garage, his dad was waiting for him. The garage was packed full of boxes, broken and forgotten gadgets, objects from his childhood he hadn’t seen in years, and a mishmash of family history, broken metal, and spiders.

“This is your project. Anything broken goes in the bed of my truck. Anything we can sell goes on this table. Things we want to keep go into new boxes and will be packed and carefully labelled on the side. Anything you aren’t sure of, goes on this table. Don’t seal the boxes because your mom and I will want to check and make sure there isn’t anything we want to get rid of. Each day we’ll check your progress. If we think you were goofing off most of the day, you’ll have to make up the time with your last week of holidays.”

His parents had promised that if he worked hard over the summer, they would allow him to spend his last week at Mason’s cabin.

“This is going to take forever,” Carter said, gaping at the array of junk in front of him.

“And you have forever,” his dad smiled. “An entire summer in fact. Once the garage is cleared out, I want everything swept out and the boxes organized on the side so that we have room to park two vehicles in here again.”

As he walked to the car where Carter’s mom was waiting, Carter’s dad called back over his shoulder, “And I want to see a significant difference in that garage when I get back home this afternoon.”

Still feeling cloudy headed and blurry eyed from sleep, Carter waited until his parents’ car pulled out of the driveway and down the street before he went back into the house to grab breakfast.

An hour later, he was feed, dressed, and still feeling apathetic towards his new job. He stood in front of the garage unsure where to start. Finally, he grabbed a random box and ripped it open. Inside were old textbooks that appeared to be from the seventies. He pulled them out one at a time, halfheartedly checking the titles before piling them on the “to sell” table. 1 box down.

Next door he heard the failed pull of a lawn mower. Carter sliced through the tape sealing another box as the lawn mower gave another sputter.

“Stupid piece of junk!” He heard his neighbour grumble. “Good for nothing.” Followed by a clanging sound.

Carter stepped out of the garage to investigate. On the lawn next door, Mr. Stalnaker was bent over, one hand grasping his knee, the other pulling on the string of his lawn mower. He was in his late seventies, early eighties with thinning gray hair and a belly that hung over his belted linen pants.

“You okay Mr. Stalnaker?” Carter asked, walking closer.

“Can’t get the bloody thing started.” He grabbed a handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped the sweat off his forehead.

“Isn’t it a bit early for the lawn mower?” It was only 7:30 am and the last time his dad had Carter mow the lawn that early, a neighbour had a few choice words to share.

“Exactly. Teach ‘em a lesson.” He yanked the string again.

“Teach who a lesson?” Carter asked.

“Them!” he pointed at the house on the other side of the cul de sac. “Blasted their rock music until 5:30 this morning. Didn’t get a wink of sleep. We’ll see how they like the noise.” He yanked the cord again. “I just can’t get the blasted thing going.”

So that’s why his dad had been so cranky this morning. Having a bedroom in the basement had its perks. Carter hadn’t heard a thing last night.

“Would you like some help?” Carter took a step closer.

“Thanks. Usually my son comes over and does this for me. Went and bought this new fangled lawn mower when he took over the job. Don’t understand why. The old one worked just fine.” He used the handkerchief to wipe his face again.

Within a minute Carter had the lawn mower whirling to life.

Mr. Stalnaker cackled with delight. He gripped the handle and took off in a jagged diagonal line across his front yard more concerned about making noise than cutting his lawn.

Carter laughed as he turned back towards the garage.

A Summer to Remember – Part 1


It was happening all over again. As if Carter hadn’t been in enough trouble the first time the cops brought home, now, they were escorting him a second time. As they stepped out of the neighbour’s house, Carter caught sight of his dad standing on their front porch with his arms crossed and his foot tapping while a myriad of emotions played across his face: relief, confusion, anger, disappointment, and fear before landing solidly on anger until it appeared he was radiating enough energy that Carter could have sworn his dad was levitating off the ground.

Around their cul de sac, red and blue lights flashed through the night and reflected off the windows of the surrounding houses. He could feel the weight of the officer’s hand as it pressed down on his shoulder steering Carter to his house.

His dad’s lips press into a tight line as he steps forward to speak with the cop. “What’s he done this time?” Carter cringed. This was it. He was going to die at the age of fifteen.

* * *

The first time the cops brought Carter home, granted he may have deserved it. But, as is usually the case with these sorts of things, there was a good reason.

“Come on, man!” Carter said, anxious to get out of there. “We’re done. Someone’s going to notice soon. Let’s go!” They were standing on the front lawn of their math teacher, Mr. Tysowski’s, house. They had just managed to empty five cartons of eggs and two packs of 24 rolls of toilet paper. His house and yard were an absolute disaster.

Taylor, however, didn’t think it was enough. He grinned and picked up a rock. “Just one more thing.” Mason, Carter’s other friend, gasped.

Taylor tossed the rock in the air and caught it a few times while he scanned the house. “Which window should I hit?”

“No way! I agreed to egg and TP his house. Not to break things,” Mason said, grabbing his bike from where he’d left it fallen on the sidewalk. “I’m outta here.”

Carter knew he should have followed, but he didn’t want to leave Taylor alone. This past year, Taylor had been dealing with a lot of shit. He wouldn’t tell them everything, but Carter and Mason had definitely noticed the bruises and marks that kept popping up since his mom’s new boyfriend had moved in.

Carter grabbed Taylor’s arm. “Enough! Let’s go.”

“Let go,” he wrenched his arm free and hurled the rock at one of the window. Shards fell from the second-story window with a crash.

While all of us were mad at Mr. Tysowski, Taylor was furious. Halfway through the year Taylor started skipping school and his grades started falling. If you want to get a teacher’s attention, that was it. Mr. Tysowski, had been the first to notice or at least the first to care. He was the one who started asking questions and giving Taylor detention every day. Then he did something unforgiveable. Suddenly Taylor had people show up at his house who told him he to live somewhere else with a strange family. And to top it all off: he had to go to summer school or Mr. Tysowski would fail him.

“Shit!” Carter yelled, as glass shards rained down from the shattered window. He turned to grab his bike, but ran full-stop into the large belly of the person behind him. “Dumb-ass kids,” a voice came from above Carter. He felt a hand grab his arm and wretch him forward. “You’ll wait until the police come,” the voice said, as the man pulled him forward and threw him to the ground. Carter tried to stand up, but the strange man standing above him forced him down again. “Stay! If I have to sit on you to make you stay, I will.”

Behind him, he could hear Taylor struggling with someone else. “Let go!” Dull thuds sounded as punches were exchanged then Taylor was likewise thrown the ground. Apparently, his captor didn’t trust Taylor as much as Carter’s, because he launched himself on Taylor and used his body to hold him to the ground.

Carter was supposed to leave in couple of days to go with Mason’s family to their cabin all summer. It was the first time his parents had agreed to let him go for the whole summer. Instead, he was grounded and spent the first week of his summer vacation cleaning Mr. Tysowski’s house and yard by himself.

That’s right. Mason got away scot-free and Taylor ended up being sent back to his foster family.

Fair? Carter sure didn’t think so.