“Shit! So late!”
I tear out my bedroom and run down the hall to the kitchen.
“Whoa! Where’s the fire, Champ?” The old man sitting at our small kitchen table chuckles as I grab a jug of milk out the fridge and chug a mouthful.
I put the cap back on and smile. “Morning, Granddad.” I put it back and grab a granola bar. “I slept in. Dino’s gonna kill me.”
I rush over and kiss my Granddads head. I grab my jacket and shrug it on.
“Ok. Your meds are all in the boxes. Please take them all this time…” I say as I look for my keys.
“I don’t like the red ones.” He grumbles.
“I know, but you need them. Just eat something before you take them.” I search the couch cushions. “Where the hell are my keys?”
“I don’t know why you work there. That boss of yours is a menace.” He growls.
I lift some old magazines on the end table and find them. “It pays the bills, Granddad. Your medications aren’t cheap.”
“You already work two jobs…” He sips his tea.
“Yeah, and if you get any sicker, I’m going to have to get a forth.” I walk over and kiss his cheek. “But I love ya anyway.” I grab a piece a paper and write some things down. “I’ll be home at 4:30, but I’m working close at the restaurant tonight. Dinners in the fridge. Please, I beg you, please take the plastic off before you heat it. It took me forever to clean that dish.”
He laughs. “Sorry. The thinker isn’t as good as it used to be.” He taps his head with his finger.
I chuckle. “Yeah, I think you fake it just to drive me up the wall.”
He smiles. “I need some entertainment around here.”
I shove him gently. “Ok, Cheryl, from next door, will be here at 5:00 to check in. Let her in, Granddad. I mean it.” I point to his face.
He scowls. “I don’t like her. She’s nosy.”
I walk to the door of our tiny apartment. “Granddad.” I give him a warning look.
“OK, Jakey.” He waves me off.
“Ok. I love you.” I say as I step out the door.
“Luv ya too. Have a good day.” He salutes me.
I run down the hall and into the stairwell.
I practically jump down the stairs. My steel toed boots echoing off the walls as they slam down the stairs.
“Fuck…I’m so going to get canned.” I say as I look at my phone. Shoving it back in my pocket, my heart races at the thought of losing a job.
I push open the metal door to the outside of the parking lot.
I pull out my keys and look for my car key.
I step to my 1996 Honda Civic. I stand and look at it. “Ok, girl. One more day and then I can get you fixed up. Just one more.”
I jump in and put in the key. I turn over the starter and it churns, coughs and dies.
I tilt my head. “No. I said one more.” I turn it over and again it stalls.
“Fuck. Come on…” I hit the steering wheel. It stalls again.
I place my head on the wheel. “Don’t do this. Not today…” I whine.
I turn the key and it roars to life.
“YES! Ha! I knew you had one more. Ok, baby. Let’s get to work.” I smile as I back out of my space.
As I drive, I look in my mirror and run my hand through my brown hair to fix the bed head. My blue eyes have bags under them and my jaw is covered in stubble. “I’ve gotta stop staying up so late.”
Fighting through traffic, I manage to make it to Dinos garage only five minutes late.
I blow out a breath as I park and walk toward the open garage door.
“Hey, Dino…” I wave as I take off my jacket
“Jake…you’re five minutes late….Again! If this keeps up, I’m gonna have to replace you.” Dino is a big guy. His muscles press against his t-shirt. We both are pretty built, but I’m a bit thinner than him.
I throw my jacket on a rolling toolbox. “I’m sorry, Dino. I’ve been closing the restaurant for a week now and with granddad being sick….I’m not getting much sleep."
He walks up to me. “Jake, I realize you have a lot on your plate, but I got cars that need fixing. If you can’t do that then I have to get someone else.” He warns.
“I swear. It won’t happen again.” I plead.
“OK. You know, you look like crap. Maybe you should do something to get yourself out of this dump. Go to school or something. A smart kid like you. You’re better than this.” He motions around the garage.
I smirk. “Ya, ok. You know the only thing I want to do is join the Unit.”
I grab my rolling box and take it over to a Mercedes that has its hood up.
Dino joins me and leans on the fender. “Kid. When are you going to rid of that. It’s a pipe dream for you. You know that.”
I pull out a socket wrench and get to work on the problem with the car.
I sigh. “Ya. Ya. Omegas never make the unit.” I lean up a bit and shake my wrench at him. “But this Omega’s going to this time.” I go back to the car. “I can feel it.”
“When are the recruitment trials?” He asks.
“Next week. So I have until then to get him under control.” I grit as I loosen a bolt.
Dino leans his forearms on the fender. “Jake, I’ve known you for how long now?”
I stop and think. “Four years?”
“And how many times have you tried?” He asks.
I look back in the engine compartment. “Fifteen.” I grumble.
“As much as you wish, that wolf of yours won’t let you join.” He eyes me.
I shake my head. “No. I got medication now. He’s going to do it.” I detach some hoses.
“Jake. You have other talents. There’s other things you can do.” He says quietly.
I pull out some wiring harnesses. “Dino. There’s nothing better than fighting with Alphas. Nothing else compares to that.”
“OK. Kid. Someday, you’ll get it. I’m not your dad. Just don’t get your hopes up.” He claps my shoulder and walks away.
I’m going to do it this time. Running with the Alphas has been a dream of mine since I got my wolf.
My problem? He’s psychotic. Not like I can’t control him, but when he starts fighting, he blacks out and kills everything he can get his teeth into.
My wolf is deemed too dangerous for the unit. It’s a neurological defect. The doctors describe it as over active aggression. I’ve tried everything. I can run with him. I can walk and socialize with other wolves, but when the fighting starts, he loses it.
My last trial, I put three trainers in the infirmary and it took five tranquilizers to put him down. I was banned from trials for six months. Well, that six months is up.
I’m going to get in. I’m going to make Alpha and me and my granddad can move out of here and into the upper end of the city. Everything will be great.
I need to do all of this for him. My granddad is a sick, sixty year old human.
My dad was human and my mom was a shifter. They never mated, but the fact that she got pregnant with me, meant they were most likely were fated. She couldn’t mark my dad because he’d die, so they stayed together until my mom couldn’t take it anymore and left us.
So it was just me, dad and granddad until my dad had a heart attack six years ago. Now, I take care of my granddad. I wish I could get one of these super wolves to turn him, but they won’t. My granddad also refuses to. Says he wants to die like a man. Whatever that means.
I shake the thoughts out and get back to work. I lean over and turn up the radio on my toolbox.
A catchy tune starts to play. ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz' by Taco. Nice one hit wonder from the 80s.
My foot taps as I work. My head bobs.
Funny. I’ve never had a song relate to how my life is so much as this one does.
My legs start to bounce.
I get up and go to my toolbox. I start to sing along. My hips swing.
I grab my towel and start to spin it at my side as I stride richly across the garage. I stretch both my arms out and slide my feet. “Puttin’ on the Ritz..” I sing.
I get a large wrench. I put it in both hands and cross my feet back to the car like Fred Astaire. I rise it in the air and bring it back down as I stride across the floor.
I kick my feet out in front of me with my hand to my head like I'm wearing a top hat, spin and swing my hips.
I swing the wrench around and spin. Kicking my feet out to each side. Step back and forth.
I stride around brushing my shoulder like I’m all classy with a smug look in my face. Rocking my head with my nose in the air. Tucking the wrench under my arm. I dance like I’m throwing money everywhere.
I start to cross my feet and bend with each step. I drop the wrench on my box and grab a broom and twirl it.
I drop the broom handle on the ground and ball change my way across the floor. Dancing with it like a cane.
I balance the handle on the floor and kick my legs out. Jumping high around it. Twirling it again, I bounce it off the floor and catch it the air when it bounces up.
I stop when the tapping starts. A smile crosses my face.
My boots tap the floor like my tap shoes. My feet move fast with the rhythm. My arms swing out to the side on angles with the moves of my boots tapping. My legs kick and I tap on the floor. My body twists back and forth as I balance on the balls of my feet until I land a boot on an under car dolly and roll it across the floor. I balance on it until I roll it back to the car.
I slide the broom across my back and spin. I jump off the dolly and tap my way back up the floor.
I hold my arms out as my feet tap fast around the garage. My feet and hips twisting as in go.
I slide slowly and dance smoothly across the garage. Doing half steps and bounces.
I tap my boots in little steps as I walk to get my impact gun. Tapping back to the car. I swing my body as move to the slow beat.
“Downtown…uptown…Get your kicks…at the Ritz…”
I cross over my feet a few times. My feet slide across the floor, arms glide out as I float across the floor.
I have the broom in my arms and make like it’s a girl I’m ball dancing with as I spin back to the car. I rock it back and forth between my hands and spin around. Ending in a dip of the broom.
I bounce my knees and swing my arms out in a cool guy move back to the middle of the floor.
“…puttin it on…puttin it on…puttin it on…”
I dance the broom back out and pretend to spin it out and back to me.
I twist my feet and spin down to my knees and play air guitar on the broom.
“Gotta dance….” The radio sings.
“Hey!” Dino comes barging in. “Get to work!”
I get to my feet. “I am!”
“Ok, twinkle toes. I got five cars behind that one. Move it!” He yells.
I throw my towel over my shoulder and toss the broom to the wall. “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.” I grumble.
I walk back to the car and look over my shoulder as Dino heads back to his office.
I give my feet a few more taps as I smirk and get back under the hood.