Chapter 35: Sentenced
In the middle of May, Mike pleaded guilty. His lawyer thought it was the best thing they should do. That way they wouldn’t waste the court’s time and money. Mike didn’t argue. From the ending of the preliminary hearing, he knew there was no way he wouldn’t receive some punishment from the law. Even the two witnesses didn’t change the judge’s mind. Cindy was the first to testify and had tried to explain that Mike hadn’t been thinking straight but through cross-examination, Hubert proved that shooting someone wasn’t an offence “that should be taken lightly”. The second to testify was Mike’s mother and she explained to the judge that through Bradley’s bullying, Mike had become a very troubled boy (Stephanie believed that Mike’s mother had convinced the judge to give him “a lenient sentence”).
Mike was sentenced to a group home called Smiley’s Home where he would live for the next three months. Judge Matthews had stated that he believed Mike needed some time to “think things over”, whatever that meant. Mike didn’t feel he needed to waste his summer thinking things over, but Stephanie had told him that this was a very understandable sentence and “the best we could ask for”. Mike didn’t want to object, but he was still furious. This was all Bradley’s fault. He knew this. If it weren’t for that bully, he wouldn’t have been sitting in the courtroom in the first place. Bradley was the criminal, not him. He knew Mr. Smitherson was frightened of him, which he had to laugh at. Frightened of a scrawny boy like him? It was almost absurd. The judge had obviously taken his fear and society’s fear into account, and the fact that the newspapers had already publicized this made matters worse.
“This is bullshit!” exclaimed Cindy as she and Ian were walking home. The trial had just ended and she couldn’t believe the result.
“He doesn’t deserve three months in a group home,” agreed Ian.
“He doesn’t deserve any months!” exclaimed Cindy. “Bradley threatened me with a gun and Mike thought that would be the only way to stop him. You don’t think that’s enough for you?” Ian noticed that Cindy was getting a little agitated.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find a way to bail him out,” said Ian trying to comfort Cindy.
“We should go in there and break down the door,” said Cindy starting to calm down. “I just miss him so much.”
“It’s O.K.,” said Ian as he put his arm around Cindy, trying to comfort her.
“I got to go,” said Ian as he noticed he was in front of his house. He let go of Cindy and headed towards the stairs. Cindy walked home, tears welling up in her eyes.
On Tuesday morning, Mike woke up at 6:00 A.M. A social worker would soon be dropping by his house and driving him to where he would live for the next three months, Smiley’s Home. He had looked up the group home on their internet page and read at the top of their page,
Smile, it’s your home.
What a gay name and saying, Mike thought at the time and then he realized how ironic and what a double entendre his insult was. Right now, he was in an old rusted pale blue 1986 Honda Civic being driven to the group home. A man in a green uniform had arrived at the door to pick Mike up as he collected his things. In half an hour, they had arrived at Smiley’s Home. The man hadn’t spoken the whole time they had been in the car; just concentrated on driving. So when the man opened the car door, Mike gave a cheerful, “Hi.”
First impressions might seem bad and turn out good. At least that is what he had learned.
“Don’t be a suck-up or you’ll be punished,” grunted the man in the green uniform who had now opened the trunk and was now taking out the brown duffle bag containing Mike’s clothes and everything else he felt he needed. Now that he had spoken, Mike could hear that he had a very gruff voice and in the bright sunlight, it was revealed that the man had very unkempt grey hair that revealed a small bald patch on the top of his head. His cold grey eyes glared at Mike as he stepped out of the Civic. He didn’t look at all pleased to see him. It seemed picking up Mike had been an errand that he’d been unwilling to fulfill. Mike’s cheerfulness quickly left him.
“Sorry, I was just being polite,” apologised Mike, not so sure if he should have said anything at all.
“Well don’t be polite,” the man stated back. “You shouldn’t be cheerful. You’ve been sent to a group home, away from your friends, family, and anyone else. You can’t go out to see movies, play games, or anything. You shouldn’t be happy, you should be furious.” Here, the man handed Mike his bag and waited for his response. It seemed as if the man should be complaining about working here, not Mike. Mike didn’t say anything more. He had been furious but now knew that there was no point in staying angry because it wouldn’t change the outcome of his sentence. This place was more like boot camp than anything else. He thought Hell’s Hole would be a better name for the establishment.
The area he was staying in was called Happy Valley and the people looked miserable. The more he found out about the place, the more ironic the name become. “This isn’t a vacation, this is hell,” the man said as he pointed to the workers.
Cindy couldn’t stop thinking about Mike.
“What’s wrong?” asked her mother as she opened the door.
“I feel sick,” lied Cindy. She had gone to her first period and couldn’t stop thinking about Mike. 10 minutes into the period, she had burst into tears and felt she couldn’t show her face for the rest of the day. So she had called her house and told her mother that she was sick and her mother said she should come home. The only person she wanted right now was Mike.
“Cindy, you’re definitely not sick; something else is bothering you,” said her mother as Cindy removed her red Keds shoes.
“It’s just that…never mind,” Cindy stuttered. She did not feel like discussing things with her mother right now.
“Is it about that bastard Mike you like?” her mother cornered.
“Mom!” exclaimed Cindy shocked.
“Well, I don’t think you should go out with that kid. He made you fail and shot someone.”
“He was trying to protect me! And he didn’t make me fail, I did that by myself!” Cindy blurted; she knew she had said too much. But Cindy’s mother didn’t say anything.The man’s name was Steven James, and he was right, this place was “hell”.
As soon as Mike had walked into the hall, he was instructed to find a room on the second floor and then head into the kitchen. When Mike arrived upstairs, he found a small little room with a bed squished into a corner. The window was all grimy and didn’t look like it had been dusted in ages. The door’s dark blue paint was peeling and had chips all along the edges and, judging by the state of the room, Mike felt he should be appreciative of the floor, which was wooden and had cracks all over the place but seemed to be in good shape.
There was a small light bulb hanging from the ceiling, but, when Mike flicked on the switch, it didn’t seem as if it cast any more light into the gloomy room. The little light it did give, casted more of a small silhouette onto the floor. Mike put his duffle bag on the bed and sat down; the floor creaking with every step he took. The bed was stiff and uncomfortable, but at least the blankets looked washed.
The walls had been painted muddy custard white and had markings, which Mike noticed were words when he got closer. People had written lines such as
and I’m in jail.
Reading them didn’t make Mike feel any happier about being there. He pulled the ripped blue curtains to cover the terrible state of the window. One tug, and the curtain was ripped off the bar.
“Great,” muttered Mike as he threw the destroyed curtain to the floor. He pulled back its pair as far across the window at it could possibly go, still letting in some partial light.
“Welcome home,” came a voice and Mike turned around to see a tall redheaded boy standing in the doorway. Mike acknowledged him by giving him a weak smile.
“So you’re the new kid?” the boy asked as he entered Mike’s new room.
Mike nodded, not happy to be addressed as “the new kid”.
“Name’s Mark,” said the redhead sticking out a hand towards Mike. Mike shook it and noticed Mark to be three heads taller than him. He suddenly felt really short. “Just came up to tell you that they want you down in the kitchen. You were supposed to be down there ten minutes ago.”
“I was trying to find a room,” Mike said as he got up from his bed. “There’s nothing better, is there?”
“Afraid not,” said Mark. “I probably have the cleanest window in the place and it’s no masterpiece.” Mike looked at the dirty window and nodded. He hadn’t been planning on looking out it anyway.
“I’m Mike, by the way,” he said as they headed down to the kitchen. Mark nodded.
“So what did you do?” he asked stopping half way down the stairs. The staircase wrapped itself around the wall and Mark was standing on the small landing between the steps.
“I shot someone,” was Mike’s reply and the response shut up Mark instantly.
When the two boys arrived into the kitchen, there was a group of ten people huddled around a tall black man with a clipboard. His head was completely shaved and the light from the kitchen bounced off it. He was calling out names as his eyes moved down the piece of paper on the clipboard.
“Here,” cried a short boy with blonde hair.
“What the hell is this?” Mike whispered to Mark as they joined the crowd.
“Roll call,” Mark whispered back. “He’s checking to see if everyone’s here.”
“No one will be talking while I’m speaking,” cried the black man’s voice. His eyes looked directly at Mark for a second and then he continued calling out names.
Mike wasn’t listening as each member of the clump cried “Here!” until the man shouted, “Roberts!”
“Here,” Mike said quickly.
“Smitherson!” Mike saw a tall boy cry, “Here!”
He had long black hair and looked exactly like a younger version of the manager who had testified against him. Mike wondered what he had done and if his father was also disgusted with him.
Soon the roll call was complete. The last name called was Vanderheld who Mike found out was Mark’s last name.
“Right,” said the black man when the last name had been called. “Now, assignments.” He flipped over the sheet of paper that had small little check marks and everyone’s name and proceeded to read a new list out to the group.
“Arlington, beds! Carthworth, bathrooms, Davis, my office!”
Mike, again, stopped listening to the names until the man called out his. “Roberts, garbage! That includes the rooms and the kitchen!”
Mike looked towards Mark to see what he thought of his new assignment. Mark just shrugged his shoulders. But he soon became very agitated when he found out what his chore was.
“Vanderheld, stairs! And I want them spotless!”
“But sir!” protested Mark. “Those have been my last three assignments.”
“Do I look like I give a shit? Clean the stairs unless you’d like me to show you what real labour feels like.”
“That’s it. Now all of you get to work!” The group scattered as if an electric current had been shot from the man’s fingertips and soon the only two people standing in the kitchen were Mike and Mark.
“Sir, please. Can’t someone else do the stairs for a change?”
The man turned towards Mark and jabbed a long index finger into his chest.
“Listen to me, Vanderheld, do I look like your lousy parent? No. When I tell you to do something, you do it; no questions asked. Talk shit back to me, and you’ll be the one in shit. You got that? One more complaint from you and you’ll be doing a lot worse than cleaning the fucking stairs. Now get to work!”
Then he stormed out of the room.
“Wow,” Mike said. “Nice man, isn’t he?”
“Yeah,” said Mark. “Fucking prick. Doesn’t do anything; just sits on his ass and yells out orders. Anyway, I have to get to work. Don’t want him breathing down my neck. Listen to me, Mike, never get on Charlie’s bad side. The last thing you want is to be in his office. Believe me, people might as well go in there and not come out. I’ve been in there twice and don’t even speak about it. Some have gone in and won’t talk for days.”
“His name’s Charlie?” Mike asked. He had to laugh. The name didn’t suit the towering black man at all.”
“Charlie Butler, he’s the one who owns this place. And don’t laugh; you could be the first in days cleaning up the mess of a shattered window.”
“What?” Mike cried.