Chapter 38: The beginning of a plan
The next day was Wednesday and Mike woke up to more labour. His breakfast consisted of a soggy bowl of Cheerios and a glass of milk. He even tried to drink the dregs from his cereal and glass but he still didn’t feel full. By the time he had finished eating though, the roll call had almost started and it was just when Mike was considering on eating another bowl did Charlie walk into the kitchen. Mike was assigned to clean the oven. He thought the switch from garbage to oven was pretty harsh, but he didn’t say anything. Davis mouthed the words good luck once Mike’s name was called.
The oven took him all morning and by the end of it he was tired. It seemed his sweat was trying to consume his body. The oven was more of a grey box that could easily swallow him up. The inside was terrible to look at and the walls were covered with burnt black crustiness that made Mike wonder if someone had stuck four large pizzas inside and maybe a large chicken and charred them until they exploded. He also couldn’t understand how Davis could have cleaned this oven the day before and have it still looking this dirty. Sometimes it felt that Mike scrubbed for hours and none of the blackness waned. By the time lunch was served, Mike had completely cleaned the right side wall and the back wall of the oven.
At lunch, Davis (whose first name Mike learned was Louis,), told him some tips about cleaning the oven.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect looking,” Louis told him as Mike bit into his cold grilled cheese sandwich. “Charlie just wants to keep you busy, that’s all. Of course, don’t slack off either. He won’t like that. Just do the best you can, really.
“But how did it get so dirty?” asked Mike after he had swallowed. “Didn’t you just clean it?”
“There are two ovens,” explained Davis. “One also has a built-in stove. I cleaned that one instead and I had to do both: stove and oven.”
“Why do they have two stoves?”
“Well, they are somewhat different heating devices. For example, the stove you’re cleaning would be much better for food such as pizza.”
“When it comes to chores, Mike, don’t complain,” Smitherson told him. He was sitting beside Mike. Mike had no idea where Mark was but when he arrived at the table, he wasn’t there. “Just accept what Charlie gives you.”
Louis nodded in agreement towards this advice.
“It’s a test,” Louis explained. “He’s testing you.”
“Wants to find your breaking point,” Smitherson put in.
“Don’t let him find it,” said Louis.
“He probably will though.” Louis glared at Smitherson. “What? It’s the truth.”
“Anyway,” continued Louis once he took his eyes off Smitherson, “like I said, he’s testing you. Wants to see what you’re good at. How far you’ll go. Don’t encourage him with any weaknesses. Whatever that weakness is, he’ll be signing you up more for that chore when he sees it. You can say that he wants to build up your strength, but he really just wants to watch you suffer. You’ve been punished by being sent here; there are no rewards.”
“And don’t complain,” said Smitherson. “No matter what you do or assigned to. I know you’ll see that Mark complains with Charlie, but he isn’t exactly on good terMs.. with him. Do you know why he keeps getting the same chore?”
“Because he complains?” Mike guessed.
“Exactly. Complaining just gives you the same chore. He doesn’t want you to obviously enjoy what you’re doing, so he’ll obviously keep assigning you what you hate.”
“But also, don’t start complaining about things you enjoy doing like say, the garbage, he’ll see right through it,” Louis put in quickly not sure what advice Mike would actually listen to.
“Yeah,” Smitherson agreed. “Best to just shut up and work.”
Mike nodded. He was thankful for the advice.
“Well, at least we’ll have some of the afternoon free,” Mike said cheerfully.
Louis and Smitherson gave Mike curious looks.
“What do you mean?” questioned Louis.
“Well, we’re all going to be tutored aren’t we?”
Smitherson laughed at that.
“You think Charlie would give everyone a break for a day? Not a chance, man. Only certain people are tutored on certain days. For example, I’m tutored Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Charlie always has someone working for him,” he said.
“Oh,” said Mike suddenly understanding.
“Who do you have anyway?” asked Louis.
“I think her name’s Gloria Shelves or something,” replied Mike.
“Gloria Shevel?” asked Smitherson. “I heard that woman’s a riot.”
“Oh,” said Mike.
“Yeah, man. Mark had her. Absolutely terrified. She couldn’t even look at him. I think she was afraid that if he even touched her she’d die. It was hilarious; Mark had a lot of fun. Well, that was until Charlie found out about her and reassigned him. She should be petrified of you as well. I mean, shooting someone, that’s close to killing in her books.”
“You shot someone?” asked Louis incredulously. He glanced down at Mike’s build and Mike knew he didn’t believe it to be true.
Mike nodded. This was old news.
“Yeah, but I didn’t kill him. I was protecting my girlfriend.”
“Louis, he’s the guy that we watched on TV,” said Smitherson.
“Oh, right, I knew you looked familiar,” said Louis remembering. “You’ve got some guts I have to say.”
“Thanks,” said Mike. He didn’t really want to discuss why he was here. The boys understood.
“Anyway, Shevel probably won’t even look at you,” continued Smitherson. “It’ll be pretty funny, believe me, unless you expected to be doing work.”
“No,” Mike said.
“Yeah, ’cause you probably won’t learn much. Tutoring usually starts around one.” He looked at his watch; it was almost 12:45 P.M.. “I’d suggest you start heading up there.”
“Alright.” Mike finished the rest of his sandwich and began to get up from the table. “Well then, see you later I guess.”
The two boys nodded.
“Have fun,” Louis called after him.
When Mike got up to his room, there was a chubby woman sitting on his bed. Her skin was lightly tanned and she was wearing a flowery pink dress with brown stockings. Her shoes were a boring beige colour. Mike sighed. Instead of a cute girl tutoring him, he was going to have this woman instead. Without speaking a word, she pointed to a wooden chair that was positioned about 9 feet away from her. Mike could see that his presence was already traumatising. He smiled and sat down in the chair.
“I’m a young offender, not a disease,” he said to his tutor who looked at him with scared eyes.
“I’ve heard you could become vicious; please don’t hurt me!” exclaimed Ms.. Shemel putting her hands in front of her face. Man, this woman is such a pussy, he thought. His tutor took a piece of crumpled paper out of her large purple purse and threw it at Mike. The crumpled paper landed about 3 feet away from him and when Mike stood up, he saw the woman cringe. He opened up the crumpled paper to see ten math probleMs.. written in very messy handwriting. “Do you understand it?” she asked. Mike did understand the integer questions but he wanted to know what would happen if he didn’t.
“O.K., then maybe this will help,” said Ms.. Shemel as she took a remote control car, a small cardboard box, a roll of tape, and a few coloured blocks out of her purse. She then put some blocks into the box and taped it to the car. She took out a small black remote control and steered the car towards Mike. However, the car went a little too fast and crashed into the wall beside his nightstand.
“You can go get it,” she said pointing a shaky finger at the wall.
“It’s closer to you,” said Mike noticing the distance, but he still got it anyway.
“You know what, you just find the integers out for a while, I’m going to hide in the closet.” She then dashed towards the small door that was just across from the dresser. Mike waited until his tutor had sealed herself inside and then locked the door. He walked out of the room, chuckling to hiMs..elf as he heard Ms.. Shemel’s screaMs.. of protest as she banged her fists on the enclosed door.
Cindy went to school the next day. She knew that she could not stay at home forever and her mother wasn’t allowing her to stay at home another day.
When she entered the school building, she wasn’t at all interested in the school-related activities. And it seemed that when she was in school, the day seemed to be go by much slower. This was why she was thankful when lunch arrived and it allowed her some time to talk to Ian about getting Mike out of Smiley’s Home.
“What we should do is go to the group home ourselves,” said Ian as he bit into his tuna fish sandwich.
“When do you want to do this?” asked Cindy. She had no objection about his plan. After her experience with the police, she thought this was probably the only way.
“I don’t know; we need to plan this out. How about in a week? Maybe then we won’t have the police on our back.” Cindy nodded.