Reading at Night

 



Kenny sat his bucket down beside the back door and peeked in through the screen. He couldn’t see anyone, but he heard his mom knocking around in the kitchen. He wasn’t really worried about her and he wanted to go the other direction anyway. He was, however, worried about any chance encounter he might have with Dad.

Dad would be royally pissed off if he knew what Kenny was up to today, but Kenny didn’t care. He was pissed off himself. “Dad could just bite it for all I care,” he thought.

Last night Kenny had been up reading late in his room. He knew his parents wouldn’t approve; he knew the risks, but he’d been reading the new Tarzan book by Edgar Rice Burroughs and, it was exciting. Kenny got pulled in to the narrative and had tented the blanket up over his head and lit the pages with his flashlight. When Dad came in and ripped Kenny back to suburban Ohio from the jungles of Africa, he had made his displeasure very clear to his son.

“Damnit Kenny, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” he had yelled. “You should have been asleep hours ago!” Dad had confiscated both the torch and the novel. “If you’re going to read, do it before bedtime and read something worthwhile! Don’t read tawdry trash like this, this… cheap crap!”

When Dad confiscated things he always hid them. Sometimes he’d give things back but most often, not. His favourite hiding place was the hall closet. There was a high top shelf where he could put things and forget about them.

Kenny listened and sure enough he heard the closet door open and shut. If he was lucky, both the book and the torch had been secreted there. Not so lucky: maybe only one or the other. He lay awake seething with anger until an hour after he heard his parents go to their bedroom. When he was certain that they were asleep he crept from his bed, retrieved the step ladder from the mud room, and climbed up to see what was on the top shelf of the hall closet. He found his Tarzan book. Beneath that he found another novel he did not recognize, but figured it was his sister’s. The ‘mystery’ book had Harlequin printed across the top and the title seemed to be, “The Starlight and His Servant”. He folded it and stuffed it in the back pocket of his trousers so he could give it back to Monica. His Tarzan book, he clutched in his hand. The torch wasn’t there.

Back in his room he slid his book between the mattress and the box spring. He would have to look for his torch in the morning.

The next morning the flashlight was nowhere to be found. Kenny realized that he would have to find an alternative light source to read in bed tonight. The first thing he did was get Mom’s mop bucket and a roll of aluminum foil from the pantry. He rinsed the bucket with the hose in the backyard and scrubbed it with a brush till it was clean. A little before noon, when the sun was bright, Kenny took the bucket to the school and carefully placed it where the light reflected off the bright white side of the building. He sat down next to it and waited. Three and a half hours, he sat in the school yard, waiting. When he thought the time was right he unrolled two equal lengths of aluminum foil and folded the edges together to make a single piece that was wide enough to cover the top of the bucket.

Quickly, he slapped the foil atop the pail and carefully sealed it around the rim. He headed home with his bucket filled with more than three hours of sunshine. He thought that would be enough for him to finish Tarzan of the Apes, tonight. The bucket was too big to take beneath the covers, though. He thought that would not be a problem. He figured he would read in the closet.

Kenny sat his bucket down beside the back door and peeked in through the screen. He couldn’t see anyone, but he heard his mom knocking around the kitchen. He wasn’t really worried about her and he wanted to go the other direction anyway. He was, however, worried about any chance encounter he might have with Dad. When it seemed that the coast was clear he eased the screen open and snuck inside the house. Hurrying down the hall, he made it safely to his room, crossed the floor and hid the pail in the back of the closet.

Mission accomplished! Dad had not been spotted and, therefore had no inkling of Kenny’s scheme.

In a conscious effort to look innocent and inconspicuous he strolled down the hallway, whistling under his breath. He paused in front of Monica’s door and knocked.

He heard, “WHAT?” from behind the closed door.

“Mon, it’s me Kenny.”

“Go away, runt!”

“Monica, it’s important.”

The door swung open and his sister stood staring scathingly at him. He fished the book he assumed to be hers from his hip pocket and held it out to her.

“Oh my God! Kenny? Where? Never mind where. Thanks!” she grabbed his shoulders and kissed him on the lips, snatched the book and slammed the door in his face.

He immediately started wiping his mouth with the tail of his tee shirt as he walked toward the kitchen, and was still wiping his mouth when he ran into Mom.

“Kenny, there’s milk and cookies on the kitchen counter. Why don’t you go have some? Have you seen your sister?”


Last week, I had the crazy idea of putting light into a bucket and thought it was an idea that warranted some consideration here. I wrote a couple of things incorporating it. This is one of them.

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7 thoughts on “Reading at Night

  1. That is one crazy household! I liked that the sunlight in a bucket was inserted in such a carefree manner. Like that is a normal, or possible, thing to do! I thought the “surprise” would be that the Harlequin belonged to mom, but no, it’s sunlight in a bucket. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here’s me, thinking, oh, so there’s some sort of “MacGyver” trick with a bucket that the clever T knows about, something with tin foil and direct sunlight, and some sort of, I don’t know, incendiary material, and BOOM! Kenny blows up his room, Wile E Coyote style. Or, Gary Larson The Far Side’s famous cartoon: “God, as a child, tries to make a chicken.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I love that sunlight in the bucket idea. And I like this more that we don’t know see Kenny’s disappointment/ wonder when he opens it. Great portrayal of sibling relationships at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

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