Tuesday, March 22, 2011


A friend just asked me if I write about a real domestic shelter or is this blog about a novel I've written.
Answer: I do volunteer at a real shelter and that's what the blog is about--the shelter and my reaction to its residents' lives at the shelter, before the shelter, and after they leave the shelter. And yes, I've written a Young Adult novel set mostly in a generic shelter which is fictional and whose characters and plots are imagined, but this story could feasibly happen to any family living with a batterer.

If you're curious, here are the first couple pages.



Sunday afternoon is good until Dad comes home in Dictator Mode.
It’s always the same and it ain’t pretty.
     First his truck guns up the driveway blaring hard rock loud enough to let the entire neighborhood know who’s the jerk around here. Three seconds short of smashing the garage door, he stomps on the brake and screeches to a stop with six inches to spare.
     By the time he pulls into the garage, my heart is always pounding like I just did fifty pushups. Then I have to wait while he checks to make sure everything’s exactly where it’s supposed to be.
     Dad has assigned every rake, shovel and tool to its special spot on the wall of our garage. Anything with wheels has its own parking space on the floor, marked off with black tape. If you use something, you’d better return it to the same place you found it—or else.
     Most days, he gives us a list of what we have to do. Nobody in my house gets to say, ‘Sorry, I forgot’ or ‘I didn’t know I had to do that.’
     Nope. It’s all written down for us in his perfect, square handwriting.
     No problem when Dad did the lawn work. But when I turned fifteen (a week ago) it became my responsibility.
     That morning, Dad interrupts my breakfast and says, “Miguel, I want you to do the lawn while I’m out. It’s a forty-five minute job, max.” Big smile. “Let’s see how long it takes you.”
     Just for that, I’ll do it in forty.
     I cut the grass like a wolf’s nipping at my butt. Keep the lines straight. Clip the edges, sweep the sidewalk. Finish in fifty minutes.
     Okay, Dad’s still faster, but five minutes over his time is good for my first try. And no fun whatsoever because it’s ugly hot and humid. Before I finish two turns around the back yard, sweat’s dribbling down my temples and neck.
     Next, the allergies kick in. My eyes itch and water and I sneeze pretty much non-stop. But I do the job and do it well. When it’s done, I’m beyond hot and tired. I grab my tee. Wipe off my sweaty stomach, face, and neck.
     My cell rings. It’s Billy, my best friend since fifth grade.
     “Whatcha doin’?” he asks.
     “The lawn.”
     “Hey, great day for working outside.”
     "Ya think?” I push the mower toward the garage. Need lunch and a shower, bad.
     “Mom said I could have some kids over for a swim. Joe and Sean are on the way. You interested? ”
     “Sure! I’ll finish up and see ya in twenty minutes.”
     I put the lawn stuff away and run inside. Guzzle a half-gallon of water and wash my beet-red face. Then I slap together a ham and cheese and go looking for Mom. Find her in the cellar doing laundry.
     “Can I go to Billy’s for a swim?” I ask, swallowing the last of my sandwich. “His mom said it’s all right.”
     She stops folding clothes and stands still. “I don’t know...Dad’s not home yet.”

Yes, this is fiction. I made it up. Too bad it's real in many ways. I hope your house is nothing like this one.

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