I knew I needed to get home as I was standing in plain view for both Sid and Kayla to see from their houses, if they bothered to look. I also needed to spend some time at my thinking tree to sort out my feelings. 
By now the sun was getting low in the sky, so I needed to change into some long pants and a sweatshirt. The temp drops off pretty quick in Minnesota, in the fall. 
I unlocked the front door and was greeted by Todd and his excited wagging tail. I grabbed him a treat and opened the screen door at the back, so he could take care of business. I darted upstairs and threw on a pair of Levi’s and my brown zip hoodie. I ran back down into the kitchen and grabbed another crunchy granola bar and a can of Sprite, and went out the back to join Todd. 
He followed me down the footpath that cut through the large, dense forest beyond the lawn. The footpath was made from years of walking into the woods nearly every day of my life. We walked past my lean-to and skirted around the side of my skating rink. Off to the left, we found the next trail and followed it down to the brook. Along the shoreline a little ways was my destination. An old tree jutting out from the bank. It’s a wide trunked old tree that curves out over the brook like a banana. I can lean up against it with my back and it cradles me perfectly. Or I can climb it about ten feet to a sturdy, flat perch that hangs out over the brook. 
This is one of my two thinking trees. It’s a place I come to when I need to be alone to do some serious thinking, or when I just want to be healed by the beautiful isolation of nature. I wasn’t in need of any healing on this visit.  On this day, I needed to do some thinking. 
The one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about was how Sid made me feel. I know I am not at all attracted to him. He’s not ugly or anything. He’s really an average, normal looking kid. So why did sparks fly when he joked with me and grabbed me?  Was it where he touched me?  Was it the fact that he was a boy?
Because on the other hand, when he told me Kayla liked me more than as friends, I felt myself start to panic. I’d never thought about any of that before. Like having a girlfriend or going on dates. It’s not that I think girls are gross, and Kayla is super cool and hot looking. I just think for me I wanted to have Kayla as a friend, and nothing more. Same as how I would only ever want Sid to be a friend and nothing more. 
Last year some of my classmates would date and I always thought it was stupid. They would talk about kissing and making out and I never thought I should find a girl to do that stuff with. Maybe I’m weird?  I don’t know. Maybe I should want to make out with Kayla and have her for a girlfriend. Maybe I should get boners when I think about her. Maybe I shouldn’t get a boner when I think about Sid. 
All I know for sure is I don’t know anything. I didn’t figure anything out from my visit to the thinking tree. I decided to put it in the back of my head and think about it more some other time. 
I hopped off the tree and headed back for home. If my mom and sister were still out, I would need to start making dinner.  That’s no problem for me, I love to cook. 
When I came back in the clock on the stove read 5:00 and the house was certainly empty, so I removed my hoodie and scrolled through my ipod, to pick something out to cook to. I usually just shuffle, but with cooking it was different to me. You needed to set the right mood, or you could destroy what you’re making. For me, aggressive music and the kitchen, don’t mix well. 
I decided I would make some pasta, which would last the next two nights. I selected DJ Shadow’s Entroducing for my soundtrack. I docked the ipod and started to cook. 
I heated up some olive oil and butter in a saucepan, while I chopped up some onion, carrots, and celery with the Ninja. I cooked up the chopped veggies in the saucepan and then added a pound of ground beef. Then I threw in some salt, black pepper, cayenne, and a pinch of nutmeg. When the meat was cooked up, I reduced some milk, and then some white wine. I mashed a big can of plum tomatoes with my hands, dumped it in, gave it a few stirs and let the sauce bubble. I like to let it sit for as long as I can hold off, so I decided to run upstairs and take a shower. 
After a long, hot shower, I wrapped myself in a towel and laid down on my bed. The next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and saw it was 7:00. I put on some sweatpants and a t-shirt and ran downstairs to cook up some penne. I was ravenous with hunger, so I was impatiently waiting for the pasta to get done. I really only eat one meal a day and just kind of snack the rest of the day. I am always amazed at how much all my peers eat. I have the appetite of a bird compared to most teen boys. 
As if on purpose, just as I was straining the noodles, my sister and mom walked in together. 
“Hey. Welcome to Chef Daniel’s Bistro. Please, please take your seats. Tonight we are serving  pasta with meat sauce. Bon Appetito!”
“How did I get blessed with such a wonderful son?” my mom said as she threw together a little salad. “This looks absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to taste it!”
“This smells really good Daniel.  Thank you for cooking…again” Kari chimed in. 
And so it went, the three of us ate and chatted about our days. It’s a pretty rare occurrence that all of us would be eating at the same time. It’s even more rare that the four of us would sit down for a meal together. With my dad constantly traveling for work (I’d be the last one to complain about that) we almost never eat together as a whole family. 
Usually we just fend for ourselves, unless someone makes something big enough to be reheated when others arrive home from work or school. It feels like a family of three most of the time, and I don’t mind chipping in with cooking or cleaning. My mom works long hours and has over an hour each way in travel. It’s the least I can do to have something ready for her to heat up when she gets home. Some nights she goes out for drinks with coworkers and I’m usually in bed before she gets home. 
My sister is very active with after-school stuff, and she works part time too, at Kohl’s. So I like to help her out with chores and meals too. 
It’s always just Todd and I from when I get home from school until 7:00 or later. I kind of like how it seems like my house and my responsibility during those hours.  
I was pretty tired from the shock of waking so early, after having a whole summer of sleeping in. So after dinner I went up to my room, docked my ipod on shuffle, and cruised around on the internet for a little while. When I got bored of that, I brushed my teeth and went to bed at 9:30. As I laid there, I reviewed my first day of middle school. It was a pretty messed up and weird day. 
Normally I lay awake for a long time, waiting for sleep to take me. Tonight was a different story. I was asleep within minutes and didn’t wake once, until my alarm went off.


5 responses to “LIVE THROUGH THIS (part 5)

  1. Another lovely segment. Beautiful imagery, the ‘thinking trees’, the ‘beautiful isolation of nature’, the woods beyond the lawn. You sure make Minnesota sound like a beautiful place, a place I would like to grow up in or at least see. But right now I’m hearing the weather reports of all the ice and snow there and I’m having trouble correlating these two images. I guess it must be that about half of the year it must not be so tranquil and nice as you describe here. I wonder if Daniel still made use of his special places this time of year? I guess though the ‘skating rink’ must one of ice, a place where during the winter a future hockey star could develop his skills.

    Even more skills Daniel has now come to light: he can cook. The cooking description instantly made me almost unbearably hungry, again your words conjure up such visual and sensory images. I think it’s neat how Daniel uses music to set his mood for whatever he is doing, selecting particular choices for the task at hand. Daniel may eat only one meal a day but he sure makes the best of that one.

    Except for his troublesome and abusive father, Daniel seems to have a nice family in his mom and sister Kari. It’s good that Daniel helps out around the house since they have jobs as part of their lives. It’s also good that his father is away a lot of the time.

    I wonder now what further part Derek is going to play in Daniel’s life? I think that all young people encounter a ‘Derek’ in their lives at one or more times, especially at transition points like starting middle or high school, but I think also that few are lucky enough to have a Kayla and Sid suddenly pop up in their lives as Daniel did. It will be interesting to see how he sorts out his different feelings toward these two and what further encounters they have.

    I am really enjoying reading this tale as it unfolds. What makes it really nice though is your writing skill, your creative artistry with the use of words. And of course I want to have a better understanding of how Daniel developed into the person he was to become.


  2. Two problems.

    Now I'm hungry. That pasta sounds much better than the reheated pizza I had earlier.

    Now I've got to spend the next hour listening to Endtroducing again. A friend of mine introduced me to DJ Shadow when I was around 15. I spent many a summer's day riding around in his car driving around the lakes listening to that album. He actually introduced me to a lot of good music around that time. I guess it was kind of like you with your uncle; an older guy who takes you under their wing, and throws a shit load of good music at you too.

    I'm really liking the story. I totally understand the self-doubt of releasing something you've created out into the world, but you had nothing to worry about. I'm looking forward to reading more!




  3. OK, I'm caught up. I apologize for not commenting on the previous couple of parts, it's been “a week” and a lot of important stuff got pushed aside.

    Anyway. This story, each and every part, is truly a fine piece of writing. The story is compelling, the writing is well done.

    I know about the thinking tree.

    Peace <3


  4. The first commenter said something about Derek. Did I miss something? Who is Derek and what has he done to Daniel? Sorry if it was there and I missed it. I love the part about the thinking tree. Even the name 'thinking tree' makes me feel all kinds of good feels. Daniel's confusion came through clearly here.

    Also very curious about the dog being named Todd. It's such an unusual name for a dog. Who chose it and why?


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