Golf. Jude’s dad tried to get him to try golf one Saturday. Just being with his Dad was cool. His Dad could be kind of fun and goofy when they weren’t at the house. But there were co-workers with them that day and Jude got bored. He’d brought a book but it wasn’t enough. Still bored. But something caught his eye. There were wooded areas all around the course. His dad and his friends were laughing and joking and he wandered off. In his mind, the golf course was melting away and the woods were becoming the forest in Bridge to Terabithia. Or the tree in My Side of the Mountain. Or Mirkwood in The Hobbit. He played in that little bit of forest for an hour. It wasn’t until his dad’s panicked/angry voice yelled out close by that he snapped out of it and after a moment’s hesitation [“Maybe I could just stay here forever… maybe I could hide away and never go home..”] he went back to his dad. His dad was angry but only because Jude had embarrassed him in front of co-workers. He mumbled something about Jude “could have gotten hurt” and when they got home, he told Jude not to tell his mom about it.
That’s kind of how things worked in their house. His dad did his own thing most of the time. And his mom… well, at home, he had some peace because he could retreat to his room. But it never lasted long. There were always chores to do and new things to “learn” (did his mom think he was always in school or what?) and she absolutely refused to let him read any fantasy. No books. No movies. No iPad. No games. All she ever said was, “it’s not healthy.” She was always being really hard on him. Especially if they were about to go out in front of people. But sometimes she seemed sad too. She’d sit at the counter on Sunday mornings and drink her coffee and she looked like she might be someplace far away. He wanted to be with her. He wanted to hug her and smile and laugh. But whenever he walked into the room, there were more things to do.
He knew how to hide anything he wanted to look at. So he’d read all the fantasy classics. And he liked comic books. And it was always fun to get a book from the school library and read it right in front of his mom. If he got it from the school, she got mad but wouldn’t do anything about it. And drawing. He could draw anything he wanted and usually get away with it.
His mom wouldn’t leave him alone most of the time and it made him tired. He did everything he could think of to get her off his back. He’d actually become a really great kid by accident. He did what he was told, he made good grades, he listened to his parents and tried to make them happy really quickly so he’d have time to do other things. But they’d just fill up his life more. They’d signed him up for basketball. He was really good at it. With the new “every kid plays for so much of the game” rule, he’d become one of the most popular kids in school because he was awesome. But he hated it. And they wouldn’t let him stop because “that’s quitting.” They set up these “play dates” which he was way too old for. He and the other kid would sort of awkwardly play around while their moms talked. They were always at the country club where his mom got him tennis lessons (he wasn’t good at that either) and they were at the pool half the year. He liked the pool, even when it was busy. He tried to make friends but even when he did, eventually they turned on him because he’d want to spend so much time with them. They didn’t know it was because he didn’t want to be at home and thought he was a weirdo because he was a boy and cared about people.
He didn’t know there was a “better” life. All the kids around him seemed happy to live the kind of life he had. But he was tired all the time. He just wanted to be left alone and pretend and imagine and be in his head… Live in some far away land where there were adventures he could have and friends and quests and he could save people and be the hero.
Mason loved cats. All cats. Big ones. Little ones. He could tell you all about them. Size, shape, odd little things about each of them, how they were born, how they grew up, what they like, what they don’t like. That was his thing. Cats.
He hadn’t lived much life so everything was new. The only things that ever made him sad were his mom being sad and whenever his dad left for work. He was happiest when his dad would spin him around. And he had just started playing soccer. That was really great. He loved running around. A lot. His mom didn’t seem very happy when he ran around because she was always telling him to do something and then he was somewhere else and then she was telling him again to do it and he’d start but then he’d start thinking about snow leopards (they were really pretty) and she’d smile, but not really smile, and tell him again to do whatever the thing was.
He also really liked cooking. He liked how such different things mixed and made food. It was like magic.
He had lots of friends. Kaden, Axel, Logan, Luke, Evie, Kai, Liam, mason, Noah, Ava, Olivia, Zoe, Lily, Madison, Madison (there were two)… people from his class, people from soccer, people from the club at the golf course. They would go swimming there and it was really fun.
He was really happy. He just hoped his parents would get him a kitten.