From "Just Away From Home"...

Winter has its perks and disadvantages. Looking out of the Bi-State bus window, Duke could see that the sun was about to turn in as the sky developed a dark blue, almost purple coloring. He looked at the railing over the bridge, below which trains carried loads of materials, mostly boxes, to some unknown destination. The pure whiteness from the snow reflected brightly through the dark covering of evening. It was winter. The bus came to a stop at the red light. Duke was all the way at the back of the bus, and could see well ahead to his house. He sighed with some sort of relief. This was one of the highlights Duke had been thinking about. No one was outside around the neighborhood. Then again, who would be outside in near-freezing temperature? The traffic light turned green and Duke hesitantly reached for the silver wire above him. He pulled on it lightly and there was a soft bell sound. A bright red ďSTOP REQUESTĒ sign turned on above the driverís seat and at the next street the bus stopped at a marker that read ďBUS STOP.Ē Duke got up from his seat and walked a few steps to the exit door on his right. The door opened slowly as drafts of cold air snaked through the exit space. Duke stepped off the bus. He could feel some soreness in his legs from the mile or so walk he had taken until he had realized that he had bus fare. He adjusted the book bag on his back as the bus drove off, leaving thick, dusty black smoke behind. Duke held his breath, waiting for the smoke to be blown away by the cold wind. He turned around and looked across the street at his home. The sidewalks in front of him were covered with snow, and Duke couldnít see the curb.

He decided to walk to the traffic light and look down the street. Duke knew he should be careful because this was the street where the green light for oncoming traffic stays green for nearly eight minutes and impatient children have been hit. He looked both ways and could see car lights all the way downtown. Duke knew he was safe, stepped over the inches of snow and crossed the street. His home was right in front of him. He looked to his right and saw Winstonís House, a community center. Ella worked there after she finished school, as a peer counselor for elementary school children. Duke knew Ella was there; he was fine with her not being around. He walked up to the screen door and opened it. Something inside Duke told him that no one was home. He put his hand on the doorknob and turned it. The door was locked.

He had been right; no one was home. Duke rested his head against the door. Tiny ice particles from the panels quickly melted on Dukeís forehead as he felt out of luck. Nothing was going right. He could go over to Ella at her job and ask for the key, but nearly all the employees there disliked him. Duke always seemed to bring trouble to their doorstep, with his friends causing turmoil among teenage workers who were guys younger than he was. Duke sat on the steps. The cold was becoming unbearable. His lips were so dry that if he smiled, they would crack and bleed. Duke put his book bag beside him and folded his arms tightly across his chest. All he wanted was to go home to his old room and rest. He looked toward other homes. Bittersweet memories of his former friends came to mind.

"Look who's home."

Duke turned and saw Ella. She was walking quickly to get to the house. The snow was very deep. Duke didnít really smile, but he didnít want to look upset when Ella saw him. After all, whenever it came to a battle between Duke and Louis, Ella would take Louisí side immediately. Ella walked to the steps near Duke, taking a deep breath. Walking in the snow was exercise itself. Ella stood in front of him. Now he was confused, but he didnít want her to know.

"How are you doing?" Duke asked.

Ella nodded and looked another way. She gave no indication of interest as to why he was showing his face at this time of year. She couldnít seem to care less.

"Fine. Why are you out here?" Ella asked.

"Donít you have the keys?" Duke asked.

"No. Mom should be home," Ella sighed.

"Well, she's not," Duke replied.

Ella nodded. This was one of the moments she did not like about going to work. Dorothy would leave school to come home and grade papers, and then return to school for something else. She wished that Dorothy could get everything done at school all at once. Ella walked up the stairs to the door and stood a few inches away from Duke. For twins, they never had the close bond that twins usually shared.

"Hi Duke!" yelled Billie.

Ella and Duke saw Billie running alongside the sidewalk to her home. Duke waved to her, but it was unlikely she could have seen him wave. Ella looked another way. Duke turned around to Ella, but she didnít want to talk about anything that included the name ĎBillie.í Duke looked at the corner across from their house and saw a car about to make a left turn in their direction. Although snow covered the four-door vehicle, Duke could always recognize that grayish vehicle. He knew who it was.

"Thankfully," a relieved Ella said.

Duke didnít say anything. Ella looked at Duke and smiled to herself. For some strange reason she delighted in his misery about Louis. Ella personally felt that Louis had every right to treat Duke with little respect. The car turned left at the corner, pulled into the driveway and parked. Dorothy stared directly at Duke from her seat on the passengerís side. Duke stood up and waited for Dorothy to walk towards the house.

Dorothy smiled. Her son was finally home. Louis, on the other hand, avoided all eye contact with Duke as he placed the car keys in his coat pocket and sighed. Dorothy removed her seatbelt and got out of the car with her briefcase. She took a few hesitant steps toward Duke, because he displayed uncertainty with his movements and avoided making eye contact, looking everywhere but at her.

Dorothy didnít care, she strode toward him with purpose. She reached for Duke and hugged him. Her briefcase rested on his book bag and almost hit Ella in the face. Ella looked at Louis, who gave her the 'It never fails' expression. They had a bond where they agreed on almost everything concerning Dorothy and Duke. Louis walked up to the door and past Dorothy and Duke. He unlocked the door and walked in, with Ella behind him. Dorothy looked at Duke.

"How are you?" Dorothy asked.

Duke smiled. It was such a reassuring voice to hear. Someone finally cared. He did not even want her to stop hugging him because it added warmth in the bitter temperature.

"I'm fine," Duke said.

Dorothy put her bare, dry hands on his cheeks. She smiled broadly.

"Good," she said.

Both of them walked into the house and Dorothy shut the door behind her. Louis and Ella were already out of sight, leaving snowy, wet footprints behind. In a second, that feeling that nobody wanted him around resurfaced. Dorothy was disappointed for Duke. Even though she could only see the back of his head, she could tell by his body gestures, the slumping of the shoulders, that he was not looking forward to coming home. Dorothy put her briefcase down and stood in front of Duke.

"Where's your luggage?" Dorothy asked.

"Oh, I just figured since I have some clothes here, I didn't want to burden myself with a lot to carry," Duke said.

Dorothy smiled. Duke knew that was an acceptable answer for her because she was just happy having her son home. At least one person was.

"Well, you go and wash up. Get yourself a good nightís sleep. We got a lot to catch up on," Dorothy said.

Duke smiled. He was satisfied with that. Dorothy kissed him on the cheek and Duke walked past her toward the stairs. He could feel the familiar pattern of home life again as he walked up the stairs and turned the corner at the right. The last room at the end of the hallway was his. Duke opened the door and felt at ease with the smell of light dust in his room. His bed remained bare, but the room was still clean. He could tell Dorothy made sure it stayed that way until he came home.

Duke removed the heavy book bag from his back and set it on the table in front of him. He thought about turning the lamp on, but was more content with it off. He took off his jacket and put it in the closet behind him. Duke looked through the clothes on the hangers and found old pajamas that he hardly wore, even before he left for school. He took off his boots and kicked them into the corner out of frustration. Duke sighed. Where the hell did that anger come from? His right foot was damp. That small hole in his shoe had let the snow reach his toes, and now frostbite probably awaited him.

He walked into the hallway. Louis and Ella had their doors shut. That was somewhat comforting. He didnít have to look at their faces. He walked into the bathroom and immediately opened the drawer under the sink. Duke took a towel from this drawer while closing the bathroom door with the heel of his foot. He placed his pajamas on the table behind him. He removed his clothes rather quickly, starting with his sweater and T-shirt, then his pants, underwear, and finally his socks. Duke walked to the shower and tub, and turned the knob about an inch to the left. He continued to turn the knob more to the left until he had adjusted the waterís temperature to his pleasure, and then stepped into the tub. Warm water touched his face first. He could feel his body twinge with itchiness and shivers because of being out in the cold for so long. Duke turned around and let the water pour all over his backside. He was no longer in control. With that feeling of weakness draining all strength from his legs, Duke sat in the corner of the tub, away from the water. He folded his knees near his chest and crossed his arms over them. Duke sighed. It was a relief to close his eyes. The warmth of tears came, and ran down his cheeks. Home at last.

From "Peeling Off Skin"...

I Honor You

Flesh lie in its bitter

Death

Black sky loom over our bodies

I stand above the frozen stature

A job is done

I perform a lifetime's honor

Please ... do not question

Look at me

I saved you for the devil's

eternity

A filthy stain that is now clean

My almighty superior

will be lenient on me

For it has been shown throughout

history

this stiff piece of thing means

nothing to society

A Real Battle

It may rain

But there's no thunder

Seen all hail

But know nothing yet

Lets talk of anger

But do I know anger?

I've been up a mountain

But not the hard way

I say I'm limited

When actually I'm privileged

A Perfect Target

Never approach the ones who will give you backlash

always go to the ones in which you can predict

the outcome as the mighty one

never take your turmoil to the majority

rather be discrete with it

go to the one who's patient than to the one

who's to your equal

feel proud of your accomplishment

your release your hostility to the one

who has no clue of them

then to the one who cause them

 © Copyright Shelly Williams
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