Split Decisions

by Jackie


It was getting dark when Arnold and his grandpa came home from a camping trip. Summer was ending and they wanted to do one last big fun thing before Arnold had to go back to school.

"Had fun, Arnold?" Grandpa asked as the two of them unloaded the ice chest where they stored the fish they caught from the car- Arnold's car- that was parked in front of Sunset Arms.

Arnold had turned 16 earlier that year. Soon after he got his license, he was able to buy a car with some money he had saved up and a little help from Grandpa.

Arnold loved his car. It was preowned, of course, that was all he could afford, but it was cobalt blue and when the weather was especially warm, like it was that night, the top can be taken down.

Arnold grinned. "I sure did, Grandpa. It was fun getting to drive so far. We went way beyond the city limits!"

They headed back to the car after bringing the fish into the kitchen for Grandma, but before they could unload anything else, Grandpa made a face and turned to Arnold.

"The rest of this stuff can wait 'til morning, Arnold. Gotta go... all those berries!' And with that, Grandpa quickly headed back to Sunset Arms.

"Oh, okay, Grandpa. I'm just gonna stay out of here for a while. " Arnold called out, but he wasn't sure his grandfather heard him.

Arnold climbed into the backseat of his car and lay on his back and stared at the sky. He thought about the camping trip with his grandpa. He liked sleeping outside on hot summer nights. The chilled night air felt so good, even air-conditioning couldn't compare to it, and the campsite was so beautiful!

He stared at the sky until his eyelids felt heavy and the stars above him seemed to dance him and he drifted off to sleep.


Things were not nearly as pleasant or peaceful at the Pataki household. Helga stormed into her bedroom and slammed the door as hard as she could behind her.

Another shouting match with Big Bob has ended without anything being resolved and her retiring to her room, shaking with anger. It was getting to be a routine. The only thing that varied was that sometimes she would be ordered to go to her room and other times, she just turned her back on Big bob in the middle of something he was saying and headed for her room.

The fights with her father just seemed to get worse and worse. lately it seemed impossible for the two of them to have one normal conversation. The smallest things always led to bigger things which led to arguing and yelling. She and her father were constantly at each other's throats.

"Two more years," Helga would tell herself after every fight with Big Bob ever since she turned 16. Two more years and you'll be free of this stinkin' place." Those words always brought her a great deal of comfort.

"Two more years," she told herself again that night.

She waited for the comforting feeling to come. It didn't.

She then realized that she couldn't wait two more years and decided to leave that very night.

Read: | Prologue | | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |