"Hurry up, Leroy!" Imogene took me roughly by the arm. "You're gonna learn to run this town properly."
My name is Leroy Herdman. I'm 14, and I have 5 siblings. Two older, three younger. Since two of my younger siblings are twins, does that still make me the middle child? In any case, we live together with our mom, but she doesn't come around a lot. Sometimes we don't see her for days at a time. Our dad? Well, he left after Gladys was born. Ralph didn't tell me until I got older that he left because he was tired of all the kids he had to put up with. We don't live in the best of neighborhoods. There's always a break-in going on, and not just by my siblings and me. That's why it's good to have protection around, or some obvious threat. These gun holsters look good on me, don't they? I think that's been keeping the wrong ones at bay.
Since my mom was never around, it was my siblings that raised me. Ralph and Imogene. They were so smart, they knew about everything!Leroy, age 6
Ralph and Imogene were bigger, so their legs were longer. Mine couldn't keep up with theirs. I didn't want to say anything to them about it. They'd probably tug me even harder.
The sun was going down. Bad guys came out at sun down. Why were we out so late suddenly? "Stop worrying about it," That's what Ralph would always say if he felt like I was asking too many questions.
Imogene gripped my arm all the way to the park. We walked until we got deep enough into the woods that I could hardly see my hand in front of me, it was so dark.
Imogene let go of me, and she and Ralph stood in front of me. It nearly broke my neck to look up at them.
"You're 6 now, Leroy," Imogene broke the silence. "In the Herdman family, that's coming-of-age. You're made a Herdman, not born one. Now that you're old enough, we'll make you a Herdman, like me and Ralph."
This sounded like fun. So I could be as cool as them?
"Your first test will be given momentarily," Imogene smiled, spitting chewed pieces of her cigar into the leaves. "Ralph will take you into the woods, and we'll begin."
Ralph put his arms around my stomach and lifted me up, and he hurried off the path, away from the sound of crunching leaves coming from nearby.
We were behind a row of bushes before Ralph put me down and told me to stay quiet no matter what. Soon, through the openings of the bushes, I saw a woman walking down the poorly lit trail coming towards where we had been standing. Ralph and I looked over the bush and saw Imogene hiding in the bushes on the other side of the trail, opposite of us. She and Ralph mouthed words to each other that I couldn't understand. Before I could ask, Ralph put a hand on my head and pushed me back down out of sight. He mouthed something to Imogene, and then came back down to my level.
"Okay, Leroy," He whispered, I struggled to hear. "Now I want you to scream as loud as you can."
"But you told me to stay quiet no matter what!" I whispered back at a louder level.
"That doesn't matter anymore! Just scream!" Ralph gripped my arm.
I looked past the bushes and saw the woman walking past where we were hiding. Imogene's eyes were wide and her teeth were curled into a snarl, as if to tell Ralph, "Hurry before it's too late."
Upon seeing this, Ralph jerked me forward by the sleeve and pinched the back of my arm, causing me to let out a distressing cry of pain.
This caused the woman to look back at where we were hiding, startled and panicked.
Ralph lifted me up to look over the bushes. I saw Imogene's silhouette leap on top of the woman. Before she could scream, Ralph darted out of our hiding spot and slapped a hand over her mouth. He helped to pin the woman to the ground while Imogene managed to get her purse off of her arm. As soon as she did, Ralph and Imogene ran quickly back to where I was hiding. Ralph scooped me up and kept running.
All I could hear past the sounds of leaves crunching under Ralph and Imogene's shoes was the sound of the woman screaming for help. Ralph and Imogene didn't stop running until we got back to our house.
Ralph put me down once we got to the driveway, and he and Imogene used what little breath they had to laugh at their success.
"You almost messed the whole thing up," Imogene said, turning to me She held the woman's purse in front of me. "But we got what we went for!"
We walked around to the back of the house and climbed in a low window that Imogene had busted in the screen from. I climbed inside and heard my baby brothers Claude and Ollie crying.
"Are they hungry again?!" Imogene screamed over them at Ralph. "No wonder there's no food in this house!!"
"I'll take care of it!" Ralph screamed back. "Just stop your complaining!"
While Ralph went into the kitchen to find something to give to my brothers, I sat down next to Imogene in the living room as she dumped out the contents of the woman's purse. She chuckled as she emptied out the woman's wallet. The chuckle turned into a growl once Imogene discovered only 10 dollars in it. She forgave the wallet after she found an opened pack of cigarettes.
I stared in fascination as she lit one of those things, and my eyes got wide when I saw the end light up, and smoke came out of her mouth. Finally, she saw me staring. She took it out of her mouth and held it out to me.
"Here, put it in your mouth," She said.
Excited, but also confused, I put it in my mouth and waited for it to light up. I was a little disappointed when nothing happened.
"Now take a deep breath, and breathe through it," Imogene instructed me.
I obeyed, and it actually worked, but I couldn't find it in me to celebrate on account of my watery eyes. I took it out of my mouth and coughed the smoke out.
"It hurts," I gagged.
"It won't if you do it right," Imogene snatched it out of my hand and put it back in my mouth. "Breathe from your lungs, not your mouth, Leroy."
I did exactly as my sister instructed, and it actually worked that time!
"Well?" Imogene waited for my review.
"It's a little nasty," I handed it back to her.
"You'll get used to it," Imogene said before she inhaled a huge cloud of smoke, causing ash to fall off the end of the cigarette. "Once you've gotten it, you can move onto cigars. Those taste better."
I had been focusing on the cigarette so long, I hadn't noticed Claude and Ollie had stopped crying.