Puppy for Sale

by James Matthews

Chapter 1

Home Away From Home

I kicked a small football through the damp grass towards an old cast iron bench that had sat in these grounds for as long as I can remember. It was autumn, and mushy dead brown leaves were being trodden into the moist lawn by my feet as I followed the path of my ball, finally arriving at the old bench.

The bench was rusty now, void of any care, with even the wooden slats now rotting... covered in bird shit. The old seat was a symbol to me, a symbol that told me how long I had been in this place...this place being, Greenstone Children's home. When I first came here, the kind lady that was sorting my case out sat with me on this very bench trying to settle me down. I remember being really scared and disorientated, wondering why my parents had gone and why I was in the strange place. That was ten years ago now and to be honest, much has been a blank since. The time just before that, I have tried to erase from my memory, but still, even now, I often see my dad shooting my mother through the head with a pistol before turning the gun on himself, like it was yesterday.

I was five, and pretty much like all five year olds, I didn't know why something like that had happened to me. I knew daddy was angry. I knew mummy was upset with daddy, but at the time your brain is so primitive you don't really understand the full horrors of what drives people to release such devastating anger towards someone they love.

Years later it would all come out, I would be told the reasons why my parents are now dead, and ultimately why, since the age of five, I have been cared for in this place. Over that time it has been hard information to swallow. I went through an obsessive stage when I was around thirteen, trying to get more and more information from my carers on what happened. I always felt they were hiding something, or missing bits out. After that passed, I thought maybe there really wasn't anything more that they could tell me. Until one day last summer, Julie Pipe, one of the in-house psychologists called by my room and slowly began to reveal those missing parts I was always confident existed.

I found out that my dad was never my dad at all. The trouble was, the day my dad killed my Mum was the day he found that out too. Don't get me wrong there were problems in their marriage that apparently added to the situation, and I was also suffering from what was described as behavioural problems, which put a lot of pressure on them. So it wasn't just about a random argument that happened between them one day.

I guess you could say the day my Dad put a bullet through her head was created by a perfect storm. How much of that storm was created by me is unclear, but my Mum's Journal that I keep in my room does give an insight into a little of what she was feeling.

A cool breeze rustled through the trees as if to tell me not to keep thinking about the past. I was out here alone, and looking back at the old building where I lived, I wondered again if I would ever get out of here. I didn't hate Greenstone, in fact after you get your head around the fact that, as a kid, that you have no parents, the place and the people just become the norm. But I did long for a family to call my own, and I waited every year to see if anyone would take me on. But alas, because of my condition and my sometimes unsavoury mood swings, I keep getting overlooked.

Those behavioural problems I talked about were later diagnosed as Bipolar, a metal condition that can affect mood to such extremes you can end up not being able to function as a human being. Families looking to adopt children don't want the hassle of having someone like me to deal with, and I get that. But if only they knew how much love I had to give back. If they could ever realise that, I'm sure they would change their minds.

For the people who do come looking to adopt a child they will normally always see the files on a particular child first, and are then told the background of the person. In the case of me? Well, I have a filing cabinet to myself which does not look good, and also age is not on my side. At sixteen I am already seen as a handful because of puberty. Add that together with my condition and past violent outbursts, people tend to politely ask if they can see the next child. I knew how it all worked; after all I had been doing it long enough...getting my hopes up, having them crushed. I think since last year I really gave up wondering if anyone was ever gonna want me and just tried to get on with life here.

Life past the home was uncertain, I didn't know what I was going to do, and I really didn't have a clue where I was going to live. The trouble with being in a place like Greenstone is that you tend to become isolated from the world and what goes on around you. In terms of the people who care for me, I don't think they have a clue either. I don't think they have ever had someone as old as me stay as long as I have. I've seen people come and go; other children and staff too. The other kids sometimes tease me about never finding parents, but being bigger than them, I soon put them into place. They were right though and I knew that... I was unsellable!

Twirling the wet ball in my hands, It was tempting to disregard the muck on the bench, sit on it and lose myself in my thoughts as I often did, but the weather was turning and I didn't go much on a soggy bottom. I looked up, seeing the clouds hanging low, the sun nowhere to be seen. A bout of loneliness attacked me again as I looked back at the structure that was my home. It was a large, domineering, mansion style house, with gargoyles that hung from the faucet. The whole place was a brown sandy colour with huge compartmented white framed windows that broke up the otherwise intimidating building.

I kicked my football hard towards the house and started to make my way back towards it, eyeing Cindy Batton staring down at me from one of the rooms. Cindy was fifteen and it felt like she had been at the home nearly as long as I had. She was a pretty girl with long blonde hair that tickled her waist as she walked. Her circumstances were different to mine, in the sense that she was thrown out of her house at the age of ten, with her evil parents jetting off to Brazil and leaving her alone on the street. She was such a sweet girl with soft emotions and a kind spirit. It almost made me cry to think of her cold and lonely, those five short years ago.

As I looked up our eyes locked and she smiled at me followed by a small wave with her delicate hands. I smiled back and made her location my destination. Picking up speed until I was trotting along, I entered the back doors and stopped in the large bland hall way, hearing the doors bang behind me, the sound bouncing off the walls acoustically.

"Puppy Stibbs, where have you been?" asked Charlotte Grange, one of the live-in carers.

"Just out, with my ball," I replied nonchalantly.

"It's way past dinner young man and I doubt there is much left. Run along now or you will go hungry tonight."

"Yes Mam."

My Actual name was Jenson Stibbings but most of the people here called me Puppy Stibbs. The name goes back a few years, and it's because all the staff thought I had rather big hands and feet for my body size when I started to enter my very early teens. I didn't really notice, but they would all comment that I was growing like a puppy, starting off with large hands and feet that the rest of my body would grow into eventually. That's when I first started to learn about puberty, and my body... how it was changing, and what it would become. I don't know who originally came up with the name Puppy Stibbs, but it's just stuck, and very few people in the home call me Jenson, except for the new children, or adult strangers.

Not feeling very hungry, and ignoring Charlotte's suggestion I eat, I made my way into the recreation room where Cindy was, still staring aimlessly out of the window. I thought I might make her jump but I think she could see me in the glass reflection because she turned round just as I approached her.

"Hey Cindy, whatcha doing?"

"What do you do out there... all day, on your own?" she asked, ignoring my greeting.

I shrugged. "Just think, that's all."

"About what, Puppy?"

"Oh, you know... stuff."

"New parents?" she asked, taking my little finger in her hand.

"Yeah, something like that, it sucks, don't it."

"Don't be sad, we have each other right?"

"Always Cindy, you're the best, you know that," I declared, before cracking a smile.

"What? What did I do...why are you so happy all of a sudden?"

"Meh, it's just you always know how to say the right thing when I'm feeling all self-pity and stuff" I responded.

She giggled. "I think we just need to do a sign and put it up in one of the front windows."

"A sign?"

"Yeah... like, Puppy for sale, apply within. That should get you some new parents!"

I chuckled. "You're sweet, you know that? But yeah, I like it...yeah, I really like it!"

Puppy for sale, apply within!

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