Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Day in the Life of Tommy Jacobs

Tommy Jacobs looked like the all-American kid as he walked up his driveway. Fifteen years old, sandy blond hair, a face sprinkled with freckles and an empty canvas bag dangling from his right shoulder, he was returning from his 6:00 am paper route. He lived on Hoffman Street in the southeast section of Rockford, Illinois. He took the route over from his brother's friend and it only consisted of 20 houses. He wished he had more.

Inside the house at the kitchen table, Tommy went directly to the last page of the "Living and Arts" section and read his horoscope before leaving for school. Everyone in Tommy's class had been talking about horoscopes the day before and he wanted to see what it was all about.

Susie Schnell, a loud-mouthed, hyperactive girl in the class told him that if he read his horoscope every morning he could find out exactly what his day would be like. Tommy doubted this but what if it was true? Before he went to bed that night all his doubts had been removed.

Sitting behind a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal, the last page of the "Living and Arts" section sprawled out on the right side of the table, Tommy's eyes zeroed in on his horoscope:

CANCER: (June 21-July 22) Beware of elders who try and take advantage of you. A partner stops working bringing you greater financial gain.

Whatever, Tommy thought. He munched up the rest of his cereal, grabbed his books and headed for the door. It wasn't very cold out but there was a nip to the air. Tommy plunged his left hand into his left pants pocket and tilted his head towards the ground as he walked down Hoffman Street towards his school only four blocks away.

When he lifted his head to glance down the sidewalk he noticed five seniors sitting on the hood of a car begining to take notice of him. Rich Walsh, the center on the high school football team, and John Mcmillan walked on to the sidewalk and stood with hands on hips and legs spread apart.

"Leave the kid alone," two other seniors said. "He's not worth your time."

"I know that," Rich said. "I need the practice and something about this kid bothers me."

Tommy kept his head down and continued to walk down the sidewalk hoping that this wouldn't take too long.

When he got within a couple of feet of Rich and John, Rich grabbed Tommy's coat in the middle of his chest and Tommy spilled his books all over the sidewalk. Before anyone could say anything, Rich's right hand came flying towards Tommy's chin. He dropped to the cement instantly. Rich, John and the rest of the seniors hopped into John's Mustang and sped away.

Tommy sat up slowly and mentally floundered in that eerie feeling of tasting blood in your mouth for the first time in your life. He mumbled through his blood, "Beware of elders...?"

The second part of Tommy's horoscope was too much of a reality. He wiped the blood off his mouth and cringed with pain. He gathered up his books and was soon on his way to school again. School went by as usual except for everyone asking Tommy why his bottom lip was so swollen; he never told anyone what happened - the prediction in his horoscope had him too freaked out to discuss it.

Tommy and Bill Egan ran down the hallway towards the front doors while the last bell of the day screamed and filled the corridor. They got to the sidewalk and took their coats off. The nippy morning had turned into a beautiful afternoon and Tommy had all but forgotten what had happened that morning.

Bill Egan had the paper route on the north end of Hoffman Street and Tommy had the south end. They had become good friends over the past few months, and they were on their way to Bill's house to play a new video game. They never made it.

Walking hastily down the sidewalk, Bill suddenly turned to Tommy, "I'll race you across the street and down to my house!" Before Tommy had time to reply, Bill darted out into the street.

The driver of the newspaper van, doing well over 40 mph, never had a chance to stop. "Biiiiiillll!!!!," Tommy screamed, and for the instant before the van hit him, he looked over at Tommy and smiled. The van hit Bill with a lifeless thud. His body was thrown over twenty feet and landed at the bottom of a large maple tree with and ear-crumpling crack.

Tommy stood helpless. The van driver stepped from the vehicle, eyes bulging from their sockets. Voices were screaming. The ambulance came, the police came, the ambulance left, the police left and the life of Bill Egan was over. Tommy walked home alone in shock, went up to his room and cried.

Several hours later the telephone was ringing. Tommy walked down the hallway towards his parent's bedroom and answered the phone. It was Mr Whatif, Tommy's boss.

"I heard about what happened to Bill Egan this afternoon, and, Tommy, I just can't believe it. I'm so sorry. I know you two were good friends," he said. Tommy, still in shock, just sat there in the unbearable silence.

"Listen," Mr Watif continued, "I called to see if you would like to take over his paper route."

Tommy's eyes widened as the words filled his ears and the memory of what the horoscope said that morning came painfully back.

"I really need you Tommy. I know its short notice and it hasn't really sunk in for any of us, but in a way you would be honoring him. I wanted to ask you first and, I know it doesn't matter right now, but you would be making twice as much money." Tommy slammed the receiver into it's cradle.

He ran down to the kitchen and re-read his horoscope. It was the last time Tommy Jacobs ever read his horoscope. For years, just looking at the "Living and Arts" section on the floor, or on the table, or wherever it was, filled him with gut wrenching fear.