I have more to add, but I wanted to share what I had so far before class on Monday.
I didn't get as much time to work on it over break as I wanted, but I'm pretty proud of how much I came up with.
Word Count: 2,964
“This is the third time this week we’ve been to your house, one more call and you’re spending the night in the cell.” Officer Hanson pushed a thick finger to Raph’s chest to hammer away the point. “Are we clear?” The dim lights from the porch betrayed the Officer’s calm demeanor, showing the sheen of sweat breaking out on the older man’s forehead, despite it being 40 degrees outside.
“Crystal.” Raph growled.
Officer Hanson nodded to him before waddling off to his squad car. Raph squinted against the red and blue lights as the car drove back down the dirt road it had come. He let out a puff of air as he leaned back against the stucco wall of his house, letting the words he had overheard another officer speak to his Mother on the front porch roll around in his mind.
“…third time this week…”
“…anger management counseling…”
“…scaring the other children…”
Raph had been in such a rage that he hadn’t heard the entire conversation, but he had heard enough. He knew that his own mother was letting these strangers tell her what he was all about, telling her that they knew him better than she did, if she even knew him at all. How dare they think that Raph would hurt one of his younger siblings! He hadn’t done it before and he wasn’t about to start now.
Raph huffed, sending his shaggy hair out of his eyes for a moment, and pushed himself off the wall of his house. Maybe a walk would do him some good. When he was younger, his Father would always tell him to “take a walk” when he got angry.
That was when his Father was around.
The cold air bit at the back of his neck and his ears as he shuffled his feet through the dirt roads, kicking up dust and rocks all along the way. With each step he could feel more anger creep up his limbs and settle in his chest. He clenched his fist and tried for a few seconds to brush it aside, but like always, it never worked. Raph let the anger take over, it bubbled in his stomach and spilled out between his lips in a harsh growl. He opened his mouth slightly and let a little more of the sound out with each breath, and suddenly he was running. Down the dirt road and up into the hills he had been warned against wandering in as a child. He let the tall grass thrash at his jean clad legs and catch around his ankles. He kicked up dirt and rocks, disturbing a few animals as he went along. He didn’t even notice the wood fence as he hopped over it in one swoop. His screams and yelps getting louder and louder with each pounding footstep he took, the anger almost running on empty.
And then he noticed the house.
The anger fizzled out of him suddenly, faster than it ever had before, as he let his eyes wander over the old building. In all the times he had come out here, he had never once seen the old structure before. It was so slanted, the small chimney practically clinging to the roof, that is was almost comical. The boards were splintered as could be, and the porch looked as if it would give way any second. In the darkness, Raph could barely make out a figure sitting on a rocking chair on the porch of the house.
“You’re an angry young man Raphael.”
A light burst upon the figure, as if Raph himself had a flashlight pointed right at it. It was an old woman, her face wrinkled beyond belief. The skin on her pasty forehead sagged so much he wondered if it impaired her vision. Her hair looked as dry as hay and was slung over the back of the rocking chair she sat on, making its way down to what looked like her waist.
She stood suddenly, leaving the old rocking chair frantically swaying without her weight. She put her hands on her large hips as she spoke to Raph once more.
“Why do you let it control you Raphael?”
Raph shook his head vigorously, trying to clear his vision, his hair flipping wildly as he did so. He brought his hands up to his face, pressing his knuckles into his eyes, and prayed to God he wasn’t having another episode. When he had done all of these things and taken a few breaths, he dared to look up once more. The woman was still standing there, the wreck of a house still behind her, her hand still on her hips.
“It’s not nice to ignore people.” Her voice cracked as she spoke, as if it had not been used in quite some time.
Raph felt the anger begin to boil again.
“Who the Hell are you?” He bit out.
The woman gave him a steady look, taking in his hunched shoulders and his lowered head, possibly noting how animalistic he looked at the moment.
“I’m someone who wants to help you Raphael.” She said.
“How do you know my name?!” He almost yelled. His jaw was clenched, his fists balled up, the anger was getting stronger like it always did.
“You let the anger control you. You let it consume you and you never fight back.” She was scolding him now. “You are using it as a shield you don’t need, and everyone in your wake is left damaged.”
“You don’t know anything!” He screamed.
The woman lifted her chin to look down at him, sweeping some of her long hair out of her face as she did so. “I know that these are the choices you are making Raphael, and I know they are selfish ones.” She reached her hands out, and Raph felt his feet begin to carry him toward her on their own accord. He felt his anger burn hotter as he neared her. He could feel it flowing through his veins, cracking at his bones, pools of hot liquid swirling in his head. It burned, it burned so terribly.
“What are you doing to me?!” Raph screamed at her. He was shaking all over, sweat began to drip from his face, and the pain was so overwhelming he thought he would surely die. He willed his body to shut down, but it would no longer listen to him, only to the anger and heat flowing throughout him.
“Anger fuels it Raphael. Anger makes the fire burn hotter,” Raph struggled against the invisible hold placed upon him. “This fire you create will burn everything and everyone, and it will cause you great pain.”
Tears streaked down Raph’s face. His eyes were closed tight, his lips moved in silent prayer that the terrible pain would recede.
She extended her hands towards him, placing a cool palm on each cheek. “Become a selfless man, and you will know the way to smother out the fire.”
Something happened when she spoke, shaking Raph to his very core. He felt it race up his spine, and shoot through each limb. He felt it in his chest, white hot with each breath. It clouded his vision, and escaped his body in the form of a shriek. Once it moved past his lips, his knees gave out and the last he remembered was the grass tickling his cheek, and the Woman’s words.
Become a selfless man, and you will know the way to smother out the fire.
Raph woke up to the smell of clean sheets. His hands searched for the dirt and grass of the trail that he had been running on the night before, but they only found the grey sheets of his bed. He sat up carefully, checking for the fiery pain that had ripped through him the night before. There were no traces left as he flexed his muscles and took a few careful breaths. He began to reconstruct what had happened to him in his brain. He assured himself that it couldn’t have been a nightmare, the pain had been too real.
A soft knock interrupted his thoughts. He gripped his sheets, expecting his Mother to open his door, he steeled himself for her pained expression. When the door opened a crack, it wasn’t his mother there, but his youngest sibling Johnny. Raph searched his small face for any signs of fear. Johnny’s face was half hidden by the door, his shaggy hair curling over his ears and into his brown eyes. Johnny was basically identical to Raph in appearance, but nothing else. Where Raph had always been explosive, Johnny had kept himself contained and quite.
Sometimes Raph envied the eight year old for that.
“You’re gonna be late for school.” Johnny stated quietly.
Raph whipped his head around to the clock on his nightstand, where the block red number showed that if he didn’t get moving, he would in fact be late for school. He jumped up and quickly changed his shirt, which was covered in dirt and sweat from the night before. He tossed his books and papers in his bag, grabbed his phone, and headed out of his bedroom. He ruffled Johnny’s hair as he passed, murmuring a small thank you to the youngest member of the family.
He hoped to slip out of the house without being noticed, but of course, Raph was never that lucky.
“Running late again Raphie!” His sister Marcella quipped from behind the kitchen counter. She was twelve going on thirty, thinking that being in middle school and being allowed to wear a little makeup made her an adult.
“Don’t start with me Marcy.” He half growled as he reached past her to grab a bagel for his breakfast on the go.
“I just worry about your education big brother.” She crossed her arms over her skinny body and flicked her long curls over her shoulder awkwardly.
“The only thing you need to worry about is getting the knuckleheads to school. Where’s Miguel?”
Marcella turned her back to Raph, shoving sandwiches into paper bags for their siblings. “Probably hiding from you.” She tossed it out as if it was normal that his sibling would be afraid of him. Raph stopped in his tracks, he could feel his anger start to bubble inside of him. Heat quickly rose to his face, and he felt nauseous all of a sudden.
“Whatever,” he huffed, “just make sure you get there on time.” His heart started to race at the thought of ten year old Miguel cowering from him in the bathroom. He felt so hot all of a sudden.
Raph threw open the screen door of their house and hurried down the steps, ignoring whatever is was Marcella was yelling at him from the kitchen. He jogged down the small dirt road until he was met with the black city asphalt and racing cars of Birch Street. He quickly walked the simple path to school, letting the breeze form the passing cars cool him as he went.
The bell had just rung as he pushed open the door to his first class of the day; English. It was a good thing Mr. Jay was always late to their class, or Raph would have gotten detention on more than one occasion. He took his seat just as Mr. Jay shuffled into the classroom muttering something to himself.
Mr. Jay dropped his stack of papers down on his desk with a thump, before standing straight and greeting the class for the morning.
“Good morning class and happy Monday.”
A few students groaned at the reminder that it was in fact, the worst day of the week. Mr. Jay continued talking about the past assignments, the grades his students had received, and maybe another project. Raph rested his chin on his hand, not listening to a word the man at the front of the room was saying. Mr. Jay went on for a good few minutes before his cell phone began to ring.
“Son of a…” He checked the screen before regarding the class once more. “I’ll have to take this outside. Sit tight for a minute.” Raph watched as Mr. Jay left the room, then picked up his pen and started to doodle absent mindedly in his notebook. He was so entranced with his poor doodles that he didn’t notice when three boys from the front of the classroom made their way to his desk in the back of the room.
Raph jumped up as the three of them sat down around him, jostling his desk and bumping into his shoulders.
“Heard the cops going down the street last night.” Sean Mcannery had that stupid smirk on his face. “Where do you think they went Duke?”
Duke, who was sitting to the left of Raph, leaned back in his chair, straightening his varsity jacket with pasty white hands.
“I think they went to take out the trash.” He smiled wide, revealing his perfectly white teeth. Raph couldn’t help but imaging how good it would feel to knock a few of them loose.
The uncomfortable heat Raph had been feeling earlier that morning began to pool in his belly. He clenched his jaw tight, determined not to give the three jerks the reaction they wanted.
“I don’t think they got it all.” Adam, who was sitting to the right of Raph sneered.
Raph hated them. He hated their stupid smiles and their stupid lettermen jackets. He hated the stupid class rings that clung to their stupid meaty fingers. He sucked in a breath as his entire body began to heat up. The pain he had felt from the night before began to return, white hot and raging through his limbs. He felt it most in his hands and the tips of his fingers.
Duke got up from his seat and made his way behind Raph.
“Well maybe we should finish the job for them.”
Raph was shaking.
The heat was so intense.
Was that smoke coming from his fingers?
Duke brought his hands down on Raph’s shoulders with the intention of throwing him out of his chair as he had done plenty of times before.
As soon as his palms hit their target, Duke let out a yelp and quickly drew away. Raph stood and whirled around to face him, knocking his chair over in the process. Through his scowl he could see that Duke’s hands were bright red and beginning to blister.
Duke looked from his hands to Raph is disbelief.
“What the Hell…”
Raph’s eyes were wide, not believing what he was seeing in front of him. He had burned him… but how? Did it have something to do with what happened last night? He began to panic.
What was happening to him?
Who did this to him?!
Despite his hands being burned, Duke unfortunately remembered how to speak.
“I don’t know what you just did, but you’re gonna pay for it freak.”
Raph’s insides set ablaze at the word. He was not only a loser, but now a freak. He moved to lash out at the Neanderthal, but only doubled over in pain instead. With every angry thought, a white hot shock went through his body. He could feel all of his classmates staring at him. This would do wonders for his already trashed reputation.
Raph heard the door to the classroom open, but was not quick enough to make it back to his seat in time before Mr. Jay reentered the room.
“Sorry about that everyone, I had to…. Is there a problem, Raph?”
Heat rose to his face, this time from embarrassment. The urge to pound on everyone in the room was overcome by the flash of pain. He had to leave. It was the only way he could try and stop it, something told him that it wouldn’t just go away. So Raph ducked out of the room, mumbling something about the nurse and started running down the halls of the school. He needed to be alone. Making it to the end of the hallway, he shoved himself through the double doors and out into the yard. He made his way to the bleachers of the football field, finding solace in the shade of the metal seats.
The run to his destination had made him feel slightly better, the pangs of pain being dulled ever so slightly, but he was still unbelievably hot. Feverish almost. Anger boiled inside of him once again, why was this happening? He balled his hands into fists, only to unfurl them with a hiss of pain from the heat radiating off of his fingertips. He held his hands up to his face to inspect his palms, and found four circular blister beginning to form right where his fingertips had rested on his skin. He turned his hands over, inspecting his knuckles and fingers as if he had never seen them before.
He had definitely never seen this before.
As Raph tried to wrap his brain around the fact that he now burned whatever he touched, he noticed that he had stopped sweating. He felt immensely cooler than he had in the classroom. He stood in the shade of the bleachers for what felt like hours; he focused on breathing and relished the cool breeze that swept over this body. When the pain no longer pulsed with the beat of his heart, he cautiously touched his fingers to his arm. They were warm, but when he retracted them, they left no burns.
How the Hell did this happen.
It had to have been from the night before. The woman did something to him!
And then Raph remembered her words.
Anger makes the fire burn hotter.