Who knew Running Away Could Be So Hard?
When a teenage boy, who thinks he knows it all, leaves home in search of a better life, he finds out the hard way what everyone must learn – growing up isn’t an easy thing to do.
Leaving home at fifteen, Kyle Davis’ path to adulthood takes him on an eventful ride, and at times a dangerous one. His firsthand experiences with the cruel realities of a callous world drive home the point that he has a lot to learn and a long ways to go.
Unwilling to admit his mistakes, he flounders a while before finally accepting life for what it is – hard work. It takes considerably more time for him to reach the point of going home and apologizing. That’s when he discovers the world didn’t stop to wait for him. Home isn’t quite the way he remembers it, and he sees how drastically things can change.
Still, certain things remain the same; principles and values are a constant. It isn’t a persons age, location or where they are in life that determines when they’ve become an adult. Kyle realizes The Journey is more than merely miles traveled. The road to maturity, whether literal or figurative, takes a person only as fast as they are willing to go. Yet, at some point, everyone has to make The Journey.
Below is a sample of this book:
Fifteen years old and on my own. My first taste of freedom. An open road ahead and a lot of trouble behind. No one but myself to please or obey. No parents griping or teachers nagging me. On my own. The way life was meant to be lived.
And it’s all perfectly okay with my parents. Hey, it was even my dad’s idea! Really! He’s the one who told me to do it. Well okay, not exactly. What he actually said was, “If you don’t want to live by my rules, go ahead and try to make it on your own.”
So, here I am, walking down the highway into the sunset with not a care in the world. It’s all pretty exciting really. Though I’ll admit, I’m a little scared. Now don’t go assuming I’m a chicken because I said I’m scared. I’m not afraid. It’s more like a fear of the unknown. Worried, that’s it. Or, maybe somewhat apprehensive. Definitely not scared. Not in the usual sense of the word. Either way though, I’m all right. I have some money and I’m not exactly the dumbest guy in the world, so I’ll make it. Sure, it might be tough at times but that’s just the way life is. I’m a man now and I know I have what it takes to survive.
I guess I should introduce myself and then start from the beginning. My name is Kyle Davis, and like I said earlier, I’m fifteen years old, living on my own. Up until yesterday, I’d lived with my Mom and Dad, Cheryl and Franklin Davis, all my life in the same house in Collinsville, Missouri. I should mention that I have two sisters, younger sisters. Tara is twelve and Jodi is ten, almost eleven as she is always quick to mention.
We never really had much. My dad works at Crown Corrugated, a cardboard manufacturing plant in town; he’s been there for the past twenty-some years, and they don’t pay a whole lot. So, I know what it’s like to live without any money.
Mom works cleaning people’s houses and doing things like that. She and my dad will both go to their grave just as they are now, with nothing to show for their entire life’s work.
That’s why I knew I had to get out. If I stayed, I’d become exactly like them, working for someone else and ending up with nothing.
This whole thing started when my dad was teaching me to drive. On my fifteenth birthday, I got my permit and we went out that evening in his car. Like everything else in my dad’s life, the car was the same old ugly junker he’d had since I was five years old!
Before he let me drive, he had to give me a lecture of course, going over the same stuff again and again. Stuff I already knew. I’d read the driver’s manual so, I knew all the rules. All I needed was a little practice, if he would have just let me. But up to that point, I hadn’t even been allowed in the driver’s seat. All I wanted was to drive and there he sat, wasting time, just talking. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he let me get behind the wheel.
“Put your foot on the brake,” Dad instructed. “Then pull the shift lever into drive.”
“I know,” I said. How many times is he going to say the same thing?
It all went fairly well in my view, considering it was my first time driving, but dad got all excited when I gave the car too much gas and drove over a curb. Then, instead of stepping on the brake, I hit the gas pedal again and almost ran a red light. The whole time he was yelling at me to stop.
When I finally did manage to park, I didn’t get far enough over for him. Infuriated, he told me to get out and then he drove us home. He didn’t say another word until he’d shut off the car in the driveway. Then he let loose with a berating lecture that I knew he’d been brooding over all the way home.
“If you want to learn to drive, you’re going to have to listen to what I tell you.”
“I know how to drive,” I insisted.
How hard could it be? Just because I wasn’t as practiced and smooth as he was, he thought I didn’t know anything. It wasn’t a fair comparison; he had a lot more experience than I did.
“No you don’t,” he said, reminding me that he was the one in charge. “You think you do, just like you think you know about everything. You never want to listen to what your Mother or I tell you.”
I didn’t argue. I could have but I knew he didn’t care what I had to say. In his mind, there was only one explanation for the way things were; I was too young to understand.
However, I did understand. A lot more than he was willing to give me credit for. I was fifteen, and that’s nearly a man, but not in my dad’s eyes. To him I was still just a kid.
It wasn’t just the learning to drive, which caused our disagreements. Almost anything we did or discussed ended up the same way. He and my Mom had all these stupid rules and ridiculous ideas about how I was supposed to act, dress and even how I should talk. It was like I was still three years old and we all lived in the fifties. Like when they were kids.
Both of my parents are from the old days, when everyone just went along with the system and never questioned anything. They always followed the rules, even if it made no sense. That just wasn’t in my nature.
See, I’m part of the younger generation of Americans. We’ve progressed past the old culture; we don’t want to be slaves all our lives. We want to live; to be free and to be our own person, not just blindly follow what our parents did. But dad didn’t understand that. He still thought if anyone was going to succeed in life, they had to fit into the same pattern he had used. Yeah, like that was going to get me anywhere!
“Are you listening?” my dad bellowed, snapping my mind from its wandering rumination.
“Yeah,” I said.
“You’re never going to get anywhere in life if you can’t pay attention and listen. You think you have all the answers but you don’t. The way you’re going now, you are never going to have a job, a family, or anything.”
“Dad, that’s just it,” I said. “I don’t want to be trapped in a dead-end job, working all my life, and end up like you.”
“What’s wrong with the way I am?” he demanded, proving yet again he really didn’t get it.
Well, he asked so, I told him. “You’re so, uh, so old-fashioned. You go to work everyday, you’re barely able to pay the bills, and you don’t have anything.”
“I’m happy with my life. I have a lot more than my parents did, when I was growing up,” Dad said. “And I don’t work near as hard or as much as my dad did.”
“What do you have?”
“A steady job, a house, car, electricity, heat, air conditioning, groceries, health insurance,” he paused, and then finished with, “and a happy family.”
He’d gone through the list like he was actually proud of it! All the while I was thinking, Wow, a boring job, a plain house, an old clunker you claim is a car, and the rest of it means nothing.
Rolling my eyes I said, “Everybody has all that. It’s no big deal.”
“Not everybody,” my dad countered. “But, the ones who do, work for it.”
I strained to look at him in the dark. “I’m not going to work for somebody and spend everyday of my life trying to please them. What makes them better than me? I shouldn’t have to live my life serving someone else. Slavery was outlawed in this country a long time ago.”
“You don’t necessarily have to work for someone else, you could always start your own business. Either way, it still takes hard work,” Dad said. “If you do work for someone, that doesn’t mean they’re better than you. However, since they provide you the job, and give you a paycheck, they should be entitled to a little respect.”
“That’s fine for your generation,” I told him. “But, I’m not going to be tied down like that.”
“You’ll change your mind when you grow up.”
“I’m fifteen,” I reminded him.
“I know how old you are,” Dad said. “I also know you haven’t grown up yet. Your attitude reflects your immaturity.”
“Just because I don’t want to be stuck in the same rut like you makes me immature?” I asked with a bit more arrogance than I should have.
“No,” Dad answered. “What makes you immature is the unrealistic expectations and selfish demands. As long as you keep that attitude, I won’t be able to teach you anything, including how to drive. Maybe in a month or so we’ll try it again.”
“But, I have a right to drive,” I protested. “I’m fifteen!”
“Driving is not a right, it’s a privilege.”
“Not exactly. In fact, not even close,” Dad said. “Part of the problem with kids today ironically is, the successful outcome of the American economic system has clouded the younger people’s perspective. You have an expectation that everything will just be handed to you without having to earn it. In the real world, that isn’t the way things work. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll grow up, and develop a decent work ethic.”
Work ethic! That’s code for mindlessly falling into line like little robots – precisely what I was trying to avoid. Dad seemed to think his life had been a success, but I knew better. Sure, he worked hard, he had that part right, but that was about it. He hadn’t given me much. About the only thing I stood to inherit when he died was a life full of misery. No thanks!
Someday though, I’d show him I was right; and that he was wrong. My way was better and I knew it. I was betting it wouldn’t take me long to prove it.
Dad was still talking.
“So, until I see some indication of your attitude improving, you won’t be driving.”
Dad silenced me with that look he gets when he’s made up his mind about something. “It’s not open for discussion, and that’s final! If you don’t want to live by my rules, go ahead and try to make it on your own.”
There it was. The green light to do it my way. Maybe he did understand a little. He was practically forcing me out.
That was the last time I spoke to my father before leaving. I didn’t talk to Mom much that night either, and by the time I went to bed, I’d already made up my mind to go.
Both of my sisters knew something was up, but they were too young to realize why I was leaving. I think my Mom knew; knew I was leaving and why. But if she did, she never mentioned it. A few days passed before I actually did leave, but I didn’t change my mind.
One morning, I waited until my dad left for work before getting out of bed. Then, I threw a couple pair of jeans and some T-shirts into an old backpack. Almost as an afterthought, I grabbed some underwear and socks. Being the dead of summer, I didn’t need a coat but I knew fall would be coming so; I found one in my closet and stuffed it into the bag.
The piggy bank I’d had since I was two years old was bulging with dollar bills and weighted down with coins. A collection of birthday and Christmas money from my aunt, and my grandparents before they’d died. I dumped the change into my backpack and put the dollars, all thirty-three of them, in my wallet.
Looking around the room, I didn’t see anything else I’d need. Like I said, I didn’t have much and I could live without all the junk the rest of my family believed to be so important.
Listening for my Mom to go into the kitchen, I slipped on my backpack. Tip-toeing down the hall, I left the house out the back door.
The walk down to the bank was ten long blocks, and under the hot June sun, I worked up quite a sweat before I made it there. Wiping my face with my sleeve, I thought I’d better get used to it. A nagging feeling told me I’d be doing a lot of walking for the next few weeks. At least until I got to where I wanted to go. I wasn’t sure yet just where that would be, for now I was intent on getting away without being caught.
“Do you want to close the account?” the teller asked when I stated I wanted all of my money.
“How much do I need to leave in the account to keep it open?”
“There’s a ten dollar minimum,” she said.
“Okay, I’ll take the rest.”
She counted out the bills, all twenties. Five hundred twenty dollars to be exact!
“Thanks,” I told her putting the cash away. I left the bank feeling a little smug. Who needs a job? I now had more than five hundred fifty dollars in my pocket!
Next stop, the train depot. Well, not the station, since our little town didn’t have a passenger train service, I mean the freight yard. I sauntered down the tracks for a half a mile or so and when I was out of sight of prying eyes, I slipped between the boxcars.
Stumbling over the tracks, I climbed aboard one of the empty cars. I’d lived here all my life, watching the trains roll in and roll out, so I knew which track would be heading west. If my timing was right, the train should pull out soon; within about ten minutes, I figured. I’d been on board for no more than half that when I felt a jolt as the engines began to lumber forward.
By now, the sun was high enough to heat everything up, especially the inside of a boxcar. I sat down on the floor, wishing I had something to drink. I’d been so busy getting ready to leave that I hadn’t even eaten breakfast.
As the train got up to speed, the intense heat inside the metal walls to made me tired, especially after all the walking I’d done. I stretched out on the floor, lying with my head on a makeshift backpack pillow. I figured I had a few hours before the westbound train reached it’s next stop.