(Read description first)
The sound of shoes squeaking against the sleek wooden floor alerted Isaac Chavez that he was officially late by the team’s standards. He wasn’t truly late, as Coach Holt would not be turning up for at least maybe three more minutes, unless he made a surprise on-time appearance. However, the team would already be fooling around on the court, usually instigated by senior student, Tyler.
At most of the schools in the area, football was the big sport that had the longest tryouts and started the biggest crazes, but at Willburrow High, it was all about Basketball. The students tended to take it much more seriously than anything else, including school work. Isaac had been playing basketball for as long as he could remember, and it was one of the only things he could truly say he had a real passion for. A sophomore as of this year, he had the privilege of being on the Varsity team. It didn’t happen all that often, but every now and then, a lower classman would break through with the skills to play on the top team. Isaac had spent his freshman year on the JV team and his jump to Varsity this year had been a bit of a change, and he still wasn’t sure if he was all that happy with it yet. JV had been aggressive and challenging, yes, but Varsity was much more so. He was still feeling out and getting to know the team, and the fact that he’d done horrible at the first game and had been in a bit of a daze during practices was not making a good impression. There were no excuses to be offered.
As Isaac came out of the locker room, absentmindedly flipping his bangs from his eyes, he was greeted with a ball flying at his face. Quickly, he ducked to the side as he heard an amused voice shout, “Head’s up!” Jerking back upright, Isaac glowered in the direction from which the ball had come.
“You were supposed to catch that…” Tyler said, failing at trying to sound innocent of any foul play.
“How was I supposed to catch that?!” came Isaac’s retort. “I just came out of the locker room man, it’s not like I was ready!”
“Not always going to be ready in the game,” Tyler shrugged in a mockingly apologetic manner.
Tyler was a tall, light skinned teen with fiery red hair and green eyes. He had a higher pitched voice that still cracked on occasion, and Isaac had always figured from the way he talked that he only kept his grades up so he could stay on the team. Isaac was a bit of a different case. He was about the same height, but had dark tan skin with jet black shaggy hair and the beginnings of a mustache. His eyes were a hazel color and usually carried an apathetic expression. His voice was much deeper in comparison to Tyler’s and occasionally carried traces of his family’s Hispanic accent.
Isaac bent to pick up the ball that had bounced around in the hallway before slowly rolling back to his feet. If Tyler didn’t get over his issues soon, Isaac was going to flip. He’d been doing everything he could to make up for the fool he’d made of himself earlier, but half the team wasn’t letting it go, though it was mostly Tyler who acted on it. As Isaac reeled back to chuck the ball at another team member, Coach Holt walked in.
“Sorry I was late today boys,” He said, giving his almost daily first statement. “Get up on the track. Just five laps today. Go!”
Isaac’s mood hadn’t lightened like it usually did after practice. It seemed girlish to him, to be upset over the fact that the other members had been ignoring him on court, even when he had been in perfect position, but after a few days of it, he was getting ticked. If anything, what Tyler and his buddies had been doing was girlish; holding a grudge against him like the idiot females Isaac had to listen to when walking down the hallways. Was this a team or the drama club?
Slamming his locker shut and securing the lock, he made his way to the door. In an effort to get his mind off of the current bitterness, he went over the assignments he would need to complete when he got home. English project spawned from the depths of hell due Tuesday. Math assignment- really easy… Study for Chemis-
Isaac stopped and whipped around to look at Daniel, another team member who had been being as relentless as Tyler. Isaac gave him a blank look, waiting for whatever he had to say.
“Really hope you can shape up before the next game. I mean, it might be a little hard to convince the refs that we’re not a ‘co-ed’ team, the way you play.”
A few of the team chuckled a bit at his remark. Things like that were said all the time in a joking manner, but Isaac wasn’t in the mood.
“Will you all just stop?!” Isaac shouted suddenly, catching everyone by surprise. “Honestly, just shut up! I’ve been doing everything I can to make up for that first game! What the heck is it going to take?!” He said, swinging his arms out in exasperation. “I mean, come on! You’re not helping anyone by blowing me off all the time!”
A few of the guys shifted, seeming a little uncomfortable by Isaac’s outburst, but Tyler just shrugged. “Well, whenever you stop ‘sucking’, we’ll stop blowing you off.”
“I can’t play until you let me!” Isaac retorted angrily. “Come on Tyler! Do you want me to somehow magically score ten baskets with a ball I don’t have? Win a game against Holt? Some stupid freshman dare, what?!”
Isaac glared at Tyler in silence for a few moments. When Tyler’s face lit up, Isaac realized he should have just let Daniel’s comment go.
“Saaay, now we’re getting somewhere!” Tyler exclaimed.
Isaac rolled his eyes. He could still get out of whatever Tyler had in mind if he walked out now. “Yeah, whatever Tyler. I’m leaving.”
“Hey, no! Wait up!” Tyler bolted after him, swiveling in front of him to block the door. “You’ve just solved your way out of this current predicament.”
Isaac didn’t know Tyler knew a word as big as predicament. Keeping his snarky comment to himself, he gave Tyler his best, ‘I really don’t care’ expression.
“No, no, no, I know what you’re thinking.”
Oh do you now, Isaac thought sarcastically.
“I think I can agree that we would all prefer to handle this like civilized teenage boys,”
No such thing.
“but I think we can also agree that it’s been way too long since anyone took the Channing dare.”
“The what??” Isaac’s glare ceased as he raised his eyebrow inquisitively. In Isaac’s opinion, one of the other things this school got hyped up about was idiocy. Sheer and complete idiocy. The constant drama streaming from the mouths of the girls. The almost always unprovoked fights that broke out in the hallway for rebellion’s sake. And then of course, the dares. Isaac could have sworn there was a book somewhere with all of them written down; probably in the possession of some psychopath club that came up with them all. Every dare ever given around the school had some kind of name, and they ranged all the way from skipping around the halls with no shirt on, to breaking into the school and spraying graffiti all over the walls of the commons. Most of them seemed just plain immature to Isaac.
“Oh yeah, you probably won’t have heard much about that one, but I know you’re just too ‘moral filled’ and ‘saintly’ to do any of the real dares,” Tyler said in a mocking voice that made Isaac even angrier. He never should have told the team he was Catholic.
“Whatever. What’s this one?”
“You know Channing Street?” Tyler asked. “Back where that abandoned block of houses is? It’s like super ghetto?”
“Yeah, I live real nearby,” Isaac muttered, not appreciating his home area being called ‘ghetto’ even though he had to admit to himself it was true for the most part.
“So then you know 1354 right?”
Isaac sighed, rolling his eyes in a clear show of aversion. He knew where this was going. The Reynolds’ old house, before they left. The whole block was possibly the worst in the area, looking like a miniature southern gothic town. Slowly, everyone on the block had either packed up and left or was kicked off their property. The Reynolds, an elderly couple with plenty of urban myths about them, had refused to leave, and stayed put until they both passed away a few years ago. With the entire block vacated, the city had been planning to do something with it, though they’d taken no action, nor even spoke of any plans for quite a while. Thus, as nature continued to take its toll on the buildings, rumors and ‘age old legends’ that were created only weeks ago began to spring up. The Reynolds’ old home, the tallest and oddest looking out of all of the houses became what was known as Willburrow’s haunted house.
If you asked Isaac, he didn’t believe for a moment that it was haunted. He’d never been much of a sucker for the paranormal. The only rumor he believed was the one about the drug addicts and suppliers that hung around the area.
“Going to take that as a yes!” Tyler said, in response to Isaac’s sigh. “Anyways, Bobby Pfeifer, you wouldn’t know Bobby, he graduated two years ago.. But they were doing some kind of capture the flag thing and he tied his teams’ to a board sticking out way up on the roof. Never got it down because no one wanted to go up there… pretty rickety from what I’ve heard, and it’s still up there! ”
“And you want me to get it down,” Isaac replied in the most bored tone he could muster.
Tyler rolled his shoulders back and glanced over his back. “Weeeelll, no one else has been able to get it down when they got the dare, of course, they’ve mostly been freshman, so no surprise there, and a few guys have gotten caught by the cops for being in the house. Off limits, you know? So it’s not that bad, but you know, if you’d rather break into the girl’s locker room Monday and-“
“No,” Isaac cut him off quickly. At least Tyler knew what he wouldn’t do. For him it was just a matter of finding things he wouldn’t back down to doing. “But this is just dumb as well. I’ve got better things to do.”
“Aaah, you’re just chicken.”
“No way man!”
“Can’t have a little girl on the team, Isaac!”
“Aaaugh, fine!!” Isaac shouted, fed up with everything. “I’ll go get your stupid flag!”
The rest of the team who had stayed to watch were laughing as Tyler swung his arm around Isaac’s shoulders, punching him in the arm with his free hand. “That’s the spirit, Chavez!” he exclaimed.
“It’s just Isaac.” Isaac muttered under his breath, though he didn’t think Tyler had heard him. “I’m leaving now.” he freed himself from Tyler’s grasp and made again for the door until Tyler yanked the collar of his shirt.
“Hey, hey wait!” Tyler said, and Isaac’s fists clenched, ready to knock his lights out. “Uuuhh, you can uh… take one person with you if you want… and you have to do it this weekend! Bring it back Monday!” Tyler added, nodding excitedly, and glancing back at the other teens behind him who nodded in approval. Isaac found that he could easily compare them to a mob of wound up 6th graders.
Isaac caught Tyler’s gaze and held it for a few moments. Finally, he flicked his hair to the side and with a huff, walked out the door and slammed it shut behind him.
No one seemed too eager to go with Isaac when he asked around on Friday. His friends either told him they had school work to do, or they had plans for the night. Isaac’s best friend from middle school, Sam, told him it was because the whole thing was stupid and then used it to back her argument up that all males were idiots and the only hope for humanity was feminine wisdom. Then Isaac reminded her of the time she tried to skateboard down the railing of the school steps. Now he sat on a bench outside of the school building near the tennis courts. There was no practice today, as the day’s schedule had been cut short due to a teacher meeting. Ruffling his hair, he sighed. Guess I’m doing this by myself.
Isaac grimaced at the sound of a horribly familiar high pitched voice. It could only belong to the scourge of Isaac’s days since 2nd semester, freshman year. Why did Sam ever befriend him? Why did she feel the need to bring the little creep into their group? And why, why God why, did he insist on being friends with Isaac?!
Andrew Shepherd. He was just about as tall as Isaac, though he appeared a little taller since his bright blonde hair was always spiked up with a thick layer of bangs hanging in his face. He was spindly and awkward and probably wouldn’t last ten seconds in any kind of sport. He had rectangular glasses that tended to sink down his nose, causing him to have to adjust them constantly, and always dressed as if he was going somewhere special. Isaac couldn’t ever recall seeing him in jeans; just tan pants and white button shirts. Occasionally a hoodie. He was a bright contrast to Isaac’s dark baggy T-shirts and leather jacket. Then there were those fingerless gloves. He always wore gloves no matter what the weather, with the rare exception of a thick layer of bracelets that completely covered his wrists. Why a guy would wear gloves or bracelets defeated Isaac. Andy was just weird.
“Hey… Andy…” Isaac muttered a brief greeting, upset that he hadn’t noticed Andy early enough to make a get away without the idiot noticing.
“Watcha doing?” Andy asked, leaning over the back of the bench.
“Was just about to go home,” Isaac lied, getting to his feet. He glanced around, feeling self conscious just being near Andy. “Can’t talk right now; got a lot on my mind.” At least that bit was true.
“Oh yeah, I heard about the dare and all…” Andy nodded, and then had to push his glasses back up on his nose. When Isaac shot him a quizzical expression, he added, “Oh, a lot of the sophomore class knows about it. Especially since you went around asking if anyone wanted to come with. Any luck on that?”
In his mind, Isaac said ‘yes,’ afraid Andy would offer to go, but the truth escaped his lips before he could pull it back. Mentally, he punched himself in the face.
“Ah, really? That sucks,” Andy replied, rocking back and forth on his beat up green converse. For a guy who seemed to care about looking nice, Isaac thought his shoes were a pretty odd contrast to his neat red sweater vest and bowtie. But then again, so were those stupid gloves.
“Yeah…” came Isaac’s half-hearted and distracted reply as he hauled his backpack onto his shoulders and fished around his pocket for his car keys. “I’ll make do.”
“I could go with you!” Andy piped up. Isaac had to stifle a groan before Andy noticed his reaction. “Well, I mean, if you’re okay with that… that is.” He must have picked up on something.
“No, that’s okay Andy. I’m sure you’ve got better things to do,” Isaac said, shaking his head. “Aren’t you in the play?” he asked, grasping around past conversations for something useful. “Got a script to memorize?”
“Oh, psshh, that’s easy stuff!” Andy rolled his eyes and flicked his hand in that way Isaac found utterly annoying. “Taking a few hours out of a Friday night is no big deal. I could like… be a look out, or something!”
Isaac was about to open his mouth to reject, but realized he probably wasn’t going to get very far. No matter what he did, Andy stuck to him like glue. He might as well let him go. Maybe he could ditch him there or something. Get his point of dislike across that way.
“Uhh…” Isaac paused for a moment, trying to change his previously gruff demeanor. “Yeah… I mean, I guess if you really don’t have anything better to do.” He ventured carefully.
“Nope. Absolutely nothing… Well..” Andy paused, cocking his head to the side. “I mean, I could always be studying for Chem, but that’s a subject of complete and desolate hopelessness sooo…”
Isaac caught Andy’s gaze and they were deadlocked for a moment. Then he laughed, socked Andy in the arm just hard enough to make him stumble forward and said, “Okay, cool. Here’s the plan,”
Isaac left his house around nine that evening on an old bike of his that he constantly had to make repairs to. He’d told his mom that he was going to be hanging out with a friend at their house… which was partly.. well, a little bit… kind of true. He’d never realized how much he hated lying to his parents as he rarely ever did. He was still going to go through with it though. As long as he was back by 11; two hours was surely enough.
He decided he’d look at the house; see how bad of condition it was in. If he believed he could get to the flag, he would, but if there was a good chance of him breaking his neck, he’d skip that part. He still had a chance to get at Andy. He’d ask Andy to just keep a look out, like he had suggested. Actually, Isaac was worried about any thugs in the area and he wasn’t too keen on getting caught by cops if their bikes were noticed either. So if he was able to get the flag in a fair amount of time, he’d do that, if not, he’d just sneak out the back. Something like that. However it worked out, Isaac was just hoping that either by Andy getting caught or just realizing Isaac had ditched him, he would stop following him around. Deep down, Isaac had to admit it was an immature thing to do, and he’d never hear the end of it from Sam if she found out, but the stubborn jerk in him had gotten the upper-hand.
Coincidentally, Isaac had to pass Andy’s house to get to Channing Street. He never knew they lived so close by. It was already dark as he was peddling down the sidewalk. There were no street lights, but he was familiar with most of the streets in the area and had no trouble navigating. It was brisk out that evening, but a lot warmer than it had been the past few days. The urban roads were dead quiet, and the only noise came from the wind, dogs barking, and the sound of dirt and gravel crunching under the wheels of Isaac’s bike. It was relaxing and he’d nearly forgotten what he was setting out to do until he realized he’d passed Andy’s house. Making a quick turn-around, he peddled back to a white, unsteady looking two-story house. Like most of the houses in the area, the yard was completely dead. There was a porch, but the right side sagged pretty badly. They had a small garage, but there were holes in the large door that looked like something had been thrown straight through it. From Andy’s uppity and jovial personality, Isaac hadn’t been expecting this.
Isaac waited for a few moments. He’d told him he’d be there around 9:10. He was contemplating going up and knocking when he saw the door open. He heard someone yelling; a woman from the sound of it, and Andy walked out, slamming the door behind him. He glanced up at Isaac, then quickly went down the steps and moved around the back side of the house. He came back out, walking with his own bike beside him. He kept his eyes trained to the ground until he got a few feet from Isaac, then snapped up, instantly putting a smile on his face.
“Hey there!” he said, reaching up to knock the bangs out of his face. Whatever gel he used in his hair, he must have washed it out, because it all hung down now; a lot longer than it appeared when spiked up.
“Dude, what was that all about?” Isaac nodded to the house, curiosity getting the best of him.
The smile left Andy’s face as he glanced back, mouth open with nothing coming out. “Uhh… Well.. oh, that? Nothing. Just ah…. It’s nothing.” Andy rolled his shoulders, turning his attention back to Isaac with slight traces of a grin coming back.
Isaac raised an eyebrow, but didn’t question him any further. After all, what did he care? “Well uh, let’s get going then,” he said slowly. He waited for Andy to get on his bike, which looked worse off than his own and the two of them started off down the sidewalk.
It was all quiet at first. Isaac preferred not to make conversation with a guy he was about to stab in the back, as he already had a slight feeling of guilt, but Andy was a bit of a conversationalist. That was, until it turned back on him. He started out asking Isaac about the plan and what time he figured they’d be getting back. Isaac responded, telling him no later than 11, though Isaac wasn’t really sure how late Andy would be out if his plan worked.
“So your parents don’t have a problem with you being out late then?” Andy asked.
Isaac shrugged. “Not really I guess…. They expect me to be back at a reasonable time, but they trust me,” he said, feeling odd when he realized how freely he’d been talking to Andy. “Guess I’m kind of jacking with that right now… didn’t exactly elaborate on what I was doing…” he muttered.
Andy glanced over at him. “I don’t mean to… infringe on your life here… but I’d be careful about that… you’re lucky you’ve got trust and respect… If I had that, I wouldn’t do anything to mess it up…” he said, a wistful tone in his voice.
Isaac felt a little affronted by Andy telling him what to do, or what not to do, but he knew he was right. More than anything, that ticked him off. “So what about you then, huh? What’d you tell your mom?”
“Just that I was going out…and that’s only because she asked…” Andy mumbled in reply. “Normally she doesn’t.”
“That must be nice,” Isaac sighed. “My mom’s always up in my business about everything.”
“Not really,” Andy replied, a laugh in his voice. “Being ignored isn’t exactly peachy keen.” He immediately grew silent then, his face setting to one of concentration, as if he’d said more than he wanted to.
“Being ignored?” Isaac asked, unfortunately finding himself more curious. “Didn’t sound like she was ignoring you earlier.”
“Like I said, rare occasion.” Andy grumbled, sounding agitated, though Isaac wasn’t sure if it was at him or the situation in general. “For all I know, she might have been drinking! I don’t really care to know,” he spat. “Why should I care, it’s not like she cares about what I’ve been doing?” Andy’s voice dropped so low, Isaac barely made out what he had said.
“What about your dad?”
Andy sputtered a laugh and had to pause for a moment as his bike nearly ran off the sidewalk. “Well, from what my mom’s said about him, doesn’t seem like he cared too much either. Running off the moment you find out your girlfriend’s pregnant isn’t the most caring thing.”
Isaac’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “But you have three older brothers, right? He just took off when you came?”
“Pfft, no.” Andy scoffed. “Their dad was actually married to my mom. They’re divorced though… think he’s in jail for drug abuse or something… I don’t really bother myself with knowing anything about either of them.”
Isaac had been dropped into silence. He hadn’t wanted to extract Andy’s family problems from him. It certainly didn’t help his guilt factor. He just hadn’t really expected anything to come out of a conversation with Andy. This was a completely different person from the guy he knew at school. Maybe it was just that which caused Isaac to never have liked him. He was double sided, he’d just never seen the other side; just the harebrained, cheery guy who had seemed shallower than a puddle. Of course that was all he’d ever seen. He wasn’t like Sam, who could easily read people’s emotions and pry out the true meaning of vague statements.
He also realized that Andy wasn’t quite as brainless as he had thought he was. The ride to Channing was rather long and after a few moments of awkward silence, Isaac tried to bring up a new subject. So they talked about school, which seemed to be an easier subject for Andy as he quickly became good-humored again. Still, there was a lingering bitterness in his voice. Maybe it had always been there, and Isaac had just never picked up on it before.
Isaac had to slow down when he got onto Channing. The only light they had was that of the moon, and he had trouble picking out the Reynolds’ old home. When he finally found it, he pulled to a stop and took out a flashlight which he had stuck through his belt loop. Turning it on, he quickly shined it over the house. Reaching the top, he couldn’t help but laugh. “No freaking way.”
Andy came up beside him and looked toward the building as well. “What? What is i- oh…”
The two of them stared blankly for a few moments. Isaac hadn’t really been thinking about how tall the Reynolds house truly was. The highest point of the roof was at least 3 stories high from what he could tell and shining the light up, he could just make out a breeze-ruffled piece of red fabric tied to a board jutting from a hole.
“Well…” Isaac gulped. “Might as well go in and see what it looks like.”
Isaac and Andy stored their bikes in the shadows around the back side of the house. Isaac had chosen to go at night in case anyone saw them or their bikes on the property and got suspicious. Even though the street was completely empty, he still didn’t want to take chances. His original plan to ditch Andy had completely left his mind until they had made their way through the makeshift barricade at the doorway and into the house.
“So… want me to do anything?” Andy asked.
Isaac stopped in his tracks. Was it really just in a few minutes that his opinion had changed? Did he still find Andy annoying? Well yes, but now everything felt different. The last thing he probably needed was to get stabbed in the back. Just because he’d actually, really, talked to him… As Isaac ground his teeth in frustration, he reminded himself never to hold conversations with people he disliked ever again. “Uh.. no, not really… Not yet anyways.” Came Isaac’s rather slow and confused reply. “Just uh… come on..”
The building as a whole had an eerie feeling about it. It wasn’t much of a shock as to why it was rumored to be ‘haunted.’ Decorative paper was peeling off the walls. Most of the furniture was gone, but a few old chairs remained in what appeared to be a sitting room. The rotting wood smelled musky from being exposed to the weather, and it was obviously been occupied by rats and other creatures. The winding stairs to the upstairs were still in reasonable condition, so Isaac started to carefully make his way up them. They creaked under his weight but that was it.
Andy was right behind him, practically on his heels. “You believe in ghosts Isaac?” he asked in an ominous voice.
“Nope,” came Isaac’s sure reply. “You?”
“Never been much of a ‘believer’ in anything.”
“You believe this floor’s going to hold?”
Andy peeked up behind Isaac’s shoulder as they reached the second floor. It was completely empty of furnishings, looking like something out of a horror video game Isaac had played before. The floor didn’t look all that trustworthy, with holes here and there. “Not entirely,” Andy replied skeptically.
“Better start believing in an afterlife then,” Isaac muttered, slowly and unsurely stepping on the floor.
The stairs leading to the third floor were even worse. Exposed even more to Kansas winds and storms, stepping on it seemed to Isaac about as safe as putting his head in a guillotine. “There’s no way I’m going up there,” He mumbled, but approached the steps anyways. He got to about the fourth step when the sound of wood cracking made him quickly move back down. “Yeah…. Don’t think I’m up for it…”
Andy bit his lip, readjusting his glasses as if trying to get a better look. “I’ll give it a go.”
“You stupid?” Isaac shot him a surprised look. “You’re signing your death wish going up there! That whole thing’s on the verge of collapsing.”
“Well maybe I’ve got a death wish.” Andy raised an eyebrow and shot Isaac a look that he couldn’t decipher. “Besides, I’m probably a lot lighter than you.” He said moving forward, inquisitively checking out the steps upwards. Before Isaac could respond, he was making his way up.
“Dude! No, what are you doing?!” Isaac hissed.
“Getting your flag?”
Andy just laughed, about one third of the way up. “Tell me something I don’t know. Don’t worry, I climb up the water tower on a weekly basis, I know what I’m doing.”
Isaac had several retorts he could fire back but decided to shut his mouth and just watch instead. Andy was lighter, but he didn’t think he was all that lighter. If there was another thing Isaac hadn’t expected him to have, it was guts. The rotten, sagging wood creaked horribly with every step, but he kept a straight and determined expression and carried on up.
“I think you’ll be fine if you stick real close to the railing here.” Andy said when he was about three fourths up.
What railing? Isaac thought bitterly as he looked at the remnants of the smooth wooden rail that wound up alongside the stairs. Still, he was not about to be outdone by a guy like Andy, so he bit his tongue and followed him up.
The third floor was much like the second; battered and precarious. There were several holes in the ceiling, and Isaac recognized an attic door. He couldn’t believe there was another level to this house. It must have been a small attic though, recalling what the house had looked like from the ground and there was another hole in the ceiling that opened up to the sky. He pointed it out to Andy who had been patiently waiting on him and they cautiously inched over so that they were under it.
“The flag’s got to be stuck to a board sticking out of a hole in there. It was as high up as it could get,” Isaac said. Andy nodded quietly as Isaac reached up to the rope that was hanging down from the door. Praying the floor didn’t give out from under him, he gave the rope a hard tug. Nothing. Yanking down harder, he heard it creak, but it still didn’t give. He thought he heard Andy mutter hopefully ‘three times’ a charm?’ as he stood glaring at it. He gave it a third pull, using all the muscle he had, but it didn’t give. For a house that’s falling apart that’s one tough door to stay jammed like that, Isaac thought angrily. Andy must have been thinking close to the same thing, because there was a humorous smirk on his face as he examined the door.
“Well that’s… crap.” Isaac growled, crossing his arms.
“Ah, but fear not!” Andy piped up suddenly, waving his finger in Isaac’s face. “I take it you’ve noticed the hole over there?” Andy asked, gesturing to the opening not a few feet away. Isaac didn’t bother with responding. Andy grabbed Isaac’s jacket and pulled him at a quick pace over to it. “Boost me up!” he said excitedly. “I can easily fit through it, and then I can just crawl over to the flag and get it!”
Isaac paused, hesitant to be doing any lifting and boosting of people where he was standing at the moment. Andy was scrawny enough to fit, no doubt, but he also wasn’t sure the roof would hold him. Then again, the house had managed to support them both so far. “Alright…” he said slowly. “Just.. don’t’ clomp around up there. Don’t need you killing yourself,” He muttered, bending over and letting Andy clamber onto his shoulders.
“And wouldn’t that just be sad,” he heard Andy mumbling as he balanced himself on Isaac’s shoulders and hauled himself up on the roof.
Isaac stood panting for a few seconds. Andy certainly didn’t weigh a whole lot, but having someone stand on your shoulders was still quite an ordeal. He waited for a few moments, listening to the boards above him creak and watching dust as it drifted down in clouds; definitely like something out of fiction. He kept silent for about a minute. Then, through the cracks of a boarded up window, he noticed artificial light seeping in for a moment, then going dark again… like headlights on a car.
Eyes narrowing, he quickly shifted over to the window and peered out of the biggest gap. Sure enough there was a car rolling down the street. Isaac caught his breath. It was a patrol car. It stopped about two houses down and two people got out. As the door of the car slammed shut, Isaac hoped Andy had noticed and had turned his flashlight off. The two people were talking to each other, and though they were looking around, were not fixated in his direction, so he assumed Andy had turned it off. Biting his tongue, he strained to hear what was being said below. He could just barely make out the words.
“Looks quiet to me.”
“Well this is where the noise was reported to be from…” something else was muttered, but Isaac couldn’t make it out.
“The kid could have just been messing with us.”
“Well, we’ll look around anyways.”
Isaac remained still for a few moments, watching them as they made their way to check around the first house. Noise reported? They hadn’t made any noise at all! Isaac wondered a bit frantically if anyone else was on the land too, and then more angrily wondered if one of the guys from the team had called in trying to get him caught. Before he could get too tangled up in accusations, he rushed back over to the gap in the roof. He wished he had a box or something to stand on.
“Andy?!” he hissed sharply, hoping he could be heard. “Andy, you hear me?!”
“I hear yah…” came back a strained reply. “Did you invite some friends from the police station?”
“Yeah, I saw them. Come on, let’s go!”
“Just a second,” Andy replied.
“We don’t have a second! Come on!!” Isaac clenched his fists anxiously. There was no way he was getting caught in the house. Wasn’t going to happen. “What are you doing?!”
“Just a se-there!” there were a few thumps, indicating he was finally moving, then a sickening, cracking sound and a stifled yelp.
“What was that?” Isaac asked, eyebrows creased in worry.
“Slipped,” came Andy’s slightly stressed reply. “Crap.. I think I got stuck.”
“What do you mean, got stuck??” Isaac crept back over to the window and cast an anxious glance out. The cops must have been in one of the houses; he hoped they were still in the one two doors down.
“I mean...” Andy growled in a pained voice. “my foot is stuck… What else would I mean? Tripped on one of these stupid holes.”
Isaac looked up at the ones he could see, and realized Andy must have still been over the attic. He couldn’t climb onto the roof without something to stand on, let alone fit through the gap. There wasn’t anything he could do to help. Looking out the window again, the cops were moving around the second house, checking for signs of trouble. If he took off now, he’d easily be able to slink away without getting noticed. He turned to make for the staircase before stopping. Could he ditch Andy? After all, it had been a previous option he’d contemplated….‘previous’ being the unfortunate key word. Tapping his hand in a panicky manner against his thigh, as if counting down the seconds he had, he forced himself to weigh the value of what was moral and what was smart.
Moral won. He stayed put, tapping his foot against the floor boards, praying Andy would be able to get himself free in time. If they were caught, Isaac decided he’d do whatever he could to get Andy out of it. He figured Andy would be worse off with his mom than Isaac with his parents. There was another painful cracking sound and a few seconds later, Andy dropped out of the gap, landing awkwardly on his rear. Isaac’s breath caught as the floor groaned. Luckily, the impact did no more than cause the boards to splinter where he’d landed. Andy scrambled to his feet, and upon seeing Isaac still standing there, a look of relief passed over his face.
“Sorry!” he panted, straightening his glasses and knocking hair out of his face. “I was caught pretty bad.”
Isaac shook his head, dismissing Andy’s apology. He noticed Andy winced when he put weight on the ankle that had been caught, but to Isaac, if he could stand he was fine. Fine enough to get away in time anyways. “Come on,” Isaac whispered, grabbing Andy’s arm and towing him along as he sped down the flights of stairs, no longer so worried about them caving in on him. Isaac turned towards the back side of the house when he got downstairs, not wanting to use the front door in case the cops were coming that way. Andy followed without any questioning, though it was much more difficult to locate the backdoor without flashlights and trying not to trip over loose boards and random objects on the floor. Once Isaac found it though, they crept out and keeping in the shadows, located their bikes and waited until the cops who were coming their way were inside the house. Then Isaac led the way across the area to the parallel street on the other side. Immediately upon hitting concrete, they got on their bikes and peddled off as fast as possible.
The ride back was slower, as Isaac had to adjust his pace to Andy’s as soon as they put a good distance between themselves and Channing. Apparently, he’d really hurt himself getting stuck in the hole, but was sure he could get back just fine. Isaac wasn’t extremely worried about it, so didn’t push the matter. Besides, he was too busy defending himself from Andy’s joking accusations about him being so good at making getaways.
Isaac found it hard not to be too bitter about the whole thing. The whole escapade had been for nothing. He still didn’t have the stupid flag, and on top of that, he’d gotten Andy hurt. If anything, he’d gained a lot of respect for Andy, and made a firm promise to himself he’d try to get along with him more. From what he knew, Andy didn’t have a lot of friends, and from what he’d heard today, it certainly seemed like he needed some.
Once they got back to Andy’s house, Isaac waited for Andy to put his bike up, and then come back around to the front. When Andy came back around, Isaac could tell Andy was trying desperately to cover up his injury.
“Think it’s sprained?” Isaac asked, keeping his voice low, not wanting to disturb anyone. Checking his phone, he saw it was 10:47. Better than he thought it was going to be with the slow ride home.
Andy looked up at Isaac when he asked, then laughed and shook his head. “Ah, no, I’m fine!” He said with a smile Isaac had trouble reading. “Oh, uh, here,” he said suddenly, digging into his pocket. Seconds later, he was holding out a weather-battered strip of red fabric to Isaac. “Mission accomplished.” He beamed.
Isaac was surprised. “You got it??” he exclaimed, eyes wide.
Andy raised an eyebrow and gave a small shrug. “Well, yah.. I for sure didn’t just bike all the way out there, climb up on that roof and get stuck in a hole for nothing!”
So that’s why he didn’t come down when he first saw the cops. Isaac thought, once again feeling guilty for almost leaving him. “Wow…you really stick to things don’t you?” he said, meaning it in more ways than one. Andy just shrugged again and pushed the flag at Isaac. Isaac shook his head though. “No, I can’t take it Andy.”
“Uuhh, I just said I didn’t crawl up there for nothing,” Andy laughed, a little confused. Then he asked, “What do you mean, you can’t take it? That was the whole point of us going, wasn’t it??”
Isaac shifted a little awkwardly. “Well, Andy, you’re the one who actually went up there and got it down. And you know, honestly, I didn’t think you had the guts to do that, let alone go in the house… And.. well, I can’t take that credit away from you.”
“I don’t care though,” Andy pressed. “I mean, it was a lot easier for me to get onto the roof anyways than for you… and you went up as far as you could… but like I said, I don’t really care. It’s just a stupid little flag anyways, not like one of us climbed a mountain or something.” Andy paused and when Isaac stayed silent, he kept going. “If you ask me, it’s not all that hard for a guy to sneak into an abandoned house and get a flag. Real show of character can be found in other things…..” he paused a second time, glancing at the ground. “Which, by the way… thanks for not uh.. ditching me and all.”
Isaac shifted, feeling a little awkward at Andy’s comment. So he’s got guts, feelings, and he can read people, Isaac thought to himself, though the best he could respond with was, “You’re such a girl, you know that?”
Andy just beamed back at him and then held the flag out again. “At least shove it down Tyler’s throat for me will yah?”
“Threatening violence.” Isaac laughed. “That’s more like it.” Sighing, he took the flag from him, looking it over in the moonlight. So much ridiculousness over a piece of trash. “Fine, but I’m still making sure you get credit for being the help that you were. I owe that to you… And I’ll see what I can do about getting the guys to stop ragging on you all the time,” he said firmly. Isaac may have been annoyed by Andy, but he knew Andy took a lot more crap from others at the school, including some of his team.
“Oh, you don’t have to get into that,” Andy waved him off.
“Yeah, but I will,” Isaac smirked. “Like I said, I owe it to you.” Before Andy could say anything else, Isaac got on his bike, stuffing the flag in his pocket. “I’ll see you Monday.”
Andy grinned broadly back at him. “Sure thing.”