Book Update

Some exciting things are happening. Nocturnal Meetings will on sale for Cool pic of NMonly .99 cents but only for the month of January, so buy today !

Read the book that is being compared to Strangers Things and Stand By Me.Audio book post





Or listen to the audio book. Available wherever books are sold.

Late night meetings in the woods become the place a group of teens can finally belong until they uncover dark secrets that might get them killed. Amazon

Get audible for only $7. if you have or purchase eBook for .99 cents.

Advantages of being a zombie

I’m fifteen and not old enough to vote. But in honor of election day, I’m examining how to make an informed decision. One hard choice we are faced with is whether or not to become zombie.

It’s hard to be a kid in today’s society. Most days I’m trying my hardest. I think there are definite advantages to being a zombie. First, being a zombie comes with its instant group of loyal friends. No zombies think they are better than any other zombies. It’s communism in its purest form.

You don’t have to go to school or do any real work. You don’t even have to think. You just walk around with your arms extended looking for brains. So, you’re still goal oriented. I don’t know what I want to do with my life.

Have you ever gone camping? You know that feeling you get relaxing in front of the fire. How you fall into a robotic state just staring at the flames. I imagine that’ what it would feel like to be a zombie.

Of course, you always have to look at the cons. That way you can make an informed decision before becoming a zombie. There is the whole lack of humanity— if that’s a thing for you. Do zombies even love their mothers? I’m not sure. Also, there aren’t any cute zombies to date. They have got to be smelling pretty rancid. Then again, they’re dead so they don’t breathe at all.

What about the diet?

I mean, brains every night. What about pizza and hot wings and eating doughnuts? You would have to say goodbye to doughnuts. I love doughnuts.



Maybe if you’re not a zombie you don’t have to follow a crowd of mindless idiots. You can find a few true friends instead and try a lot of new and different things like camping, thinking, and the list of limitless things only people can do. That brings me to my conclusion: There are certain advantages to being human, too.

This is Tommy Walker.

If you want to check out my crazy story, read Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced, where I learn small towns are murder.

Happy voting!

Barnes and Noble




Being a Young Writer

DillionHello everyone!!! Welcome!!! This week I’m on Thanks to the lovely R.J. Garcia for that. I’m so excited. For those of you who don’t know, I’m Dillon Walker, and for those of you who are visiting from my blog,, thanks for coming, look around, check this place out, it’s gorgeous. Anyway, today I’m talking about being a young writer, and you can trust me on this stuff because I published my first book at age nineteen and I am fully willing to admit that I made a ton of mistakes, but don’t worry, I’m gonna tell you guys my top ten pieces of advice for young writers.

#1. Learn To Manage Your Time

I get it, school is boring, but you can’t ignore it or let it pile on top of you or you’re writing habits will be impossible to maintain.

#2. Start Small

I know when you’re young your brain is filled with ideas for epics longer than Game Of Thrones, but you need to calm down. You are still at the age where your main goal should be finding your voice and honing your writing skills. So, though you should not give up on your dream to write an epic, start with things like poetry and/or short stories and take time to get to know who you are as a writer.

#3. Find Writer Friends

Writers are a strange breed of people and we often struggle to find our place in normal society. Especially when you’re young, trying to pursue something as unusual as writing can be difficult to do and trying to make friends can be really hard, mostly because people are assholes, especially high schoolers because they tend to be close minded. So, go out and find yourself some writerly type buddies either at school or online as long as it’s safe.

#4. YouTube Is Your Friend

Writing channels on YouTube are super helpful and provided me, and still, provide me with a lot of great information and advice. My personal favorite is Jenna Moreci.

#5. Do Your Research

If you plan to fully publish something be sure to do your research on marketing, publishing, and all that they entail. It is super boring at times, but it’s better to get it done earlier rather than later to avoid unwanted surprises.

#6. Be Confident

You are a writer which means you enjoy writing stories in one way or another, which is super cool. Don’t hide it or put yourself down. Be confident in yourself and own being a writer, because the more confident you are, the easier everything is.

#7. F*ck The Haters

This goes along with the previous tip, but it’s important enough for me to mention it separately. People are assholes. That’s just fact, and sometimes they’ll be assholes to you. It sucks, but that’s life. It’s okay though because if someone is mean to you, you have every right to turn around and walk away.

#8. Explore

Have you ever though of trying a different style fo writing, maybe you thought about writing a short story when you’ve only every done poetry before. Do i. Whether you end up liking it or not, exploration is a large part of the process, especially when you’re young, so just enjoy the process and try all the new stuff you want.

#9. Be Yourself

If you hide who you are in your writing (or in real life) it shows, and not in a good way. It makes your writing feel inauthentic and emotionless. You could write a story with perfect grammar and beautiful language, but if you don’t use a distinct voice, then your readers won’t be able to connect.

#10. Perfectionism Will Be The Death Of You

I’ll admit to being a major hypocrite on this one. I’m definitely a perfectionist. I like things done as perfectly as possible, but I had to learn to get over that perfectionist part of myself so I could actually write something. So, a good tip from Dillon to you is to write and ignore all the little details like grammar and word choice, then after you’re done with the story/poem/chapter, you can go through and let your perfectionism run wild and focus on all of those little details.

Okay, guys, that concludes my stay here at writers and wallflowers. Thanks so much to RJ for letting me come over and visit. If you’re interested in hearing more about this topic and are part of the amazing learning platform called SkillShare then be sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming class, The Master’s Guide To Underage Publishing, it comes out on November 14th. If you want to see more from me, in general, you can head on over to my blog If you’re a poetry fan, then be sure to check out my book, Dreams From Tea And Coffee and if you’re interested in being a beta for my awesome novel, Friends, Family, And Other Tragedies, you can contact me on any one of my social media accounts. With that being said, I’m out of here, it was lovely visiting all you guys.


By R.J. Garcia

Buffy the Vampire Slayer once revealed a great truth. That truth is, the hardest thing to do in this Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-world is to live in it. Buffy had to battle vampires, demons and prevent apocalypse on a regular basis. What almost destroyed Buffy was depression.

What is depression? It can be lack of serotonin to the brain, which can now be treated with antidepressant and that’s okay. It can be situational, including but not limited to regular teenage angst, like a break-up or the feeling you don’t belong.

Years ago, I even wrote a poem about my depression:

The Lovely Awful Thing

At first I found it most attractive like a family pet.

It alone understood me,

and licked my wounds

with acid spit.

My mom only said,

“You’re looking too thin lately.

Eat your peas.”

The lovely awful thing told me

not to tell a soul, and whispered,

“You’re useless and alone.”

But one day I decided

to send the lovely, awful thing away.

I gathered and collected

all the words and garbage it gave

and decided to junk them.


Depression doesn’t have a type. It can happen to you if you’re pretty, young or old. Although there is no blood test to diagnose depression, it attacks us from within like a disease. It can be fatal. There are well-established symptoms. If you’re depressed, you know you’re depressed. Tell someone. You won’t want to, but make yourself. You’re worth it.


“Everything will be okay in the end.

 If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”


Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced

Editorial Review

by C.K. Brooke 

C.K. BrookeI was the editor of this novel for The Parliament House Press. All opinions are my own and my role in no way influenced my review.

Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced (The Parliament House Press, 2018) by R.J. Garcia is my favorite book I’ve edited to date – and one of my all-time favorite novels ever. This unputdownable debut blends my favorite elements of YA, horror/mystery, small towns, a group of friends, and a creepy, but at times also humorous and romantic, Stranger Things vibe to create one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.

The story is told from the POV of Tommy Walker, a fifteen-year-old boy whose mom has a drug problem and can no longer care for him and his little sister. They’re sent to live with a kind, young uncle and aunt they’ve never met before in the small town of Summertime, Indiana. There, Tommy befriends his neighbor, Finn – a lovable, geeky, and incredibly brave Ron Weasley-esque boy, who was easily my favorite character. Finn’s stepdad is a flawed and abusive man…and he’s also the town sheriff.

Tommy begins meeting up with Finn and Finn’s friends, two girls named Silence and Annie, at late-night meetings in the woods. However, these meetings quickly turn from lighthearted to sinister, as the misfit group begins to unravel clues to a cold case local murder and kidnapping that had happened decades ago. No one believes them, but the kids are in danger. And Summertime holds darker and more personal secrets than Tommy ever could’ve imagined.

I honestly can’t praise this book enough. It’s a haunting and phenomenal story, with unforgettable characters – even the side ones – that I still think of from time to time. If you’re looking for a solid read with an empathetic, young male lead, a small-town murder mystery, deadly secrets, complex characters, and a hint of humor and touching YA romance, you need to add Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced to your TBR, like, yesterday.

Buy here!

NMOTM Promo (3)



If you’re a fan of creepy small towns, unsolved mysteries, and meddling kids, you might want to check out this haunting tale. Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced is a roller coaster of crazy that the four main characters endure. Let me introduce you to them.

Tommy Walker

Tommy Walker

Tommy Walker

Tommy grew up quickly in Chicago caring for his little sister and covering for his drug-addicted mother. After Tommy’s mom is arrested, he and his sister are sent to live with relatives they have never met.

Tommy is fiercely loyal, braver than he realizes and smart when he has to be. He has his fair share of angst., but also has a sense of humor that helps him deal with things.

Finn Wilds

Finn Wilds

Finn Wilds 

What can I say about Finn? He has a lot of heart but is rebellious and at times acts before he thinks. He is brave because he doesn’t know any better. He doesn’t over think things, but goes on instinct..

After his mom remarried the town sheriff and had a slew of beautiful blonde haired babies, Finn is literally the red-haired stepchild. His abusive stepfather never lets him forget it. This leads Tommy to question if it is harder to be removed from a screwed up home or to be left in it. The boys bond over their heartache.

                                                                                    Silence Harper

Silence Harper

Silence Harper

Silence’s “go eat shit and die attitude” could be registered a lethal weapon. She is tough because she has to be. She’s twelve years old going on thirty. She also appears older than her physical age, and is tall and beautiful. Named Silence to let her mother’s kidnappers know the secret would never be told, things aren’t easy for her.

Silence is a hardcore realist while her best friend, Annie is the exact opposite, dreamy and optimistic. The two bicker like an old married couple. Silence might love Finn, or Tommy, but is twelve and changes her mind as she goes along. She does care about her mother and her friends, but feels the world has let her down.

Finn first saw Silence on the baseball field in little league. He thought she was either a pretty boy or fierce girl and had it bad for her ever since. Tommy also develops strong feelings for her early on that confuse him at first. Even Annie idolizes her.

                                                                                    Annie Riker

Annie Riker

Annie Riker

Last but not least, there’s Annie. Annie is small in stature and often overlooked. Because she is a wallflower, she’s always changing her hair, and style, trying to be seen. Despite being a work in progress, she knows who she is deep down. Hippie-like, she loves her friends and the planet. Having gay mothers in a small town hasn’t always been easy. More than likely the kids sensed how soft and sweet she is and gave her a hard time because they could.

Annie is immediately infatuated with Tommy who doesn’t seem to notice her. She later becomes interested in Tommy’s older and criminal friend Simon, who comes to visit. Undenounced to Annie, Tommy begins to not only count on her, but see her as everything that is good with the world.

NMOTM_3dWant to learn more about these characters, order early!

Questions for Casey

Questions for Casey Casey pic

Writers and Wallflowers is excited to have its first  interview with 16-year-old Casey Millette, author of Cursed the Hunter Inside! This book is going to be epic!

  1. What advice do you have for other young writers?

Find a  “flow time.” Set aside 1-2-3 hours every day and get the job done. Every. Single. Day. You`ll be amazed at how effective setting a goal for yourself is. If you`re a night owl, work until midnight; if you`re a morning person, be like me and get up at 4. Anything is possible as long as you work hard enough. In a world dominated by school, work, friends, and family, it can be incredibly difficult to find time to write, so make it!


  1. If you went to Hogwarts, what house would you be in?

Gryffindor. Hands down. I`m comfortable with called myself a brave person, willing to make risks, but that can often come back to bite me in end.


  1. What is the first book that made you cry?

It takes a lot to make me cry. When I do release the water works, it`s more commonly over the death over a treasured animal rather than a person! I`m going to have to say Where the Red Ferns Grow.


  1. What is your biggest distraction when writing?

Sometimes the internet, but mostly my slightly demonic cat.


  1. Tell us 3 things about yourself people might not know.

I`m a blackbelt Taekwondo instructor with my own school, I`m passionate about playing cello, and one of my biggest goals in life is to climb Mt. Everest!


  1. How did you come up with the title for your debut novel, Cursed: The Hunter Inside? Cursed Hunter Inside

The story came first. Afterward, I took major keywords from the work, as well as assessing what the characters were doing specifically to each book. Having finished the Cursed series finished definitely helped, as I knew the book`s core and what separated the series from other fantasies. I knew the title had to stand out!

Cursed the Hunter Inside from the Parliament House is available March 27th wherever books are sold!

Pre-order here!


Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced

cover reveal

Two huge things happened! Nocturnal Meetings has a cover and is now available for preorder!!


NMOTM 3-d picOrder early here!

In honor of these monumental events in the life of a book, I’m sharing the first two chapters of my story!





Chapter One

The Drive


I was alone in a small windowless room with four white walls, sitting at a table, on one of those metal chairs, not designed for comfort. I could feel every second, knowing if I looked nervous I seemed guilty, and if I was too calm, I was a run-of-the-mill sociopath.

Every now and then, I glanced up at a small black camera mounted on top of the wall. Its little demonic eye beamed down on me. I thought of giving it the finger but decided against it. Finally, I rested my elbows on the table and held my head with my hands. My ankle throbbed, and my butt went numb. I had signed some paper saying my caseworker didn’t have to be present during questioning and wondered if I had signed my life away.

After almost an hour the door flew open. The detective with a hulk nose entered, in uniform. I noticed the star on his lapel. He had a wannabe superhero look, with blocky side-parted hair and broad shoulders. His imposing frame lorded over me before he sat down in the chair directly across from mine. “Hello, Tommy. You remember me, Deputy Bennet?”

I nodded my head. “Yes.”

“Let’s get down to business. You and your friends like meeting late at night and starting fires. You’re really fascinated with fire, aren’t you?”

“It’s not like that. We just—”

“You’re sixteen, but you like to hang around younger kids. Kids you can influence.”

“No,” I mumbled.

“A lot of interesting things have happened since you moved here to Summertime…homicides…arson. Why do you end up at all my crimes scenes?”

‘Um, I had some bad luck.” Holy crap, I was becoming like that guy who got struck by lightning seven times. No one trusts that guy. My chest ached the way my stomach felt after binge eating like it was all too much.  “Can we just get this over with?” I asked.

“It’s not that simple.” He sounded calm, friendly even. The more he talked, the more freaked out I felt inside. “You see, I want to know everything that you did since you moved to Summertime, so don’t leave out a thing.”

I squinted at him as if to ask, ‘What?’

“I’m going to chat with you for hours and then I’m going to talk to your redheaded friend.  I’m going to see if your stories line up.” He threaded his fingers together to emphasize the point.

I realized I was holding my breath and exhaled. Breathing was no longer a natural thing.

“Let’s start from the beginning. How and why did you come to Indiana in the first place?” he asked.

“Okay, Sir, I guess it started with the drive here?” I asked, confused. What was he looking for?

“Alright let’s start with the drive,” he decided.

I channeled my inner hard-ass and told that cop only what he needed to hear. This dark story started long before my time, but the memories of my nine months in Summertime, Indiana played in my head like a 4-D movie.


9 months earlier

My mom’s brother and his wife that we’d never met agreed to take us in. They lived in Indiana, two hours from the city. On the drive over, Isabella sank in the silence. Her oversized brown eyes stared out the car window as the skyline loomed into view. A collection of skyscrapers shot up like a crown. It was the picture on a postcard and not the Chicago I knew. After the high-rises, only asphalt greeted us. The lady, Reese, rambled on about Disney movies with a southern drawl. Yet she lived in the North, so I didn’t get it. She wasn’t beautiful or ugly, but somewhere in-between. She had brown hair, pulled back in a peppy ponytail, with a clean and wholesome vibe about her.

My sister blinked at me.

“Isabella likes all those movies,” I answered for her. Being polite was kind of a sickness with me. I don’t know why. It seemed easier I guess.

“And what do you like, Tommy?” Reese asked.

“I like Chicago,” I replied, my bitterness cutting through my obligation to be polite. Right when she stopped talking, the guy started in.

“What do you like about Chicago?” my uncle, named Holden, asked from the driver’s seat. I had only seen one photo of him before. It was a wrinkled, pissed on school picture that my mom always kept with her. He was about thirteen in the picture and a cool looking kid. He was taller and more potato-like as a man. Some women might have found him attractive. He could have played the dumb, but lovable best friend to the leading man.

I wasn’t sure how to answer him. Getting stoned, I thought, but my own head knew I was lying because I didn’t even do that very often. If I did, it happened on a Friday, or Saturday, with Isabella, safely tucked away for the night. “I like hanging out with my friends.” I didn’t have many friends.

“I’m sure you’ll make new friends, too,” the woman said, still looking in the mirror.

“He mainly watches TV,” Isabella said coming to life.

“Well, we’ve got a TV,” Holden offered up.

They seemed alright. I can’t say I relaxed. The guy was big and my main concern. I’d have to watch Isabella closely. My eyes fixed on the backseat window, watching yellow lines on grey roads, trying my best to zone out. I looked up at the Welcome to Indiana sign and felt a curious pull toward the life we were driving away from. Isabella felt it, too. She started crying, saying she wanted our mom. Reese partly turned, facing the backseat and said, “It’s alright, baby.”

I decided to tell Isabella we would see mom soon. I told myself this. Yet a second later, I thought we would never see her again. The two thoughts wrestled in my brain.

Isabella stopped crying, and I stared out the window. We drove by one cornfield after the next, all a steely, faded color. Was there really that much demand for corn? The further we drove, the more convinced I became that we weren’t ever going back.

We fell into an uncomfortable silence.

Isabella shrieked as she saw a few horses, almost jumping out of her car seat. I pretended to be happy about it. “That’s cool.”

Reese called out, “This is it.” Suddenly, we turned off the expressway. A sign welcoming us to Summertime further confirmed it. It was a place you would pass on the way to somewhere else. We drove past a post office, library, Mabel’s Antiques, Summertime Diner and a DQ. It looked clean and old-fashioned as if we had traveled back in time. Again, we turned away from what little civilization there was and rolled down a long country road, the street sign eerily reading Old Cemetery Road. My stomach moved with the car. Sure enough, I spied a small gated cemetery. A couple minutes later, we slowed down at a house that had a stand with tomatoes for sale. A redheaded boy about my age sat on a lounge chair as if he worked there. Some smaller kids scampered around the lawn, all of them blonde and each cuter than the next.

We pulled into a driveway, the rocks crunching under the wheels. Dust from the pebbles found the energy to drift and collapse on a flower bed. I looked up at a split-level house, composed of yellow siding with a little brick, on a big plot of land. A similar house stood next to this one, but it had a front porch boasting thick, stone columns. Only the panorama of woods lurked behind these two solitary houses.

“Here’s our house. Your house, too, for now,” Reese said, her voice friendly but not that phony kind of friendly. I wished she wouldn’t be so nice because I already decided not to like her.

I looked over at Isabella. Tears dripped off her face onto her neck as she hugged herself. Reese opened the car door. My sister looked at me with a confused and tear-streaked face. A kind of pain swept through me. I managed to get the words out. “It’s okay, Izzy. Go with her.”


Chapter Two

An Invitation

The car was parked under the branches of a towering tree. The sunlight streamed in between the branches in thin, hazy shafts. Even the bark of the tree looked a strange white color. Nothing seemed real about that day.

“Come here, cutie. I bought you some things,” Reese said as she took my sister’s hand, helping her out of the car.

I got out, too, feeling weightless, and slammed the car door shut.

Isabella’s tears came to a halt, and she said, “I like toys.”

“It was a lucky guess on my part.” Reese smiled, picking Isabella up.

Even the fresh air seemed suspect. Nausea moved in my stomach. It all happened so fast. The grim serenity of not being present slipped away from me. This was my new house? I considered the house. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great.

Then the weird, redheaded boy abandoned his vegetable stand and ran toward us. Before long, the boy was almost in my personal space. My feet stirred the pebbles on the drive as I backed up.

Holden grinned. “This is Finn, our neighbor. This is Tommy, my nephew.”

“Hey,” I said. Reese stood next to Holden, still holding Isabella on her hip.

He started talking, “My last name’s Wilds, but the rest of my family are Bears. You know because my mom remarried.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I just knew he was a clueless kid without a care in the world.

“Want a tomato?” He extended his hand with the tomato toward me.

“No thanks. I’m good.”  It seemed like a lonely street and I wondered, “Do you make any money?”

“Nah, we’re just playing store.” The stupid kid started eyeballing me up and down, sizing me up. “Oh man, I was hoping you were bigger. You’re shorter than me,” he complained. I noticed he held the tomato like you’d hold a softball.

“Let me guess why you want him to be bigger? Mudget,” Holden smirked, standing over six feet tall, dwarfing me and the kid named Finn.

Finn shrugged. “Well, yeah.”

I didn’t ask who Mudget was because I didn’t care.

Reese looked at me and then Finn, promising, “You guys will be great friends.”

This made Finn smile. He started telling me how he had a dirt bike that he was working on. I guess that was cool. “We could work on it together and share it,” Finn generously suggested.

“I’m from Chicago. I can’t fix things.”

“Just keep me company while I work, and we can still share it,” the boy said. A series of nervous blinks followed the offer, calling attention to his long white eyelashes.

“That sounds good,” Reese said, her voice honey-coated, yet sincere. How did she think she could answer for me?

The kid tossed the tomato up and Holden leaned in and caught it. With a toothy grin, Holden tossed it back to him. Several small ones from next door invaded the lawn. Reese set Isabella down and they all began to run around. A ripple of giggles followed them. They were happy little creatures, most of them with sticky, food crusted faces.

“Are you sixteen?” I asked the boy.

“I’m almost fifteen. But I’ll  still drive it.” Finn turned his head and spit, maybe trying to look tough. Yet he kept his eyes wide and friendly.

Isabella was already holding hands with a blonde girl around her age. It was the kind of instant friendship that only happens when you’re three or four.

“Tommy has to follow the rules because he’s a ward of the state,” Holden said. Reese hissed at him and told him not to put it that way. Finn looked down.

“I’m not a ward of the state. It’s temporary,” I squeaked. An overwhelming sadness rushed in. I tried to think about something else before I lost it and did something stupid like cry.

Holden broke in. “Do you want to see your room? It’s not much.”

That helped me pull it together. “Yeah, sure,” I said, sounding casual.

Isabella ran in circles with the other small kids. I only had to say one word to get her attention. “Presents.” Isabella hurried over to me, her face lit with nervous anticipation. Reese again took her hand. Holden grabbed the large suitcase with everything we owned in it and walked toward the house. I lingered by the white Chevy Malibu that brought me to this strange new life.

Finn whispered, “If you’re interested, me and a couple of friends meet around midnight on Saturdays.” He walked away before I could reply.

I became instantly intrigued by the midnight thing. “Do I just knock on your door?” I called out.

He pivoted back around, his face full of color and alarm. “If you want to get me killed!” Walking back over to me, Finn’s voice returned to an easy whisper, but this time it had a twang to it. “Just meet me by my mailbox, would ya?” Then he started running around, waving his arms to gather up all his younger siblings. Finn rushed to pick up the smallest one, who was crawling toward the road. Looking around, I counted four.

I imagined having to take care of that many. “Holy crap,” I muttered to myself.

Reese called to me from the front door.

I followed Holden to a small room in the basement. It had a bed and beat up wardrobe in it. There was cheap peel-and-stick flooring and dark outdated paneling on the walls, but I lived in worse places.

Next Holden led me back upstairs to one of those bright and sunny kitchens. He invited me to take a seat and called Reese in, too. Izzy sat next to her, not saying a word. Yet her hands fluttered on her lap like two caged birds.

“I want you to feel welcomed,” Holden said but made it clear he wanted me out of the way. I had to be in bed by ten o’clock, or at least be in my room by that time.

Lines appeared by Reese’s eyes that made it look like she fought the urge to smile. Yet her thin lips bowed into a concentrated frown.

Of course, there was, “No drinking, or smoking. Ask before you go out. Always treat Reese with respect. She’s number one here. Your job will be going to school and mowing the lawn if you want to keep your cell phone.”

I felt out of place. After all, I never had rules or a kitchen table before. I nodded and agreed with whatever the big guy said.

I observed the clean white appliances, a hanging plant, and even a spice rack.

They ordered pizza for us and we all ate together and then they let me lie on the floor of Isabella’s room.

It was a small pink room; they’d painted just for Izzy, with a tall window overlooking the backyard and woods. The window was open about an inch. A thin, lace curtain billowed in and out, almost as if it was breathing. I stayed there watching it until my little sister fell asleep around ten o’clock.

Anyway, I hadn’t been able to sleep much and thought I might as well meet that kid, Finn. I texted my friend Carlos about the secret meeting. This way, at least one person would know what happened if I ended up missing or dead. Yeah, I watched a lot of true crime shows. Carlos said it might be a cult because that kind of thing was big in small towns. Finn didn’t seem dark enough.

There would probably only be Finn and another lame kid with a flashlight and comic book and it wouldn’t be worth pissing off Holden. But my brain needed a night off from thinking and trying not to think. I’d sneak upstairs and if I got caught I’d pretend to want a glass of milk. Otherwise, I’d slip out the back.

I put on my raggedy Nikes and crept up the stairs, stopping each time a step creaked. Squeezing the narrow, wooden banisters, my nerves kicked in. I was really going to do this.

I placed one sneaker on the kitchen’s tile. The lights were off, but the moon and starlight trickled in. I could see the patio, only feet away from my freedom. I heard the TV from the next room. According to my cell phone, it was already midnight. Would Finn still be waiting? I decided to go for it. I held my breath as if that would make me lighter and grabbed the handle of the sliding-glass-door as a man’s voice asked, “Where do you think you’re going?”

I jumped, startled, bracing myself before turning back around to face him.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” Holden said.

“I wanted a little fresh air,” my voice came out in an uneasy whisper.

He walked toward me in his sweatpants and a t-shirt, holding a can of beer. His expression hardened. You saw where not following the rules got your mother.”

“Yeah, I saw.” I glumly nodded. He seemed calm, but I didn’t know if he was angrier than he let on, or what he was capable of.

It surprised me when he said, “Tommy, it will get better. I promise.”

Reese came in the kitchen, turning on the too-bright light. Her hair surprisingly disheveled, and partly veiling her face, made her look kind of pretty. She closed her pink terry cloth robe. “Do you want some milk or something, sweetie?” She squinted at me.

I ran my nervous hands over my face. No. I’m going back to bed. They both stared at me with blank expressions as I went by.

Back in the basement, I walked around. That was when I noticed a large window ground level and my easy escape, but I didn’t feel like going anymore. A multicolored afghan lay folded on top of the sofa. I snatched it and walked back to my strange, new room. I sprawled out on top of the neatly made bed. I texted back and forth with my friend, Carlos for a while and then watched YouTube videos for hours. My cell phone read five o’clock in white numbers like it did— when pounding woke me up. I was half asleep and freezing because we kept the thermostat at fifty. I grabbed a blanket from the bed and wrapped it around my body and got up. The dawn crept in through the flimsy blinds.      

I walked into the living room, scrubbing my eyes with my fingers, under the fluorescent glare. Then I saw my mom open the door. An older, black lady in a business suit stood there, with two police officers posed just behind her. They all wedged their way in. One of the officers was Hispanic with a bone-clean head and Vandyke. The other officer was a muscly, white guy with a big neck and bloated face.

The lady asked my mom if she was Jennifer Walker. My mom made a non-committal noise, before saying, “Yeah.” Next, the lady told my mom her name, and that she was with, “The Department of Child Welfare.” I took a couple steps toward them. The lady talked to my mom. “I am here for the welfare of the children.” 

My mom asked her to “Please go.”

The social worker did this thing where she put her hand up and said, “Ah, Ah, Ah, I am here for the welfare of these children.” This time, the lady over-enunciated each word.

My mom looked small and shaky.  She started to slur her words a little. “I’m a good mom.” She looked over at me, her eyes with a peculiar glaze over them. Her right hand was nervously clutching at her collarbone as she said my name over and over like I could get her out of this. The police officers came out of my mom’s room.

I didn’t know what to do. “She’s a good mom,” I mumbled. I heard the patter of small, quick feet. I turned to see Isabella running to me. I picked her up. Her face never left my shoulder.

The caseworker was a fat woman made puffier by superiority. The white officer held up a small bag of crack and looked at my mom. I flinched inside. My mom always told me not to use anything stronger than pot. “You’re going with us, good mom,” he said. I hated that guy.      

That was it. I felt a twist in my gut. My life ended.

I pushed the pain down until I felt hollow. Then everything stopped.  I guess I fell to sleep.


Existential Crisis

by R.J. Garcia

Have you ever had an existential crisis? Have you ever tripped out and had the wow this is me moment? Followed by what am I doing with my life freak out? Have you wondered what is the meaning of life? Well, relax because it is all part of the human condition. It’s normal— I think.

All these questions are part of the reasons why I like reading and writing. For one thing, both are an escape. Also, reading or writing a story, or drawing can make us feel like we have a small grasp of something bigger or a glimpse of some new truth.

It reminds me of that famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

RonReading a book can change your thinking in some small way forever. Case in point, reading Harry Potter transformed a lot of people into Potterheads for life. It unites us and even makes us argue about who Hermione should have ended up with. Well, duh, Ron of course.

I have a friend who wonders why people ask questions you can’t really answer. I feel sometimes those are the most important questions to ask. I kind of believe that we are all connected. These questions somehow connect us. Literature and art connect us, too and help us acknowledge the imponderable, and unknown things about life.