Return to Eden, Part 1

This is the first chapter of something new I’m working on. It’s a young adult novel about the end of civilization as we know it. Lemme know what you think.

The day the world ended started off just like every other Thursday. Christin Kinsey got up after the alarm went off for the third time, staggered to the bathroom in her t-shirt and pajama bottoms, went about her morning business, took a shower, brushed her teeth, yelled at her brother Matt to drag his sorry butt out of bed because she wasn’t going to be late on account of him again this week, went back into her room, got dressed in a pair of jean shorts and a Kings of Leon T-shirt she’d borrowed from her boyfriend Kent a week or two ago, and beat on Matt’s door a couple more times before heading downstairs for breakfast.

While Christin was settling in behind a bowl of Lucky Charms and a Coke, her mom was in the kitchen in dress slacks and a bra, ironing a shirt that had obviously spent the night in the dryer and mainlining coffee with CNN on in the background. There was some other big fuss going on somewhere in the world with people that hated Americans shooting Americans, and Americans going in to stop them from shooting too many other people, and some talking heads with French accents whining about the overbearing American policies.

“Mom,” Christin asked between mouthfuls of cereal and marshmallows, “why don’t French people like us?”

“Because all frogs are douchebags” answered Matt, clumping down the stairs in baggy cargo shorts and Doc Marten boots, the uniform of his whole bunch of loser friends.

“Matthew!” Shrieked their mother, putting on her shirt and zipping up her slacks while simultaneously trying to butter a bagel and put away the iron. “We do not use terms like ‘douchebags’ or ‘frogs’ in this house! There are some French people who would rather eat Brie and smoke stinky cigarettes than do what needs to be done in the world, but that’s no reason to condemn the whole country. The French contributed some wonderful things to society,”

“Yeah,” Matt interrupted, “like eating snails and the guillotine.”

“I can think of some times when the guillotine would be useful, muttered Christin.

“Alright you two comedians, get your butts out of here or you’re going to be late. Again.” Their mother hustled them out of the kitchen and thrust some cash into Christin’s hand. “This should get you some gas and cover lunch for both of you. There’s frozen pizza in the fridge for tonight, I’ve got to go to Charlotte for a meeting with the B of A people about the loan.” She had been negotiating with the mortgage demons at Bank of America for months about refinancing their home, and it was, in her words, time for someone to “shit or get off the pot.” Sandra Kinsey didn’t swear often, but more and more often lately when she did, it involved someone with the mortgage company.

Things had been okay when Christin and Matt’s dad had been around, but Jacob Kinsey had died of lung cancer three years ago, and things had gotten tight with all his medical bills. Sandra had mortgaged the house to the hilt to pay off all the doctors and hospitals, but when the housing market in Asheville, NC went into the toilet like it did all over the country, they owed a lot more on the house than it was worth. President Obama’s plans to help American homeowners sounded good on TV, but didn’t always work out so well when reality hit the fan, as Sandra had become increasingly fond of saying. So today she was headed down to Charlotte, and she was determined to come home with some answers, or at least with a pound of flesh from some useless paper-pusher to make her feel better.

Sandra followed her kids out the front door and watched as they piled in Jacob’s old F-100 pickup truck and headed off to school. She’d kept the truck around until Christin had been old enough to drive, then given it to the girl for her sixteenth birthday. Big, blocky and decidedly un-sexy, the truck was nevertheless dependable and certainly better built than anything that had come out of Detroit in the past 30 years. It was a 1965 model, the year Jacob was born, and he had restored it to working order, if not much more than that. So it was a big rolling hunk of steel that Sandra didn’t mind sending her kids off to school in while she headed down the mountains in her Nissan Murano to do battle with the evildoers at the great corporate headquarters.

Christin drove into the parking lot at West Asheville High School, and parked the truck at the far end of the lot, as usual. It didn’t take too many mornings of being mocked by Cindy Monihan and her gaggle of bleached-blonde cheerleaders and wannabes for the Kinseys to decide it was easier to walk a few more steps up to the school each morning than deal with the popular kids. Of course, it didn’t matter where they parked, they still had to run the gauntlet of the beautiful people to get into the school, and that was as fun as your average dentist’s visit.

“Oh look, everyone, the Kinsey twins have decided to grace us with their pollution once again,” announced Cindy, who wielded her new Prius like a weapon against Christin’s gas-guzzling truck.

“Not twins, bimbo, but if you weren’t too vain to wear your glasses you’d see that,” muttered Matt as they walked into the school, heads lowered against the disapproving glances of Cindy’s psuedo-environmentalist friends. They cared about the planet because it was the latest flavor, not because they had any great connection to Mother Earth.

Since Matt had his head down, he never saw the chest he ran into, but it didn’t take anyone nearly as bright as the younger Kinsey to realize that Brian Regan, Cindy’s boyfriend, had heard his mumbled insult.

“What did you say, asswipe?” The much larger boy said to Matt, who had bounced off his chest like a superball.

“I said we’re not twins.”

“What else did you say, butt-munch?” Brian gave Matt a shove, spinning him into another of his friends. By now most of the starting offensive line for the football team had formed a circle around Matt, grinning and handing their letter jackets to their girlfriends just in case there was bleeding.

Matt’s temper flared white-hot, and he lost control of his mouth, as he was wont to do in these, or really any, situations. “I said, if your bimbo girlfriend would put on her glasses once in a while, she could see past the end of her makeup mirror.” Christin groaned quietly, hoping her mother had paid for the health insurance this month, because it looked like Matt was going to be needing another trip to urgent care.

“Hold the little chump,” Brian said to his buddies. They instantly grabbed Matt’s arms, but left his legs alone, which cost Brian dearly when he stepped in to deliver Matt’s punishment. The smaller boy was no football bruiser, but two years of varsity cross country had given him plenty of lower-body muscle, and the kick he landed on Brian’s groin was as good as any field goal the team had made all season. Regan dropped like a sack of well-manicured potatoes, and his buddies relaxed their grip on Matt’s arms just enough for him to wrestle his way free and bolt into the school building, his sister hot on his heels. The first bell was just ringing as they made their way inside, laughing hysterically.

“That was great, little bro. Meet you for lunch?” Christin asked.

“Yeah, if I can avoid the goon squad.” Matt gave his sister a high five and they headed off to their morning classes, for the last time.

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