The Wanted One

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Start your story with somebody taking a photo.... view prompt


Contemporary Drama Fiction

Offensive language & mention of drug use

She’s crazy as hell, my mother is, though if anyone else said it I’d kick their head in. But I was my father’s son, everyone said so. I let them say that.

When I’d left the house she was flinging all the windows open, saying it might explode from the change in air pressure. She tried to stop me when I told her I was going to Holly’s place, but the kitchen door was already wide open and I walked out.

“It’s just a storm, not a damn tornado, and we don’t even have those here anyway,” I’d told her.

But she spent too much in the house on the internet, reading conspiracy theories and believing she’d found the truth. She didn’t draw a line anymore between what was here and what was on the other side of the earth in Nebraska or wherever the hell, it was all the same terrifying place to her, the world out there.

Never thought crazy might be something contagious, though. Not like it was going to rub off on me.

But when I got to the stretch of shops and saw Patrick over at the park holding his phone up toward the sky, and the black clouds stacked up above and the waiting stillness in the air, my first thought was that lightening was going to hit his phone and travel down it. Electrocute him.

Maybe that was how it started, being crazy. You looked at some normal thing and saw a disaster coming.

It was the first time I’d seen him since I’d been kicked out of school weeks ago, and I stood a minute and watched him. Remembering that day and how I’d thought he was going to cry.

I turned away from him and went into the Four Square to get a coke. Martin Cooke was behind the counter and his crippled father sat beside him like he always was, and neither of them took their eyes off me for a second.

I walked behind a display and put my hands in my pockets a couple times, just to mess with them.

It pissed me off them watching me because I’d never stolen a thing, not from this place at least. But my dad’s reputation draped me like a cloak wherever I went. I could try and hide behind it, or I could hold it up like a banner, but I couldn’t ever take it off.

“Just the drink then?” Martin asked me when I went up the counter.

In the storeroom behind him I could see a glimpse of Andrew, the youngest Cooke. Sitting there and pretending he hadn’t seen me.

At school, he used to follow me around and act like he was my friend. But not here in front of his dad and grandad he wouldn’t.

“Just that,” I said, looking past him at Andrew. I could have said; hey, Andrew. Hope you liked the bag of pot I got you last week. I hear you taxed it and sold it on. Guess you got some of your old man’s entrepreneurial spirit, after all.

But I kept quiet, let him pretend not to know me. The power was in what you might have told but didn’t, the secrets you held on to. My dad never taught me how to ride a bike like some fathers did, but he taught me plenty else.

I walked back out and Patrick was still there, looking down at his phone now. My own phone buzzed in my pocket and I knew it was Holly wondering how long I was going to be, or my mum begging me to come home, or someone wanting to know if I could get a bag off my dad to sell them. Always someone wanting something.

It was kind of nice being out alone and no one else to worry about for a minute. Once I got to Holly’s she’d be crawling all over me wanting to make out and once we’d done that she’d want to sit in my lap and watch some boring movie and if I made up an excuse to leave, she’d want to come.

Sometimes she felt a like a vine winding her way through everything, never letting go. But she was the hottest girl in our year. The one all the other boys wanted.

I started through the park and stopped when I got to Patrick, who was aiming his phone upward again, head thrown back. Like someone who didn’t have a thing in the world to worry about.

“What the hell are you doing there?” I asked him, coming up behind.

He startled, turned toward me.

“Shit,” he said, his voice cracking. He coughed and smiled when he saw me and then the smile dropped away.

“Danny,” he said. “I haven’t seen you since…”

“Yeah, school, I know,” I said.

That last day we’d been up on the top field, sitting on the edge of the long disused swimming pool. He and his friend had been talking in hushed voices even though no one was nearby, slipping me the money in a folded hand. Acting as if I was selling them a plane load of cocaine and not just twenty bucks worth of pot. I pocketed the money and handed it to him and tried not to laugh at the wonderous look on his face.

I’d been trying not to laugh about it since he’d sidled up to me as I walked out of school the day before and asked if I could "get something’"

“Get what?” I’d asked, playing like I didn't know, because he was such a nerdy little shit. Up and down to the stage every end of year prizegiving. But I knew, what was it they all wanted, when they came to me? The son of a drug dealer. The one who could get what they wanted.

After he got done gazing at it, he asked me if I could tell him how to roll a joint.

So that’s how I ended up sat there with them, Patrick the school’s next big hope and his friend who’s name I never knew, rolling up a joint for them while they watched. It was kind of fun even, hanging out with him. He was all excited over it like everyone else was too cool to ever be. Asking me lots of questions like afterward he was going to sit an exam on rolling joints.

I'd just passed it back to him and he was spinning it between his fingers, when he looked up then threw it down on the ground. A look on his face like he'd just seen the end of his world coming. And I knew without having to turn around what it was.

I said loud to him; You better not tell anyone you came up here and saw me with a joint.

Then I picked it up and put it in my mouth and stood up to face the teacher. Because I was going to get expelled for something one of these days, might as well be this. Didn’t have some bright future to ruin like he did.

And I didn’t care, even though when I got home my mother cried and my dad took a swing at me for making her cry. I just ducked him and took off out of there for a few hours, and I kept seeing the look on his face and wondering what it would be like, to have so much to lose.

“Danny, you’re not going to beat me up are?” he asked. “I mean, I get it if you want to, but I’m really sorry about everything.”

 “Man, why would I beat you up? Besides if I wanted to do that, I could have just waited outside school for you any time.”

“You totally took the fall for us,” Patrick said. “We shouldn't have let you.”

I did it because I wanted to. Could have pulled him under the bus along with me, but I didn’t.

“I was glad to get out of there. Anyway, who’d they give all the prizes to if you got expelled?”

“Were your parents mad about it?”

“Nah, they didn’t give a shit,” I said.

“That’s good,” he said. “I mean, it’s good you weren’t in trouble with them. My dad would have been the worst. He would have been disappointed.”

He emphasized the word, as if it had some deeper meaning I was supposed to know.

“That you didn’t get a prize?” I asked.

He looked at me in an odd way. “For getting kicked out of school. So, what are you doing now?”

“My dad just got me a job working with my uncle, at the car wreckers,” I said. “I like it better counting up my own money than trying to work out the value of x anyway.”

I laughed, but somehow it stung. Math was one thing I knew I was decent at in school. Most times I’d figure out the answer before the teacher even said it, but I couldn’t put my hand up and say it. Didn’t want them to all think I was some kind of teacher’s pet.

Every now and then though I’d pick the hardest problem and do it the right way in my book. Just to mess with them. Just so for a minute they might see something other than the son of the crazy mother and the drug dealer father.

“You not going to try and go back to school?” He looked somehow surprised. Maybe, even, disappointed.

I didn’t know why the hell he would care if I was stuck in some shit job. It wasn’t even that bad. Mostly I just sat at the counter and played on my phone and got paid for it.

“What for, man? I’m old enough to leave. Anyway, what are you even doing out here?”

“Taking photos,” he said.

“Of what?”

“That, the storm,” he said. The sun blotted out, the day darkening. Wind just starting to pick up. My mother would be home hiding in the bathroom. I wondered if I’d understand one day. If I’d be in there with her.

“You taking photos of clouds? You sure you’re not a homo, then?”

Wasn’t like I hadn’t heard talk at school. But the word dried up in my mouth as I said it. Fucking faggot, my dad would have said. I didn’t mean it like that. An apology I swallowed down. Never be sorry, my dad always told me. Regrets are for old men.

“So what if I am though?” Patrick asked me.

I was so surprised the first thing which came out of my mouth wasn’t to give him shit again, but the question which rushed at me.

“What would your dad say?”

“He said it’s ok with him, he just wants me to be a good person,” he said, and he smiled. Like it was some normal thing, to talk to your dad about something like that.

“That’s messed up,” I said, and I looked up at the clouds and laughed. A good person. Anytime I got in trouble for fighting at school the only thing he wanted to know was how good I stomped them.

“What, why?” he asked, frowning. “Would yours like, disown you or something?”

He could no more imagine my life than I could his. We lived in the same place and had gone to the same school, even went to the same parties sometimes, but he was on his path and I was on mine.

“I don’t know what he’d do, and it’s not like it matters anyway, because I’m not,” I said. I had the hottest girl in school after all, and she chased me. Wanted me. Talked about the babies we would have.

“If we have twins, we should call them Sun and Sky, because they’d be our whole world and we couldn’t live without them,” she said. She liked to say shit she thought sounded romantic.

“In that case shouldn’t they be oxygen and hydrogen?” I asked her and she frowned, gave me a look like I was someone she didn’t know, so then I suggested calling them Money and Alcohol and she laughed. Maybe everyone just did what was expected of them.

Thinking about her was making my head feel tight, like something was pressing inside it. Or maybe it was just the storm bearing down. Maybe my head would explode. I didn’t want to think about it sometimes, what was coming in the future.

I asked Patrick; “How come you wanted to buy pot anyway, I didn’t think you were into that stuff.”

“I just wanted to try, for the experience I guess” he said. He turned and looked at me. His eyes were brown, something soft in them. Like nothing had banged hard against him yet in life. It was why in that moment when it was about to, I wanted to stop it.

“I never did get to smoke it though,” he added. “Maybe if you got some now, we could, you know, get stoned.”

“Yeah, sounds cool, but I’m going to see my girlfriend,” I said. She was the obvious choice and yet I felt a pang of regret saying it. I really did want to keep talking with him and get stoned and watch the storm come.

“Holly? Why are you even with her? She seems kind of dumb, no offence.”

“I didn’t even finish school,” I said. “You think I should be going around with some rocket scientist?”

“You’re not dumb, doesn’t make a difference if you finished school or not.”

He was looking at me so intently I had to turn, look away over the park a minute. What did it matter anyway, what he thought? But still it seemed like the best thing anyone had ever said to me.

“Yeah, but she’s cute,” I said. “And she puts out.” I had money and a girl and what else did I need in life?

He gave me this sad look and it cut right through me. He felt sorry for me. I saw it then. Him who I could have snapped in half without a thought, who went around taking photos of the sky and who's dad wanted him to be good, he pitied me.

I balled up my fists and he saw it and didn’t even put his own hands up. Just stood there so I could have punched him in the face and stomped him good. But I stayed still, hands clenched, limbs weak.

I left him there and carried on through the park, toward Holly’s house, down the path I was on.

May 05, 2022 10:32

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Zack Powell
20:45 May 06, 2022

What I love the absolute most about this one, Kelsey, is the ambiguity in the title. Because this is written in first person POV, we're (or at least I was) primed to believe that Danny is the subject of the title, especially because he's dealing drugs, so people WANT something from him. But then Holly is also a wanted one, since all the other boys are trying to chase her. But THEN Patrick is also a wanted one, because his father accepts him for who he is and only asks him to be a good person. It's amazing to me that you fit so many layers in...


Kelsey H
04:19 May 07, 2022

Thank you so much! Really appreciate you taking the time to write such a detailed comment. I feel like you totally got everything I was trying to do, starting right from the title. That was what I had in mind, how it cycles from Danny thinking he has what everyone else wants, to realizing Patrick has what he really wants in the unconditional love of his father, and freedom to be himself. This was actually a bit of a challenge to myself, to write a story which was just one continuous scene taking place, without moving between locations/date...


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Riel Rosehill
11:21 May 07, 2022

Your stories never disappoint, Kelsey! This might even be my favourite one of yours so far - the contrast between the two different lives, different ways of thinking and how those boys somehow clicked so well together, it's fascinating. If this was the first chapter of a novel, I would read the book all the way to the last page. I loved the last sentence. It sounds like he got more aware of his chosen path and how it could be different, maybe with the possibility of straying from it if he thinks some more. I'd love to know what comes next...


Kelsey H
00:56 May 08, 2022

Thanks so much for your comment. I really appreciate getting your thoughts, it is definitely of value! When I write my favourite character type is always is the 'good person who does/has done bad things'. It is hard to know sometimes if a character like this -ie who starts the story by threatening violence and brags about selling drugs- will just be too unlikeable for a reader to care about. So I really love hearing your opinion on him! I think I do try and consider the motivations/reasons of each character for why they do what they do, so ...


Riel Rosehill
10:32 May 08, 2022

Thanks! And I'm sure many of us will be happy to see his return! :D Can't wait to read that furture one already.


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J.C. Lovero
22:03 May 09, 2022

Hi Kelsey, Stopping by to commend you on such a good story. Zack and Riel covered most of the bases, so all I can really add is how fascinated I am by stories that show two very different characters coming together, and their worlds shifting by just a little nudge. Because if you think about it, those little nudges we get throughout life help guide us down our path. Strong story from you. Absolutely enjoyed it!


Kelsey H
03:18 May 10, 2022

Thank you! I also always enjoy interaction between two different people who wouldn't usually have anything in common, so I found the conversation between the boys pretty fun to write.


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Michał Przywara
21:37 May 10, 2022

Great story! There's a line that summarizes it: "Maybe everyone just did what was expected of them." (I see now that other commenters like Zack also picked this one.) The narrator's made up all sorts of rules for himself, rules based on others' expectations, and he lives by them even if they're not what he wants. His resentment is clear in the store. The classic one (universal even?) is the teenage "appearing not to care in school" even though he's capable at math and even seems to like it. Then there's the opening. Right off the bat he ...


Kelsey H
07:17 May 11, 2022

Thanks for your comment! I love the nature vs nature theme, what makes us who we are. I wanted to write him as someone who has this father with a 'big' reputation looming over him and feels he was born into a certain role in life and has never questioned it, even enjoyed aspects of it, until now he starts to realize he has actually trapped himself in it. I like the idea of Danny 'playing safe' that is such a good way of describing it. Although he perceives himself as the tough one and Patrick as the weak one at first, that is actually not ...


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Story Time
16:21 May 10, 2022

I love stories that are built upon the ways a relationship changes the characters in the story, and this is a perfect example of that. The language is so rich and you really captured the quieter emotions that authors sometimes pass by. Well done.


Kelsey H
19:18 May 11, 2022

Thank you! I do enjoy writing these sort of interactions.


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10:39 May 07, 2022

Hi Kelsey, What a great story. The ominous feeling of the storm coming resonates with the trouble at home and all the pent up emotion in this story. And the power of those last words ‘…down the path I was on” is brilliant. This story has huge impact.


Kelsey H
00:21 May 08, 2022

Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you liked the ending, I was a bit unsure about it!


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