Chapter 16: FocusMature

Narrator: Joshua Penningway


I had found refuge in the basement, hoping in the back of my mind that Kieth would keep the party, and himself, under control upstairs.

I kept my eyes focused on the screen, and my ears on the dance music, tuning out the voices and the other television. As the arrows came and went, my feet danced upon the pad. It was a workout. It was a distraction. It was brain-numbing...


I paid no attention to how well or poorly my opponent was doing. That would only matter later. Heck, I don't think I even glanced at my own score. I drowned my awareness in arrows, music, and steps.


The arrows, vertical and horizontal, kept my attention. But then, there was a hand waving in front of them. Obscuring my view.

"J-maaan?" It was Junior's voice.

I let my focus down just enough to answer.

"Can it wait?" I queried, breath crisp.

"It's pretty dark down here when you replace half the lights with black-lights. So, umm... I was wondering... the invitation said to pack a swimsuit. And, well, the rain has stopped. May I turn on the back porch lights and roll back the pool cover?"

I didn't catch all of that. I had a game to play. To win. Something about the pool, though.

"Ask Kieth," I said under my breath.

"Umm... right," said CJ. "Sorry to bother you."

"Don't be sorry," Leslie's voice came from atop the dance-pad beside mine, "his score just dropped below mine."

Beside us, Adam and Brent guffawed, briefly distracted from the four-player game of Super Smash Brothers that they were playing.

As CJ left, Leslie called after him, "Do anything it takes, Junior. Use your masculine wiles if you have to!"

Adam was in hysterics, "Damn, you just got the preacher's kid to flip the bird at you. Daaaamn. You're good, girl."

"Not so good," I snarled, glancing at her score which I had once again surpassed. And as I struggled to regain my focus, I swear I could hear Brent grinding his teeth. Hopefully, it was because of Adam.

"You're a dead man, Joshua," Leslie taunted.

"Use thundershock on him, Leslie!" Brent cried.

"Umm, she's not playing the same game as --" I was interrupted.

"Hey, kiddies," Ashley scolded, "no fighting."

"Kick her ass, Brent," I heard Crystal cheer from the stairs. "Don't let her talk trash to you like that."

That was, of course, meaningless since Ashley and Crystal were friends. Yet somehow, I thought I detected genuine resentment in her voice. Oh well...

And then, they were tuned out once again. At least Penny and Christina had the decency to wear headphones with their Ninendo DSs.

"Shit," Ashley swore, when she realized she'd ignored Crystal all night. But it barely registered on me.

The End

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