Contributor: Valerie Z Lewis

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Adam craned his neck to see over the lip of the tall kitchen trash bin and searched for the can he'd dropped inside.
Adam hated his new house. There were too many things he wasn't allowed to do. He wasn't allowed to wear his sneakers inside. He wasn't allowed to play with his soccer ball in the driveway. He couldn't go in the living room at all, only the smaller TV room. He wasn't supposed to make noise in the morning, not even talking noises, because it would wake up his step-dad, his fake-dad.
Adam liked school better, where he could talk whenever he wanted, and he even got stickers for answering questions in Math. At school nobody yelled at him. If he broke a rule, instead of being yelled at, he would have to sit in the Time Out Chair for five minutes. School was also good because his friend Pauly would teach him a bad word in exchange for a quarter.
Adam's step-dad was an asshead.
Every time Adam came out of his room, he would hold his door open just a little bit, just a crack, and he would press his eye to the opening and look for asshead. He didn't want to come out of his room if it wasn't clear, because every time he saw asshead he got yelled at.
At school a man dressed like Captain America came to their class, which was stupid because Captain America died like six issues ago. But Adam paid attention anyway. He didn't want to get the Time Out chair.
Captain America said all kids could be heroes if they cared about the environment. He said that, by recycling and not wasting things, they could save the world.
After school Adam's mom gave him a Gatorade and told him not to talk because asshead was taking a nap. Adam tried to be quiet, he really did, but he accidentally dropped a knife when he was setting the table. Asshead came stomping out of his room, his feet heavy on the wood floor, like a giant, screaming that he couldn't get any sleep around this stupid worthless kid.
Adam sat down on the floor and started crying. Asshead kept screaming, and his mom put her hands on his chest and said, "I'm sorry, honey, I'm sorry." When asshead went back to bed, Adam's mom hugged him and whispered, "Shhhh." It was time to be quiet again.
"Just stop crying," his mom whispered. "And I'll give you anything you want."
Adam stopped crying and asked for a quarter.
After dinner, when Adam was clearing the table, he put his Gatorade bottle in the trash instead of the blue recycling bin. He didn't want to save the world.
At school the next day, Adam answered two questions in Math and read a paragraph out loud in Reading. Miss Ellway gave him a small eraser shaped like a strawberry as a prize for being so good, and Adam hid it in the bottom of his pencil box so no one could find it. In Art, when he was drawing a picture of his mom, he used another eraser, so the strawberry would stay perfect forever.
That night at dinner, dickface yelled at Adam the whole time. He said Adam didn't eat enough of his green beans, and scraped his fork too loud, and was a spoiled brat who made his mother work too hard.
When he was cleaning up, Adam put everything in the trash: the leftover food, the silverware, his mom's soda can, and dickface's beer bottle. Dickface found it in the morning, and Adam woke up to screaming. Dickface said he was a little psycho, a worthless piece of shit, and a bastard no one wanted. Adam pulled his blanket over his head and blocked his ears with his fists, but he could still hear the screaming.
Adam craned his neck to see over the lip of the tall kitchen trash bin and searched for the can he'd dropped inside. He spotted it peeking out from underneath a wadded-up paper towel. He tugged on the edge of the trash bag until the can slipped down, disappearing into the depths of the garbage.
Adam pressed his face against the open crack of the kitchen door. He could barely make out the figure on the couch, sickly white in the light of the television.
"Just wait, motherfucker," Adam whispered. "Just wait."

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Valerie Z Lewis is a writing professor in New York.
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