"Trouble" by Jae Gecko (West Wing, Josh, 500 words)

The table thumped as I slammed my ankle against it: once, twice, three times. My aunt shot me a disapproving look and wiped a pot clean. I scowled at the mass of mushy egg yolk smeared against my plate, making railroad tracks in it with my fork.

"I suppose we could rent something in town for a while," Dad said. He was in the living room, but his tired, scared voice carried as far as the kitchen.

"You've got a home here for as long as you want," I heard my uncle respond. I swallowed hard, chasing the slimy white hard-boiled eye socket around my plate with a finger, and my aunt glared at me.

"Aren't you going to finish your egg?" she said to me, her fat lips spread in that big, fake smile.

I thumped my foot against the chair again in response, harder now. The pain was a dull, faraway feeling that shot from my ankle to my kneecap.

"No, Leah needs it," Dad said. "And Josh. God, school's starting. And there's an insurance claim to file, so many people who don't even know yet--"

"Noah. People will understand if you need to take a little time."

"There's no time. We've got to get back on our feet again." He sounded like he was crying, and a sick feeling settled in my stomach. I slapped my ankle so hard against the table that it shook. "Leah's not the kind of woman who can just-- would you quit kicking that goddamn table!"

Dad appeared in the doorway to the living room, panting, his face almost as red as his eyes. I shot to my feet. He ran his fingers along his eyebrows, his shoulders slumping. He wouldn't look at me.

My aunt scurried over, her hand on my back as she shoved me toward the door. "Why don't you go out and play for a while?" she said, too friendly.

The screen door opened, and I stumbled onto the porch. The concrete steps were cold against my bare legs, and I leaned against one of the columns. Ours had been bigger, taller. I closed my eyes, but couldn't picture them.

The creak of the door startled me, and my uncle sat down by my side. His lighter flashed orange as he lit his cigarette. He put a hand on my shoulder and exhaled a cloud of smoke. I shuddered.

"Josh, your dad has a lot he has to think about right now."

I looked down. A purple bruise had spread across the side of my leg.

"He needs you to try really hard not to make trouble. Can you do that?" He tilted his head at me. My throat was stinging, and I nodded. He smiled. "You're a good kid," he said, rumpling the hair at the back of my neck.

He took another puff on his cigarette, and my stomach lurched. I held my breath, but I could still feel the burning wood in my nose.