Chapter 1: Paper Route
The Swift residence was one of the many apartments inside the Le Monte apartment complex located in Phoenix, Arizona. More specifically, it was located on the crossroads of 16th Street and McDonald Road.
Just why anyone would name a street after a fast food restaurant shall remain forever unknown. Someone probably just thought it would be funny.
Le Monte apartment complex was a very nice place to live, all things considered. The grass around the various apartment blocks was well maintained. There were two swimming pools, among other amenities, and all of the apartment buildings were clean, modern-looking structures with red roofing and white stucco walls. There were definitely worse places to live.
The apartment belonging to the Swifts was a modest sized two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, with a moderately sized kitchen connected to a living room, and possessing an office near the master bedroom. Despite not being very large, the apartment had all the comforts one would expect to find in a well-loved home.
Lining the walls were pictures within various sized and styled frames. The images were of a very pretty young woman who didn't look a day over twenty and a boy who grew throughout various pictures. In one, he was a small baby that looked like a tiny ball of fat and pudge, as all babies do. In another, he was a young boy no older than one with a head full of peach fuzz hair, taking his first steps. In another, he was a preteen with short spiky hair and a large grin as he held a soccer ball in his hands. All of the pictures showed the boy as he grew up, and the young-looking woman, who could easily be presumed to be the boy's mother.
The apartment was mostly empty of its inhabitants at the moment, save for one bedroom where the boy in the pictures was currently sleeping peacefully―
―Or at least, he was sleeping, until the alarm clock went off, ruining a wonderful dream. Couldn't it have beeped just ten seconds later? He had been just about to share a romantic kiss with his crush!
Sometimes, he really hated that infernal piece of racket making machinery.
Blearily sitting up in his bed as he pulled his hand off the now somewhat abused alarm clock, Kevin Swift blinked his weary blue eyes, striving to come to terms with the fact that he was now awake thanks to that dang alarm. He ran a hand through his tousled, medium-length, light blond hair, brushing several stray bangs out of his eyes. As his mind became more alert, the young teen found himself absently staring around his room.
It was about what you might expect from the room of a fifteen year old boy. Lining the walls were posters of all his favorite bands, and his favorite sports teams, along with a number of posters showcasing his favorite movies, anime and manga.
Surprisingly, there were no pictures of bikini models, hot actresses or half naked women. Why was this a surprise? Because Kevin was a fifteen year old boy. Large posters of half-naked super models were something people simply expect to see in the bedroom of a young man going through puberty.
That they weren't sharing Kevin's bedroom may have had something to do with his innate shyness when it came to dealing with women.
To put it simply, he could not talk to girls to save his life. Any time a girl came up to him, he would freeze, his mouth unable to move and his mind unable to think. It was an affliction that affected him in more ways than one, and was the main reason he still couldn't ask Lindsay Diane on even a simple date despite the years they had known each other.
Yeah, he was pretty pathetic like that. Laugh it up. Have a joke at his expense. Not like he'll ever know.
Another key factor of Kevin's room that most would likely notice upon entering was the large book shelf. It didn't have any books. At least, not reading books. Filling the shelf from top to bottom was a large collection of all his favorite Japanese Pop Culture items. Like a good number of boys his age, Kevin had a thing for it, or at least, he had a thing for Japanese animation and manga.
And now that his room has been aptly described, why don't we move this along? We're wasting word count!
Grumbling a bit irritably about having to get up so early in the morning (the sun hadn't even come up yet!), Kevin Swift proceeded to complete his daily ritual for waking up and getting ready.
In other words, he spent a long time in the shower, staring blankly at the wall as steam rose all around him, made a breakfast of eggs, toast and a glass of milk after getting dressed, and brushed his teeth. Once all this was finished, he was awake and raring to go.
Not really. He was actually only marginally more alert than before he got ready, but it wasn't like he had much of a choice in the matter. There were things that needed to get done, things that unfortunately couldn't wait.
Stepping out of the apartment he shared with his mother (who in case you didn't realize was not home)(and who, just in case you didn't realize, really was the other person in the pictures), Kevin locked the door and walked over to the bike that was padlocked to the railing. He undid the lock, grabbed the bike, rolled it down the set of stairs a few feet from his apartment, and took off, pedaling his way out of Le Monte apartment complex and onto the main street.
As he rode in the bike lane on the left side of the road, Kevin mused that even in the wee hours of the morning, it was still hot as hell in this state. Seriously, Arizona had to be the hottest fricken' state in the United States, especially during the summer.
Well, technically summer was nearing its end. Just a little less than two weeks and it would be September, but Kevin had never been one to bother with such semantics.
This didn't stop him from complaining, despite there being no one around to hear it, or the fact that no one would hear his complaints anyways since they were being done in his head. And so, mentally complaining about the heat, the teenager continued to ride his bike along the side of the road all the way to his job.
Yeah, he had a job. Kevin wasn't like other kids who had things handed to him on a silver-platter. He was responsible!
Well, that, and the fact that Kevin didn't really like relying on his mom for money or anything else. This may have had something to do with how she was rarely ever home, but again, semantics, he didn't bother himself with them.
Kevin's job was delivering the morning newspapers on bike to people's houses. He had started doing this two summers ago when he was in 8th grade and decided to continue doing so after he had started going to high school to earn more cash.
Since it almost wasn't summer anymore, he would only be delivering the Sunday morning newspaper. He just didn't have time on weekdays now that he had school, homework, and after school activities. It would mean he made less money, but at least he was still making something, so he couldn't complain too much.
He actually enjoyed his job. Sure, the pay wasn't great, but it was enough spending money to go out on weekends and still have a bit saved up. As long as he finished delivering papers by 5:00 am, he was pretty much free to do as he pleased.
Of course, he hated the fact that his job required him to get up at 2:00 am in the morning. That sucked. It wasn't like people were actually awake at 2:30 am to read the newspapers when he started delivering them. Why would they be? How many people actually had to wake up and go to their job that early in the morning?
Not many, Kevin would wager.
After somewhere around fifteen minutes, a hot and sweaty Kevin arrived at the Newspaper Distribution Center, which was really just a fancy name for the place that received the newspapers he delivered.
The newspaper building wasn't much to look at. Really, it was just a moderately sized, one story rectangular building made out of drab gray bricks and possessing a flat roof. It looked boring, and the manager there wasn't much better than the building. Actually, Kevin preferred looking at the building as opposed to the manager.
Thankfully, the manager would not be there this early in the morning. Kevin supposed there was some kind of silver lining to that, but he couldn't really see it in the early morning darkness.
Kevin didn't bother locking up his bike as he set it against next to the front door, which he then unlocked with the key he had been given.
When Kevin first started this job, the manager had actually woken up every morning to unlock the door. He would then proceed to watch Kevin like a hawk while the young man loaded the newspapers onto his bike. That had actually been pretty creepy, being watched like that. It had only been after six months when he had proven himself trustworthy, or something like that, that the manager had decided he didn't need to show up every morning and gave him a key to get in.
Kevin found his papers ready as usual. The box was pretty heavy, but Kevin was able to take it to his bike in a single haul, which was much better than what he used to be capable of. He had grown pretty strong since the first year he had started. Back then, he'd been forced to make six trips.
Which, by the way, totally sucked.
Once he had gotten all of the rolled up newspapers in the carrier on his bike, it was off to do his newspaper run.
The paper route he took had him traveling through two different neighborhoods near his apartment complex. All the houses there were large and nice and pretty imposing. They were mostly two story homes with off-white plaster walls and red tiled roofs. The front lawns were all manicured to perfection with neatly trimmed hedges, perfectly cut trees and a large variety of cacti. From time to time Kevin would see expensive cars parked in front of the garages.
Kevin had to shake his head at the wasteful use of money. Who needs to buy a $145,000.00 convertible Gran Turismo when a $19,975.00 Honda CR-Z worked just as well, had better gas mileage and didn't look too bad either? Maybe it was his mom's influence, but he just couldn't see the point in buying such extravagant vehicles. They might look nice, but they cost more than they were worth, especially considering how most of them were likely custom models that required constant maintenance in order to keep them at peak performance.
On that note, it should be stated that Kevin was not a car maniac, but he did know a few people on his track team who talked about cars a lot. When you're forced to listen to people who are so obsessive over something that they can yammer on without any end in sight, you tend to pick up a thing or two, whether you want to or not. Thus, he knew a lot about high performance sports cars like the ones in these driveways, such as the fact that they all cost far more than they were worth.
And that's not even getting into the cost of those houses. Those probably had a price range of at least several hundred thousand dollars, if not somewhere around a couple million. Why would anyone want to buy such a large, expensive house when something a little smaller and more affordable would be perfectly acceptable and could probably fit their entire family comfortably without all that excess space?
What would they even do with all that extra space anyways? Make their own bowling alley? Dedicate a large room of the house to store various paraphernalia?
Actually, that last one sounded kind of cool. Maybe he should think of getting an entire room to dedicate one or more of his favorite hobbies? A room for just video games and anime would be awesome.
Thinking of all the people who lived in those houses, Kevin was sure they were just trying to show off how rich they were by living in large, expensive looking houses and driving their fancy cars so everyone could see it. That wouldn't surprise him in the least. While he didn't know everyone in this neighborhood personally, he knew that a good few of the children he went to school with lived in these houses. If they were reflective in any way of their parents, he could imagine them being some of the most obnoxious and snobbish people around.
Maybe he was just being biased. He and his mom were pretty well off, even if as a single mom she was always away on business. They could probably afford to live in a nice house like these, but when he once commented on it, she had simply told him there was no point in spending so much money on something as unimportant as a large house that had more rooms then they would ever use. It was even less important because not only was it just the two of them, but when he graduated from high school and moved away to college, she would have that “large ass house” (her words, not his) to herself, with no clue of what to do with all that excess space.
Yeah, his mom was frugal like that. This wasn't to say she didn't spend money on other things like those new Android mobile phones that came out a while ago. Those were awesome! Or, on things that were fun, like going on vacation.
At least once a year she and Kevin would take a vacation somewhere nice, usually out of the country. He had been to France, Italy, England, Ireland, Spain, and Germany. And then last year she had blown it out and had taken him to Japan.
Now that had been awesome. He used to think the Comicon that he went to annually in Arizona was the height of cool, but the anime conventions in Japan were just incredible. The one he had been to when he and his mom had visited must have had at least a couple hundred thousand people on that day alone! And almost all of them had been dressed up in some kind of costume! He'd seen everything from Sozo Ku from Dragon Warriors X to Natsumo Uzukami from Shinobi Natsumo, and upwards of 100 Ichika Kurohimes from White Out.
He had also seen a good number of Satsuki's, which was not cool because Satsuki was an emo jerk who needed someone to pull her head out of her rear end.
With a shake of his head, Kevin dispelled his rather superfluous thoughts and focused on delivering newspapers. The trip through both neighborhoods took him a little over two hours. By the time he got back to the newspaper distribution building, it was about 4:30 am. He probably could have finished much sooner, but Kevin had decided to make a game of trying to smack the cars with a newspaper. More often than not, he failed. Kevin wasn't a basketball or baseball player. He had no talent in throwing anything unless it was a Frisbee, and even then, not very well.
At least he got a few good laughs when he actually did manage to toss a newspaper against the hood of all those ridiculously priced cars. Too bad it wouldn't even scratch the paint.
After he finished his newspaper route, Kevin re-parked his bike by the front door, went in and headed down the first hall on the left. He didn't have to walk far, not only was the hall short, the room he needed to get to was the first door on the right.
The room was a standard office. It had all the things that were expected of an office. You know, desk, chair, file maintenance cabinet, things like that. This particular office was very spartan, possessing only the bare necessities and nothing else, not even a single picture. There was nothing in this room to indicate it was being used other than the stack of papers that were sitting on the desk.
Well, that, and the very large man sitting behind the desk, like Sumo Wrestler were large. Kevin wouldn't be surprised to learn that this man had been a Sumo Wrestler at one point in his life, or perhaps he was the reincarnation of a Sumo Wrestler.
The man in question was his boss, Davin Monstrang. He was a big, beefy man with a head of short brown hair and small brown eyes and looked like he could eat two entire cows and still be hungry. He had no neck, somewhere around ten chins, and fat that practically rolled out of his ugly, khaki colored shirt.
"I finished my newspaper route," Kevin informed the man.
Davin grunted, still not looking up from whatever paper he was working on. "And I suppose you'll be wanting your pay?"
Another grunt was the answer he received. Davin wasn't one for words. The chair creaked ominously as he rolled it away from his desk and Kevin actually wondered how long the chair had before it broke under the strain of keeping that man seated.
"Here," Davin slapped Kevin's paycheck on the desk. "Try not to spend it in all one place, brat."
Kevin resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the man. Even after all this time, his boss still seemed to think the worst of him. He wasn't like those spoiled rich kids who spent their money so frivolously.
Okay, so maybe he was. But at least he spent it on fun activities like going to the arcade and not on drugs like a lot of kids at his school did. That had to count for something, right?
Grabbing his paycheck off the desk, Kevin thanked his boss and hurriedly left. He didn't enjoy being in his boss' presence anymore than necessary.
It was all that fat, you see. Whenever the man moved, it looked alive and made Kevin feel like he was staring at some kind of eldritch horror that might eat him if he stayed too long.
HP Lovecraft had nothing on those fat rolls.
Grabbing his bike, Kevin was just about to leave when a noise caught his attention. It was very muffled and difficult to make out, but it sounded like a whimper from some kind of animal. A cat or a dog maybe.
Kevin had two weaknesses, one well known, one not so much. The first was a weakness towards women (everybody knew about this one). He could never talk to them without feeling supremely embarrassed. All any pretty girl had to do was smile at him or bat her eyelashes, and he would turn into a stuttering mass of reddened flesh within seconds.
His second weakness, one known only to his best friend and crush, was for animals. Kevin had loved animals ever since his mom had first taken him to the zoo when he was five. He had gone into the petting pen and played with all the animals there. They seemed to like him, unlike some of the other kids who had been bitten, and he'd a great time. Ever since then, he had a small obsession with animals.
Back when he was younger, he would occasionally bring stray animals or wild animals home with him. It had caused a lot of problems with the people in charge of their apartment complex because of their no pet policy. His mom had put her foot down and made him promise to stop bringing in every animal he found. Since then, he hadn't brought animals into the apartment.
Naturally, with the noise possibly falling into the second category of his list of weaknesses, Kevin quickly made his way towards the source of the whimper. It sounded like it was coming from around the corner of the building.
He turned the corner and stopped.
His eyes widened.
“Ohmygoshit'safox!” Kevin squee'd in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of a fangirl who had just bumped into her favorite pop idol.
You know what a fangirl is, right? They're those pre-teen and teenage girls that go “SQUEE!” when they're excited. Squeeing, by the way, is a very shrill noise that pierces the eardrums and can cause them to occasionally burst. In severe cases, it can also induce brain hemorrhaging, in which blood and liquified brain matter ooze out of the ears.
According to Mythbusters, being near someone who is “squeeing” has a ten percent fatality rating.
If you ever decide to become a pop idol be prepared to buy ear plugs.
But you are probably wondering why Kevin was 'squeeing' like one of these fangirls, yes?
Because lying near the dumpster was an honest to god fox.
Less then a second after letting loose with his “inner fangirl,” Kevin slapped a hand over his mouth. Idiot! What was wrong with him? Squeeing like some kind of prepubescent little girl?
Worse still, he had “squee'd” in front of a fox! It was a well established fact that foxes didn't like humans! They shied away from human contact and when frightened, would bite!
If he wanted to have any hope of even getting near it, much less petting it, he would need to be quiet. As in, quieter than Elmer Fudge when he was “hunting wabbits” quiet.
Luckily, the fox didn't seem to have heard him. It hadn't even moved from its spot. Now all he had to do was sneak in close.
He would become one with his surroundings. He would blend in with the shadows. He would be like a shinobi.
Making a weird sign that looked like a cross with his fingers for no apparent reason, Kevin began slowly creeping towards the fox. As he did, he began to wonder how it got into the city. There were fox's in Arizona, of course, but they all lived out in the desert and were usually as far away from any human habitat as possible.
Though, with the recent expansion of city limits, the fox's natural habitat was getting smaller. Maybe it was forced to come here because it had nowhere else to go. Kevin scowled at the thought. No one seemed to care for how people were destroying the natural habitat of animals like this fox anymore.
As he neared the creature, he observed its appearance. The fox was very small, nothing more than a tiny kit that could easily fit in the crook of his arms. It had a flattened skull, upright triangular ears, a pointed, slightly upturned snout, and deep red, almost crimson colored fur.
He recognized the species, a red fox, the most common type of fox among its species. Strange, he didn't think red fox's lived near Phoenix. Their habitat was supposed to be the northeastern portion of the state, like up in Flagstaff.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about this fox was its tails. Yes, tails. Lying limply behind the tiny critter were two, bushy red fox tails with white tips.
How unusual. Kevin had never seen a fox with two tails before, and he was pretty sure that fox's normally didn't have more than one tail.
Maybe it was some kind of government experiment? He couldn't see why the government would experiment on a fox to give it two tails, but there was always a conspiracy theory about various world governments doing inhumane experiments on humans. Why couldn't they do one on a fox as well?
Another whimper escaped from the tiny red animal and Kevin realized that it was injured. He had not noticed it before because its fur was so red (and because he was so excited about seeing a fox), but the fox was bleeding from its torso. It was only after taking a more in depth observation of the fox and noting that there was a portion where the thick red fur was slick and shiny like someone had splashed some kind of liquid on it that he was able to notice the injury.
Of course, now that he had noticed it was injured, he also noticed the expanding pool of blood underneath it, as well as the carnelian trail that showed it had dragged itself to this spot before collapsing.
Fearing for its safety, Kevin dropped all sense of subtlety and sneakiness (and his ninja hand sign) and rushed towards the fox.
It must have really been out of it not to notice his approach. Foxes were supposed to possess very keen senses. Even injured, he would have expected it to run away as soon as he started making too much noise.
It was only after he got in close enough to kneel right next to it that Kevin realized the reason it had not noticed him; the small kit was unconscious.
Growing even more concerned, Kevin scooped the small fox into his arms as gently as he could and stood up. A small whimper managed to escape from the tiny animal as its wound was jostled.
"Sorry," Kevin whispered, even though he knew the fox couldn't hear him. He moved as quickly as he could back to his bike and, after a moments thought, decided to divest himself of his shirt and use it as a makeshift pillow for the fox. Sure, it would likely have a blood stain that was going to be impossible to get out later, but that was a small price to pay to keep the small thing from getting injured further by jostling it as he rode back home.
Placing the fox into the basket on top of the waded up shirt, Kevin took off toward his apartment. His thoughts were focused solely on helping the small creature suffering in front of him.
A Fox's Love can be found by clicking on this link.
A Fox's Love can be found by clicking on this link.