“You ever wonder where you’ll be in five years?”
“With my study habits, probably still in college.”
“Studying what? What do you want to be doing for a living?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that. ‘Going to college’ had always been my stock answer, but why I was going to college wasn’t very well formed. “Let’s see. Can’t really write or pass a calculus class to save my soul. No skill in working with my hands. Pretty much useless for anything that requires talent. Wait. I know–I’ll be a politician.”
“Har, har,” Nate chimed back to me.
“How about you?”
He was dead silent until we crossed the railroad tracks.
“I’ve got no job, no experience, no college, no car, and no girlfriend. I might as well be dead.”
“Hey, stop that talk.” An epiphany slithered through my mind. “Say, after I leave for college my dad will need someone to help him maintain his rentals and to keep from killing himself with electricity. If you can tolerate working with someone deaf and clumsy, you’ll fit right in. Plus, he pays decently.”
“Sounds good, but should I get my hopes up?”
“I’d say your chances are pretty even. Because your dad was a veteran, he’ll probably like you.” More than he ever did me, anyway. “I promise to talk you up to him. What do you think?”
“Would I need a car?”
“Nah, he likes to drive, though, with his bad hearing, it sometimes gets more exciting than it should.” I turned onto Henderson.
“All right, I like that idea. Can we listen to some more music?”
Nate grabbed the radio tuner and twisted it. Tom Petty’s ‘Refugee’ came on. We sang the chorus together. But by the time the song ended, Nate had slumped down in the seat and was staring out the window.
The Henderson MickeyD’s came into sight, Nate asked, “Can you drop me off at home? I’m kind of tired.”
“Okay.” I sailed passed the restaurant and made a turn onto Fremont. About a mile down the road, I turned left into his driveway. Gravel crunched under the tires as we moved closer to his small home. All the windows were dark, but the porch light flickered giving just enough light for him to get to his front door. We sat there staring at his house.
In low voice, Nate asked,”Ever feel like you keep going around in circles, never getting anywhere but spending all your time doing it?”
“Yeah, sometimes, but time moves on.”
“Time makes no difference when you’re in jail. I wish I could escape this town.”
How do I answer that? I was going somewhere, and he wasn’t. Hardly seemed fair, but there it was.
“When you are leaving for Colorado?” Nate asked in a low tone.
“Man, that sucks. We just graduated. Don’t you get to enjoy the summer?”
“No, of course not, they want me gone.”
“They’d sell me to the circus if they could.”
Nate chuckled, but then his face fell. “When are you coming back?”
Should I be honest or feed him some bullshit? Better keep it real. “If I can help it, never.”
Nate sighed, but then opened the car door and stepped out. “Never is a long time.”
“I know, but if I don’t leave, I might not ever get away.”
Nate and I locked eyes on each other. Left unsaid was the thought, Like me, you mean.
“Good luck Pete. Don’t forget to mention me to your dad.”
“I’ll talk to him. Take care of yourself.”
He turned and walked toward the house. The car coughed and sputtered but eventually started, and I backed out the driveway into the road. In the rearview mirror, Nate, with one foot on the porch step, stood staring up into the night sky. I shifted into drive and pulled away.