Chapter 2: The Car of Your Dreams
Eleven Years Later
Matt forced a smile, directed at his little brother. What he said next would either crush his spirits, or put him in his older brother’s debt forever.
Still, Matt found that he’d rather face a whole week’s worth of scrubbing locker room floors than make this choice.
He wanted to help Tyson, well both of them, to get out of the house for once. He really did. Convincing his dad, however, would be another story. Making a fast-food run was one thing, but taking Tyson to someplace as crazy as a carnival? That was really asking for it.
One last look at his pleading face, and he crumpled. He’d deal with his dad later. “Okay, okay. I’ll talk to dad about the carnival, but you owe me big time.”
Tyson’s face lit up, a lot happier than Matt had seen him in a while. “Thanks, Matt! You won’t be sorry.”
Tyson turned and started up the stairs, leaving Matt feeling like he had just signed on to play 10 vs. 1 in a paintball match.
Who was he kidding? His dad never let him do anything like that, especially if Tyson came too. Matt couldn’t explain it, but weird stuff just happened around his little brother. The more people that would be around, the less likely it was that his dad would say yes.
Just a few more years, and his dad wouldn’t have say in anything he did. He was already making a list of the things he wanted to do the day after his 18th birthday.
After Tyson’s footfalls faded, Matt slumped in her chair. He wasn’t going to be able to think about homework or anything else until this was done. Time to start thinking of ways to achieve the impossible.
Matt’s heart jumped as he heard his father pulling into the driveway. He stood with rag in one hand and cleaning solution in the other. He’d never convince his dad to take them if they hadn’t done their chores. He’d spent the last hour scrubbing things, and rehearsing his speech.
This had better be worth it.
The view through the front window wasn’t getting any cleaner. No matter how many times Matt sprayed and wiped it down, it was like she was looking through a blurry camera lens. He threw the bottle and rag to the side.
He watched his dad come up through his partially cleaned window. He watched as he stepped from the car, ran his fingers through his black hair, and snatched the glasses from his face. Apparently, looking cool was more important than watching where he was going.
Then he saw why. Mrs. Vance from across the street was returning from a jog. She was about his dad’s age, single, and way out of his league. He waved awkwardly, almost tripping over the garden hose.
Matt rolled his eyes, turning them away from the train wreck. Matt stepped away from the door, and it swung open a few seconds.
“Hey guys, I’m…”
Matt offered his dad a smile, which he hoped didn’t look too fake. “Hey, dad. How was work?”
His dad sighed and fumbled around his pocket for his glasses. “All right, I guess. You and Tyson get your homework done?”
Matt gestured to the windows he’d been cleaning. “Sure, and look, I even got a head start on my chores. Bet you didn’t see that coming.”
His delighted smile quickly melted into a suspicious smirk. “While that may be true, I can also tell that you want something. Go ahead and beat the bush.”
His dad took a step back and shrugged. “You were planning on beating around it. I say, just beat in the bush…or whatever you’re supposed to say.”
Swallowing hard, Matt prepared the speech he had thought up while scrubbing the windows. “Well, dad, let’s put it this way. What did you do for your 13th birthday?”
His dad gazed briefly at the ceiling before returning to the conversation. “I might have to dig out some archeological records to go back that far, but I’m pretty sure my father took me to a water park. That’s when I learned that you weren’t supposed to wear the inner tubes around your neck.”
“See?” Matt said. “New teenagers should be out having fun. Why shouldn’t Ty?”
His dad sighed, his gaze snapping to meet his son’s. Matt almost flinched. His dad had the kind of eyes that belonged on a police interrogator or something. “You promised him something, didn’t you?”
For a few moments, Matt’s mouth hung open silently. He was hoping to do a little more buildup before the big question, but this was it. “The carnival,” he admitted. “I said I’d talk to you about it.”
His dad opened his mouth to speak, but Matt cut back in before he could get out more than a word. “I know what you’re going to say. I know that there will be a big crowd and lots of dangerous rides and all sorts of places he could get lost, but you know what? All those strange things that happen around him eventually go away. And you have to admit, it’s not every time we go out that something happens. I know it’s a risk, but I think it’s one we should take.”
His dad did not blink. “Are you finished?”
“Yes,” Matt said barely holding it together. “Yes.”
One of his dad’s eyebrows shot up. “What about the zoo? Have you forgotten that?”
Matt could scarcely forget that one. They had gone to the zoo one day, and had a lions, tigers, bears, and even a few elephants stomping around the neighborhood the next day.
“Come on. They were all gone by that night. I mean, Tyson just sits up there all the time reading books and watching movies. Are you going to keep him up there forever?”
“If that’s what it takes,” said his dad. “What about the library? They lost the entire reference section when Tyson fell asleep and the basement flooded…with seawater.”
Matt shrugged. “Hey, I caught a seagull. And who needs that section anyway? At least the movies and magazines were okay.” His dad opened his mouth, but Matt pushed ahead. “And not all of his things are bad. Don’t forget that new red Porsche that showed up in our garage after you guys watched that car show. That was cool, wasn’t it?”
His dad’s face reddened to match the sportscar. “Until it disappeared when I was sitting at a traffic light and I nearly got run over by a minivan. I could have been…”
A faraway look came across his dad’s face mixed with a little sadness. “Matt, It’s been a long day and I don’t want to fight about this. I guess nothing has happened in a while. If you promise to stay with him the whole time, I guess we can go for a little bit.”
Matt felt the knot in his stomach unclench, and punched his fist in the air.
His dad turned to go, but spun around right before he rounded the corner. “And, if he breaks anything, you’re getting a job to pay for it.”
“Sure, dad,” Matt said with a low chuckle. “Maybe they’ll let us work concessions. Though between Tyson and me, we’d probably get fired for eating half of them ourselves. I’ve never seen anyone with a bigger sweet tooth.”
His dad gave him a weary smile, rubbing at one eye. “That’s because you don’t remember your mom’s.”
Somewhere in the Milky Way
The Starformer turned toward the emerald light streaming from a distant planet. The sign. He had waited so long for one of the seeds he had planted to take hold. He turned from his work where he had been weaving together the threads of a new arm of a galaxy and flew as fast as he could toward the beam of hope, so distant, yet so comforting. Many beings found comfort in the light of distant stars, and now, he understood this better than ever.
Even as he traveled, he could feel its form continue to dissipate, taking him ever closer to the time when he would vanish completely. If only he could reach the light in time, he might yet succeed in assuring that his legacy might live on, even if through another.
He closed his eyes as he traveled, bringing to mind the star and its blue-green planet. If the other seeds it had planted had not shown a sign by now, they likely would never. Now, earth remained his only hope.