Troy Knightly

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4

Grandpa George switched the radio station to another oldies song. He glanced at his grandson in the passenger seat.

“Sit up, boy, and look around. These farm fields aren’t what you got in New York, and that’s a fact.”

Troy raised his sunglasses from the sun’s afternoon glare and frowned at the endless fields of cows, fence, and dusty, dirt road.

“See that’s what I’m talking about,” Grandpa George said through a toothy grin. He clamped a hand on Troy’s shoulder.

“Here is the type of town you find yourself. This is the place where you can hear the birds and see the stars at night.”

Troy didn’t need any more birds in his life, that’s for sure. He recalled hitting that bird with a baseball bat when it attacked him in the subway. He hadn’t really meant to hurt it, but to shield himself from harm, he’d swung the bat without thinking, and the bird was flung in front of the oncoming subway train.

It was a memory he wanted to forget. Especially when he’d run back to tell Mr. Rames what had happened, only to find the ticket man unconscious under the smashed counter window.

When Mr. Rames had finally come to, he talked gibberish about a man who could turn into a bird, something the police officers standing around him found hard to believe.

Troy rolled down the truck’s side window and let the fresh air cool his face. His dark hair blew across his eyes as he rolled up the sleeves of the button down shirt he’d worn on the bus.

Moving from New York to live in the farmlands of Camberland, Florida was going to be different, that’s for sure. Especially since Troy now had to get used to the constant smell of cows and hay.

But the day was pleasant and only a slight scattering of clouds showed against the sweeping grass.

“Was good to see your mom for a bit,” Grandpa George said.

Troy’s mother and grandfather had met him at the bus station that morning. It had been a long forty-eight hour trip for Troy from New York to Camberland. And since it was now Sunday, Troy’s mother was to board the bus back to the big city – so she and Troy were essentially switching places.

While Troy had finished out his last few days of high school in New York, his mom had taken off a full week from work to go down to Camberland ahead of him. She wanted to get Troy registered at his new school, buy all his school supplies, and make sure he was situated at the house he’d be living at with Grandpa George.

That’s how Troy’s mom was – get the kid settled and happy first and then worry about the adult afterwards. Troy’s mom planned to move in with him and Grandpa George soon. But she needed to complete her work up at the city hospital and finish out the last few months still on the apartment lease.

Troy was not tied down. He notified his high school of his mom’s plan to move him to Florida. After numerous conferences with the principal and piles of paperwork, Troy was free to go. Finally, the time had come for Troy to tell Vince about the move.

And boy was Vince upset by the news. He didn’t speak to Troy for a few days after he found out he was leaving New York. But Vince eventually came around when Troy told him he could visit him in Florida anytime he wanted – especially in the winter.

Grandpa George steered the truck into the left lane to pass a tractor with a triangular, orange ‘slow moving vehicle’ sign.

“Did you get any sleep last night on the bus?” Grandpa George asked.

Troy nodded. He propped his elbow against Grandpa George’s truck window and fiddled with the door lock, pushing it up and down with his thumb.

He still couldn’t believe he’d just moved out of New York. He had no idea what living in a place without sirens on the streets each night would be like.

Could someone go deaf from lack of noise? And what about food? Did people only eat oatmeal and corn in the south? Did they have the crazy barbers with their pointy scissors down the street?

Troy thought about a barber he knew back in New York. He was a forty-something Irish guy with a little mustache who went by Patrick McHare. And by his name, loved hair.

McHare could take his scissors and give you any look you wanted – straight out of a magazine cover. Those were some magic scissors, Troy had to admit.

McHare could even make Vince look like a prince. And that’s what Vince would ask for.

“Gimme the Prince, McHare!” And McHare would crown him.

Grandpa George coughed. Troy snapped out of his thoughts and glanced at him. His grandfather seemed happy to see him, but he also looked a bit guarded. The whole idea of Troy moving in to live with him was new to his grandfather, too.

Troy’s mom said moving in with Grandpa George would be a great way for Troy to rekindle his relationship with his grandfather; really spend quality time together.

Besides his mother, Grandpa George was all Troy had for a family.

Troy thought about what his mother had told him about his grandfather.

She said Grandpa George was a man of many talents. One of them was his voice. Even though Troy hadn’t heard him sing recently, Grandpa George had one of those voices that you could pick out of a crowd.

His voice wasn’t loud and boisterous; no, Grandpa George had a voice that was rich and gentle. A great singer back in his day, Grandpa George would lead the chorus in Sunday chapel hymns and even sang to Troy when he was small.

Since Grandpa George had retired from his work in produce, he’d picked up another talent – fishing. And with his loose-fitting overalls and long-sleeved shirts, Grandpa George fit the part.

“There’s your high school,” Grandpa George suddenly said. He pointed out the window.

Troy heard that at his new school, students were required to wear a uniform. This seemed sort of funny to Troy initially. He hadn’t worn a real school uniform since he’d been a kid in elementary school.

But the idea of not having to worry about what shirt to wear with what pair of pants seemed like a time saver to him. He was always terrible about doing laundry. Most guys his age probably were – Vince was for sure.

Troy glimpsed the two-story stately school of Maverick’s Academy poking out behind the trees along the highway.

He hoped the kids were normal. He’d been able to sort of hide at his New York school since a ton of kids went there. But in a small town like Camberland, being the new guy might make him the odd guy out.

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