Beckman sighed, took a last look at the double-page spread of the ’65 Mustang, and tossed the well-thumbed magazine onto the uneven wooden floor beside the old chair.
He rose and grouched over to the doorway of the treehouse. ‘Coming!’
Below on the back porch, Mom stood without hands on hips, which meant he hadn’t explicitly done anything wrong. She’d also not used his full name, so he was pretty relaxed about the upcoming encounter. Still, it wasn’t dinner time, so he felt somewhat bemused.
Shielding her eyes from the late afternoon sun, she looked across the scrubby and scorched garden to where he gazed down from the gnarled cedar.
Ever keen to impress she who doted on him, he reached for the rope that dangled nearby, gave it a quick yank, then sprung outward, a teenage Tarzan, swinging forward and careering down the acutely-angled makeshift zip-wire until his sneakers grazed yellowed turf and he stumbled to a halt.
He gave himself a 5.2 for that landing, knowing it was rushed by circumstance.
Just a couple of metres from Mom, he wanted to flash an innocent smile, but now he saw her expression clearly, he sensed jollity would not be well-received.
From somewhere inside the house, Bruce reminded them they were born in the USA. Beckman was already apprised of that fact. The immediate uncertainty was of more concern. He mentally double-checked that he’d no specific reason to feel guilty or expect admonishment. He didn’t, reasoning that what goes on inside a young man’s treehouse is his own private matter. Besides, cars were cars. Dreaming was not a crime. In other treehouses, bedrooms, or dens, other young men were up to far worse.
‘What’s up, mom?’
She gave him a look bordering on apologetic. ‘We’re moving.’
’Again?! he asked with disbelief.
‘I thought you’d rather hear it from me than your father.’
‘I don’t want to damn well hear it at all!’
‘But …’ he began, realised he didn’t know what he’d started, then figured his tone gave pretty much all the information she needed. Besides, his reaction was always the same and the outcome of his reaction never altered the situation.
‘I know.’ She laid a hand on his shoulder. ‘It’s not ideal.’
He sighed as heavily as it was possible for a person to sigh without actually blowing their lungs across a back yard.
How could it be worse?
A noise rang from inside the house.
This is how it could be worse.
Dad appeared, tugged his wife towards him, and kissed her on the cheek. Her thick-rimmed glasses, jammed up above her fringe, nearly toppled off their perch but tangled in her thick frizz long enough for her to reach up and rescue them.
Dad slipped off his Aviators, an addendum he sported, which never failed to make him look incredibly uncool. ‘You tell him?’
‘Better pack, Son. You know the drill.’
‘Why?’ Beckman gambled.
‘Pardon me?’ came the unequivocal reply.
‘Why do we have to leave?’
‘This place isn’t working out.’
Beckman recognised what those words meant. He also knew that saying so would be the passport to his last days here being unpleasant, in addition to unwelcome.
‘Okay,’ he grumbled, turning back towards his wooden sanctuary.
‘Where are you going?’
‘To reflect on this … news,’ he said daringly.
‘You need to pack.’
‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’
‘We’re leaving tomorrow.’
‘But I’m seeing Janelle tonight,’ he protested.
‘Nom you’re not. Might as well cancel your date. In fact, cancel the whole Janelle episode.’
‘Here. And we’re not. We’re on the road at oh-eight-hundred.’
Beckman hated the way Dad always stated the time like a military order. Notwithstanding circumstances.
His head fell. ‘Yes, sir.’
After a respectful moment’s pause, he headed for the rope ladder. ‘I’ll clear out up here first,’ he offered as an excuse. It obviously passed muster, as further words were not forthcoming.
His feet were heavy on the ropes of the ladder, his heart leaden.
Janelle liked Mustangs nearly as much as he did. She was cool like that. Her dad had a friend who had once owned one. A ’66 in blue.
Things had been going well with Janelle. Tonight was supposed to be Second Base Night.
Looks like you’ve more chance of owning a ’65 Mustang, sunshine.