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Chapter 23: Choices


ThinkLink: Can you think of some bad choices you’ve made? Some good choices?

       McGill folds his pipestem legs up as he sits down on the couch. Ten o'clock at night and he looks as pressed and polished as if he'd just posed for a men's magazine. Mr. and Mrs. Morgan have gone somewhere else in the house. It's just me and McGill staring each other down.

       "What now?" he starts.

       "I thought you'd tell me."

       "I'd like to know what you're thinking. What's going on in your head?."

       "I decided being on the run's not for me. That's all."

       " Life-altering decision . What brought this on?"

       I wasn't about to tell him where I'd been or what had happened to me. "Go ahead. Take me in. Let's get it over with."

       "Not so fast. What're your plans?"

       Is the guy making jokes? Plans? Me? "Like I got a choice?"

       "We all have choices, John."

       "That's just talk."

       "Not talk. You've been making choices all along. You made one tonight."

       "Yeah? Now I wish I'd stayed out there."

       "Sorry to hear you say that. I thought we were on the way to working things out."

       "There's no working it out. I screwed everything." Why does he have to go over it and over it? Why doesn't he just take me in?

       "What happened to your plan to go home to your mother?"

       How could I tell him I'd screwed that up worst of all? "So when do we leave? Or does a cop car take me in?" I think of the deputy from Carroll County and the handcuffs I'd worn all the way to Fire Oak.

       "It doesn't happen that way. I'll drive you down to Juvenile Detention tonight and in the morning you'll have a hearing . I'll have my say and you'll have yours. Then the judge will decide."

       "Decide what? I'm already on my way back."

       "That's a possibility."

       "So. Let's go." He's stalling and I want to get it over with.

       "I called into the court when I heard from you. Judge Thelma Matthews will handle your hearing . She'll have several options ."

       "Like sending me back to Fire Oak? Or the group home in Kenwood ? Or..."

       "Going back to Fire Oak is one possibility. And when I talked to the Morgans tonight, they seemed willing to take you as a foster son. Or I might be able to arrange a job for you. One with close supervision . The judge will decide which..."

ThinkLink: If you had been away for months and months who would be happiest to see you again?

       McGill stops when the doorbell rings. We both look up and I expect Mr. Morgan to come back from where ever and answer it.

       "You go to the door, John," McGill tells me.

       I step into the hallway and look out the window next to the door. Mom is there on the porch and behind her is Norman. When they come into the hall, Norman says, "We started the minute Mr. McGill called. We've looked for you, John. One whole weekend we wandered around Portland trying to find you."

       I stand there rocked back on my heels. My eyes blur over. Mom grabs me in a hug and I hug her back. She looks smaller, different some way. But she feels the same and smells just as good. I look over her shoulder at McGill.

       McGill shakes hand with Mom and then Norman. "Come in the living room," he says. "John and I were just talking about a possible job offer."

       I sit down on the couch between Mom and Norman. Looking straight ahead. Mom takes hold of my arm and Norman puts a hand on my shoulder. I don't pull away.

       Mom squeezes my arm. "Listen to what Norman has to say, John."

       I turn to him and he looks straight into my eyes. "I need help on the ranch , John. My older sons aren't coming back to work there. They both have permanent jobs in town. It's too much for me to do alone. Think you might be interested?"

       I catch my breath. Back on a ranch ? He wants me there? Maybe he's not such a bad guy after all. "Work for you? Like a ranch hand?"

       "Like my sons did. They worked after school and summers. Saved enough that way to pay for college. It's hard work. I won't cut you any slack."

       I look at Mom. She nods. "We want you home with us."

       "But Mr. McGill said...Fire Oak…a hearing in the morning." I stare at McGill. Trying to make him read my mind. Let me go home. Make it the ranch . Not Fire Oak.

       McGill leans forward, still cool as an ice cube. "That's what I'll recommend to the judge . It's up to her to decide. You'll get a chance to have your say, so you'd better be ready to make a case for what you want. What kind of responsibility you're ready to take on."

       What I want. I want to go home with them. I'll stay awake all night tonight. I'll think of every reason there is for sending me home.

       "I'll make a case," I say it so he'll know how much I mean it.

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 Updated on 9/30/03

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