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Chapter 4: Scene 14: Tell me about your father


ThinkLink: Did you ever meet someone who was completely different from what you expected?

       McGill stands up behind his desk. I tip my head back and look at the tallest, darkest black man I've ever seen. I gotta admit I expected somebody fat and forty and white for sure. I look him over. There isn't anybody like McGill out around the ranch or in Wheatland . Maybe not even in The Dalles. He's like one of those guys in the magazine ads for whiskey or men's clothes. He's got on a navy blue jacket, a white shirt, red tie and gray pants. His gold ring has an M on it, big as a dime.

       "Yes, I played basketball -- at OSU . No, I didn't make it to the pros, hardly anybody does, and I'm six-six." He smiles and holds out his hand. "I'm Lucas McGill, your Parole Officer , probably as long as you're in the program, so we need to get to know each other better."

       He folds his grasshopper legs behind his desk. The office is so little, and there's so much of him, I stand by the door until he tells me to sit down in the other chair and I edge my way in. He opens a folder with my name on it and lines it up with the edge of his desk. Everywhere I go they got a folder on me.

       While he gets his desk just right, he looks me over good, too. Bet he's never seen a kid from a ranch before or a ranch even. "John, tell me about yourself. Do your friends call you Johnny?"

       "No, I'm John. Johnny's my dad."

       "I'll remember. Tell me about your father."

       "Nothing to tell." He taps a beat on the desk with a silver pen and waits. "I mean, he's not around."

       "OK, how about your mother? Where's she?"

       "At the ranch ... in Carroll County ... that's in Eastern Oregon ." I decide to go for broke. "I've got to get back. She needs me. We're planning on moving us off the ranch and I have to help her."

       "Tell me more about that."

       "She heard about a job she could get over in Hood River, and I've been trying to get her to take it. She says she can't, though, unless we get a place to live there. It's gonna cost a whole lot, two months rent and stuff like that."

       McGill taps some more. "Go on."

       Truth is, I think Mom's scared to make the big move. She told me why one night. "You don't know what it's like, John, being responsible for a whole family. Even if I find a job that would support us, I could get laid off . Then what would we do? This way, if your dad doesn't send us any money for months on end, at least we've got a place here on the ranch and food to eat."

       McGill flips over a couple of pages in my folder. "I see you got a job to help out."

       "Yeah. I was saving up for our move, but my boss, Roy Fletcher, let me go. Then I couldn't get him to pay me for the last week I worked. Everybody back home knows what a cheapskate he is. He was just holding out on me, hoping I'd give up because I'm a kid."

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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