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Chapter 9: Scene 33: Let's talk about your father


       "Let's talk about your father," he says.

       "Haven't heard from him in more than a year."

       "How long have your mother and father been divorced ?"

       "Since I was nine. He dropped us off at the ranch , while he went on the road. He came back once to visit us. He was always away on a job, long as I can remember."

       "What does he do?"

       "He runs a big Cat , building highways. That's how he met my mom. After she graduated from high school, she got a job in Wheatland , working as a bookkeeper for the hardware store. He was working on a crew that was putting in an exit on I-84. We went on jobs with him all over Texas and California when I was little."

       "Then what happened?"

       "The jobs weren't lasting as long, and sometimes he'd be off work for a long time. It cost lots of money to move us around with him, living in motels and rooming houses . Nick was a baby and Mom was expecting my little sister, Lori. When I was big enough to go to school, she said we had to stay in one place."

       "Did he ever live on the ranch , too?"

       "He stayed there with us for a couple of weeks that winter. He got a job driving a truck in Wheatland , so he'd be home nights. Pete was always on him to get a real job, so when the weather got better he took off."

       Pete drove him off is what happened. He's probably jealous because Johnny can get those highway jobs. Pete's never lived anyplace else in his whole life beside the ranch . He quit school in the tenth grade to help Grandpa. How would he know how it was to go to new places? Red's not much better. When Dad left, Red said he always knew Johnny was a horse's apple, right from the git-go .

       "I've only seen my dad once since. He came through one time while he was on his way to a job up in Washington." Johnny's like that song he used to sing when we were driving down a highway. On the Road Again. Johnny's theme song , all right. Always on the road.

       "John ... " McGill drums the desk with his finger and I'm afraid he's getting ready to tell me something bad.

       "Is my dad all right? I heard once he got hurt on a job down in Texas. Is it bad? Did he get hurt again?" Maybe I could go live down in Texas with him."

       McGill slides down and pushes his legs out past my chair. "Actually, I thought of that as a possibility. I tried to reach him several times from here, but I couldn't get him. Your mother gave me the last number she had for him and I took it home with me last night and I found out where he's living now."

       "Did you talk to him? Is he still in Texas? Can I go live with him?"

       "I'm sorry. I did talk to him and he said he can't handle it. He's still having medical treatment for his back. He's working at an auto parts store as part of his rehabilitation program , but the salary is much lower."

       "I could help him. I could lift things for him."

       "No. It's just not going to happen. He told me he got married again."

       "Yeah, my mom told me. His wife has two little kids." I get mad just thinking about it. If he wanted little kids, what's wrong with coming back to live with the ones he has in Oregon? I try again. "If I lived with him and his wife and the little kids, I could babysit."

       McGill shakes his head. "He said the four of them live in a little house." He spreads his hands out. "That's the story. Sorry."

ThinkLink: John must be very disappointed about his fatherís answer. Think about a time that one of your parents disappointed you. Can you write about it?

       "I didn't want to go all the way to Texas, anyway." I've lived on the ranch since I was a little kid, and that's the only place I want to go to now. I slouch down in my chair and stare at the door. My voice is cracking again, but I squeak it out anyway. "Please send me home."

       "I can't do that yet, John. I want to help you, but I'm limited as to the things we can do for you. You'll be going to a forest camp over on the coast. It's already been approved by the Administration ."

       "Over on the coast? That must be a hundred miles or more from here. You're putting me farther away from home all the time."

       "It's one of our best programs. You'll learn to take responsibility, set goals."

       "You mean a bunch of shrinks run it. I heard about that kind of place."

       "Don't get off the track now." McGill flips the folder over. "If you want out of here, be sure you get good reports for the staffing group. It's up to you."

       I go out in the hall and wait for a guard to take me back to Taylor. A forest camp . Then I let the steam pour out of me. If it gets me one step closer to going home it'll be worth it. At least I'll get out of Fire Oak. Anything's better than this.

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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