Posted 12-04-2004 at 05:36:57
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Poor Jake. I think I ruined his social life for good and all last night. He asked if he could go hog hunting. Said he'd cleared it with his dad. I said, well...okay.
A little more than an hour later there was an odd sound in the distance.
This went on for quite some time, before I realized that I was hearing the sound of his "ride" coming to pick him up. A 19?? Toyota pickup coasted into the yard and died six feet from the front door. It went through some kind of shuddering mechanical convulsion that sounded like someone had tossed a handful of marbles into a washer during the spin cycle. There was a tooth-jarring screech, not unlike that of a cat going through a wringer, as the driver's door swung open.
A boy emerged, dressed in camo from head to toe. Another cat went through the wringer as the passenger side door swung open and a smaller version of the driver got out. The pickup sighed, as though happy to be relieved of it's human burdens, and then belched a fog of black smoke across the front yard.
There were no less than six colors on this truck, not the least of which was bondo gray. Like brown frosting on a cake, was a coat of mud that spanned from one end of the truck to the other. My first question to Jake (under my breath)...
"How far do you have to go?" And then..."Are you sure you're going to get there?"
I was feeding, and Jake was waiting for me to give him soda/gas money so they discussed their battle plan as I finished up. I couldn't take my eyes off that truck. There was so much junk in the bed that there could have easily been a dead body stashed in there and no one would ever have known.
I was not ready for this. Jake is usually picked up by an adult, in a truck that has all the lights/windows/BRAKES!/and other mechanical parts working. Furthermore, this kid didn't look like he'd started shaving yet.
The questions came without preamble.
"How old are you, boy?" I asked.
"I'm eighteen, Ma'am."
"How long you been drivin'?"
"On road or off road?" He asked sincerely.
I swallowed around a lump in my throat.
"Does that thing have seatbelts in it?"
"Oh yes Ma'am, three of 'em!" He assured me.
"Well good, 'cause Jake has to wear a seatbelt. He's the only Jake I got, and I don't want to have to be scraping him up off the asphalt."
There was a round of nervous laughter and Jake blushed a deep scarlet.
"How far are ya'll goin'?" I asked.
"Ona." They replied, in stereo.
I quickly calculated in my mind. Thirty-five, forty miles.
"Why so far?" I objected.
"Well, cuz that's where we're huntin'." Jake explained, looking at me like I was so dumb that I probably couldn't lace my shoes without assistance.
"Well, I expect you to have that seatbelt on Jake, and I want you to call me when you get to Ona, you hear?"
"Yeah I hear ya. The way you go on a person might think you cared about me."
"Don't be stupid. Of course I care about you. I love you." I winked at him and he blushed again and grinned, but the way he grinned...with his lips together, made me suspicious.
"You got dip in your mouth?" I demanded.
"Just a hunch. No matter." I said shrugging, and not buying it. "When your bottom jaw drops off in your lap, don't come cryin' to me to sew it back on."
More nervous laughter. The kind that speaks to three boys speculating the loss of their bottom jaws.
After ten minutes of searching behind the seat of the truck for the seat belt, the driver going through discovery after discovery ("hey! there's my jacket! I thought I lost that! And there's my spotlight...and that sock I been missin'!").
"Let me know if you find a roll of Rolaids back there. I bought a roll for my dad last night and then I lost 'em. Thought he was gonna kill me fer comin' home without 'em." Said the passenger.
...they found the seatbelt.
I waited til Jake got his on and then grabbed the strap and yanked on it, testing it.
"Don't forget to call me." I reminded him.
The truck started up with a bang that took at least two years off my life, and ground into gear.
As they were pulling away, I heard the driver tell Jake...
"If you'll slide that piece of plywood in the floor back against the bottom of the seat it'll cover up the hole in the floorboard and your feet won't fall out in the road."
I listened to the truck wheeeeze...rattle...ka-pow...ka-POW!...and squeak squeak it's way back up the road and sighed. He made it where he was going and made it back while I sat on the couch pretending to watch two movies and chewed my nails.
It just never gets any easier, does it.