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Wood Boards and an Old Ford This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I'll quit someday. But kinda like yesterday, today isn't that day, so I'll sit here on these arthritic front steps and blow smoke rings up to the heavens, kicking more dust onto these old boots. It feels good to put this old front porch to use – if you ask me, it's the best view in Louisiana. But I'm not ­biased. His text said, “I'll be there before the swamp goes quiet,” which means I could be here for some time, and I'm just fine with that. I have a full pack and a full moon's blessing to be out all night.

My phone's ringing on the wood next to me, light from the screen intrusive on the night. I know who it is and I know what he wants – he can go to voicemail. The past never has anything new to say. I have better things headed my way.

I hum bits of every song I can think of as I chain-smoke like a champ. Everything from Dolly Parton to Staind to Brantley Gilbert flows like the smoke, keeping me company in the night. My phone is ringing again and I can't help but laugh just a bit. The past went from knocking politely to busting my door down, but that's all right. I'm not home tonight.

I'm not sure how much time is passing, but at some point I stop humming and start listening in the distance for the old familiar thrum of that Stroker echoing off the trees. It reverberates in my chest as the headlights become eyes in the distance, bobbing and dipping with every pothole in my road. I told myself I wasn't gonna get worked up, but here I am, shaking hands and knees like I'm sixteen again. Look at me.

As that old panel and primered mess comes to a stop I stand up, toss my hair out of my face, and throw my arms around the only stability in my twisted world, dropping my pride on the dust where it can stay tonight. The poor boy chuckles like he does and lifts me up for a second like it's nothing.

“Dixon Rae.” He smiles. “Thank God some things just don't change,” he drawls.

“You'll always be 17 to me, Mr. Jameson. No matter how tall you get.”

He laughs, and seeing him stand there, alive and home, is all I could ever pray for. Not even a war can take that gentle soul of his.

“Where are we goin'?” I grin, because he could say Walmart and he knows it.

“Don't ask so many damned questions. Just
get in.”

There's always been the same amount of dust
on these seats, the shift pattern all but worn off by callused hands, and a radio that works when it
wants to. She rumbles to life and old Toby Keith is in the speakers.

He gives me a grin I haven't seen since I was a lot more reckless and free of what lay ahead, a grin that got us into our share of trouble. He hands me a lit cigarette and, with my boots on the dashboard, I drown in blissful déjà vu.

“So tell me, Mr. Jameson, who knows you're home?” I ask, sure I know the answer.

“You.” He shrugs. “They'll find out soon enough.”

He's got one wrist on the steering wheel and the other arm outside. God, he looks good. His hair's shorter than I've ever seen it, arms stretching out the sleeves of his T-shirt, thick bands of flame and wording winding down his forearm. He's still tan, still looking at me with blue eyes that hold every possibility in this world. And I still get carried away ….

“I haven't been down here in ages,” I admit. He takes a left down the nameless dirt road, which is technically private property, though old Mr. Holmes wouldn't hurt a fly. He knew all along that we kids would come sneaking down every Friday night and drop our tailgates. We'd drink, swim, fight, and dance our luck away on that river bank.

He nods. “Me either. The crew is long gone these days.”

It looks very much the same as it did eight years ago on nights like this. The grass has grown in thick without tires to wear it away. It's a little more shallow, but still haunted as can be.

We both hop out, fingers brushing, boots sinking into the soft clay. I stop a few feet from the water and take a deep breath before pulling off my boots and throwing them behind me, giving him a wink of my own. He shakes his head at me.

“Thank God some things just don't ever change,” he drawls.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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