Where I Go
Author's note: Many kids don't read because they can't relate to the story so they get bored. However, with Zack... Show full author's note »
Chapter ThreeI'm spending the weekend with my dad and his new house. I'm looking forward to it like you look forward to going to the doctor knowing that you're getting a shot. You know they're going to say, "this won't hurt a bit,” but they leave off the “tomorrow”. Of course you'll be fine when it's over and you’ve forgotten about it!
I haven't stopped whining like a little girl since I got in the car. Mom says, "You'll be fine, Zack. It'll be fun.”I can't remember any time I've had fun all alone with my father. Come to think of it, I can't remember a time I've ever been alone with my dad. Bryan has always been there with me.
Bryan is never around anymore though. He got his license two months ago I’ve barely seen him since. Not that I did much before. Ever since he got to high school, it's like he thinks he's too cool to talk to his little brother. He's always with his friends, and even when he is home, he’s locked up in his room doing who knows what.
This weekend Bryan decided to sleep over his friend Jimmy's house. I'll bet they'll go to the mall or the movies or some other place with pretty girls and then throw a wild party with them all. I overheard Bryan talking with Jimmy on the phone last night. Jimmy's parents won't be home till Monday.
We pull up to a white house with green shutters. It's a little bigger than the one we all used to live in together. I wonder what he does with all that house to himself. There are bushes lined up alongside the house and the yard. There are freshly planted yellow and purple flowers lining the driveway and the brick walkway that leads to the front door. A big tire swing hangs from a thick branch of an oak tree that's thirty feet tall. If I was actually going to live here, I'd build a huge fort in that tree with a rope ladder, slide, stereo system, and a bridge to my bedroom window. I’d have a little basket on a pulley with a string attached so that I could bring things up there with me like orange soda and potato chips and Oreos. I'd stay up there for days and never have to come down. It would be great. Too bad we don't have a big tree like that at mom's apartment.
I watch my mom's red SUV roll down the driveway. I wish I was still sitting beside her in the passenger seat even if it meant I could only listen to the all country station on the radio. But now the SUV has turned the corner, and she is long gone with it.
I drag my feet all the way up to the front door and ring the bell. Nobody answers. I ring it again. Nobody answers. Is this even the right house? It's got to be. It says “ALLEN” on the mailbox. I'll bet he's not even home. It wouldn't be the first time he's forgotten about me.
My heart skips a beat and I jump mile. Good thing I wasn't inside. My head would've hit the ceiling. My dad walks around the corner wearing giant headphones that look more like earmuffs and is carrying giant hedge clippers.
“How's it going?”
He's yelling. I'm guessing it's because his music is blasting. He tosses the hedge clippers aside and opens the door. He tells me that my room is upstairs, the first door on the left, and he'll be in once he's done trimming the bushes. I don't bother saying anything back because I know that he won't hear me anyway. I just close the door behind me and walk straight up the stairs.
I open the door to my new bedroom. The walls are dark blue and they have plastic stars glued all over them. I drop my backpack at the door and flop down on the bed by the window. It's covered with rocket ship sheets. How old does he think I am? I bury myself in the astronaut blankets and drift off to sleep.
I wake up to the sound of the weed whacker slicing through the grassy area around the mailbox. The clock on the dresser reads 9:38, but there is no way I can sleep through this so I might as well head downstairs.
When I get out into the hallway I can smell the delicious aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, so I follow my nose to the kitchen. I was shocked to see what I found there. I found a plate of cookies alright, and then my eyes followed the hand holding that plate up the arm across the shoulder up the neck to perfectly straight, gleaming white smile surrounded by red lipstick. My head starts to spin. What is this strange woman doing in Dad’s kitchen? She offers me a cookie in a smooth soprano voice as she flicks her wavy blond hair over her shoulder. She doesn't look a day over twenty-nine.
Then Dad walks in wiping the sweat from his forehead. I can see his eyes light up when he sees the woman standing in front of me.
“Oh, have you met Monique?”
Well, I have now.
“So this is Zack, huh? Your dad has told me so much about you and your brother. I'm so glad to finally meet you!” She’s talking to me like I’m six.
“Thanks, sweetheart,” says Dad taking a cookie and kissing her on the cheek. “I'll be right down. I just need to go take a shower.”
I grabbed a cookie and took a bite. It was crunchy, not chewy like mom’s. It did not melt in my mouth, and the chocolate chips were completely solid. I still ate it though.
“So,” began Monique. There was a long, awkward silence. “How are you?”
“How old are you?”
“Oh, that's exciting. So you must be in, what? Seventh grade?”
“Very cool. How do you like that?”
“Do you want me to be honest?”
“That would be nice.”
“Yeah.” Another awkward silence.
“So your brother is out with his friends for the weekend?”
“How about you? Do you have any big plans this weekend?”
“Were your friends all busy?”
“I don't have any.”
There was another long, awkward silence. Monique decided she needed to put some plastic wrap over the cookies before they went stale from sitting on the counter for too long. I wasn't trying to be rude or anything. I mean, she seems nice enough, and at least she's trying to talk to me and get to know me. She is Dad's girlfriend though. Dad can't have a girlfriend. He loves Mom, and she loves him, and they promised it would stay that way forever. What happened? Did he just forget about her? How could he? They’ve only been apart for two months. Does she even know? Did he tell her? Will he ever tell her?
About ten minutes later Dad walks downstairs holding a baseball in one hand with a glove on the other. “Come on, Zack, let’s go outside. Grab your glove. We’ll play catch.” I don’t even own a baseball glove. He says he’s got an extra in the garage. I can’t believe he is seriously going to make me play catch with him. That has got to be the biggest cliché of all father-son activities. I don’t even like baseball. This won’t go well.
We start off about twenty feet apart and it’s not so bad. I’m managing to catch about half of what he throws at me. Then he says, “Okay, throw me a pop fly,” and he backs up all the way to the edge of the yard. I’m pretty sure I can’t throw that far, but I guess I’ll have to try. I wind up and let that ball fly… straight up… into a tree branch. I knock a squirrel right to the ground. Dad and I stand there stunned as it gets up and scampers away.
“Okay, who wants lunch?” Dad takes my glove and the ball and practically sprints back inside. This is why I don’t play sports.
I microwave myself a huge plate of nachos with everything: extra hot salsa, jalapeños, black olives, peppers, onions, and three kinds of bubbling cheese. Mom would never let me eat this for lunch at home, so I’ve got to make the most of it while I’m here. Dad might not know anything else about me, but at least he knows the food I like. He tells me I can go play X-box downstairs and even bring my nachos down there with me. Nice! I get downstairs and hanging on the wall right across from me is a 60-inch plasma screen TV. I’ve never seen a TV this big outside of Best Buy let alone in my dad’s basement. The X-box is hooked up to it and there’s Halo, Call of Duty, and Rock Band. Rock Band is the only one Mom would ever let me play even if we kept the X-box at our house, so of course the first game I slide into the console is Call of Duty. Just because I think blowing everything in sight to smithereens is fun in a video game doesn’t mean I’d do it in real life. Mom just needs to chill.
I’ve unlocked twenty-two new weapons today. Now I’ve got my second sniper rifle: the Dragunov. I’m at level twenty-two: Master Gunnery Sergeant. Hold on I’ve almost got this guy. Just a little to the left. And three, two, one, BAM! Direct hit! I plan on making Lieutenant General by sunrise. I’m going to save my progress now and see what’s for dinner. The nachos were gone hours ago.
Dad and Monique walk into the kitchen the same time I do. He’s carrying a brown paper bag and I can smell the pork fried rice. We loaded our plates with egg rolls, lo mien, and jumbo fried shrimp. I don’t bother reading the fortune in my cookie. They always sound like Yoda. If you can understand what they’re talking about then may the force be with you.
It was nice out for an April night, so I take my plate to the porch. It’s really quiet out there. It’s sort of peaceful after hours of having surround sound of helicopters and gunshots. I see the tire swing hanging from the big oak tree. I haven’t been on one of those since I was about seven. I go over and sit in it. It’s one of those truck tires like they have at parks held up by a two-inch thick rope. It’s sturdy, and it’ll never fall down or break. Not in a million years. I slide around in the tire until I’m perfectly balanced, slowly swaying back and forth. I let go of the rope, take a deep breath, close my eyes, and disappear. I’m far from my dad’s front yard.
I am standing high on a mountain. I can see for miles and miles. Behind me you can see the big city with its giant clump of skyscrapers and ten story buildings where everybody is rushing to get to work and to school. Then the closer it gets to where I’m standing the further apart everything spreads, the buildings, the people. Then there’s a wave of green coming towards me, breaking at my feet. Green is my favorite color. I just stand there on that mountain. There is nothing to worry about. I can just watch the sunrise over the horizon into the pink and orange sky.
Suddenly I hear a scream and I’m brought right back to Dad’s house as I hit the ground with a thud. Then I hear laughter.
I stare into the kitchen window from where I’m sitting and see Monique and my dad standing at the kitchen sink. Monique’s shirt and jeans are soaked, and she’s got the sink sprayer aimed at Dad. He’s trying to use a soy sauce covered plate as a shield, but he still looks like he’s been ambushed by a kid with a Super Soaker. They’re both doubled over in a fit of laughter. Monique drops the sink sprayer and walks over to him. Now they’re kissing. Gross. Now I’m averting my eyes.
I’ve never seen Dad act that way. This is weird. I know Mom would never have a water fight with him in the kitchen and laugh about it. At least not now anyway. I wonder if they ever did. I mean, I don’t think I ever saw them that happy while they were in the same room. I wonder if they ever were.
I go inside since it’s really dark and Dad might wonder where I am. Might. I doubt it, though.