ã€€ã€€WHEN WE ALL GOT home that afternoon, Mom and Dad were eager to hear about our first day.
ã€€ã€€The man smiled the way you do to sugarcoat bad news. "I'm with child welfare, and I'm looking for either Rex or Rose Mary Walls," he said.
ã€€ã€€We piled the rocks back on the mattress, rerigged the catapult, and waited. After a couple of minutes, Ernie and his gang reappeared at the switchback. Each of them rode one-handed and carried an egg-sized rock in his throwing hand. They were proceeding single file, like a Pawnee war party, a few feet apart. We couldn't get them all at once, so we aimed for Ernie, who was at the head of the pack.
ã€€ã€€"Don't be sad, Mom. I'll write.""I'm not upset because I'll miss you," Mom said. "I'm upset because you get to go to New York and I'm stuck here. It's not fair."* * *Lori, when I called her, approved of my plan. I could live with her, she said, if I got a job and chipped in on the rent. Brian liked my idea, too, especially when I pointed out that he could have my bed. He began making wisecracks in a lockjaw accent about how I was going to become one of those fur-wearing, pinkie-extending, nose-in-the-air New Yorkers. He began counting down the weeks until I left, just as I had counted them down for Lori. "In sixteen weeks, you'll be in New York," he'd say. The next week. "In three months and three weeks, you'll be in New York."Dad had barely spoken to me since I announced my decision. One night that spring, he came into the bedroom where I was up on my bunk studying. He had some papers rolled up under his arm.
ã€€ã€€One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by. Mom really piled up on books. She came home from the Welch public library every week or two with a pillowcase full of novels, biographies, and histories. She snuggled into bed with them, looking up from time to time, saying she was sorry, she knew she should be doing something more productive, but like Dad, she had her addictions, and one of them was reading.
ã€€ã€€Mom stared at the ceiling, miming perplexed thought. "I've got it." She held up her glass. "Life with your father was never boring."We raised our glasses. I could almost hear Dad chuckling at Mom's comment in the way he always did when he was truly enjoying something. It had grown dark outside. A wind picked up, rattling the windows, and the candle flames suddenly shifted, dancing along the border between turbulence and order.
ã€€ã€€* * *Later that night, Dad stopped the car out in the middle of the desert, and we slept under the stars. We had no pillows, but Dad said that was part of his plan. He was teaching us to have good posture. The Indians didn't use pillows, either, he explained, and look how straight they stood. We did have our scratchy army-surplus blankets, so we spread them out and lay there, looking up at the field of stars. I told Lori how lucky we were to be sleeping out under the sky like Indians.