The Summer Son

The Summer Son by Craig Lancaster

Book: The Summer Son by Craig Lancaster Read Free Book Online
Authors: Craig Lancaster
into the receding daylight.
    I walked the drag toward downtown. At the Hotel Milford—its glory faded but still the most beautiful building in town—I turned right and headed up into the heart of town. At the town park, I saw a familiar face.
    “Hi, Jennifer.”
    Denise’s sister was with a group of three or four kids. One, a kid bigger than me and wearing only cutoff jeans, tube socks, and shoes, walked toward me.
    “Who is this kid?” he said, sneering at me.
    “Leave him alone, Damon. He’s my friend.”
    Damon turned back to his friends and started a little chicken dance, chanting, “He’s my friend. He’s my friend,” as the others broke into laughter. I clenched my fists.
    “You guys are jerks,” Jennifer said. Damon and his merry band of buttholes ran toward the other side of the park, mocking her. “He’s my friend, he’s my friend.” Damon turned around and made kissy noises.
    “Just ignore them,” she said.
    After the kids were gone, we started walking.
    “What happened to your chin?” Jennifer asked.
    I touched the bandage, fresh since my shower.
    I told her about the rattlesnake, and she gasped.
    “I’m glad you’re OK.”
    “Me too.”
    “I heard about your brother.”
    “Do you know where he went?”
    “No. He didn’t tell me.”
    “He didn’t tell Denise, either. She’s so sad.”
    “So am I.”
    We made laps in the park, talking about my brother and her sister. A couple of long silences intruded, but they didn’t faze me. I liked being with her.
    Finally, she said, “I have to go home for dinner.”
    “Do you want to come?”
    “I’ll have to go ask my dad.”
    “I’ll come with you.”
    I expected a no. I knew Dad’s feelings about Denise, and I explained that Jennifer was her little sister.
    He seemed delighted that I had shown up with a girl in tow. He told Jennifer that she was pretty, and he asked questions about school and her folks.
    “Just be home by nine, Mitch,” Dad said. “We’ve got a long day tomorrow.”
    Jennifer and I walked back through the park and over the hill to her house.
    “Denise says such mean things about your dad,” she said. “I really like him.”
    Jennifer’s mother made barbecued spare ribs, potato salad, corn, and bread and butter. Everything tasted so good, and Mrs. Munroe encouraged me to have seconds, then thirds. I happily obliged her on each offer.
    Mr. Munroe told about working for Union Pacific. He was a second-generation railroad man. Earlier that day, he said, a train had been dead on the line fifty miles outside town. That’s railroad talk for a train whose crew has reached the end of its hours. When that happened, the train would shut down wherever it was. Mr. Munroe had to do what he called “dogcatching”—riding out in a shuttle and helping to bring the train in.
    I had grown accustomed to the whistle of the trains arriving hourly before heading to Salt Lake or Las Vegas. I reveled in hearing about what it was really like in the rail yard, with all the shift changes and the loads of scrap, coal, new cars, and whatever else you could imagine coming through town.
    “It sounds like a fun job,” I said.
    “It’s a job,” Mr. Munroe said. “The four a.m. calls to do this or that, I could do without.”
    “The missed holidays,” his wife said.
    “Those too.”
    I told them about Dad’s work and how I was helping now. I even told them I had driven the pickup on the highway, although I probably shouldn’t have.
    “Hell, on a farm, boys come out of the womb driving trucks and tractors,” he said, and Mrs. Munroe clucked her tongue.
    “Tell about the rattlesnake,” Jennifer said, and so I did, but I skipped the bit about peeing my pants, just as I had with her. Mr. Munroe whistled.
    “You’re lucky, son. Real lucky.”
    “Yeah. I’m glad my dad was there.”
    Denise, who hadn’t said anything, spoke up.
    “I think your dad’s a real

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