I’ve talked about the book here, but I’ve never really introduced the hero and his family here. That should change…
John closed the book and looked out through the windshield. One of the green freeway signs was just coming into view. Interchange coming up in three miles… “Dad, why can’t we stop at Craters of the Moon?”
John’s father, Lieutenant Commander Donovan Johnson United States Navy, looked straight ahead and kept both hands on the wheel. He wore the look he used when dealing with ‘official businesses’ at work, or with his family. “Because we need to get to the farm. Theo will be waiting.”
We haven’t seen Uncle Theo since my second birthday. How much of a priority can he be? Besides, Craters of the Moon is on the way. “We’re going to be driving right down the middle of them,” John muttered.
“So you will get to see them.”
“No Dad…” John flipped the switch for the door lock. “I want to get out and see them.” If we stay on schedule we’ll get to Uncle Theo’s around two. There’s plenty of time. It’s not like Dad wants to get there either…
John looked over his shoulder at the garment bag that held Dad’s dress uniform and John’s suit, his new black suit. “It’s not fair,” John said, “We were supposed to be going deep sea fishing.”
“That’s life John. We have to go. We’re expected.”
‘We’re expected…’ How many times have I heard that before? Every time Dad has some party, ‘We’re expected’… Every time Dad’s lady of the moment arranges a date, ‘We’re expected.’ Every time it’s what someone else wants, ‘We’re expected’… But when it’s something I want… Or need… Or care about…
“It’s a funeral John.” His father didn’t look at him, there was a van to pass. “It’s important for the family.”
John rolled his eyes. Uncle Theo, Aunt Mary, Uncle Harley, and some guy that was dead now, that was ‘the family’. Mom didn’t count, not to Dad. Her side of the family hadn’t counted since the divorce. Dad rarely talked about the people he did count as family, especially Uncle Harley.
It doesn’t matter. Can’t do anything about it anyway. Two more years and I could drive myself back to Craters of the Moon. Dad would probably claim I stole the car… If it was summer he could have been at Moms, and Dad could have gone without him. Does the custody agreement cover that?
John turned back to his book and let the miles fly by. The story of the Lost River has to be better than this…
At least the trip got John out of school for a few days, even though he had to do a book report. Roadside Geology of Idaho would be easy enough to report on. He’d been collecting rocks for years. And I’m actually getting to see some of the stuff I’m reading about…
When he finished the chapter he flipped through the book looking at the pictures. He stopped on a shot of reddish sandstone. There’s a lot of ancient seabed around here, and fossil fish…
We should be fishing right now… Deep sea fishing was supposed to make up for the Padres game when Dad ended up with CDO watch. And the game was supposed to be to make up for… It doesn’t matter…
John went back to flipping through the book. He stopped on a picture of some rhyolite. “Couldn’t we have come up through Nevada?” John asked.
“I’d rather stay on the fifteen,” Dad said, “Some of the stretches through Nevada are pretty desolate. Besides there’s probably still snow.”
That was true enough. There’d been unmelted patches as they went through the Milad Pass. But, there were a lot of places to stop for rocks on the Nevada road. Not that we would have stopped… Dad didn’t see the value of ‘digging up rocks’.
Sometimes Dad talked about the ‘rock machine’ he and his brother had when they were kids. That was about all he said about Uncle Harley, that they had a rock machine. He hadn’t even said that much since the divorce.
Mom could have gotten Dad to stop. Before the divorce…
Mom did a lot of things before the divorce, she was a stay at home mom then. Now she was dating some guy from work and going to events with some ‘office professionals’ organization. But, beyond the delusion that the 1950’s were still cool she didn’t really do much anymore. Who would believe that staying with Dad was better?
“Look, basalt,” Dad said.
John looked up. They’d reached Craters of the Moon. He laughed when he saw the sign. “No Hunting. Yeah, take a shot out there. That’s a self-correcting problem.”
Dad almost laughed. “What?”
John rolled his eyes again. “Look at all the rocks Dad. If you took a shot out here it would probably ricochet back and hit you in the head.”
Dad shook his head and went back to watching the road. “I don’t think…”
John scanned the scenery. There was a little scrub, but more lichen on boulders than real plants. “Besides,” John said, “what is there to hunt around here?”
Dad pointed. John followed the line from his finger to the doe that was disappearing between two boulders.
There really are things to shoot out there… “Hey Dad,” John asked, “Think we could get some shooting in once we get to the farm?” A deer’s too big, but there’s got to be rabbits and stuff.
Dad flinched just slightly. John almost missed it.
“Can we?” John asked.
“We’ll see,” Dad said. He muttered something under his breath. All John could catch was “Harley” and “Last time.” Probably shouldn’t push…
John watched the terrain, looking for more deer. He spotted a couple rabbits between the rocks. He’d brought his air guns, the rifle and the pistol. If he could elude Dad and the uncles for a while he could get in some shooting whether they liked it or not.
The rocks were beginning to blur together. You can only look at so much basalt, even when you’re a rock hound. There was no help for it. John laid back and tried to go to sleep.
His mind wandered. Some blond girl was waving at him.
The next thing he knew Dad was shaking him.
John pushed Dad’s hand off his shoulder. “What?”
Dad pointed, then turned at a sign that read ‘private road’.
They were in rolling hills, more dirt than rock. But still some boulders though… There were fields, some short and green, others just rows of dirt. There was some kind of irrigating rig in the field just to the left. Ahead of them was a cluster of buildings. A couple of barns stood off in the distance. The houses were closer.
The smallish house on the left was faded avocado green. Between the peeling paint and the aged wood of the porch it could have blended into the surroundings, or been written off as abandoned. But, the roof was too new, red and black asphalt shingles.
The house to the right was bigger, newer, and painted the same red as the barn behind it. Someone had even used the same white for the trim. The chairs on the porch were done in a floral pattern that Mom would have loved. Real 1950’s escapees…
John’s eye was drawn to the thing between the houses. So, what is…?
It looked like a cross between a chicken coop and a little girl’s playhouse. But, whoever she was, the girl had been gone a long time. The coop’s faded avocado paint had pealed, revealing a faded blue underneath. Where the blue paint had peeled away there was old, worn wood. Above the walls the roof was brown and vibrant green, old wooden shingles playing home to lively moss.
“Dad, what’s that?”
Dad ignored him. He stopped the car in front of the red house and pointed to the door that was just opening. “They’re waiting.”
Thanks dear reader. See you next post.