Home > Take Me with You(3)

Take Me with You(3)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

“How bad d’you want to make it to Yellowstone?” he asked.

“Bad,” August said. But it felt dicey. A little dangerous. There was an offer hovering somewhere. Everything was a mystery except the weight of it, which he could feel. “If you have thoughts, I’d like to hear them.”

“Never mind,” Wes said, cutting his eyes down to the concrete floor. “Forget I mentioned it.”

“You’ve got something to say, go ahead and say it.”

Just at that moment the older boy stepped into the garage, carrying Woody in his arms. Woody’s tongue lolled out, longer than seemed physically possible, and, as the dog panted, he flipped little drops of sweat onto the boy’s bare arm. The effect was that of a wide grin on the dog’s face. And that might have been exactly what it was. August looked up to the face of the boy. It was red and dripping from the heat and exertion.

“Seth,” the mechanic said. “What’re you doing with the man’s dog?”

“It was his idea,” Seth said.

“It was my idea,” August said. “He’s doing exactly what I asked him to do.” Then, to the boy: “I can’t believe you caught him. Nobody ever caught him before. You must be one fast guy.”

“That’s not how I did it. I didn’t do it with my legs. I did it with my brain.”

Seth poured the dog into August’s arms, and August set Woody on his paws on the concrete floor and went after his wallet. Pulled out a five-dollar bill and handed it to Seth.

“Pleasure doing business with you,” Seth said, with something almost like a small salute.

It seemed an odd expression for a child his age, until August considered that the boy lived in—or at least behind—a business. He must have heard it all the time.

August watched him walk back out into the shimmering heat.

“Nice boys,” August said.

No reply. Wes just crushed the cigarette into an ashtray on the workbench and stuck his head back under the hood.

August gathered Woody back onto his lap and watched for a few moments to pass the time. But it was really no more interesting than staring at the sky. Right around the time he was ready to go back inside his rig, the upper part of Wes emerged again.

“When I finish up for the day,” he said, “maybe you and me can have a drink?”

“Oh. Um. I don’t drink.”

“At all?”

“No. Not at all.”

“Oh. Well. The drink isn’t the real deal of it. Coffee, then.”

August felt a rush of discomfort. This tall, odd man wanted something from him. And he couldn’t imagine what it might be. He couldn’t imagine what he had that the mechanic would need or even want. He briefly tried on the idea that the man was hitting on him. But it didn’t feel quite like that. But it felt equally personal, scary, and emotionally important.

“I have coffee inside,” August said. “Come knock when you’re done.”

“I’ll prob’ly work late. Eight or nine at least. All the better to get you back on the road.”

“I’ll be up,” August said. “Just knock.”

Then he spent the rest of the day wondering how big a mistake he had actually made.

At the end of the day, the mechanic put away his tools, shut off the lights, and let himself out of the shop through a side door. He didn’t knock.

August drank the coffee himself and, predictably, couldn’t sleep.

Chapter Two:

THIS WILL SOUND CRAZY

In the morning, as he was making a fresh pot of coffee, August heard a shy, tentative knock on the motor home’s rear door. Woody barked. And barked. And barked.

“You’re late,” he said out loud but to himself. Quietly. Too quietly to be heard through the door.

He’d already pushed the side-window blinds up but had not yet opened the curtains on the back door. That was a more involved task, as they were blocked by the screen door. He had to open the back door to get to them. So that always happened last.

“Shhh,” he said to the dog, but to no effect.

He finished plugging in the coffeepot and turned it on to brew. Then he unlocked and opened the back door. In the dirt at the bottom of his two metal steps stood Seth, a baseball cap held politely in front of him, his little brother Henry directly behind.

“Good morning, Seth,” he said.

“How’d you know my name was Seth?”

“I heard your father call you by it yesterday.”

“Oh. That’s right. And this’s—”

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