Home > Take Me with You(8)

Take Me with You(8)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

“Wes—”

“No. Don’t answer. Please. Don’t answer yet. Just sleep on it. You got two nights to sleep on it. Tonight and tomorrow. Unless I get ahead of schedule. Sleep on it two nights, and don’t answer off the top of your head. They won’t be much bother to you. They’re good boys.”

On the last sentence, August distinctly saw the mechanic’s lower lip quiver.

“Okay. I’ll sleep on it.” And then I’ll say no, August added in his own head.

“ ’Preciate that.”

A long, strained silence fell. August didn’t like it much. So he worked harder to make it go away.

“Do they know you’re on your way to jail?” But before the mechanic could even answer, August knew. “No. Never mind. You don’t even have to tell me. They didn’t know before lunch. Now they do.”

Wes smoked in silence.

“Do they know you were going to ask me to take them?” But again he knew. He remembered Seth asking August where he was planning to go. If he missed having kids along. “Never mind. I think I know the answer to that one, too. How do they feel about that? Going away for three months with a stranger?”

“Thing of it is,” Wes said, “there’s strangers at that other place, too.”

“Right,” August said. And then fell back into the flurry of his own thoughts. “Look,” he said after a time, “I know you’re being the best father to them you know how to be. But you don’t even know me. You don’t even know for a fact that I can be trusted with a child.”

“I don’t know everybody at the county can be trusted with a child, either.”

August didn’t answer. Because he’d run out of arguments. The answer still felt like no. But he was out of logical reasons why it had to be. He wasn’t going to do it, because he didn’t want to do it. Because it felt weird. Because it disturbed the familiar patterns he needed to cling to. Too late to dress it up as anything more noble than that.

When he looked up, Wes was staring straight into his eyes. As if taking some kind of measurements.

“Can you be trusted with a child?”

“Yes,” August said quietly.

“Yeah,” Wes said. “I thought so.”

Then he got up, smashed out his cigarette, and got himself back to work.

Chapter Three:

NEW DEAL

Around the time the sun was going down, August wandered into the shop area again. Wes was on his back on a rolling cart, half underneath the engine. He couldn’t put the rig up on a lift, because it was too tall and too heavy, and the shop ceiling wasn’t high enough.

Wes did not pull his head out.

“Haven’t seen your kids around all afternoon,” August said.

First nothing. As though he hadn’t spoken at all.

Then Wes said, “I told ’em to stay away from you.”

“Now why would you do that?”

“Didn’t want you to think I was playing dirty, like telling ’em to follow you around and look up at you with those big brown eyes. I said give the man time to think.” Still Wes did not slide out from under the rig. The sound just filtered up. “Also . . . if you’re gonna say no, I don’t want ’em to see it in your face.”

“Got it,” August said.

As he walked back to the door of the rig, he thought, Yeah. Keep them far away if you don’t want them to smell a no coming.

At twenty minutes to midnight, a knock blasted August out of sleep. Woody went nuts, letting off a stream of noise, more one long shriek than individual barks.

August stumbled to the door, rubbing his eyes. Woody followed behind him, close enough to bump the back of August’s leg with his nose, a rumbly, rolling growl escaping his throat.

“Who’s there?” he called out.

“It’s Wes.”

August sighed and opened the door, and Woody sat close by, leaning against his leg and wagging faintly.

“Sorry,” Wes said. “Sorry I woke you up. Maybe I’m wrong to. But I told you to sleep on it. But then I rethought things and came up with a whole different sort of a deal. So now you’re sleeping on the wrong thing. So, can I tell you the new thing, and then you go sleep on that?”

August looked at the mechanic’s face in the half dark. His hair was comically disarranged. Wes had obviously been in bed himself when the new deal had arrived in his brain. August looked over Wes’s head, saw the moon hanging nearly full over the flat, mostly uninhabited landscape, and thought, He’s right. This is nothing. Those boys have seen nothing because there’s nothing out here to see.

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