“Shit, shit, shit.” It was probably Miranda. She was one of Jay’s regular clients and she had been waiting impatiently for him to replenish his supply. God please let it be her anyone else would mean serious complications. He could smell the overpowering scent of lilac that was Miranda’s signature perfume through the front door. It always made Jay gag. He opened the door and stepped out before she could slink her way into his apartment.
“What do you want?”
“You got the kid didn’t you? Last night? People saw you bring him in.” Miranda pushed oily brown hair out of her eyes. “Did you get it yet? Can I have it?”
“Go away, will you. The boy’s still asleep.”
“What? How long do kids sleep?”
“How the fuck should I know? I’ll call you when I get it and it’s tested and everything. Now get the hell out of here. Your perfume’s gonna choke the kid.”
Jay strode back into his house and slammed the door on Miranda. He went back into the bedroom and began packing in earnest.
“Jay? Jay? Momma?” Nathan was calling from the living room.
“Just a second, Nate.” Jay finished packing his own bag and grabbed the one that Veronica had given him for Nathan. He shoved his wade of cash into the front pocket. He went out into the living room and smiled down at the boy. “We’re gonna go for a walk. Come on, I’ll carry you on my back.”
“Okay.” The boy hopped up onto Jay’s back when he knelt down for him. Taking one last look around, Jay switched off the TV and kitchen light and left his apartment. He didn’t bother to lock his front door, let people take what they wanted.
Once out on the street Jay was unsure of what to do. He didn’t have a car and it seemed like a bad idea to hijack one while he had Nathan with him. He walked along for a while but got tired from carrying the two bags and the boy. There was only one thing that he could think to do. He found a payphone and slipped a dollar coin into the slot.
“Veronica? I need a favor…. No, I don’t want you to take Nate back but it is about him. We need your car. Or a car. Any car…. No, nothing’s wrong with the kid. That’s the problem. He’s a good kid, Vee. He doesn’t deserve what I was going to put him through…. That doesn’t matter now. The drug isn’t important…. He’s a fucking person Veronica. How could you have never seen that? Look, I don’t have the time or the want to argue with you. Are you going to help us or not…. 102nd and Stark…. Fine, we’ll see you then…. God damnit what am I suppose to do with him…. Fine, you had better fucking be here Veronica.”
Jay couldn’t believe that she cared so little for her own child. How could she look at him and not feel anything? There was a diner across the street. He would take Nathan there and get them something to eat. Maybe the waitress would agree to keep an eye on the kid while Jay met Veronica. They both ate full plates of eggs and sausage and hash browns. The other patrons stared at Nathan but no one said anything. The waitress even gave Nathan a pencil and an extra placemat to draw on. She agreed to keep an eye on the boy while Jay ran out as long as he wasn’t gone for more than fifteen minutes. When their meal was finished Jay patted the boy’s head and told him to be good. He headed outside to meet Veronica on the corner.
For once in her life she managed to be on time. She parked a maroon Chevy across the street and waited for him to come to her. He went over to the car, opened her door, and stood there until she got out. “Where’d you get this?”
“From a friend. Just take the keys so that I can get out of here.” She shoved the keys at him.
“You really don’t want to see him? I don’t know how long we’ll be gone. Don’t you want to say goodbye?”
“Don’t you understand? I already said goodbye. I can’t do it again. You had better take him far away though, Jay. I’ve heard word that they’re already after you.”
Jay grabbed her arm, hard. “You had better fucking hear this. You will not, will not, tell anyone that you have seen me. You will not tell them about this car. You will not even mention Nate’s name.” She had her faced turned away from him. Her eyes were moist. Jay grabbed her chin and forced her to him in the eye. “I don’t care if you don’t realize that he matters. Just know that if they find me, I’ll be coming for you. If they get him or hurt him in any way, I will kill you. I will hunt you down and I will kill you.”
“You had better run fast then because they already know where you are.”
Jay pushed her away from him and she feel. Scrambling back up she spat at him and practically ran away.
They would have to move fast. Jay knew a small town on the coast where they would never think to look. It would be the perfect place for Nathan to grow up. There might even be some other kids there. He went back into the diner, paid the tab peeling bills off of his money roll without looking at them. “Come on kid. We are going to go for a ride.”
“I like cars!”
Jay loaded Nathan into the front seat and got him buckled up. The car was so large and old that you couldn’t see Nathan from outside. They drove erratically through the city in case anyone was following them. Once they got onto the freeway he landed his foot heavy on the gas and didn’t take it off until nightfall. Nathan was asleep in the passenger seat when they pulled up to the beach. A short way off the night was doted by window lights. It already felt like home. Jay killed the car engine, which clicked from the long drive, and went around to get Nathan. The night air was cool and pleasant. They would sleep on the beach tonight and find a place to live tomorrow. Their new home didn’t have any motels.
“Nate? Hey kid.”
Nathan came awake slowly. His cheek was red where it had been pressed against the car seat. “What’s that sound, Jay?”
“It’s the ocean. Tomorrow we’ll swim in it. Would you like that?”
“Ocean. What’s that?”
“It’s like a really big, salty bathtub.”
Jay laughed and picked the boy up. Nathan, still groggy, leaned against his chest. “Well, it’s only kind of like a bath. I think that you’ll like it. We’re going to sleep on the beach tonight.”
Nathan raised his head up. “Not sleepy.”
“Of course not. Why don’t you sit here in the sand and I will get our things out of the car.”
He sat the boy down and began laying out a bed. He didn’t want to keep the car door open for too long. The over-head light might kill the battery. He only had one blanket but they could both use their bags as pillows and it didn’t feel like it would get any colder.
“Come lay down with me Nathan. I’ll tell you a story.” The boy laid down against the hollow of Jay’s side. He could feel the boy’s warmth and steady breathing. Jay wrapped his arm around him. He would keep this boy save regardless of the costs.
“Once upon a time, there was a man named Jay. And he found the true meaning to life….”
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED