Author’s Note: Time for Carson to get another part of the puzzle.
“I’m sorry we didn’t learn anything new at the Legion,” Mackenna said, sitting down on the couch. Carson had kind of fallen into the other seat, not sure what made him think that joining them in as many rounds as he had was a good idea. No, he knew it was a bad one, but he wasn’t good at saying no to the old guys.
“It’s fine. I wasn’t expecting any kind of breakthrough. It’s all good.”
“You are so drunk.”
“I told you—lightweight.”
“Yeah, you did.” She closed her eyes. “The guys are fun, though. Even Granger. He can be grumpy, but they’re all a lot of fun over there. Were you there when he said we could use his trailer? I think you were, but I don’t remember, and I’m saying it now just in case.”
“I don’t remember, either,” Carson said. He might just fall asleep right here, not that he minded all that much. He didn’t. This was fine. He didn’t want to think about it or admit it, but he slept better when Mackenna was nearby. He let his eyes shut, curling up in the chair. “That’s good, though, right?”
“Assuming the truck can pull it, we’ll be able to take both cars, like we wanted to, and we won’t have to get another rig to do it. We’ll just use Granger’s trailer because it’s a lot bigger.”
“We should probably get up and go into the bedrooms before we fall asleep.”
She laughed. “Fine, but no blaming me tomorrow when your neck is all sore.”
“You doing okay over there? Maybe you need to go puke.”
Carson shook his head. “I don’t. Just trying not to think about Chambers. Running into him… That brings up all those old memories, and if he’d actually had a chance to tell you about the school mascot thing… Well, it wasn’t pretty.”
“I don’t remember what the mascot was.”
“Ouch. Did you lose your hair?”
“Part of it before I got away. Then they had to shave it to make it even.” Carson had been keeping it on the longer side ever since. He didn’t like when it was short. It bothered him. He always went back to bad times in his childhood when he had it too short.
“What happened to your hair? Last time I saw you, it was long, almost shaggy.”
“Nothing.” Carson wasn’t going to tell his dad about the shaving thing. He didn’t want to think about it. He just wanted to forget, though it was impossible—every time he touched his head, looked in a mirror, or caught his mom looking at him, he remembered. She was so upset.
He just wanted to forget that, too. He hated how unhappy she always seemed to be.
“Okay, then. So, what has my little boy been up to lately? You’re in school now, aren’t you? What’s that like? You get good grades?”
“I guess. I hate it. I’d rather be here at the farm,” Carson said, putting his hands in his pockets and kicking the ground. He didn’t want to think about school. That meant thinking about the bullies, and he didn’t like the bullies. Larry and Nick could deal with them if it was after school, if they came to walk him home, but during the rest of the time, he was alone with Chambers and the others, and they kept saying they’d make the school mascot out of him. They’d already started.
He didn’t want to be a bald eagle, and he was afraid of what they’d do if they tried to make him fly.
“Yeah, this is a great place,” his father said. Carson shrugged. His father seemed to be worse at talking than he was. Maybe he should just go away. “Hey, you like cars?”
“I have a set. I want to build them a track, but Larry won’t let me use any of his even though he doesn’t play with it anymore.”
“Here, I’ve got something for you.”
Carson smiled, but when his father tried to hand him the toy, he had to frown. He took it, forcing a smile. “Thanks.”
“What’s wrong with it? You don’t like it?”
“I do, it’s just… They’ve had this toy in the meal for months now. They’re supposed to change, but they never do. I’ve already got three of them.”
“Oh.” His father put a hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t have enough time to get anything real special, but I promise, next time I’ll bring you something that you’ve never seen before.”
Carson snorted. He didn’t think so. It was a big joke for people to give him cars because of his name—he got one from the guy at the gas station every time he and Grandpa went to town. His mom gave him them as presents. His older brothers dumped their old ones on him. He found them at school. It was like he couldn’t get away from them.
“Like what? I’ve got all kinds of cars. Fords, Chevys, Dodges, even foreign ones—race ones and not race ones, just about any model you can think of.”
“I’ll find one you don’t have. Just wait.”
“That’s my boy,” his father said, ruffling his hair. Carson frowned, pulling away from him. He didn’t like that when he did have hair, and without it, he hated it. “Are you ever going to trust me?”
“Why should I? You’re just going to leave again.”