Hazy Days and Cloudy NightsHow It All Got Started 010: Alex
Monday, June 18, 1984
Alex stared at the glistening canvas before him. His shoulders and chest tightened. He blinked and breathed.
“Dad. It’s the first day of summer vacation. I’ll look for a job. I just wanted to take a few days to relax.”
“Start looking tomorrow,” his father said. “You’re going to be eighteen. An adult.” His no-nonsense fatherly voice, a flat tone with the slightest edge and just a touch louder than necessary, was in full effect. “I expect all the adults in this house to chip in and pay their way.”
Alex bit his lip. He turned toward his father. “I know that, dad. You’ve said it before.”
His father nodded. “We’ll figure out how much you can contribute once we know what you’re bringing home.” He glanced at Alex’ painting and frowned. “Getting a job is your first priority. Got it?”
Alex’ mother came up behind her husband. “Oh.” She sounded disgusted. “It’s the job thing again.”
“Yes.” His father glared at her. “Some of us have to work.”
This was well-tread ground. Alex saw his mother’s eyes narrow. “Bringing in a paycheck isn’t the only thing that keeps things running around here. Alex can help in other ways.” She gestured at her son. “And what about college? He needs time to go to school.”
His father smiled thinly and said to Alex, “The only way you’re gonna get to college is if you pay for it yourself. So you might as well get a job.”
His face opened up, apparently pleased that this logic also perfectly matched his demands. “You can go to class when you’re not working, so long as you keep up on your responsibilities around the house.”
He shrugged cheerfully, “Don’t like it? Move out and see if it’s any better somewhere else. That’s real life.”
His mother shook her head. “Dinner’s ready.” She turned away, back down the hall. “Cash only, in advance.”
Alex’ father rolled his eyes at that.
“I’m serious, Alex. Starting tomorrow, early, hit the pavement.”
With a short nod, his father left.
Alex cleaned his brushes.
What a totally awesome first day of summer.
His father had introduced the “get a job, you bum” speech two years ago, when Alex turned sixteen, but it never meant anything because Alex was still in high school and couldn’t drive.
The school thing was out of the way, and part of his father’s deal was that Alex could have the old Ford Pinto wagon sitting in the driveway… once he found a job, that is.
Alex could not wait to finally be mobile. It would change everything.
All he had to do was avoid being rear-ended in the stupid car, which supposedly tended to explode. That was an acceptable risk if it meant getting the hell away from his father whenever he wanted.
His mother called from the kitchen. “Dinner’s getting cold!”
The phone rang, which provided much better motivation to go to the front of the house than having dinner with his parents. He got to the receiver before his mother.
“Hey dude. What’s going on?”
Alex reached for the thin hope that his day might at least end on a high note. “Grant; hey. Nothing much. What’s up?”
“Let’s hang out. I’m over at my parents; I can be there in ten minutes and we can go to my place.”
Alex saw his father saunter down the hallway. His mother stood next to the stove, face tense and eyes dark.
“Thank you,” Alex said.
Grant snickered. “Another fun day at the Kent house?”
“Oh, totally. Fun all around, all day long. It’s been totally jewel.”
Grant drew out a long, “Great.” He chuckled. “Pack up your guitar, dude. I’m on my way.”
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