Future Considerations – GMF, March 7B

Lefty and his customer continued with their transaction as Oneida turned back toward her son. “Don’t let anyone take advantage of you, ever. You do know, even in a little town like Bark Bay, there’s other garages, places that could pay you what you’re worth.”

“I’m fine, Ma.” Double-J wiped his mustache with the back of his left hand. “Make enough to afford an apartment, support myself. Got some money saved, too, so there’s no reason — ”

“Your father’s going to be in town, next week.” The elderly customer walked past without looking at them, then exited the building. Behind the counter, Lefty pushed upon the door to the garage, and called for Double-J to mind the front; upon seeing his young employee nod, Lefty then disappeared behind the door.

Feeling less self-conscious now that he was alone with his mother, Double-J groaned. “Don’t tell me you came all the way down from the city, just to give me that news.”

Oneida Barelli, the woman who had left Lt. Bradley Johnson soon after their son’s birth, crossed arms across her jacketed chest. “We’re worried about you, John. We’ve heard you’ve dropped out of high school.”

Double-J threw his head back, grunted. “That’s bu — BS, Ma. Told you back in December, I got enough credits to graduate already. I didn’t drop out, I stopped going, because there weren’t no reason for me to hang around no more.”

“But it looks bad.” Her right hand shot forward, grabbed the greasy denim sleeve of his right arm. “Colleges won’t like — ”

College?” The teen withdrew his arm from her grasp. “How many times I gotta tell you — if you send me an application, I won’t fill it out; if a college accepts me, I won’t attend; and if you pay my tuition, I’ll tell the college to blow it on their football coach’s salary!”

John —

“I am NOT going to get caught in the prison of somebody else’s intellect!” His hands were raised, as if supporting an invisible weight pushing down on him. “There’s nothing, nothing I can learn at any college, that I can’t find out on my own time, my own terms. Seen too many fools come back to Bark Bay, after a year or two of college when they realize it’s not for them. Only difference between them and the ones who graduate, is that they’ve got less debt to pay off.”

“John, please.” Oneida was leaning forward, her face stern. “The difference in earning potential — ”

“In the professions, yes.” The teen waved his right arm in Oneida’s direction. “Sorry to break it to you Ma, but not everyone wants to be a lawyer, and work 70 hours a week like you do.”

“DAMMIT, John, there’s more to life than this shop!” She had closed on him, had backed him against the row of chairs near the building’s entrance. “The world’s a whole lot bigger than Bark Bay! You’re smarter than this, you have to realize — ”

He grabbed her jacketed upper arms. “I realize. Believe me, I’ve got ambitions that go far beyond my crappy little apartment at the Embassy.” He exhaled audibly. “I’m not long planning to stay in this job, this town, much longer. A year, maybe sooner. Just need to save a little more money.”

Oneida’s face brightened from the emergence of a sudden idea, the light extinguishing instantly upon the silent veto of her judgement. “John — when you’re father’s here, can you just pretend that you respect our beliefs?”

The burly teen, barely taller than his mother, snorted a laugh, then pulled her forward and down, her forehead descending until his lips touched them gently. “I’ll do my best.”

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