They continued their drive south in silence, save for the melange of the radio’s soft melodies and the muted beat from Andrew’s ear buds. Exit signs for Columbus came up on the right; Clarence had begun pondering the where and when of their lunch stop, when his son’s voice interrupted his thoughts again.
“Can I ask a weird question?”
Clarence shrugged, eyes widening, as Andrew removed his ear buds. “Give it a shot.”
“Were you — ” his eyes focused on the highway, Clarence was still able to see his son swallow — “you and Mom, I mean. Were you — ever mad at me?”
Tightening his grip on the steering wheel, Clarence uttered a dismissive laugh. “Mad? When the police called, oh yeah, we were mad. Stayed mad when we got in the car to drive down.” His right hand drifted up, waved to no particular object outside the car’s windshield. “Somewhere ’round here though, our anger’d mostly burned itself, so we got to talking. Realized that staying mad wasn’t gonna help you, and’d do nothin’ for us but give us heartburn.” His head twisted right, beamed a smile at his son. “We knew what kind of boy — man you are. You’d made a bad choice, but realized you’d done wrong, accepted the consequences.” He resumed focusing on the road. “So when you saw us that evening we were mad, sure, but we’d decided by then that giving voice to that anger weren’t gonna do no good to no one. And when we saw how truly penitent you were that evening, so eager to make up for what you did — and how you continued that attitude, all summer — we knew we’d made the right decision.” He glanced right again — “Know what I mean?”
His son smiled. “Yeah.” He raised the buds to his ears again, then paused. “Thanks.”
“Sure.” Clarence smiled to himself, as the muted sounds of his son’s music resumed. But a moment later, the corners of his mouth turned down, and his eyes squinted. He cleared his throat, called his son’s name; it took a second call for Andrew to clear his ears — “Yeah?”