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Authors: Wayne M. Johnston

North Fork

BOOK: North Fork
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Wayne M. Johnston

Black Heron Press
Post Office Box 13396
Mill Creek, Washington 98082

Copyright © 2016 by Wayne M. Johnston. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

North Fork
is a work of fiction. All characters that appear in this book are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN (print): 978-1-936364-20-6
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-936364-21-3

Black Heron Press
Post Office Box 13396
Mill Creek, Washington 98082

For Sally


It was a bad day from the start. But by midnight, I had cooled down quite a bit from the way I felt in the afternoon when I wanted to kill Harold. Harold's my stepdad. It was his first day home from work, and of course we got into it. Harold Hopp. He never adopted my older sister and me. It's the one good thing my real dad, who's not mean or anything, but is an alcoholic and otherwise pretty useless, did right. He stopped the adoption, so only my mom and Tristan are Hopps.

Harold works on a tugboat out of Seattle, moving oil barges around, and is gone a lot, but it's unpredictable. Sometimes he's just gone overnight and sometimes it can last a week or two, but you never know when he'll show up, so it's hard to relax when he's gone. He's the captain, and when he shows up, he thinks he has to whip me back into shape. At midnight, I was walking on the road that runs across the flats toward town from the gas station at the highway; I should have been somewhere, anywhere, else.

My grades are bad because I'm a procrastinator and some of the teachers are jerks. If I don't like a person, it makes the class suck, and I can't focus even when I know it might be kind of interesting if I did. I've been cutting class some too because the weather is nice, and that would have been enough for him, but what pushed it over the edge was the suspension notice from the principal who now thinks I'm a Nazi skinhead wannabe or something. What's crazy is I don't think I'm racist at all. Racists are everywhere and no one does anything about them. I hate them.

I moved here when I was in middle school. No one would know it because I'm not dark, but my mom is part Native. She's darker than I am, but so are a lot of white people. She was adopted and I've never met any of her real family. She downplays that part of her heritage and I only know about it because it slipped out once when I happened to be paying attention. It's never been something I gave a lot of thought to until coming here and being around all the reservation Natives. I still don't think about it much. It's not like being part Native can fix my life or anything.

We were just goofing around, this kid from the rez and me. He's kind of a loner too. To him this valley is like Israel and Palestine are to Jews and Arabs. It belongs to his people and he thinks it's been stolen. Anyway, that day we weren't thinking, just goofing around. We read
The Diary of Anne Frank
freshman year and then I read a lot more about the Nazis and how they killed a lot of innocent Jews. But at that moment, the Nazi stuff seemed like ancient history, far away and not very real, and we weren't expecting anyone to be paying attention when we did the
seig heil
thing, raising our arms as we passed in the hall. Boy, were we wrong. Two teachers saw us and the next thing I knew, I was being herded to the principal's office.

Actually, I don't think he's a bad guy, the principal, Koenings. He's not naturally mean like Harold Hopp, but I can't talk to him. That tight thing that happens around my heart always comes when I'm around him, and I choke up and can't talk straight. I piss Koenings off. We have history. I get in a lot of stupid trouble over little things. He says I'm wasting my abilities because I'm smart enough to be a good student and am blowing it off. He's given me a lot of chances, but it's not like I can just become someone else and have this different life because he thinks it would be good for me.

seig heil
thing really pushed his button. I've seen plenty of rage before, and he was there already when I walked into his
office, so of course it sets me off too, and I defend myself because I know I'm innocent. I'm obviously not a Nazi, and I'm no more racist than he is. We were being ironic, and if they had let it stay between the other kid and me, there would have been no harm done, but I couldn't explain any of that because he started out yelling. So I yelled back and included some choice words which made his eyes look like Harold Hopp's, and he suspended me for three days instead of hitting me.

I had a day to myself before Harold Hopp showed up. I just lay around watching TV and reading. Reading is okay if the book's any good. It can be like a movie, only better, because you get to see inside people's heads. I like stories about screwed-up people. Since I'm already depressed a lot, you'd think it wouldn't work that way, but it does. So Thursday I read part of this book about a guy who got his balls blown off in a war, I'm not sure which one. But he and this nympho were in love, only it didn't work because of the missing balls, so he spent all his time drinking while she was running around with other guys. It was a depressing story but it made me feel better about my own life because it showed me that I'm not the only one whose life sucks. I get credit in English class for reading it, and I got the book from the school library.

Harold must have gotten off work at midnight—that's when the boat shift ends, noon or midnight—then come home in the wee hours. He must have needed sleep too, because the explosion didn't come until morning, past the time when I should have been up for school. He had read the mail and was already steaming when he came into my room. I do have my own room. I was sleeping hard and didn't hear him coming up the stairs, but I heard the door crash open, then he had my tee shirt in his fist and was dragging me out of bed.

Compared to me, he's a big son of a bitch, kind of heavy-set and pretty strong. So there he is, in my face with his turtle breath,
grey stubble inches away, screaming about what a useless little shit I am (Sorry about the word, but that's what he said). The hypocritical bastard went off about the Nazi salute and how I should know better than to do that crap at school. He's Norwegian or Swedish or something. At least that's what he says, which makes him a squarehead. I don't know where the name Hopp comes from. He's a total racist. When he's not around people who intimidate him, he calls Asians ornamentals, Natives Siwashes and African Americans niggers. You can probably imagine what he calls Hispanics.

He didn't hit me. He quit doing that, thanks to my older sister. She's a year and a half older than me and should be graduating this year, but when she turned eighteen a couple of months ago, she moved out to live with her boyfriend in Seattle. When she was seventeen, she ran away. They picked her up in Portland and she told the cops what it was like around here. CPS came and asked a lot of questions. They didn't do anything to Harold, but he's cautious now. He didn't even slam me against the wall, which he doesn't think of as abuse, and at the perfect slam moment, I could see him stop himself and let go of my shirt, but he made up for it with a lot of words that I'm sure he'd never say in front of someone like Koenings. So after I mowed the lawn and did some other crap that he ordered me to do, he said he was going to Bellingham and left.

I was supposed to study for the rest of the afternoon, and I did read for a while but couldn't concentrate, so I took the SKAT bus into Burlington where I wandered around the Cascade Mall. Mount Vernon and Burlington used to be two towns about five miles apart near the freeway that connects Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. They're pretty much connected now by stores like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Costco, Best Buy and a lot of outlet malls and car lots and fast food joints. They've pretty much merged into one big sprawl. I met some guys I know at the mall and we got some
burgers and went to a house in Mount Vernon on the hill near the high school and the hospital. That kid's parents weren't home, so we hung out at his house watching TV and listening to music.

Someone had some bud, and I smoked a little to make Harold fade, and then those guys decided to go back to the mall to watch a kung-fu movie. Bor-ring! There was this movie I wanted to see playing at the Lincoln, which is a restored vaudeville theater in the old part of Mount Vernon that shows offbeat movies that don't draw a big enough audience for the mall theaters. I made up a lie that I was supposed to meet a girl there and had them drop me close enough to walk. Who knows, maybe if I had stayed with them and gone back to the mall, things might have ended up different. I might not have been on that road at midnight and might not be in this mess now.


It was after two when Brad dropped me off, more like three. My aunt doesn't wait up or anything, so I didn't think it mattered. Brad was sort of amazed at where I live, but seemed okay with it. When I got in the house, I could hear Aunt Trish getting up, which was pretty unusual and made me wonder right away what was up. In the little hallway to the bedrooms in her nightgown, half asleep, she looked irritated, like she'd been lying there trying to stay awake, waiting for me. It made her seem old.

“Where's Kristen?”

“She always has to be home by midnight,” I said.

“Well, she's not there and her parents are really pissed. They've called about every hour, even though I told them I'd have you call when you got home. You'd better talk to them.”

It took me a while to answer.

“What do I say to them? I don't know where she is. I haven't seen her since before midnight.”

“You'd better tell them what you know. They were ready to call the police an hour ago. They've probably already done it.”

I needed to think fast. Kristen's parents are really anal, very narrow and strict. Certain realities even about Kristen's careful life tend to make them go off and get all hysterical. Kristen's friendship with me scares them and they wish we didn't hang out, but they're nice enough to me. I know it's insincere, and that I needed to be careful what I said, because before she dropped me off Kristen and I were at a party over by Skyline in Anacortes, but her parents thought she was at a movie at the mall.

Sterling answered. He's not even her real dad. She doesn't remember her real dad. Actually Sterling is her second stepdad. She says she has vague, foggy memories of her first stepdad, but the guy on the other end of the phone line has been around for a long time and she goes by his last name and thinks of him as her dad. He's this business guy, real estate or something, pushy in this fake polite way. Right off, he tells me he's called nearly every other kid in the Valley and he knows about the party, so I don't have to lie about that. Everyone says the last person they saw her with was me. It's clear he assumes I'll lie and he's right, I would to help Kristen. He says now he's really worried and just wants to know she's safe. I can tell that at least some of what he's feeling is genuine concern, so I tell him about her dropping me off at the gas station, and I fib a little by saying I knew Brad already and that we'd talked on our cells, and since he was heading home from Bellingham, he'd decided to swing by and take me out to Denny's for a snack where we could talk for a while. Since it turned out good, there's no point in anyone knowing what really happened.

He asks if she said anything about where she was going, so I thought hard and realized she hadn't said much at all, that she had hardly said a word between the party and the gas station. She never actually said she was going home. I was on the phone and just assumed she was pissed about her curfew, and a little jealous that I didn't have one. I was trying to avoid stepping in a milkshake puddle when I got out of the car. Then she drove off. Kristen always has to go home before I do. I didn't even wave or look up. I didn't think I needed to, because we would talk again Saturday afternoon, after the nap I always take when I get home from work on weekend days following late nights.

When I was in middle school, Aunt Trish tried setting curfews and doing the parent thing, but I pretty much did what I wanted and she got tired of fighting it. There was this incident at the
beginning of my freshman year, and we had this big blowout and she told me it was up to me to figure it out and I could ruin my life if I wanted. She couldn't stop me. She said I should know from my mom and a lot of other people we know what happens when you drink too much or get caught up with drugs, so she wasn't too worried about that, but I'd better not come home pregnant because she was already stretched thin, just getting by and helping me.

BOOK: North Fork
5.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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