Dad was all business, immediately walking up the steps to the front porch and checking Vaughn over where he sat on the front step. Dad’s a psychologist who’s written a few books on marriage and family issues—including addictions.
It didn’t surprise me then when he sniffed Vaughn’s breath for alcohol, discretely rolled down his sleeves to look for needle marks, and felt Vaughn’s wrist for his pulse.
He touched Vaughn’s shoulder and said, “Can you hear me?”
Vaughn mumbled something.
I don’t know how Dad felt, but I was relieved. Daniel had said that Vaughn was probably okay but I knew that I wouldn’t feel secure until I saw him walking away under his own power.
Dad said, “I didn’t understand that. Could you repeat yourself?”
Vaughn said, “Dr. K?”
So in case you’re wondering, that meant that Vaughn was either a current or former client. Not that it’s particularly surprising. I don’t know if Dad’s the best psychologist in the city, but he’s definitely got the most publicity—especially with Evangelical Christians.
Vaughn’s family goes to Grand Lake Community Church—a church, I suddenly remembered, where the pastor once interviewed Dad as part of a sermon.
All of which goes to show that the best advertising is the kind you don’t have to pay for.
Dad put his hand on Vaughn’s shoulder, clearly ready to help him stand up. “Can you walk?”
“Walk? Sure I can walk. I just…” and here Vaughn looked at Daniel for a moment, “fell asleep.”
He pushed himself up, stumbling where an old oak tree’s roots made the sidewalk buckle. My Dad frowned, but didn’t say anything.
Moments later everybody else followed him in and we started the twenty minute drive to Vaughn’s house. After Vaughn gave Dad his address, we didn’t talk much. Normally Dad gets my friends to talk about what they’re doing in school, hobbies, and whatever, but tonight he just said, “Everybody buckled in?” and drove off.
Bearing in mind that it was after eleven by that time, I’m guessing he wanted to go to bed. Also, with Vaughn being a client at all, asking him all about his life probably felt a lot like work.
This meant that theoretically Daniel and I had twenty minutes to talk telepathically if he wanted to—but didn’t. He was looking pretty drained. In addition to flying around with me, he’d flown home to grab clothes before my Dad got to Grandpa’s house. I don’t know how much probing the future took out of him, but it probably wasn’t free.
Both he and Vaughn fell asleep in the back seat, leaving Dad and me the only people still awake. I took advantage of the moment to watch the streetlights as Dad’s Saturn Vue chewed up the pavement. The local NPR station played Jazz after ten, so we found ourselves listening to Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” as we drove deeper into the suburbs.
Vaughn’s family lives near Lake Michigan on a street where the houses grow ever larger and the grass greener—at least from what I could see on this side of the fence.
Vaughn’s family’s house, for example, included both a tennis court and a helicopter pad. I’d heard that there was a swimming pool back there too, but you couldn’t see it from the street. Mind you, a swimming pool seemed redundant when you had one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world in your backyard, but what did I know?
Vaughn woke up as we stopped in the driveway, and passed my dad his keycard. The gate slid in, and Dad drove the Vue about a quarter of a mile to the end of the driveway.
A light turned on, illuminating our car as well as the front of the six-stall garage. The middle garage door opened and a woman stepped out. She looked a lot like Vaughn—if Vaughn were forty-ish, short haired, and female.
Vaughn got out of the Vue, talked to his mom for a minute and then went inside. Dad rolled down his window as she walked toward us.
“Thanks for bringing Vaughn home,” she said. “Could I speak to your son for a moment?”
“It’s not a problem, Suzanne.” To me he said, “Nick, why don’t you step out and talk to her?”
I did. She walked around to my side of the car as I shut the door.
“Hi,” I said.
“Thanks for bringing Vaughn home,” she said. Then, out of nowhere she said, “Did I see you on the news last week?”
“Not that I know of.”
“My mistake,” she said, keeping her tone light. “I thought I might have seen you on television with a couple of your friends.”
“No,” I said.
“Well,” she said, “I don’t want to see him involved in anything like that. Do you understand?”
She waved goodbye and left, managing to smile until she disappeared into the garage. The garage door shut behind her.
The ride to Daniel’s house was a blur of suburban lawns, passing cars, and blinking red lights. The major difference from the ride to Vaughn’s was that Daniel was awake.
Daniel: She knows.
Me: Yeah. How?
Daniel: Well, you know about my Grandpa’s Alzheimers or whatever it is. So, if she discovered any of her dad’s stuff after Grandpa stopped caring… My Dad hated the whole idea, so it’s not like he’s going to erase stuff from people’s heads.
Me: This is bad. If Vaughn’s mom knows, who else does?
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Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at http://legionofnothing.com. He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.