Finding out that Vaughn’s mom saw us on TV and guessed who we were? That sucked.
Still, the fact that my Dad didn’t even seem to have grounding on the mind despite it being after midnight by the time we got home? That was good.
We had stepped into the house. The lights were all off. Mom was in bed. With my older sister Rachel at college, the house felt empty. When she was home, you could count on someone being awake after midnight.
Dad pushed the button that closed the garage door, shut the back door behind us and locked it.
“Nick,” he said, “is there anything I should know about what just happened?”
“No,” I said. “You know about as much as there is. We found Vaughn asleep on the porch when we were about to leave, and so I called you. That’s all.”
He stopped by the kitchen table and looked at me, passing his keys from his right hand to his left and then back again.
“I’m trying to figure out how to say this without breaking confidentiality,” he said.
“Vaughn’s parents came to me for other reasons last year, but as we did therapy, I learned that Vaughn was involved in things he shouldn’t be. I can’t go into any details, but if it looks to you like he’s having problems, tell someone.”
“Like what problems?”
Dad put his keys into his pocket. “I can’t talk about it.”
“Drugs?” I said.
“I can’t tell you,” he said, then paused and asked, “What did his mom talk to you about?”
“Nothing,” I said. “She thanked me and then she asked me if she’d seen me on TV.”
“Not that I know of. It’s not like the cross country team gets a whole lot of press.”
He laughed, and that was it. We both went to our rooms.
I was off scot-free.
In my mind at least, I was also off scot-free on the whole Vaughn thing. Probably not in Cassie’s, but seriously, his mom knew and she’d told me to stay away. It’s not like she’d miss it if our team (assuming we have one) now included a guy who flings lightning bolts.
This is what I told myself as I did my calculus homework–ignoring an obvious problem. Whatever I might think, Vaughn would be the person who decided whether he should be involved with us and not his mom.
After a few minutes, I disappeared completely into the world of limits, derivatives, and integrals. I lost track of time, the cafeteria, and the silent students around me.
The bell rang as I began the last problem. I considered finishing it, but the cascade of noise from books and feet made it hard to think. By the time most of the other students had left, I had given up on the idea and started hauling my books back to my locker.
As I began turning my combination lock, my cell rang. Picking up the phone, I heard Vaughn’s voice.
“Nick. Let’s talk.”
“Yeah. OK. Give me a second.” I held the phone to my ear with my shoulder and finished opening the lock.
We agreed to meet outside the front door and talk for a little while before heading off to cross country practice. It doesn’t start till 3:30 anyway.
Central High is three blocks from downtown in a century-old, brown, brick building. The parking lot is across the street and surrounded by a six-foot high fence. Only fifteen minutes past the end of the school day, the parking lot already seemed to be ninety percent empty.
I looked around the front steps, noticing Vaughn sitting on the lowest one, leaning back and looking to the sky.
I walked down and sat next to him.
“So what’s up?” I said.
He sat up, pulled a strand of hair out of his face. Then he looked up the steps. We were alone.
“I just thought I’d thank you and your dad for bringing me home last night and apologize… for breaking in and making a mess and all that.”
“I’ll pass that on to my dad,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, “about that. See if you can do it and leave the impression that I’m not on drugs or something.”
“I can try.”
We sat in silence for a moment.
“Do you know anything about my grandfather’s powers?” He looked down at his right hand and flexed it.
“Not much more than anybody else.”
“I’m sure he could do more than this,” he said, making his fingers into a fist and then opening the fist and spreading the fingers as far apart as he could. Electricity crackled and bluish-white sparks flew from finger to finger, making the hand hard to look at for a moment.
“It is cool,” he said, “but I read that Grandpa could blow up buildings. I’m not much more than a human taser.”
“It’s only been a day,” I said.
“I suppose the powers could grow,” he said. “That would be cool.”
The front door opened behind us.
Sean Drucker walked out. Sean’s tall, blonde and curly haired. Last year he got kicked off the basketball team for drinking.
“Got what you owe me?”
Vaughn said, “No.” His tone suggested he was tired of the question.
Sean didn’t seem to have expected a yes. He didn’t even stop walking.
“What do you owe him?” I asked.
“About a thousand bucks,” Vaughn said. “And a new car.”
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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.