Kids These Days

The summer moves on, sometimes without me. I used to have the structure of summer camp to hold my days in place – breakfast, pools, lunch, sunburn – but now things are much more free flowing. I’m never sure how to use my free time. I’ve read four books in the past two weeks, all written by a Midwestern woman in the nineties. I share them with my dad once I finish.

Most days I spend with kids. Like my mentee, Albert. He’ll be entering fifth grade in the fall. Not only is he exceptionally bright, but I’ve begun to realize that he may be as socially inept as I am. I took him to Barnes and Nobles for his birthday, offering to buy whatever book he wanted. After perusing for a half hour (and glossing over each of my suggestions), we approached the center kiosk and, without forewarning, Albert spouted, “Excuse me: do you perhaps have the Fart Book in stock?”

Following up that classy, polite query, after the worker replied with a slighly-southern tinted accent, Albert said, “Are you from France or something?”

My wife pleads with me to filter my thoughts, which I often release like beautiful doves before a climatic gun battle. I think, If he didn’t want to be asked about the origin of his tattoos, he shouldn’t wear them so prominently. I’m sure Albert thought, If he doesn’t want to be accused of being French, he should dial back his accent.

There is a family that comes to one of our summer clubs that speaks no English. They often drop their son and daughter off wordlessly, not conveying their inability to pick them up afterward. Several times, after club when all the other parents have come and gone, I’ll turn to those two kids and ask, “Do you want to call your mother?” and they’ll say, “Oh, she’s not coming. She wants you to take us home.”

One such night, the older sister climbed into the back of my Civic and let the younger brother ride shotgun. In my backseat, I keep a myriad of board games and donated dime novels, used for various, creative activities like Black Out Poetry and Mystery Novel Basketball. Angeles – a sweet, twelve-year-old Hispanic girl – picked up a novel and began reading in a slight accent:

For twenty-five years the unsolved kidnapping of two young girls has haunted Lucas Davenport. Today, two bodies have been found. He must return to a nightmare -“

“Maybe I should take that,” I said, extending my hand towards her.

“This is good,” she said, ignoring me. I watched her in the rear-view as she opened the novel. Perhaps, I thought, she’ll leave it at that. “Listen to this: The Dexedrine was beginning to fade, but Lucas was still too jacked to sleep. Instead of going home, he drove down to Kenny’s bar -“

GIVE ME THAT BOOK!”

The car swerved slightly as I took it from her.

 

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