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“We’re done, Dad. Now what?” Jericho asked, expecting Will to lecture him for being irresponsible. 

“Get in your car and follow me. I’m going to teach you your way around the city. I want you to follow me, then I’ll drive away and tell you where I’m at so you can come to find me. When you find me, we’ll try again until you get your bearings.” Will instructed. 

“That sounds kind of cool, actually. Okay.” Jericho answered. He surprised that he didn’t receive any lecture, but he was pleased that Will had decided to help him navigate his way around the city. 

Jericho climbed into his car and started the engine. Will pulled out of the driveway and waited patiently for Jericho to follow. Once Will was confident that Jericho was following him, he took off out of the suburbs and into the heart of downtown. 

They drove for about fifteen minutes until they came to a large parking lot used for ride-sharing. Will pulled into the parking lot and up to a payphone situated directly across from a forlorn-looking bus shelter. Jericho followed.

Will put his sedan in park and stepped out of the car. He pulled a piece of paper and a pen out of his shirt pocket, found the number assigned to the payphone, and quickly wrote it down. 

Jericho pulled up into the parking space beside his father and rolled down the driver’s side window waiting for instructions. He was thrilled that Will would take time out of his day to help him learn to navigate the city. Aside from their visit to Jimmy’s, this was the only instance Will had taken time out of his schedule to spend with his son one on one. They did many things together as a family, the four of them, but Jericho rarely spent any time with Will. 

Will walked over to Jericho’s car after he finished jotting down the telephone number and testing it from his cell phone. 

“Alright, Son. You wait here by this phone. I’m going to drive for a few minutes then I’ll call you. I’ll tell you where I am, and you can come to find me. Understand?” Will explained.

“Yeah. That sounds great.” Jericho answered with a smile. 

“Okay. Stay here. I’ll call you in a few minutes.” Will said, climbing back into his own car and pulling out into traffic. 

Jericho remained stationed next to the phone as the time passed. This was the first time that he had been downtown by himself. He could barely navigate his neighborhood, and he never adventured beyond its friendly suburban borders. 

Sitting alone for the first time in the large, nearly abandoned parking lot gave Jericho a rare glimpse into the lives of those less fortunate than himself. He saw haggard factory workers board a rundown city bus, as other forlorn-looking factory workers disembarked. He saw a homeless man with a three-wheeled shopping cart pick through a nearby trashcan. He saw several kids not much older than himself walking down the street together with mischief in their eyes. He didn’t realize that he was staring until one of the young men yelled a derogatory slur in his direction and flashed a poorly holstered handgun in the waistband of his sagging pants. 

Jericho jumped and quickly turned his attention elsewhere. Other than his father’s assigned service pistol, which he only wore in minimal circumstances, Jericho had never seen a gun before. He’d never been threatened with one by a random stranger. 

Jericho refused to look back across the street, but he could still hear the group of kids slinging insults in his direction. He felt a cold sweat begin to bead across his forehead as he silently prayed for his father to call so he could be on his way. 

Jericho’s excitement quickly turned to anxiety and then fear the longer he sat there in the parking lot alone and exposed. The tension crawled through his stomach like a million hungry fire ants. Soon his palms were as clammy and damp as his forehead, and still, the phone had not rung. 

He glanced at the clock on the dashboard of the car. It had only been ten minutes since Will pulled out of the parking lot, but it felt like a lifetime. The group of kids finally decided to move on, which brought Jericho minimal relief. He decided that it was time for him to get out of the car and walk over to the phone. Undoubtedly, Will couldn’t take much longer to find a suitable place to wait. 

As if sensing Jericho’s approach, the phone sprang to life with a sharp ring. 

Jericho sprinted the last few feet and quickly answered the phone.

“Hello?” He called as a massive wave of relief washed over him.

“Jericho?” Will asked.

“Yes. It’s me. Where are you?” Jericho clarified.

“I’m at home. Come find me.” Will answered curtly before he ended the call.

“What?! Are you serious?!” Jericho yelled into the receiver. 

It was too late. The line was dead, and Jericho didn’t have any change to call back.


Copyright: R. MacCeile 2020

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