Hometown by Marsha Qualey



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Border Baker thinks he's perfectly content in New Mexico, his home for the last three years. But when his father inherits his childhood home in Minnesota and decides to move them again, Border feels he's being held prisoner and force-fed a hometown. People in the town haven't forgotten that his dad fled to Canada rather than serve in the Army in Vietnam, and Border becomes a target of their simmering resentment. 
 
Border doesn't want to give up the streets and coffee shops of Albuquerque for church and school in rural Red Cedar. A town full of folks who know his business, a school full of teachers who notice when he's absent, and a social life centered around hockey and pizza isn't exactly what he wants. Or is it?
 
EXCERPT:
 
Departure—
 
Stalling tactic. “Maybe I should call Mom and say goodbye.”
 
“You’ve said good-bye. And I doubt if you could reach her. When I was trying to find you, I called her. She said that the protest had been pushed up to this morning. She was scheduled to be in the first wave. It’s almost sunrise. She’s probably been arrested by now.”
 
“Does she have bail money? She might need bail money, Dad.”
 
“Not from me. Not this time.”
 
Son and father walked to their car. Border wanted to ask his father to drive to Santa Fe, just an hour north, hardly out of the way. He wanted to drive by the capitol and see the protesters chained to the benches, see the bodies laid across the street. See his mother, if she hadn’t already been hauled to jail.
 
He’d been at her apartment the night final protest plans had been voted upon. It had been packed, twenty adults screaming at each other because they were mad at the government. No guns for oil! We must be heard! Border had served tea and cookies, then, when business was done, agreed to play recorder for the remaining people. Seven minutes of Mozart. The protesters were old friends, sort of; his family had only lived in New Mexico three years. But they were like the friends they’d had everywhere. Fort Collins, Missoula, Detroit, Winnipeg, Toronto, though that was so long ago he couldn’t remember.
 
Always friends in the apartment, on the phone, on the sofa.
 
When his mother and older half sister had moved to Santa Fe, he realized that most of the friends must have been theirs because the apartment became so quiet and empty.
He liked the quiet. He practiced more often, tackled Brahms. They bought a television.
Maybe she’d be on the news. “Dad, let’s stay one more night.”
 
“Where? I’ve turned in the apartment keys.”
 
Border grinned. “Are we homeless?”
 
“No,” his father responded sternly. “We have a home waiting in Minnesota.”
 
The old man was willing to stay longer, just for breakfast. They both ordered big and ate it all. Border got seconds and coffee to go. Slipping on ice, he spilled half the cup before they were back in the car, then sloshed some on his pants as he set the cup on the dash. An ominous start, he said to his dad, who said nothing at all.
 
They reached the ramp onto the highway. Just before his father accelerated, Border looked back for a last glimpse of Albuquerque, his city. Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed green hair come out of an apartment building.
 
A shout lodged in his throat: Dana! But no, of course not. His sister hadn’t been in town for weeks and anyway, she was in South Carolina, visiting her father’s family.
 
The city was slipping away. Beyond the highway, a child playing alone in the early morning hurled wet sand across a playground. Great brown gobs soared and fell, then hit the ground, scattering on impact.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads


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