art by Jonathan Westbrook
Midnight at River's Edge
by Ron Collins
My dad stood in the doorway, holding his datapad in his hand. I sat cross-legged on the floor, guitar tucked under my arm, my fingertips burning against the strings.
"What's this?" he said, pointing to his e-mail.
"You failed your drug test."
I dropped my gaze. My time had finally run out.
"Do you want to be kicked out of school?"
"Come on, Dad. It was just a summer thing."
He was quiet for longer than I liked.
"Johnny," he finally said. "I'm paying too much for you to throw this away. It's your life, though. If you want to leave school and get a job, I'm behind you. But if that's what you want, you need to get your own apartment."
"Great," I said, then strummed a discordant D7 minor.
A century of silence later my dad left me alone.
"Dude, that sucks," Remy said when I told him. He sat back and pushed his Calculus pre-reading away. "Would he really throw your butt out of the house?"
"Yeah. He's got his limits."
"What are you gonna do?"
"Semester starts tomorrow."
"There's a freaking news flash."
"I'll take them off your hands if you want to dump them cheap." He smiled.
"You're a true-ass friend, Remy."
"Just trying to help, Dude."
Needing someone else to talk to, I went to Dr. Page's office. It was late, but he's a night person, so I wasn't surprised to see him there. He was bent over a rotating pottery wheel.
I cleared my throat to break his concentration.
"Johnny Rae," he said, cleaning his hands on the towel he had strung through belt loops on his jeans. "To what do I owe this visit?"
"Hi, Dr. Page. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure." He didn't turn off the wheel, but he came around and half-sat against a work bench. "How can I help?"
"I want to be an artist."
He smiled, and the crooked angle of his front tooth seemed to radiate joy. "Then be an artist."
"It's not that easy."
"Sure it is."
"But it's hard to make a living."
"That's something completely different."
"No, it's not," I said.
Dr. Page pursed his lips. Lines of clay bunched in the soft folds of his skin.
"What's this really about, Johnny?"
"My dad," I said, then stopped. "No. It's really about me. I failed my last drug test. My dad's worried I'm going to get kicked out of school. He wants me to be an engineer."
"Drugs are bad mojo, Johnny."