Chapter 4

At the breakfast table, Billy sat with his head in his hands, contemplating the pile of toast sitting before him. He wasn’t hungry. He’d told his mother that. But she insisted anyway.

“You need to eat something,” Doris Peterson admonished, as she nudged the plate towards him. They sat together in silence at the kitchen table while Billy tore his toast into small pieces and Doris pretended to read the Saturday newspaper. She paged idly through the weekly, knowing that her son would talk to her when he was ready, sensing he needed to make the first move.

She watched Billy as his facial expressions revealed his thoughts. It was obvious he was reliving the events of the past week again in his mind, each humiliating moment dancing before him in vivid Technicolor.

It all came down to the car, Billy concluded. He seemed to be the only one without one. Which was fine when you were hanging out with the whole gang. But when you wanted to go to the drive-in with a girl, have some time alone, it was best to have your own wheels.

The problem was, he just couldn’t find one he could afford and, more importantly, one he wouldn’t be embarrassed to pick up a girl in. Which is why he’d been working at Miller’s grocery store, restocking shelves after school every night and every day this summer. He’d been socking away money every week and he had quite a nest egg now.

His fantasy—which he played out every night before falling asleep—was to cruise up to a girl’s house (it was always Susan’s) and idle at the end of the walk. She would rush out, her skirt flouncing around her, hair pinned high atop her head. He’d have his arm casually slung over the seat of the car, with a surly James Dean look about him and she would swoon all over him.

Doris glanced up, catching Billy’s wistful smile. As she was about to turn the page, a notice in the classifieds caught her eye. Reading through the ad, she smiled quietly to herself. Carefully folding the newspaper to reveal the small square of print, she turned it around so that Billy could read it, pushed it a little forward then stood up to leave. Walking around the table she ran a hand across Billy’s shoulder. “It will get better, son,” she murmured, and left him alone in the kitchen.

He sighed and pushed the plate of toast away, glancing up at the kitchen clock. He had thirty minutes or so before he had to leave for work. Pulling the discarded newspaper towards him, he began to unfold it when the carefully folded square came into focus. He read through it—twice—blinking several times to be sure he was reading it correctly. Then, shouting a quick farewell to his mother, he jumped on his bicycle and rode to work.

Doris allowed herself a satisfied grin. She didn’t think he’d continue moping for long.

The End

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