Chapter 13

As I run home, I pass the gas station near my house. I see my mom pumping gas. She is talking to a guy at the other pump while he fills up his motorcycle. He is a big guy with long hair and tattoos. They seem to be having a good old time chatting it up. This is my mom in a nutshell; talking to anybody, anytime, in any place. I guess that’s a good thing, and I should be more like her. I’m trying. It isn’t easy to take interest in other people’s problems and stories, but for some reason she enjoys it. It’s like she gets energized by talking to people. My sister is a little like that but still a far cry from the master of small talk - my mother. I guess I’m more like my father? I hope not.

            Ferguson wrote a lot about communication and how it is the most important skill one could possess.

“… get used to expressing yourself, or others will do it for you. When you stay silent others can think up all kinds of wild stuff about you.”

I am guilty of this, as most people are. I admit it; I think that Manny Gomes is a complete jerk-off/bully; not to mention a stupid jock. He has some of those qualities, but deep down he probably has some good in him. Don’t we all? He could have beat me up when he had a chance in front of his driveway. Maybe I earned some respect from him by standing my ground. Some guys respect hard-asses.

            My activities at school have changed my life. I get home and have to somehow complete homework before I run out of gas. How does my sister do it? She’s a machine that plows through homework at night and still finds time to always have some kind of activity to go to. I guess she has a gift for seeing the big picture. My dad tells me to always look at the big picture. He says that you have to look beyond all the minor details and smoke screens that life presents and keep your eye on the prize. I don’t know how a kid like me is supposed to figure that out.

            I also have to work on my music playlist, because I might be allowed to do a lunch hour set in the near future. I am stoked about this. If I can pull this off, and people like it, I will get more chances. Dougie D. (aka, Doug Dalton) is the most popular kid on campus because he is the school’s best DJ. I happen to know him pretty well and he is a nice guy. He is not some phony, he’s also good at hoops. He’s a senior, so the radio station will need to replace him next year. I think that by the time I am a senior I can fill that role.

It’s around 10:30pm, and I’m still grinding away on some homework. I am working at the dining room table because my brother is sleeping. The last thing I want to do is wake him up and hear him play video games on his various devices. My dad has pulled himself out of his recliner. He does his usual move to the kitchen to search the fridge for sweets. He has been doing this for as long as I can remember. He sees me studying. I’m not sure if he is happy I am doing homework or concerned that I am not in bed. He looks like he came out of a coma. He grabs the milk and Oreo’s and sits down with me. He asks about my day and the race. I am surprised he even bothered. He is more interested in the race than my homework because, let’s face it, he rather hear about my triumphs than World War II.  He seems pleased that I finished the race without walking and/or throwing up. He nods his head and smirks. This is his way of being pleased for once. I’m just happy he asked at all.

            I ask him to tell me a story about him and Ferguson. He grumbles and moans as he dodges the question; it’s clear he doesn’t want to talk about it. Finally, I get mad and confront him. “Dammit dad, give me something.”

My eyes are tearing up. I don’t know if I am mad, sad or exhausted. He looks down and mumbles some gibberish under his breath. Then he begins talking without looking at me. He starts to tell me a story about a club that Ferguson started called ‘Save the Whales.’ I stop my dad before he gets too far into his yarn. I demand to hear a story about the both of them. He smirks and leans back in his chair. He throws another cookie in his mouth, takes a slug of milk, then looks up.

“Hmm, can I get back to you on that one?”

He isn’t taking me seriously. “No dad, I want to hear something you two did. Something crazy. I have the manifesto now, so I want to know.”

He looks down, squinting one eye like he always does. Then he nods his head. “Okay, here’s a story for you, but this stays between the both of us.” He clears his throat. “Some of the things we did I won’t tell you because I don’t want you doing them. It was a different time, and Ferguson was a very persuasive guy. It was hard to say no to him.”

            “What did you two do, rob a bank?”

            “Alright, alright, alright – I’ll tell you.”

My dad goes on to tell me the time they decided to cut school. My dad had never done that before, so he tried to back out. Ferguson had been driving for over a year by then, and recently bought a car by saving since the first day he got his license. He no longer had to drive the family station wagon, which he didn’t mind too much. He ended up buying this old sheriff’s car for $400. It was one of those old, long cars that he and his dad acquired at an auction. Ferguson’s dad thought he would be safer in that car rather than some hot rod or little foreign thing. His dad put a fifty-dollar paint job on so it didn’t look so obvious it was once a cop car.

Now he had a baby blue old cop car that could haul ass. It had a huge big block engine that had the ability with fast acceleration and this thing called a passing gear. The big problem with that car was the gas mileage. He was lucky if he was able to get ten miles to a gallon.

            The day they decided to cut, Ferguson let my dad know that he had a full tank of gas and they should go for a ride. Ferguson just wanted to hit the road. He turned north on Highway 101 playing his music loud with the windows rolled down. He just kept driving towards San Francisco. They went across the Golden Gate Bridge and he asked my dad if they should keep going. Ferguson really wanted to go to Sacramento to see the governor; calling it a school project. My dad wanted to see the sights in San Francisco. Ferguson looked at his fuel gauge and knew that going to Sacramento would use up all of his gas. They settled on sightseeing in San Francisco.

     They ended up on this beach and walked around checking out the Pacific Ocean and boats on the bay. It was a weekday, so there weren’t a lot of people around. It was the first time they had actually been on a beach in San Francisco. As they walked along the shore, a naked hippie couple ran into the water. The couple were only in the water for a minute, then came running out holding hands and laughing. It was the first time my dad saw naked people in public other than the men’s locker room.

            They kept walking, until they finally noticed a beach volleyball game being played in the distance. Ferguson wanted to go play, even though he sucked at sports. They got closer and noticed everybody was nude. They soon realized they were on a nude beach, even though there weren’t any special postings or warnings about naked people frolicking about. My dad wanted to leave because he thought it was some kind of cult thing going on. Ferguson asked the group of men and women if they could play. My dad was mad at Ferguson because he wanted to leave. Ferguson took off all his clothes and joined them. My dad realized he would be an odd ball just standing there and watching, the only one in clothes. He finally took off all his clothes and got into the game. They played nude volleyball on a school day.

            They left after a few games. They both agreed it was weird to be playing volleyball in sand with no clothes on.

They started to drive around the city for a while. They stopped at the famous Haight-Ashbury district and got out to walk the streets. The days of hippies were long gone.

They ended up at a musical instrument shop because Ferguson wanted to play electric guitar. My dad didn’t know Ferguson could play anything but he grabbed an expensive guitar and plugged it in to a big amplifier. He started playing the guitar, but then stopped and went over to the amp and turned the volume and control knobs to his liking. He plucked the strings and it made a distorted sound, like a heavy metal band. Even though customers begin to notice him, he just kept playing; not a care in the world. He continued to play not because it sounded good, because it was obnoxious. He turned it louder and louder, until it got the attention of the manager. He was playing so loud it made the amplifier feedback and whistle. Ferguson laughed while he continued to play. My dad was anxious to leave because the manager was yelling at him to stop. Ferguson was acting like he didn’t know what the guy was saying due to the amp volume. The manager stormed over to the amp and pulled out the cord and turned it off. He yanked the guitar out of Ferguson’s hands and told us to get the hell out of his shop. So much for a tribute to Jimi Hendrix with his rendition of Purple Haze.

            That’s the whole story; well, at least the parts that my dad wanted to tell me. He probably left out the part about smoking a doobie or knocking back a fifth of gin. He said he wanted to go to bed. Before he left for the bedroom, he told me that if I ever decide to do that stuff that I shouldn't tell him for at least twenty years. I ask him if he got in trouble for cutting and doing those things. He explained that it was a different time and you could get away with stuff like that. I am not too sure about that. If he only knew the crap that kids pull behind their parents back. And it’s not like there were no laws or rules back then. He finishes by telling me they wrote their own absent notes themselves. Just another day in the life of Ferguson Bogen. 

            My dad surprised me with that story. I can’t picture him playing naked volleyball in San Francisco on a school day; nor do I really want to. They probably got loaded on something to do that crazy stuff. The more and more I think about my life, I feel that I want to do spontaneous, crazy fun, things like that. I read that in Ferguson’s book that one can’t wait around for others to make something happen. My dad’s story is a good example of that. Dad wasn’t as brave and crazy as Ferguson, but he knew he should go along with him and enjoy the ride. 

             I tell dad right after his story that I tried to contact Ferguson’s mother. He gives me that ‘why would I do that?’ look. I ask him if he is interested in talking to her. He says nothing (which I hate). He gets up and walks away without giving me an answer. I’m not letting him and his bad attitude stop me. I'm going to talk to her tomorrow night.