The Wrong Side of the River
These sorrows make me old

I sat at the kitchen table staring at my math homework. I understood the whole X thing, but ever since we added in Ys and Zs my math homework might as well have been written in Greek. Wasn’t math supposed to be about numbers?
“Listen,” Dad shouted into his cell phone. “I’m sick and tired of all these delays. Why won’t that awful woman just back down?”
I knew “that awful woman” was Romy’s mom, and I imagined she had names for Dad too. Maybe that was why Romy…
No, it wasn’t.
She just wanted to be my friend.
Friends were cool.
Friends were okay.
I could do friends.
“Just do something!” Dad shouted. “I’m done waiting around for these people. We’ve got to find a way to push it forward.”
My phone buzzed and I pulled it out of my pocket.
Romy’s number and a message appeared on the screen. “I miss seeing you. Can we talk?”
I ignored the text and looked back at my math.
“Well,” Dad said. “Just get something done. I don’t care what anymore. Just find a way to do something.”
Then he clicked off the phone and rubbed his forehead.
I took one more look at the math, decided it was hopeless, and scooped up my papers and books, deciding it was probably a good idea to get out of there before Dad could turn his frustration on me.
I wasn’t fast enough.
“Hey Julian,” he said, just as I tucked all my things under my arm. “Sit for a minute, would you?”
Even though it sounded like a question, it wasn’t. He expected me to sit, so I sat, setting my books and papers back on the table.
“What would you think of a water slide?”
“A waterslide?”
“Yeah, to go with the pool at the park. You know, like a community pool.”
I sighed. “That would be fine.”
“Just fine? Wouldn’t a pool and waterslide be a nice addition to Montague? Maybe even a nice enough addition to make those Northsiders stop whining?”
I shrugged.
“We could argue that it would be way more cost effective to put a pool in a park Southside because of soil conditions. Theirs is so rocky, you know?”
I nodded, wondering how long I’d have to sit here.
“Yes! That’s the answer. It’s a solid argument for keeping the park Southside.” Dad’s face lit up as he spoke. “Don’t you think?”
“Sure,” I said, hoping this could be the end of it and I could go up to my room and work on Solo’s long double backflip.
“You know what we need to do?” Dad asked. “You need to start some rumors about a pool, so that the kids get excited about it and tell their parents to back down and let us have the park Southside. You could do that, right?”
I shook my head. “If I told people to do something it would just make them not want to do it.”
“That’s ridiculous. Of course it wouldn’t. I need you to do this for me Julian. This is a great plan, but it won’t work unless we have some help from the kids.”
The word “kids” was getting to me now. We were thirteen and therefore teenagers.
“Sorry, Dad, but this isn’t something I care about and even if I did I’m not the sort of guy who has influence at school.”
His nostrils flared.
“I’m disappointed in you, Julian. I thought you understood how important this is.”
Solo couldn’t do the double backflip. He landed on his backside on the second flip every single time, no matter what I did to help him.
My chest felt heavy.
I wished I could do something to make Dad happy. I wished I could do my stupid math homework. But most of all I wished I could talk to Romy again.
And that was the one wish I could do something about. I picked up my phone and dialed her number.

Keep Reading

Chapter 18

A plague o’ both your houses! Romy

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