Mama, now I'm coming home
I'm not all you wished of me…
Red Valley, Texas. This was where he was born, this was where he returning to. Ethan Miles was not really fond of returning home, it was a glue of sorts, keeping people inside, fossilizing great talents. Ethan, however, was forced to return mere days after his graduation. His mother had passed away; her burial was to take place the day after he returned.
Feeling the deep sting of loss, Ethan wondered if Red Valley would again try to keep him stuck to its ancient ways. Having spent four years in San Francisco, Ethan was more than ready to take on the world. He had been wondering about applying to many different places.
As he slowly drove the old, beat up pickup truck down the barren Texan road, all he could see for miles was the desert stretching on. In the distance, mesas were visible, jutting up like walls surrounding the desert valley. This was Red Valley for you, a landlocked desert surrounded by mesas like the walls of a castle.
Sighing, Ethan took his eyes off the rocky outcrops, instead focusing on the empty road ahead. Taking the road off Interstate 20 Service Road, called the Shaw Road, one comes up to crossroads. The road not taken led to Red Valley, a small town in the middle of literal nowhere. The town barely had a population of just over a thousand, with most resident families aware of, if not friends with, the other families around them.
In this town, news spread fast, like the time the local barber's daughter had run off to elope with her boyfriend even before reaching the age of twenty. Ethan also remembered the time the son of local tanner had gone to join the army. The town had celebrated their first brave man in years for weeks; he was the hero on the neighborhood for months.
Shaking these thoughts out of his head, Ethan pushed his foot on the gas pedal a little harder, willing the car to go faster and slower at the same time. He wanted to be out of this hot desert road that he and his old high school chums had inhabited so many times and yet at the same time, he didn't want to reach home.
Getting entranced by the rhythmic passing of the electric poles along the road, Ethan wondered how his town would've changed in the four years. It was a universal truth, you could stay in a place for years and nothing changed and when you left even for just a day, shops would have changed signs, old Robinson by the water tank would've passed away and the local park would've shut down for good.
Perhaps it was true what his brother had said, you saw things with fresh eyes when you returned home after a long trip. Ethan wondered if four years were enough time to change this town that seemed so permanently frozen in time.
A gas station came into view, still a good distance away from him but the plain, unobstructed lands going on for miles hid nothing in its bosom. Ethan checked his gas meter, wondering if he had enough to make the remaining three miles of trip to the town.
Shrugging, he decided to fill up on gas anyway, he could grab something to eat and drink too. His stomach rumbled at the thought of food. Perhaps his mother would've some nice dish ready for her son returning home, and then the realization hit him all over again…
He had lost his mother. He would never hear her calming voice again. He would never see her face, beaming at him.
Lightly shaking these thoughts out of his mind, Ethan sped his red truck a little, hoping the gas station would come quick. As the station came close, Ethan slowed down and drove up the ramp, parking his truck in front of the gas machine.
He realized he had to go and pay inside, giving him more reason to go and get something to fill his empty belly with. As Ethan filled his truck up and then walked over to the building to pay, he realized where he was.
It was old Carrey's gas station. The man had always been kind to Ethan, forever immortalizing himself in his memories. Ethan wondered if Carrey was still around. He used to man the counters.
Entering the gas station answered his question with a negative. Behind the counter stood an unfamiliar young girl, younger than Ethan. As Ethan bought his stuff and paid for the gas, edibles and condiments, he couldn't help but ask…
"Hey, old Carrey used to be here, where is he?" Ethan asked. The girl observed him for a second and then spoke…
"Mr. Carrey is sick these days so he hired me to work on the counter. Say, how'd you know about this place? I say I've never seen you around here before…" The girl spoke, scanning Ethan top to bottom. He couldn't help but feel a little offended.
"I was born here, went west for studies. I've returned after a while" Ethan replied, pushing his memory hard to remember any little child that could possibly be fifteen now. There was Timmy, but he was not a girl. Then there was…
"Are you by any chance Brenda's sister?" Ethan asked, remembering his feisty old girlfriend from high school. The girl looked surprised for a second…
"Yeah, I'm Tori. How'd you know?" The girl, Tori, asked. He could see it now, similar blonde hair, same chalk white skin; she was through and through her sister's copy.
"Not many kids in Red Valley when I was around. Besides, Brenda and I went to school together." Ethan replied, scooping up his stuff in his arms and left the building, intentionally leaving out the fact that he dated her sister.
With this little exchange, Ethan walked out of the gas station and went to sit inside his truck, enjoying the cool air filtering in through the air conditioner. He took a gulp of his drink, enjoying the sharp taste of the fizzy drink.
Once again, Ethan was back on the road, the truck roaring as asphalt crunched underneath her tires. The truck was named Red Fast. That awkward name was not his doing; it was his little cousin's devilry. Bradford was a cute little thing. He had cutely called out the thing's name when Ethan's father had presented the truck to him as a gift for getting into his dream university.
Smiling softly at the memory, Ethan raced his truck forward. A rusty, crumbling metal sign passed him by, informing that Red Valley was just a mile down now. Still, there were no signs of the little town on the horizon. Ethan just shrugged, turning his music player up. As the coarse but soothing music floated through the air, Ethan couldn't help but reflect back to his high school years.
He wasn't proud of the last few months, having embroiled himself in bad company. There was the jerk Ash, then there was this weird kid from some high class family, King Olson, then there was Talib, some foreign kid who had a habit of picking fights.
Ash had always been a jerk. He bullied kids for fun. Vandalism, picking fights and causing a ruckus. It was as if he considered all of these things his sacred duty. King Olson had a groovy way of psychologically bullying kids with mind games. He'd impress his wealth and coolness onto the poor victims and make them out to be stupid. As for Talib, he simply picked fights and bullied people smaller than him. All in all, they were total scoundrels.
At the time, these three were the coolest kids for him, yet now he clearly saw his own gullibility and shook his head at it, wondering how many times he had left his parents worrying, going out to cause ruckus with these guys.
His brother and old friends had tried many times to bring him to the right path but Ethan realized, once a person goes down the wrong side of the track without knowing it, it becomes impossible to bring them back.
Ethan felt lucky that he hadn't given up his opportunity to go to a better place in favor of staying with these guys or else he would be bumming around Red Valley, overdosed on cocaine somewhere.
By now, the quaint little town was finally coming into view. As Ethan drove into town, the pedestrians looked up to see this unfamiliar new truck in place. Some residents who knew of Ethan pointed him out for their companions.
All through this, Ethan couldn't help but wonder how people would perceive the new and improved Ethan Miles…
Stopping in front of the familiar little white house, Ethan felt a rush of nostalgic remembrances, of bittersweet memories and the memories that gave him many a great life lessons. Ethan slowly pulled into the driveway, lightly chuckling at the beat up junker Camaro in the driveway. The black 60s Camaro belonged to Charlie, meaning he still hadn't left Red Valley or their parent's home for that matter.
As he got out his truck, taking his bags out of the passenger seat, the aforementioned youth came out. Charlie had grown out a bit, if that was possible. The twenty eight year old boy now had a tiny moustache and wore stereotypical cowboy hat and clothing…
"Heya bro, long time no see!" Charlie said, grabbing his younger brother in a crushing bear hug.
"Yeah, I'm happy to see you too. So, how's it going?" Ethan asked, once Charlie had let him go and the breath had returned to him, impossible as it were after that hug.
"Ah, you know, the usual! Had some hunts around the pass, some new peeps around and I found a job too!" Charlie excitedly told him, smiling from ear to ear.
"That's great, so what's the job?" Ethan asked, feeling more excited for his brother then he felt he could ever express. It was so good to see his elder brother so happy, despite the sad event of the recent days.
"I'm a deputy of the town sheriff now, got the sirens going these days!" Charlie replied. Ethan couldn't help but notice the slight Texan accent that crept into Charlie's words. These areas were affecting him more than he realized.
"Great! Keep the boys here on the straight line man!" Ethan excitedly said, lightly punching his brother on the arm as the latter grabbed his stuff and brought it inside. Once inside, Ethan fell down on the couch and let out a long sigh…
"Man, I missed this couch…" Ethan said, contently.
"What, got no couches up in brainy town?" Charlie asked smiling, the southern drawl now clearly noticeable.
"Nah, it's not that. It's just that no couch can beat this one." Ethan replied, opening one eye to look at Charlie as the latter dropped in down beside him.
"Boys, are you there?" A familiar voice attracted their attention as the familiar old but toned figure of their father came down the stairs behind them.
"Dad, it's so good to see you!" Ethan practically shouted, catching his father in the same bear hug that his brother had caught Ethan in.
"Easy there kiddo, I'm not young you know, my bones hurt now!" Ethan's father replied, chuckling, once Ethan had let him go.
"Dad, four years don't make a difference!" Ethan replied with a laugh.
"They do when you are fifty three." Their father replied. He reached up and rubbed Ethan's head. The latter had proven to be the tallest member in their family, standing at a good 6'0". Turning to Charlie, his father said…
"Son, get the barbeque going, I'll round up the rest."
By the time Ethan's welcome party officially got underway, a quite somber and silent event to honor the passing of his mother, their extended family was here. There was Bradford and Nestor, both brothers running around happily. Their parents sat with Hector, talking about the going on of the town.
Ethan stood with Charlie, helping him prepare the patties for cooking, as much as Charlie tried to get him to sit down as Ethan was the party boy. Ethan and Charlie shared their anecdotes of the past four years…
"So there I am, holding the ball in my hands and Ron's telling me to throw it to him, over like five players. I mean, I have a clear shot at the touchdown and he doesn't" Ethan said with exaggerated movements, waving his patty holding hand round. This elicited laughter from Charlie.
"That reminds me of the time my friend and I couldn't decide who would move the car to get a person out. See, we stopped by the side of an immobile car that just sat there. So, we go around and see that a man is stuck under it. He was so fat he couldn't get out. Jerry and I had to play rock, paper, scissors to see who would move the car. In the end, we both ended up lifting the car since the wheels would just crush the man." Charlie said, eliciting another round of laughter.
"So, Charlie, do you do those wild animal hunts they show you in movies? I mean, the hunts that deputies go on to remove animal threats to towns?" Ethan said, wondering if the movies held a shred of truth, which he was sure they didn't.
"Nah man, being a deputy is all about boring reports and patrolling the streets…" Charlie said in a bored tone, flipping a patty.
"But you get that cool cruiser." Ethan added.
"But we get that cool cruiser!" Charlie confirmed, squeezing the patty and enjoying the sizzling sounds it made, "Man, it's good to have you back…"
Ethan wondered at that. Was he truly back? Would he stay? After all, when he was in high school, all he wanted to do was escape Red Valley and never return. University had provided him the opportunity to fulfill his dream…
"Sure…" Ethan shortly replied, intentionally keeping it vague.
"Now, about that hunt! Me and a few boys gonna go on a hunt every few weeks, wanna join? Hey wait, get it, gonna go on a. That rhymes, I could be a singer. A country singer!" Charlie joked, waving the spatula around and holding it like a microphone. Ethan couldn't help but smile.
"Yeah sure buddy, it'll be fun." Ethan replied, looking around the party. Bradford and Nestor played around the lawn. Ethan remembered all the times Charlie, Bradford, Nestor, Audrey, Madeleine and himself would play around the town. That reminded him…
"So, how has the town changed?" Ethan asked, wondering what had changed.
"Oh man, a lot has changed. Remember Madeleine, your friend? She went on a tour with her garage band, they say they're trying to make it serious now, gonna go all the way." Charlie said, biting an especially burnt patty before spitting it out, "Man that tasted like shit…"
"Oooh, college boy still remembers his old crushy wushy!" Charlie quipped, his slight southern drawl making the words all the weirder.
"Come on man, can't I even ask about old friends?" Ethan asked, laughing and shaking his head.
"Yeah well, remember she was a bigger egghead than you. She went to some fancy university called Harvard." Charlie replied.
"I know where she went; I wanna know where she is now." Ethan chipped in.
"Easy there lover boy, I'm getting there. She's here for a few days before she leaves for work, says she got a job at some research facility far east, in D.C. I think." Charlie replied, taking a lesser burnt patty and biting into it. Ethan couldn't help but wonder if Charlie would ever get rid of his gluttonous ways.
"So, you meet her often?" Ethan asked, hoping he could tag along and meet Audrey too.
"What? No, I mean, I'm always stuck with my job. I rarely get to meet people anymore; the deputy job is sucking me dry!" Charlie drawled, taking another bite from the patty. Ethan reached down and fixed himself a burger with a patty Charlie had cooked.
"So, what are you going to do now bro? Now that you are free, I mean." Charlie asked him, fixing up another burger and handing it over to Hector, their father, who had wandered around. The old man stayed to listen to what Ethan had to say…
"I don't know man, Texas doesn't really have any jobs for an architect like me, I think I'll try to get a job back in San Francisco or maybe try L.A." Ethan replied before taking a large bite of his burger.
"Oh come on man, stay here. I mean, Red Valley has everything, right? Hell, you could sign up for a deputy job too, or if egghead jobs suit you, you could get a job at the town hall." Charlie said, taking a large bite of his burger. Ethan just shook his head, mouth too full to reply.
"Come on Charlie, the boy's got ambitions. It's good that he's applying himself so much." Their father replied, putting mustard and ketchup on his burger, "Mustard? Ketchup?" The old man asked, offering it to Ethan and Charlie. The former just shook his head while Charlie slathered his burger with both. As Hector walked away, Charlie turned to Ethan and continued…
"Oh well, I thought it'd be fun if you were here." Charlie said, a little down.
"Charlie, the world outside is even more fun! How about you apply to the San Francisco or L.A. police, then we could be together." Ethan said hopefully, watching Bradford throw a ball at Nestor who caught it.
"What? NO! Texas is for life man." Charlie replied, taking a bite of his burger.
"Oh well, you are missing so much." Ethan said, feeling it getting hot, "Man, I don't remember it being this hot."
"Nah, you're just used to San Francisco weather." Charlie said, taking a bite of his burger.
"Maybe." Ethan replied, finishing off his burger with one final bite. As he chewed, he wondered if he really had changed so much that he forgot the Texan weather…
Sitting on the couch in the lounge of their house felt familiar, yet so forgotten. There were times when Ethan would sit at this couch, working on his homework as his elder brother helped him with his work. Times had changed so quickly, here he sat, looking on ahead at the uncertain future.
One thing was certain; he didn't quite see himself staying in Red Valley. It was the last place he would want to be in. To him, there were far more ways he'd rather go out than to ever stay in this dead end place.
Strengthening his resolve and hoping that his disinterest in this place wouldn't stop him from enjoying the little town, Ethan went out to his truck, intending on driving around for nostalgic purposes. The blood red truck stood proudly in the driveway, attracting the attention of the many neighbors who recognized the truck.
Just as Ethan was about to get in the truck, his eyes fell on his neighbor across the road. Arthus Wayne had always been a gentle soul, being the only one in Red Valley to have travelled the world. His work took him around, being an archeologist. Ethan waved at the old man, the latter waved back with a pleasant smile. There was a good reason Ethan was extremely close to the old man and his step daughter.
They were the sweetest people Ethan had ever known. Sure, Madeleine was quite the rebellious punk but in the end, she had more of Arthur Wayne in her soul than the miscreant ways of her biological father, Garret Watson.
Shaking the thoughts away, Ethan got into his truck and revved it to life, roaring out of the driveway. Everywhere he went, the people looked up to muse at the new sight in town. Sure Ethan had been one of the more famous teens around but four years were enough to fade him from their memories, probably.
The Fresh World Market in town, just three streets down from their Baker Street, had been quite the teen hangout. Its parking lot offered a lot of places to park their cars and form up circles, occasionally wandering to the other side of the street, to the milkshake bar to get a drink or something light to eat.
Ethan could see that little aspect of Fresh World Market hadn't changed. As the sun was starting to bank lower and lower now, work shifts were over, giving youngsters the opportunity to get loose and hang out with their crowds.
As Ethan pulled into the Fresh World Market parking lot, a lot of teens looked over to his car, letting out low whistles and admiring the pickup. Ethan got out, careless of all the looks he got. There was a time when these weird social standards like having cars and whatnot mattered. Today, life was life and no extra stresses could ruin it. He walked into the Fresh World Market, intent on grabbing another snack. Welp, he was getting as gluttonous as Charlie.
As Ethan walked into the building, hearing the familiar jingle of the bell, Ethan's eyes fell on the counter. Again, another unfamiliar youth manned the counter. In Ethan's time, a kid from his school manned counter. Lester, that was his name right? Was it so wrong that he was uninterested in his past here?
Shaking these thoughts off, Ethan walked to the snack aisle and started sifting through the variety-less offerings of snacks, wondering to what degree of awful tasting he was in the mood for. As he picked out a somewhat less stomach destroying snack, he heard a familiar voice…
"Do my eyes lie to me?" The familiar, and distasteful, voice of Ash came to his ears. Erasing the slightly angry look from his face, Ethan turned around and smiled a fake smile at Ash…
"I hope not." Ethan politely said.
"Ooh, cold! Is that anyway to meet your old friend?" Ash asked exaggeratedly, putting a hand on his chest for added effect. Ethan felt like he could just walk away right then and there at the word 'friend'. Instead, he channeled all the negative energy in leisurely walking to the counter, as if inviting Ash to come with him.
"So, what's up these days, Ash?" Ethan asked nonchalantly, trying to keep calm. There was a small line at the counter, just two other people.
"Oh, not much. Me and the gang kind of watered down when you left for that bigwig jack hole of yours…" Ash said, sounding a little angry. Ethan couldn't see what was so wrong about going out to fix his future…
"So, no vandalism or juvenile activities?" Ethan asked, gritting his teeth. The line moved ahead.
"Nah, we still break stuff and paint our tag if that's what you mean. Besides bigwig boy, leave your politic talk back in Francisco, you are now in Texas and we don't like your bigwig words here." Ash airily said, notching Ethan's anger up a mile. However, the latter just kept calm, coming up to the cashier and paying for his snack.
As Ethan opened up the bag and ate the slightly stale snack, Ash took some chips from the bag. Ethan wondered how he ever put up with this jerk. He drew up a blank; there was not much he could say in favor of Ash.
"Okay Ash, it was nice meeting you but I have to go now…" Ethan said cautiously, trying to subtly shake the other off without pissing him…
"What, I'm not good enough for you?" Ash said, getting slightly defensive.
"It's not that. I just…" Ethan tried saying but Ash cut in…
"Come on man, we are buddies, right? How about you hang around for a while, like old times…" Ash said as if the whole thing was normal. Ethan couldn't help but feel angry at that.
"Ash, I don't want to offend you but I have to meet up with someone else…" Ethan said, getting ready for a little verbal fight. By now, they were at the car. As Ethan opened the door, Ash walked over to the passenger side, speaking…
"Come on, I'm not good enough? You know what, forget that slop, whoever you were gonna meet, you and I should hang out with the crew right now, like old times." Ash said, getting into the car. Ethan sighed and entered the car, revving it up.
He had to put up with Ash and his morons now…
Note: Not being a Texan, I have no idea about how the state works so if I make some mistake, please do correct me. I am going off on what I have heard or read about Texas. I will, however, try to research Texas as much as possible so I can deliver a perfect rendition of Texas, free of stereotypes and joke-worthy stupidity.
As for the city itself, you may have guessed it already, it is fictional. However, I'm pretty sure Texas does have some deserts, so I tried looking them up on Google Maps. I think I found some deserts, around Interstate 20. Again, if I am wrong, correct me and forgive me for the mistake. If you are adamant on being geographically correct, you can move Red Valley to near Dallas or around Colorado, or some other desert/mesa place.