Birds were singing when I awoke. It was a good morning. The car was going to be mine this day since my mother agreed to my driving myself to school. First I had to drive her to work and remember to pick her up in the afternoon. Easy peasy.
"Good morning!" I said sitting at the table. "Nice day."
"You're in a good mood," my mother said handing me the cereal box.
"Course I am. I'm driving the car to school today. Remember?"
"How could I forget."
After that I got the standard lecture on what a huge responsibility driving was. How I had to be vigilant of other drivers at all times. I shoveled soggy cereal in my moth nodding vigorously to each belabored point.
"Don't you roll your eyes at me. I don't have to let you do this you know."
"But, mom, you promised."
"Then take my words seriously," she said. Her stern face told me she was not kidding.
"Finish up there. If you're going to get me to work we need to leave soon."
The job was down town. In those days traffic was not so heavy. In about a half hour I had dropped her off at work and was heading back to the island. G--'s house was the first stop before heading to school.
"Good morning," I said as he closed the door.
"Mornin' to you," he said.
"Naah. I'll catch up in home room."
We both laughed at that.
The school was busy with buses rolling in and seniors driving up. The rumble of glass packed exhausts filled the air.
"When you gonna get some glass packs for the Bird?" G-- asked as the old Falcon's puny engine's sounds barely purred along.
"After my summer job. I found just what I wanted in Honest Charlie's catalogue. I figure after a cuple of weeks I should have the money. Wanna help put 'em on?"
"No, not really. It's amighty fine day today. Look at that sky."
"Yeah, a beautiful day," I said finding a space. "I got a test after lunch so I need to get to home room to study."
"Such a beautiful day," said G--. "I hear the beach calling us."
The days were warm and summer break was a few weeks away. The call of sand and surf and suds was distincly in the air.
We entered the school. Students lined the walls. The boys half encircled girls in hushed conversation. Giggles erupted often from the girls. Others leaned against, the wall papers in hand reciting for memory's sake the information therin. Groups of girls walked passed eyeing G-- who was taller and lankier that I was.
"Hey G--," we'd hear from the girls passing.
"How do you do it, man?" I asked. I was constantly perplexed by this.
"Just my charm, Rickey. Just my charm."
I shook my head and turned into my room. I stood for a minute looking around. My homeroom teacher looked up, smiled and said, "Good morning, Rickey."
"Good morning Mrs. Y--. Can you excuse me please?"
She looked at me as I walked out. Looking around I saw G-- and caught up with him.
"Sure is a pretty day."
"Sure is. Wonder if it's like this at Folly?"
"I'm bettin' so."
We detoured to other classrooms in search of our group. We never called ourselves a gang. Gang's were filled with delinquents switchblades in hand and attitude. We were simply friends whose only attitude was "where's the party?"
"It's a pretty day," we'd say when we located them. With that statement they would join us and we marched down the hall to the exit door. The bell rang at our leaving. Our separate cars roared to life. Well theirs roared to life mine, cranked to a low whine. My dad kept his cars in tiptop condition. To him a quiet engine was a well tuned engine. Three cars blubblubblubbed toward the street. I was putputting along behind them. With a right turn and a squeal of tires we were free and headed for Folly.
I remembered to pick my mother up after work and begged her to let me do the same the next day. She agreed.
The next day was another pretty day. We simply bypassed the school straight for the sand and surf.
The third day I was once again allowed to drive. This particular one we decided to meet at my place before heading out. Everyone was hungry so we fixed food. While we were eating the phone rang.
"Should I answer?" I asked around.
"You better," said G--. " Might be important."
Reluctantly I picked up the phone.
"Hello," I said hesitantly.
"Hello, may I speak to Mr. Croucher, please?" Busted. It was my guidance counselor at school.
"Uh, *cough, cough*, he isn't here, Mr. C--." I said in a weak thready voice.
"Is this you, Rickey?" said the voice on the other end.
Weakly coughing, I said, "Yessir."
"Are you alright? You don't sound so good." There was real concern in his voice as always. A truly dedicated man who was there for his students. "Will you be coming in tomorrow?"
What do I say? Do I tell the truth? He deserves the truth. He's a good man and deserves the truth, I thought.
"Yessir, I'm gonna try," I barely whispered.
"This will be the third day you've been out. I was worried about you."
The others were still as mice watching me on the phone.
He deserves the truth, I thought again. I opened my mouth and out came, "Yessir, I've been really sick these last couple of days. I was going to rest up today and try to come back tomorrow." I felt absolutely awful.
"Alright. Don't over do it now. Take your time. And tell your parents I called." His concern was real. His trust in my word was real. I lied again.
"Yessir, I will. Thank you so much for calling." I heard the click on the other end.
They all stared at me.
"What? I couldn't tell him the truth, could I?"
"We thought that was great!" they said and laughed. I joined in the laughter. It took the edge off the guilt.
"So, what's on the agenda today?" one of them asked.
"Folly Beach!" came the answer. I was silent. They looked at me.
"Well, let's go."
I stayed in my seat.
"You guys go. I think I'm gonna stay home and rest up."
"Rest up! You aren't sick," said G--.
"I know that. But I think I'll stick around. He might call back. I don't want to be gone if he does."
"It's a beautiful day. The beach is calling again."
"Yeah, but I don't hear the call so loud now. I think I'll stay."
"If that's what you want, then stay. Come on guys, sand and surf. Off we go."
They tumbled out the door and into their cars. The rumble of V-8's burst upon the air. They backed out, whipped around and left a streak of rubber along the street.
I sat at the table trying to decide if I should call Mr. C----. I took the easy way out. I took a nap. The next day I returned to school with the excuse I had written. I couldn't look Mr. C-- in the eye.