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Ezra Chapter 11: With Boots On

October 17, 2013

Chapter 11: With Boots On

The rest of that Sunday passed with a predictable off-rhythm. Visiting my dad hurt; I loved everything about him, and I hated leaving him. There was one consolation: Mom took us shopping for toys, and I got to buy a new R/C rock climber. For the uninitiated, that’s a remote control truck with a high carriage, oversized wheels, and independent suspension. None of the stupid crap Mom buys, thinking it’s good enough but always being wrong. I just asked her one time, when we were talking about it.

“Mom, would you buy a car made of the cheapest parts from a country that doesn’t make cars? Like the Yugo?”

“How do you know about Yugos?”

“Mom,” I said with barely concealed disbelief. ”Cars II?”

“Right, dumb parent.”

“Well Chinese R/C trucks are Yugos. Take whatever money you would have spent on it, and I’ll match it, and we’ll get something I can take out to FairmountPark.”

She actually bought this idea! Now I got a nice Delta A/C R/C that could go over rocks and climb uneven terrain. I even promised Ru that she could play with it if she asked me first. She got Beywheels, which are like the metal tops that are launched very fast from a serrated rip cord but have rubber bumpers instead of metal alloy fusion wheels.

I’m happy that Ru is playing with my toys, even though I don’t let on. We can play together, I love Ru, even if she gets me in trouble on purpose sometimes.  But she dislikes golf, I dislike the falling down and getting bruised part of ice skating, and there is no way I cam make my body do anything in the same gym with a kid a third of my weight who can do a spinning dismount from uneven parallel bars at age 5. It’s almost like we’re four families, an Ezra family and a Ruchama family at each parent’s house. Mom doesn’t allow me to use the computer unsupervised because she thinks I’ll talk to Aba, so if Ru couldn’t play above age level every now and then, it could be really boring around my mom’s house.

It was a chilly November day, so we put on our light gloves and took the RC truck back to the half-pipe our former tenants had built as much for themselves as for me. Brandon couldn’t have been less like Branden the bully if his name were Hikaru. Brandon was a gentle man, who made himself useful to people all around him, including my mom, my sister, and me.

Ru and I walked back to the back yard, and I drove the new supertruck out over the rough, rain-soaked ground. It moved slowly, but successfully> I guided it onto the half-pipe, where it performed just as I had imagined. Ruchama started whining about my promise, bugging me for her turn on the controls until I had managed to complete the half-pipe, to turn the truck around, and come flying back. As the truck moved faster and faster, it slid up the curved wooden ramp. The engine is overcoming gravity! Cool!

I thought about a demonstration Mr. Gillum made about centrifugal force. He took a tennis ball, tied it in a string nest so it wouldn’t fly out, and stood in front of the class and spun the ball around him. I think he said that the string was like gravity and the ball would fly out straight at a right angle to the string if the nest came undone. I reversed the direction of the truck again, and then the fourth time, Ruchama yelled, “EZRA!” I got it.

“Your turn,” I replied, and handed the control over to Ru.

I resisted the urge to help her with the controls. Instead, I focused on the truck, my new acquisition, my pride and joy. The designers did a good job with the details. They remembered the cowl on the cab; instead of a glued-on plastic afterthought that would break with the first roll-over, this one was hinged, and could be raised or lowered. It was painted a shiny jet-black, and when Ruchama got the truck turned around to face us, the sun glinted off it.

The grille work was the truck’s weakness. Very nicely painted, but plastic. I had to decide that the truck would still make me happy if the grille, the hubcaps, and the bumpers got damaged or broken off. I decided that I could live with the damage that would come with the rollovers and spinouts that I knew were in its future. A big selling point for me was that the doors opened, so we could put little toys in the cab as drivers and passengers. Where truckers paint silhouettes on the doors and the hood, the manufacturers painted lightning bolts with curves.

The bay was undersized, reminding me of pickup trucks that still clattered around the roads in Guatemala City when we went to bring Ruchama home. But I really focused my attention on the tires, and the way they bounced independently on the places on the ramp where the wood has started to warp. Ruchama didn’t have my touch on the controls. So when she struggled to execute the turns at the end of the track, I could see the truck doing most of the work. Four wheels on the wood as all times. No flip-overs, even in the hands of a five-year-old child, This was going to be fun. I can’t wait for Aba’s weekend, when we might go all the way out to French Creek to let the truck take on a tough trail, or at least up to FortWashington to go up and down some pretty steep hills.

Ouch. I remembered, I was only going to see Aba for two hours with all the other men who wore a “B” on one butt cheek, and a “D” on the other. Branded by the court. Bad Dad. They didn’t look that bad to me earlier that day. One dad changed his little boy’s diapers in less time than it took Aba to beat me in Connect Four. Another read to his boy and girl so expressively that all the kids on his side of the room grabbed their own dads and formed an impromptu story circle. Five or six dads went happily. They took turns telling stories. These were not the people Mom told us to protect ourselves against. But their kids don’t get to play with their R/C trucks, or go hiking, or fishing, or play football from any continent.

I talked about the truck during dinner. I took my homework up to my room and did a model for distributing emergency supplies for a hurricane disaster area.  Mr. Gillum had pulled some information on disaster preparedness from a FEMA website the past week. Mom had bought a map of New Jersey which I glued onto poster board.  On it, I marked the path of Hurricane Sandy, and plotted the most likely places to put emergency relief supplies where they would be safe, but would be close enough to get to the possible disaster areas in a hurry. This was so interesting that I stayed up until 11 to finish it, just using my desk light, with a blanket under the door to block the light just in case my mom walked by.

Remembering my plan at last, I changed into my monster truck flannel pajamas, but I put my hiking boots on without socks. If I fell off my boat, I figured that my boots would dry during my dream. The socks would probably make me uncomfortable, and might make me wake up early.

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