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The International Writers Magazine: Surprise Visit:

The Getaway
Martin Green

My wife Sally and I were pleasantly surprised when our youngest son Steve dropped in on us. It was a pleasant spring weekend.   He’d driven up from Sunnyvale, south of San Francisco, where he had an apartment, to the retirement community just outside of Sacramento where we’d moved a few years before.   In fact, we’d moved shortly after Steve had graduated from UC Berkeley and gotten his job as a computer engineer in Silicon Valley. 

We had two other sons, Jack and Ken. Jack, the oldest, was in Los Angeles, trying to be a screen writer.   As far as we knew, he was working as kind of a gofer for one of the studios. Ken, the middle son, was still, as he’d told us, trying to find himself.   At the moment, he had a temp job in Sacramento, which was at least better than being unemployed.    Steve had become interested in computers when he was ten years old. By the time he was in high school, he could put together a computer from scratch and write his own programs. After getting his degree in computer science he was immediately offered a job, with a $2,000 signing bonus. In the three years since then, he’d been promoted and had received nice raises. We were happy that we had one son who’d always known what he wanted and was doing very well at it.
 
Steve had arrived in the late afternoon.   Sally told him that if she’d known he was coming she’d have prepared one of the meals he liked, but she really didn’t have much in the house.   That’s all right, he assured her, he wanted to take us out to dinner.   Wasn’t there that French restaurant we liked nearby?    Before we left, I asked Steve if he’d talked to his grandparents, my mother and father, lately.   He hadn’t, no surprise there.   My parents lived in New York.   My father was approaching 90 and my mother 80.   They couldn’t travel to California any more;  I called them every weekend.    I went to the phone and my mother answered. I told her to put my father on the other phone and that her grandson Steve wanted to say hello to them. Steve talked to them for about 15 minutes.   I could imagine them telling all of their friends they’d had a nice conversation with their grandson in California, the computer genius. 
 
We were lucky in that the restaurant wasn’t too crowded that night.   We were seated at a nice table with a view of an open area with trees and a little creek.   Before we ordered, Steve said, “Don’t forget, this is my treat.   Go wild.”  
“All right,” I said.   I ordered the steak.   After the waiter left, I said, “Okay, what’s going on?”
“What do you mean?” asked Steve.
“You pop up here, then take us out to dinner.   Did you get a big promotion?   Are you planning to be married?”
 Steve laughed.   “No, nothing like that.   But I do have something to tell you.”
 I glanced at Sally.   “What?”  I asked.
“I’m planning to take a year off and go backpacking through Europe.”
The word “flabbergasted” best describes how I felt at this announcement.    “Why?”
 “Well, you asked if I was planning to be married.   I do have a girl friend, Alice, the one I told you about.   We’re pretty serious.”
“Then why are you going to Europe?”
  “Well, it’s my last chance for a getaway.  If we do get married, then we’ll buy a house, start a family, all of that, you know.”
 
Yes, I knew.   A house, a family, your life will be over.  
 
“Have you discussed this with Alice?”  asked Sally.
“Oh, sure.   She’s all for it.”
“How about your boss?” 
“I asked if I could have a leave of absence.   He said he couldn’t hold my job open but I’d have a pretty good chance of getting re-hired when I came back.”
 
A pretty good chance but no guarantee.   I grew up in the 1930’s.   Giving up a perfectly good job to go gallivanting around for a year was inconceivable to me.    “Can you afford to take a year off?’
 
“I saved up some money.   And I’ll be backpacking, staying at hostels, not at fancy hotels.   Don’t worry,  I’ll be okay.”
  “You say you’ll be backpacking.   Do you know exactly how you’ll get around and where you’ll be going?”   Since my retirement, Sally and I had been to Europe several times.   I tried to imagine Steve arriving in Paris at night, then wondering where to stay.
“Not really.   I haven’t done any research yet, but I’ll manage.” 
 I could see I was getting nowhere.   “Don’t you think you’ll be hurting your career?”
 He shrugged.   “I’m pretty burnt out, Dad,” he said.   “I need a break, a long break.”
 
The waiter brought our dinners.   My steak was very good, but I’d have  enjoyed it a lot more under different circumstances..
 
 
We talked some more about Steve’s plan through dinner, of course, and I thought of a few other good reasons for him not to throw up everything and go to Europe, but he was determined to go through with his plan.   When we returned to our house, he called one of his old Sacramento friends and told us he was going out to a club; we shouldn’t wait up for him.
 
Sally and I sat down in our living room chairs.   “Well?” I said.
“I can understand why he feels burnt out,” said Sally.   “He worked awfully hard getting through Berkeley, then he went to work right after and he hasn’t really had a break since then.”
I shook my head.   “I don’t understand it,” I said.   “What if he doesn’t get his job back?   Things are slowing down in Silicon Valley.”
“He’s always been resourceful.   Besides, I’ve been thinking, is what he wants to do any different than when you up and left New York when you were about his age and came out to California?”
“That was different.   I didn’t have a great job.   I couldn’t even afford to get my own place to live.”
“But your parents didn’t think going to California was such a great idea.”
 
No, they hadn’t.   I remembered my mother crying when I’d left for the airport.   I suppose that’s what parents were for, to be left behind by their kids.   At least Steve would be coming back to California.   He wouldn’t want to stay in Europe, would he?   No, not with his girl friend Alice waiting for him.
 
“I’m going to dig out all that stuff we have on Europe,” I said.   “If he’s going over there, he should know something about it.”
 
© Martin Green   July 2008
mgreensuncity@yahoo.com 

Office Tyrant
Martin Green
“Didn’t I say I wanted that report  today,” asked Blair, his deep voice soft but menacing.


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