“Ugh. Not more of this love shit,” Oliver whined. “First we had to deal with Calvin wanting to write the name Stacey into every song we make, and now we have Brooks reading. READING!”
“For the first time in my life, I agree with my brother,” Rudolph said.
Oliver thanked him by giving him a wet willy.
“God! I take it back. You’re disgusting.”
I went back to ignoring them. It was interesting to see where Maggie put her tabs, and if any of mine overlapped them. I loved discovering the parts that made her laugh and cry, the parts that made her angry and happy. It was the best feeling.
“So, my dad was thinking of getting rid of his boat,” Calvin said. “He wants to sell it in a few weeks, and wanted to see if we want to have a farewell dudes’ trip and go fishing before we all head off to college in the fall.”
“He’s selling the boat?” I choked out, looking up from the book. “But, that’s like…our boat.” We’d spent so much of our youth sitting out on the lake. I knew we hadn’t done it in years, but the idea of Mr. Riley selling it made me pretty sad.
“Is this the same boat you two chicks are always reminiscing about?” Rudolph asked.
“The same boat you wrote a song about?” Oliver jumped in.
“Yup. That’s the boat.”
“Well, hell. I’m in. If this boat had the power to make Brooks stop reading, then it must be something worth experiencing.” Oliver tossed his apple cores into the trash can, and Rudolph rushed over, picking up the cores with a paper towel and putting them into a paper bag.
I cocked an eyebrow at my weird friend, and he shrugged. “What? I’m helping my mom make a compost in our backyard. Apple cores are primetime for it. Anyway, if we can get organic fruit and I don’t have to physically harm a fish, then count me in.”
“The apple you ate isn’t organic, brother. Mom told me not to tell you—which is why I’m telling you.” Oliver smirked as Rudolph’s face turned red.
It was mere minutes before they started hollering again.
So I went back to reading my book.
A few weeks later, Mr. Riley took the guys, including my dad and my brother, Jamie, out on the boat for one last ride. It was the perfect day. We ate a crap ton of junk food—except Rudolph, who brought organic grapes and homemade organic banana bread he’d made with his mom. Surprisingly, when he offered it around, everyone chose chips instead.
“You’re missing out on the huge health benefits of flax seed and chia seed, but okay, by all means, eat your genetically modified corn chips,” Rudolph said.
Oliver took a handful of Fritos and shoved them into his mouth. “Don’t mind if I do.”
We sat out there for hours, talking about our future and how even with college approaching, we were still going to keep band practice as a priority in our lives. Just because we were going to school didn’t mean the dream had to die; it simply meant the dream had to shift a bit with the changes of life.
“Brooks, can you grab me a beer from under the deck?” Mr. Riley asked from across the boat.
I hopped up and did as he said. “Here you go, Mr. R.”
He thanked me and then invited me to sit next to him. I sat.
He opened his beer and took a few sips. “So you and Maggie, huh?”
I swallowed hard, knowing that it was about to happen—the girlfriend’s father conversation. “Yes, sir.” Sir? In all my years of knowing Mr. Riley, I’d never called him sir. Heck, I’d never called any person sir.
He pulled in his fishing line and then cast it farther out into the water. “I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, if I’m honest. Maggie’s my little girl. She’s always going to be my little girl.”
“I get that completely.”
“And Maggie is unlike other girls, so you can understand my reluctance on the subject of her being in a relationship. I’ve actually gone back and forth on the subject with Katie. Part of me was going to come out here on the boat today and ask you to break things off with her—because of Katie. She truly thinks it’s an awful idea.”
How could I reply to that? Knowing Maggie’s own mother didn’t support our relationship felt like a punch in the gut, but before I could reply, Mr. Riley spoke again.
“But as I was getting my fishing rods from the upstairs storage closet, I heard you two. What I mean is, I heard her. She laughs with you. She actually laughs out loud, and I can’t for the life of me think of the last time I heard that sound from her. So, as long as you keep my little girl laughing, you’ll have my blessing.”
I swallowed hard. “Thank you, sir.”
“No problem.” He chugged the rest of his beer. “But the moment she stops laughing with you, we’re going to have a serious talk. If you ever hurt my daughter”—he looked me dead in the eyes and crushed the can in his hand—“well, let’s just say, don’t hurt my daughter.”
My eyes widened with fear. “I won’t hurt her, and you were right about what you said—Maggie’s not like other girls.”
He released the threatening stare from his eyes, and his old happy-go-lucky smile was back. He patted me on the back. “Now go have a good time.”
“Call me sir one more time and we’ll have to have another talk that won’t have such a happy ending.”
After the boating trip, Calvin and I convinced Mr. Riley to let us come with him when it was time to sell old faithful. We pulled up to the coastline, where James’ Boat Shop was located right off of Harper Lake. Even though it was the same lake that we fished on, it was still a good twenty-minute drive around the coast, seeing how the lake was that large. James’ Boat Shop had a big wooden sign out front that read: We buy, sell, rent, and trade.
On the front porch was a dog that barked and barked as the three of us walked up the steps to meet up with James.
“You’re a loud pup, huh?” Mr. Riley smiled at the dog who still howled, but wagged his tail.
The screen door opened, and a tall, buff man stepped outside, wearing jeans and a shirt that looked too small. “Quiet, Wilson! Shh!” The man smiled at us. “Don’t mind Wilson, he’s all bark and no bite. I’ve been trying everything to get that mutt to shut up for the past eight years, but I haven’t had any luck.”