He knew exactly where he was, this Dub, as he gave his name. Nautilus. He wore the virtual continent like a crown from his position. He told me so in no uncertain terms. “My parents are *dead*.” I knew I was dealing with a jokester and his parents were probably inside the terminal, perhaps starting to look for him even now. Most likely they had an argument, a disagreement, maybe over the inability for the stubborn boy to get sweets or a soda just before a flight. He wasn’t going to come down from his perch on the barrel pallet anytime soon. I’d figured that out as well.
Oh look, there’s Mr. Piper again, making yet another one of those mysterious calls in an even more secluded spot now. Dub, as he put it, is not his kid. That would be Cory and Eckert inside, and also I suppose Austin in a way, since he hangs around the others so much. But Austin properly lives just up the street with his actual mom and dad, Dr. and Mrs. Arnold Read, in a two story brownstone. We haven’t met him yet in our story. Or have we?
I returned to the boy. “Come on back inside, Austin,” I tried with some confidence. “Your parents are getting worried.”
“Dad?” he exclaimed. “He’s right over there. Behind that truck making another one of those mysterious calls he does.” He shakes his head with this but doesn’t explain. He’s hiding something. I’d now figured out his dad requested he follow him outside in order to keep an eye out on him. And also probably because he was being rowdy or uncooperative in some way, as we’ve already gone over a bit. He needed a bit of fresh air and so did, um, would this be Arnold then? No: Jonathan Piper, a used car salesman from Winchly. Trying to seal the deal on a lime colored X 1/9 that his wife didn’t want and thought was a waste of money for a family soon to put two boys through college. But his used car buddies insisted it was a steal at 5,000. What they also meant in a double entendre was that the car was stolen. By… one of them I presume. Karl. Or Ralph. Maybe Whiskey Boy George, the grease monkey. Maybe Phil. Or even Burt. Point is, Mr. Jonathan Piper should stick to selling cars at this time instead of buying them, since he has a perfectly serviceable ’82 Dodge Darty sitting in his driveway back home, or so his wife thinks. “200,000 is the new 100,000,” she says about the mileage, which Jonathan thinks is high but she doesn’t. “400,000 is high,” she continues in this vein. “300,000: ehhh,” she wavers, thinking of the line between middle aged and old for an auto. Mrs. Jonathan Piper doesn’t really understand cars. But she understands people, and her husband is going through a middle age crisis, having just reached 40 himself. She’d seen this before with lime colored objects, and here she thinks back to dear old Uncle Bert (not to be confused with Burt, the manager of Auto World of western Winchly) and his penchant for fruit when he turned 39. “Lime is the new lemon,” she could hear him say through his puckered mouth as if it was only yesterday.
Turns out it was all an elaborate ruse. Jonathan Piper came back inside after the call but Dub — his real name as it turns out — didn’t follow him. Later he sat next to the real Austin, a boy about 3 years older, but they had nothing to say to each other, being strangers. Dub had had his way, sweets and a soda in his belly now. Jenck and Nicki Lavosier were softies at heart and tended to spoil their bratty child after caving to his whims.
“Flight 451 to Dehli, New Dehli, and thereabouts now boarding,” came the announcement over the intercom. The Lavosiers were about to embark on a trip they’d never forget.
(to be continued?)