an excerpt

Chapter One

Saturday morning and afternoon--opening chaos

I survived the weekend.

Mom and Dad hate each other.

I've got to live with that. Or as far away from that as I can get.

Lawyers and court appointed overseers bustled around our house most of that Saturday morning. A couple of bored cops stood around or leaned against the sides of their patrol cars out in the street.

Mom and Dad are rich. Good thing, because their lawyers are going to be really rich.

My dad has numerous right-wing nut lawyers on retainer. Think of any random lawyer for the current occupant of the White House but armed with a machine gun and a bazooka. Mom's lawyers probably have tank brigades on call. Or wish they did. But these lawyers were smart enough to not be in the news.

Dividing up my parents' expensive toys? Even with court orders, monitors, and the local police presence, screaming and threats were their mode of communication. If they each had their way, it would be full-scale nuclear war; total destruction.

Which wasn't much different from when they were living together.

It's not like their break-up was a surprise to anyone. What left everyone's mouths gaping was how long the marriage did last. The triumph of inertia?

The negotiations about who got what stuff and when? Over the years, both my mom and my dad had purchased baubles, the more outrageous and useless the better. Some nutty examples: a third Purdey side-by-side shotgun for him, and a fourth mink stole for her. He had enough fire power in his den to arm a small nation. She had enough clothes to outfit all the people in that small nation. I know they got those items and others mostly to irritate each other. Or posted pictures of them to Facebook to please their admirers and infuriate liberals. You should have seen the furor when Mom got that fourth mink. Hundreds of likes, but thousands of dislikes, frowny faces, and tears. She had laughed at all of them.

It has taken several forevers and innumerable visits to court to sort out that shit. And they still weren't done playing judge tag with the legal system. I hate when I have to go with.

As far as I know, the divorce won't be final for eternity. This was just the first day of the start of their official, legal break up.

Mom claimed leaving me with Dad would teach him responsibility. What I think she really meant was she couldn't make him do what she wanted. Somehow foisting me on him was going to be the catalyst for him to be the kind of person she wanted him to be. Made no sense to me.

They'd both tried screaming, tears, crying, manipulations, and silences. None of those and more had worked for either of them to change the other.

From 6:00 A.M. until the middle of the afternoon that Saturday, Mom and her mercenary movers stomped up and down stairs, in and out of the house, thumping things into their large van parked on the front lawn. While pulling up and moving the van to park, they'd broken one of the sprinkler heads.

My dad hadn't noticed that. Yet. Plenty of time for him to go nuts over that kind of inconsequential thing. He was good at that. Inappropriate anger aimed at inanimate objects or humans, for that matter. Didn't seem to make a difference to him. The more trivial the infraction, the huger his anger seemed to be.

My grandmother and grandfather were there, Mom's parents. Dad's parents are in Canada. They escaped to Canada during the Vietnam War so my granddad could avoid the draft. They've never been back. My dad was born here, but grew up a lot there, then left home the instant he could and moved back here.

My mom's parents are right-wing lunatics. Fine. I can follow that pretty well. They're also assholes. My grandmother never shuts up. Never. And she knows best and what's right. Always. The only difference between her and my grandfather is that she's louder. I don't think they've actually heard each other in years.

Just after 3:00 P.M., the front door banged shut with the finality of a guillotine at the end of its fall. Mom and her minions were out of the house. I looked out my window. My grandfather was the last one walking down the driveway. He must have slammed the door. So like him.

They, the police, and other officials left.

Dad and his armed guards finally stood down.

The silence afterwards was wonderful.

The door slam? A last moment of useless defiance as they left? I knew Mom and her parents were off to Rome today to start on a ten-day cruise in the Mediterranean. That was Mom's way of celebrating the divorce being another step closer to being final. As far as I'd overheard, Dad's buddies were heading to the house to join his armed guards as fast as she was leaving from it.

With my mom out of the house, my dad planned to party. For days, if he could. I can hear him and his buddies and their raucous laughter in his den down below. New pals began arriving within minutes of the door slam. They've got iced kegs in the backyard.

I'm going to hide. For the rest of my life, if I can figure out how.

By my dad's definition, I should have been awash in firearms. That is, a good guy with a gun is what is needed when an evil person attacks. Then again, the most evil people in my life were my dad and my brother, gun loving nuts. Mom came right after them in the pantheon of malevolence and gun-loving craziness. To defend myself from them, I think I'd need an arsenal with bazookas and tanks, not just stupid rifles and handguns. At least, according to their logic.

But see the deal was, I didn't want to be like any of them. I didn't want to handle a gun, touch a gun, or be part of their violence and madness. Never. Ever.

For now? I was stuck living in the house. For either of their futures? As far as I could tell, I was a peripheral issue.

Almost old enough to be on my own. Not quite.

Not worth the trouble to either of them.

They weren't worth the trouble to me.

I'm Shane Semereau. I live in Cactus Center, California, the middle of the boring-nowhere-desert way east of Los Angeles.