He's Leaving Home, Bye,
Summer vacation is supposed to be the best
time of the year. Any other June would be, Jake Benveniste thought. All
except this one. This is the summer he moves to Seattle, Washington. The
land of rain and fog. Away from everything familiar in Rivercity,
California. Away from the best friends anyone ever had; Steve, Art, and
They'd been inseparable since eighth grade.
That was true all the way up to, and through, junior year at Rivercity
High. It started with school orchestra. That's where they met. Actually,
they met at the Principal's office. Someone, and the music teacher, Mr.
Broyers, never found out who, purposely tossed a book on the floor. In
other classes that wasn't subject to any more than a stern look from the
The difference with Mr. Broyers' class was
that he had served with an infantry unit (in Texas) during the Korean War.
The army taught him to "duck and cover" anytime a loud
"BANG!" went off and he had never been able to forget it.
Everyone in school knew about it. Tossing a book on the floor to make him
dive was considered the traditional thing to do the first class of every
Jake, Ray, Art, and Steve laughed the
loudest this particular year so Mr. Broyers picked on them. It was the
beginning of a wonderful friendship. During sophomore year they started a
band. Jake played guitar, figured out the songs, and wrote some original
tunes too. The other guys filled in on bass, drums, and saxophone.
Now, Jake has to finish his senior year
alone in a city he knows he is going to hate. He won't know anybody. And,
to make matters worse, they have to move at the best time of year and he
won't be able to hang out with his buddies.
What is there to do for a 17 year old guy
in a city where everyone is a stranger? "You've got three months to
find out," is what Mom says. What does she know? She gets to go to
work and do something. More like three months to do nothing, Jake thinks.
"You could get a job," said Mrs.
"A job? Doing what? Working at Mickey
Dees for spare change? My idea of a fun time during the summer doesn't
include the local burger palace."
"You're going to need some money for
when you start college."
That was a subject Jake didn't want to get
into. He had no intention of going to college when he graduated high
school. He would rather spend the year on his father's farm in Kansas than
go to school. "Why can't I go stay with Dad this summer?"
That was a subject Mrs. Benveniste would
rather avoid. "Because."
"Because the Department of Agriculture
has him traveling all over the country inspecting crops."
"Jake, we've gone into this before.
You're not going to stay with your father. Now, what about getting a job
when we get to Seattle?"
"Doesn't it rain there all the
"Only during the rainy season,"
his mother tried patiently to reply. This was a topic Jake had tortured
her with at dinner for the past two weeks.
"Rainy season? Rainy season? When's
that? From January to December? What's a rainy season?"
Everybody knows about the weather in
Washington. They don't call it the Pacific "Northwet" for
nothing. At least, that is all the Benveniste's heard following their
decision to leave California for the "land of fog and rain."
In reality, the weather in Washington isn't
as bad or deserving as its reputation. The Seattle area is definitely
moist, but there are wetter regions in northern California and along the
The trade off would be exciting though. The
Benveniste's were leaving a semi-desert where the summer temperatures
frequently hover in the 100 degree range. Trees are rare, unless watered
constantly. Green is not a color that comes easily to Rivercity.
Seattle, and all of the northwest for that
matter, is made of many shades of color. There are the deep hues of
red-cedar, the dark forests of hemlock, and the pea-green of the
ubiquitous Douglas-fir. Ferns and mosses clothe the forest floor.
There are three lakes right in the middle
of the city; Union, Washington, and Green. Puget Sound forms the western
boundary of Seattle. The high peaks of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains
are a near drive.
For someone as interested in the outdoors,
plants, and animals as Jake, Seattle and all of Washington was going to be
a wonderful place to live. Ellen Benveniste knew it, but Jake could be
stubborn, like his father.
"What is there to say that I haven't
already told you, dear?"
Jake had heard it a dozen times by now.
They were moving because Mom's company was transferring her. There wasn't
enough work in aeronautical electronics around Rivercity anymore. When his
parents had first moved here, right out of college, there was plenty of
work for Mom in computer assisted airplane design while Dad worked at the
University's entomology department designing new bug sprays.
All that had changed when his parents
divorced two years ago. Dad moved back to Kansas to manage Grandpa's farm
and to work for the Agriculture Department monitoring pesticide use.
"Couldn't you get another job, Mom?
Geeze, you didn't even try."
Mrs. Benveniste tried not to snap at her
son. It was getting harder and harder for them to get along without any
friction and this move wasn't helping at all. She knew it wasn't easy for
a teenager to pull up stakes and move out of town a year before
graduation. There hadn't been any choice. The truth was that in 12 months
or so, all the other families would be facing the same bitter truth
confronting the Benveniste's now.
The McDowell plant was going to shut down
sooner, not later. When that happened, most of the workers would have to
leave or face unemployment. School enrollment would decline and teachers
would be laid off. As the tax base of the county eroded, local government
would be curtailed. People working in the service economy would have no
one left to service. Rivercity would become the same sleepy little town it
had been 20 years ago when Ellen and Bob Benveniste had first moved there.
Better to get out now while there was still a chance.
Instead of saying all this, she repeated
what she always said. "This is a good chance for me to learn some new
skills and for you to experience a new place. You can't live in one town
your whole life. Besides, in a year, you'll be in college."
Jake cut her off. "College! Who needs
college when you don't know anybody? There's more important things than
college." Jake sulked and played with his peas. Mrs. Benveniste
sighed but said nothing.
After dinner, Jake rode off on his bike to
visit his friends while Ellen finished packing. Tomorrow the moving van
would come and they would begin the long drive north. She wasn't looking
forward to five days in a car with a brooding teenager. Especially one who
Last month, Jake had been arrested with Art
Huck, the drummer in the band they all belonged to. They were caught
"joy riding" in the car belonging to their old music teacher.
Their only excuse was that the "keys were in it." Fortunately,
no harm was done and the boys only had their licenses suspended. She tried
to not be too upset, telling herself Jake was only going through "a
phase" and would grow out of it soon.
Ellen wasn't particularly fond of this move
either. She couldn't afford to admit it to herself, much less, Jake.
She looked around the house, at all the
boxes of books and clothes and things that people can accumulate when they
sit still for so many years. This had been home for such a long time.
Why shouldn't Jake spend the summer with
his father? Even if Bob wasn't around that much, Jake's grandfather surely
would be. No, that wouldn't do either. Bob, senior, was a problem in
himself. He would probably get Jake arrested at some environmental
Ellen sighed, and spoke aloud, "I
could use a hug." She looked across the crowded living room which
seemed furnished with cardboard cartons. "But it doesn't look like
I'm going to get one."
Ellen Benveniste knew why McDowell
Aeronautical was transferring her to Seattle. It looked good for their
government contracts if they had a female senior engineer and computer
programmer on staff.
There was also the reason that she could
design a circuit so that it worked simply and worked fast. She had taken
that same knack for simplicity into computer programming and became the
company software whiz..
There didn't seem to be any glitches in the
programs that Ellen Benveniste couldn't figure out. People like her were
indispensable to companies like McDowell. That was why they were giving
her a transfer. Most of her coworkers, and that meant the parents of
Jake's friends, weren't going to be so lucky when the plant closed down.
Ellen Benveniste took a deep breath and
looked around the cluttered apartment. She had spent her entire life, it
seemed, in this town. Everything was familiar; her job, the streets, the
people, the stores. It would be hard breaking in a new routine. It
wouldn't be easy, at first, for either of them in Seattle.