He was gone. Outta here. Poof! Just like that.
Fed up with the rules and regulations of being a 10-year-old in the Riley household, Keenan Riley had run away. Chores, homework, little brothers who take Legos without asking — it can all kiss his white little fourth grade fanny.
“I mean, he’s packed a bag, just walked out the back door!” his mother yells into the phone.
I was crashed on my hotel bed after a long day of flights and meetings — yet another publishing corporation gig to lure unsuspecting fools into writing technology books.
“The back door — so he’s in the back yard?” I ask.
“Yes!” she answers, peering through the sliding glass door. “He’s climbing into the play fort. Jeff, what am I going to do?!”
His younger brothers — 8 and 4 — later told me they were in the living room, looking through those windows, their awe and wonder summarized by: “Holy thmokth, he’th climbing the ladder, Brubs!”
“Jeff! There’s a freeze warning!”
Now, there wasn’t a whole lot I could accomplish 1,000 miles away in Minneapolis. Plus, I know boys. Especially that 10-year-old variety. Their dreams, hopes, and escape plans are all too often foiled by the simple echo of an owl call in the forest.”Give him about 10 minutes, 15 if he took a snack,” I say. “He’ll be back.”
“It’s dark!” she says.
“He’s not leaving the fence line, trust me hon,” I reply.
“Call me when he’s back. If you want me to tell him he’s lost a week of video games, that’s fine.”
The phone rings. He made it only 9 minutes and some change.
“Hi, Dad,” he says. “I’m sorry.”
“Did you apologize to your mother?”
“Okay, no video games for a week. I’ll be home tomorrow. Try not to hotwire the car, ‘kay?”
“The … wait, what?”
“Never mind. Get to bed. I love you. Goodnight.”
We chatted again on the phone the other night. He’s 26 now, college educated, some kind of supply chain management magnate over in a big fancy office building in Raleigh.
Life tends to ignore speed limits — zipping into, through, over and around the journey, often leaving us with nothing to hold on to but the memories.
Bring a snack, kids.