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Ditched

August 21, 2013

I was startled to hear knocking on our front door early that September morning in 1965. It was Sunday. I was enjoying a bowl of Sugar Frosted Flakes and turning the TV dial looking for cartoons instead of religious programming.

    

I opened the door and saw Ricky Delgado standing on our porch, an expression on his face I hadn’t seen since we’d snuck away to a local carnival so he could ride The Hammer. Ricky looked nervous.

    

“Did your folks come home last night?” he asked, his voice thick with concern.

    

“Of course. Why wouldn’t they?”

    

The Delgados’ wedding anniversary fell close to my parents’ and the two couples had gotten into the habit of celebrating together. Last night both couples had posed for pictures in front of the fireplace in our living room. I’d manned the camera. My mother looked out of character in a pale yellow party dress with matching high heels. Helen Delgado wore a similar dress in blue.

    

After posing for pictures, they’d climbed into separate cars for a drive into the Santa Cruz mountains and the legendary Brookdale Lodge, famous for great music and the natural creek that meandered through the restaurant. Helen wasn’t much of a drinker but George Delgado compensated by consuming enough for half a dozen people. George’s drinking was getting out of hand, and my folks, who once enjoyed spending time with the Delgados, now only socialized with them on special occasions. Last night I’d overheard my parents talking; they’d decided to bring their own car so they could leave early

if George decided to drink until the sun came up.

    

“Could you check to be sure they came home?” Ricky asked, looking pale.

    

“They came home around midnight.” The cuckoo clock souvenir I’d brought home from Disneyland three years earlier had just chirped its head off when the screen door connecting the garage to the kitchen squeaked to announce their return.

    

“Could you check?”

    

I swear he was about to add “Pleeze,” a word I couldn’t recall him using.

    

“Okay. C’mon in while I check.”

    

I left him standing in the kitchen while I checked the garage. Our Le Mans was parked in its usual spot. I went and pressed an ear to my parents’ closed bedroom door. I was forbidden from opening the door when it was closed but I could hear the loud rattle of Dad’s snoring.

    

“Yes, they’re home,” I informed Ricky. “Why? What’s wrong?”

    

He sighed deeply. “My folks never came home last night.”

    

It wasn’t unusual for George to stay out all night, usually getting drunk at The Honky Tonk, his favorite watering hole a few miles down the El Camino Highway near the cutoff to Cupertino.

    

“Can I borrow your bike?”

    

Ricky’s bike was made of castoffs and usually out of commission. “Sure. Where are you going?”

    

“Your folks must have come home early and mine probably headed to The Honky Tonk so my dad could get shitfaced before coming home. Something must’ve happened on the way home. At least they’re not in the hospital ‘cause I called and checked.”

    

“I’ll take David’s bike and come with you.” David wouldn’t have given me permission to take his bike but he was still sleeping. Besides, he didn’t ride bikes much anymore, preferring to joyride in cars with his older friends.

    

An hour later we were two thirds of the way to The Honky Tonk. The roads were all but deserted that Sunday morning. I was familiar with the area. My grandmother lived out here, but the landscape looked more expansive on a bike than it did from the backseat of our Le Mans.

    

Apricot orchards bordered the road. Fruit picking was over for the year but rotten apricots still littered the ground and the sickly sweet smell of rotting fruit hung heavy in the warm air as we pedaled on. The road started curving and an embankment rose on the right shoulder, blocking from sight the irrigation ditch running parallel with the road.

    

We reached The Honky Tonk, closed and looking shabbier than usual in the morning light. Ricky’s face was wet with sweat and I felt like I was about to have a heart attack from all the pedaling. A soda machine occupied a place near the door. I didn’t have any money but Ricky had skills and could easily pirate a few Pepsis. I was surprised when he ignored the machine, hopped back on his bike and started pedaling in the direction from which we’d come. 

    

We’d retraced our route for nearly twenty minutes when Ricky hopped off my bike, climbed down to the dry ditch and began walking. I shadowed him as he stopped periodically, cocking his head and listening. Aside from my heavy breathing and swarms of flies buzzing on old fruit, I heard nothing. Something triggered Ricky because he started racing through several more curves in the ditch until coming to an abrupt halt. Laying on its side in front of him was his parents’ rusty old Mercury, looking more battered than usual after rolling down the embankment into the ditch.

    

The undercarriage faced us. I held my breath as Ricky dashed around to see if his parents were inside the car. The expression on his face told me they were.

 

 


Conclusion on Friday.

 

 



Comments

29 Comments
Oh no!
By: The Bug on August 21, 2013
Good grief- my heart is pounding! Can't wait until the conclusion!
By: Shelly on August 21, 2013
Oh no! Poor Ricky!
By: Kathe W. on August 21, 2013
I'm pretty sure they aren't dead, but not entirely sure.
By: PT Dilloway on August 21, 2013
Yikes!
By: tom sightings on August 21, 2013
I'm speechless.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 21, 2013
I hope this ends well for Ricky.
By: David Walston on August 21, 2013
oh, dear. not something any young man should face...
By: TexWisGirl on August 21, 2013
Stephen! Okay.. I'm not going to panic for Ricky. It was, after all nearly 50 years ago. And at least you didn't post this two-parter on a Friday to Monday.
By: Hilary on August 21, 2013
You bastard. You know I love the Ricky Delgado stories. I'm amazed that your mom ever deigned to speak to the Delgados. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 21, 2013
Oh, dear. I'm anxious to read the rest!
By: Eva Gallant on August 21, 2013
Oh you are a dreadful tease, Stephen!
By: Bryan Jones on August 21, 2013
Children raised as he was have a 6th sense. They know. My heart aches for these kids.
By: mimi on August 21, 2013
You can't do that!!!
By: mark on August 21, 2013
Please can you post the ending as soon as possible? All of us desperately want to know the outcome!
By: Sharon Bradshaw on August 21, 2013
I was holding my breath all through this. At least I can breathe until the conclusion!!
By: fishducky on August 21, 2013
You got us! A real cliffhanger.
By: Tom Cochrun on August 21, 2013
OMG! Pins and needles!
By: Rita McGregor on August 21, 2013
Oh wow...poor Ricky!
By: Pixel Peeper on August 21, 2013
I feel like those people in the old "anticipaaaation" ketchup commercials. Can't wait to finish this tale.
By: Val on August 21, 2013
|Not so good!
By: John on August 22, 2013
Alcohol use in this country is today, so out of hand. I hope this story has a peaceful ending. I did get a chuckle from the line, "Ricky had skills"! :D)
By: Michael Manning on August 22, 2013
I can feel sorry for the kid but not for the parents. You make you bed, you lie in your bed.
By: Snowbrush on August 22, 2013
P.S. Pontiacs were the prettiest cars on the road during the '60s. I owned a few and loved them all.
By: Snowbrush on August 22, 2013
AWWWW...no kid should have to worry like that about the safety of his parents. I am eager to hear the rest of the story.
By: Cheryl P. on August 22, 2013
Spellbinding....
By: Scott Park on August 22, 2013
Looking forward to part 2 and wondering if we will find out how Ricky knew where to look for his folks' overturned car. I hope things turned out okay.
By: jenny_o on August 22, 2013
I sense this is going to have a horrible conclusion, but I loved the mention of Frosted Flakes. I remember Frosty the Tiger well. :-)
By: Lexa Cain on August 23, 2013
What an awful thing to happen to a kid.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on August 24, 2013

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