Yoharie: What It Takes to Fly (part seven)
A fence divided this lot from one below, another fence penning storage sheds, screwed with warning signs. Tavo scaled this…and so Savannah toed her way up. At the awkward getting over, he reached for her waist and steadied her down.
A three-foot slope and shallow ditch. “I get money…I work every few months. I can do okay for a while, I’m not in a hurry.”
“Then what else? Are you an artist?”
Artist, actor…why would every Angeleno be? But he seemed cool with this, her allowing he might.
“I’m building a house. Nobody knows it.”
They slinkied on the sides of their feet down a steeper hill. They walked under a highway overpass, farther into a miniature wilderness, fences going off and up at pointless angles.
A concrete culvert. A stand of skinny trees with Jurassic-looking leaves.
Tavo parted the trunks, and Savannah saw a car. A dead car, wrecked here. Chained to the underside was a dog. Idiot as Beatty, small and slick-haired, it bounced, spread its front legs, rump in the air, and growled, bounced again.
“Do you like having him on the chain? Does he have to stay all day like that?”
“Oh, he’s my best friend.” Tavo nudged a foot to show water and kibble bowls, which weren’t…one was a styrofoam cooler top, one a hubcap. “I chain him cause I don’t want him missing.”
He unlocked a metal box on the backseat, showed her water bottles and snacks. Kibble. The dog jumped in the front. Tavo leaned and gave him a hug. “Yeah, my buddy. Meet Savannah. Say hi.”
Savannah leaned. “Hi, sweetie.”
“Get in if you want. We could sit together and talk.”
“No, I’ll get in.” He slid under the steering wheel, taking the dog on his lap. “See, you have the door that way.”
She sat in the driver’s seat. “Tavo, I have no place to live.”
He put his arm around her shoulders. “You stay here.”
She squirmed a little; her knapsack on her own lap…phone inside.
“No. You’re my little sister. I’d look after you. But you don’t have to.”
“Um. I have a place to stay tonight.”
The house he was building was on a burned-out foundation, the rubble cleared away. No one had sold the property. He and people he knew walked berms, dug in dumpsters for boards and nails, wiring, PVC pipe.
Some materials the gang might find in a way of finding. They’d dug up flowers and planted them along the front walk. Sanded graffiti off the wall. A block wall at the back was good, maybe the best thing about this lot, even if it belonged to the other house. The yard dirt was poor, gritty, smashed bottles, drywall chunked up in it. But with a rake you could start fixing that, too.
“You just go out, like, shopping for the thing you have in mind. You’d be surprised.”
They had a first floor. Roof tarps. Enough boards to finish the porch stairs. Were trying to get paint.
She gathered you could steal some…because things were carelessly looked after, because no owner could be identified. This was not in the category of shoplifting. While, caring for the dog, for a child, dressing for a paying job…
“But someone will run you off.”
“So we start over. Wherever we find, what I’m saying. We got time. It’s stupid the way it is, cause you can do things. You want to, you get something out of it. I mean, he could tear everything down, but it’ll be a good little house. He could rent it to us, you know?”
She had sat fighting tears, chewing with a vengeance one chip at a time from the bag Tavo said was for her. Oh, how good if this were true, that a stranger so easily could love her as a little sister…
A thing she’d never been. Maybe love was not the word.
But the temptation to join this colony felt like an ache. She would rake that yard herself…she would shop for that rake…almost, it would be fun.
“Tavo, I need to go.” She scrambled free of the wheel, and he seemed willing, being at home, to let her make her way to hers. The too-expensive motel. “I love you.”
“I love you.”
She was getting crisis reports. Rae at the helm, doing her best. Mom, Rae said, had tallied up the odometer. Surprising she hadn’t dusted for prints.
“Raelyn, where is Savannah?
“I don’t know.”
“But Mom, if she was someplace in trouble, it would matter to me just as much as you, helping her out. If I knew, why would I keep it a secret?”
“So you’re going to stand there and tell me to my face you don’t know?”
“If I knew, you would know.”
“What about Dad?”
“Oh, Dad is freaking weird. He went off driving with Todwillow…retracing the path. Or recreating the crime. Whatever.”
“Oh, yuck. But Rae, don’t lie to Mom. I don’t want you in lockdown, cause I need you.”
“Hanbo, heed the testimony. I did not lie. Do I know where you are? Do you know where you are?”
What It Takes to Fly
(2020, Stephanie Foster)