Fake dating, fake break ups, and other stuff that is not fake.

I adulted today! Take that not-adulting! My dog will not get heartworm because I ordered more heartworm pills for her. I even talked to a person over the phone and everything.

If you regularly talk to people on the phone for business or pleasure, or if you have less social anxiety than me, maybe this isn’t a big deal. I’m still going to bask in the imaginary glory of a task handled and a job well done.

Wow, I’m actually going to get at least two things done today. What else am I doing? Posting this. Here is an extended scene from One Little Lie. This is a different version of something similar in the book.

Setting the scene: Due to insanity and stupidity, Luke was out of the closet at school and publicly dating Ryan Miller. When this news reaches home, he pretends to be dating a girl instead. Now the group is talking about this.

Basically, the boys in this story are dating each other. The girls in this story are dating each other. Coming out is difficult, so the people with ‘L’ names said they were dating each other instead.

~

Ryan

Our foursome talked strategy at lunch. Now that Alicia had seen how terrible Luke and Lydia were together, she was in and wanted to help. My guess was that she hadn’t been as cool about this idea as I was when she was told and was trying to make up for that now.

Her efforts to get Luke and Lydia to formulate a plan weren’t working; it didn’t seem like they wanted to do much. They sat on the same side of the table and people watched us and whispered. Hey, in this fake scenario, I was a pretty mature person by eating lunch with my ex and his new girl. Good for pretend me.

I couldn’t even imagine I would be anywhere near as composed if this were real but that just meant I had a strong sense of self. I knew who I was and what I was about. Still. I liked the idea of being that mature. I tried to find this hidden well of maturity while talking about Luke and Lydia’s relationship.

“Are you and Ryan going to break up?” Alicia asked Luke.

“Like hell we are, you homewrecker,” I responded automatically.

So much for that maturity.

kiss-2931833_960_720Alicia gave me a patient, amused expression. “If the latest rumor is that you two are dating,” she nodded her head at the pair across from us, “maybe you two should publicly break up first.” She pointed to me and Luke.

Okay, I was feeling a lot less cool with this suddenly. I glared at Alicia and she shrugged, not understanding. Because she wasn’t out and no one knew about her and Lydia, so she didn’t have to “break up” with anyone to make this work.

Luke smiled at me. “What do you think? I bet we could top our last fake break up.”

I felt an eyebrow raise against my will as I considered that. Our fake breakup had included a public screaming match in the hallway, accusations of betrayal and jealously, and Luke being slapped.

Maybe this new charade would make sense as everyone thought Luke and me already broke up once partly because Lydia was the other woman. Topping that would be a challenge but could be fun.

Then I remembered what I was thinking about and shook my head.

“I don’t know if that’s necessary,” I said, trying to sound rational instead of weak and scared.

“Come on, give us a show,” Alicia encouraged.

“You do have a flair for dramatics when the occasion calls for it,” Lydia said stiffly.

Had Luke not been helping her out, she probably would have found a way to say that in a less complementary manner: drama queen. I smiled sunnily at her and she scowled until Luke saw her scowling at me and elbowed her and she looked down at her food instead with a little huff.

Still. “I don’t want to break up,” I admitted quietly.

“You don’t have to,” Lydia said unsurely, “But it would help.” She glanced at Luke.

“Come on, it won’t be a big deal,” he tried.

“No,” I said firmly.

I was already loaning out my boyfriend and I felt sympathetic to their cause, but I couldn’t do more. Fine, no maturity for me, but I couldn’t go through a break up, not even a fake one.

Luke and I were actually dating now and I didn’t want a break up screwing that up even if it wasn’t real. And our fake fight had turned real last time; that could happen again. I couldn’t stand up in public and say I didn’t want to date him anymore and I didn’t want to hear that from him. It felt like tempting fate or at the very least subjecting myself to something awful.

I didn’t explain very well, but Luke seemed to get it. His foot kicked mine under the table and he had a small gentle smile on his lips when he looked at me. “Hey, it’s okay. We won’t break up.”

I was probably being silly. But then again, it was hard to feel anything other than content when Luke looked at me that way and our legs touched under the table.

After a moment Alicia sighed. “So, the basic plan is just to half ass this?”

Everyone nodded.

~

This has been More on Mondays, where I post outtakes and deleted scenes. On Mondays. Every other Monday to be exact.

Friendship, cookies, and bi panic. Totally normal bro stuff.

I was gonna do the talky talk talking thing here, but this is a pretty good sized scene, so I’ll just get to it. Porcupines! (Sorry, I couldn’t completely do the whole serious, professional thing. That would be too weird.)

This is from One Little Lie, and it’s a deleted scene.

Relevant information: Luke is dating a boy and wants to figure out his sexuality but most of his feelings about this are “oh god, oh god, oh god.” He goes to his friend Zach, known bisexual and avoider of feelings, for help.

~

Luke

My sister said she thought I was a boring straight guy once. I was certainly interesting now; my dilemma was multifaceted. I had no idea what I was. I didn’t think and maybe didn’t want to be gay, but what if I was? Things had never felt this good, this intense before.

That’s what I thought about after leaving Ryan’s house.

heartThen there was the other part, which was maybe worse. Maybe things didn’t feel so intense and crazy and wonderful because Ryan was a guy. Maybe it felt that way because my feelings for Ryan were more than I’d ever had for anyone else, maybe it was lo-

Nope. No. Too scary.

I’m the good guy, I’d always been the good boyfriend. I held doors open, paid for dinner, tried to listen, bought flowers, all of it. I executed all the right moves on the outside, but it never felt like this on the inside.

I’d said I love you before and I had thought I meant it at the time, but it didn’t feel like this. Real, intense. Consuming. Was I gay? Did it matter that I still liked girls?

I wasn’t the type to do awkward or self-doubting and now there was a lot of that in my life. Ryan and I were each other’s first boyfriends. Though he’d been on a few dates with Zach and had definitely been attracted to other guys. Maybe Ryan was special to me, but I wasn’t special to him.

Huh.

What a not fun thought.

That was only one of the reasons I couldn’t share with Ryan when he offered last night. Mainly, I wanted to go into his house and do anything that involved being undressed and not talking. Also because I didn’t want all of my fond, serious thoughts to spill out. And also because… it just didn’t feel right unloading all this stuff on him.

Lydia had her own soul searching to go through, so I turned to Zach. The easiest way to get Zach to cooperate was to tell him exactly what you wanted and make it clear that you would leave him alone after you got it. This wasn’t baseball. No warm up. No beating around the bush. Direct.

When it was time for our next away game, I clapped him on the shoulder and sat down next to him on the bus. “Prepare yourself for a serious conversation,” I informed him.

“Thanks for the warning.” He moved to get up. “But you didn’t inform me in writing at least three days in advance so—”

“Okay, but I want to talk about BEING GAY AND QUEER SHIT,” I raised my voice. “Whoever sits next to me will have that to look forward to.” Suddenly there were no free seats for Zach. “Come on, we can do this quickly.”

He sat back down but complained, “I don’t want to hold your hand through this. Can’t you talk to your actual boyfriend about this?”

“I’ll tell him once I figure it out.” He did it on his own.

Okay, this was what I was talking about earlier. The big reason I couldn’t let him help me. Not only did he figure it out on his own, my addition only made things more complicated. I opened my stupid big mouth and told people he was gay.

I didn’t really know him at the time. I didn’t know about being in the closet or outing people. It was an accident. I just… After that, I didn’t want to put this on him. I could do this myself.

Mostly. I told Zach, “I’m talking to you whether you like it or not.”

He idly glanced out the window, but I doubted he’d make a break for it. “Fine.”

“Fine.”

guypicsDeep, deep down he was really a good person. You just had to get through all the bullshit first. Zach liked to present himself a certain way and his family weren’t really the type to have serious, intense conversations. My parents freaking loved talking. I just didn’t think they’d want to listen to anything I had to say at the moment.

I didn’t say anything for a few moments. “So,” Zach said after a tense silence, “Are you gonna start talking then, or what?”

“Right, right.” Okay. I wanted this. “I bought some time. With the Lydia thing. But I still don’t know.” There.

He didn’t say anything. I just expressed my doubts in such an eloquent and articulate manner and he had nothing to say?

“Okay, so this is supposed to be a conversation,” I explained.

“I’m aware,” Zach said cooly. That was all he said.

“It’s your turn to talk,” I prompted. Maybe I should jump out the window instead.

He shrugged. “I don’t know what you want me to say to that.”

Oh dear god. “Help me,” I ordered. Or maybe begged. “How do I even decide? It’s like a big decision. Straight or gay.”

“You’re acting like there’s no other options.” He rolled his eyes. “Like being bi, for instance.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I shrugged.

Zach said he liked guys and girls. That was an option, hypothetically. I couldn’t imagine it any more than I could being gay; maybe I liked it even less for some reason.

It wasn’t that simple, was it? To just say, oh, I like both and there, problem solved. That was awfully convenient. How long could that last for? Wasn’t it just putting off the inevitable? I couldn’t decide if that’s what I wanted to do or not.

“Please don’t let this inflate your ego more,” I told Zach, “But you make it look really easy.”

“I’ve known I was gay for a while now,” he said simply. He used gay and bi interchangeably sometimes, but how was I supposed to know if that was what he was doing this time? Then, seeing that I was clearly about to ask if he was gay now, he added, “I’m still bi, but I don’t have a problem with either term.”

Gay had become something of a catch all term, but it didn’t feel like it to me. If I called myself gay out loud, that meant I liked men and men only. Zach didn’t agree. Not that there was anything wrong with being gay, obviously. It just wasn’t me.

Zach sighed and his tone wasn’t exactly gentler, but for him it was almost warm and fuzzy as he continued, “You suddenly found yourself in a… situation.” Instead of boyfriend, I would have to refer to Ryan as my situation later; he’d get a kick out of that. “It might take time to figure everything out.”

I thought about that. How much time did I get? Did I have to become gay after my transitional period was over? When should I expect my membership card in the mail and how did I go about returning it?

heartyStill, it wasn’t bad advice. This was new to me. I got a little time at least. All I could come up with to say in response was, “Wow, you sound so wise and rational.”

“I know,” Zach shuddered. “I don’t like it.”

Well, that didn’t really help. But I guess it was reassuring. I felt really dumb, but I hadn’t been dealing with this for that long, that was true. But Zach had known he was gay for a while now?

“I don’t think I’ve seen you go after a guy besides Ryan,” I noted.

“Oh god, we are not talking about that,” he said firmly.

I sighed. This was probably as good as our conversation would get, so I deemed Zach’s best friend duties over with and reached into my backpack. “Hey, I brought snacks.”

Zach smiled. Now some of the guys looked jealous, which made his smile grow. Zach liked envy even more than dessert. Ryan made cookies for the road. We ate them all ourselves but shared with Joey too. Apparently, I owed him for always telling him things he didn’t want to know.

~

This is part of a continuing thing I do called More on Mondays.  Where I post extra scenes, hence the more, on every other Monday, hence the Mondays.

No one dies in this book!

Horror movies are not something I enjoy. Doesn’t really matter if the subject is actually frightening to me. If there is ominous music and something jumps out of the shadows, I will jump too, except I’m jumping due to terror.

Every time I have watched a horror movie, my first thought is, why am I watching this? Then, as it begins, I generally spend a few moments going, hey, this is nice, why can’t it just stay like this?

Because at the beginning of the scary movies, there’s calm, happy people just going about their day. Excited to go camping or to a house that totally isn’t haunted. I like those parts. And maybe it’s a lot less interesting if people just have a pleasant day and nobody dies, but I’d be okay with that.

Naturally, this doesn’t have a lot to do with the point of this post. This is a snippet from One New Start. It’s from the beginning, where life is going right. There are no monsters in this book, but there may be other challenges. Eventually. Just not in the beginning where everything is great.

Ryan

The stars were up there above us, filling the night sky like they were meant for private viewing by us and us alone, as if we were in our own private planetarium. We were laying out on the hood of Luke’s car, and he had his arm stretched out behind me, so it was my pillow. A solid, unyielding pillow that would never sell in stores because it was odd and misshapen. No one would buy it except me, who would purchase every last one.

We shared a few quiet moments just gazing up at the sky. Together.

“I’ll keep on keeping on,” Luke said. “Being boring me while you take a normal thing like having new experiences and find ways to make it extreme or scary.”

There was no guarantee I would do that! Unless one counted past experiences and my personality as a guarantee.

“I want new experiences!” I defended. Being not crazy could be part of that.

“You’re still going to be the same person while you’re having them,” he reasoned.

“I guess.” I did like me. But there were so many options out there. “Unless I can be Cher? Can I be Cher?” I crossed my fingers and held them up so he could see them.

“Don’t want to date Cher,” he replied. Aww. Sweet.

Also, that wasn’t a no, so maybe I could be Cher… then again, one of the only things I had going for me that Cher didn’t have was that Luke Chambers wanted to date me, so I wasn’t giving that up.

“Nicholas Cage?” I offered instead. He was another guy.

“Even worse.” His disgusted face was so cute.

If the opportunity presented itself to be Nick Cage, I would totally do that just to freak Luke out, but otherwise I would be me. That sounded just fine actually. I had great people in my life, great things to look forward to, and a really great boyfriend.

This was going to be an incredible year.

Life Advice I’ve Never Taken: Don’t be Weird

I occasionally do this thing where I read a book, then write about what I read and post my thoughts on here about said book. Some people call this book reviewing. I call it that too. I don’t do that as often as I’d like because I’m really slow. To solve that, what if I talk about a book I haven’t read?

Yes, that might be difficult considering, you know, I haven’t read it. However, I’m not gonna let that stop me!

Basically, I just wanted to share the tagline or whatever you want to call it from Lock & West by Alexander C. Eberhart.

Note To Self: Just Don’t Be Weird

Lock is awkward. He can’t make eye contact, counts when he’s nervous and has to remind himself several times a day how ‘normal’ teens behave. Homeschooled most of his life, he’s resigned himself to a friendless existence at his new Atlanta high school.

Until he meets West.

 

Just don’t be weird! I love that. In my experience, that’s easier said than done.

For example, I’m bad at knowing how to end things, so I just kind of… stop. Like now. Bye!

Poetic, coherent thoughts that aren’t at all cheesy

Sometimes, I have a perfect beginning for a story and other times I play around with a million ideas because I can’t quite figure out how to begin. This was one of those million options I considered for the beginning of One New Start.

Ryan, one of the main characters, is pretty random and spastic, so maybe I didn’t even need to provide a reason for the adventures he embarks on, but this Ryan, the guy who is about to embark on adventures. He’s talking about senior year.

Of high school. I write YA. Not geriatric-A.

~

flowers

Ryan

They wrote songs about this, the way I was feeling.

Cheesy, stupid songs that I would never admit to liking out loud but always got stuck in my head anyway. Songs about how nothing could stop you, how the future was ahead. YOLO, carpe diem, the time was now, the feeling was right, I have no idea.

Recently, the musical selection had been a little… why? Whenever I turned on the radio to a pop station or a country station or a rap station, and that was all we had here, the same stupid Lil Naz song was always playing about a horse and roads and whatever. Boring.

But hey, Lil Naz was gay now! No, he always was but now the public knew. That was cool.

Don’t know that I even need to say this, but like that’s ever stopped me before, I would rather talk about me than Lil Naz.

I woke up this way. Fabulous. And also, excited. Like, hard to sit still excited, ready for what’s next, big crazy smile on my face excited for the start of my senior year.

Living in my small town and being the gay kid, it had been a long time since I was excited for the school year. It was always ugh, another year, at least it’s one step closer to freedom, but it’s still not here yet.

Now it’s like, yay, another year!

They wrote songs about this. Cruising down the road with my baby next to me, windows down, wind in my hair. A beautiful guy next to me and nothing can stop me.

Yeah, there was a song about that. I didn’t know the words, but I was singing it anyway. I was living it anyway.

~

This has been More on Mondays, where I post outtakes and deleted scenes. On Mondays. Every other Monday to be exact. I wanted to italicize this, so I did.

Time traveling powers not included.

As I start reading Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey, it occurs to me that this would have been a really good book to read before Halloween. This observation really doesn’t help me because I can’t go back in time, so let this be a lesson to you.

What that lesson is? I have no idea.

This is a quote from the book. I would add more context, except that I ‘m not sure what to add. True story!

No victory was worthwhile unless it cost you something. Unless you grew from it.

Bye bi Zach (lolz)

Once upon a time, Luke Chambers went on a confusing sexuality journey. I can be more specific than that. Once upon One Little Lie, Luke Chambers went on a confusing sexuality journey.

I really enjoyed writing this storyline, so there’s a lot of it, which is why some of it isn’t in the book. There needs to be more about being bi in books, says the bi person, and also, I love Zach, so that’s probably why I liked coming up with this stuff.

Here’s some info about this scene: See Zach. See Zach be bi. Bye Zach bye.

Now here’s some info that includes, um, actual info. Due to shenanigans, Luke told his parents he’s dating a girl while he’s really dating a boy and all he knows is that he likes a boy, he just doesn’t know what means in terms of who and what he is.

His BFF Zach is bi, and Luke often ropes him into his gay freakouts.

As you maybe haven’t read the larger story this is part of, I should probably note that these are a character’s thoughts. This doesn’t make them right. In fact, a lot of them are wrong. That’s the fun thing about first person POV, you get to see the thought process from beginning to end.

~

ball

Luke

It was Friday and we just played and won a game at another school. I cleaned up afterwards and got to my car before realizing I’d left my mitt in the dugout. When I went to grab my glove, I almost ran into Zach, who was there flirting with some girl.

“Seriously?” I questioned when I saw the pair and muttered, “I’m the one who hit a home run.”

Sure, I was taken. But we were at a rival school and she didn’t know that. And I was a pitcher. I didn’t get a huge number of home runs, it was annoying I had to bat at all, so it was doubly impressive.

“I got on base every time I was up,” he told me without looking at me and smiled at the girl with him as he said, “And I look better running.”

That was debatable, but I didn’t get into it as the girl gave Zach her number and left. He looked like he wanted to leave too but was resigned, waiting for me to speak. Good. I just didn’t get this.

I still couldn’t really picture him with a guy, but I guess it would happen eventually. Maybe his pride was wounded because the first guy he went on a date with after he came out chose someone else. But he said he liked guys, so eventually he’d have to get over that and give in to being gay.

“You still want to date girls?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said simply, like that was it.

Zach was the out one who said he was bi, and he even didn’t mind the term gay, but he wasn’t acting very gay at all. He liked one guy, and his shoes and car were always clean. But those last things probably didn’t even count.

I was gayer than him at the moment, which was really unsettling.

“Just thought you’d be over girls by now,” I commented. How long did it take? Did I set him back by stealing Ryan away?

“Bi isn’t gay,” he said, which sounded like a weak argument to me because he was the one who used the terms interchangeably for himself.

“Yeah, but—” I started to argue because it was rare that I got to be right in an argument with Zach. Damn, I rarely got to be right in argument with anyone. There was Alicia, but that was more she just didn’t care and went along with me instead of arguing, which wasn’t the same.

“Look, I still like girls,” Zach interrupted. Yeah, he was making that clear, with his hitting on every girl, and making out with them in front of my locker. It was a little too clear.

“Me too.” I felt the need to say that even though no one had asked. “We don’t need to talk about this anyway—”

“You started it,” he fired back. He would throw that in my face. “And you were asking questions earlier.”

“That was before.” Did I have to know things right away? Couldn’t I just enjoy this for a while?

bball“Before your beard?” he asked with snide amusement.

I played dumb. “No, I think technically that had already started.”

“Oh,” Zach said in mock understanding. “So you’re going to dig in your heels and ignore the problem until it goes away?”

Like he could talk! Zach always made a big show of protesting whenever he got dragged into a serious conversation and generally did everything he could to avoid them.

He was the one who loved avoiding stuff, but the second I tried to do the same, he called me on it. That totally wasn’t fair.

I pointed this out. “Like you’re one to talk. How long are you gonna be bi?” He liked guys and girls right now. Eventually, the girls would fade away. That was how it worked. The longer he tried to stay bi, the longer he was avoiding the truth.

“I like guys and girls and don’t feel the need to choose and I’m not just saying that.” He sounded annoyed.

He was totally just saying that.

“Okay, but it’s a half way point,” I argued.

Zach rolled his eyes. “Not literally.”

He said it wasn’t either/or. I kinda had a hard time remembering that. It had always seemed like either/or to me. Not both. And that wasn’t right, you couldn’t really have both, could you? For a little while when you figured things out, sure. But not forever. That was greedy or something.

“But like—” I tried to say some of my thoughts.

“No, it may be different for you but that’s how it is for me,” Zach talked over me. “I’m bi. I’ve always been bi. I am not interested in switching my cell phone provider. Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, totally, completely bi.”

I snorted, but he wasn’t done yet.

“Will that change in the distant future?” he asked and then answered his own question. “Well, keeping in mind that sexuality is fluid and I may learn more about myself as I get older,” he looked at me wryly, “No, probably not.” But he couldn’t really- “I really don’t think so,” he said earnestly. “Maybe sometimes I’ll be more into girls, maybe sometimes I’ll be more into guys, but I like both and will continue to like both. I say that with as much certainty as I can.”

He stared at me. I stared back. He stared back.

I coughed and remarked, “What? Do you want an Oscar for that speech or something?”

He shoved me and left.

Jeez, and I thought I was handling this whole thing bad.

bballll

Maybe all Zach’s flirting with girls made sense. What if he was just getting it out of his system? Or trying really hard to appear straight before he gave up and went gay? He just hadn’t quite got there yet.

Okay, I know that goes against everything Zach just said but he’s confused. I didn’t blame him.

This whole thing was really confusing.

I was confused, Zach was confused, and Cara had seemed really confused about me and Ryan. Maybe some of it was denial or just that rumors abounded surrounding my love life and that made things unclear, but mostly? Mostly it seemed like she didn’t even want to think about the idea of me with another guy.

Cara Lewis shouldn’t be the standard I base anything on. But. It kinda seemed like a lot of people thought like her.

Zach was pretty adamant about being able to like both, but did it really matter? If I was bi, I could date guys and girls. Except, would any of the girls want me? Or would I be able to be bi but I’d have to hide it from girls? Would guys care too? What was so good about having a label if no one wanted you once you had it?

I looked a lot of information up when I found out Ryan was gay and that I’d accidentally outed him. I guess I could go look at that research again. But… just the thought kinda made me sick. Which was weird because it was all really supportive stuff about how figuring out sexual orientation was a process, and it was okay to experiment, and that it took time and whatever.

Reading that once was way different than trying to apply it to yourself. It had all sounded good but now I thought it was wishful thinking. Maybe in some ideal world anyone could be anything they wanted and you could go back and forth and try things out.

Here, though? This was a modest Midwest community. You got a label and it stuck to you. That’s just how it worked.

~

I’m currently playing around with the thing at the end where I say this has been more on Mondays, where I post deleted scenes every other Monday.

Zach! Should I add more? Zach, again!

You know how I post outtakes from my fiction every other Monday? Great, that’s what this is.

Sometimes I post longer sections… and sometimes I don’t. That’s what this is. A longer or short section. Duh.

This is a little bit about Zach from the One More Thing universe, a character I love and often just start writing about whenever he appears.

Then I remember, oh yeah, this scene isn’t just a bunch of information about Zach Ahmad. Which means, regrettably, I have to take out the big chunk of Zach stuff that’s just there intruding on the rest.

If Zach were a real person, he would probably object to the point of everything not being about him. However, he’s also probably happy to be a scene stealer.

Luke

Zach being serious? That was unnatural, almost scary. He could dress up as himself for Halloween, just wearing the glasses he needs and hates wearing and saying smart or heartfelt things about people and the world, and it would terrify everyone. Or at least me.

He’d never do that though, wear the glasses.

I wasn’t as cocky as Zach. I wasn’t sure anyone could be, and especially not his best friend, the combined forces of egos that big might cause a tornado or something.

~

This has been some deleted content from One New Start.

 

A brief oral history of farming and other more interesting things

Can you call something an oral history if it’s in someone’s mind? An oral mental history.

Hi. Hola. Bonjour.

(I don’t know how to spell bonjour, and the spell checker thing offered ‘bourbon instead, which I know is wrong, but I was tempted to put anyway.)

Now that we got the greetings out of the way, here’s some fiction! Some of this is in One Little Lie, and some of it is extra.

I don’t think you need a lot of background information to understand this scene, but just in case, Ryan and his dad are going to build a barn. Maybe. Ryan’s dad is trying to teach him things, and because Ryan is Ryan, it’s not going great.

 ~~~

barnrainbow

It was a nice spring afternoon. My father and I stood outside in the light with nothing around to provide shade, but the sun felt nice on my skin. We were out back on our property, surveying the spot where our old barn used to be. Did this count as exercise? I was totally going to count this as exercise.

My dad’s family used to have their own farm, but it took a lot of work. The Miller operation used to be family owned and run, so there wasn’t a big budget to hire new staff with once the number of family members dwindled. Grandpa came from a bigger family, but Dad only had a brother who didn’t live in the area anymore. I was an only child, and Mom had died when I was young.

We didn’t have livestock anymore but that could change once we had a barn again. Dad had traded favors with a bunch of guys he knew to help knock the old structure down after he, Luke, and me attempted it ourselves, and he paid a crew to remove the remains.

There were some supplies at our feet like a big sketch pad, pencils, a tape measurer, and even a freaking protractor that was metal and different from the one I had to get for school. My dad owned a protractor. I really needed to mock him for that.

Before I could, he turned to me and asked, “So what’s the first thing we should do?”

“Go inside and order a pizza?” I suggested even though I didn’t have much hope the answer would be yes.

Dad sighed, though it was more for show than out of true annoyance. He had a pretty high tolerance for annoyance, which he had me to thank for. “I’m going to force this knowledge into your brain one way or another,” he informed me. “So you could at least cooperate.”

Learning about blueprints and construction probably wasn’t the worst idea in the world. I already had some experience as I built a dunk tank for a science project, and there were all kinds of engineering jobs out there in the mythical Real World for science nerds like me that might require these skills.

Still, being totally obtuse made this way more fun for me. I feigned obliviousness. “It’s a barn. Build a big square and put some dividers in it, how hard could that be?”

Dad smacked me lightly on the head. “You can’t even understand how dumb you sound right now.”

Father of the Year, right there.