We were about to go out for an afternoon run, having been delayed by numerous calls. The phone rang as we were leaving the house. “Forget it,” said Shannon.
“I think you should answer it,” I said.
It was her 16-year-old son, Max, who lives with her ex-husband. Things have not been great between him and either parent recently. “We’re going for a run,” said Shannon. “Fancy coming?”
Max and I had not met, so this was a big step for both of us as he jumped in the back seat ten minutes later. We shook hands. He began talking about relationships, and I turned almost every sentence he spoke into a double entendre, some of them Shakespearian. Max is extremely intelligent, and a very accomplished lyricist, so I felt it was deferential to him in a way. Shannon kept cackling with laughter and he eventually admitted defeat, hands on his head. The ice was broken.
We reached the canal and got out of the car. I slipped a lead on Skip but he was only wearing a flea collar. It fell straight off so we had to leave him in the car. We set off running, and I left Shannon and Max to talk at their own pace. After quarter of a mile I heard thundering footsteps behind me on the gravel. I knew who it was before Max steamed past me. When I passed him a couple of hundred yards further on he was doubled over, recovering his breath.
He stayed for dinner back at the house. “I gotta find something I can beat you at,” said Max. This was the genetics of Shannon’s competitive ‘Willinuts’ side of the family expressing themselves.
“You don’t have to,” I said.
“How are you at baseball and basketball?” he asked.
“We don’t pay them in my country.”
“So I bet I could whip you at a few moves, right?”
“No, because I simply wouldn’t play you.”
“So could we play a game like soccer, which you do have in your country?”
“It’s not a game I’ve ever participated in, so I’d not do it. I run and I do triathlon.”
“You could learn American games like baseball and basketball, since you’re in this America.”
“Did you know that they originated in the UK? Baseball is called ‘rounders’ and is played by girls. Basketball is called ‘netball’ and is also played by girls.”
“What? No way! Basketball has some really mean and vicious moves!”
“You haven’t met many British girls, have you?”
We said our friendly goodbyes and Shannon took him back to his father’s house. I guessed Skip must have gone with them in the car because he wasn’t in evidence. She came back half an hour later. “Did Skip go with you?” I asked.
“No,” said Shannon. “He must just be out and around.” I had a bad feeling about it before we went to bed. Skip habitually chases after the car when either one of us is in it, and he’d chased us the three-quarters of a mile down the drive the previous day. He was nowhere to be found the next morning.
To be continued…