How It All Started
1980 - Dry Falls, Washington.
Buck shook his head in mild disbelief. Didn't that kid ever agree to anything? Last week when he'd hauled Blair back on the dirt bike - Buck *still* had a hard time believing that runt had walked all the way to the main road - he'd dropped the kid off with his mom and made a point of staying out of their business.
Now it would seem another crisis had hit.
He listened to Naomi answer, unable to clearly understand her words, just enough to know she was trying to talk her son into whatever it is she wanted. Buck rolled his eyes. No wonder that kid was such a brat. His own mother and father had *never* discussed an order with him or his brother. They were told once and that was it. The next 'discussion' usually involved his dad's hand, the barn and not being able to sit for an hour or so.
"I'm not going, Naomi! You're just trying to get rid of me so you and 'The Jerk' can do stuff together!"
Ah oh. Buck didn't like the sounds of that. Naomi may be a flake, but his take on the woman hadn't included her shipping the brat off somewhere. Sure, he was a pain, but Buck had admired the kid's grit. What was his brother doing? Had he managed to convince the woman to do something she normally wouldn't? Hell, Eugene always had a way with women. Buck never understood it.
"What's the problem? You've made it clear you don't want to be here. And it's just a few months," Eugene answered hotly, his loud voice reaching the kitchen. "We can't take you with us."
Buck moved, just enough so he could see the drama unfold. Naomi sat on the sofa, her attention on the boy standing in the center of the room. Blair was turned so Buck could see his face, see the fear. Eugene stood with his back to the kitchen. Buck recognized the arrogant manner in that stance.
Blair made a clear point of ignoring the man in the room, his attention on his mother. "Naomi… I-I don't want to. I want to stay with *you*," he said in a scared voice.
"Baby, sometimes we have to go along with the plan. You know, for the greater good of the whole? This is one of those times. Eugene has a good chance to get some backing. We'll be traveling a lot. And you won't like it. It's better if you stay with Shag-dog and Izzy in Kansas."
"NO!" Blair stomped his foot, his hands clutching the air as if grasping for understanding. "They hate me! Florida, Naomi. Send me to Florida if I gotta go!"
Naomi shook her head, her long hair swinging. "I tried, sweetie. I tried. They won't take you without an adult. It's the rules. Remember?" She seemed to look hesitant.
"Naomi, don't," Eugene growled. "We talked about this. It'll be good for all of us."
Naomi straightened with a nod and Buck knew then the runt was going to Kansas.
What kind of name was Shag-dog?
Then Buck found himself staring into Blair's eyes as the kid acknowledged his new audience for the first time. It was as if a final wisp of straw had floated down to land on the boy's already heavily burdened back. Face red and eyes heavy with sudden tears, Blair broke for the door and was gone.
Buck felt haunted by those eyes. "Leave him with me this summer." The words were out before he could pull them back.
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