EXCERPT FROM TOUCHED UP
Driving the streets of our suburb, I call my daughter’s cell phone for the thirty-seventh time. It goes right to voice mail, just as it has for the last three hours. The logical part of me knows this is the sign of a dead phone battery.
Alyssa didn’t come home from school again. The second time in two weeks. Night has long since fallen. There were no planned after-school activities. She’s just acting out, got a good head and wouldn’t do anything stupid. As I drive around, I keep telling myself this. It helps, but only a bit. Stacey called me earlier to let me know of Alyssa’s disappearance. Not the kind of phone call I wanted, but at least it was civil. Neither of us can figure out if drugs are to blame. It seems Stacey has an idea what’s behind this, but she’s not opening up. No surprise there.
Stacey gave me a list of places to look for Alyssa. A good parent should probably know where his daughter hangs out. We really only know what our kids choose to let on to us. At some point you have to trust the work you put in when they were young. Alyssa knows right from wrong. Next on my list is the bowling alley.
This oughta be fun. It’s a Tuesday night. The place will be filled with league bowlers and teenagers looking to score illegal alcohol. I’m not sure which I’d rather avoid more. As I open an oversized blue wooden door with a bowling pin for a handle,
the smell hits me. Eau de bowling alley. I don’t know all the ingredients in this recipe. Sweaty shoes, plastic balls, alley oil, cigarette smoke, and other substances less appealing. I think if these places were around in prehistoric times, a few dinosaurs might have made it. Nothing dies in here. Everything feels supernaturally suspended.
The café and bar are to the left. An amusement room is to the right. I make an unnecessary scan of the lanes. It would be too uncool, unhip, unfly, to be seen bowling in here. When was the last time bowling was popular with the in-crowd? I decide to start with the amusement room. Not because I think I’ll find her here. I would just prefer it to the bar.
Electronically generated sounds drown out pins crashing and balls returning to their owners. Pre-teen boys swarm around the machines, focusing their attention on killing aliens and driving fast. The opposite gender are surrounding some kind of dance game. A computer is teaching them to dance. Isn’t that the boys’ role? The only kids in here that are close to Alyssa’s age are social misfits. She would never hang with them. A bunch of nerds who’ll end up as engineers and scientists.
I trudge to the other end of the alley. I close my mouth tightly as I pass through a curtain of cigarette smoke. Like all other buildings in the state, this is supposed to be smoke-free. Try imposing those laws on league bowlers. They’re not the type to be worried about their health. There’s probably not a one of them with a cholesterol level below 200. They’re not convinced that smoking or bad eating habits will kill you. I think they make bowling pins black and white because that’s
how bowlers see the world.
I move quickly through the bar area. There’s no sign of Alyssa or anyone else this side of fifty. I do see a couple of lizard-skinned women that may have been around with the dinosaurs. Their knowing glances assure me that they have taken off their custom-made bowling shirts for money at least once in their lives. If I believed in prayer, I’d request now that I never have to come back here again.
No one should smile before the sun rises. On the happiness scale, content is about as good as you can get to in these dark hours. I wake early most every morning because content works for me. Since becoming the father of two, this tiny portion of the day is all the me-time I have left. If people were honest, which they mostly aren’t, I think they would admit to wanting more time alone. It’s 5:47 AM and I’m sitting quietly in the
kitchen, where there are no responsibilities, no guilt, and no unmet expectations. Simply silence.
Mitch Pederson, a forty-something executive in the high-tech world, made no allowance for blackmail in his comprehensive plans to ascend to the top of an electronics
company. His carefully ordered world quickly unravels into a chaos that threatens everything he cares about. As he puts the pieces of his life back together he discovers something about himself that is much more than the sum of the parts.
The son of a career Air Force serviceman, Leo spent his childhood living the nomadic life of a military brat. Having survived the constant uprooting, Leo draws upon the time spent in the four corners of the US as well as Europe to develop his characters.
Leo has finally settled down in San Diego, California with his wife of over thirty years. Aside from writing, and engineering (the necessary day job), he enjoys time with his children/grandchildren, running distance races and all things baseball.
“I write contemporary novels where I stress a character’s beliefs to the point of breaking and then I follow along for the ride.My goal is to offer readers a pause in their lives to think about what they believe and why.”~ Leo Dufresne