Head in the clouds. Feet on the ground. Heart in the story. Christa Kinde is a cheerful homebody whose imagination takes her new places with every passing day. Making her home between misty mornings and brimming bookshelves in Southern California, she’s been writing for more than a decade, but the Threshold Series is her first foray into fiction. Learn about Christa’s books, Bible studies, short stories, weekdaily serials, and more at ChristaKinde.com.
Part Seventeen: Road Tripper
“There’s a letter for you, Marcus,” Mrs. Turnquist said when he came through the kitchen door. “I left it on the table. Oh, hello, Ransom!”
“Hey, Mrs. T. Thanks for having me.” In lower tones, Ransom asked, “You get mail?”
“Who’s it from?”
“Doesn’t say.” The long white envelope was the security type with a blue pattern printed inside. No return address, and the postmark was indistinguishable thanks to the triple row of one-cent, two-cent, and five-cent stamps.
“It won’t say you’ve gotta move or anything, will it?” asked Ransom.
“Nope. This isn’t official mail. Looks personal.”
“As in private?”
Marcus punched his shoulder. “Let’s read it in my room.”
Ransom chased him upstairs and dropped his backpack on Marcus’s bed. As soon as Marcus perched on its edge, Ransom sat on the floor, propping one arm on the mattress so he could watch. “Maybe it’s from your Uncle Al,” he suggested.
“That’d be good.” Marcus broke the seal and wrestled with the complex folds of the letter … and grinned. “You’re right.”
“What’s he say?”
Aleff’s graceful scrawl took up most of the back a placemat from a diner two states over. Marcus skimmed eagerly. “He says he’s one his way back for a visit. Taking the scenic route. June for sure.”
Marcus could tell Aleff was building up to something. Even so, the true intent of the message hit him by surprise. “Whoa. Road trip.”
“Yeah, it seems like he travels a lot. Is that why he can’t take you?”
“He wants to take me. This summer.”
Ransom’s face fell. “You’re leaving?”
“Us.” Marcus’s hands were shaking a little. “You and me. If we can get permission.”
“You and me? On a road trip with him?”
“How far? How long? What about food and stuff?” Ransom’s unanswerable questions piled up until they were interrupted by the ringing of the phone. His eyes bugged out. “Think that’s him?”
“Think the Turnquist’s will give you permission to go?”
“This is gonna be amazing!” Ransom poked at the placemat and asked, “But how’s he gonna take two people on his bike? Does he have a car?”
“Nope.” Marcus’s own curiosity was simmering near the surface. “Two motorcycles. He invited one of my big brothers along.”
“You’ve got brothers?”
“Not really. Not blood relatives, I mean. But Uncle Al likes to say he picks up strays.” Marcus shrugged. “I guess that makes them foster brothers.”
“Are they nice?”
Marcus wasn’t sure how to answer that. “Mostly? I haven’t seen some of them in a while.”
“Which one of your brothers is coming?”
“Dunno.” He handed off the letter so Ransom could see for himself. “He wants to surprise me.”
A few days before summer break, Marcus found himself in a headlock.
“It’s a done deal!” exclaimed Ransom. “Dad said a bunch of stuff about broadening my horizons and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. And to make sure I’m back for school in the fall. He even put extra money in my account for supplies and souvenirs.”
Marcus was a little amazed that Mr. Pavlos would entrust his only son to relative strangers for the better part of their summer. Given the company he’d be keeping, Ransom couldn’t be safer, but his dad didn’t know that. Then again, when it came to his son, it was pretty obvious that Mr. Pavlos wasn’t exactly involved.
Ransom rambled on. “Mr. Turnquist came by and talked to Dad in person, which helped. And then your uncle called. Whatever he said was good enough. I’ve been making lists all night!”
“We’ve been making lists for weeks.”
“Sure, but those were like wish lists. This time, it’s for real!”
“Have you heard anything else?”
Marcus shook his head. “Same as before. Whatever we bring has to fit in a backpack. Nothing fancy since we’re camping most of the time.”
“Any idea when we leave?”
“The day after they show up.”
“I already gave up my paper route for the summer, so I’m ready now.” Ransom eyed him speculatively. “Wanna get a head start?”
“If I camp out at your place, I’ll be there when Uncle Al roars up on his bike.”
Marcus had never seen Ransom so antsy. He quietly asked, “Ever done the whole summer vacation thing before?”
“Not really. My dad used to buy me a pass to the water park back where I lived before. I’d hang out there or ride around on my bike.” Ransom rubbed his nose. “Hey, you think we’ll get all the way to the ocean?”
“Let’s make another list. Of things we want to see this summer.”
“We have a say?” Ransom asked.
“Nothing wrong with asking.”
“Wow. I dunno. What do you want to see?”
After a moment’s consideration, he said, “The top of a mountain. A herd of wild horses. And an underground waterfall.”
Ransom’s jaw slowly dropped. “Can we really?”
Marcus laughed. “Uncle Al has a thing for natural wonders. Let’s make that list.”
“At your place?” he wheedled.
“Because I’m staying over?”
“Looks that way.”
Ransom bumped shoulders with him. “Are you gonna get sick of me before this is over?”
“Sure about that?”
Marcus rolled his eyes and returned to planning their epic adventure. “Ever been in a hot air balloon?”
“Ever been fishing?”
“Ever slept in a hammock?”
Ransom’s excitement redoubled and their list grew longer by the minute. Marcus knew it would be impossible to fit all of it into one summer. But Aleff was pretty good at pulling off miracles. He’d probably appreciate the challenge.
Two days into summer vacation, Mrs. Turnquist strolled down to the park where Marcus and Ransom were goofing off with Landon and Flopsy. She said, “Someone just called for you at the house, Marcus. I told him I’d relay his message. Since it’s important.”
He snapped to attention. “Uncle Al?”
“No, it was the man traveling with him.”
“Did he give a name?”
“Y-yes, but it was unusual. I suppose I should have written it down.”
Marcus still didn’t know which brother to expect. “Well, what did he sound like?”
His foster mother tapped her chin. “Nice and polite, with a low voice. But not gruff or growly. His way of speaking was almost … lyrical!”
Oddly enough, that didn’t really narrow the field any. Marcus sighed. “Do you mean he had an accent?”
Ransom’s eyebrows shot up. “Where are your brothers from?”
Mrs. Turnquist was nodding. “There was a slight accent, but I’m not good with languages. He sounded Chinese. Or maybe Japanese?”
“Daichi’s originally from Japan.”
“That sounds right.” His foster mom smiled. “Yes, I’m sure that was it. Daichi. He called ahead to let you know that they’ll pull in by dinnertime.”
Ransom thrust his fists into the air, and Flopsy cheered. Landon scuffed the ground with his toe and reluctantly trailed after Mrs. Turnquist, who insisted she needed the younger kids’ help getting ready for their guests.
Left to themselves, Ransom rounded on Marcus. “You seem surprised.”
“Guess so. I didn’t realize Daichi had a motorcycle. That was always more Ben’s thing.” “Who’s that?”
Marcus shook his head. “Another one of the guys. Doesn’t matter.”
“So what can you tell me about this Daichi guy? Is he as amazing as your uncle?”
“In a different way. He’s quieter than Uncle Al. It’s like Mom said, he’s nice and polite.” Anticipation stirred in Marcus’s soul. Seeing Aleff again was a welcome gift. Adding Daichi to the mix put God’s blessing in the double portion category. Sharing them with Ransom for a whole summer was … beyond words. “You’ll see for yourself soon enough.”
“Glad?” asked Ransom.
Marcus gruffly said, “So much.”
“How are we gonna kill time until dinner? Wanna run?”
He hadn’t realized how much nervous energy was rattling around inside, giving him the fidgets. He wanted to spar, but a run was almost as good. With a grateful nod, Marcus said, “Let’s take the long way home.”
Brenna was helping Marcus and Ransom check their packs when the rumble of motorcycles echoed down their street.
“That them?” asked Ransom
“Gotta be,” Marcus muttered, temporarily frozen in place on the floor.
His friend hauled him up, and the thudded down the stairs, bolting out the kitchen door just as their guests cut their engines. Ransom lined up with Brenna and Flopsy, but Marcus hung back as the cyclists rocked their bikes back onto their stands at the end of the driveway.
You made it.
Aleff’s voice held a teasing note as it touched his mind. “Glad?”
Ransom asked me the same thing.
So much. More than ever.
“More than you realize.” Aleff removed his helmet and beamed. “Hello, Turnquist household! We apologize for running late, but our excuse is good.”
That’s when Marcus noticed Aleff’s passenger. His heart sank.
Mrs. Turnquist came outside then. “Boys, do you know where Landon is? He seems to have …!”
“Run off?” finished Uncle Al, who leaned to one side. The dark visor of a motorcycle helmet hid his face, but Landon’s superhero sneakers gave him away. “Daichi and I picked him up a little ways down the road.”
Landon hunched down, trying to hide.
“He was kind enough to meet us,” Al continued. “The least we could do was offer him a lift.”
“I see,” Mrs. Turnquist managed. “Thank you for bringing him home.”
“No trouble at all, since we were headed the same direction.”
Marcus hurried to help his little brother off the bike, muttering, “Hey, what gives?”
“It’s no fair.” Landon gave him a surly look. “I wanna go with you.”
“Can’t,” Marcus whispered. “Sorry.”
Aleff gripped the young boy’s shoulder. “We can’t offer the full tour, but I think we could fit in a ride or two around town before we have to leave. With your parents’ permission, of course.”
“I can’t thank you enough, Al.” Mrs. Turnquist took Landon by the shoulders and steered him toward the house. “Excuse me for a few minutes. This young man and I need to have a little chat.”
Ransom watched them go. “I thought Landon stopped the whole runaway thing.”
“I thought so, too,” said Marcus.
Uncle Al swung off his bike. “Don’t fret. It’ll all work out, I’m sure.”
And then there was a hand on top of Marcus’s head. “You’ve grown, little brother.”
“Some.” Despite the strangeness of seeing Daichi dressed in leather and denim, Marcus could tell that the essentials hadn’t changed—serene as starlight, silent as shadows, and his for the summer. Marcus somehow managed to cram all his gladness into one syllable. “Yo.”
Next Month: Angel Unaware, Part 18: “Good Listener”