16. High Hopes

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16. High Hopes

“Can’t you see, Mr. Aschen? David trusted me. He gave me the power to decide what would happen. How could he have been using me, if I had control?”

“Those are only words, Jacob. David didn’t give you a key to his house, he didn’t give you access to his bank accounts. He only told you something to make you feel important. But what really happened with this? In the end, did you get to decide what happened with Eureka? You have to look past what David said, because he was a master manipulator. You have to look at the numbers, at the math. The math doesn’t lie.”

I lean my chair back as far as it will go in the cramped space. If I try, I can reach the opposite end of the room with my foot.

I don’t want to answer this part.

“Do you mind if I ask you a somewhat petty question, Jacob?” Mr. Aschen asks, sighing as he folds shut the manila folder.

I fold my arms. “That’s all we’re doing here, right?”

“Why did you stop coming to counseling sessions with me?”

“You don’t need counseling when you’ve got Eureka.”

“Did David tell you that?”

Well, not directly.

Mr. Aschen puts the black and silver pen into a pocket and folds his hands. “I only ask because when you stopped coming, that was the last time I did any volunteer work. I’m a bit disappointed to learn David was a suitable replacement for me.”

“Not David. Jesus, Mr. Aschen, I keep trying to get this across to you. It’s not all about David. It’s Eureka. The idea might have come from anywhere.” Some of the tightly controlled anger within me cracks and begins to leak into my voice.

Mr. Aschen only raises an eyebrow and grins again, like a poker player who's confident in his hand. “I miss our sessions. This may be bad of me to say, but I never had a method to reach the others in your gang.” The aging psychologist emphasizes the word. “You’ve always been my favorite. I think you have the most potential, even more than David.” He speaks into his folded fingers as though they are a studio microphone, but in the tiny space I have no trouble hearing him.

“Isn’t it bad form to pick favorites from your clients?”

“They aren’t my clients anymore,” Mr. Aschen informs me. “Society failed you, Jacob. You and your friends have been mistreated. But, out of the whole sad mess of Broadway Trailer Park, you’re the one I feel l have the most hope of reaching. Unfortunately, I feel like David took the opportunity from me. You can’t see it, Jacob, but you’re infatuated with him. He’s the only male role-model you’ve ever had, and you’ve come to think of him as your father figure, more or less.”

Denial springs eternal. “Let me just tell you what happened next, all right?”


Senior Year, August

Late during the summer, I finally met a bit of good luck: Dad got arrested for drunk driving. His license was revoked, so he couldn’t drive for the next year and the car became mine. He’d either quit or got fired from the auto parts store—Dad had been vague about which exactly—but I still drove him back and forth to the corner store for food, beer and liquor. The awkward silence between us was a tangible presence. Dad still hadn’t forgiven me for getting sent to long-term.

The car was a weasely toy of a thing that screeched like a trapped animal and bounced side to side on the road when the speakers thumped, but it drove, and it was mine.

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