Sammy Sullivan's son has been expelled from private school. And he's just been fired. The two decide to take a weekend male bonding trip to rekindle their relationship that has slipped through their fingers, in Charlie Carillo's new coming of age novel.
Read an excerpt of the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.
It's the first phone call from my son's school that I've ever gotten at work, and of course I immediately think the worst. I'm a divorced father who catches glimpses of his seventeen-year-old son on weekends, snapshots of his life ever since I split from his mother, and suddenly my guts go into free fall with the knowledge that anything, absolutely anything could have happened to him. Failing grades. A drug habit. A fatal overdose. Whatever it is it's my fault, entirely my fault for not being around.
These jolly possibilities shoot through my brain in less time than it takes to sneeze. If they ever have a Guilt Olympics, I'll carry the torch at the opening ceremonies.
The caller identifies himself as the headmaster, and I can feel sweat breaking out along my hairline. This is the guy who writes letters to me and the rest of the parents, asking for contributions to fill in the "gaps" not covered by tuition payments. Those payments come to about twenty-four thousand dollars a year, two grand per month, including February, which has just twenty-eight days. I've always been proud of myself for never writing a contribution check, not once, not ever. I probably wouldn't have written the tuition checks, either, except that those payments are part of my divorce agreement, and if I miss one I'm in court, and as much as I hate writing a tuition check, it beats the hell out of writing a check to a lawyer.
That's not quite true. The truth is that unless my kid goes to private school, he'll wind up in a school where he has to pass through a metal detector every day, and who wants that for their child? Like so many parents trapped on the island of Manhattan, I do what I have to do, and tell myself that it's well worth the nightmares triggered by ever-deepening debt.
My mouth has gone dry. I have to lick my lips before daring to ask, "Is my son hurt?"
"Oh no! Nothing like that!" The guy chuckles apologetically. "Forgive me for frightening you, Mr. Sullivan."
Actually, this is just the jolt I need to burn the fuzz off a hangover I've been nursing all morning. Now, at least, I'm clear in the head. Nothing like a death scare to blow the pipes clean.
"Why are you calling?" I ask, nearly adding the word "Headmaster" to the sentence. It's a funny word, that one, the kind of word you'd sooner associate with leafy English boarding schools than you would a soot-stained brick building on the Upper West Side.
The headmaster clears his throat. "It's a matter I'd prefer to discuss in person. Could you come to my office at one p.m.?"
An hour from now. "That's not a great time for me, Headmaster."
"I thought maybe you could extend your lunch hour."
"I don't get a lunch hour. Look, his mother will be back in town on Monday. She's really the one who handles educational matters."
My son is obviously not in a life-and-death situation. It seems fair to pass this mysterious mess off to the ex, the one who selected and insisted upon this school in the first place.
"I'm afraid it can't wait," the headmaster says. "I feel I really must see one of Jacob's guardians today."