The Sky Beneath My Feet - By Lisa Samson

chapter 1

Jesus Fish

Every once in a while, I glance at the rearview mirror and see my own eyes staring back at me. It’s disconcerting. I’d forgotten you were in there.

And then, blink, she’s gone again.

Or I am.

Maybe it’s the eighties music on the radio, or the breeze coming through the old VW van’s rolled-down window, the warm sun on my bare arm. Maybe it’s idling on the curb out in front of the high school, waiting as the kids tramp past in twos and threes, their backpacks slung over their shoulders. I don’t know what summons her up. The old me. My former self.

The hatchback pops open behind me. Without a word, Eli shoves his bike in, cocking the front wheel over the backseat. He slams the hatch and comes around to the passenger door. Some passing girls call out to him and wave, then he slumps into the seat, pulling the door shut.

Unlike his older, bookish brother, who speaks with equal parts fear and condescension whenever the subject of public school comes up, Eli wouldn’t have it any other way. He likes it. He’s even popular.

“So what’s wrong with your bike?” I ask.

Eli doesn’t answer, doesn’t even acknowledge my presence. He just reaches for the radio and changes the channel. “How can you listen to that stuff?”

“Hey, you don’t know what you’re talking about. My music’s cool again.”


He flicks his hand in the air, beckoning me to drive.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“Let’s go.”

“What was that thing with your hand?”

“What, this?” He does it again with an impish smile. “That’s called a gesture.”

“I’ll show you another gesture if you keep it up. I’m your mom, not your taxi driver. So what’s wrong with your bike, anyway?”

“Don’t let the people at church catch you making rude hand gestures,” he says. “Or the people on the road, now that we have the Jesus fish on the bumper.”

“I told you the fish was ironic.”

“Sure it is.” He glances over his shoulder. “I bent the back wheel again.”

“Again? You weren’t doing tricks, were you?”

“Tricks?” He smiles at the word. “Yeah, I was doing tricks.”

“Is that not what they’re called? I can’t keep up with the lingo.”

“Don’t try,” he says. “I don’t want to have the Cool Mom.”

“Too bad.” Reaching in the door compartment, I pull out my white plastic shades. “You already have the Cool Mom, so deal with it.”

“Right,” he says, dragging the word out and smiling at his reflection in the window.

“And stop admiring your own reflection.”

On the verge of his sixteenth birthday, my younger son is becoming a narcissist. Born with the kind of languid masculine grace that pairs well with the square-jawed facial symmetry and thick, black hair he inherited from his dad, Eli is growing into his looks. He’s handsome, in other words. Which explains both the girls waving to him from the sidewalk and his indifference to them.

“Try to be nice,” I’m always telling him. Only, to be charming, Eli doesn’t have to try—and consequently, he doesn’t. Even at his surliest, Eli tends to get his way. That’s not how the real world works, I try to tell him. But all he has to do is look at Rick’s example. Whether he tries or not, everything works out for my husband.

Not that I have a problem with that. Except when I do.

At York and Ridgely, we get stuck at the red light. Eli looks around, realizing we’re not heading straight to the house. “What’s the deal?”

“I have a couple of errands to run,” I say. “You remember the Shaws? No, of course you don’t. They moved to Virginia when you were seven or eight—”

“I remember,” he says. “Mr. Shaw had a silver Porsche.”

Yes, he did, but that’s not how I want a child of mine recollecting people. “They’re coming over tonight. Your dad sprang it on me this morning, even though he’s known for days—”

“I’m not gonna be there. I already told Damon I was coming over.”

“Well, you can tell Damon . . . no, never mind. You made your plans, that’s fine. You shouldn’t have to drop everything at the last minute.”

“What are they coming for, anyway? You haven’t seen them in years.”

“That’s a good question, Eli. That’s a good question.”

Eight years ago Jim and Kathie Shaw moved three hours down I-95 to Richmond, saying they would keep in touch. At the time, the Shaws were probably our closest friends, Jim being one of the few people Rick could talk to about his job without fear of being judged.