The Brandon Chronicles: Driver's Education

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-05-25
  • Publisher: Textstream
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It's 1986, a time before the Internet, smart phones, and GPS. So fifteen-year-old Brandon Delacruz has to navigate himself through life with only his wits and a driver's permit. Luckily for him, he also has his loving but sometimes mysterious parents, his quick-witted best friend, and the girl next door who becomes something a little more to help him through it all. Being young and dealing with life, love, and loss is never easy, especially when it gets all mixed up together. This is the first of a planned three part series...


Being fifteen meant that I was too young to get my license. So earlier that summer, I took a driver's education class and got my learner's permit. A learner's permit was basically a precursor to an actual driver's license. But as I found out, a learner's permit gave me none of the advantages of driving around by myself and all of the disadvantages of being driven around by my mom and dad...and vice-versa... "Okay, now be sure that you keep both hands in the ten and two position on the steering wheel at all times," my dad said, grunting the words "both", "wheel", and "all" for emphasis. My parents and I had just completed a trip to the grocery store and after a lot of begging and pleading and mostly empty promises of washing the dishes for weeks, my father had reluctantly given me the keys to my mom's car and allowed me to drive the 5.6 miles home. "But how am I supposed to hold my beer if both of my hands are on the wheel?" I asked smiling and glancing over at my dad. I guessed by how he folded his arms across his barreled chest and by the way his stare was burrowing a hole in the side of my head that he didn't think my attempt at humor was all that funny. "Don't even think of drinking and driving, do you understand me?" he said leaning into my ear, but only after the car had come to a full and complete stop at a light. "I was just kidding, Dad! Honest!" "I mean it," he said pointing his finger at me. "Don't even joke about that." I shook my head and let out a deep breath. "Yes, sir," I said looking into the rear view mirror. I saw my mother's reflection looking right back at me. She had stopped going over the two-foot long receipt from the grocery store to give me one of her looks. Her eyebrows were arched and raised, sometimes to alter it a little, she'd raise just one of them, but my mother must've felt that this was a two eyebrow situation. She tilted her head slightly downward so that she looked both up and down at me and told me, telepathically of course, "I'm not sure what your father just told you, but know that he means it and he'll follow up on it. So please, don't do anything to upset him so I won't have to clean up afterwards." This isn't to say that Mom and Dad were dictators. Actually, they were pretty easy going and fair... as parents go. I wouldn't realize until much later in life that they weren't mad at me because I wanted to drive or because I was making such an effort to get my license. They were concerned that their somewhat gangly first-born son was now legally allowed by the state to maneuver through the streets of Southern California in a two-ton automobile...and they had to sit inside of it. "Watch your speed! This is a residential area! You're only supposed to go twenty-five around here!" my Dad said. Around here, as my father put it, was suburban San Diego. I grew up in a home like a lot of other homes, with a yard like many other yards, in a neighborhood like a lot of other neighborhoods. Our house was white with sandblasted stucco walls and brown trim around the edges. My mother always threatened to paint it a different color when it began to fade, but when it came time to redo the house, I'd open up the cans of paint and see that it was always the same off-white eggshell and the chocolate brown paint that we used every time. We had a two car garage in front, but Dad's workshop and tools turned it into a one car garage. As his tool collection grew, it became an "only-one-car-could-fit-as-long-as-it-was-Dad's-Mazda-RX7" garage. He did everything in there, mostly having to do with repairing something that my brother, sister, or I had managed to break in one way or another. "So Dad, you know I'm allowed to drive to school by myself with a permit," I said keeping my hands at ten and two like he said and hoping he'd notice. I think he heard me. I wasn't quite sure. I thought I heard him grunt. "So what do you think?" "Why don't you just ride your bike to school?" Mom asked me. "Just like you did at Pence. It's about the same distance from home." I graduated from Pence Junior High School this past June, which was a few blocks away, and would be heading to Howard McMillan Senior High School in the fall, about a mile from our house. To a fifteen year old without a license, a mile was approximately the same distance between San Diego and the moon. It was 5,280 feet of asphalt-paved and rugged terrain with steep hills and even deeper valleys. But to my parents, it was walking distance. "It isn't the same distance, Mom," I said. "It's a bit farther than that. But honest, I'm allowed to drive. I read the DMV manual." "We're aware of the laws," my father said chiming in. "But like we said, until we think you're ready, you're not driving to school." "But I'll be the only one in my class not driving to school," I said trying not to whine but failing miserably. "Then you'll stand out," Dad said. "Be ready to make a right at the light." I couldn't believe it. My parents, two relatively intelligent people, were completely oblivious to how silly I was going to look pulling up to the high school parking lot on my ten speed bike. Or worse, perhaps they knew and didn't really care. I slumped in my seat a little and jerked the wheel to the right as I made the turn at the light. "BRANDON JACOB DELACRUZ! HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?" Mom yelled from the back seat. I shook my head a bit and looked around. Had I hit someone? I looked down at the dashboard and checked my speed. Was I going too fast? "What happened?" I asked. "What happened? You just ran a red light and nearly hit another car!" Dad said. I noticed that he was gripping the dashboard so tightly that his knuckles were white. "What?" I said. I turned to my left to see a lady in a white sedan shaking her fist at me. Where in the world had she come from? "Wait a minute, I'm allowed to turn right on red in California and I have the right of way! Don't I?" I looked over at my Dad. A vein on the side of his head was throbbing and growing quickly. I thought that it was going to burst and spray blood everywhere. His eyes bulged out of his head. I figured that this was when he was going to let me have it with both barrels. I was about to hear the loudest and longest string of curse words I had ever heard. And that included the time that my friend Josh and I snuck into a theatre and watched "Scarface" when we were thirteen. But instead, Dad turned away from me and faced the windshield. He took a deep breath, reached over to the middle console, turned off the radio, and very calmly, but without looking at me said, "Pull the car over and turn off the engine." I looked for the nearest open spot and parked the car. I shut off the engine and looked over at my dad. He was still looking straight ahead. "Get out of the car," he said. Oh God, he was going to make me walk the rest of the way home. I turned toward him. "Dad, I'm sorry. I didn't mean..." He held up his hand and pointed at the keys in the ignition. I took the keys out and handed them to him. Still not looking at me, he pointed at the door. I turned away from him, opened the driver's side door, got out of the car and walked around the front. Dad had gotten out of the car and went around the back to switch places with me. When I got to the passenger side door, I half expected Dad to floor the gas and leave me behind. But instead, he unlocked my door, started the car, and took off slowly. I looked at my mother in the backseat. She turned and looked at me. I couldn't quite read her look because I hadn't seen it before. I saw a little anger in her face, that was something that I definitely recognized, but there was something else there that I couldn't make out.

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