My mother and father are not acquainted with Ricky’s parents; they talk on the phone when they are looking for their kid, or to get permission to take us somewhere, they shake hands at school meetings, and wave on walks when they pass each other’s house, but they haven’t even shared first names.
“I’m Huel, this is Betty. I guess you know Jimmy?”
“I’m Jill,” Ricky’s mom shakes everyone’s hand including mine. Well she doesn’t shake Ricky’s hand that would be weird. “Have a seat,” she motions toward the kitchen table a chrome metal and yellow Formica topped table with four vinyl cushion covered matching seats. As we take our places she asks, “Coffee?” she doesn’t mean me, she knows the juice I like and puts a glass in front of me and Ricky without needing to ask. “The police called when they found the car trailer,” she tosses out the remark to make it easier for the conversation to begin.
“So you know most of the story,” my father begins.
“I’m so glad you came by.”
After about ten minutes of this chit chat I’m about to die and can’t keep quiet any longer, “Mrs. Sanchez,” I slip into a gap in the conversation. Everyone turns and looks at me. “If it’s okay to ask, what is it that Mr. Sanchez does for a living?”
“I’m not sure this is the time for personal questions,” My father instructs me.
“No, it’s fine Huel, I know a little bit about how Jimmy’s mind works. Ricky has shared some pretty amazing stories and if he needs information…” she just kind of trailed off and then focused on me, “he does research.” I just let my eyes widen a bit and wait for more. “I really don’t know much about the specifics,” she looks around the table a little embraced and then adds, “he studied entomology in college.”
“Bugs?” I blurt out.
“Jimmy!” my mother reminds me of my manners.
“Well, insects, including bugs,” she smiles at how funny it sounds. “It’s really a very serious business, insects are very important to all of us. Ricky’s dad is quite successful in his field. He’s been all over the world sharing information. And he’s totally committed, he even brings his work home and does experiments here.” She can tell I’m interested so she adds, “have you ever been in his workshop?”
I look over at Ricky who doesn’t seem to know much about this workshop ether, “can we see it?” I ask.
“Ricky, take Jimmy into the basement and show him around, just don’t touch anything.” We leave the adults and Ricky leads the way to a narrow door, he pulls a string and lights a single blub and illuminates wooden steps.
“I didn’t even know you had a basement,” I inform Ricky on the way down the steps.
“I spend very little time down here,” Ricky answers. “When my dad’s down here he usually wants to be left alone. At the base of the steps Ricky flips a light switch and fluorescent strips make the dark cellar as bright as day. The cellar is the full length and width of the house and barely has room for walking. Insects on pins fill the walls. Insects in jars fill shelves. Live insects in small cages sit on tables. A long wooden table runs the length of the basement, at the far end of the table is a single chair, a computer screen, a pile of instruments and a desk light with a gooseneck.
“This must be where all the work gets done,” I say walking up to the chair.
“This is where he is always sitting when I come down to talk him into leaving his work and coming to dinner,” Ricky’s eyes water a little when he’s reminded that his father isn’t home this evening.