“Hey, son. I, um, I’ve got some great news for you.”
“What is it?” asked a voice hiding under a pile of blankets.
Esteban’s dad, Geraldo, opened the door as much as he could and entered the messy room. Esteban’s room was a mess on a good day. Today wasn’t a good day. Posters lined the walls. UFO posters. Cryptid posters. Posters of obscure punk bands. A Secrets of the Paranormal poster featuring the stony visage of Sam Hardwick, the show’s host. Normal teen stuff.
“So, I got you signed up for that, um, special program we talked about.”
Esteban poked his head out from the blanket pile over by what Geraldo assumed was the boy’s bed.
“You did what?”
“Yeah. You know, I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling and I didn’t want to, you know, drag you all over the place again so this year you’re going to be having fun with people your age. Doesn’t that sound great?”
“You’re dumping me off and traveling the world alone?” Esteban asked, exploding from the blanket pile on what was indeed his bed.
“Yeah. Yeah. I mean no! I’m not dumping you anywhere. This is a great program that’s aimed at teaching kids your age all kinds of great… um… life skills.”
“What’s this program even called? Is it like some stupid summer camp or something?”
“No, Esteban. Don’t talk like that. It’s a great, cool, really cool, four month long-“
“It’s a great program called Hero Prep. It’s-“
“You’re abandoning me all Summer?”
“Esteban! I’m not… It’s not like that. Ay Dios mio. Listen, it’s… I know these people. They’re good people. You’re gonna have a good time.”
“Why does it feel like you’re giving me away?”
“Don’t say that!” Geraldo snapped. Esteban sat on his bed, a bitter look on his face. “You’re all I’ve got, son. I’m never gonna give you up.” Esteban huffed. “And I’m never gonna let you down.” Esteban lowered his head. “Never gonna run around and desert you.”
“Cut it out,” Esteban said.
“Never make you cry-“
“I said stop it,” Esteban snorted.
“Never gonna say good bye,” Geraldo grabbed Esteban and gave his head a good knuckle grind.
“No! Ha ha!”
“Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you,” Geraldo said, holding on tight as Esteban tried to squirm away.
“Okay okay! Ha ha ha! Okay.”
Geraldo dug a pamphlet out of his pocket and handed it to Esteban. Esteban hesitated, then took it.
In big bold letters, the pamphlet announced that Hero Prep Summer Smash!tm was going to be a blast this year. There was a little cartoon minotaur in the corner with big cartoon eyes and a cheesy smile.
“I’m liking this less and less,” said Esteban.
“Well, too bad. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me and I can’t focus on work and keep an eye on you at the same time.”
“Why not?” Esteban asked.
“Well, the job is a lot more involved. And complicated.”
“Then just leave me here. I can take care of things while you’re gone,” Esteban declared.
“I can’t leave you here by yourself.”
“I can take care of myself,” Esteban insisted.
“Last week I left you alone for two hours and you almost burned the house down.”
“I got the fire extinguisher to work, didn’t I?”
“Look. Son. This isn’t easy for me either. I’m gonna miss ya. Every day.”
“I guess I can do this. It’s just one Summer. Right?”
“Yeah. Yeah, exactly,” Geraldo replied.
Three robed figures watched the scene unfold through a great big crystal ball, mist swirling all around them. One figure turned to the others.
“We’re totally going to fuck up this kid’s life, right?” they asked.