Maxwell let out an involuntary groan as his phone dropped under the seat and skittered to the back seat of the car. He had been pretending to respond for emails for the past hour or so, typing gibberish words frantically across the screen and then sending them to himself, then responding to that email and so on. His father allowed this, since it fell under the category of “Work,” and Work Being Important was the one thing that they two of them could agree on. But now that the phone had fallen it was too far to get without taking off his seatbelt, and honestly he didn’t trust the old man not to plow into another car the second he unclipped the life line. So it seemed they would have to converse, or at least acknowledge each other, until they came to the rest stop off exit 8 of the Turnpike that had been pre-agreed upon before the car was started. That was at least another two hours away – too much time to just continue basic conversation, but not enough to scratch the surface of the series of unfortunate events that had precipitated this unexpected car ride away from college and back to the family farmhouse in Vermont. Well, unfortunate for him – he was sure his father felt vindicated by the failures and setbacks, the ultimate expulsion. It was proved by his insistence that he drive down to South Carolina himself to get his drifter son, rather than simply wire money for a flight, bus or train. Maxwell felt sure that a Gerald storm of epic proportions was brewing, and he needed to at least be in the safety of the New England borders before he felt ready to defend himself. So he dug deep, and asked the only question he could ensure would buy him at least four hours of safety from the barrage of accusations and fury he knew was coming to a boil inside his father – “What do you think is contributing to America’s downfall?” His father turned to him, unblinking, and said simply, “People like you.” They did not speak again.
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