Ryan's House

Liberty Falls, Pennsylvania

August 2009

The twins sat around a campfire behind their parents' house with Steven and Wayne. The seven year old Yeon Tae was playing with her four year old cousin, Kennedy. Sitting around a campfire back home was something Ryan missed doing. It reminded him of simpler times from high school and not having a care in the world aside from the typical stresses of a high school student. Having Steven and Wayne here made it more nostalgic. Those two were now coaching high school football. They moved up with the team that the twins had helped coach back in the day. The players were entering their senior year and were a hell of a team. They dominated teams so much that they didn't bother stopping the clock in the second half of games if the lead was insurmountable. The only time they couldn't dominate was in the state playoffs. They kept getting beat in the playoffs but it wasn't by much. Each time it was less than a touchdown. Like the Chicago Bulls of the 90s, they kept getting beat by the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs and each time made adjustments and did better the following year. Finally in 1991, they swept the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals to make it to their first NBA Finals where they went on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers.

The team was confident this was their chance and this year they would make it to the state championship game. It was a long way from the days Ryan played. They didn't even win five games in the two years Ryan played. Wayne played all four years of high school and maybe the varsity team won five games in four years combined.

Steven and Wayne gave Ryan a miniature football helmet of the old style they wore when they played. Ryan joked he was going to put it right next to the real helmet.

"You remember joking about being stabbed because you had been shot twice?" Riley asked. Ryan nodded. "That was supposed to be a joke. Not something to go out and do."

Ryan grinned as he took a drink from his beer. "It really wasn't something I was planning."

"You haven't lived until you almost have drowned," Wayne said also grinning. "Getting shot or stabbed is one thing but drowning, that's a whole other game."

"Damn it, Wayne," Riley said. "Now he'll probably go out and fall off a boat or something."

"Where are you going?" Steven asked.

"Sendai," Ryan said. "JET rejected my application and didn't bother to tell me why. The only message I received was the one telling me they rejected it and that they can't tell me why because they have too many applicants."

"Sounds like a crock of shit to me," Wayne said.

Ryan shrugged. "It's whatever. I got hired by a dispatch company called Soulfire. They're not as widespread as JET so I'm only limited to the Tohoku region which is the northern prefectures just below Hokkaido."

"Yeah, I don't know where any of those are," Wayne said.

"Didn't imagine you did," Ryan said. "Can't even find your pop so I can't imagine you could find areas of Japan." Steven and Riley started laughing. The three of them pointed upward and Wayne played along looking upward and joining in on their laughter.

"That will never get old," Riley said. "This group was the best. People I meet these days can't even compare. Can't stand most people, especially coworkers. I'm getting out of these fucking dead end jobs. I'm stuck working with retarded people who think I'm the same as them. They don't believe me when I say I have a degree."

"What do you plan to do?" Ryan asked.

"I'm going to talk to an army recruiter and see what kind of options I can have after spending four years in the army."

Ryan spit out his drink while the other two cocked their heads back in surprise. "Well, I didn't see that one coming."

"I didn't think it was going to be this hard finding a job as a physical therapist. Hell, schools aren't even hiring trainers for their teams. So, I think the only way for me to get out of these soul crushing jobs is to join the military."

"Well, you're better off than Thomas," Wayne said.

"What's he up to?" Ryan asked. "His phone's off."

"There's a reason for that," Steven said. "He's homeless down in Morgantown."

"Really? Why?"

"He lost his food truck because of bad sanitary practices or something. His parents won't even take him in."

"They seemed kinda proud they weren't helping him," Wayne said. "My dad knows them and that's how we found out."

"That's pretty fucked up," Ryan said. "But we're not in any position to help him either."

"So how long will you stay in Japan?" Steven asked.

"The plan is the rest of my life. Yeon Tae really liked it over there and since it's close to South Korea, I can take her there and have her learn about her heritage. Hopefully, I'll find a wife over there who doesn't mind having a step-daughter."

"I'm sure that won't be so hard," Riley said.

"I don't know much about Sendai but I'm sure they've got a good amount of women there to choose from."

"What about Akari?"

"She graduated and got a teaching job in Nagasaki. That's on the other end of the country. Can't get much further apart than that over there."

"You'll find someone who was just as great as her and who will be a good mother to Yeon Tae."

Just like how he felt years ago, Ryan was going to miss these times. He loved spending time with his this group but just like before he knew his life wasn't here. Now his life was taking him across the Pacific. He was excited to start his next adventure and this time he had his daughter to tag along and experience them with him.

To be continued...