I am six and my brother Seth is eight. My family is in a big truck. It says “U-Haul.” We haul. It is orange and white and gray. Everything is in that truck. My bed. My blanky. But Teddy is going to ride in the cab with me. We are moving from Wisconsin, the only place I’ve known, to Fullerton, California. Mom says, “We’re like the pioneers.”
“What are pioneers?” I ask.
“People who move west, to California.”
Dad got a new job in Fullerton, California. He’s working for a radio station.
Mom and dad took me and Seth to K-Mart and we each got a Mask action figure. Seth’s came with skis. Mine did not. Both of our guys have cool masks.
Albuquerque has a funny name. The roads in Denver are wide. The Rocky Mountains are big. California is scary: cars, freeways, tall buildings, different-looking people.
“Are we going to get a limo?” I ask because I think everybody in California has a limo.
It’s my first day at Rolling Hills Elementary school. I’m wearing Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls and a plain white t-shirt.
I notice pretty quickly that nobody else is dressed like me. It’s 1986 in southern California. Kids are wearing t-shirts and jams with flashy neon designs. T & C Surf Designs. Thrilla Gorilla. Op. Not overalls.
At lunch, me and Seth eat together. We are the weird hicks from Wisconsin.
At recess, I’m playing tetherball alone.
A kid wearing normal jeans and a t-shirt walks up.
“Y-y-y-y-you wanna play?” he stutters.
“Sure,” I say.
“M-m-m-m-my name’s Stephen.”
Stephen is my first friend in Fullerton, California.
When my mom picks me and Seth up, Seth says, “Mom. We need new clothes.” She takes us to Target and we each get a pair of jams and a new t-shirt. Mine has a picture of a cartoon duck and he’s saying “I’m the boss.” Seth’s has a California license plate that reads “Just cruisin.” We are going to have to figure out how to be cool.