Sunlight streamed into Riley's bedroom Saturday morning, so he leapt out of bed and sprinted into the living room.
"Beach day! Beach day!" he cried. "I told you it wasn't going to rain."
Mom and Dad looked up from the coffee table. Mom's hair piled in a bun on top of her head and Dad still had his glasses on. Two cups of coffee steamed on the table beside piles of paperwork and an open laptop.
"I'm sorry, kiddo," Mom said. "Dad and I have to do some money stuff to take care of."
Riley stuck out his lower lip big and fat, but Dad shook his head.
"No can do, buddy. The cereal box is on the kitchen table."
Riley crossed his arms over his chest and marched into the kitchen. While he was eating his Fruit Loops, the voices rose in the living room.
...because you got laid off...
...can't keep a job...
...need to pull your weight...
...doing what I love here...
Riley hated when his parents talked about money stuff. Their voices got loud and angry, then one of them would shush the other - probably when they remembered Riley was listening - and they'd get at whispered again. He didn't understand why money stuff took so long to talk about. They were always saving money - that's why he couldn't have new Lego sets or karate lessons, Mom said. He didn't know why they had to talk about it all the time.
Well, Riley was tired of money stuff.
He put his spoon and cereal bowl beside the sink without rinsing out the milk at the bottom. Then, he put on his shoes, ran into the garage, and strapped his bike helmet on. Before he rode away, almost as an afterthought, he took his kite off the shelf and put it in his unzipped backpack.
The sun warmed his face as he cycled along the seawall. Pterodactyl-like pelicans swooped overhead. Several joggers huffed past him and a lady walking a fluffy dog smiled at him. At 45th Street, Riley locked his bike to a sign pole and pounded down the stairs onto the beach.
For a while, he was interested in nothing but running through the waves and digging holes in the wet sand - holes that filled up again when tide rolled in.
When a strong wind blew, though, he remembered the kite.
Riley pulled out the big red kite. Yellow smiley faces covered the taut fabric, faded but grinning. Riley let the kite out slowly, waiting as the wind caught the sails.
Up, up, up went the kite.
Riley let out his string and tilted his head back to watch the bright red diamond catch the sun. The kite nodded and grinned at him from way up high.
In a particularly strong gust of wind, Riley stumbled and almost dropped hold of the kite string's spool. "Oh, no!" he cried, though he hadn't actually dropped it.
Riley gazed up at the kite."Man, you've got the best seat in town, don't you? I wish I could see it."
The kite nodded in the wind. No wait. Was the kite actually nodding at him?
Riley squinted. Another strong gust blew through and lifted him onto his tip toes.
"Woah!" Riley's stomach fluttered as he drew himself back to the ground. Wait a minute.
Riley looked back up to the kite. It nodded once, twice, three times. No, that kite was definitely nodding at him.
"Really?" Riley said. "Ok."
At the next big gust, Riley let his feet lift into the air. The wind swept under his stomach and swept him up above the beach and over the Gulf. Up above him, the kite held strong and sturdy. Riley looked down at the island rolling out below him. There on the east, the big hospital towers rose. In the middle, the steeples of grand churches poked through the homes. Over on the west, big beach houses fronted the shoreline. And there was his house, nestled in the middle of it all.
The island grew smaller and smaller and farther and farther. Riley held tight to the kite string and smiled. He'd land somewhere at some point, but for now, he let the wind fly him away.