Derek glanced away from the touch screen as a knock came at the door. Standing in the doorway, Derek’s father looked at him with a strange expression.
“Hey Chief,” his father said, “you got a minute?”
Derek frowned. What now? He tapped at the screen, closed the application, and looked back at his father. “Sure.”
“You listening to some tunes?”
Derek smiled. His father, Mr. Hip, using words like Chief and tunes. As if that somehow made the connection, bridged the generational gap. And it wasn’t only his dad, it seemed; just the other day, his mother came in the room and, staring at his poster of the rock band Dark Horse, said, “Are they the bomb, or what?” At first, he stared at her, thinking: The bomb? Really? But instead of correcting her—nobody used “The bomb” anymore, that was like ten years ago—he simply nodded and told her, yeah, they were.
Watching his dad, who now stepped into the room and sat on the edge of the bed, Derek pulled out his earbuds and laid the iPad aside. “Just some screaming banshees,” he said.
“Just came out.”
Derek shrugged. “Not really, but they show some promise.”
His dad nodded. “You know, I’m so proud of you, the way you’ve taken on the lawn mowing business around the neighborhood. You’ve earned your own money, you’ve even bought your own iPad. That shows real independence.”
His dad took a breath. “The reason I came in, though, is because I think it’s time we talked. You’ve been spending more and more time on the internet, and your mother and I are concerned.”
Derek narrowed his eyes.
“You may not realize it, son, but as well as it being a great place to hear about new bands the internet can also be a dangerous place.”
Derek looked away. He didn’t like where this was going.
“Out there”—his father swept a hand through the air—“you may see things I’d rather you not see. You may come into contact with people I’d rather you not meet.”
“And besides that, I think it’s time we talked because your friends may have already been exposed to things and started talking.” His father looked at him intensely now. “Am I right?”
Derek shook his head. “Talking about what?”
“About men and women and—well, how babies are made.”
Derek stared at his dad. Was this for real? Was the man really trying to tell him about the birds and the bees?
“Yeah,” he said, “I may have heard a thing or two about that.”
His dad looked down. Disappointment covered his face. “What have you heard?”
“It’s kind of embarrassing to say, you know?”
His dad nodded. “I don’t want you having the wrong ideas about—stuff like this. Sex is a gift from God, and it should be used wisely.”
Derek wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he just shook his head. “Look, dad, can we not do this? I don’t know that I want to talk about this stuff right now. It might be…” He shrugged.
His father nodded again. “Okay. Well, I just want to be available should you have questions. You know, in case you’re curious. ’Cause I’d rather you heard it from me instead of Joey Carlucci. There’s no telling what that kid’ll say.”
Derek laughed. “Yeah. Don’t I know it.”
His dad looked at him again. “So, is there anything you want to know?”
Derek shook his head. “I guess not.”
“Okay then. Well, if you have any questions, please know you can always come to me.”
With that, his father stood. At the door he stopped and gave Derek a thumbs-up. “I’m proud of you.”
Derek smiled. “Thanks.”
His father gone, Derek picked up the iPad and placed the earbuds back in his ears. With a couple strokes, he called up the listing of networks around the neighborhood. This time, he would access the internet through Mr. Davidson’s WiFi. It was secure, but the old buzzard had made the mistake of leaving Derek alone with an unlocked door to the house. In case he needed water, Mr. Davidson had said. He didn’t want such a fine young man overheating while mowing his yard. After that, all it took was a quick search of drawers around the guy’s computer, and Derek had what he needed.
He tapped the screen and waited while the iPad connected. This was the way to do it, Joey Carlucci had told him. In case there were peeping eyes out there, you didn’t want them tracking you back to your own place.
A few strokes later and Derek also called up the Google account he had set up under a fake name—another thing Joey told him to do. He pulled up the e-mail with the video attachment and again watched the clip of two young girls who’d made a personal movie with a boy. They weren’t that good, really, but they showed promise.