Subterranean Press Magazine: Summer 2010
Fiction: Dream of the Arrow by Jay Lake
I used to dream of an arrow, long and silver. Like the Lone Ranger would have used, if he’d been Tonto. It slid through the air, finding its way across the world, never wavering. I always wondered if it dreamed of me.
Arrows dream, you know. So do bullets. Anyone who’s ever shot knows that. They yearn to hit the target, to come flying home in a spray of straw and stand quivering in the gold.
Like any kid, the arrow just wanted to go home.
Mitch steadied the bow in his hand. We usually shot on the upper soccer field, behind the girls’ gym, which was almost the highest point on campus. That meant if there was a wind, we felt it, which pretty much sucked for archery, for all the view was good across the Connecticut woods and the old dairy barn and I.M. Pei’s big fancy arts center toward the brick-and-ivy boys’ dorms dating from the days of wooden paddles and late-night buggery.
The fall of 1980 was beautiful, mist rising off the school ponds, the grass deepening gold, birds wheeling in the sky, and when the sun was just right, you could stand and shoot like a young god. Which beat having the crap knocked out of you by some overbuilt senior in junior varsity football or whatever. There was a reason they called archery a “veg sport.”
Mitch let fly, a shot that wobbled and staggered in the wind, yet somehow found gold, as his almost always did. He was a natural, could even hipshoot with a .22. “You know why Mrs. Anders is so ugly?”
Mrs. Anders was our archery coach, a woman roughly as tall as she was wide, plain-faced and freckled, with a distressing tendency to wear polyester stretch pants and matching tops in odd shades of brown and green. In a boarding school with such hot babes as Martha Candless the French teacher, Mrs. Anders knew no mercy in our teenage male minds. Her first name was Jackie, and we liked to call her “Jackie O.,” especially when she was wearing her bug-eye sunglasses.
“Born that way, I guess.” I shrugged my way into drawing another arrow from the quiver. On a day like this, I’d be lucky to score in the red.
“No, I mean, why would Mr. Anders marry her?”
The bowstring twanged, catching me right at the edge of my wrist guard, and the arrow lurched through the air, going to ground between the two-by-four feet of the target. “Shit…” I hissed. That would leave a welt, and sting for hours.
“No, though you’re close.” He loosed another gold shot, barely watching the target.
Follow-through, my ass, I thought. I could glare at the stupid target all day and not improve my aim. “Not that close,” I said, waiting for him to finish shooting so I could fetch my lost arrow. I had one in the red, one in the blue and one in the ground. Not much point in finishing out my quiver.
Mitch’s bow twanged with one last shot, then he lowered his arm and leaned over to whisper in my hair, hot breath on my neck reeking of garlic even from halfway around my head.
“The last Mrs. Anders ran off with an English teacher, and Mr. Anders never wanted to go through that again. Who’d fool around with that cow?”
I glanced over at Jackie O. She was helping John Halloran with his stance, and she smiled at me. She was cute, a hundred pounds ago, and nice. I could see it, I thought.
Besides, Mrs. Anders was more than I ever got. Just me and Spanky my right hand, so far in life. For the most part.
A Child’s Book of Years
I was three when my Mom fooled around on my Dad, blamed him for everything, and ran out to smoke dope and date stupid, violent men down in Texas. I don’t remember that. Sometimes my Aunt Tori will tell me the story, when she’s tired enough.
I was four when my Dad sued my mom for custody. In 1969, that was a big deal, a single father getting custody, but Mom had sinned her way out of the sainted part of motherhood as far as the courts were concerned. I don’t remember that, either. No one but Aunt Tori will talk about that, either.
I was five when my grandfather beat me with a Bible. I sort of remember that, but not fondly. God wasn’t on my side, I did know that. I’ve never asked about it since.
I was seven when Lacey Bodine took off her shirt and held me to her breast to see how it felt to make out, without getting in trouble at school with the other sophomores.
I remember that, all right. And how prickly the hair was below her waist, though my little wiener couldn’t ever have gotten in far enough for her to feel it. And we tried every weekend or two for months.
I never told anyone until the school made me have weekly sessions with Dr. Fielding. Now he tells me I’m confused about life.
No shit, Sherlock. He had to go to medical school to figure that out?
Sometimes Dad flies back to the United States for a few weeks, and when he does sometimes he even remembers to pop up to Connecticut and see how the family line is coming along. Mitch hides his bongs and I brush my hair a few extra times and backdate some mail so I can pretend I forgot to send it along and Dad and I say hello.
The old man buys me a burger and shake at Friendly’s, lectures me about my grades and expenses, then heads on to New York or D.C. or somewhere.
Then I go back to school, listening to Mitch fart at night and heading for class because it’s almost all I have. And I keep firing arrows that never quite hit the target.
Danny Spencer and Moorehead Thornton lived across the hall from me in Logan Monroe. It wasn’t one of Choate’s more prestigious dorms, but it wasn’t bad.
The real losers lived in Hill or Hall or one of the other warehouse dorms. The real cool kids lived in the converted old houses on the north side of campus, dorms that were almost like home, or in the odd dorms like Carrington House where Mr. Voorhies held court with his group of good-looking, trim young fifth- and sixth-form boys that never dated any girls.
Mr. Voorhies liked to talk about Anthony Burgess and dropping acid at Bowdoin during World War II and his collection of waterline models of British cruise liners. Even I knew he was queer as a three-dollar bill, but he really cared about us kids.
Spencer and Thornton didn’t take classes with teachers like Mr. Voorhies. They always registered late for the upcoming semester and got the odd sections taught by twenty-three year olds working on a stipend. They spent most of their time stoned out of their minds, dueling with lacrosse sticks and imitating Cheech and Chong.
We were on the second floor of Logan, with a few of the less muscle-headed football players, the captain of the ski team, a couple of dyed-in-the-wool academic grinds and the other flotsam of the Choate student body’s intermediate social layers.
Mitch thought Spencer and Thornton were funny as hell, and besides they sold him dope. I mostly thought they were nuisances, but they were entertaining nuisances.
One day I came back from class and heard grunts from Spencer and Thornton’s room. I stopped to listen at the door for a moment, then yelled, “You guys having fun in there?”
It sounded like Thornton.
His room wasn’t hard to get into—Thornton had smashed the door in half doing a body check with a lacrosse stick the previous week—so I toppled one of the narrow panels and stepped through.
There was clothesline tied around the sprinkler pipe, leading right out the window, tight as my bowstring.
Now, we had a rule at Choate. It was more important than not walking on the grass. It was more important than not having dope or booze in your room. It was more important than not cheating.
No hanging on the sprinkler pipes.
You couldn’t so much as tape an air freshener to the pipes. Kids were kicked out of school for doing pull-ups on them. This when you couldn’t get arrested for carrying a joint.
“Hey, Thornton,” I said, stepping over to the window. “You’re in trouble.”
I leaned out. His fingertips were narrowly on the sill, the half-moons of his nails flushed bright pink. The clothesline wrapped over the sill between them and ran down to a noose around his neck. Thornton looked up at me, his face red as a baboon’s ass. “Help,” he said.
“What you doing down there?” I sat on the windowsill, careful not to shove his fingers off. “Hanging around? Or just hanging?”
“Please?” I asked.
I grabbed his wrists and leaned back. I was a veg, but I weighed almost two hundred pounds, so I could warp Thornton back in through the window by main force.
He lay on the floor, gasping, tugging at the noose.
“What the heck is wrong with you?” I said.
“Nothing.” Thornton grinned at me. His face was getting back to a normal color. “Just wanted to see…you know.”
There was a rumor that if your roommate committed suicide, you got automatic straight As for that trimester. I couldn’t see how this benefited the suicidee, however. “How it felt to hang yourself?”
“Yeah. I was going chin back up, but I made the rope a little too long.”
I rolled my eyes. “So?”
“What?” He sat up, massaging his neck.
“How’d it feel to hang yourself?”
Thornton shrugged. “You know. About like you’d expect. No angels or nothing, didn’t see my life flash before my eyes.”
“Stick to dope,” I said, and headed back for my room. I had archery practice, and somehow Mrs. Anders was easier to deal with than Thornton, even if I never did hit the gold.
That night I dreamt of the arrow again. This time, as it flew, it dangled a clothesline noose. I couldn’t see the other end of the rope, but I was afraid it was tied to me.
The arrow sailed over a target, big and round and pale pink with a round, brown nipple, like Lacey Bodine’s had looked to me so long ago. It never did connect.
Before boarding school, I’d lived a lot of places. Taiwan, Nigeria, even a little time in the U.S. It was kind of cool, going to strange places and seeing different people, but the schools were always new, the kids always suspicious and cliquish. I was the outsider’s outsider. When I came home with a busted lip, or a black eye, or with my book bag gone, Dad would look at me and say, “Well, what did you do to antagonize them?”
Fuck you, Dad.
Then one summer, at a day camp at Taipei American School when I was twelve, there was some Chinese kid in the class. His ears stuck out too far from his funny haircut, he didn’t speak a word of English, and he wore his Chinese school uniform every day, which looked like a Mickey Mouse suit in blue and white.
His parents must have been crazy—putting him there with all us expatriate American kids was like throwing a cat in the junkyard with all the dogs. I knew exactly how he felt.
And when for once in my life I wasn’t the kid getting whacked way too hard with the dodge ball, I couldn’t wait my turn to get in some of my own. It took about ten minutes for me to turn from victim to bully.
He lasted two days. After that, they went back to making me be the one to drink the piss.
Choate was different, somehow. Proud of its heritage, the school stood firmly on the path of privilege, from Montessori kindergarten on the Upper East Side right to Harvard Law or Johns Hopkins Medical. Just a pit stop on the highway of life for the trust fund crowd.
My family had some money, but not keep a private plane near campus kind of money, like one kid down the hall. I just went there to keep out of Dad’s hair. And found out that being new wasn’t such a crime when everyone was new. Being smart wasn’t such a crime when everyone was smart.
Being a stone geek, however, carried all the usual penalties. At least in archery, I got to handle weapons, which occasionally made an impression even on the big, tough guys.
Mitch and I were shooting again, he in the gold, I in the red as usual. The wind was down today, so I didn’t have my favorite excuse, but Sammie Sinclair had been asking me for a date lately. That bothered me. She was sort of the freshman equivalent of Jackie Anders, but a girl was a girl.
I didn’t dare tell Mitch. Not that he’d gotten any closer to girls than the dining hall, but that wouldn’t keep him from razzing me mercilessly about Sammie.
I found I was holding stance a lot longer than I meant to, until the bow shook and my right arm began to ache. The arrow wandered off the little rest along the arc of the bow, and I tried to flick it back on by pulling on it with the fingertips of my right hand.
Then Jackie O. put her arms around me, pulled the arrow in, breathed in my ear, and said, “Let fly, like this.”
It went gold.
She walked away as I stood there, breathing hard, gooseflesh on my neck and ear where her breath had run, while Mitch just started at me until he started giggling.
“Oh, fuck,” he said. “Not her. Oh, fuck.”
The giggles slid over into full-bore laughter as Mitch staggered to one of the little benches by the wall of the girl’s gym. I wanted to put one into him, but I settled for three more wild shots downrange, none of which hit the target.
Spencer and Thornton got busted by the Wallingford town cops, which was highly embarrassing for all concerned, as the boys were toting about four pounds of California red at the time in a Choate gym bag. Headmaster Weeks took all kinds of flack from the town, and the New Haven papers. The story got out to the New York press, and suddenly we had a 60 Minutes film crew wandering around.
Pretty much all of us got buttonholed by the various deans. “No interviews, no comment, stay quiet.” A few troublemakers disappeared, the teachers started dressing up, and a whole bunch of money apparently changed hands, because within a month everything had died down. Spencer and Thornton came back just before fall finals, no doubt to the great benefit of the school’s endowment fund.
“Yo, Thornton,” I said, running into him on Logan’s front steps one day. He had a cleaner haircut than I’d seen all year.
“Edwards.” He grinned, but clearly he wasn’t the same guy he used to be. His heart wasn’t in it. He hadn’t broken any doors lately or anything.
“How’s things? You off all the hooks?”
“Deferred adjudication, man. I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
“I’m glad you’re back,” I said.
That night Thornton hanged himself out the window again. No one pulled him back in this time. I never heard if Spencer got his straight As or not.
Winter term at Choate starts just after Thanksgiving and runs about three weeks to Christmas, then takes a long break. Not much point in that, I suppose. No one—teachers, students, even the deans—expected much those few weeks.
Though I kept dreaming of arrows, I shot riflery in the winter. The school owned a bunch of old Springfield bolt action .22s. We had an indoor rifle range in the basement of the big gym, a little twenty-five yard course with motorized target clips.
I was good, but not great. The lonely spirit of the archery gold followed me down to the range, lurking in the sharp smell of gunfire and the damp mold in the corners.
No Mrs. Anders down there. We had an old fart coaching the team named Mr. Eliason, Mort to his friends, who drove a classic Edsel and was always blathering on about Pusan and Inchon. I just ignored him, shouldered the rifle, and shot.
Mitch was there, too, and he could shoot way better than me. His hipshoot was better than my kneeling, and when Eliason caught Mitch doing that, there was some holy hell.
The week after term started, we had a memorial service for Moorehead Thornton. No one from Choate, not even Spencer, had gone to Thornton’s real funeral somewhere back in Ohio. No one from the Thornton family came to the Choate for the service, but we had it anyway.
Headmaster Weeks talked for a while about the family of education, and God is in the words we read and the lessons we learn and a bunch of other silly crap. They had a couple of kids I didn’t know very well talk about Thornton. I guess they didn’t want any of his real friends doing a eulogy—God only knows what we would have said.
After the services, Sammie Sinclair French-kissed me in the bushes behind the church. I wanted to touch her tits but I was scared to death. I had no idea what she wanted, so after some kissing and a few stupid words, I stumbled back to Logan to change out of my shorts.
That night I dreamed of the arrow again, trailing its noose. The Chinese kid with the big ears was hanging on to it, flying above me, and he was crying. I wanted to hug him, tell him I was sorry, make it safe for him like no one ever had for me, but he flew over the horizon, leaving only his tears behind.
It snowed that December, which was news to me. I’d lived all over, but somehow had never spent much time in snow. I hated the stuff. Sammie wanted to go out and play—somehow she’d become attached to me. Mitch wanted to cut class and get more and more stoned, though I don’t know where he was getting his dope with Thornton dead and Spencer out of the business.
Me, I spent more time shooting. I’d squint down at that little black target ball and it would become all the years of my life.
Squeeze the trigger halfway.
Bang. There went 1969. Sorry, Granddaddy. I guess we watched the moon landings together, but I’m tearing that page out of the book.
Bang. There went 1970.
Could I shoot my way to the present?
Bang, bang, bang until I’d punched out the entire target card and Eliason chased me out of the range and back into the snow.
I went to class, mostly. Thing was, cut slips got processed in the dean’s office by a student worker, who happened to be Mitch. Everybody had a work crew. Mitch took care of my cut slips. I washed blackboards in the biology rooms of the science hall, which mostly meant counting the fetuses in the jars in the hallway and snooping through the closets for old crap in buckets of formaldehyde.
One day I found this pale white frog, with orange spots sort of like a giraffe. It pretty much filled a five-gallon bucket, swimming in those preservatives for years. The frog would have hung over the edges of a dinner plate, it was so big. In bio we were dissecting worms, with frogs coming after the Christmas break, but I was pretty sure Mrs. Gates didn’t mean this frog.
I took the bucket back to my room and hid it in the back of my wardrobe, behind the nice wool pants I never wore. Then I went to class some more, to keep the cut slips down far enough that Mrs. Gates and my other teachers didn’t complain to the fourth form dean.
The only class I never cut was Mr. Voorhies’s honors English section. There were only six kids there.
We’d read Moll Flanders or Bleak House, then wind up talking about post-War British politics for an hour. Mr. Voorhies smiled a lot at me, his old jowly face pooching up, and told me I should be a writer someday like his friend Anthony Burgess.
He wasn’t hot for me—hell, no one was but Sammie Sinclair and she was third form and a bigger geek than me. It’s just she was a geek with tits. I was a geek with pimples and a weird attitude and not enough money to keep up with the kids around me.
Mr. Voorhies did care about me, asking me to come around Carrington House for breakfast on Sunday with his boys. He wasn’t so crazy about Mitch, who seemed to turn up most places I went, but Mitch wasn’t in honors English.
“Mr. Edwards,” Mr. Voorhies said one day. “Would you mind staying after for a moment?”
“Sure.” What could I say? I watched Marissa and Tony and the rest of the class file out, a few of them smiling at me, then it was just me and Mr. Voorhies looking across the Formica-topped seminar tables at one another.
“Hi,” I said as he studied me.
“Were you close to Mr. Thornton?” Mr. Voorhies finally asked.
“He lived across the hall from me in Logan.”
Voorhies must have known that. He cleared his throat, drummed his fingers on the tabletop, cracked and lost a smile. “Did he ever, ah, confide in you?”
Uh oh, I thought. “Is there something you’re looking for, Mr. Voorhies?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I suppose not. Mr. Thornton was a charming young man with great potential. His loss is a tragedy for us all.”
It was the drug bust, I told myself on the way out. He killed himself because of the drugs. That’s all.
The summer I was twelve I spent some time with Aunt Tori, my mom’s younger sister. I can’t quite remember how it worked out that way, but I was just as glad to have a month living like a normal kid. No servants, no guards, no airplane flights.
Besides, I had a crush on Tori. She was a lot younger than Mom, and it seemed like I might have a chance with her. But mostly she taught me to play solitaire, and how to shuffle a card deck like a grown-up.
I played Canfield and Klondike and Four Aces and a dozen more games I didn’t know the name of, flipping the cards over and back again. There was something in the rhythm of the cards that seemed soothing, familiar. The ripple of the shuffling deck, the faint click and flip of the deal, the pips and faces staring up at me.
Cards have simple lives, not like people. The Queen climbs on top of the King and they’re both happy. Then she turns around and cheats with the Jack, but no one cares. They swap, hearts for spades and back to hearts again.
And there’s always something in the numbers. You can deal your own birthday. You can ask the deck a question—if I turn two hearts, Sammie Sinclair will let me touch her tits. If I turn four in a row, she’ll let me see them. If I turn six hearts, she’ll let me kiss them.
I wondered if her nipples would taste almost salty like Lacey’s had, all those years before.
But if I turned all spades, she would laugh me off and walk away.
I did see Aunt Tori naked one time coming out of the bath, but she turned and walked away from me. I dreamed hot dreams about her ass rubbing up and down for days afterward. Spanky got quite a workout that summer.
Eliason finally told me to quit hanging around the rifle range. I wasn’t much of a shot, at least for competition purposes, and the practice wasn’t making me any better.
Maybe he didn’t like me handling the guns. I don’t know. I started spending more time in my room, putting up with the reek of Mitch’s bong and playing solitaire on my bed. Class didn’t seem so important now, and I was kind of afraid of Voorhies all of the sudden. Besides, school was out in another week or so.
Sammie was avoiding me, or maybe I was avoiding her, until Danny Spencer banged on the door one day.
“Hey, Edwards, your pussy’s downstairs,” he yelled. “Better get her while she’s hot.”
“Spammie’s here, Jim-bo,” Mitch crowed. “Fresh meat to beat.” He dissolved into coughing laughter, until he spilled his bong water on his pillow.
I flipped him the bird, and grabbed my parka. I stopped to turn a few cards from my draw pile. I got four hearts in a row, then couldn’t stand to go on, so I headed downstairs.
Sammie waited on the couch in the common room. “Jim,” she said with a smile when I walked in.
She wasn’t much to look at, but neither was I. Big tits crowding out her sweater, but the rest of her was still skinny-normal, with curly hair about three shades of brown and a chipmunk face. Her zits were better than mine, which pretty much made her fractionally cooler than me, but that wasn’t saying a lot.
“Hey, Sammie.” I dragged the toe of my boot on the worn carpet, wondering if the next two cards were hearts, two.
She took my hand and we went walking in the snow.
I hate snow. It gets down my boots and my collar and makes me cold and wet and damp, but there you are. I kept stealing glances at what I could see of her chest under her parka as we walked down past Archbold Infirmary and the duck pond and toward the Upper Campus—the old girl’s school, when Choate and Rosemary Hall had still been separate. We were proudly coed now.
We didn’t talk at all as she led me past the girl’s gym and my archery field, and on to the fallow hay meadow beyond. Someone had stacked cords of firewood about twenty feet past the gravel drive, and it turned out there was a little hollow in the middle of the stacked wood, with a few old blankets and some empty beer bottles.
“Come on,” she whispered.
We lay down, wriggled around, unzipped our parkas and started kissing again.
Two hearts touch, four hearts look, six hearts kiss. I’d only turned four hearts, chickened out on the last two, but maybe the cards hadn’t lied. The Queen of Hearts liked her Kings and Jacks front and back. There was only one of me, but Sammie’d made a real move.
The first move any girl had made on me since Lacey Bodine.
We kissed some more and I sort of got on top of her. I was sliding my crotch back and forth on her thigh, and she pushed a little at my chest. She didn’t break the kiss, though, so I squeezed her tit through the sweater.
“Mmm…” Sammie said. I couldn’t tell what that meant, but two hearts was two hearts.
I tried to slip my hand under the waist of her sweater, but my finger got caught in the loop of her corduroys.
She broke the kiss. “Not so fast, Jimmie.”
I fished my hand loose, the finger aching, and ran it across her sweater again. She kissed me, so that must have been okay. My dick was getting really hot, so I kept rubbing on her thigh and my hand tried again to reach beneath her sweater.
Then it was like a wave of heat on me, everything aching and all I could think of was Lacey Bodine and how Sammie’s huge tits would look just like hers and I yanked her sweater up and her turtleneck came with it and there was her bra, an enormous thing of polyester and wires and four hearts had made this come true and I grabbed at the edge of her cup and pulled feeling the soft skin bouncing underneath and my dick gushed hot and she slapped me. “Get off me, you jerk!”
I sat up, hit my head on the cordwood, tried to lie back down, and Sammie slapped me again. She stood up, stepping on my hand and elbow, adjusted her sweater, and tried to kick me in the nuts, but she only got my thigh.
She ran crying into the snow. I laid there, my crotch sticky warm, and wondered what the hell had just happened. It took me a long time to get up and stumble back to the dorm.
That night the arrow flew higher than ever, like a jet liner leaving a contrail in the sky. It trailed something bigger than Thornton’s clothesline, which I finally figured out was Sammie’s enormous bra. I ran after it, stumbling over hay stubble and loose logs and snow banks, but I never did catch it.
Dr. Fielding was a little guy, almost hunched over within his size, with a full beard and a tweed coat full of dandruff and cat hair. I wondered if he had a wife, or anyone to care for him. Or if he was like Mr. Voorhies, old and lonely and afraid of what people might say.
We met every Tuesday night in a little room in the basement of the Infirmary. There hadn’t quite been a court order, but it had been close. Dean Shadduck had made it extremely clear.
“Edwards.” He was tall, with tight, curly hair and a bloodhound face. He always sounded like he’d just found you whacking off in a broom closet.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“You realize that if your family wasn’t in Nigeria, we’d be sending you home right now.”
I looked at the leaf-filtered sunlight on the white bedrails, the Infirmary’s wool blanket. Two robins fought just outside the window. I really wanted to be with them. “I know, sir.”
“All right, then. Any step out of line, the tiniest little thing, and you are gone.” His eyes narrowed as his accent thickened to the deep South of his youth. God, Shadduck reminded me of my Dad. “Got it, boy?”
Then he left me alone with my playing cards and my memories.
A Schoolboy Tarot
Spades mean death.
Hearts mean love.
Diamonds mean luck.
Clubs mean what the fuck.
The King’s a bastard.
The Queen will treat you nice.
The Jack’s a tricky dick.
The Ace will cut you twice.
To hell with the numbers. They’re just like you—filler in the great pageant of life.
I got back to the room, snow down my back and even in the crack of my ass. Mitch was on his bed, working on some fresh bong water. He blew into a towel, set the bong on his desk and sat up in bed.
“What happened to you, man?” He started giggling. “Spammie roll you or what?”
I peeled off my chinos. The legs stuck to my body. “Something like that,” I admitted.
“You get any?”
“No, I didn’t get any. Now shut the fuck up.”
I threw the chinos on a pile of moldering laundry in the corner. The school picked up laundry at Logan on Tuesdays and returned it on Thursdays, but you had to remember to take your bag down to the common room.
If you forgot, you wound up washing your underwear in the bathroom sink, like me, or going for that natural scent, like Mitch. By my count, he hadn’t taken a shower in over a week either.
“What did happen? I hope you at least got a squeeze off her. Man, if she didn’t give you a grope, what’s the point?”
“Shut up!” I shouted. I grabbed my bottle of Prell and attacked Mitch with it, smearing shampoo in his hair and on his shirt.
He kicked and struggled, but Mitch was a bigger veg than me, so mostly it came to a few bruises and a lot of annoyance. I finally managed to shove him out in the hall, so I locked the door.
“You’re not getting back in here until you go wash off that shampoo,” I shouted.
I heard him walking down the hall, shouting in a singsong voice. “Edwards didn’t get none, Edwards didn’t get none! No spam for Jimmie-boy!”
Africa beckoned that Christmas. From Choate, I took a cab to New Haven. From New Haven, I took a train to New York. From the train station, I took a cab to Kennedy Airport. From Kennedy, I took a plane to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam, I took a plane to Kano, Nigeria.
The sky was orange, the color of harmattan, the dust wind off the Sahara. The airport was mostly a runway with a chain link fence around it, and a little building that looked like a Greyhound bus station from the southern United States. Crowds of touts and expediters and bag boys and just plain thieves swarmed everyone who got off the plane, not to mention people selling things from chickens to goats to clothing to, apparently, themselves.
There were a lot more policemen around than normal, though I wasn’t sure why. Once I fought my way through customs and immigration, Dad met me and led me to a big black limousine with two guards.
“Where’s the Land Rover?” I asked, settling into the leather seat in back.
“Happy to see you, too, Jim.”
Dad and I look a lot alike, he’s just bigger and older and meaner. I guess I love him, I mean he’s my Dad, but what can I say? “Yeah.” I pressed my face to the window, pretending to be tired. It was a long cross-country drive to Kaduna, where Dad lived.
“Don’t do that,” he said. “You might get shot.”
“Right.” Then I saw the soldiers outside the airport compound. Some of them were tracking our car with their rifles.
I shrank back from the window.
“Little problem with an Islamic insurrection,” Dad said. “The Nigerian Air Force has been bombing the slums of Kano.”
“I’m sure that will take care of it.” What did this have to do with me? Why had I come here? I could have stayed over at school, or gone to Aunt Tori’s house, or God forbid, tried to track down my mom somewhere.
“How’s school, Jim? Did you bring your grades?”
Our house was huge, by local standards. Four or five thousand square feet, five bedrooms, air conditioning, five freezers and three refrigerators, a cook, a steward, a house boy, two yard boys, a driver, and an entire tribe of gate guards, literally twelve or fifteen men living in our driveway making hats and little knives to sell in the markets when they weren’t guarding us with their lives.
Plus the hundreds of skinks doing push-ups on the walls and the flock of vultures that roosted on the asbestos roof at night. I could lie in my room with the air conditioner humming a tropical dirge and listen to the claws scrape up there.
Vultures are lousy sleepers. Every now and then, one of them would fall over. I’d hear the thump, the rattling roll as it slid down the roof, a squawk, then a couple of minutes later some more thumps as it landed on the roof again. Then all their claws would scratch and scrape as the klutz found its place in the line.
If you watch them during the day, they’re like a net. Even during harmattan, the sun is a vaguely bright spot in the sky, but there aren’t any clouds, really. The vultures circle over the city, each one with his own spot, in some giant grid. If one of them sees something interesting, he spirals down a bit for a closer look.
His neighbor sees him going in, and follows him down, and so the next bird notices, too. It’s like watching someone pick up a net floating on the water. They grab one strand, and all the others fold in, a fountain in reverse.
That was these vultures in the Nigerian sky. One would spot a weak or wounded animal, and they’d all follow the leader in.
Just like I had with that Chinese kid back at Taipei American School. Just like kids always do.
Even at Christmas I couldn’t go outside much. The Kaduna River had flooded our backyard. The word means “crocodile” in Hausa, the local language, and there’s a reason they call the river by that name. Not to mention the water snakes now swimming over the top of our back wall.
Dad and I mostly saw each other over breakfast.
“Got any plans today?” he asked the first morning after I flew in. Dad was eating scrambled eggs that Solli the house boy had served on bone china with a silver place setting.
“Well, gee, I thought I’d go to the multiplex, then head down to the malt shop.”
“Don’t be a smart-ass, Jim. There’s lots to do here. Head for the market. Go down to the Durbar and swim with the other ex-pats. Hell, I’ll drop you off at the Polo Club if you want.”
There was a good idea. Go hang around in the bar with a bunch of burned out middle-aged British women dreaming of the colonies of their youth. Scary women with brittle blonde hair and wrinkly breasts loose under their cotton shirts in the tropical heat. Even my horny teen aged self didn’t want to sleep with them.
“No. I’ll stay in and read.” Last summer on the endless shelves in the back hallway I’d discovered Mack Bolan, who always seemed to get the girl, and some soft-core stuff with the covers torn off.
Once Dad was gone, I’d swipe a couple of his Penthouse magazines, spread them around on the bed wide open, and read myself hard. It made my erection last longer, and I could do it four times before lunch, until my dick felt like a squeezed lemon and my wrist ached.
Mack Bolan was for in between.
“Whatever you want,” Dad said. He gave me an odd look, his head cocked to one side, then got up from the table.
Back in Connecticut, the snow was probably falling, and Mitch and Spammie and John Halloran were all home having white Christmases with normal families who lived in normal houses without vultures and desert tribesmen in the yard.
Meanwhile, my personal arrow sped through a world of orange skies and blood-warm air. I ate the last of my bacon and slunk off to my room.
I never did tell Dad about Thornton, or Sammie, or anything, really.
On the way back the plane stopped over in Tunis, as it always did. A French-speaking woman got on there, with a daughter maybe a couple of years younger than me. The mom sat there, staring out the little oval window at all the ground crew guys and the red rocks beyond, while her daughter cried.
The plane took off and her daughter still cried. A couple of the stewardesses came around to talk to the kid. The mom ignored them, too, and the kid still cried.
We flew into darkness reaching Amsterdam, and that kid never stopped crying, not when the wheels bounced on the icy runway and we shuddered to a halt and everyone cheered to be back in Europe with phones that worked and no crazy Muslims shooting up the airport like back in Kano.
I knew just how she felt.
“Tell me more about when you were little. How did you make friends?” Dr. Fielding leaned forward in his chair, his intent I’m-going-to-help-you-get-through-this look on his face.
I shrugged, slouching further down in mine. “I told you. I don’t remember being little.”
“When do you remember making friends?”
“Second grade, I guess.” Another year, another country. Life’s big adventure ran onward and onward.
“So tell me about it.”
“I don’t know. You go to class, the big kids shove you around a little, the cool kids ignore you, the girls act like you’re an insect. Not too much different now.” I blushed, thinking suddenly of Sammie, then Lacey Bodine.
“Why are you blushing?”
“None of your damned business.” I stood up, shoving the chair back.
“I don’t think you should go, Jim.”
I sat down again. I didn’t need grief from Dean Shadduck, and God forbid Dad had to call me all the way from Nigeria.
Kaduna was simpler. Nothing to do but sweat away the dust outside or sit in the air conditioning and masturbate.
Here in Connecticut, I had to go to class and answer questions and tell lies and ignore what the cards had told me and God what had that girl done to me?
And I was crying, like that, tears running like the dam had broken and snot up my nose and in my forehead and down my throat and it hurt to cry, hurt so much that my ribs ached in my chest and my lungs burned.
When I stopped, Dr. Fielding leaned over and offered me a tissue.
“You might need this,” he said.
Now I was blushing all over again. I hated him, I hated me, I hated everyone. But hell, that’s how I’d gotten into this basement with Mr. Dandruff-on-his-coat.
I hocked a loogie to clear the back of my throat and spat into the tissue. Then I stared at him, stared as hard as my peppery-puffed eyes could.
“Fuck you very much, Doctor.”
“Come on, Jim. Something just broke loose. Care to let me in?”
“Why the hell should I? No one ever let me in.”
Then I did leave, Dean Shadduck or no Dean Shadduck.
A couple of days after the woodpile thing, just before I left for Christmas in sunny Nigeria, I saw Sammie in the dining hall. She had her tray about three people ahead of me in line, so I pushed forward.
“Hey,” I said.
“Creep.” She spooned out some Salisbury steak. Everything in the serving line always smelled like damp steam to me.
“Get away from me.” She glared at me. “I don’t know who you think you are.”
She walked off as someone grabbed my shoulder. I turned around to see Laurie Montfort, captain of the girl’s hockey team.
“Leave her alone, Edwards.”
This gal was a whole lot meaner than I was. I just backed away.
Coming out of the dining hall a few minutes later, someone tripped me with a hockey stick and gave me a couple of whacks across the back before they ran off, laughing.
Eight of diamonds on nine of spades.
Move the pile over to the ten of hearts.
Flip three more cards in the draw pile.
I wished I could lay out the game completely on these little airline trays.
Three spades in a row out of the draw pile.
Spades mean death.
I flipped the next card, cheating on the game.
I didn’t want to look any further, didn’t want to find six spades.
I got back to Choate a few days before winter trimester resumed. There were some people around, but the campus was quiet. Mitch came down from New Hampshire early—too many fights with his parents about the dope. At home I think he got it from his older brother Mickey.
Mitch helped me smuggle the frog in the bucket down to the skating rink. There was a whole nother set of locker rooms there, for hockey teams. Our girls’ varsity could beat Hotchkiss, Andover, Exeter, Mercy, you name it. Anyone in New England prep, and anyone from New York or Pennsylvania dumb enough to play them. So they had nice digs down there behind the rink, to reward them.
We found the girl’s locker room, but it was shut tight.
“Did you bring a crowbar?” Mitch asked.
“Do I look like I brought a crowbar?”
He snorted. “Let’s hide this bucket and see if the gym is open.”
The Winter Ex, which is what Choate called the gym for some unknown reason, was across the road from the hockey rink.
I lugged the bucket under the bleachers and slid it behind a trash can. No one was going to come cleaning today, not at the tail end of the holiday.
We crossed the street, breath steaming in the sharp January air. Just after New Year’s it was cold and damp as hell. Instead of heading for the main doors of the gym, Mitch veered to the right, toward the entrance to Eliason’s rifle range.
“Oh, man,” I said, “there’s nothing down there you want.”
“Relax.” He stepped up and tried the door.
It was locked, too.
“I’m not going after guns.”
“We don’t need guns, goofball.” Mitch punched me in the shoulder. “There’s tools in there.”
“So you’re going to break into one locked room just so we can break into another?”
“No.” He brandished a key. “I’m going to unlock one locked room so we can break into another.”
“You have a key to the rifle range?”
“You never know.” He opened the door and waved me in with a flourish.
I was afraid Mitch would go for the gun safe inside, but he opened the door of the little closet behind Eliason’s desk and got out a spring-loaded cleaning rod and a little pry bar. “Let’s go,” he said, like I was the one holding us back.
Out into the cold and damp, across the street, into the hockey rink, and he had the girls’ locker room open in seconds with the pry.
“You practice breaking and entering in your spare time?”
Mitch grinned. “Mickey’s been teaching me a lot of neat stuff.”
We took the frog and cleaning rod and went to find Laurie Montfort’s locker.
That night in our room, while Mitch was out looking for some pizza to scam, I got my card deck and began flipping them out on the blanket one by one.
“Sammie.” Four of clubs.
“Dad.” Nine of diamonds.
“Mitch.” Jack of hearts.
“Mrs. Anders.” Queen of hearts. I shuddered.
“Me.” Six of spades.
“Me.” Nine of spades.
“Me.” Ace of spades.
“Me.” Three of spades.
“Me.” Seven of spades.
I threw the deck across the room before I found the sixth spade. Cards fluttered like tiny square angels, each spinning toward the floor. That night I dreamed of the silver arrow again, only this time it was headed for my chest. It kept coming and coming, like Greek guy said, it never quite got there.
I woke up sweating, knew I was going to die, right there in the bed.
I thought I saw Thornton standing in the shadows, but when I got up to look it was just my parka hanging on the door of my wardrobe.
“Go to sleep, Edwards,” Mitch muttered from his bed.
When I went to stick my parka inside my wardrobe, I found a rifle hidden at the back, behind my nice wool pants. I stared at Mitch for a long time, but he just snored, drool on his pillow sparkling like silver in the moonlight.
Mrs. Gates was real pretty, small faced with curly brown hair she wore in a pony tail or sometimes in two little buns. Her husband was a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry or something at Yale—we’d see him sometimes in the dining hall with her, but mostly it was just Mrs. Gates.
She wasn’t probably ten years older than me, and I thought she was just terrific.
A couple of days after I found the rifle in my closet, I was wiping the chalkboards in one of the biology rooms when she came in with an armload of books. I ran over to help her, bumped into her, and the books spilled.
When she bent to pick them up, I bent down too, just to be close.
She handed me a pile and pushed me away, so smooth I almost didn’t know I’d made a pass, let alone been blown off.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Thank you for helping, Jim.”
She still smiled at me. Suddenly my little spade cards just seemed silly. This was a normal woman, someone I could talk to.
“Yes?” Her smile seemed stiff, somehow, now.
I didn’t know what I wanted, exactly. In general, I wanted to talk to someone who wouldn’t treat me like an idiot, or ignore me, or tease me and run away. That was Mitch, Dad and Sammie, which pretty much left Mrs. Gates.
There still hadn’t been a word said about the rifle around campus. Mr. Eliason must not have done his inventory yet. But the witch hunt would start soon.
The words bubbled up inside me without me quite realizing it. “Mitch Parkman hid a rifle in my wardrobe in my dorm room.”
Now no one would talk to me. Sammie’s story had gotten around to most of the girls. Mitch was gone, but all the other guys thought I was a rat. The teachers were either suspicious of or worried about me. Dad had spent hours on the phone from Nigeria, with me, with Dean Shadduck, with Headmaster Weeks. And that was it.
Now it was me and the playing cards and an empty dorm room with nightly inspection by Mr. Morgan the housemaster. Hell, I hadn’t stolen the gun. I’d turned it in. Now I was getting shit coming and going.
I stopped doing homework. I stopped reading. I sat in a corner of the dining hall with my back to the room, ignoring the hard jostles from kids passing by and the occasional thrown roll. At night, I played with cards on my blanket and thought about Nigeria. Would I be better off with Dad, doing nothing?
Then six hearts in a row. Get to kiss them, huh Jimmie?
Lacey Bodine’s tits were a long time ago, and somehow she’d stolen everything I’d ever know about girls, or even people, worming around on the floor of the playroom while Dad was out dancing.
I longed for my rifle or my bow, but they wouldn’t let me near a weapon around here anymore.
“Pancake, Mr. Edwards?” Mr. Voorhies held up a spatula, lifting the pancake off the little electric cooker.
Harry and Drew, two of Voorhies’s Carrington House boys, smirked at me. They wore matching salmon Izod shirts.
“Thanks,” I said.
Squeeze the trigger halfway, I thought, pouring out the syrup.
I cut the pancake with my fork.
Lifted it to my mouth, studied it.
Harry touched my shoulder. “You should come around more often, Jimmie. Can I call you Jimmie?”
I chewed. The pancake had that malty, eggy taste they get, and went down like a lump of spit. I didn’t appreciate his hand lingering on me.
“Thanks, Harry,” I said. “I might be back.”
The next day at the student store, I found out that Dad had cut off my charge privileges.
My earliest memory is Mom holding me in her lap. There’s a candle nearby, and she has my foot in her hand. I must have been small, when Dad’s job had taken us to Dahomey, before Mom found some rails to run off of. There was a mushy black lump in the base of my big toe.
Mom stuck a needle in the candle, then into the black spot on my toe. It was a fly’s egg, some little African parasite that had crawled inside my body and forced my mother to hold me tight.
The way Lacey Bodine had held me tight.
A long time ago.
The way Sammie Sinclair had held me tight.
For a few seconds.
The way the clothesline had held Moorehead Thornton tight.
For the rest of his life.
So I flipped the cards, and the Queen of spades winked at me.
Flip again. Her boyfriend Jack jumped in.
Flip again. Tricky Ace. Like Mitch, my tricky ace, lost to a haze of anger and dropped charges and witch hunts.
And seven and four and finally the big, bad King daddy of them all.
Six spades on the schoolboy tarot.
I went to find Danny Spencer.
“What do you want, Edwards?” Spencer peered through his barely-opened door.
“Stuff,” I muttered. “Let me in.”
“Nope. You’re a rat.”
“It was a gun.”
“You’re still a rat.” He stared a little longer. “What kind of stuff?”
“Something. Whatever. A lot of it.”
“Drugs?” Spencer laughed. “I’m out of that business. Just ask my Dad’s lawyer. He’ll tell you.”
“I need to get high. Real high.” I was scared of the rope, and the gun was gone from me now.
“Fuck you.” He slammed his door.
I just stood there, my head pressed against the cool wood, wondering what to do next. After a minute, a little sheet of paper slid out from beneath the door, right between my feet.
I picked it up. It was rice paper, or something like it, with little red moons printed on it.
Blotter acid. A lot of blotter acid. Assuming it wasn’t garbage.
I’d go out like Mr. Voorhies, bragging about being awake a hundred hours straight writing the Great American Novel, only to find later that he’d typed the word “liberty” over and over until his ribbon ran out.
I fell in a creek bed once, when I was living with Mom. She was off somewhere, I was off with some of the other kids, and I thought I could climb like monkey.
I might have climbed like a monkey, but I fell like a coconut, smack on the forehead. Kids screamed, scrambled out of the creek bed, left me there bleeding on the rocks. Eventually someone’s Dad came and found me.
Mom swore she’d never let me out of her sight again.
Fuck you, Mom.
The woodpile seemed like a nice place to curl up, with the cum-stained blankets and the old beer bottles in the crisp moonlight. I didn’t bother with my parka—figured things would go faster that way. I just walked to the Upper Campus, found my way to hay meadow, and crawled in there.
Among the splinters and the glass, I could remember the feel of Sammie’s tits as if they were right there in my hands. I never did see her nipples, but she was every guy’s dream, like being a big baby all over again.
Or a little kid with Lacey Bodine.
I started chewing on the paper, tearing it off at one corner. I figured if it was forty or fifty hits of acid, that would be enough to send me screaming with feathered rainbows into the next world. God knew I didn’t have any purpose staying in this one.
It was scary, the way those dry wisps of paper went down. Nothing was coming back up, nothing was ever going to happen again. I was done with Dad, Mitch, Thornton and Spencer, Sammie, Lacey, Mom, all of them.
Fuck all of them, one at a time, jointly and severally.
“Fuck you,” I screamed. A stray bit of paper caught in my throat and I began to cough.
“Shut up,” someone yelled nearby. Seniors making out in the field, maybe.
I coughed some more. Was it happening yet? Where were the colors? What did forty hits of acid do? Would I trip forever? Would I just be stupid until the end of my life?
I didn’t want to die, then. I’d made a mistake, but it was already in me. Oh, God, I needed to get rid of it. I got up on my hands and knees, breaking one of the beer bottles, and tried to stick my finger down my throat.
It made me gag, it tasted terrible, but it didn’t make me vomit like in the movies.
“Shit, shit, shit.” I got up, running, limping from the blood on my knee.
I stumbled all the way down to the Infirmary. “I don’t want to die,” I whispered to myself, flying like a drunken arrow through the frozen night. “I don’t want to die.”
Wailing, I tripped on the doorsill of the Infirmary waiting room and crawled inside. “Help,” I told the night duty nurse. “I’m going to die, and I don’t want to.”
Dean Shadduck sat on the edge of my bed and glared. Dad glared behind him. They were like bookends.
“Who gave it to you?” the dean asked.
“Nobody.” Dead or not, I’d be damned if I would rat again.
“It was nothing but rice paper,” said Dad. “You’re a very lucky young man.”
Shadduck stopped glaring at me and started glaring at Dad.
I didn’t feel lucky. I felt like hell, my throat ached from the stomach pump, and I was going to be the laughingstock of the school, now and forever. Thornton got to be cool when he died, or cooler. I was just a geek who couldn’t even get that right.
“Fine,” said Shadduck. “It’s up to you. We’ll be tearing your room apart, and Mr. Spencer’s, since I can’t believe he had nothing to do with this. Thank your father for arranging to keep you here, but there will be strict conditions on your conduct.”
He stalked out. Dad just stared at me a while longer, then grabbed my foot, the same one Mom had picked the fly out of all those years ago. “I have to be in Lagos in a couple of days,” he said, then shrugged.
I’d never seen him unsure of himself, not once in my life, not before now.
The arrow flies, dreaming of the target, following its path through perdition and redemption alike to bury itself in the gold. I’m not much of an arrow, even in my dreams, but I’m always trying to shoot, always trying hit something that is too far out of reach.
They let me out of the Infirmary three days later. I had to check in every day, for a quick interview with the duty nurse. A psychiatrist from Yale-New Haven Hospital would be coming to see me next week to begin my formal counseling. Everything was okay, I was a certified good kid to go out in public.
Shadduck followed me around to all my classes. No one talked to me. Nothing happened. Even Mrs. Gates wouldn’t meet my eye any more. Spencer moved to another dorm. Dr. Fielding came into my life and spring came into the Choate campus and by God, Mrs. Anders asked if she could please have me on the archery team anyway.
She even hugged me, which made my eyes sting all over again. I didn’t care if she was fat and silly and had bad taste in clothes. She liked me.
The spring of 1981 was beautiful. The birds were out fighting everywhere and wildflowers grew on the hillsides around campus where the grounds crew weren’t trying to maintain ballfields or turf or sow hay. I got my spring cold, and was almost glad of it.
I was up shooting one day behind the girl’s gym, alone except for John Halloran—somebody always stayed with me and the bows now. John was a good guy who’d recently introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, which seemed a lot more fun and interesting than my real life.
He didn’t say as much as Mitch, and he was a day student besides, which automatically made him seriously uncool, but he was always nice.
See the target.
The arrow flew through the sunlight, aluminum shaft gleaming, to land in the gold.
Solid. My third shot.
“Jim,” said Sammie, right behind me.
I was so startled I dropped the bow. I scooped it up again quickly before the string got damp. John shook his head slightly.
“Excuse me a second,” I told her.
I took the bow over to the equipment box, unstrung it and laid it in its rack. I put away my quiver and my wrist guard and my two remaining arrows. Then I walked back across the firing line toward the target, Sammie trailing behind me.
I needed to pull my arrows from the gold.
“Jim,” she said again, and touched my elbow. “I’m sorry about last December.”
I shrugged, but I let her see me smile. I didn’t want her angry at me anymore. Then we were at the target.
I reached out and touched the fletching of my one shot good and true. Mrs. Anders would be proud.
“You didn’t…uh…because of me, did you?”
Finally I turned and looked her in the eye. She looked nervous, a little guilty, a little hopeful. What should I say? That it was her, and Mom, and Lacey Bodine, and every other woman in my life except maybe a little bit of Mrs. Anders? Mitchell? Mr. Voorhies and his happy boys? Dad? Thornton?
“It was me,” I finally said. “But I’m feeling better. Not great, just better.”
Sammie kissed me. “Meet me outside the girl’s gym at five-thirty.”
“All right.” Suddenly my dick was hard all over again.
She smiled and walked away. I trudged over to John Halloran, to talk about orcs and paladins and the merits of the bastard sword. I needed to go elsewhere in my head.
It was still light outside at five thirty, and early curfew for underclassmen wasn’t for another hour. I walked the long way to the Upper Campus, through the woods with their poplars and oaks and ash trees, kicking leaves and wondering what it meant that Sammie wanted to see me without John Halloran around.
I found her outside the gym, leaning against the little wall of the overhang that protected the doorway. “It’s locked up,” Sammie said, then tugged the door open. A stop had been wedged in between the jamb and the door.
“Almost,” she added with a grin. “Come on.”
She took my hand and I followed her inside. The door clicked shut behind us. Now we were locked in together.
The bleachers were folded down, the main court of the gym laid out for gymnastics. I couldn’t remember if there was a meet this weekend or not.
I didn’t care. My pants were throbbing as Sammie led me past the far bleachers, where there was a pile of extra mats. It was a cozy corner, out of sight of the door should anyone come in.
She pulled herself up on the pile, a little more than waist-high to her, then patted the mat beside her. I hopped up and sat next to her, not quite touching.
“Now what,” I asked.
Sammie took my hand. “We can kiss, if you want.”
The seams of my pants felt like they would pop. I turned to kiss her, but sitting side by side that was almost impossible.
We bumped backward onto the mats, holding on to each other, locked into a French kiss that left me desperate to breathe and even more desperate not to lose contact.
She moved my hand to her breast, over her sweater. I rubbed her without squeezing, afraid to go further.
We kissed some more, and she rubbed the ass of my pants, then my thigh.
I squeezed tighter, then finally slipped my hand under her sweater. Her bra was textured, and I could feel the little wires, but I could also feel the curve of her breast. I almost creamed right there.
She gently pushed me away, then sat up and pulled the sweater off over her head. It was shadowy inside the gym, but I could still see just fine as she reached behind her.
“Is this okay?” she asked.
“Never ask that question,” I said.
Her breasts came free, enormous and round, slumping down her chest, but I didn’t care.
Fuck you, Lacey Bodine, I thought.
I bent down and kissed her nipple, then sucked on it.
When the tears came, they shocked us both.
I cried, every bit of me cried, almost screaming, my face on her breasts, snot shooting out of my nose, pepper in my eyes and blood thundering in my ears.
I cried for Mom, and me, and the Chinese kid, and Thornton, and Mitch, and Mr. Voorhies. I cried for Sammie.
But most of all I cried for Dad, saying his name over and over as Sammie combed my hair with her fingers and told me everything was okay.
Sammie never really talked to me much after that, but that was all right. At least we didn’t hate each other. I guess I’d rather be a creepy crybaby than creepy would-be rapist.
My arrows found their gold more often than not that spring, and some of my letters made it home to Dad. I even got Mom’s number from Aunt Tori, though I couldn’t find the courage to call her.
Dr. Fielding says I’m doing better.
No shit, Sherlock. He had to go to medical school to figure that out?
I’m kind of looking forward to Nigeria this summer.