remember my mom being a nervous wreck when I got home from school
that afternoon. She was trying to get ready for her dinner party and I
made sure not to leave my books on the hall table, and I raised the
toilet seat in the powder room before taking a leak. Of course, she
still found a reason to yell at me, for whistling. Somehow that made
her jumpy enough to drop one of her precious wine glasses.
she got done yelling, she told me I had to go pick up Gladys because
the guys who run the buses and subways were on strike, and although
she’d broken her neck getting everything ready on her own, my
definitely needed Gladys to serve the food at the party and wash the
dishes and do other maidly kind of stuff.
Because my dad had the Firebird, I had
to take the Jaguar, which I
don’t like driving on account of it making me feel like a
little rich kid, which I guess I am in a way. My dad bought the Jag off
the showroom floor last January. It was really expensive, but my
parents have been having marriage problems I’m not supposed
know about, and I think the car was some kind of peace offering. My mom
likes flashy cars like that even though she herself is a fairly quiet
type of person when she isn’t yelling at me or Dad.
went into the garage, glanced at the Jag’s front grill and,
always, had a little chuckle thinking about the dead bird. You see, one
Saturday when my parents were in New York, Marc Alexander and I were
cruising around in the Jag and everyone we passed kept pointing to its
front end. I pulled over to check it out and saw that my mom must have
hit a bird because there was a big, black one stuck to the right side
of the grill.
bird was fried dry, but I didn’t try to pull it off because I
have kind of a weak stomach for dead things, especially if you can see
their guts, which I could. Besides, even though it was kind of gross,
the bird looked pretty funny and made the car seem a little less
stuck-up to me. So we just left it there and kept cruising, and
wherever we went, people pointed at the car and laughed. Except this
one old lady. We were stuck at the light by Diamond’s Market
she was crossing the street but stopped to stare at the bird. She must
have looked at it from a dozen different angles, then looked at Marc
and said, “What kind is it?”
Marc’s pretty much of a
wiseass and said, “It’s a
dead bird, Lady.” She started to say something else, but then
light changed and she had to hurry to get the rest of the way across
the street. She couldn’t really run, so she kind of waddled
after a chuckle thinking about the bird, I hit the electric garage door
switch, climbed behind the wheel and headed downtown to pick up Gladys,
who lives in a pretty lousy section of Philadelphia. Actually, if I
didn’t have to drive the Jag, I wouldn’t have
to go there. My friends like to cruise around Rydal and look at the
estates and mansions, but I’d just as soon ride around North
Philly looking at the slums. There’s something about the way
they’re worn and rundown and covered with graffiti that makes
them look interesting. And there are always old ladies sitting on
porches and kids playing hopscotch and jump rope and stuff on the
sidewalks. The mansions in Rydal always look like no one lives in them.
passed the tennis courts at St. Anthony’s just in time to see
fat kid hit a ball over the fence, then drove by the State Store where
my parents buy their booze. That made me think of their last party,
when my mom asked me to be the bartender. I did a pretty good job at
first, but I kept tasting all the drinks I was making and wound up
throwing up all over the powder room, then passing out on the living
room sofa. My parents got royally pissed cause I really embarrassed
them. But even while they were yelling at me, I knew it was the kind of
thing everyone would probably laugh about in five or ten years.
made a left onto York Road and saw a big truck loaded with new cars
outside Kane Pontiac, where my dad bought the Firebird. I would have
rather taken that to pick up Gladys because it’s more of a
car than the Jag. Usually my dad rides to work with Uncle Fred, but
Uncle Fred just had some kind of operation on his hemorrhoids and took
the week off. I don’t even know what hemorrhoids are exactly,
they sound painful and embarrassing because they’re located
your butt. If you had to have your arm or leg or even gall bladder
operated on, it wouldn’t be so bad. But have your butt
on and everybody is bound to kid you about it. Uncle Fred said the
operation hurt like hell. Then again, I remember this picnic we went on
when Uncle Fred got stung by a bee and he said that hurt like hell, too.
Traffic on York Road was pretty bad so I took the Fifth Street
shortcut. The radio was on – I actually put it on as soon as
got in the car – and the one good thing you can say about
that they got excellent sound. That Bruce Springsteen song, Glory Days,
came on. You don’t hear it much anymore, but I always liked
In the video, Bruce pitches to a kid on a high school baseball field,
like my dad used to do with me and John. My dad taught me how to hit
and field and throw and a lot of other things like swim and do a flip
off a diving board and ski and drive a car and really is a pretty good
guy when he isn’t arguing with Mom. He really wants me to go
college and become a doctor or lawyer or at least get an MBA like John
is doing. I told him I wanted to take a year off and go out to Colorado
and become a ski bum, but he said that between the rising cost of
college and the current real estate slump, I better go to college now
while he can still afford it.
got stuck at that long light next to Hanson’s funeral parlor,
which looks like it would be a nice place to live if you
know what they had inside. A blue Chevy was in front of me and it had a
Penn State sticker on the back window. Penn State is one of the schools
where I got accepted. I really wanted to go to the University of
Vermont because they got a good ski team, but I got rejected there. I
think I screwed up the application. For example, there was this one
question: “What are the three most significant books
read outside of school in the last six months?” I answered
Carrie, Love Story and The Hunt for Red October because they were the
only books I read outside of school in the last six months, or maybe
even a year. Marc laughed when I told him about it that and rattled off
a bunch of other books that would have been better answers, like
Bonfire of the Vanities, The Satanic Verses or just about anything
written by somebody who’s already dead. I doubt Marc read any
those books, but I guess it’s better to lie than to say you
something like Love Story is a significant book, even though I have to
admit it made me cry at the end.
light finally turned and I drove on for a while but can’t
remember thinking about anything in particular. Then I passed a shop
where you can rent tuxedos. They had a denim one in the window and I
thought that would be cool to wear to the senior prom, if I went. I
wasn’t sure if I’d go or not because I
didn’t have a
date. I didn’t have a date because I don’t have a
girlfriend, and I don’t have a girlfriend because the girls
I’m attracted to generally aren’t attracted to me
Girls and me never did get along too good. I think it’s
I’m short and the kind of girls I want to go out with like
guys. Another reason is that I’ve got one brother and no
and therefore never felt comfortable talking to girls.
was thinking about asking JoAnn Davis to the prom, who is shorter than
me and really pretty, even though she’s a little flat-chested
bottom-heavy. But I wasn’t sure she’d go with me. I
her out a couple of weeks ago, or maybe a couple of months, and she got
dressed up real nice and seemed to have a better figure than she had in
school. I wanted to go see the new Indiana Jones movie, but she said
she didn’t want to on account of it having Sean Connery in
She said she didn’t like him because everyone is always
that he’s a better James Bond than Roger Moore, which
didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. But I
didn’t make a
big deal out of it. She wanted to see Die Harder, but I’d
seen it and it wasn’t the kind of movie you want to see twice.
we went to see Total Recall, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a
futuristic guy who goes on a vacation to Mars. You never know if
he’s really there or the whole thing is happening in his
least I never knew because JoAnn kept talking through the whole thing
so much that I missed a lot of what was going on. When Arnold started
making out with this tough chick, I leaned over to kiss JoAnn. She
turned her face towards me, and I felt something catch in the sleeve of
my sweater. It turned out to be one of her earrings. She jerked her
head away and nearly pulled the earring right out of her ear. It was
mostly her fault, but I apologized. She bitched about it for the rest
of the movie anyway, and I didn’t even try to kiss her after
it wasn’t the best date in the world, and even if JoAnn
go to the prom with me, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to rent
tuxedo and buy a corsage and pose for pictures just to go to the prom
with a girl I hadn’t even gotten to first base with, then
around and listen to a bunch of guys who think they’re grown
because they have dates with cleavage and tuxes and rubbers in their
wallets that they might actually get a chance to use for a change.
Besides that, I don’t even like to dance.
traffic was pretty heavy when I got to Broad Street. Most of the cars
were regular Fords and Chevys and Hondas and all, and here I am driving
a fifty-thousand dollar Jag. A guy in an old gray Toyota pulled up next
to me at a light, and I thought about asking him to trade cars. He was
brushing his hair in the rearview mirror and looked like the kind of
guy who’d like a Jag, and I certainly would have felt more
comfortable in a beat-up old Toyota. But can you imagine what my
parents would have said? I could, so I just smiled when the guy looked
over at me. Still, I remember wishing I could do whatever I wanted
sometimes, even if it was something crazy like trading a Jag for a
passed by Marc’s father’s office. Marc always
was cool to ride around in the Jag. He has tons of girlfriends because
he’s tall, needs to shave almost every day and is a very good
liar. His father is a lawyer and so is his sister Eileen and about four
uncles and several cousins. He got accepted early admissions to George
Washington University and plans to major in political science and
become a lawyer, too.
forgot to mention that when I first got to York Road, I flipped down
the visor and a lawyer’s business card fell into my lap.
Somebody. I wondered what my mom would want with a lawyer and why she
wouldn’t just ask Mr. Alexander, who would probably give her
discount on account of Marc and me being best friends since fourth
grade. Of course, now I know it’s because they’re
waiting until I go away to college to get a divorce. They still
haven’t told me, but I overheard them arguing about it last
Everything bad is always a big secret in my family, like when my
brother stole a Penthouse magazine from the drugstore a few years ago.
They didn’t even yell at him for it, but just kind of
the whole thing never happened until the druggist told Mrs. Harper, who
blabbed it all over the neighborhood, embarrassing my parents no end.
After passing Mr. Alexander’s office, I drove by
car wash and stopped at a yellow light I probably would have run if I
hadn’t gotten a warning from a cop for doing the same thing a
weeks earlier. The guy in the old Toyota pulled up next to me again. He
started looking at me like he was wondering what a high school kid was
doing driving a car like a Jag. That made me feel kind of uneasy, so
when the light turned green, I floored it for a few seconds and was
just easing up on the gas to keep under the speed limit when I saw the
girl up ahead.
darted out from an alley between two buildings and started running up
the sidewalk. A couple seconds later, a big yellow dog came flying out
of the alley and ran after her. He was barking, but I could tell her
wasn’t going to bite her from the way his tail was wagging in
circles. The girl was about my age, and even though I didn’t
a good look at her face, I could tell she was pretty by the graceful
way she ran, with her long blond braid swaying across her back. There
was a row of cars parallel-parked along the curb, and I never thought
for a moment she would run out from between them. But she did.
Well, I guess she did. The next thing I really remember is chasing that
big yellow dog away when he started licking the blood off of her face,
and cutting my finger when I brushed some broken glass off my sweater.
There were a lot of people standing around all of a sudden, but no one
wanted to get too close to her, except this one guy with a moustache.
He brushed aside the bloody braid and put his hand on her neck, and
that was about the time I started throwing up.
police came and everyone told them it wasn’t my fault, that
just ran out in front of the car. But I don’t know. Maybe I
switching the radio station and not really paying attention, or looking
in the rearview mirror for the Toyota or a cop or something.
Well, that’s it. I told Dr. Johnstone that writing all this
down wouldn’t help any more than hypnotizing me did. But he
it might, so I did and it didn’t. I’m supposed to
writing anyway, but I don’t even know what to say anymore.
Johnstone probably isn’t any better than Dr. Winston, except
the fact that he doesn’t make me call him Ed. Dr. Winston
not remembering something is a defense mechanism meant to protect your
sanity. He wanted to work on some other problems I didn’t
had, figuring if I got the rest of my mind straight, the nightmares
would go away on their own. But Dr. Johnstone says you can’t
forget something terrible unless you remember it first, which sounds
stupid but kind of makes sense if you think about it.
I don’t know. Deep down, I guess I hope I never remember
hitting that girl, even if I don’t sleep a wink for a year. I
guess that’s my problem in a nutshell. I just don’t
remember. But I remember other things I’d like to forget,
reading that report on Yosemite National Park to the class and calling
it “Yose-mite,” and laughing so hard in the
day that milk came out of my nose, right in front of Kimberly Waxman,
who could probably be a Playmate of the Month if she wanted.
girl I hit was named Kimberly, too. Kimberly Francis Wells. They had
her high school yearbook picture in the paper, and she looked as pretty
as Kimberly Waxman, in a less buxom way.
just can’t understand it. The cars at the curb were parked so
close together that she couldn’t have run between them. She
couldn’t have, and yet, she was just lying there in the
her arms spread, her neck bent at a weird angle, blood covering her
face, except for around one open, glassy eye.
keep seeing her run up that sidewalk, her long blond braid swaying
across the back of her denim jacket with each stride. The dog was
closing the gap, barking like crazy. It scared a bird that took off and
flew right in front of my windshield. I remember watching it, then
looking over at the girl and wishing I could take her to the prom.
there was broken glass in the street, glittering like diamonds. A few
pieces were stuck on her face. Blood was all over the place. And that
one glassy eye, blue as the sky. A big silver earring was resting on
the collar of her jacket. The guy with the mustache knocked it aside
when felt her neck, then closed her eyes and wiped his bloody
fingertips on the shoulder of her jacket. I felt hot all over and
started throwing up.
Well, that’s all I remember for sure, and my hand is cramping
like crazy now. It’s getting to the point where I can barely
my own writing. But I guess I made a little progress after all. I mean,
this is the first time I remember the bird flying in front of my
windshield. It was one of those black ones like we get on the
birdfeeder in our backyard. They have kind of a purple tint when the
sunlight hits them. This one flew out from the long shadow of a tree
and seemed to almost glow purple as it passed my windshield. I looked
over at the girl and imagined what she would have looked like in a
white prom dress. The dog was right on her heels and something fell
from the pocket of her jean jacket. A paperback book.
was lying in the
gutter. I sat down on the curb next to it after I got done puking. It
was Love Story. I was crying like a baby, wishing over and over that it
was all a bad dream. But it was real and the bad dreams were just about
to start. I never remember them but just wake up screaming and sweating
and freaking out my parents.
tell the truth, I kind of wish I died in the accident, too. That way, I
wouldn’t be a problem to anyone. And I’d get to be
Kimberly. She was so beautiful. I saw her running and was going to pull
over at the first open spot and rescue her from the dog, and maybe even
ask her out. Just when I was thinking that, she glanced back over her
shoulder and something glinted. It was one of her earrings. It glinted
again like it was trying to get my attention as she turned sideways and
skipped between the parked cars and
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