--MAYBE I SHOULD REWIND
…Growing up in a big family with seven brothers who were mostly gregarious and good athletes made me the opposite. It wasn’t their fault, of course. I just was what I was. While both my dads were mechanics I had long hair, read poetry and still don’t know what a carburetor is or where isn’t located under the hood. At some point, around seventh grade maybe, I gained a new friend named Gordy. I can’t recall his last name, which means we must not have been that great of friends, or else, Alzheimer’s is setting in.
In any event, Gordy shows up in quite a few of the stories I’ve written. He was a short-lived figure in my life, yet an important one.
Gordy, if you’re out there somewhere, let me know.
At The Deep End
At the pool, I watch the blind girl’s parents lower her into the shallow end. She’s maybe five, and skinny as a ladder.
The girl kicks her feet, giggling. She wears a Hello Kitty one piece swimsuit and has floaties on her arms.
“It would really suck being blind,” I say.
Gordy shoots me with a spray from one of the squirt guns we shoplifted earlier in the day. When I tell him to knock it off, he squirts me in the eye, so I slug him on the shoulder.
“You’re still an asshole.”
Gordy and I have been friends our whole lives, but next Monday he and his mom are moving to Kansas. After another “dust up”, Gordy’s dad got put in jail for beating his mom pretty bad and the divorce is all finalized now. “Dust up” is Gordy’s term. He’s a professional at making misery seem harmless. Once when Gordy’s dad tried to drown his mom in the bathtub, Gordy said it was merely a “boating accident.”
“Geez, Elaine,” the blind girl’s father says, “you’re going to break her damn arm. Just let her go.”
Gordy says he’s not excited about moving away. He says life is a peach, even though he’s been in and out of trouble quite a bit this last year, starting with an episode where he broke several of our school’s windows with a crowbar.
The blind girl looks ridiculous. She won’t stop grinning, nor does she stop slapping water against her face and chest. Her mother is flustered while her father reads a magazine on a lawn chair.
We started shoplifting a few weeks ago. It was just candy at the start, but it’s progressed to games and toys, items that are trickier to conceal inside our clothing. I’m pretty sure the manager’s onto us, but Gory could care less. “What’re they going to do, toss us in the clink?” he says.
A plump woman with marbleized thighs comes over and talks to the blind girl’s mother, and from their easy manner I can see she’s some kind of friend. They gawk over the blind girl, then get lost in conversation.
I watch the blind girl start to move through the water, going fast. Gordy sees it, too. “I hope she drowns,” he says.
I jump up, dive in and reach the girl just before she’s about to reach the slope that leads to the deep end. When I break the surface, holding her by the waist, there’s a crowd poolside. The blind girl’s dad tells me to get my goddamn hands off his daughter, while the girl giggles, splashing us both, using her hands as paddles.
When I get out of the water, Gordy says, “Smooth move, Ex-Lax.”
Before bed that night, I lay in the bathtub under the water, holding my breath. I look up through the murky surface thinking: Life’s like that--unclear and fluid, always moving, wavering, slippery yet certain.