Marlboro’s rolled into the sleeve of his tee
shirt. It was touching to see his toothpick bicep.Always disorganized, I sat with him one afternoon arranging his three-ring notebook, separatinghis math notes from social studies, sorting homework papers according to subject. How oldwould he be now? Sixteen? I could see him surrounded by other young punks guffawing withtheir palms over their mouths. How could he do this to me, me who helped him understand that ashort story is not just retelling
last night’s television show. “This is the saddest phone
call I ever
got,” I said and hung up.
Heart pounding, I went back to my desk. Now where was I? The girlwas in the bedroom with...
! Maybe this would be a new student.
“Well, will you?”
I slammed the phone down. It rang again and I stood there waiting to see how long themoron on the other end would let it ring. If I took the phone off the hook then prospective clients
would continue getting a busy signal and they’d give up
. The phone was still ringing as I put onmy coat and went out the door.Picking items off the shelf at the health food store, I imagined confronting Bill Stanley.
to the high school where he was surely failing every subject, walk into the remedial
reading class and say in front of everyone, “
ere I am, Bill, come to watch you.”
Jonathan did not believe a former student would call after three years.
“Maybe I’ve put
myself in touch with all the scurviness in the world by spending time writing
a dirty book,” I
said. Jonathan read the chapters a
nd said he didn’t th
ink the book was all that dirty. I wondered if I was more sheltered than I realized.It was the blustery time of year when people from other states wonder why anyone wouldlive in New England. Gray every day, skeleton trees, slushy streets. It was already dark at four inthe afternoon. I was still smarting from the phone call of the week before, hurt that Billy would