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Donny Isn't There When Tom Calls Me for a Ride

Donny Isn't There When Tom Calls Me for a Ride

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Published by Matt Roberts
For my brother, Tom, semiconscious in an ICU and pumped full of an obscene amount of Ativan. This piece was originally published by the folks at _The Chattahoochee Review_, who graciously nominated it for a Pushcart.
For my brother, Tom, semiconscious in an ICU and pumped full of an obscene amount of Ativan. This piece was originally published by the folks at _The Chattahoochee Review_, who graciously nominated it for a Pushcart.

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Published by: Matt Roberts on Aug 01, 2010
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Matthew Roberts82362 Five Lakes Rd.Bush, LA 70431985.373.0414mattt.roberts@gmail.com
Donny Isn’t There When Tom Calls Me for a Ride
1.Donny is there. Donny’s there on the stage in the cafeteria at James MadisonElementary School for the talent show. He wears a white jumpsuit, thick framedsunglasses, and a cape. He lipsynchs to Elvis, mimics the King’s patented moves for thePTA. Taking a knee. Spinning the arm. Being all shook up. Donny’s there. Donny’sthere in the front room of that low white house on Chastant with the fake suits of armor flanking the china cabinet. Those fake wood handled swords and maces mounted onvelvet above the lamps behind the couch. A large crucifix on the wall. The heavilylacquered wood plaque with the
 Footprints
poem found in the home of so many Catholichouseholds in suburban New Orleans. Donny’s there in that front room wearing a navy blue Cub Scout uniform, his thick black hair no longer greased back, but still plastereddown, over a slim face of freckles with almond eyes. Others are there, wearing brightyellow bandanas and brass Fox badges. Trey Higgins. Glenn Olivier. My brother, Tom.The boys make their costumes for the annual Cub Scout parade, paw through bags of old beads and doubloons from last year’s Mardi Gras. Endymion. Argus. Rex. Decidingwhat to keep and what to throw to the families lined up along Kawanee. Donny’s there inthe backyard of that house with Tom, horsing around the in-ground pool. Splashing.Running. Skinning a knee or elbow on the concrete bottom. Donny’s there with Tom at
 
the tiki bar at the back of the cabana. The boys sneak slugs of Ten High, fill their pull-tab Coke cans with rum. Donny’s there. Donny’s there when Mr. Don comes home latefrom the car dealership on Causeway Boulevard, stopping first at Sweet William’sTavern and then someplace with the word “Lounge” in the name. Again. And again.Donny is there. Donny’s in the driveway, washing the Chevy SuperSport his dadgave him for his birthday the year he gets his driver’s license. That black hair standingout against the red screen that means
Under 18.
That doesn’t matter. Donny stands withTom under the fluorescent lights of the convenience store sign waiting for David Seoul,Chris Wertz, or one of the other older boys to reappear from inside with a six pack of Miller ponies. Donny’s there in the back room of our house playing Intellivision withTom, in the garage converted into a game room after the fire, when a knock comes at thedouble doors.
 I’ll be right back 
, Tom says. Donny stays behind, the controller in hishand, while Tom sneaks off to sit beside The Green Thing on the corner to get high.Donny’s with Tom in the courtyard at Archbishop Rummel, wearing the powder bluecollared shirt and navy pants, each daring the other to ditch Religion to smoke cigarettes behind the modular buildings, keeping an eye out for Brother ______. Donny hastrouble with math, Tom has trouble at the bus stop with older boys. Donny gives Tom aride home in that fine car Mr. Don gave him as a birthday present until Tom transfers toKing. Donny is there. Donny’s there when papers are served. Donny’s in his own roomin the house on Chastant, a converted garage with Led Zeppelin both on the walls and thestereo. Donny is there in his room while Mrs. Pat makes pudding on the stove. Donny isthere when Dougie or Dwayne opens the door and find his body, fifteen with a twenty-two in his hands. The posters are ruined. The record is over, only a buzzing hum coming2
 
from the speakers and a wet iron smell in the air. They hadn’t heard a thing. Nobodyhad heard a thing.From that point forward, Donny isn’t there. Donny isn’t there when they find thenote. The note that says he is failing math. The note that doesn’t say he wants to livewith his father. Nor does it say that he doesn’t want to live with his mother. Just thathe’s failing math. Donny isn’t there when his mother places that note on a small table inthe front room of the low, dark house on Chastant. Photos in frames. Prayer cards. Acandle. Other things. Donny isn’t there that morning when my mother, unable to think of a way to present the news, wakes my brother and says,
 Donny shot himself.
Donnyisn’t there that afternoon as Tom watches children chase each other around the pool at theJewish Community Center, splashing and skinning knees and elbows. Tom thinks aboutthe last time he’d seen Donny. It was the week before, and Tom was driving towardsAvron down Chastant after buying smokes from Food Etc. Donny was in front of thehouse, leaning against his car. Donny and Tom exchanged small talk about Brother  _______ at Rummel. The bathrooms at King. Other things unremembered. But nowDonny isn’t there. Donny isn’t there at the wake, but Donny’s body is, dressed in a dark suit with a crisp white collar. His face, the first dead body for many in that room, is amystery.
 How did they make him look so good? Where is the hole? Why an opencasket?
Donny doesn’t hear people say out loud that
 parents should never have to burytheir children
while thinking of reasons why and never finding them. Tom is on the left,along with Dougie, Trey, and the others on the right, hoisting the heavy casket down thesteps. Each one hopes desperately not to slip, trying his best not to think about theweight of the body inside, trying not to think about how heavy someone can be when he3

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