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I had this unusual dream last night and when I woke up, I couldn’t make sense of it. It could have been because I watched Hamlet on BBC before going to bed, but I dreamt that Paul, the man from the funeral, killed my dad and that I was the only person who knew about it. Eventually, Paul turned into Michael Jackson and I ended up beating him up with a PVC pipe onstage in front of a huge crowd of fans, but that’s neither here nor there. Everyone thought Hamlet was crazy, but his dad appeared to him and showed Hamlet how Claudius killed him, so I knew Hamlet wasn’t crazy. I’m not crazy either. I know someone killed my dad, and I think it was Paul. I’ve just got to put it together. When I got to school that day, I found Simone at her locker. I noticed Jackson Skinner was at his locker too, so I made myself look unsuspecting and pedestrian. I stood behind the door of Simone’s locker, blocking my view of Simone from the waist up. “Where’s your chem notes?” Simone asked, still rooting through her locker. I shrugged, even though she couldn’t see me. Jackson shut his locker across the hall and made eye contact with me. “What are you staring at, queer?” That’s Jackson’s way of insulting me. I doubt he actually thinks I’m gay, but that’s what he calls me. I’d have at least a little respect for him if he threw some real insults my way. Insults that required thought and planning. Simone turned around and looked at Jackson. I looked down at the ground. “You’re staring too,” Simone said. But she didn’t sound mean at all. I glanced up to see if Jackson had responded, but he’d already walked away from us down the hall with several huge, stupid friends. Jackson Skinner is one of those guys who’s not very
good looking, and he’s not nice or funny or smart. Yet, somehow, everybody likes him. Or tolerates him. In middle school he was just as scrawny as I was, but now he makes it a point to show me how strong he is. Usually by threatening to break my nose. But I don’t care. I’m much smarter than he is, and I’m going to have a better career, family, and sense of moral priorities, so I don’t let any of that bother me. “Henry.” The locker in front of me slams shut. I looked at Simone. Her eyebrows seemed glued to her eyelids, like a permanent scrunching frown. “What?” I asked. “I need your notes, man!” Simone ran her hands through her hair, her fingers got caught at the top of her head, so she shook her head and sighed with her teeth clenched together. “Mr. Vargas hates me and I have to ace this final if I don’t want to take him again next year.” The bell rang with little click-clacks. It sounded more like a rattle than a bell because it broke over Christmas break when it rang for two weeks straight without anybody noticing. I rested my head against the locker next to Simone’s, letting my forehead slide over the cool, raised slits. “I’m trying to figure it out.” Simone stopped fidgeting in her bag and looked at me. “Figured what out?” I shook my head. “I’ll tell you when we’re in Spanish.” “No, dude.” Simone yanked on her zipper and shut her backpack closed. “I can’t afford to not pay attention. Señora Eisenberg is telling us all the questions from the final today.” “Fine,” I said. “Skip your bus then and just walk home with me after school.” Simone nodded. “Righto.”
School went by rather quickly today. I don’t even remember whether I had any lunch. All through my classes, I made and studied lists instead of making notes. I’m a smarter than average student. In fact, I’m very smart. I’m just not very studious, which is very different. When people hear I have ADHD, they automatically associate me with pogo-stick-jumping little boys who say everything that comes to mind and can’t pay attention to anything because they’re crazy. That’s a common misconception. I don’t have problems paying attention, the problem is, I have problems not paying attention. I see everything. I know that the tiles on the floor of our nurse’s room are cracked and painted over in the corner next to the water cooler and the stack of People magazines. Nobody reads those magazines except for the nurse because she’s divorced. I heard her mentioning it to our receptionist once when I was waiting for my dad to come pick me up from school. Our receptionist has coral colored nails that she keeps manicured. I think they’re fake because they sound very sturdy when she drums them against her desk, unless she takes vitamins to make her nails stronger. I know that the clock in our cafeteria is slow because sometimes the hands take two or three seconds to tick instead of the necessary one second (hence, a second hand). I know that Simone chews watermelon-flavored gum and that she bites her nails because she has hangnails all the time. They don’t look that bad, though, especially because she paints them, but I can still see her hangnails. The problem is that I usually think about things all at once when I notice them, unless I take my medication. That helps me stay focused, thus allowing me to think about only one or two things at a time. However, sometimes I forget to take my medication, or I’m having a bad day, and I can’t focus on anything, so I think about everything. My teachers would say I’m a bad student, but I guarantee that they’d all say I’m smarter than average. Today, I’d taken my medication, so I could focus. But I didn’t want to focus on math or physics or literature or P.E. even though finals were this week. I know I could pass all my classes
without much time devoted to studying; there were more important things to worry about and I needed to move while the trail is fresh. When school was finished, I waited for Simone by her locker, still looking over my lists and notes. - Newsies hat: Eccentric? Time spent abroad? Fan of Newsies? - College engineering program: Methodical, scientific, inventive(?) - Businessman at Angel Soft: More interested in money than engineering? - Knows Uncle Tom and me as a baby: Old family friend? Old family enemy? - Angry conversation with Tom: Quick-tempered? Guilty? The hallway got quieter. Most people had left for their buses or cars. Soon I heard skidding shoes walking across the tile floor in my direction. That was Simone. She always skidded her shoes, scuffing black marks onto the floor because she never picked up her heels. I’ve told her that, but she still does it all the time. “Ready?” I looked up at Simone with my notebook hugged against my chest. Simone nodded. “Sorry, I had to talk to Mr. Vargas about extra credit. Lousy bastard.” We walked through the football field, cutting through groups of runners as they ran around the track. I looked around to make sure no one was watching us, then walked closer to Simone. “I think that guy at the funeral might’ve killed my dad.” Simone stopped talking. She almost stopped walking, but I didn’t stop because I didn’t want to look suspicious to anyone who might be spying on us. I waved Simone to keep walking, so she kept pace with me, but she still stayed silent. I opened my notebook. “I’m trying to see a motive. There’s always a reason people murder other people, right?”
“Unless they’re crazy.” Simone shook her head. I pointed to her, nodding. “Right.” I thumbed through the pages, looking over my notes. “Maybe if I talked to Tom, or even my mom?” Simone frowned. “I don’t know if your mom would want to talk about the guy who killed your dad.” We came to the crosswalk in front of my neighborhood, waiting on the corner after Simone pushed the button. “She doesn’t think my dad was murdered.” Simone shrugged. “Still.” “Nah, you’re probably right,” I said, turning back to the lists. “He said he worked at Angel Soft.” “That’s a toilet paper company.” I stopped, staring at Simone. She looked back without moving any part of her face. “What?” Yes! I didn’t even think about it! I stared hard at the ground, putting my hand to my cheek and patting it. I pat it faster and faster, buzzing my lips to drown out the sounds of the cars and their radios playing through their windows. “Henry, what?” Simone grabbed my wrist. I looked at her, smiling. “Think about it. Remember my dad’s company he wanted to patent?” Simone’s face lit up. “Gray’s Bidets!” she said, hitting her forehead. “He was this close to starting his own line,” I said, pinching my fingers together. Simone nodded, laughing. “Trust your A with a Gray.”
My dad is a plumber, but he’s also a fantastic engineer and inventor. He lived in Argentina for two years before he married my mom and when he was there, all the people he lived with owned bidets because nobody used toilet paper. When my dad came back to the States, he was hooked. He bought a mobile bidet and used it everywhere. He installed bidets in our house so that we’d never have to buy toilet paper. Eventually, he started constructing newer bidets of his own in the basement. He told me bidets were better than toilet paper for three reasons: cost-effectiveness, water efficiency, and sanitation. He tells me all the time, “Henry, bidets are the future.” When he gets the patent, he says, every American home will have a bidet from Jason Gray. Of course. It all made sense. Paul works for Angel Soft, a toilet paper company that would lose significant revenue in the U.S.—one of the few first world countries that relies predominantly on dry paper sanitation, by the way—if bidets replaced their household market. A car horn sounded right next to me, making me jump. “Henry!” Simone pulled on my arm. I turned and saw a man in a Toyota Tercel with his blinker on, turning. I looked down at the crosswalk I’d stepped in, then took a step back. “Whoops.” I smiled. Simone exhaled sharply, sounding like a jet of water spraying from a hose. “You need to look where you’re going.” The crosswalk sign turned green and I kept walking onto the road. I turned to look at Simone, who was a few steps behind me. “Simone,” I said, “this is a conspiracy.” She raised her eyebrows. “You mean like Watergate?” I nodded. “Something like that.” Paul, you slimeball.
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