I Am of the Dregs, Part 3: Where Pendel Exits the Dregs

This was mostly written when life was normal. I wasn’t going to post it, but I wasted a huge fucking amount of time on this trash, so you might as well get to see. It’s sloppy as hell cause I’m not bothering to fix it, but I realize now that it doesn’t matter at all. I’m in the middle of trying to decide how much about the new and horrific reality of things I should be sharing with all of you perfect strangers, and I suppose I will share it all eventually, but my mind is a bath of hot liquid right now, the sores on my back are still fresh and symmetrical, and I am currently in the middle sorting out fact from mental protection. How is all of this possible in a world of processed cheese and unicycles? It is beyond me. I might give up. I might go on. I might go back out to the bluff and see if they return. I might cry out when they lift me from the ground and wonder why did I come here? But hey, while I sort all of this crap out, you can read this moot bullshit:

Date rapists and pedophiles populated the summer school program like flies on a rotting sow, turning the bad to worse for their own sick nourishment. With blatant disregard for the rights of their fellow humans, they wag their cocks to and fro; with zero remorse they pounce upon the weak or unwary and unleash their savagery. But for Pendel the Great and Terrible, that’s all over now. The border-line retarded sociopaths once known to me as peers are forever (?) part of my past, because for all intents and purposes, I am a fucking high school graduate, MOTHERFUCKERS, and I plan to finally put some distance between myself and the fools of conformity that comprise the sad and vacant hipster clique known as high school.

However…I suppose it is safe to say that I am somewhat fascinated by this Eric Grassman character, and may try to cross his path in my newfound life as a true proletariat. Although I’m sure, after receiving his beat-down from Dougy the Rhino in Conway’s class a couple of weeks ago, it’s probably going to take some doing to end up on Grassman’s trail. According to Sugarbear—my soon-to-be roommate—the poor fuck has locked himself in his mom’s basement and hasn’t shown his long face since. I can’t blame him. Once an animal like Doug has tagged a person, only fresh blood from easier prey or death will deter him.

The Rhino made his name in junior high when he walked through the doorway one arid day and shocked the entire school body by already being a man. Shoulders squared under a neck as thick as a fencepost and his chin bashing holes in the sky, he caught the eyes of all. How could this happen? Who LET this happen? Where was GOD when this freak of science transformed like a young and dissident horse into a fighting and fucking machine rivaled only by men almost twice his age? At 14, he could snap the forearm of most teachers with the stomp of one massive heel. And in his EYES lived a cold confidence; in his EYES swarmed the silence of callousness—the complete lack of empathy borne by the stallion as he bites the neck of the mare and fucks her into submission; as he rears high and smashes down to splinter the bone of his trainer—his BREAKER—as he jumps the fence at full speed to free himself from the bonds of those who would have him TRAINED. Would he be corralled? Would he be lassoed? Would they mount his back and ride him home to deference? Sure, of course. Eventually. But in the meantime, his brutality was palpable and green—his malice untested and uncontested. He was a mutant. A laboratory of potency. He was only 14 freaking years old and he had the fucking goods.

We were all, of course, terrified.

So now Dougy’s like 17 or 18, and he’s only gotten larger, only grown more removed and apathetic, and he stalked the hallways of high school like a volatile apparition with a keen eye for petty transgressions against the unwritten laws of his narrow world view. Eric Grassman fell into the cross hairs of Dougy the Rhino’s muddled HUD, and paid the price—will continue to pay the price, I’m sure, until Grassman decides to leave town. Or else, Dougy gets his ass tranquilized, tagged, and carted off to the wildlife preserve, where he can live out the rest of his cold years of violence uninhibited, tasting blood without fear of reprisal.

It’s hard for a retard like me to stay on track. So okay. It was just another lazy day in Summer Session. The air was heavy. The bugs droned. We all trudged lifelessly into Conway’s nap-trap and slumped into our desks, merely waiting for the end of the day so we could all limp home to more gross injustice. Conway had called roll, and was beginning to rehash the finer points of some random classic using her patented method of oversimplification, when a soft humming undercut her voice, filling the room with distraction. Unswayed, Conway tried an honorable tactic, which was to raise her voice slightly and plow ahead, but the humming was just too fucking THERE, too fucking PERFECT as it traced the melody of some incredibly sopping-wet tune from the stone age; some song that (to the best of my memory) speaks of birds flying gaily around the head of a nameless asshole too saintly for his own fucking good; a song about the congregation of angels and the insane amount of beauty they’ve pumped into this one human, and about how we all can’t get enough of this sappy piece of shit as he walks among us, making us feel HORRIBLE about ourselves, because we could never measure up to the bar this son-of-a-bitch has raised. It’s a happy song, I guess, and something in its delivery ran so completely antithetical to Conway’s speech that the entire room dissolved into snorts and giggles. Heads swiveled, eyes darted, and smiles were exchanged at this unexpected change in plan. At first, it seemed impossible to know from whom the disturbance emanated (though I suppose it should have been obvious), but as all eyes connected and ruled each other out, every student in class eventually settled their focus on Eric. He faced forward calmly with a look of such benign longing—his chin bobbing minutely with every note that he hummed—that even Conway cocked her head to the side for a moment in concern before finally saying, “Eric, please stop that.” Eric continued humming his sad song as if nothing had been said to him at all, causing a few people to let out surprised guffaws of concern regarding his lack of social awareness. “OK, Eric. Very good. Very nice. You’ve impressed us all.” No change in Eric. “Eric, honestly. This is ridiculous. I know you can hear me. Now stop this instant or there’s going to be trouble, Eric. Eric, do you understand what I’m saying? Eric?”

Eric simply kept humming. If anything, from his outward appearance, he slipped—ever so slightly—deeper into wistfulness. His thoughts appeared far away, as if he had trained his mind’s eye on his memory as it launched itself into the icy Atlantic with all his hopes and dreams aboard. Would that ship ever make it’s way back to Eric Grassman and the troubled mind that had made it so hard for those hopes and dreams to realize their full potential? Ahhh…it was impossible to say. Could it be that the song Eric hummed had nothing to do with theatrics, but maybe something more to do with sorrow? Or longing? Or was that all BULLSHIT? I knew very well that inwardly Eric was watching the proceedings eagerly—gluttonously—gauging the reactions of Mrs. Conway and the rest of the class like a mad scientist adding the final touch of a lightning bolt to the stewy mix in front of him, waiting nervously to see if the improbable concoction would find legs and stumble away into the night.

Mrs. Conway marched to Eric’s seat, weaving her way through the onlookers until she stood directly in front of him. She tapped rapidly on his desk with one bony finger. “Hello, mister. Hi. Hey. I can wait for you, you know.”

Eric looked right through her without even a flutter in his posture. He sang to his memories. He sang to us—whether we wanted him to or not. For MY part, I was VERY interested. This was exactly the kind of shit that gets me out of bed every morning. But it was VERRRY clear that one person in particular was NOT into Eric Grassman’s unique brand of soft rock. Dougy the Rhino was supremely uninterested in Eric’s shtick. He sat a few chairs behind Eric and off to the side, with a clear view of the back of Eric’s head. And as I grinned to myself over the passive resistance I was witnessing, I caught a glimpse of Doug shooting rapid-fire daggers. I knew then that Eric was going to be in a world of hurt, and soon. Cold crept down from the top of my head and soon covered all of me. Doug was going to kill someone someday. His countenance sang murder.

“Eric, this is simply pathetic. I can’t let it stand.” Conway could have been talking to her cat. “Eric, go to the office immediately. You’ve stolen as much learning as I can allow.”

Eric hummed on endlessly. Conway stiffened. Doug tensed in his seat. I felt my own breath quicken as conflict loomed like a cloud of locust on the near horizon.

“Eric. Eric. Eric. Eric. Stop it. Now. Eric.” No reactions from Grassman at all, except for maybe a tightening of his focus. Conway sighed and closed the book on Eric’s desk. Then she gathered the rest of his shit and grasped his elbow. “Come on now. You’ve had enough fun at everyone’s expense. Go to the office.” As she spoke, she tugged at his arm, trying to pull him from his seat without actually putting any force behind her moves. Suddenly Eric snatched his arm back with a disgusted sneer, and popping up from his desk, he smacked everything from Conway’s pale hands and kicked it all across the floor.

“You can’t touch me! You don’t have the right to do that!”

“Okay, Eric. Just fine. You’re not hurt. Stop playing up for everyone and get out. Just get out. Go to the office. I have no use for your music and neither does anyone else in here.”

Eric clenched his eyes tightly and clawed like some kind of fucking mental patient at his ears. Honestly, it freaked me a little.

Conway had as much as she was going to take, which is about three times as much as any other teacher. She turned on her heel and headed for the door. “No, no. Not this. We don’t have to take this. None of us.” She stopped at the door and addressed the class in her senile, grandma way once more before exiting. “He’s taking from you. All of you. I hope you know that. And I hope you remember Eric’s behavior when you’re back in summer session next year.”

Eric stooped for his book and jaunted to the front of the class, throwing the text into the trash, and whining all the way, “You’re always on my back. I’m out of here.”

“Oh no, Eric. You stay. I’M leaving. But I’ll be right back, everyone. If you care, you can read.”

And she was gone. Eric turned to the class—the wounded, deprived contrivance melting instantly—and cackled childishly. “She’s a fucking—“ But he stopped short and a look of concern crossed his face. “What?”

I turned in my seat and with alarm saw Dougy the Rhino advancing up the aisle like a cartoon dog. Hate burned in his dead face. Eric saw that hate, and with confusion and panic, he mewed and made a jump for the door. But it was simply too late; the dog was upon him. Doug grabbed for Eric’s shirt in one blink and had a fistful of it in the next. Eric’s feet shot out from under him as his momentum failed, and as he awkwardly tried to regain his feet, Dougy unceremoniously flung him towards the rear of the room. Eric’s foot caught a desk leg, and it sent him sprawling. He smashed into a bookcase in an area devoted to bookcases, but he was able to use the shelves to quickly pull himself back up to his feet with surprising grace.

He would have done well to stay on the fucking ground. Eric no sooner turned around than Doug’s hand was around his throat and Doug’s fist pistoned into Eric’s face, making a meaty sound. Up came the fist, and then down again. Up again, and down. Up, down, up, down. Each pop to the face punctuated with that meaty smack, and each meaty smack followed by boyish cries from Eric, his face already a bloody mess. Finally Eric got his hands up to shield his battered mess, but like a person who knows exactly what he’s doing, Doug simply grabbed Eric’s arms and used them as leverage to flip Eric around; and pinning the arms behind Eric’s back with one hand, the Rhino grabbed a big ole’ bunch of shirt with the other, and commenced pulling and pushing, smashing Eric’s whole body into the bookcase he had originally flung Eric into. Oh, the humanity.

The soprano yelps of Eric with every blow rained upon him was pathetic and hypnotic, and masked the sound of the door to the classroom opening and the return of Conway. “Okay, Eric. Mr. Jimston is on his way. You can deal with him when he gets here.” She took up her chair at her desk without even looking at the back of the room, where a bloodfest was currently playing out in her class.

Eric was howling repeatedly in pain. Conway looked up from her desk absently and said, “Ok, boys. That’s enough. Take your seats,” and then returned to gazing at her desk as Eric’s beating continued and his cries kept ringing out. Mouths dropped open all over the place as everyone stared, waiting for Conway to make a move. She looked up, and glanced about languidly. “Boys, did you hear me? Take your seats.” Truly mind-boggling.

The door swung open again just as Doug threw Eric to the ground and lifted his foot in the air. Eric saw the foot coming through what must have been a red-wash haze as his nose bubbled blood, and he barely crawled out of the way of a stomp that would have surely broken a rib. And then he was off, heaving between desks for his life as Dougy followed suit without even so much as a disappointed grunt for missing his target. He was a robot—a nimble machine of terror that had fixed his smooth targeting system on the quivering mass of Grassman. Through the opening door came the English teacher Jimston, a stocky man in his mid-forties (I suppose) with angry red hair and surprisingly quick moves that he put to use as soon as he saw what was going on. He moved in with shocked eyes, and as he deftly threw a half nelson on Dougy the Rhino and began to drag him off he said, “Move wrong and I’ll break your fucking neck!” Whoa. Nice. Ballsy.

The spell on Conway was broken as she rose suddenly to her feet and exclaimed, “Oh my. Oh no. Boys, no!” Jesus. I’m sure this woman couldn’t pass a driving test, and here she is, managing wolves.

Eric rolled on his back, spiting blood out of his wrecked mouth. Doug spoke the parting words as his feet crossed the threshold to the hallway: “When I see you around I’m gonna cut your fucking head open.” I believe he will. Something tells me that Doug’s hand makes effortless transformations into all sorts of tools of torture and murder, one of which might be circular saw.

It was a CRAZY FUCKING SCENE. And I guarantee you that Dougy is gonna kill someone someday. Eric Grassman has a decent chance of winning the honor. Who knows why. I think Doug is a fucking base animal, and he smells the fear Eric feels for the world, and the Rhino HATES it. The scent is acidic and it burns, and Dougy does what he needs to do to smother that rancid and burning odor.

So, as I understand it, Eric walked away from the whole thing with a broken nose, two split lips, a separated shoulder, a cracked tooth that will probably have to be pulled, and two fucking-A nut-zo black eyes, purple like the night.

So you see how it’s going to be hard to smoke him out.

I Know Your Secret Heart

We haven’t talked about my man Hanson for some time, right? The mustached inevitability of this fool in my life has seemed of late to be bottomless, and at times I forget to even be annoyed with him. But there he is, gazing benignly at me on a lazy Saturday with unsteady eyes rimmed with red, asking me if I’ve given any more thought to this or that. Well, you know, I have, actually.

Check it:

Three nights ago, Happy Hanson stumbled down his lack-luster front steps just after 11 PM and lurched angrily into his car. He backed unprofessionally out of his driveway and squealed up the street. The little fucker was painfully drunk. He reached the corner and blew through the stop sign, hanging a hard left and swerving to avoid objects only visible to pathetic, drunk assholes with disgusting cock brooms under their lips and hypocrisy in their beaten souls.

I know this because I was following him, you see.

I’ve been making it a habit to ride my bike up to his house after dark a couple of times a week, just to see if I can witness a drop of madness before bed. Most of the time it’s nothing; he might come out to the small porch and drink several beers while reading magazines about people and places he’d rather be, or I might catch the occasional conversation between poor Andy and his quickly aging, alcoholic, fuck-nuts crazy, depressed bitch of a wife as it wafts out on the night breeze to caress my troubled ears with its bitter qualities. Then there are nights like tonight, rare gems with the raw power to blackmail, when Hanson’s decision-making skills—stretched to the limit by the tremendous gravitational forces of life—completely fail him and he breaks all the precious laws he claims to hold so dear.

I jumped up from my shadowed perch on the large rock across the street, pulled my bike from the bushes, and pedaled after my sad Andy. He didn’t drive quickly, which made it easy, but he blew through just about every fucking stop sign along North Fountain Blvd, which made it a tad treacherous. But you know me; I got no problems with adventure. As far as my main man Hanson, though, he’s a lucky motherfucker, cause only a couple of blocks over on Limestone the cops prowl like pumas, just waiting to sink their glistening fangs into the skull of their drunken prey, hold tightly until the twitches subside, and then drag the carcass off to their lair at the station house where the victim is tenderized and drained in stark florescent privacy. It is poetry. It is survival of the fittest. Hanson is NOT the fittest. Hanson is the least of us all, and if the predator cats of Limestone had the chance, they would devour his sad sack of useless flesh in a single gulp—pageboy cut, mustached lip, clammy skin—all of him.

If I seem fixated on the man’s mustache, it is only because I do not understand it.

I followed this joker for practically four miles—at one time pulling up nearly even with his car in order to peek inside the driver’s window. Hanson was talking very animatedly into his cell phone. He was wiping his puffy eyes, again spilling cheap tears of remorse. At the time I assumed because of some tawdry remark made by his shot-slamming jezebel, but I found out soon enough that while that may have played a part, the main reason for spilling his salt was part of a deeper transgression. Or maybe I should say a LARGER one.

At the end of the trip was Parrin Woods Park, a heavily wooded and private area. It’s not often used because of 1) the lack of any playground equipment for the kiddies and 2) so few places to sit for anybody else. On any given night, the spot is reserved for darkly hooded youths dealing meth and coke to the disastrous party set of the town—pathetic children with no handle on their self-images (and who am I to talk, yes, yes, I know…now please shut the fuck up, perfect people), and the middle-aged factory set: drying out and splitting slowly from being left out in the elements with no protection, they stay up for days at a time beating their spouses and girlfriends mercilessly, taking apart their cheap K-Mart boom boxes and watching the same VH1 countdown shows over and over with itchy scalps and bloody half-moon scars in their palms.

Hanson wrenched his worn, green Neon over to the side of the road—ostensibly to park the fucking thing, but he really just veered over to the curb and turned it off, the ass of the automobile sticking waaaaay out into traffic. Did I mention that the guy was fucking plastered? For myself, I bolted my bike very neatly to a fencepost about 20 yards down and followed Andy from a discreet distance across the street and through the foliage. Into the canopy we traveled, and my nerves immediately began to sing chilled arias as the night warned of danger from broke junkies looking for a way.

A breeze was on my face, but I didn’t pay it much mind as I kept eyes trained on the hunched back of Hanson, who glanced about himself nervously. Seems the freakiness of seclusion had quite a sobering effect on the man. Oddly enough, he never looked back to see the one person in the park who was actually following him.

Parrin is not a large park, and soon we were in the middle of it—alone as far as I could tell—and I dipped back behind a largish V of oaks just as Hanson stopped and spun 90 degrees, squatting. He pulled a can of cheap beer from his hip pocket and cracked it open. In the blue silence of midnight it sounded like one of the trees falling down upon us. He must have felt the same way, for he ducked his head quickly and looked around as if a bat had just landed in his hair. After taking a swig, he sat against a tree and seemed to doze. I was like, are you fucking kidding me? The guy comes all this way and risks a sound mugging—or worse, arrest—just so he can catch some freaking “ME” time? No fucking way. I was getting steadily more pissed off and was nearly at the point of going out and giving the shit-heeled loser a swift fucking kick when approaching footsteps yanked me back down to my spot.

To my ultimate surprise, a decidedly plump and juicy sausage emerged from the darkness, knelt over Hanson, and began to eat his face. The sausage ran its fingers through his bowl cut—possibly looking to pull the skin down his forehead and suck out the soft eyes—and I felt my body leave itself with shock, but I pinched my own nipple and brought myself back around pretty quickly. Of course by now I realized that this thing was not a giant killer sausage at all, but a dumpy woman packed tightly into a drab and clingy summer dress. She was not eating Hanson’s head, either, but kissing him deeply on his weak mouth. I was completely floored by the scene. I tried to get a good look at this fat woodland fairy, but in fact the mystery cherub never even came up for air. She just kept nomming all over Hanson’s sweaty mug in the dim moonlight, filtered and downright fucking spooky through the overhead leaves. I could, however, see this: she was fat. I could also see that what little light there was bounced off of round, fleshy cheeks so plump and yummy that they squeezed her eyes almost shut, and in the night those eyes seemed like black demon slits. I was freaking scared of her, truth be told. I mean, who but a night fiend with an evil agenda of total control would kiss a slug like Andy Hanson? Even if she WAS as fat as a bursting German wiener?

They never spoke a word to each other—which only deepened the strange sense of surrealism in my surroundings—until Hanson actually started pushing the demon cow onto her back, roughly drawing her jersey dress up over her luminous and voluminous thighs—an action to which the ample imp breathed, “Oh, you ARE a little scamp, aren’t you?” Hanson merely giggled manically as she helped him unbuckled his chinos, and I was grossly embarrassed for both of them as they enacted the clumsy ballet of pulling down Hanson’s drawers. I was then mortified to find he wore tighty-whiteys, like some kind of overgrown, paunchy ten year-old, and nearly fucking PUKED when I saw his hairy, white ass, and though I found myself unable to look completely away, I had to turn my head and squint so that I might at least blur the unbelievably hellacious porno playing out in front of me, allowing my stomach to slightly calm itself.

Now is when it gets bad, people. If you have kids, now is the time to tell them to leave the fucking room. Hanson, ever the consummate pro, wrestled his miserable hips between the chunk’s thighs and buried himself up to the hilt. No condom. Did you hear me? NO CONDOM, I SAID. First the man is a murderous DUI son of a bitch, swerving his half-ton missile blindly down the streets where INNOCENT CHILDREN PLAY, and now he was planting his root into the messy garden of some fat devil pig of the night with no glove on. How in the hell can I look this schmuck in the fucking face from now on out? He’ll pontificate his freaking ass off to me, telling me how to live MY life, and just LOOK at the sloppy mess which is him. Oh my Christ. The world. Witness the hideous trial of our lives and tell me I’M the crazy one. All of you out there telling me I’M the one who’s got to screw MY head on straight, how I’VE got to get MYSELF together: listen to this idiot, you say; do what that fool says, you say; on and on you all go, speaking in tongues of lunacy while Hanson fouls a chubby, faceless tart in the woods at the witching hour. BAH. I am a firm believer in the policy of stoning.

So the whole godless act took about 45 seconds. Hanson grunted like a senseless brute and then rolled off his panting lover, licking the sweat from his mustache. She sat up and stretched herself, the messy essence of Andy glistening sickly on her gummy tummy rolls, and she turns her head lazily and says (with what I’m sure would have been half-lidded eyes if her cheeks had not been so fucking FAT), “You sure scratched my itch, Andy Hanson.” Seesh.

Hanson looked at her with absolutely freaking CRAZY-ass eyes, and he says to her—now mind you, these are the FIRST motherfucking words I have heard him say to this woman since she appeared—he says to her, “Next time I want to get you in your butt.”

I barked shocked laughter. I simply couldn’t help it. I’m not a goddamned SUPER HUMAN, after all. And of course, Hanson and his woman erupted into a fit of “Who’s there” and “Show yourself,” but obviously they were shouting at the dark back of a guy already halfway back to his bike.

I went home and took a long shower.

I Am of the Dregs, Part 2

The things that I see during my time in summer session leave me feeling confused about my current relationship with my optical nerves. Do I love them for their warnings regarding the coming danger, or do I hate them for the vile social interactions that, through them, I am forced to bear witness? The other day I was left loving them for the hilarious dramady they treated me to.

Eric Grassman is not a bad person. Not really. Something tells me that he is straining to clamp down on an indefinable fear inside himself. The world is too much for Eric, and it makes him lash out in ways far too creative for a securely tightened person. He has pulled some of the most outlandish stunts I have ever seen, and that’s saying quite a lot when you take into account the town/state/country where I live. I myself have made some pretty questionable moves, but Eric…

Eric is tall, like 6 foot and an inch or two, and he sports longish blond hair that on many days cries for the attention of a human hand. His face is eternally affronted, with sad eyes that constantly plead with you to tell him why. A splash of boyish freckles upon his small nose gives him an overall look of innocence, allowing us around him to forgive him his grandstanding. But the question always remains: How the fuck did he THINK of that?

And now an example: Mrs. Conway is a twit who runs a joke of an English class. Old, dry, used, and frail, her simple disconnectedness is a detriment to her students. First of all, she’s a freak and she’s losing it. I don’t know how Alzheimer’s is supposed to smell, but this woman fucking REEKS of it. Only two weeks ago the woman wore one red pump and one purple pump (in a blue dress), and as if this wasn’t bad enough, they had different sized fucking HEELS for Christ’s sake. I swear it’s true. How do you DO that? The moment you put them on in the morning—I mean truly, the fucking INSTANT the second shoe slips onto your foot—you know you’ve fucked up, right? Even if you ARE color blind, just the feel of things…doesn’t she have that sense anymore? Fuck, what a dingy broad. Eric Grassman hates her, and can’t tolerate even the sight of her. He visibly shakes the entire forty-five minutes we sit in class, mute and stupid. His fists balled, he glares her in the eye, calculating his next disruptive move. Often times during attendance, she’ll call his name and sparks fly like a dragging muffler: “Eric Grassman?”

“…”

“Eric Grassman, are you here?” She is, for the record, staring right at him.

“…”

“Eric?”

“…”

“Eric?”

“WHAT??!!? JESUS!!”

“Are you here?”

The snort of his disgust is enough to break glass. “Are you fucking kidding me?!”

Conway is unflappable in her senility. “No, Eric. I’m not.”

“YES. I AM HERE, IDIOT.”

“Thank you, Eric. Tonya Gelfy?”

Conway’s class is on the second floor of the high school. Eric sits by the window. The windows are not sealed, they can open. Can you hear the train coming? On this morning, Eric had something very special planned for roll-call. I was dreaming of a life with no sorrow when several audible gasps roused me and made me turn in my seat, just in time to see Eric’s feet as he climbed out the window. I wasn’t shocked—this is Eric we’re talking about, after all—but my curiosity was highly peaked and I was delighted to see where this insanity was careening. Eric sat down on the ledge with a decent amount of grace, and began to swing his feet, smiling into the sun, as if it were Sunday and he was on the docks or a remote vacation island. Immediately following, Conway entered the room wordlessly and closed the door behind her. And as always, without uttering one word of greeting to any of us, she walked slowly to her desk, opened her attendance book, and began to read the names, completely unaware of the tense and expectant air. Eventually, inevitably, she came to Eric. “Eric Grassman?” Soft and whiney, like an old, airless cow. “Eric?” We all looked around at each other, our smiles wary. None of us palled around with Eric—he was simply too bizarre for even the likes of us—but none of us wanted to give him up by glancing out the window at his swinging feet. “…Eric…? Does anybody know if Eric has been in school today, or where he might be?”

How do you answer that question? You don’t. You let it lie. You watch with a pale smile as life unravels around you.

Soon after role was over, Conway put her prissy little fucking book away and turned to the chalk board, making meaningless scratches upon it with yellow chalk as she blathered on about someone long dead. As she did, Eric climbed stealthily yet casually back in the window, took his seat, and folded his hands in front of him. He looked at no one, he smiled at none of us, he made no gestures of conquest or victory. Eric does what he does for himself. The other members of the strained class faced forward again, filled with good humor and confusion, pleasantly apprehensive to follow the coming fallout. I couldn’t help but let my gaze stray. I really admired what this young man was doing; I wanted to see if there was a clue in his eyes. Finally he glanced at me and gave a wink, nodding his head slightly, indicating that I should face forward now.

Conway turned back around to face the class. I hadn’t been listening to her prattling one iota, so even the mundane quality of her question, wrapped in the odd actions of the last ten minutes, made my head spin just a touch. “Does anybody have any idea what followed?” Huh. The answers seemed endless, and since no one had been paying Conway any attention, none were willing to try and respond.

No one, that is, except Eric. He raised his hand. “Yes, Eric. You have an answer?”

“He drank himself to death. He died in a gutter.”

“Well, no, Eric. Not at all. No, that’s not right at all. He lived for years after.”

“I thought he died.”

“No, he didn’t. Not then.”

“Okay, so he didn’t.”

“Don’t get angry, Eric. It’s not my fault he didn’t die.”

“I’M NOT ANGRY.”

Conway gave up the conversation and turned back to the board. I was dying from joy inside. The whole scenario was playing out perfectly. Conway wrote half a letter and then froze. She remained stiff for what seemed like a fantastic eternity, and then pivoted slowly back to the class. “Eric, what’s going on?”

Eric jerked his head back, slighted. “What do you mean by that?”

“What are you up to?”

“Nothing! I’m just sitting here! GOD!”

“Eric, don’t think you can pull the wool over my eyes. You weren’t here a second ago, now where were you?”

Eric’s face grew red. He was honestly incensed even though he was in fact guilty. I know the feeling exactly. I think it was fun for him, to play this out. He was in a test of wills with Conway, and this acting was merely part of the struggle. “That’s fucking BULLSHIT. I’ve been sitting here the whole time!”

“No. No you haven’t been.”

“YES!”

“No.”

“YES I HAVE! GOD! Why are you always AT me?!”

Conway snapped, but only a tad. It was like hearing a twig break in a hurricane. She set her chalk down hard. “I am not always at you, Eric. You were most certainly not at your desk when I called roll, and I want to know where you were.”

“NO. I was HERE. I ANSWERED you!”

“No you didn’t!”

“Yes I DID!”

“Eric you were not at your desk!”

“BULLSHIT.”

“No, YOU’RE full of bullshit, young man!” Holy fucking crap. Wow. That was big for Conway.

“You can’t say that to me!” Such feigned indignity. I love it. Eric just might be a genius.

“Dammit Eric! The door was SHUT! I closed it myself! You were not at your desk and you did not answer me!”

“You’re crazy. I don’t have to sit here and take this.” And with that, he simply stood up and walked out of the room.

The class sat stunned. Conway didn’t know what hit her. She looked at all of us. There were answers inside our heads. She knew it. As thick as she is, she knew it. She picked up her chalk. She cleared her throat; she pulled at her dress, and left a huge, yellow smudge of chalk down the front. Classic Conway. She blinked. “Ok. So. Does anybody have any idea what followed?” Needless to say, we did not.

Later that day, as I rode my bike home, I thought it might be a fucking GAS to make friends with Eric Grassman, and watch the explosions go off all around him, and to study the craters he left in his wake. I wondered if he had a place to live following the summer session.

I was getting to like Eric Grassman, and I wanted to know what the world looked like to him. It made it all the worse, then, two days later when Dougy the Rhino beat the shit out of Eric right there in Conway’s class.

But more on that later…LATER.