Well, since you’ve agreed to allow me to continue, I will do as promised and start at the beginning and work my way toward the present. In my first letter to you, I kind of put the cart before the horse. I said some things that weren’t always true or weren’t always the case. I just don’t want you to mistake any apparent inconsistency with what I’ve already told you to be evidence of a lie as I continue. There is a process, an evolution, if you will. I am using the term “evolution” in a good way, such as in the progression of my Faith, as opposed to the evil way the atheists and the scientists enjoy employing the term. Be assured, I am going to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
The farther back I go, the hazier and fuzzier it gets, and then it just gets to the point where I am just making things up. I don’t remember my birth and I certainly don’t remember my conception. The only person I can say with certainty was present at either event, is myself. In my mind, you can’t really take something somebody says on faith, unless you’re talking about Jesus. Suffice it to say, I have reason to suspect that they really weren’t my parents. They tried. They really did. They weren’t really good actors though. But they played the part. But you could just see that they didn’t really have their hearts in it. It wasn’t something they wanted to do, it was something they had to do. It was a responsibility given to them, without choice, by an outside force. They took up their cross and they carried it. For this, they must be given credit.
They were responsible people, so they did what they had to do. They kept a roof over my head. I never went hungry. I was given a new wardrobe every fall. Medical care was always provided for when necessary. Whatever other odds and ends that come up over the course of year were always provided for as well. I never went without at Christmas time. What else is there? They didn’t think there was anything else. Neither did I. So that is where it got left.
Regardless of whatever conclusions I’ve drawn here about my male and female caretakers, I had a little brother. I will say that for sure. I’m not sure all the tests and paperwork would match up, but I don’t care about all that, he is my brother though and through. I’m not going to give you his name because nobody needs to bother him about anything. He is not apart of this. I haven’t seen him since I left. He was an integral part of my escape though. He was also something that was holding me back. He helped me get free, and then I left him there to fend for himself. It is like escaping from a POW camp in enemy territory and leaving a fellow soldier to endure the torture alone. And of course, once they figured out they’ve lost a prisoner, it only gets worse for the ones who are left.
I have never been able to forgive myself for that one. It was the first time I betrayed my heart. It certainly wasn’t going to be the last. I remember not long after I had escaped, he reached out. He was in dire straights. I could hear it in his voice. He was calling out for help. He was desperate. It was like listening to a boy drown through a phone receiver and you’re miles and miles away from where he is at. I don’t know what happened after that. I hope and pray that he made it out okay. It haunts me. Sometimes I have bad dreams about it. I really let him down. I should have just stayed.
But I am getting ahead of myself again, so let’s back up a bit. I think all and all, I was there for a little more than 15 years. I always knew that it was only a temporary situation. The woman actually made that clear on more than one occasion. I remember once, my brother and me were on the floor coloring crayons and she yelled out, seemingly out of nowhere, “Do either one of you cocksuckers know how much it costs to bring a child into this world? Well, do you?”
I remember I turned to my bother and whispered, “Do you?” He shook his head to indicate that he didn’t. Then I asked, “Where do you suppose we can find out?” He just shrugged. Then I said, “Well, we need to find out cause she keeps asking and neither one of us has a good answer for her. At some point she is going to resort to beating the answer out of us. Maybe Ms. Harris knows. I don’t want to ask her though.” Ms. Harris was my second grade teacher. I was kind of scared of her. She was nice enough I guess, but she was strict. Never yelled at me, but boy did I see some boys take some heat from her for things!
I never did ask her or get a good answer to that question. I asked some friends at school, but as far as I could tell it is a subject that just doesn’t me up often. Not even at the dinner table where it would make sense to bring it up. After all, you’ve got everybody there together, you know? All I know is that it is expensive. We were what you call “lower middle class”. Well, that is at least what the woman always called it. She said it on more than one occasion and she wasn’t happy about it. It doesn’t sound good. Sounds like a mixture of a good and a bad thing me.
At any rate, I knew my time there was limited. I was not welcome. I was clearly a burden. I was really putting them out, and I had no right. It was awful of me and I had to fix it by learning how to stand on my own two feet as soon as possible. Let them carry on without having to carry my burden as well. I had to get to devising a way to make it on my own. And this is what used to keep me up at night when I was a kid. I used to lay awake in bed and think about how I was going to strike out on my own. I knew I couldn’t buy a house or even rent one, but I also knew that I couldn’t let that stop me. There were other ways. There were other means. We had built forts all over the area. I owned a tent. I imagined that somehow I could move out, but at the same time go to the same school, and have the same friends. I would use public bathrooms to clean up after myself. I would work the same odd jobs around the neighborhood that I’ve always worked and collect bottles and cans to earn my keep. When me and the other boys would go to Hop-In, while they shopped for candy, I would window shop the other aisles looking for foodstuffs that I could live off of that did not necessarily require refrigeration. If a thing had to be cooked, that was okay. I had a one-burner camping stove. I would go over things like these in my head. I would go over it and over it in my head. It was something that was going to happen in the future, had to happen in the future. I didn’t know when, and I didn’t exactly know the how, but I was working on it. It kind of like creating muscle memory in baseball practice.
I suppose I should say something about the whereabouts from whence I came. It is clear across the country from this place. I came from Michigan originally, not far from the source of the Huron River. That is where I am going to leave it. I am not going to tell you anything more than that. Those people really had nothing to do with anything. They need to be left alone! I just don’t want them to be burdened anymore. They’ve been through enough without you or one of your agents calling them up saying, “Well, yeah, we found your son holed up in a makeshift cabin in Idaho. We’re prosecuting him for terrorism.” They don’t need that and I don’t need any additional burdens on my heart. By alluding to it at all, I am only doing it to give you a bedrock, a foundation, for the part that concerns you.
So, my brother was actually a bit of a boy genius. He had a way with mechanics and electronics. He could take a thing, tear it apart, and put it back together again in no time. He was fearless about it too. Not only that, after he took it apart, and put it back together once, he seemed to have this magical understanding about how the thing worked. Then he could tear it apart, but instead of putting it back together the same way, he would tweak it, or turn it into a different thing altogether. He demonstrated this ability time and time again throughout our childhood. Let me give you an example. One time we were hanging out in one of our forts reading Mad magazine, when he got up and sat next to me, he said, “Look at this!”
“That’s cool.” I said. “But ten bucks is a lot of money just for a manual that will explain how to do it.”
“I don’t need the manual! I already know how to do it! I just need a scooter and a weed eater. Can I do it to your scooter?”
“I don’t think you should. I think you should leave well enough alone.”
“Because! When are you going to learn? You remind me of Galileo. Every time he looked through that telescope it brought nothing but trouble down on him. The Pope told him to stop. The Bishop told him to stop. The local priest told him to stop. Everybody who knew anything about anything told him to stop. Did he listen? No! What good did it bring him? None! You don’t remember what happened last time you fooled around with powers beyond your ken?”
“I don’t think that’ll happen this time. I didn’t know what I did was unsafe. This has to be safe or else they wouldn’t be allowed to sell the idea to me!” He did have a good point there.
The “last time” incident I was referring to was when my bother took a series of battery-operated toys and rewired them so that he could plug them into a standard wall-outlet. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and I guess that is why it all happened the way that it did. He wanted to play with his toys, but all his batteries were dead. He wasn’t one to let such a small thing stand in his way. So there he sat enjoying his creations when our female caretaker came in, she saw what he had done and went immediately to retrieve her husband. He came in and saw what was going on and said, “You’ll burn down the house!”
Well, that was all she needed. She walked over to the wall, ripped the cords from the socket, rounded them up, and then proceeded to whip him black and blue and eventually red. I can’t say I blame her. I think she handled everything in accordance with Jesus. Jesus did say to suffer the little children unto me. And so, there you go.
So it should be of no surprise then, that a few weeks after our meeting at the fort, that he came tearing out of the garage one evening on my scooter. He never bought the manual, but he made it happen. He did it just like Galileo too. He couldn’t just keep it to himself. He had to flaunt it. This was the late 80’s in rural America, such things were not commonplace yet. I told some of my fellow inmates this story and they say that just about every retailer in America sells the very same contraption made in a factory readymade. So He drove up and down the street for as long as that tank of gas would last. All of the neighbors came out and marveled at Boy Wonder and his new invention. He got lucky with this one. Our caretakers were actually amused with this one just like everyone else. Of course, they eventually found out that he had borrowed the motor from their weed-eater, so they made him dismantle it and restore everything, but he had pulled it off, and I think that was all he really wanted anyway.
Perhaps it seems like I might be beating around the bush or that I am forestalling, but I had to say all this so you would understood the next bit. This has to do with my actual escape from civilization and into an underground world that functions side by side just under the nose. I told you that I knew it was only a matter when, so now we will arrive at the when in my deposition. Put simply—it was the summer of 1992. At this time, Boy Wonder had gone through a phase where he had become fascinated and preoccupied with the telephone. Of course, he tore down and tweaked his fair share.
I know this will sound strange to say, but I actually hated summer vacation. You’ll understand why as I continue. As I have already detailed, I was a huge burden on the family. When I was not in school, that burden grew by multiples on them. I spent a great deal of time being grounded to my bedroom. She couldn’t stand the sight of me. As she put it, “You make me sick!” She never really went into detail though, so I wasn’t sure what part of me sent her into convulsions. However, this is where the Boy Wonder came to my aid. I didn’t know that he had been doing all this work with telephones. He had managed a tweak and was excited to show someone.
So he came to my room and handed me the phone. He said, “Do not pick it up! Okay? Just put the backside of it up against your ear.” He also showed me and soI did as he told, but then I quickly pulled the phone away, startled by what I found myself doing.
He noticed. He said, “They don’t know! It’s okay! You can listen! They can’t hear you, but you can hear them. I converted it to an eavesdropping device!”
So I put the phone back to my ear and listened. I observed his face while I listened. He was smiling. He was so happy and so proud. I was proud of him too. I listened to the conversation. My female caretaker was saying—I don’t care! I am not going to deal with it! I did not raise my son to be a cock sucking, mother fucking, faggot! I didn’t! If he wants to suck dick, then he can do it in somebody else’s house! He is not doing it here! He is not sucking dick in this house! He is not! It is not going to happen here!
Then her sister said, Where is he?
She replied, Oh, he is up it his room. I told him to go there and don’t come out! The sight of him just makes me sick! You know? I told him if he wanted to be a re-cluse, go ahead! Re-cluse faggot!
As an aside, I put the hyphen “recluse” because that is how she pronounced it. I know learned people pronounce it like “wreck-loose”, but she said it like I was clusing again, which doesn’t make any sense since cluse isn’t a word. We can’t judge her though for her ignorance regarding the matter. She wasn’t even allowed to finish high school on the account that God had sent her a baby. The Catholics were nice enough to let her get married in the church though. There was a small banquet room adjacent to the chapel that happened to be free on a Wednesday evening in late January! It was all theirs! I was told that it almost was enough so that everyone could fit. Almost!
Anyway, I pulled down the phone and handed it back to Boy Wonder. I smiled as wide as I could and offered all the praise that I had from the bottom of my heart. I meant every word. Eventually, he was satiated and he left. I wasn’t going to tell him about what I had just learned. He didn’t need to know. He was so innocent and pure. I knew then that it was time though. I knew then that I even had to get away from Boy Wonder, not because I wanted to, but because I had to for his own good. If I stayed around any longer, I put his soul and salvation in jeopardy. I knew that one cannot love an abomination. I knew that he loved me. I also knew that I was an abomination. It was not an easy choice, but it was a clear
I loved him so much, but I was so happy when he left my room. I had some thinking to do. Adults are pretty intelligent creatures. They have been around longer than children. They are older. They are wiser. More experienced. They see more clearly and understand things more deeply. They see what is going to happen way before a child ever does. It is hard to pull one over on an adult, but a child is always gullible. They are easily duped.
This woman saw something in me that I didn’t even know about myself. I didn’t know I was a faggot. I had no idea. I am actually going to tell you another thing that is going to implicate me further. I’m not proud of it, but it is the way it is. Boys will be boys, and well, boys like to rummage through the trash. It was the summer of ’87. We were doing the rounds through the neighborhood, just double checking to make sure nothing too valuable left the neighborhood the next morning. That is when we found it. It was like the Holy Grail to us. Again, I’m not proud of it. I know it is a sin. I will answer to Jesus for it when the time arrives. Anyway, we found the Gala Christmas issue of Playboy—December 1986! It had Brooke Shields on the cover!
Well, we put that thing under our vest and ran back to the fort as soon as we could! We got back there, holed ourselves up in the fort, and leafed through that thing dozens and dozens of times. I knew it was wrong, but I can’t believe on how much those women made my heart race! I know it is not right to say this, but I really wanted to touch their bodies! They were so curvy and soft and just perfect. There weren’t any photos of a man’s penis in that magazine though and I suppose that is why I had no idea that I was a faggot. I’m sure if I would have seen some penises the same thing probably would have happened. My heart would race and I’m sure that I would have wanted to touch those penises.
The thing is too, built into this conversation that I had overheard, was confirmation by way of a second source that happened to be an expert on sexual perversion. My caretaker was talking to her sister, and that particular sister, was married to a guy that just so happened to be a pederast!
Okay, so now I have to back up again before we proceed any further. I haven’t said anything about a particular person, because she wasn’t really in the picture for too long. It wasn’t her fault. For fault, we have to look toward circumstance. I actually have a couple of older siblings—a brother and a sister. They got pushed out of the house right about the time I started remembering things. I only saw them on rare occasion after that. But my sister gave me a warning about one of our uncles. She told me a story once about how she went over to baby-sit for him. She put the kids down for the evening while he showered and got ready for work. The kids were down, so she went to the basement to play the life-sized arcade games. He came down with his hair wet and still in a bathrobe. He asked her if she wanted to play a game of billiards. She agreed. About midway through the game, his robe came undone and he had inadvertently exposed himself to her. I’m sure it was an accident.
The thing is, at this particular time, all the woman could say about my sister is that she was “a boy crazy whore”. She had pictures of boys all over her walls. I would go in there occasionally because she had a really nice stereo. Back then they played Michael Jackson all the time–Beat It and Thriller! So while I listened I couldn’t help but notice her pictures, but I never thought much of them honestly, but my sister? I could sure tell that she liked boys, that is for sure. Boy crazy? Probably. But she sure didn’t like my half naked uncle. Pissed her off something fierce!
She told me that she would never go back there again—even if it meant hook or crook. She meant that literally too! Next time she was forced to go there, she stole some expensive clothes from the woman’s sister and put them in with our wash back home. When the woman discovered the loot, she made sure that my sister was never allowed to baby-sit for them again. Now, I know my sister broke one of the Ten Commandments. She shouldn’t have stole. She’ll have to pay for that transgression, but I can’t judge her for that on the account of what she saw. I think I would have done the exact same thing if I saw penises swinging in the air like they just didn’t care
The woman’s sister spent a lot of time next to a pervert, even married one for God’s sake, so if anyone should know what a pervert is, it is her. She ought to know all of the signs and symptoms from first hand experience. When the woman told her that I was a faggot , her sister said absolutely nothing to say in protest. She seemed to even agree. So there you have it. It is basically Gospel. Two adults agree, both of who watched me grow up since birth. It would only be a matter of time before I discovered that I too was a boy crazy pervert too that had urges to lie with another man.
So with my brother gone and the door closed, I began gathering up what was necessary. It was a mission now. It was not a choice. It had to be done. These poor God-fearing, Jesus-loving people were housing, clothing, and feeding an abomination before the Lord. I could not in good conscience let them carry that burden any longer. Their own salvation was in jeopardy by consorting with the likes of me. It was wrong. It was not their cross to bear. It was mine. And so, I had to take matters into my own hand.
I had a decent size pack and lots of cool camping supplies—a collapsible fishing pole, a burner, a canteen, and so much more. I had so many different camping, hiking, and hunting odds and ends that I had to choose carefully between what was necessary and what would be nice to have along. Naturally, when you show an interest in a thing, on Christmas and birthdays those are the things that are going to come your way. That is what happened with me. They didn’t know why I wanted it. They thought it was a hobby, I’m sure. They didn’t know that I was fixin’ to rely on it. I only had the bare minimum as far as change of clothes went. I didn’t care if I smelled or looked dirty. After I got done offending someone, I wasn’t ever going to see them again anyway.
After I had gathered the necessities, I carefully and quietly went to my brothers room and asked him to come back to mine. He did and when we got back there I explained to him the way it was. I asked him to go outside and stand beneath my window and to catch my pack when I dropped it. I told him to take my pack back into the woods and store it in a particular fort of ours. Like I said, we had more than one. Only he and I and the other boys in the neighborhood knew of its existence. He did that and I waited for him to come back. I think it took him about an hour. It was a long hour.
I asked, “Are they suspicious of anything?”
He shook his head, “No, they have no idea.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m just going to walk down there, put on my coat, my shoes, and walk out the front door. Then I am going to head north, find a nice spot to settle down, and live off the land.”
He just shook his head, but it wasn’t exactly a nod of agreement. Instead, it was a distracted recognition that he had heard me.
Then I said, “I’m not leaving town quite yet. Tonight isn’t goodbye. I’m going to stay at the fort for a couple nights at least.” I pulled out a map from my back pocket and unfolded it, laying it across the bed. I said, “I want to be to the Mackinaw Bridge by Labor Day. If I find that I am getting there too early, then I am going to head west into the Petoskey region. Hemingway’s family has some history and artifacts there—I want to check them out, but it is only if I have time.”
“Why Labor Day?”
“There is a thing called The Walk for the Cure that goes on then—it happens every Labor Day weekend. A lot of people walk across the bridge on that day all at the same time. It might be the only time you are legally allowed to walk across the bridge. I can’t imagine they just let anyone walk across whenever they please, so I got to get there by then. That is my window.”
I was glad he didn’t ask the other question—why Hemingway? I don’t know what I would have said. I guess there are always a few variations on the truth, but I didn’t want to be that way to Boy Wonder. He was the only important thing I was leaving behind. Hemingway and I share a likeness. You see, the woman was an awful lot like Hemingway’s mother. They both were very perceptive people. Where they differ is that Hemingway’s mother was more accommodating to his abominable nature. She could tell he was a queer right off, even as an infant, and she made him wear a dress for the first eight years of his life. I admire Hemingway for fighting the good fight. He did everything he could to show the world that he just wasn’t some queer. I guess though in the end it doesn’t matter because he lost out to his abominable nature when he murdered himself.
“What about school?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I’m done with school. I know how to read, write, add, and subtract—what else is there? The animals, birds, and fish aren’t going to be at more at a disadvantage because I have a diploma.”
“So you are just going to live in woods, and fish, and hunt, and stuff?”
“Yeah! And grow my own food! I’m even going to live without electricity!” I reached over to my bookshelf and I pulled a volume from it. “You can have anything here that I am leaving, but you must have this! This is the is the only book I’m bringing with me. This is your copy. I’m going to have something else for you too. It isn’t much fun, but it is useful.”
He looked at the book and read the cover aloud, “Walden…or life in the woods…and on the duty of civil disobedience…Henry David Thoreau…hmm…is it good?”
“It is one of my favorites! You don’t have to like it, but it’ll explain everything to you better than I can. Plus, if we’re both reading it at the same time then we’re connected in some way, you know?”
“I don’t think you should do it, Piper. At least finish school. You’re so good at it. Mom always compares your grades to mine and asks me why I am so stupid. When you’re so good at something, you should keep doing it no matter what. That’s why I am never gonna quit inventin’. I don’t care how many times it gets me beat or in trouble. Remember telling me about Galileo? Maybe that is what he was thinking and why he just kept going no matter what. It was all he had, so he gave it all.”
All of a sudden, he started sounding like someone else I knew, and that someone had this same conversation with me, except he was an adult, and he said it basically the same, but he said it like an adult. His name was Mr. Butler. He was my freshman baseball coach and also my 9th grade English Literature teacher. He gave us a midterm that year. No other classes had to write a midterm. He said it was a concept more familiar to a college setting. We had to write a three-page paper. He came into class the day after they were due and you could tell he wasn’t happy. He sat on the front of the desk with the pile of midterms next to him. His back was straight and he was clutching the edge of his desk. If he were trying to establish awkward silence. He succeeded.
Finally, he said, “How many of you,” he paused momentarily, “are planning on attending college or a university?” When there was no response, he said, “Come on….show of hands.” He took a moment and counted the hands. Then he said, “Let’s see…twenty seven…and there are thirty of you…so that makes ninety percent…correct?”
He stood up and clasped his hands together behind his back and began slowly pacing across the front of the classroom. I noticed that he was being very deliberate about where he was stepping. He seemed to not want to step on a crack—each foot landing dead center in relation to the perimeters of the tile. After awhile he said, “When the twenty seven of you arrive at college do you think you are going to achieve a degree by playing games of chance?”
Again, he just stood there employing the awkward silence. He continued, “Apparently, this is how you think you are going to earn your high school diploma—by answering multiple choice questions and filling in the appropriate oval on a scan-tron! Now you arrived at my doorstep! Now I have to deal with you! I have to teach 9th grade English Lit to a bunch of people who have been mindlessly filling in ovals all these years! It’s too late! We’re into March now…barely eight weeks left. I don’t even have a curriculum for you today. I am half inclined just to pass out scan-trons and just let you fill them in however you please. It doesn’t matter because for now on you’re all getting an ‘A’—just for showing up!”
He just stood there looking at the class. I was starting to understand why his class was so dreaded. He then proceeded to pass back everyone’s paper. He spent the remainder of the hour citing examples the grammatical errors he saw and how to go about correcting them. He didn’t give me back my paper. I could see it sitting on his desk. The paper that I had typed it on was of older stock—kind of yellow. As he passed out the stack, I could see definitively that it was the one on the very bottom because of the stark contrast in the color of the paper. Everyone else’s midterm was printed on very recent white computer paper. Mine was old, yellowed, typing paper. After all were passed out, save mine, he walked back to his desk and tossed it on his desk. He then walked to the board and picked up a piece of chalk and began writing. Class was in session. My heart was racing. I know he saw me. He had made eye contact with me a few times already. I was sitting in the same seat I had always sat—in the back corner, in the desk most opposite his desk. We made eye contact a few more times, but it never seemed to occur to him to give me my paper. Was it that bad? Particularly bad? So much so?
Class ended and I approached the board where he was erasing the day’s lesson. He turned as I approached and said, “Piper, why don’t you have a seat at that desk in front of my desk.” He gestured to it with his free hand and then he looked toward the exit. He went back to erasing, but as soon as the last body was out of the room, he walked to the door, and closed it. He walked back to his desk and sat down.
I think he was kind of a sadistic person because he seemed awful fond of the awkward silence. He employed it yet again. Finally, he said, “You’re a good ballplayer, Piper. You really are, but there are no scouts in the stands watching you, you know?”
“I know that, sir. I don’t actually expect to be playing baseball too much longer.”
“You’re going to try out for the JV squad next year, aren’t you?”
“Oh, sure, I just meant beyond high school.”
“Oh, okay.” Another long awkward silence ensued before he finally said, “Well, if you are aware that you are not major league material, and that you have no future in professional athletics at all, and you are not going to college, then what are you going to do?”
“Well, college isn’t for everyone, and there is a lot that goes into it, and my family doesn’t think it is a good idea, and I just don’t think it is in the cards.”
“Interesting. You say it isn’t ‘in the cards’, presumably referring to tarot cards, which are used to foretell the futur. You give me this rather well researched midterm espousing, and dare I say glorifying Transcendentalist philosophy–you realize the Transcendentalist completely refute the idea of pre-destination?”
“Well, I didn’t mean literally…”
He cut me off saying, “No, I think you did. What do you mean your family doesn’t think it is a good idea? Is it money?”
“Well yeah, but my caretaker says that she knows plenty of people who went to college smart and they came back dumb.”
He employed the awkward silence again, and then he said, “I don’t know what that means.” Then he looked to me resuming the awkward silence. He was very effective at non-verbally communicating to you when he expected you to speak. I could tell he had more to say, so I endured the silence until he went on saying, “Does that sound like something that makes any sense to you, Piper?”
I shook my head. “No. It just sounds like something a stupid person would say.”
“Right! So why don’t we just leave that there then, hmm?”
“Caretaker? Are you adopted, Piper?”
“Ahh…” I adjusted myself in my seat and stalled.
“It is perfectly okay, I just wasn’t aware. So, we have established that your future has not been laid out for you, and that you are free to make your own choices. I will also agree with you that college is not for everyone. More than half of the twenty seven who raised their hands have no business setting foot in the hallowed halls of a university. Of course, I can’t tell them that. It is sort of an unwritten rule of the public education system that everyone ought to go to college. With you, however, I think it would be a shame for you to just go into the labor force.” Then he sort of cracked a smile and said, “Or take to the woods so you can confront only the essential facts of life.”
I returned his smile. Mine was probably a wee bit wider. “Anyway, there is an application in the counselors’ office. It is right in the waiting room. It is called “Fafsa”. It is an acronym. It stands for free application for Federal student aid. You can’t actually turn it in, but I would encourage you to get a copy nonetheless and fill it in anyway. Do it next year too. Find out what they want to know and find it for them now. Make a habit of it every year, and in your senior year, it will be muscle memory. Fill it in,send it in, and then just see what happens. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what is available to you.”
“Once you are eighteen, it is absolutely none of their business anymore anyway. Another thing: you know I gave out passes for those of you who do not have a personal computers at home so that you could go to the library during class to type your papers?”
“I know. I just didn’t think that using a typewriter was going to hurt my grade.”
“Oh, it doesn’t. I got through college using a typewriter. It was all there was. Word processors were just starting to come onto the market. And when I say “word preocessor” it is not what you are thinking. It was really just a fancier typewriter. You had this little screen whereby you could type what you wanted and correct it if need be—you know, maybe a paragraph or two—once you had it all set, then you printed it. They were expensive though. Some people shelled out the cash for the added convenience. Fixing errors nowadays is clean, fast, and easy. Not necessarily so when typing a final draft on a typewriter. Sometimes you’d think you had the final draft, go back, read it and find to your dismay that you’re going to have to type it all over again. So you prefer to use a typewriter, then?”
“Hmm. Interesting.” He then picked up my paper and began leafing through it. He looked up and said, “You know Samuel Clemens owned a typewriter? They came on line in the latter years of his life, and he bought one merely as a novelty item. I’m sure it cost him a pretty penny, but he was an accomplished novelist, and was often wealthy, and often poor,so what did he care? He never used it for anything of substance though. He wrote everything in his own hand.”
I smiled and said, “I didn’t know that—it’s interesting.”
Then he said, “He also never made it past the eighth grade. He was what we call ‘the naive’ artist. Homer is another example. Arthur Rimbaud is another. We don’t know where their talents and abilities come from. The best we can do is ascribe it as being a ‘gift’ from a Deity perhaps.” Then he took some time to employ the awkward silence. After a considerable pause he said, “I know you are infatuated with the Transcendentalist and their movement, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there is a kind of hypocrisy present in their philosophy.”
I furled my brow and asked, “How is that?”
“Well, their philosophy urges one to forsake institutional experience in favor of subjective, empirical experience. Yet, except for maybe Whitman, they were all very highly educated people almost without exception. There wasn’t a Huck Finn among them. Even Thoreau’s exploits have been exaggerated. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story? Mark Twain said that.”
There were faces beginning to hover in his classroom’s door window. He got up from his desk and picked up the eraser and resumed clearing the board. While he cleared the board he said, “You have to get to your next class. Your paper is on my desk. There isn’t a grade on it because honestly—who cares? Suffice it to say, you’re doing just fine in my class and if anybody asks, I’ll put a letter on it. However, I think there is much more at stake than a stupid midterm. You have a way with words that is not common. You really do. It is not ordinary. It can take you places and it starts with that form up in the counselors’ office in about three years, but I would start practicing now. It is like baseball practice—do it over and over again. When the ump shouts ‘play ball’, muscle memory just takes over. Do you need a tardy pass?”
“Hey Piper, whatcha thinking about?”
I shook my head as if waking from a dream. “Oh nothing. Just something Coach Butler said.”
“What was it?”
“It doesn’t matter.” I took a deep sigh. The sigh was really a result of nerves for what I was about to do. I turned to Boy Wonder and said, “I just got to do this. Okay?” He shook his head. I leaned in and gave him a hug. I pulled back and said, “This isn’t good bye yet. Come and see me in a day or two. When the coast is clear. Don’t come if you feel any cloud of suspicion upon you though. Wait until you think you can get away with it. Oh! And can you bring me my bike?” He nodded in agreement. “Only if you can do it without getting in trouble!” He nodded again. “Alright, I’ll see you soon!”
I opened up my door and listened to see if anyone was coming. Since no one was, I proceeded down the hall. I had two corners and then the stairs. The man was busily remodeling the bathroom, so I tiptoed by. At the foot of the stairs was a foyer. Adjacent to the foyer was the front door. There was also a hall off the foyer that leads to the kitchen. When I arrived at the foyer, I took my coat from the closet even though it was June and I then moved toward my shoes when I heard her say, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
She was standing in front of the sink rinsing a dish. I said, “Anywhere I damn well please.”
All of a sudden, her husband comes flying out of the downstairs bathroom with a red pipe wrench in hand. He said, “Don’t you talk to your mother that way! I’ll knock your fuckin’ head off!”
I retorted, “She is not my mother!”
He just stood there. He almost seemed to be stunned, like he didn’t expect me to come back at him like that. I don’t know where it came from because I don’t think it was even a conscious thought. I think it was pure fight or flight, pure adrenaline, because in one movement, I reached down, grabbed my sneakers, opened the door, and bolted like a deer that just heard shots ring out. I was out and I was running. There were no obstacles before me. Chain link fences, four foot high, were mere hurdles that I cleared without even having to lay a hand. I jumped them all without incident or hesitation. Hedgerows were no obstacles. There were no sufficient barriers. I had moved asymmetrically about six blocks in six seconds.
I ran the opposite direction of my destination, which wasn’t deliberate, but I was grateful for it. In the end, it would throw them off, if they were even in chase. After quite awhile of sprinting nonstop, the initial adrenaline shock subsided and I realized that I was not being pursued—not by foot or by car. I stopped to catch my breath and to put my shoes on my feet. I pulled my moist, dirty socks off first and put them in my coat pocket. I made the appropriate directional changes and walked to the fort. I didn’t use main roads and tried to stay out of the light. I was glad I grabbed my coat. It was a little chilly. I got to the fort in short order and I went in to relax and settle in for the evening, probably the week.
I unrolled my sleeping bag and crawled in. I used my coat for a pillow. I didn’t sleep much. I was physically out of that house, but this should not be mistaken for freedom, for I was still not quite free. I was still in that house in spirit. When I say spirit, I mean by way of Boy Wonder. I wish he could have come with me. Then I would have brought everything that I needed. I though about Boy Wonder a lot as I sat in that bag. I thought about what I had left him to deal with. I tried to find comfort in the fact that I didn’t really have a choice. I tried to find comfort by focusing on the fact that I was actually doing him a favor. I was showing him love, by abandoning him. He needn’t have his salvation jeopardized by consorting with an abomination before the Lord. I hoped that they weren’t taking my absence out on him because it wasn’t his fault. If they only knew that he tried to stop me.