a guide to companionship (excerpt)

Mrs. O’ was picky about meetings; she was picky about a lot of things.  On the day when the eleven of us moved in with our bags in hand, she didn’t even let us go to our rooms.  Instead, each of us stacked the few things we brought into piles in the hallway before making our way to the library where she was waiting for us.  The room made an impression from the start.  The unusually large windows at the far-end of the house that we were to learn were her doing allowed so much light in that the space glowed—especially the dust that swirled in little tornadoes around her.  What I was seeing wasn’t dust.  I’d find that out later, too, but that’s what we all called the tiny flakes that always dropped from the ceiling.  I remember thinking that Mrs. O’, at the center of a semi-circle of chairs and surrounded by dingy shelves overstuffed with books, looked like she was in a snow globe—a kind of sad snow globe, but a snow globe all the same.

During the hour she spoke to us, she referenced the bound booklet Bradley had given each of us at the door.  We turned pages as she told us to because 1. we wanted to seem like respectful young men, and because 2. it gave our hands something to do while she droned on.  She wasn’t what you’d call a natural speaker.  As she told us about The Routine—capital R—and her recommendations for how to deal with her son, her voice stretched out before us in a flat, endless horizon.

When we finally reached the end of the packet, she asked if there were questions, but no one spoke.  Most of us just wanted to get into our rooms, I guess, but Really, who was older than the rest of us, said something about the booklet’s strange font.  It was popsicle-purple and a little blurred at the margins.  It was a sign of things to come that while the world had moved on to computers and cheap printers, Mrs. O’ still mimeographed.  “I love it.  I haven’t seen something like this since like the first grade,” Really said, all good nature and excitement.  In response, Mrs. O’Neill stared at him the way that people look at bugs when deciding whether or not to squash them.

“Don’t be shy,” gentlemen.  “Questions are good,” she reassured us after deciding to spare Really.  “There are just too many of us to abide misunderstandings.”  She let herself flash a shy smile.  I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty willing to bet we all felt something similar at that point.  She was like a stern grandmother who you wanted to impress and who you wanted approval from, and we all started competing with each other.  For the next few minutes, her ancient hands pointed and jabbed like she was a traffic cop at a busy intersection.

Our voices, the arguments around us, made for a strange mix of intellect and testosterone that young men like us had learned since childhood to relish.

To Mrs. O’Neill’s credit, she neither made us feel dumb nor did she blush as we started in on each other and on her.  Muin, who was sitting next to me, was especially aggressive.  He was a first-year law student who had just started taking classes and already he was playing the part of TV lawyer.  “So, on page thirteen, I’m unclear,” he said, adjusting his glasses for effect.

“Regarding the policy on visitors?” Mrs. O’Neill asked without looking at the guide.

“Yes.  Am I reading this correctly?  Because I don’t think it was clear that we were unable to bring guests to the house.”

“I didn’t say anything about not having guests because that’s not what I mean.  I don’t think that that’s what I wrote, either,” Mrs. O’Neill said.  She was a lawyer, or had been at one point before giving up her career to take care of her son, and so she knew that delivery helped make an argument sound definitive.  Her voice now was no longer flat.  The need to make her point clearly had built it up into a wall of some kind, a warning to us to be careful of limits.  “You may have visitors as long as they are that,” she told us, making sure to meet each of us in the eye.  “I don’t want tensions to rise.  We’ve had enough of that lately, and for Tommy’s sake, we want to keep strife to a minimum.”

At the mention of his name, Tommy came to life.  He’d been sitting on a small couch behind us “taking notes.”  Though Mrs. O’Neill didn’t introduce him or make mention of him, we already knew he was there because of the tapping sounds that were almost constant since we’d arrived.  Tommy didn’t like to cut his nails and the sound of his fingers on the typewriter keyboard reminded me of a cat pacing a wood floor.  Now that his mother had named him, the tapping stopped, and he felt like sharing his thoughts with the group: “The mushroom dance, yessir, the mushroom dance,” he said in as flat a voice as his mother’s.

Mrs. O’Neill’s face changed once more.  Her lips now formed a polite smile that didn’t really express anything other than the need for space and time.  We knew from our interviews that Tommy often said things that didn’t make sense, but Mrs. O’Neill made it clear that we should never ignore him.  She listened to him closely and she seemed to understand what he was saying.  Really, committing his second mistake of the day, interrupted this practiced back and forth between mother and son.  He let out a chesty, good-natured laugh and asked what she thought Tommy was saying.  This time she forgave him by pretending not to hear him.

It was at that point that I figured out something that had been bothering me about Mrs. O’Neill’s face—something I’d noticed at my interview a few weeks before but that I wasn’t able to figure out at the time.  She had a habit of not blinking for long periods, which seemed to become even more marked when she was focusing on something as she was right then.  She was trying to listen to her son go on about mushroom dances, and it was like she needed her eyes to do so.

It’s unnerving to see someone not blink for such a long time.  Blinking is like breathing.  It’s a sign you’re alive.  Sometimes when I was young and I went to the public pool, some of the older kids would play a game to see who could hold his breath the longest.  I remember one time, this one kid who we used to call Crazy Warren went under and just stayed down there for a while.   The pool was full and it had been really noisy the way any place full of kids will get, but it turned quiet all of the sudden when Warren stayed under longer than anyone thought was possible.

The same thing was happening to us in that study.   We all got quiet, even Really, and tried not to look at Mrs. O’ until she came up for air and told us we were free to go to our rooms.

The summer snuck off that year, at least snuck away from our block.  By the time I knew my way around Mrs. O’s many rules and requirements, the leaves on the trees had started to turn.  This was in early August, at least a month before leaves started to change in the rest of New England.  None of us said anything about it, though.  It’s hard to believe that but it’s true.  Somehow when you’re in the thick of something, even if that something is unusual, you just accept it.  One time, “Really” said that the trees were changing to keep up with the houses.  Really, like the trees outside, was also changing, so maybe he was more sensitive than the rest of us.  Over a pot of shared spaghetti one afternoon when no one was around, he told me he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was going through some kind of hormone therapy.  “No more stiffies in the morning,” he told me as cheerful as anything.  “It’s one of the side-effects, but it beats the alternative.”  With news like that, I didn’t really know what to say.  All I could think about was the C-word.  So I forgot about what he said about the trees.  But thinking back on my time in the house, as I seem to be doing more and more often now, I’m thinking he might’ve been right.

Earlier that year, before we all arrived at the house, the block had gone through some changes.  Mrs. Sudbury, who lived across the street from us, had become obsessed with some house painter famous for doing whole blocks up in bright, tropical colors.  The guy was from the North Shore originally, but most of his clients were on the West Coast where tropical colors make more sense than they do here in New England.  Mrs. Sudbury, I guess, didn’t think there was a problem though and she’d spent a year convincing all the homeowners on the block of the same thing.

There were thirteen colonials on Montague Street—six on our side of the block, seven on the other.  Out of the thirteen owners, twelve took up Mrs. Sudbury’s call.  The one hold-out was Mrs. O’Neill.  Her decision not to join in made her even more unpopular than she already was with her neighbors.  Still, her decision wouldn’t have been such a bad thing if her house had been painted a light blue or white or something neutral.  But for reasons that none of us knew, she was adamant that the house should stay painted dark-brown.  I’d never been one to care about the colors people paint their homes, but that shade of brown was so dark, especially compared to the happy yellows and oranges of our neighbors’ places, that it made the place look a giant bruise on a nice collection of fruit.  As a result, our neighbors were not happy with Mrs. O’Neill—some were just plain angry.  By the time of the block social, things would get worse.

Bradley had mentioned the event to each of us more than once during the summer.  “It wasn’t a big deal,” he told us, “but if it falls on your shift, then you have to really be vigilant,” which meant that in his usual, roundabout way, he was telling us it was a big deal.  There had been an incident the year before or the year before that.  The story wasn’t clear, and Bradley didn’t seem like he wanted to talk about it, but we knew enough to know that there wasn’t a lot of good will left on the block for Mrs. O’Neill, so we had to make sure that Tommy didn’t do anything to ruin the party.

As it turned out, Really was going to be on duty, and I knew he was feeling a little tense about it.  It wasn’t just the party that had him nervous or Bradley’s weird silence about the previous year.  It was also the calendar.  In the billing-room, Bradley kept a large desk calendar with Alaska nature scenes marking the top of each page.  It must’ve been a gift because Bradley was anything but outdoorsy.  The purpose of the calendar was to keep track of Tommy’s outbursts.  Every day Tommy had a fit of some kind, the date would be circled in red.  It didn’t take long for us to notice that Tommy cycled.  He’ be on good behavior for about two weeks and then he’d have a meltdown and torture whoever was on duty for the length of his shift and then the cycle would start again.

With Tommy, it was mostly guerilla-warfare except that he’d use his body as a battleground.  This meant that he would pee himself or worse—usually it was worse.  It wasn’t pleasant, but it was ok as long as you didn’t let him get his hands down there.  That, I think, was a major fear for all the companions.  No one wanted to deal with hazardous waste materials being hurled at us.  Other times, Tommy would be more conventional in his tactics.  He’d be fine one moment, and then he’d say something, usually the something about a “muffin dance” and the next moment, he’d be attacking you with his loose fists and jagged teeth.  Or, sometimes, he’d get you with his secret weapon—something you wouldn’t expect from him:  When he walked, his meds made it seem like he was always on a boat by himself.  He would sway from one side to another.  Sometimes when he got mad, he’d put himself right in front of you and he’d start turning his torso keeping his legs in place.  Like one of those Olympic discuss throwers, he’d twist and twist and then he’d release.  He didn’t seem that strong, but if he caught you unawares, that side-swipe could stun you.  Then, after you caught your breath, you’d have to pin him down, keeping him from biting you until he got tired of struggling.

By the day of the block party, the calendar was clean.  August was as white as the snow capped Alaska mountains on that month’s picture.  It had been four weeks of silence and good behavior, and we all sensed that Tommy was saving up for the party, so I offered to help Really, who in a last ditch effort to avoid the problem, brought up his concerns to Bradley.  “But Tommy liked the event and Mrs. O’Neill wasn’t going to punish him for being good,” Bradley said, which made sense until it didn’t a few hours later.

By the time the three of us came out of the house, we found that the block had completely been transformed.  Mrs. Sudbury, who, in keeping with the theme of the bright colors of the block, had done her best to get everything looking festive and tropical.   She drafted undergrads to walk around with colorful smiles and lays.  At one end of the block, she’d rented an inflatable jungle gym and at the other, she allowed her front lawn to be dug up so that a giant pig could give itself up to us.  In between, there were little stands set up where most of our neighbors supplied treats that somehow represented who they were—food from their home-country or dishes that their children loved.

In the middle of the street itself, Mrs. Sudbury was up on a small stage thanking people who’d helped her.  There was a Hawaiian band behind her, complete with ukuleles and women in hula skirts.  Even the cute blond reporter from Channel 4 was there with a cameraman setting up behind her. I joked that it must’ve been a slow news day, but Really wasn’t listening.  He had a crush on Mrs. Sudbury, who he said was attractive in an uptight-Republican kind of way.  Even so, he couldn’t really enjoy himself because his therapy was making it hard to care about crushes or anything else for that matter.  And then there was Tommy, who was starting to repeat his mom’s mantra: “tantrums are bad for me, they’re bad for you, they’re bad for everyone.”  As always when he spoke, he spoke slowly like he was in an old western.  He was the new sheriff, laying down the law and he wanted us to move on.

We moved down the block toward the smell of roasting meat.  Tommy was a picky eater, and he wasn’t interested in the roasted pig, but hot dogs always made him happy.  While standing in line to get our food, something else caught Tommy’s attention.  Loud voices coming from where a clown was blowing up balloons.  A woman was yelling at him, but I couldn’t make out what she was angry about, and I didn’t think much of it.  I figured she was a high-maitenance mommy letting the clown have it for not tying her child’s balloon well enough.

But then another sound entered into the mix.  The little girl who was standing off to the side, started wailing.  She was so loud that even she knew to cover her ears.  “Remind you of someone?” Really asked.  I’d been lucky so far.  I hadn’t worked on a red-circle day, but I’d seen Tommy’s screech-position.  The way he’d tighten up and hunch his shoulders and then cover his ears as he let out this screeching sound, which is exactly what he started to do right then in line.

Pretty soon, Tommy and the little girl were like jazz musicians trading riffs, seeing who could outdo the other.  The little girl would wail and then get tired, and then Tommy would take over.  We tried to calm him down.  People around us were starting to look over at Tommy with their sour-lemon faces.  Really tried to grab him and get him walking back toward the house, but all that energy Tommy had accumulated over his month of good behavior needed to come out somehow.  He kicked his leg out and managed to catch Really right in the groin.  Knowing what I knew about Really’s condition, when I saw him collapse into a fetal position, I was worried that something major was happening and I forgot about Tommy.

He must’ve sensed he had his freedom, so he ran toward the clown and round-housed the man in the side of the face.  By the time I was sure that Really was ok, the clown had a handprint engraved into his make-up and Tommy was on the floor screaming (the clown had returned in kind).   The little girl, still holding her balloon, was also still wailing, and the blond reporter from Channel 4 was setting up her shot.

The next day, all of us in the house woke up to handwritten notes telling us we had to attend an emergency meeting.  Like the first day, we sat in a semi-circle while Mrs. O’Neill sat on her overstuffed chair at the center.  Bradley stood at his post in the corner and at the appointed time when Mrs. O’Neill’s jabbed her finger in his direction, he turned on the television and played us a video of the Channel 4 newscast from the previous night.  It wasn’t pretty.  As it turned out, the little girl’s mother was yelling at the clown because he made her a balloon in the shape of a penis and called it as much.  Police had already questioned him and were considering pressing charges.  The segment also showed Tommy punch-slapping the clown and screaming like a crazy person, which seemed worse watching it on television even though some of us had already experienced the same thing in person.  The meeting finished with Mrs. O’Neill reading us a note that she’d received that morning berating her for her inability to control her son.  Mrs. Sudbury, who wrote the note, was on the warpath.  That much we knew.

It’s been ten years since I left Mrs. O’Neill’s house.  I’ve lost track of most of the men I worked with.  Sometimes, I still hear from Really.  By the time we all left the house, there it was obvious he was going to have to lose his prostate, but he’s recovered and he even found a woman to marry who doesn’t look anything like Salma, but who makes him happy.  I don’t know about the other guys.  Though I heard recently that Muin was killed in the attack on Mumbai a couple years ago.  I also know what happened to Bradley, but I’ll get to him later.  His sotry needs a little bit of set-up.

The one person I do see every night is Nicole Lake, the cute, blond reporter from Channel 4, except she’s not so cute anymore.  Now, she’s national.  In fairness, it wasn’t the move to New York that did it.  She lost her cuteness that fall, I think.  I witnessed the transformation.  She had a string of good luck with other stories.  One of which had to do with us, but like Bradley, that has to wait a little longer.  The other big story that she broke, though I think recently, it’s come out that she didn’t know she was breaking it at the time.  Lucky break, I guess.  Lucky for her, bad for the people she was covering, which included a priest in Roxbury and a few of the kids who he’d molested.  The cute blond lost her cuteness the day she covered that story.  No media commentator has said as much, but I think it’s got to be proven fact in the history of media personalities.  Another one of Really’ line that sticks with me and I think it fits this situation: “chicks who do porn all look the same.  They’ve just sen to man cocks to ever look normal.”  It’s not an exact fit, but there’s something analogius with reporters.  They’ve seen too much to look normal.

She probably doesn’t remember me, but right when she was changing, the blond reporter interviewed me.  It was shortly after Thanksgiving.  We’d spent September and October being careful and hunkered down.  At our monthy meeting, Mrs. O’Neill told us we had to be ever watchful because there were many people who out there who didn’t understand what was going on. .  Mrs. Sudbury had called Social Services and though we never got a visit, we’d heard rumors that a case worker had been assigned and had interviewed some of our neighbors.

As a result, anytime Tommy even seemed like he was going to lose his temper, Mrs. O’Neill would get the quiet room ready. It was in the basement and had gone through many phases, a testimony to the different approaches to mental therapies over the last forty years.  There was a metal loop bolted to the ground that had once allowed Mrs. O’Neill to tie Tommy down—that was in the sixties, and from what I’ve been told, kids were allowed to be tied down back then.  There were speakers built into the walls, large dinosaurs of the hi-fi age, ready to play muzac when music therapy became the more enlightened approach, which was then replaced in the 80s by eco-therapy when whale sounds were believed to be the truer calming agent.  Now, the room was going to be used as a hiding space—a location in the house where it was safe for us to put Tommy into when he was having a tantrum.  It was sound proof, which I guess meant that in 2001, therapy had shifted again: now, we were in a time of sensory deprivation.

It took a lot of energy to get Tommy down into that basement room, but once we did get him down there, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the shift.  For some of the guys, it became an excuse not to have to deal with Tommy.  It wasn’t like Mrs. O’Neill was going to argue, and to be fair, Tommy hate the room so he acted out more than usual.  As long as he was quiet, I think Mrs. O’Neill was ok with it.

Here’s a story about the basement that I can’t be sure about, but it’s a good story and it’s stuck with me.  When she was pregnant with Tommy, she was still working as a lawyer.  She was doing alright.  She’d litigated a case in front of the Supreme Court just before she went to the octor to find out what she already knew was going on with her.  She was a restless person, she was restless when I knew her, but when she was young, it was worse, and so when she was about four months in to the pregnancy and her doctor told her she had stay in bed and rest for the rest of the term.  She had fits.  Her husband, trying to console her, brought someone in, a Swedish woman who her son would later call, Fraulein, for reasons that only he knew.

She wasn’t a daydreamer, and she wasn’t one to be waited on.  These activities went against her nature, so it wasn’t long before she was coming up with ideas—one in particular.  This was the birth of her garden.  She had never been a gardener.  She came from bookish, city people whose closest approaches to the country were in readings of the romantics.  But pregnancy and hormonal push to be biological and less intellectual had now taken hold.  She used the little bell her husband had bought for her to summon the Swedish woman, who’d gotten in the habit of taking long naps on the couch, and told this half-groggy woman to go to the reference librarian and hand him a piece of paper.  The Fraulein did as she was told, not daing to read the message, and she presented the handwritten request and in exchange was given an armful of books.  They were manuals and periodicals and treatises about indoor gardens.  And Mrs. O. went at it.  She didn’t di her toe into the pool of knowledge.  She dove right in.  And within weeks, she had come up with a list of ugly misfit plants she could grow and a much longer list of all the things she would need.  Lamps would need to be installed, electricians would have to come about, carpenters would nee to come in and build tables for her and her new plants. 

As Tommy grew in her, so did her ideas.  By the time Tommy was born, she had created a garden in her basement .

With all of this going on, it seems hard to believe that just before Thanksgiving, Tommy managed to escape.  And he escaped while Bradley was watching him.  I remember it was pretty gray out.  The leaves were completely naked and the trees looked like umbrellas minus the canopies.  It was one of those days that makes you sleepy, and some of the guys joked that Bradley must’ve been taking a nap when Tommy made his break.  But Bradley denied it and said he was just lost in what was on TV.  As dull as the weather was, the blond reporter was busy as ever.  That day, with her hair done up to make her a little less cute and a lot more serious, she did a follow-up to her story on the priest in Roxbury.   It seems that what this old man, who looked like someone’s bookish uncle, did came as no surprise to his supervisors.  He had been moved to the parish after a string of similar events in other parishes thoughout the 70s and 80s.  Now, what had seemed like a terrible single case now seemed to be a cover-up, and the higher-ups in the church were being named—many of which were named by none other than this blond reporter.

Maybe, then it was the case.  Bradley had been watching television when Tommy found his way out through the back door.  Maybe he was watching the cute reporter lose her cuteness.  The important thing was that of all the people he could’ve chosen to go visit, Tommy chose the worst.

Channeling the ghost of pre-hormone treatment Really, Tommy walked to the end of the block, knocked on our neighbor’s front window and then started pulling at his crotch, at first slowly, and thn, with time, he started in more and more vigorously.  The neighbor just happened to be Lulie Rehnquist, the only resident on Montague Street who’d been here longer than Mrs. O’Neill.  She was known for her get-togethers, and she just happened to be having one when Tommy decided to show up.  I think if it had been just the old women, the incident wouldn’t have meant much.  But a few things lined up wrong for Mrs. O’Neill an they exploded in our faces.

The first was that while Tomm was doing his thing, one of Mrs. O’Neill’s guests came up to the window.  No one was ever really clear about why she was doing this, but for whatever reason, she got up close to the winow and then Tommy started to scream.  This ened up frightening the old woman who took a bad syep backwards that ended with her on the floor with a gash on her head.  Watching all of this was Briana Rehnquist, Lulie’s granddaughter who was visiting at the time and who became incensed.  Briana had just graduated from Vassar and she was unemployed at the time, which meant she had a lot of time on her hands, and this brings us to point three.  She went to Vassar as id the blond reporter’s producer, which is how I came to be interviewed by the blond reporter, and how I noticed first-hand that the cuteness from only a few months before was coming to its end.

Something about Tommy showing up gave her purpose.  She decided that Tommy wasn’t being watched adequately and she was upset an she was going to do something about it.  I don’t kno if the complaint


On the other side of the spectrum was James, who after a month was referred to as the “Doctor.”  For the first couple weeks, he’d get up every morning with a doctor’s bag.  He even sometimes ate breakfast with a stethoscope around his neck, which seemed odd, but only if you thought about it.  When we asked him if he was in med school, he’d always tell us the same thing: “yes, I have studied medicine,” and then change the subject.  This went on until Really, who was just starting treatment, said he felt a need to get to the bottom of things and followed James out of the house.  It turned out James was a lab assistant at one of the labs on campus that did animal research.  Really, to his credit, didn’t tell everyone in the house.  As far as I know, I was the only one, but he always made sure to refer to James as doctor, and maybe because I knew the story, I could see the little smile in “Really’s” voice when he said the word.



It wasn’t long before The Routine, as Mrs. O’Neill called it, started to take hold of us.  Days at her house were different from any other house I’d ever been in, and different from any house I’ve lived in since.  All her attention to detail in the Guides she wrote for us—none of it was necessary.  The daily patterns of the place started to affect us.  The house itself kept us all in line.  It lived for the sound of Tommy’s morning screaming voice an it when he was safely tucked away, it quieted down.  Maybe it was because the house was old, but sometimes it was like being on a boat, the house creaked and cracked all day.  At night, the creaking sound stopped and the house became as quiet as a study hall.  For the first month, during that initial time when most of us still talked to each other, we would all say the same thing: it just wasn’t right to make sound in that house, so we kept quiet.

Even “Really” felt the need to be quiet, which was no small thing for him.   His room was right next to mine and ours were the only two rooms on the western side of the second floor, which explains why we got closer, or at least, why “Really” would tell me things.  Within a week of moving in, I knew that he loved to masturbate to break up the monotony of his research.  I never really understood what he was writing about, but I knew he was doing a post-doc in math and wasn’t having any luck trying to turn his dissertation into a book.  “Really” wasn’t having very good luck about anything during that time.  Over some shared spaghetti, one afternoon when Tommy was at the doctor’s, he told me he was masturbating more than usual.  How this came up, I have no idea, but he went on to explain that this was his attempt to get it all out while the getting was good since he’d just been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  “They’re going to pump me full of something so my body won’t form any testosterone for a year.  They tell me I won’t even get a stiffy for Salma,” which, he told me, “was proof that science can do amazing things.”  A lot changed that year, including Really’s personality, which became more still and introverted and cautious, but one constant was the poster of Salma Hayek he had over his bed.  He never took it down, and even when he was depressed, he always smiled when he said her name.

            These were the kinds of things that the ten of us got to learn about each other.  Not all of us were friends, but it was hard not to learn things about each other while living in the house.  Of all of ten of us companions, the one who remained a mystery was Bradley.  He was a big man and he was probably about the same age as “Really,” but he semed younger.  Not like the other guys.  He seemed like a kid—one of those really imaginative, sensitive kids who get picked on in school an who earn how to blend in. 

            I don’t come off as a quiet person.  I have a loud laugh and I seem friendly enough, but deep down I’ve felt a little jealous and a little in awe of people like Bradley.  They have these inner-lives that I feel myself wanting to be a part of.  I can’t say I followed him, but I did observe him when I could.  I remember a few days in to my living at the house, I saw him sitting in one of the front rooms that Mrs. O. called the billing-room.  He had his head back and his eyes closed, but I knew he wasn’t asleep because of the way he was smiling.  I didn’t want to bother him, but I was also interested.  I don’t know what he was paying attention to.  There was only the padded sound of footsteps above, but for him, it was like he was listening to music that only he could hear. 

            I know I’ve seen those movies that sometimes get made about musicians, when the camera focuses on some actor’s face and he looks all blissed out.  They have it wrong.  I guess they get the feeling right, but it’s just not the right way to express it.  All that mooning into the camera might be love, but it’s the kind of love people feel for each other.  You can search the letters of Beethoven or Mozart or whoever you like, and all of them just want to be part of something with someone.  That’s why the actors have it right and wrong at the same time.  There’s a great love there, but it isn’t external.  It tends to look inwards.  That’s why I think Bradley was thinking of something else that morning.

The homes on the block had all been painted recently.  Mrs. O’Neill’s barn-brown house was the exception.  As she would tell us later, she believed the bright colors of the houses that surrounded us on all sides was inappropriate, they were the colors of whores, which by extension, made the twelve colonials on our block whore-houses.  She wasn’t the only one who felt this way.  On that first day, the maple tree in front of Mrs. O’Neill’s house was doing its own criticizing.  Like the other maples on the block, it looked like a green cotton candy with a popsicle for a trunk, but there was something a little different about this tree.  A breeze was blowing steadily that day, which made for a nice break from the laundry mat humidity we’d been having, but it also showed how the tree was losing its leaves in upset.  Like its owner, it did not approve of the colors surrounding us.   

I know I’m not really saying anything new if I say that when a news reporter’s career is taking off, it means that people somewhere are suffering.  It’s a perfect inverse relationship if you think about it.  The lower people go into despair, the higher the reporter rises.


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Categories: novel

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at www.circularrunning.wordpress.com and Tumbls at www.circularrunning.tumblr.com

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