THE NARROW WOODS

11_the narrow woods, crop1

THE NARROW WOODS

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        I was twelve years old. My family moved to a new town during my Junior High School.

        They had talked forever about moving . They had looked at all kinds of places. I never believed that we would ever actually move.

        Therefore, now I had lost my few friends.

        I dreaded that new school. Back then I used to read a lot. I had an insect collection. I had a tide-pool aquarium. I was a real book-worm nerd. I felt a little better when I found a cool little lizard on my way to school that first day. He let me catch him easily and I found out that he would just sit on my shoulder. I named him Master Blaster. I hid him in my button-down shirt pocket.

        Mrs. Daws was teaching us French for first period. She taught French with a Southern twang. In class, for an exercise in French, I had to pretend I was asking Brittany Reina for a date. It was humiliating.  Brittany didn’t have to say “Beaucoups les nons” like that and make everyone laugh. It was only pretend.

        I found out that Brittany’s boyfriend was a tough guy named Wyman Wood. Wyman was in my gym class. For laughs, he would threaten to beat-up this “slow” kid named Grant Siemens unless Grant beat-off in the showers. Wyman and his friends would scream with laughter and make fun of Grant’s last name. The cacophony in the locker-room was demented.

        At lunchtime all the lunch area benches were crowded and boisterous and a little bit unnerving. There was one table at the outskirts where I saw Grant Siemens sitting next to a girl wearing a scarf. I went to that table and sat at the opposite end. I took Master Blaster out of my pocket and placed him on my shoulder. I offered him a pinch of lettuce from my sandwich.

        Grant said to me with a bright-eyed beaming smile, “That is so cool. What is your name? My name is Grant.”

        I lowered my head and glanced around, “Hi, Grant.”

        “What is your lizard’s name?”

        “Master Blaster,” I said and Grant howled with laughter.

        “This is Carolyn,” Grant pointed to the girl beside him.

        I raised a finger, “Hi, Carolyn.” And then I realized who she was.

        I already had heard everybody talking about Carolyn, making fun of her. Carolyn Calhoun was a short shy little girl with a round, round face, a long pointed nose, bad acne, and a bright sweet smile and happy bright eyes. She looked at me sideways, head bowed and sheepish. With her scarf, and her long dress over her potato-shaped figure, she reminded me of a Polish refugee in my World War Two book.

        “You better hide Master Blaster,” she said to me softly.

        “Why?”

        “Master Blaster is in danger.”

        Just then, I noticed that Wyman Wood was approaching Carolyn. I whisked Master Blaster into my pocket.

        “Hey, Calhoun!” shouted Wyman, “My friend Schminky over there is in love with you!”

        A boy, evidently Schminky, at the adjacent table stood up and whirled around with a revolted look and cried, “Oh, God, fuck you,” and everybody at the table shrieked with laughter. The boy dropped to the ground, pretending to gag.

        Wyman then turned to Grant, saying, “Good show today, Grant SEMEN.” And Grant grinned along, whipping his hand up and down in mock masturbation, actually enjoying the attention.

        Brittany, sitting at that adjacent table, screamed in mock horror.

        “Aw, leave him alone,” came out of my mouth. Wyman’s friends at the adjacent table, including Brittany, went, “OOooo!”

        Wyman glared and then he crept toward me at the opposite end of the bench as ominously as he could, “Hey, faggot, I hear you asked my girlfriend for a date! What now? Are you gonna teach me a lesson?”

        I started to say, “Aw, why are you ..,” and then Carolyn caught my eye. So when Wyman grabbed my shoulders and yanked me off of the bench and onto the ground I curled into a ball and cupped my shirt pocket to protect Master Blaster. Wyman kicked me once, in my unprotected ribs.

        “So the Retard Convention has a new member. Let’s all welcome the new girl!” Thankfully, Wyman returned to his applauding followers.

        I got up, mortified, trying to tell myself that I had done the right thing… for Master Blaster, that is, who was safe. I sat back down at the table.

        I asked Grant and Carolyn, “Does that shit happen all the time? Why do you eat next to them?” and my tough talk trembled a little, “Carolyn, how did you know he’d pick on me like that?”

        Grant interrupted matter-of-factly, “He picks on everyone.”

        Carolyn closed her bright eyes, “No. I could see it. I see things.  I hear things.  I don’t always understand what I see. I am a fortune teller.”

        “What?”

        Grant spoke up enthusiastically, “Tell him why you don’t have a million zillion dollars if you can tell the future!”

        Carolyn opened her eyes and smiled innocently, “It is the gift. I heard my Grandma say one night that I was a ‘bortion but I lived. If I had a million dollars then I would lose the gift.

        I asked, “You are serious?”

        “Yes. I can even tell that my mom and my dad are going to leave each other, and they never yell at each other; they never say anything. I can just tell.

        “OK? OK. But what else?” I asked politely, trying to be serious.

        “Do you like to read?” asked Carolyn.

        “Sure, but with these glasses, who couldn’t tell that…?” I chuckled.

        “You are going to be a story writer.”

        Well, she was sure telling me what I wanted to hear. But then the bell rang, sounding the end of the lunch period. We three stood up to go to our respective classes. I waved vaguely, “See you Monday.”

        Carolyn answered as I walked away, “I won’t be here Monday. I’m going into the narrow woods.”

        “Huh?” I asked, but she didn’t seem to hear me as she walked away.

        On Monday the whole school was wrapped in a buzz about Carolyn. She had been killed in an automobile accident.

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