Club Dead Must Toughen Up
“We’ve got to toughen up this club,” Dawn said. “This is headed towards soft.”
I noticed Tuttle had returned.
“What do you propose?”
“Look, each week new people come. How many are here now?”
Being a counter, I’ve accurately written down the number of people who attended Club Dead. Today sixty-two people sat, stood and lay on the floor.
“And a lot of them are new,” Dawn continued. “I worry we’re becoming a freak show.”
“But without the balls.”
“Sort of. Look, the chanting’s cool, the play is interesting, but we’ve distanced ourselves - ”
“Yes, I think so. My point is we’re seriously screwed up because of our experiences with death. And I think this chanting and play writing is defusing my madness.”
“Isn’t that what we want? To get better?”
“No, that is not what we want. We want to enter death, we want to be reminded of it so fiercely and repetitively that we control it.”
“You believe that?”
“Yes. It’s been my self-defense. I’m not dead, but my brother is, the more I replay it in my mind, the more I revisit it, then I have it. It can’t creep up on me out of know where and blow me away. Is that it?”
“Maybe. So what do we do?”
“Tell our stories.”
“We haven’t done that.”
“We need a letting.”
“It’ll be ugly.”
That quieted the room. Many people looked at me. I said nothing.
“Well CJ, want to start?”
“I didn’t say that I agreed with Dawn’s theory. Besides, with these tears, I don’t think I could get it out.”
I have never used my crying as an excuse. Why don’t I talk?
Because my uncle would not like this, any of it, not Club Dead, not the play, not my tears. But who’s to say he wouldn’t. He did, after all, kill himself. We’re trying to figure out life and death, death in life, life after dead. I wondered if he thought about afterlife.
“I’m not up it.”
I sensed some relief from some people. If I didn’t go, they didn’t have to.
“But how about this?” Tuttle suggested.
We all wrote for the rest of the meeting. Then, I passed around an empty cardboard box and had anyone who wrote, toss his or her paper in. The box filled up.
“So we have our agenda for the next meeting. Toughen up Club Dead.”
Chapter 20: Wraithe Attacks
I first felt the pain on the back of my neck.
Just yesterday I had casually said to my locker mate, Gwen, that our locker’s location – at the end of a hall, round the corner, an actual cul de sac – could be a site for a crime.
And just like that, a crime unfolded.
Then the pain hit my nose. My nose, my poor recently broken nose, crushed into the locker. My assailant wedged my lips into a horizontal metal slat. Not much to do: I whimpered.
“It’s period five. Where’s my money?”
Wraithe pushed his body against my back and ass.
“I said where is my money?”
He punctuated his inquiry with a thrust from his girth.
Next came his mouth. He secured it like a plunger on the side of my neck between the bottom of my ear lobe and the shoulder. He bit me. He sucked and slobbered and released his mouth with a pop.
“Hope your dyke girlfriend likes that hickey.”
And finally his hands. They moved about me investigating. Finding no pockets in my front – but doing his best to find them - he moved to my ass. He riffled through my back pockets. “You’re trained at CPR. Let see you help yourself breath.”
Wraithe hands easily griped my neck. You really do see stars, little specks of white against black.
I suspected I had turned red. Or was it blue when death approached?
He twirled me around, and held me against the locker. I did not open my eyes.
“Where is my money?” He whispered moist warm breath into my face.
I opened my eyes and looked down at the right pocket of my black hoodie.
He released me. Never had I felt so good, to have my body back, but fearful, knowing this moment had not run its course.
My nose emitted little bubbles composed of spittle and blood.
Wraithe counted the money and punched me in the stomach. He did not let me fall.
“Seventy-three dollars,” he hissed, holding me firmly with a hand under my chin, “is not what you owe me.”
“And seventy-two cents,” I croaked.
That earned me another slam into the locker.
“See you at lunch.”
My knees buckled and gravity pulled me down. I tipped over into a fetal position.
Here were my thoughts, in order:
My poor nose.
Where was Mrs. Stone when you needed her?
My poor nose.
I must learn from Carrie. She understood the unwritten rules that explain how people like me do not have a chance.
How did I think that I could beat the system, escape this, use Wraithe to my advantage?
I wished Carrie were here.
Stupid Ben Franklin.
My poor nose.
Then I passed out.