Frank Visits CJ
I watched Frank walk up to my house. I knew someone would come. I was glad that it was Frank.
“Hi Frank. Come on in.”
“That was fast.”
“I saw you walking from your car. Want an apple? What’s the matter? Oh, these? I’m fine. Come on, I didn’t die or anything.”
I guess I should have worn long sleeves. I made Frank uncomfortable. Must get this not caring under control. I see what Mr. Blok was talking about. Frank was a good guy, and I shouldn’t be shocking him. I would make it easy for him.
“Frank, sit down. Let me tell you what happened.”
And I did.
“Now, ask me your questions.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Have any stiches?”
“Four on this wrist, three on the right.”
“Club Dead misses you.”
“That’s not a question.”
“When will you be back at school?”
“Can’t answer that one.”
“We read about your uncle.”
“How’d you know it was mine?”
“You mentioned a sister. Emma. We deduced.”
I finished my apple. I went to the kitchen and threw it in the can with coffee grounds, banana peels and other stuff for the compost pile.
“Want to go outside?”
I picked up the can and we headed for the compost pile.
“I feel very sad.”
“CJ, you tried to kill yourself.”
“Maybe, no, probably, probably not. Yes, I guess. Maybe. Not.”
I tossed the contents of the can onto the pile. Frank stabbed it with a pitchfork. The pile steamed. Bugs scattered. Worms squiggled. It smelled sour.
“My parents are trying to make decisions.”
“What do you want to do?”
“My parents will tell me what to do.”
Frank was good with the pitchfork. The pile hadn’t been turned over in a while.
“How do you feel?”
“That’s kind of you to ask. No one has asked me that. My mom and dad and Emma have said a lot to me, but none of them have asked me that.”
“In what way?”
“Let’s explore this.”
Frank kept stirring the pile.
“I have scared my family, real bad. I can only imagine, if I died. I think I care.”
“About your family.”
“Yes. That’s one thing. But there’s more. When my uncle died, I was very angry. I thought he had acted extremely selfishly. I didn’t care that he was sick. I loved him. That should have been enough for him to live for.”
“You have an ego too.”
“We all do Frank. I was only razzing you. Did I hurt you?”
“What’s your uncle’s name?”
“Grant. Grant Lee.”
“That’s a sturdy name.”
“So I’m angry at Uncle Grant. But then I move along to sadness and I feel enormous guilt for having been angry. Uncle Grant was a super guy.”
“Tell me a story.”
“Really? You are getting better and better Frank. Okay, well, there was this one time…”
I talked for twenty minutes and Frank stuck that pile with the pitchfork and laughed at the right place and said “uh-huh” when he should say “uh-huh” and once said “Wow!” like he meant it.
“I know my parents have mixed feelings about Uncle Grant’s influence upon me. Uncle Grant viewed the world as fallen and incapable of being saved. His arguments were convincing, and when I started to mime him, my parents grew alarmed. They are very positive people, who believe the world, while in trouble, is worth working to improve. So I’m caught between this.
“Once, not long ago, I’m angry at my dad and I say “I wish Uncle Grant was my father!” I know that busted my dad up. Uncle Grant is his brother, his older brother, and my dad is a very peaceful man. He meditates, Buddha is his hero, but I swear, I saw a killer in his eyes after I said that.
“Then Uncle Grant got sick. And I moved closer to him. Here’s another thing: for a while I was convinced that my dad was glad that his brother died. It’s not enough that death has whacked us, but the mind games between us all, they’re wrecking us. No one talks. It’s like we’ve been buried in some crypt! And through it all I cry – all the time!”
“You aren’t crying much now.”
“Well, that’s not saying much. But at least the howling has stopped.”
“Like a badly hurt animal.”
“It’s getting dark.”
“Let’s stay out here. I’m on a roll.”
“Time goes by, I stop howling, mom tells me to go to school, I stab Mr. Stone and Mr. Blok tells me to start a club. Things aren’t bad – on the surface. I’m kissing you and I actually think some of the people in Club Dead are cool. I think Dawn is tops.”
“Dawn is for real. I like Fretwell.”
“I know you do. Have you discovered Fretwell’s gender?”
“No. But I’m leaning towards female.”
“Me too. Do you like her?”
“I like you.”
“We’re transitioning towards friends Frank. You know that, right?”
I watched Frank stab the pile.
“What do you think of Carrie Unser?”
“She looks good in sunglasses.”
“I would like to help her,” I said.
“No one can be helped in Club Dead. Each must do his or her own work.”
“Uncle Grant would say that. You’re very right. But still, I’d like to do something for her.”
“You like her.”
“She’s likable. Anyway, the other day when you and Fretwell were talking about finding Brink’s controller, something in me cracked. My heart beat fast, a metallic taste sat on my tongue, I said to myself “why do I feel so brittle?” and I think hard about someone spying on me, and it makes me think about Uncle Grant.
“Someone spying on me – me! – a busted up 15 year-old. How screwed up is that? And all of Uncle Grant’s skepticism, his sharp understanding, it’s like it’s distilled in me. That was the metallic taste – it was him, his essence, I swear this sounds nuts, but I was a part of him, or at least the spirit of the man. I convinced myself that he was inhabiting me, or that some weird reincarnation was happening.
“I lost it. I couldn’t say if I wanted to die to be with Uncle Grant or I wanted to die to exorcise him from me. To tell the truth, too much of Uncle Grant is hard to take.
“I raced home, went into the kitchen and grabbed this little knife. It’s Emma’s. She cooks a lot. My dad got it for her on a trip to some weird place in China. Its blade never dulls. I got in the tub, turned on the water and started slicing. I didn’t feel anything, at all. I drifted away. Before I did Uncle Grant drifted away. I was empty and I slipped under the water.”
“You texted me.”
“Really? What did I write?”
“That you were dying. I thought you were speaking figuratively.”
“The group got angry at me. They care about you.”
“I’m sorry I got you in trouble.”
“Why didn’t you die?”
“I made a racket. Emma heard me. She’s cool under pressure. Knows some medical stuff from my dad. He’s a doctor. The rest can be imagined.”
Frank stabbed the dead pile of rotting things with the pitchfork.
“Well CJ, that is one heck of a story.”
“Thanks for letting me tell it. I think I got something out.”
Walking back to the house Frank took hold of my hand. His was sweaty from all of his poking. Mine was dry and chaffed. Above, I saw a slice of the moon and tried to determine whether it is waxing or waning.