It's One Way to Live
“I can’t believe they egged it!” Dawn said.
“Those rats!” Emig said.
“And it froze!”
“And it’s not melting. Cold today.”
“Only teens would use eggs,” Tallie said.
“That means Blissfield students did this,” Frank said.
“It has Wraithe’s hands all over it,” Dawn said.
“How can you be so sure?” I asked.
“Look. I’m sure,” Dawn said.
“But you have no proof. Dawn, I admire your confidence, but sometimes I wonder at your certitude. It borders on irrationally. How did you get that way?”
Dawn chipped at the frozen egg with a spackle knife.
“Mom and dad were drinkers. They didn’t get along all the time. They’d yell. I’d ask “What’s wrong?” They’d say “Nothing”, even though I knew there was one thing definitely wrong. Then mom would cry. I’d ask mom, “What’s wrong,” and she’d say “Nothing,” when I knew there was something wrong. Dad dies in a car crash and mom marries another drinker. More yelling, more tears, nothing is wrong. No, I know something is wrong and I am not going to allow them to say I don’t know. I know.”
“So you apply it pretty comprehensively?”
“It’s one way to live. What do you got?”
“Nothing. I have nothing.”
I chipped alongside Dawn, trying to get frozen eggs out of a hundred year-old brick wall.
Club Dead pulled through.
These people weren’t natural activists. They wanted daily calm. They understood the difference between right and wrong, but in personal ways. Duty to larger ethics, often abstract ones, couldn’t be met. They didn’t have the time. Their relationship to death trumped the needs of society. Each day was an act of survival.
But as soon as lunch was done, and I told them about the vandalism of my mom’s school, many of us knew what we’d be doing after school.
Thirty-four members of Club Dead walked the one-mile from the high school to downtown. They stood before the school, vulnerable to its foes.
“How’s your mom’s school going to be different than our school?” Fretwell asked
“She’s into the environment, sustainability, that kind of stuff.”
“So how’s it different. Sounds like just stuff to learn.”
“Oh, my mom wants to change the world. She sees it heading for ruin. Thinks her ideas will change the course of history.”
“Man, your mom thinks big. How you live with that?”
“She knows I’m not the changing world type of person. My sister’s been pegged for that.”
“It’s a given” I said.
“Do you want to?”
“Because it is clear to many adults that I have no idea how to live life, I must march to their tune. Here, there, I’m after something school cannot supply.”
“Probably the same thing as you.”
Frank walked up and looked at the tools. He picked up a screwdriver and wedged it into the crevices of the brick.
“Why don’t we just wait let the sun do the job? Supposed to be warm tomorrow.”
“Mom wants it off now. A sign that she’s in control,” I said.
“Just talked with a guy at Graystone College. No go with the crew canoe. But I’m talking with the guy who runs the ferry that cruises the lake. See what his schedule is. Maybe he can help.”
“Are you doing your homework Frank?”
“Very funny. How are the vials? Seventy-seven filled yet?”
“I spoke with dad last night. Not sure he likes the idea. But he’s jumpy around me. I think whatever I ask, I’ll get.”
A car passed by. Heads and torsos reached out of each window. My name was abused. Hand gestures graded my mom’s school.
“I told you Wraithe was in on it,” Dawn said.
“Do you think this school will be better than ours?” Tallie asked.
“I’m thinking of switching. My parents are cool with it,” Tuttle said.
“Really?” Emig said.
“We went to some open house. They served spaghetti. We toured this building. It’s small.”
“I think I could use small,” Emig said.
“I talked with this guy who’s going to be the counselor. He’s mad funny. Plays the sax. Real nice. Not in a fake way. I think they mean it.”
“Small, nice and spaghetti. Doesn’t sound too bad.”
“What’s the downside?”
“People in town will hate us.”
“They hate us now.”
“How’s the play?”
“I tell you. It’s good. I’m still trying to get CJ to play zombie number six.”
“She’s got to be in the play.”
“I know. I have a plan. Check this out. Hey CJ.”
I walked over.
“How about this: we three sign up for your mom’s school and you play zombie number six.”
“I don’t care that much that my mom opens her school.”
“You’re tough. It’s your mom.”
“It’s just that I don’t want to be in the play.”
“Why not? It’ll be fun.”
“Why don’t I want to be in the play? Well, let me count the ways: I have stage fright, I don’t know how to memorize words, I would have to discipline myself to pull it off and I am barely capable of getting out of bed and putting on socks in the morning, and…how many reasons you want?”
“Oh stop it CJ! It’s not that hard. Look, zombie number six doesn’t have any speaking lines.”
“But you said this zombie has extraordinary powers.”
“Right – of persuasion. It’s her spirit that she emanates.”
“That’s my favorite word.”
“And that’s what people follow. And this zombie does the right thing and leads all her zombie friends to a better place.”
“So I just walk on stage.”
“And look like an awesome zombie!”
“I’ll think about it. When’s the play scheduled?”
“Same day as the memorial,” Frank said.
“First the memorial, then the show. Big day.”
I chipped some egg yolk off the brick. I scrapped it off into a blue bucket. I thought of my story of the absurd and the scenes that unfold that make my life. Frank assembled a flotilla. Screen filled vials with human ash. I performed as a silent zombie.
I sat down and wanted a cigarette, though I have never smoked in my life. How would I make a zombie emanate awesomeness?
The same car drove by, faster this time, saying the same things and making the same gestures. The car ran through the stop sign. A police car followed them, flicked on their lights and sirens, leaving a cloud of exhaust at the intersection.
I would be very frightened to get up on stage. But there would be other Club Deaders there. Lately, I had been travelling in a community. I realized I like being with them. Did I think “like”? I hadn’t used a positive word in a while.
“I like that idea,” I said.
“The one I just had.”
“What was it?”
“Not important. What do you like?”
“Me? Like? That’s a good question.”
“Why is it good?”
“It’s hard to answer.”
“Because I feel rotten. It’s hard to like things.”
“Okay. I like…you.”
“I like you too.”
“How does that feel?”
“I like pizza.”
More Club Deaders had strayed from their task to speak.
“Me too. But not with pepperoni.”
“I like the blue of the sky.”
“I like pavement.”
“I like eggs.”
“I like that the cops pulled over those jerks.”
“That’s called schadenfreude, enjoying something bad that happened to someone else.”
“What are you saying? That I can’t like that?”
“No. Just an observation.”
“I like birds. I can’t wait until they come back.”
The sun neared the horizon and the remaining yolk firmed up. We chipped some more. I realized we like a lot of things. Club Deaders were likers.