B I T T E R S W E E T  R Y E

A Novel by D J Lasinger

Chapter 1

Okay, so that's me. David Jacob Lasinger. My friends call me DJ.

Nice pic, right? You can thank Nicky for that. I asked him if he'd do some paintings so I wouldn't have to tell you what the people look like. I'm not good at that kind of stuff. He said he would if I kept his name out of it. I told him I'd try but I wasn't making any promises.

This is Nicky:

Nicky Chang. But I'll tell you about him later. Mrs Lewis says it's good when you're telling a story not to get ahead of yourself.

I'm writing this shit down cause I want to set the record straight about my little sister Zoey. And cause I've got nothing better to do for the next three years five months and six days. But I'll get to all that too.

I quit school the day I turned 18 cause school sucks. I still can't see what chemistry and algebra have to do with playing the drums. But I used to go to George Wilson Rye. That's a high school. Most of my friends call it Rye High but I think that sounds lame. I don't like things that sound lame, so I just call it Rye.

The school got its name from some rich old fart who died and left all his money to the city. He died the same day I was born. Which, like I said, was the same day I quit going there. Only 18 years later of course. I know when he died cause there's this sign right next to the front door that says so. It's a real old sign and it's got that green shit you see on statues all over it. I guess he thought people would think about him if he got his name on a building or something. But people don't even look at that sign and they walk right by it every day. Besides, I think if old George saw the kind of kids that go there he'd take the sign down so none of his friends would see it. But he's dead, so I guess he's stuck with it.

Maybe that's what Mrs Lewis meant by irony. Mrs Lewis was my English teacher before I quit school. She'd talk about stuff like irony all the time. But I didn't mind cause she was kind of a babe for somebody so old. I guess she was 28 or 29. And she had this nice voice so I used to like to hear her talk. One day after class she said maybe I could be a writer some day. And I said, Yeah, right, Mrs L, like right after I figure out what irony means. But it was the only class where I'd sit in the front. Not the very front, you know, but like two or three seats back. I'd sit next to Manny when ever I could.

Chapter 2

Manny's my best friend. He looks like this:

His real name is Manuel Francisco Isidoro Luis Jesus Ortega. With little marks over some of the letters. I don't know which ones. Everyone except his mom calls him Manny. He plays in the band with me and even when he's straight he's good. Real good. He wants to be famous some day. He's got this move where he holds the guitar way out to one side, swings his arm around and bitch slaps the strings on the way down and, get this, does the splits at the same time. The chicks love it. But it makes me cringe. One of these days he's going to crush his nuts doing that. I'm glad all I have to do is twirl my sticks. Girls love drummers. But that spic can really play.

Manny's got a van, too, and that helps a lot when we’re playing out of town. It’s a piece of junk, but don't tell Manny that. He loves it. I think he spent more on those pimpy neon lights under it than he paid for the whole damn thing. What a waste. And after I told him that the part of a van that matters most is the mattress in the back. I had to pay half to get him to put one in there at all. And it's this lumpy futon kind of thing. But it's better than nothing. No doubt about that.

Manny's got more money than me cause he works for his cousin laying concrete block on the weekends. Actually he just lugs around the bags of cement and stuff while his cousin does the easy part. But it pays good and he says he likes working out in the sun and all. So that's how he got enough money for his van. And half a mattress.

The thing is, Manny's got the hots for this rich girl Evelyn. Evelyn Whitmore. Rich and white.

Chapter 3

This is Evelyn, the girl Manny's got the hots for.:

You can see why. And she looks way better than that in person. Trust me. Evelyn was named after her mom. And her mom was named after her mom. All the way back. So I guess if she was a guy she'd be like Evelyn the Fifth or something. And she might as well be. Her family has more money than old George Wilson Rye ever did. And Evelyn likes money. But other than that she's okay. Doesn't talk down to me and Manny like most of the other preppy bitches. And she hangs with the black chicks like Bree when nobody's looking. But I'll tell you about Bree later.

Problem is Evelyn's cockstruck in a big way when that bastard Johnson is around. Always hanging all over him. I don't know why she can't see what a prick he is. Maybe cause her mom and dad want her to marry him so they can get their hands on all the Johnson money too. Or maybe cause she's a cheer leader and thinks she has to hang with one of the jocks. But like I said, Manny is wild about her, and she really is a babe. But way out of his league. Way out. So Manny doesn't get much use out of our mattress.

She does kind of lead him on though, if you ask me. And then she kicks him in the balls. Like this one time Manny and her were shooting the shit in the hall and she's laughing at Manny's jokes and all and asking him about the band and stuff. I know cause I was a little ways down the hall trying to get a peek into the girl's john and I could hear them. But then that bastard Johnson comes up and asks her if her family is looking for a new lawn boy or something cause he can't figure why else she'd be talking to a guy like Manny. And instead of sticking up for him she just puts her head down and walks off with the prick. What a bitch. What a sweet looking bitch.

Chapter 4

I bet you want to know what that bastard Johnson looks like. He looks like this:

His real name is Richard P. Johnson and the P stands for Peter. Which is kind of funny cause that means all three of his names are other words for penis. I guess rich people don't notice things like that when they're naming their kids. I can hear his dad now. It's a boy, Snookums! What should we call him? And his mom says, Oh, I don't know, dear. How about Dick Dick Dick?

But let me tell you this story. I'm cutting across the football field on my way home. And I stop to light up a joint on that rubber shit they've got around the edges for the track team. And I look up and see old Dick Dick Dick running at me. And he's yelling at me to get out of the way cause I'm slowing him down. So I stand there til he gets nice and close. Then I tell him it's a wonder he can run at all with that stick so far up his ass. Well that gets him all pissed off so I take off under the seats. And he chases me and hits one of the poles. So he's swearing at me and limping and saying something about a pulled groin muscle. And I say, If you want to pull your groin muscle, Johnson, you should do it in the shower with the rest of the team. Then I take off again and he tries to catch me and this time he stubs his toe or something. And in the end he can't run in the big race and get another goddam trophy. As if he doesn't have enough of them. And he blames the whole thing on me. What a dick.

So why does a rich kid like old Dick Dick Dick go to Rye in the first place? Cause he's a track star and Rye has the best team in the state. So he pretty much has to bring himself down to our level to get the goddam Class A trophies. And Evelyn, I think, just wants to be with old Dick Dick Dick. So she whines to her mom about it. And her mom whines to her dad. And then they both whine at the same time when he's trying to watch the news or something. And when he can't take the whining anymore he lets her go to Rye too. Funny how rich girls can get what ever they want just by whining.

But that's not why I'm telling you about that bastard Johnson. It's what he made Nicky Chang do that really pisses me off.

Chapter 5

This is Nicky, in case you don't remember:

Nicky's this really smart kid who actually likes school. Go figure. He's good at math but he's great at art which I think is a weird combo. But he says it's not. He says "both math and art find beauty by seeking order in the chaos". But I don't know what the hell that means. And I bet you don't either. I had to ask him to say it three times so I could write it down. And I'm still not sure I got it right. And yeah, he really talks like that. Smart kid, like I said. I bet he knows what that green shit you see on statues is called. His family has been here forever but he looks like he just got off the boat from China or Japan or something. He talks normal though. Doesn't say herow for hello or anything like that. But he gets picked on a lot cause he's small and acts kind of girly. Wears a scarf in the winter that matches his freaking socks. And knows the names of flowers and shit. He always says rose or daisy when any normal guy would just say flower. I tell him not to do that in front of the other guys but he just can't seem to help himself. 

But let me tell you what happened to Nicky when he first came to Rye. One night old Dick Dick Dick is all pissed off. Cause the track team lost a race or something. So he grabs Nicky and stuffs him in a locker. Like that will help. Then he tells him he can't come out til he counts to a million by threes. So Nicky does some math in his head and says it will take days. I told you he was good at math. And Johnson says, Well, you better get started, twerp. So Nicky starts counting and after a while that bastard Johnson walks away. But Nicky doesn't know that so he just keeps counting. And about four hours later he comes back to let him out and he's still counting. And he's peed all over himself. I told him he should sue the bastard or something but he didn't want to cause more trouble so he never told anyone but me. There's more, too, but I'll tell you about that later. Right now I want to tell you about Nicky's friend Breyona Butler. We call her Bree cause Breyona is too long. And cause Brey sounds like that noise a donkey makes.

Chapter 6

This is Bree:

She's this kind of chubby black girl who's always trying to lose weight. But anyone can see that she's barking up the wrong tree if she thinks she can stick to a diet. Or maybe I should say barfing up the wrong tree since that's the only way she's ever going to cut the calorie count. That girl does love to eat. And cook. And eat. And she's good at it, too. Cooking, I mean. When that girl cooks, even I love to eat. She can sing, too, but she doesn't want to join the band with me and Manny cause she says she's happy just singing in the choir at the Baptist church. Go figure.

I just don't know why girls like Bree work so hard to look like movie stars. Any fool can see there's no hope. And some of us guys like a big bottom girl now and then. And you'd think girls would be able to figure out that's it's not what they've got that matters to us guys. It's how willing they are to share it. But Bree doesn't share. Probably a church thing.

And she doesn't swear, either. Like one day I've got this cut on my thumb that's bugging the shit out of me. Cause it hurts when I play the drums. And I say, God this sucks. And Bree pipes up and says I shouldn't use God's name like that. So I figure she's going to quote the Bible at me or something. But I ask her why the hell not anyway. And she says, Because you won't have any words left for when something really bad happens to you. And I think, What could be worse than this goddam cut on my thumb?

Anyway, Bree and my little sister Zoey are friends, even though Bree is two years older. Zoey goes down to the youth group at Bree's church now and then even though we're Jewish. Well, half Jewish, anyway. On my dad's side.

Chapter 7

This is Zoey:

Zoey is why I didn't move out after I quit school. Thought I should hang around and keep an eye on her. Cause there are a lot of guys who treat girls like shit and I didn't want Zoey to find that out the hard way.

Zoey loves kids. She works at this day care place after school. Even spends her own money on toys for the kids. But mom wants her to be a doctor or a lawyer or at least sell houses like she does. So Zoey doesn't turn out like me. Mom's not real happy with my life style if you know what I mean. She wants Zoey to quit the day care and take extra classes after school so she can have a goddam career. But Zoey is really upset about the whole thing. Cause she loves kids. And doesn't give a shit about having a career or making money like mom does. I think she just wants to be a mom when she grows up. I don't think our mom ever really wanted that. But Zoey doesn't know how to say no to mom like I do. So she gets pushed around a lot. I think she feels bad for mom because dad was such a jerk-off and left us on our own. But you don't need to know about all that. Ancient history.

Chapter 8

There's one more guy I need to tell you about. Just so you get the whole picture. His name is Jimmy Jablonski, but me and Manny call him Jimbo:

He's a year older than me but I think he looks younger. Dorkier, that's for sure. He finished Rye last year. But he didn't have any money to go away to college. So he stuck around town. He works during the day fixing computers and shit. And he goes to tech school at night on his own dime. He's smart like Nicky, but more nerdy than girly. The kind of guy you'd think would have tape on his glasses.

I wouldn't even know his name but he saved our band a while back. We used to have like six guys in the band. And it was a pain in the ass to get all of us to practice at the same time. And when we'd get paid we'd have to split it six fucking ways. So one day Jimbo hears me and Manny bitching about this. And he says that we'd do better with a "minimalist approach". That's what he said. Minimalist approach. What a nerd. And I said, what the fuck does that mean? And he said, you need to do more with less people. And I said, Okay, now that you're speaking English, how? And he said I'll show you.

So he takes us over to his house. Which it turns out is this shit hole of a trailer in this shit hole of a trailer park. Then he takes us around back, which is even more of a shit hole, and he shows us this kind of shed like thing that he calls his music studio. So we go in and there are keyboards and speakers and wires all over the place. Not good stuff. Old stuff. Used stuff. Junk, really. But then he pushes some buttons and every thing lights up. And he starts poking at the keys, playing bass with one hand and pretty much every thing else with the other. And it sounds like a whole band. And I look at Manny and I say, Shit. And Manny says, Damn. And the next thing you know we're a three man band. I told Nicky about it later and he said it was great and now we'd double our income. And I said if by income you mean cash, you're right that's great.

Chapter 9

So one day we're in Manny's van, and I'm playing a beat on the dash with my sticks. And Manny looks over and tells me to take it easy. Afraid I'll wear out the tacky rug he's got glued to it no doubt. Or get my sticks caught in the rosary that's hanging from the mirror. So I stop, cause I like Manny, and then he slams on the brakes. But it's too late cause he runs into this fancy car in front of us. I'd tell you what kind it was but they all look the same to me. But I know it was fancy. And it was just a little bump anyway.

So we all pull over to the side of the road and this girl from St. Mary's gets out of the fancy car. I tell you, on the right girl, those school uniforms are almost as slutty as cheer leader outfits. But this girl is all shaking and crying and stuff. Daddy's car, no doubt. Probably out with her friends when she's supposed to be praying or something. Manny's a Catholic, of course, but he doesn't think much about it. It's just how he grew up. And he doesn't hang out with girls like that because he goes to Rye with the rest of us. It costs too much to go to St. Mary's. But I can see this girl is cute so I tell Manny to chill and let me handle it.

So I get out and show the girl that there isn't even a scratch and that Daddy will never know. And when I get back to the van I've got her phone number on my hand. Which is why I always carry a pen with me. Then I tell Manny thanks for bumping her car. Cause the last time I made it with a girl like that I had to pay extra for the uniform. Well I thought that was funny. But Manny's real hung up on paying for sex. So he says, like he always says, that I shouldn't have to pay for sex. And I say, I don't HAVE to, bro, I just do. Sometimes. But he says that's just not how things should be. And I say how do you know how things should be? Things are what they are, bro. Sometimes you pay, sometimes you don't. But he just shakes his head and we drive away.

So I call the girl the next day. And I meet her by St. Mary's and we talk a while. And then we have a little fun, if you know what I mean. Nothing serious, you know. Just stuff presidents do in the oral office. And it was kind of funny cause she had to make sure none of the statues could see us before we got started. As if they were watching us. But a couple of days later I get this sore in my mouth. And it hurts like hell when I pee. And I think, That little tramp had some kind of disease. And here I thought she was a nice girl from St. Mary's. And that I didn't have to worry about that kind of thing with a girl like that. Turned out better when I paid for the uniform. Live and learn, I guess. Live and learn.

Chapter 10

So Manny says that he wants to be famous. And I say we've got to start playing places other than weddings and bar mitzvahs if that's what he wants. You know, so we can get a kind of following going. Fans who keep coming back for more. Places like bars. And he says that's great but the bars won't let him play cause he's not old enough. And I tell him I know a guy who can fix that for a few bucks. And Manny thinks about it for, what, about three seconds and says, Sure. Let's do it.

So we hop in the van. And drive to the part of town that even we don't go to unless we have to. And we find this dude standing on a corner by a pawn shop. He looks like a pimp. Probably is, when he's not making fake ids. And not the nice kind of pimp. I'm talking about the kind who slaps his bitches around even when they haven't done anything wrong.

Anyway, I wave this pimpy guy over to the van. And tell him what we need. And he snaps a pic of Manny and says it will take about a week. And will cost about so much. And that he'll need a Down Payment. Earnest Money, he says. Those are the words he used. Like he was a banker or something instead of a pimp on a corner by a pawn shop. So Manny hands over some bills and we head back to our side of town. The part that people call the bad side of town. But where we don't have to worry so much about some pimp beating the shit out of us so he can swipe Manny's neon lights.

Chapter 11

So okay, here's some thing else that bastard Johnson did. Nicky's got this book that he draws pictures in. Whenever he sees something he wants to draw. It's a nice book, too. Not a note book with blue lines on the paper and that spring on the edge. It's like a real book except the pages are all blank. Until Nicky draws on them. I don't know where he got it. Maybe a gift from his mom or something. Takes it with him all the time.

Anyway, one day he's out on the bleachers drawing pictures of the jocks and the cheer leaders in his fancy book. Nicky will draw any body, even assholes. And I'm a row or two back tapping my sticks on the seats and watching him. I like to watch Nicky draw. And old Dick Dick Dick is having a real bad day and the coach is all over him. All up in his face saying shit like My grandma moves faster with her walker at the mall. And Nicky can't help but laugh a little. Cause it's funny. So the coach tells Johnson to run like fifty more laps and then he goes off to yell at some other loser.

But instead of running Johnson looks at Nicky and says, What are you laughing at, twerp? And Nicky doesn't want any trouble so he tries to get up and leave. But that bastard Johnson grabs his book and flips through it. Any of these pictures of me, twerp? And then he rips some pages out of the book. Did I say you could draw pictures of me, twerp? And he rips out some more pages. And the cheer leaders stop jumping around in their slutty outfits and start watching. And whispering to each other. They do that a lot. Whisper, I mean. Well, they jump around a lot too. Then that bastard Johnson throws the book down in the dirt and spits on it and kicks it a couple of times and goes off to run his fifty laps.

And Nicky's crying of course. But he's trying to pick up what's left of his book at the same time. And I get up to help him. And I look over and I think Evelyn is going to come over to help too. But just then old Dick Dick Dick runs by all hot and sweaty and red in the face. And he looks right at her and says in this voice like he's giving orders to the troops, Let him be. So she stops right where she is. And she looks at Nicky and what's left of the book. And then she looks at the other girls. And then she looks at me. And I kind of raise my eyebrows to say, Well, whatcha gonna do, babe? But she just gets a real sad look in her eyes and goes back to jump around with the other girls in her slutty little skirt. What a loser. What a sweet ass loser.

The funny thing is that the next day in art class Nicky finds a brand new book just like the one that bastard Johnson ripped up on his desk. Except it doesn't have any pictures in it yet.

Chapter 12

Well a day or two later I'm out by the gym looking for my dealer. And I'm real thirsty cause I don't want to drink anything cause it hurts so much when I pee. And the cheer leaders are around the corner. And I can hear them whisper and giggle like they do. But then I hear Evelyn talking louder cause she's pissed about something. And it turns out it's old Dick Dick Dick. Says he's a bully and a creep. And his thing is so small she can hardly find it when he wants her to suck it. And of course all the other chicks giggle and shit.

And then one of the others, this black girl, says, Well, honey, why don't you just forget that piece of white trash and do what you gotta do. We all know you been thinking about it. And we all know you like how he plays that guitar of his. And everybody can see he's got the hots for you. And Evelyn says, Oh shut up. You know I can't do that. My parents would have a shit fit if I went out with someone like Manny. But I'm standing around the corner wondering what the fuck the problem is. You know, if Evelyn's got the hots for Manny and he's gots the hots for her. Parents my ass. Who gives a shit what their parents think? Well, I don't get it. I don't think I'll ever get the way rich people think.

But then I picture Evelyn's parents coming home and catching her with old Johnson's johnson in her mouth. And her dad says, Oh, look, Snookums! Evelyn's brought a friend home to play. And her mom says, And he's brought his little friend too. Isn't he cute. Now don't make a mess, Evelyn. I'll leave some fresh napkins for you right here on the table. And then her dad says, Do you think it's wise, Richard, to be doing this sort of thing the day before such an important race? And old Dick Dick Dick says, Oh, no, Sir. Of course not. You're absolutely right. Thank you for reminding me, Sir. I'll be putting the little guy away right now.

Chapter 13

So one day we're all at the ice cream place. And I can see that Bree is looking good for a big girl. If you know what I mean. I'd say about thirty pounds to the good side. But she's sucking down a hot fudge sundae so fast I thought she was using both hands and two spoons. And Manny's talking about all the shit he's gonna do when he's famous. Like how he's gonna have a pool in his bed room. And a private cook that makes fresh tacos every hour just in case he wants one. And Jimbo's drawing some kind of chart on a napkin. And I ask him what it is and he says he's got an idea for a new light show we can use with the band. And Nicky's sitting there with his new book with the blank pages. But he's not drawing like he usually does. And Zoey's trying to cheer him up but it doesn't seem to be working.

Then Evelyn comes in with old Dick Dick Dick. And we all think maybe it's time to leave. But Evelyn sits by herself at this little table. You know, while old Dick Dick Dick fetches the ice cream. And Manny makes a point of walking by on the way out. And he says, Yo. What a romantic. And she looks up and kind of smiles at him. And I think maybe this uptown girl is ready for a little down town action after all. But Manny looks back and sees that bastard Johnson coming so we take off.

And after we split up I go out back for a quick toke. And there's Bree by a trash can. Sticking her finger down her throat. And I think maybe I should light up somewhere else. But then she looks up and sees me and gets this funny look on her face. I probably had a funny look on my face too. But I don't want her to feel bad, you know, you gotta do what you gotta do. So I say, That hot fudge made me sick the other day too. And she kind of smiles. And I offer her a joint but she says she's got to go and takes off. Wiping her mouth on her sleeve. Which has got to give you real nasty sleeves after a while.

So I stay and smoke some weed for a while. Then I get the munchies. But I don't feel like hot fudge, that's for sure. So I decide to just get some cookies. And when I go back in the ice cream place everybody is gone except Nicky who is still there with his book. And still not drawing. So I get my stuff and go over and say, S'matter Nicky? But he doesn't want to talk. But I'm kind of mellow so I just sit with him and munch.

And after a while he looks like he's trying not to cry. And he says, I'm just so sick of getting pushed around, DJ. But I don't know what to do about it. I just don't know. And then he gets real quiet again. So I think about it a while, best I can in the shape I'm in, and I get this great idea. And I say, Hey, you could learn to be a ninja or something and then you could draw pictures all day and at night you could go out and beat the crap out of any body who made fun of you. I bet you've got a cousin or some body who can show you how. And I thought he'd jump at the idea for sure cause it was so sweet. But he just kind of shook his head and got up and left.

Chapter 14

So I'm home with Zoey and mom cause mom brings pizza home on Tuesdays. But it isn't as fun as it used to be cause it makes me thirsty. And that makes me want to drink a lot. But I don't want to drink a lot cause it hurts so much when I pee. But anyway, me and Zoey and mom are sitting around the table and Zoey starts to tell mom how much she likes working with the kids at the day care and how she thinks she wants to be a mom when she grows up. And mom says, That's great, Zoey. You know I love being your mom, don't you? And I think, Yeah, right, you're hardly ever here. And you didn't say you love being MY mom.

But Zoey says, I don't mean a mom who works. I mean a mom like the moms at Bree's church. The ones who just stay at home all the time and take care of their kids. Well let me tell you, the pizza was pretty cold at that point, but it just got way colder. And mom says, And exactly what's wrong with being a working mom? Don't I provide for you two? Don't I take care of you two and buy clothes for you and do your wash and bring you pizza? And Zoey says, Yes, you do mom. I just think I could do all that better if I didn't have to work too. And mom says, Well, maybe so, but there are bills to pay, you know. And there's nobody here but me to pay them. And Zoey says, but I'll have a husband, mom, who takes care of all that. But mom doesn't like that word, husband, cause the only one she ever had was a dick. And she's always telling me I'm just like my father and I guess that makes me a dick too. I'm pretty sure mom thinks all men are dicks.

So mom doesn't say anything for a while. Just gets up and cleans up the pizza and shit. Throws stuff in the can just a little too hard. And wipes the table just a little too much. But then she puts this real sweet smile on her face and she says, Maybe you'd like to be a teacher, Zoey. Then you could teach lots of kids every day. Which I think was pretty hard for mom to say cause she knows teachers don't make shit when it comes to money. But Zoey says, I don't want to teach other peoples kids, I want to teach my own kids. And mom says, Who have you been talking to, Zoey? Who's put all these crazy ideas into your head? People don't teach their own kids anymore. That went out with horses and buggies. Children go to school now, so they can go to college, and get good jobs when they get out. And not just the boys. Girls and boys. It's the best way to be sure you'll never have to count on anyone else, especially a man, to support you. And Zoey says, But what's wrong with counting on somebody else?

And mom doesn't know what to say about that for a long time. But then she gets real icy and I know the shit is about to hit the fan and she sits down and looks right at Zoey and tries to take Zoey's hand but Zoey won't let her so she just taps her fingers on the table like she wasn't trying to take Zoey's hand but she was and she says, Nothing, Zoey. There's nothing wrong with counting on other people. But you want to be sure you've got something to fall back on when they let you down. And they will let you down. So I'm going to make sure you've got something to fall back on. From now on you're to stay away from that crazy Bree girl. And you're to quit your job at that day care place and start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up. Perhaps make a list that we can talk about tomorrow. Then mom goes up to her room and we don't see her until the next day.

And I can see that Zoey is about to start crying, real hard, so I say, C'mon kid. You can come to band practice with me and then you'll feel better. Maybe we'll get some ice cream or something on the way. Mom will come around. You just gotta give it time. But Zoeys says, No she won't DJ. She hates men and doesn't want to count on any of them. And she doesn't want me counting on any of them either. Sometimes I think she even hates you. And then Zoey goes up to her room and shuts the door and I've gotta go cause Jimbo and Manny are out in Manny's van honking the horn cause it's time for band practice. Let me tell you, times like this I'm glad I have something to pound on.

Chapter 15

So I go to this dick doctor cause I can't pee without screaming. And he puts on rubber gloves and tells me to whip it out. Then he fondles the thing for a while saying um hum the whole time. I thought he'd say, Well, son, that's quite a whopper you've got there. Or something like that. But all he says is um hum. Then he tells me I can put it away and he takes off the gloves and puts them in a can in the corner. And I can see that the can is almost full. And I wonder if they're all from today. And if they were all used on other guy's dicks.

Anyway, he leaves and then this nurse comes in. She looks like she gets a side dish of donuts with every meal. And she's got this smarmy smile on her face. And she gives me a shot in the butt and some pills. They give me free sample pills cause they can tell just looking at me that I don't have much money. And she tells me I'll be able to pee again without screaming real soon. Which sounds good to me. But that I won't be totally cured since this kind of thing can't be killed. Only managed. That's what she said. Managed. Like it was a store at the mall. She said I'd probably get sores in my mouth for the rest of my life. What a bunch of quacks. And of course I'm thinking it's that little slut from St. Mary's who should be getting the sores in her mouth. Then the nurse gives me a bunch of flyers and I smile and say thanks a lot and off she goes. But I stuff the flyers in the can with the dick handling gloves and I'm outta there.

But let me tell you, I learned my lesson. From now on I'm gonna keep some rubber jammies right next to my pen so I'm ready for anything. Even the girls at St. Mary's.

Chapter 16

So me and Manny get in the van and head back down town to get Manny's fake id. And the pimpy guy is still there standing on the corner by the pawn shop. You'd think he'd get a stool or something. And he comes over to the van and shows Manny the goods. And then he asks for twice as much as he said before. Well that pisses Manny off and he wants to just drive away. But we've got this gig at the bar all lined up and we need the thing. So I tell Manny to cough it up and we'll put out a tip jar in the bar and get it back in no time. Well he's still pissed, you know how latinos get, but he looks around and there are some nasty looking black guys across the street eyeing Manny's pimpy neon lights. So he hands over the money and takes the fake id and off we go.

Well I'm good cause we're gonna make more dough with the band now that Manny's legal. And Manny's good cause he's on his way to being a rock star. So we stop at the ice cream place to party. But when we get there we see old Dick Dick Dick getting in the fancy car his dad bought him. So we stay in the van to make sure he's long gone. The guy looked pissed if you ask me.

Then we go in and we see Bree and Evelyn at a table talking. But they don't see us. And we hear Evelyn say, Don't worry about what that prick says, Bree. What does he know? He doesn't even know I'm this close to dumping him. So I say to Manny, real soft, Time to make your move, bro. But then the girls see us and they change the subject. So we get some ice cream and sit down and tell them all about our plans for the band. And I tell Bree how she's looking good these days. And she kind of smiles. But she looks a little shy about it too. Probably cause I know how she got to be looking so good. I think if she was white she would have turned red. Then I can't help it and I look at her sleeves. But they look clean enough. Then Evelyn looks out the window and sees that bastard Johnson driving by real slow and she says she better go before he comes back and causes more trouble. So she leaves.

And after she's gone Bree says to Manny, I think you've got a shot with her, boy. But don't be dragging your feet now. And I say, Yeah, go for it. Just don't let her parents know. And Bree rolls her eyes and says, You got that right.

Chapter 17

So I'm shooting the shit with Nicky one day. And he says he's thinking about what it would be like if he was a girl. And I say, Well you're not, bucko, so give it up. But he says, real serious like, No listen. Everyone picks on me cause I like love songs. And art. And flowers. And clothes and stuff. But if I was a girl, nobody would think twice about that. In fact, they'd expect me to like all those things. So if I was a girl I could be myself and be admired for it. Instead of despised. I think that's what he said. Nicky uses a lot of big words. That kid knows more words than a spell checker. But I'm trying to give you a feel for it. So I say, well, if you were a girl you wouldn't be admired for your boobs. Cause you don't have any. And I think most guys wouldn't take too kindly to that surprise you've got on third base either. And he says, and this is where it got scary, that he'd have to do something about all that. And I say, You gotta be kidding, Nick. C'mon. You're grossing me out here. But he didn't say anything after that.

Chapter 18

So one day I'm chewing the fat with Zoey. And I can see she's still real upset about mom making her quit the job at the day care place. And I tell her not to worry about it. I tell her mom will forget about it after a while and she can go back. But Zoey says she doesn't think so. And that mom is real serious about her having a goddam career. Of course Zoey doesn't say goddam cause she doesn't talk like that, but you could tell she was thinking it. And she says mom is real serious about her not turning out like me. Which kind of makes me laugh cause Zoey is nothing at all like me. Which is probably why I like her so much. And Zoey asks me why I'm laughing and I tell her and she says, Well, maybe I should be more like you. But I say, Don't do that, Zoey. You're great just the way you are.

Then I tell her worst case is she just waits around a year or two and then she's old enough to do what she wants. But a year or two seems like a real long time to Zoey cause she's so young, you know. And she's so mad she wants to do something right now. So I try to tickle her like I used to do when she was little. So she'll feel better. But she doesn't like it. Then I say let's go get some ice cream but she doesn't want that either. And right about then I start to feel a need for a joint. But I don't want Zoey getting into that kind of shit so I tell her I've got to go to band practice or something. And she says fine and I take off.

Chapter 19

So me and Manny and Jimbo are playing at this bar on weekends now that Manny's legal. It's kind of a dump but a lot of people go there and we're making a few bucks. And we've got a nice little bunch of groupies that show up pretty regular. Almost famous. But Manny is always whining that it's boring cause the fans want to hear the same songs every night. When he wants to try new stuff. Manny always wants to try new stuff. I tell him that's the price of fame, bro. Gotta give the fans what they want.

Then I tell him to get himself a beer or something to take the edge off. I don't know why he doesn't think of these things himself. So after a few more nights he tries it. And it works. At least he stops whining that the mikes smell like beer when we get them mixed up. But he's still not real happy so I tell him to focus on the groupies and he won't be so bored. So he does. And that works too. But he never does anything with them, like he should. Too hung up on Evelyn. Or maybe it's cause he's Catholic or something.

So after a few weeks Manny is doing better. Not bored at all. Drinks when we take a break and flirts with the groupies all night long. And when he's dragging at the end of the last set I slip him a little something to perk him up. Big finish.

What is weird is that I was getting kind of bored myself. Even though that dick doc cured me and I can suck down all the beer I want between songs like I used to. Which is nice cause drumming is real hot work. And I can hook up with the fans any time I want, too, if you know what I mean. But I was bored cause all the girls were starting to look the same. So I thought maybe I should look for something new. And that was when I got to thinking about Bree. You know, in ways I didn't used to think about Bree.

Chapter 20

And one night we're playing the bar and in comes old Dick Dick Dick. With Evelyn on his arm. Probably thought they were somewhere else. Probably not their first stop that night. Didn't seem too sober to me. Funny, I thought, how Evelyn doesn't need a fake id. Seems nobody ever checks real close when old Dick Dick Dick is around.

But Manny's starting to drool and he wants to show her some tricks. So we play the song where he does his splits thing. And she kind of giggles, in a nice way, when she sees it. And then we take a break. But before we can get off the stage which is only about four inches high old Dick Dick Dick comes up to Manny and tells him to stay away from Evelyn. Or he'll be real fucking sorry. Then he kicks over Manny's guitar which is on this little stand. Well for some reason Evelyn doesn't like that. I guess her parents taught her that you should always take good care of guitars and shit. So she gives old Dick Dick Dick that look that girls have that make you wish you were dead. Then she goes over to pick up the guitar. But old Dick Dick Dick gets there first and grabs it away from her. And she ends up getting her face scratched on the strings that Manny leaves hanging off the tuning pegs. And when that bastard Johnson sees it he says, Serves you right you little spic loving tramp. Then he stomps out.

And we're left there with Evelyn who's crying now. And bleeding a little from the scratch on her face. So Manny goes over with a napkin and tries to talk to her. But she runs into the john. Then he looks at me and I shrug and say let's get a beer. But he just makes a face and goes and stands in the little hall by the girl's john. So I look at Jimbo who is busy re-wiring his keyboards this whole time. And he looks up and sees Manny's guitar on the floor and he says, Hey what happened to Manny's guitar? What a nerd.

So Manny knocks on the door and tries to talk to Evelyn but she won't come out. And other girls go in and come out and look at him like he should give it up. But he stays at it the whole break. And doesn't want to leave when it's time to play again. But I tell him the show must go on and it does. But he's watching the john the whole set. I figure she went out the window or something cause she never came out. And when Manny went in to check after the bar closed there was nobody in there.

Chapter 21

So Nicky is wearing real girly clothes to school now. Not dresses and shit, but pretty damn close. And I'm thinking if he thinks this is going to get old Dick Dick Dick off his back he's dreaming in a big way. Hell, I even thought of poking at him a little. You know, like saying he might want to try on Zoey's clothes cause they're the same size. Or that he shouldn't wear stripes cause they make his butt look big. As if anyone ever saw a chink with a big ass.

But instead I go up and ask Nicky if he's figured out the boob thing. You know, how he's gonna get some. And he says, real serious, that he's got pills that will help with that. And I say, No shit. And he says, No really. And then he says the pills make it so he won't grow a beard either. And that if all goes well he's gonna talk to the doctor about "surgically reconfiguring his genitals". That's exactly what he said. And I know cause I asked him to spell it for me when I got to writing this part of the story. That kid spends too much time looking shit up on the web. Cause of course what he means is "cut off his man parts with a knife". Which I don't have to ask anyone how to spell. But let me tell you I don't even like to think about shit like that, much less write it down.

So I tell Nicky that some things are just plain stupid to do cause you can't undo them when you change your mind. And that he should think real long and hard before he does shit like that. And then I think how funny that is, you know, the real long and hard part. But I can tell Nicky's not listening cause he's not laughing. So I just shut up. And I try real long and hard to think about something else. Like anything else.

Chapter 22

In the meantime Zoey decides she's going to teach mom a lesson. So she takes all the dough she's been saving up for toys for the day care kids and goes and gets herself some new makeup. And some slutty clothes. And a ring in her nose. And three rings in her bottom lip. And two tattoos. The little tat on her shoulder looks like a girl's eye that is crying. And the big one on her butt is a cracked heart with the word MOM in the middle of it. Must have hurt like hell to have all that done at once. But Zoey was probably mad enough so she didn't feel a thing.

Well the shit hits the fan when mom comes home that night and sees her. She doesn't say what the fuck but you can tell she's thinking it. Then she goes to slap Zoey on the face but she doesn't. Maybe cause she's afraid she'll cut her hand on the lip rings or something. So instead she yells and screams and cries and slams stuff down on the counters. For about a zillion hours. It really sucks. I want to leave and I go outside a couple of times but I don't want anything bad to happen to Zoey so I go back in and hang around kind of out of sight.

Then mom makes Zoey take out all the rings and wash off all the makeup. And she throws the rings and the makeup and the new clothes in the trash when Zoey is in the shower. And she says she's going to find out how to get the tats removed and she doesn't care how much it hurts or how much it costs. And then she says she's going out and she doesn't come back until it's damn near light out.

Well when she left I needed a hit real bad so I went out back. But then I felt bad for Zoey so I went up to her room to see her before I went to bed. I guess she got the rings and stuff out of the trash cause she had them back in her face so the holes don't close up. And she says she has the clothes and makeup in a bag under the bed. And that she doesn't give a shit what mom says anymore. She actually said shit.

And I say, What are you doing, Zoey? And she says that since mom won't let her be who she wants to be she's going to be like me instead. Cause that's the last thing mom wants. And I say, Shit. Shit, shit, shit. But she isn't listening cause she's crying so hard. And when she can't stop I get a little scared so I try to put my arm around her. But she won't let me. God I needed a joint. So I lit one up right there in her room. And after a couple of tokes I started to calm down some. And then Zoey looks up and I don't know why but I handed it to her and she tried to take a drag but it made her cough something awful. I thought that was better than all the crying though. So I took another hit and handed it back to her. The second time she did better. So we sat there on the floor in her room smoking weed for a while and when she fell asleep I got up and put her in bed and opened the windows and sprayed some air cleaner shit around the house and went out for a walk.

Chapter 23

Now every month or so this bar where we play has a big party. Out on the sidewalk. They call it Burger and a Beer for a Buck. It's a pretty good deal. They light up this giant grill thing out front and one of the girls stands there flipping burgers all night. The buns are cold and the beer isn't the good stuff but what do you want for a buck? We still play inside on the stage, but they open these big doors they have on one wall so the kids can hear us outside. And the younger kids from Rye love it cause they can wander around the parking lot and get the older kids to buy them beer and nobody checks their id.

So we're at the bar on Burger and a Beer for a Buck night. And when we take our break I tell Manny that this is the night. We take a long break on Burger and a Beer for a Buck night cause we play later than usual. Anyway, I tell Manny it's time for a trip into virgin territory. Me cause I'm gonna get some brown sugar for the first time. And him cause he's gonna get his first taste of any kind of sugar. But I can see he's not real gung ho so I say, Man up, Manuel. You gotta grow up some time. I'll take the van now and you can have it when we're done for the night. Then I hold out my hand and he gives me the keys and I go off to flirt with Bree. Who's looking pretty good after barfing up her lunches for a month. But on the way I make sure I've got some mints in my pocket with my jammies and my pen. Thought maybe we'd share the mints.

So I find Bree and we shoot the shit a while and then I look over and see Nicky has his eye on us. All dressed up like a girl in this cut off top and little red skirt. Looking pretty good, actually. For a guy, I mean. I mean for a guy dressed like a girl. I mean if you didn't know he was a guy, you'd think he looked pretty good. But it seemed to me that he was a little jealous that I was hitting on Bree. And I'm thinking what the fuck. He's a girl now, right? And so I say to Bree, Let's go outside a while. And she says okay and we head out the front door.

Chapter 24

Now I didn't know it at the time but while I was chatting up Bree, Manny went out back to get some air. And Zoey was there waiting for him cause she knows we go out back all the time between sets. And she tells him she has something she really wants to ask him about. And can they meet in the van after the last set to talk. And Manny says sure and wants to know what it's all about but all she will say is see you then.

Chapter 25

So I'm chewing the fat with Bree in the parking lot and telling her how great she looks and she's acting all coy and shit. But I'm thinking she wants to try out that nice new bod of hers. I know I do. Been thinking about it all week. So I ask her if she'd like to see the inside of Manny's pimpy van and she says okay and just like that we're in the ballpark.

So we get in the back of the van. And I reach up front and start it up so I can get the heater going a little. Then I flick on some music, nice and low. And turn on these pimpy blue lights that Manny's got like under the seats and shit. And Bree looks around and says, Not bad. And I say, Yeah, Manny's got great taste. Then I light up a joint and offer her a toke. But she says she doesn't want any. So we just sit there a while on the mattress and listen to the music. And after a while I put my arm around her. And she says, Maybe I'll try a little of that after all. So I light up a fresh one and of course it makes her cough when she tries it. But she keeps at it and after a while she's giggling and shit. And I lean over and kiss her. And she kisses me right back, like she's been waiting for something like this a long time. She's not very good at it, but she's willing. And like I said before, willing is what matters.

Well I don't need to give you the play by play. You know how it goes. Let me just say that by the time we got around the bases she was screaming O God O God and old DJ had another satisfied customer. I think we gave the springs on the van a pretty good workout too. But when I'm gettin off her I see the time on the dash and I say, Shit, Bree, I gotta get back for the next set. And I can see she's not too happy about that. Probably wanted to snuggle or something. But what was I supposed to do? The fans were waiting. So I button my shirt and pull up my pants and make a quick exit out the side door. And these three kids in the parking lot start clapping.

Chapter 26

So I go back in the bar and I see Jimbo is ready to go. Messing with the lights and wires like he always is. And I see Manny is all set too. Sitting on his amp and chatting up some groupies. But on my way to the stage I see old Dick Dick Dick with Evelyn by the bar. Only she's facing kind of one way and he's facing the other. She's got her eye on Manny who's telling jokes and making the groupies laugh. He's a funny guy, you know. But Evelyn isn't laughing. And old Dick Dick Dick is facing the other way, like I said, sipping on a mug of beer. And staring real hard at Nicky in his little top and skirt. But Nicky doesn't see old Dick Dick Dick giving him the eye cause he's talking to this girl farther down the bar.

And then that bastard Johnson leans over like he wants to say something in Nicky's ear. But he says, real loud, A sweet thing like you ought to be wearing a thong. And he grabs the top of Nicky's panties and gives him a wedgie. Hard. So that both of Nicky's feet come off the floor. And then he picks up his beer with his other hand and holds it up like he's toasting somebody. And stands there with this shit eating grin on his face. Like he's just found a cure for aids. Then he puts Nicky down and starts to take a sip.

But Evelyn hears Nicky squeal and turns around just in time to see all this. And her face gets real red and she screams something at old Dick Dick Dick. I wish I knew what. And she gives his arm a shove. And I can hear the glass hit his teeth and the beer is all over his face and on his shirt and dripping down his pants. So he drops the glass and raises his hand like he's gonna give her a good solid backhand across the face. And he looks real scary, too. Cause his eyes are popping out and there's blood dripping from his mouth. But by then the place is damn near silent and everybody is staring. And he sees them and he waits just long enough to hear Evelyn say, Do it, you prick. Do it. But old Dick Dick Dick doesn't want to look like a bully in front of his fans, I guess, so he just spits some blood on the floor and walks out. And I get on my drums and give Jimbo and Manny a beat. Time for some rock and roll.

Chapter 27

Well an hour or two later, after our last set, I throw Manny the keys to the van. In case he wants to follow through on my excellent advice. And I go out to have a joint on these little steps they have out back by the dumpsters. But Evelyn is already sitting there, crying. So I sit down next to her and light up and offer her a toke. But she's so busy trying not to let me know she was crying that she just says no. So we just sit there for a while and then I say, Hey, girl, this is good. That prick had it coming and you'd be better off with Manny anyway. And she perks up a little when I mention Manny. But she says, I don't think so. Manny's into all those groupie sluts. And I say, you don't know Manny, babe. The guy's a virgin. All talk, no action. And she says, Really? And I say, Really. And then we sit there some more. Me smoking the weed and Evelyn looking up at the stars. Except there aren't many stars cause there's a storm coming in. Then she says, I think I will have a drag of that. And she doesn't cough or anything so I think this girl's done this before. And then she says thanks for the talk and heads off around the corner. J. D. Lasinger, Head Shrinker.

But she bumps into Nicky before she gets to the parking lot. And I can't see them, but I can hear them. So I sit there and hear Nicky tell her how changing into a girl hasn't solved his problems. And has really just made things worse. And I hear Evelyn say that he shouldn't give up just cause of what one bully does. And he says maybe he'd be better off dead. And that he wishes he was never born. And that kind of shit. And Evelyn says, like she's somebody's mom, Now you don't really mean that. And that kind of shit. And they go round and round like that for a while. But I can tell that just talking to Evelyn about it is doing Nicky good. So I stay put and let her handle it. And I think maybe me and Evelyn should open an office. Lasinger & Whitmore, Head Shrinkers.

Chapter 28

Then Manny comes out the back door and sits next to me on the steps. And I say, Well, did you get any, bro? But he just looks at me kind of funny. So I say, Well, I did. Brown sugar. Sweet brown sugar. And you know I've been thinking that maybe I did a little good tonight, too. Maybe I gave Bree an intro to something that's even more fun than eating and she won't have to barf up her lunch so much anymore. Who knows? But Manny just says, Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back, dude. And I say, What? But he just sits there so I stop talking and after a while he goes back in the bar which is getting ready to close up.

Chapter 29

Now I didn't know it then, but when Evelyn got through with Nicky she went to her car. And she found Bree leaning against one of the tires, crying. So she asks what's wrong and Bree tells her that she didn't want to do what she did with me. And that I made her do it. And Evelyn doesn't know what the hell she's talking about. But then she figures it out and she does what she can to make sure Bree is okay. But Evelyn is pissed. So she heads back to the bar, thinking she'll charge right through the front door and come out the back door and kick me off the steps. And keep kicking until she's sure I can never make babies. But the door is locked and she can't get in. So she bangs it with her fists a couple of times and starts to walk around the long way when Manny comes out. The guy who owns the place lets us lock up on weekends sometimes and that's what Manny was doing. So she tells Manny what Bree said and he tries to calm her down. And after a while she says she'll take Bree home and he can deal with me.

Chapter 30

Now Manny didn't know it at the time, but while all this was going on out front, I was with Zoey out back. And she told me a story of her own. A story I just couldn't get my head around. She said that after the last set she got Manny to take her into the van. And that she came on to him and they did it. And that it wasn't his fault and I shouldn't be mad at him. Cause she wanted him to do it to teach mom a lesson. And that it wasn't much fun anyway. And it only lasted about three minutes. And it hurt then and it still hurts now and she wishes she didn't do it. But you can't take that kind of thing back, you know. And I think Zoey wanted me to say something then. But like I said I just couldn't get my head around the thing. So I didn't know what to say. I just kept thinking, this is fucked. Capital F fucked. And when I didn't say anything after a long time I think Zoey thought I was mad at her and she ran away.

Chapter 31

So the bar is all closed down now. And it's just me and Manny. And we're out in the back by the dumpsters. And any other night we'd get in the van and he'd drive me home. But I don't want to go around to the parking lot and get in the van with him because I'm really pissed about Zoey and want to kick the shit out of him. And he doesn't want to get in the van with me either cause he's pissed that Bree and Evelyn think I'm a rapist and that he's a creep for being my friend.

So Manny is walking back and forth and back and forth like he's trying to wear out his shoes. But I know he wants to say something. And I'm sitting on the steps holding my head cause I feel like my head is gonna bust. And I'm not sure what to say. Then after a while Manny picks up some stones and throws them at me. Pretty hard. And he says, What the fuck were you thinking, DJ? Don't you know that no means no? God, I thought you just liked having fun. But it turns out you're a fucking rapist. And that's when I stand up and take a swing at him. And he falls down on his back and I stand over him and say, Well at least she was 16 you motherfucker. When Nicky read this he said that the word I was looking for was pedophile. But since I didn't know that I had to settle for motherfucker.

And then Manny knew that I knew what he had done to Zoey. And he just rolled over and put his face in the stones and cried. Real hard. And it's a good thing he did cause I was about to put his face there myself. So Manny lays there crying and shaking and shit. And I stomp around picking up stones and throwing them at the back of the bar. And sometimes at Manny. And saying Shit damn fuck. Shit damn fuck. And then I throw a stone and it hits this light above the door and it pops.

So it's really dark now. And it starts to rain. So I sit down on the steps cause they're under this little roof thing. But when I do I cut my hand on some of the glass from the light. Fuck. So I stick my hand under my arm and sit there hoping Manny will lay there in the stones long enough to catch a cold and die. Nicky says the word I wanted was pneumonia. But I really didn't care what he died of. But after a while Manny gets up and goes around to the parking lot and I think if he's waiting for me he's gonna have a long wait. And then I hear the doors slamming on his van. Over and over. He does that when he doesn't know what else to do. And after a lot of slamming I hear him start it up and drive off. But I sit on the steps a while longer to make sure he's long gone. Holding my hand out now and then so the rain can wash the blood off. And when I finally go around to the lot I trip on this big dark wet thing and I find out it's our goddam mattress from the van.

Chapter 32

So I walk home the long way, in the rain. It's pretty fucking cold, too, but I don't give a shit. I'm still pissed at Manny, and I'm not in any hurry to see Zoey either. Which is weird cause I always like to see Zoey. So I take the long way. And when I'm by that statue with the green shit on it in the park I hear somebody crying. So I walk around to the other side and there in the mud, all wet and shaking with her knees pulled up to her chin, is Zoey.

And I go over and sit down in the mud next to her. And I try to put my arm around her but she won't let me. So I just sit there with her in the rain. I can see she's got little scabs on her lip where her rings used to be. And her tats are all red and sore like she tried to scrape them off with a wire brush. And after a long time she stops crying a little and kind of leans over and puts her head on my shoulder. And this time she lets me put my arm around her. So we sit there like that a long time, not saying anything. I think we would have sat there all night if it wasn't so damn cold and wet.

Chapter 33

About three months later that bitch Bree files charges against me. For date rape. And the police come and put cuffs on me like I killed somebody. Right in front of Zoey and mom. And Zoey is crying, of course. And mom is trying not to cry. In between looking out the window to see if any of the neighbors are watching.

Then they stuff me in the back of a cop car that smells like puke. And they take me down to the court house. Then they make me stand this way and that way and take some pics. And they take my finger prints. And they give me this wipe to get the ink off my hands but it doesn't work. Then they take my pen and my jammies and my mints and even my socks and shit. Like I'm gonna hang myself with a sock. Or choke on a mint. And they lead me down some stairs and put me in a cell with long concrete benches. And a metal toilet that's all plugged up with turds. And there's no toilet paper except this roll floating in the toilet with the turds. I was glad I didn't need to take a shit. Not glad like happy, you know, just glad I didn't have to take a shit. And I'm the only one in there which is fine with me.

So I sit on this concrete bench. Freezing my ass off. For about six hours. Except I get up to walk around now and then cause the bench is so cold. And then somebody comes and says my mom paid my bail and I can go home. I wasn't quite sure what bail was all about but I understood the go home part. So I get up and go up the stairs and they give me my shit back. And mom is there waiting to take me home. I ask her where Zoey is but she doesn't answer. In fact, she doesn't say a word the whole way home. And hardly a word to me for the next three months. Which was actually pretty normal for us.

But Zoey won't talk to me either. And that hurts. She just sits around the house and eats ice cream and gets fat. Like she's trying to eat herself to death. And she gives me dirty looks. And when I sit down in a room where she's watching tv or something she gets up and goes someplace else. I thought she'd get over it after a while, but she didn't.

Chapter 34

So Zoey gives me the cold shoulder for the next three months. Then I go to court. Which makes it about six months since I did it with Bree in the van. And I'll be damned if I can even remember what happened. Maybe I should cut back on the pot a little. But there we are in the court house, pretty much all of the kids I know from Rye. And a bunch of grown ups too. Mom drove me but she wouldn't come in. Probably worried about what the neighbors would say. Or maybe she had a house to sell. And there's this big nasty looking black guard dude in the hall. Probably not too happy about what Bree says I did to her.

Then this lawyer dude comes up and says he'll be talking for me. And I think, How is he gonna do that when we just met? But he takes me to a little room and asks me some stuff and then we go in this door near the front of the court room. And I'm facing one way and pretty much everyone else is facing me. And they all look at me. And I think maybe Manny wants to cheer me up. But that he doesn't want to look like he's taking sides against Bree. Cause then Evelyn will think he's a creep. Funny how you can see these things when you're on one side and they're all on the other. And it looks like Evelyn would like to get a little closer to Manny. Cause she keeps looking over at him. But she's caught between me and Bree, too. You know, cause Bree knows Manny and I are tight. Or at least used to be. So Bree figures Manny must be almost as much of a prick as me.

Then I look over at Bree and she looks at me and it's pretty plain that she'd like to cut my dick off with a dull pair of scissors. But then she looks over at Nicky who's trying real hard to look like a Nicki, what with the makeup and this little black dress and all. And she looks at him for a long time. Too long, in my book. And I begin to think maybe she wants to go girl on girl, so to speak, because she's so upset at men, and figures maybe Nicky is a good place to start. You know, kind of a lesbian half-way house.

And that bastard Johnson is there, of course. Just drooling at the thought that they might send me away for good. And every now and then he looks over at Nicky. And I can see Nicky squirm in his seat when he does. So Nicky moves to another seat where old Dick Dick Dick can't see him without twisting way around. But I see that Nicky picks a seat where he can keep an eye on Bree. Of course right then I didn't want to think about Bree or old Dick Dick Dick or really anything. And then I see Jimbo in the back with a camera. On one of those stands with three legs. And he sees me and kind of shrugs like he wants to say, Sorry, bro, but they're paying me to record this. But I don't really give a shit so I just nod at him and he smiles and we're cool.

Chapter 35

So they show me where to sit. And this dick of a lawyer they gave me sits down next to me. And he tells me to sit up straight and face the bench. But there's nobody there so I don't see much point in it. And it looks more like a desk anyway. Then I hear the door in the back open and I see Zoey come in. I can tell she wants to talk to me but they won't let her. Cause I'm on the other side of this little fence they've got there. So Zoey sits down next to Manny who's pretty much right behind me but a few rows back. On the other side of the fence. And I can see Zoey's been crying. And I can see that's she's got a lot to say to Manny. But I can't hear what she's saying. So I try to twist my chair around but this dick of a lawyer's got his foot on the leg of it. Face the bench, he says. But I can see Manny looking like he's gonna be sick or something the more she talks.

And right then some guy in the front of the court tells everybody to sit down and shut up. And the judge comes in wearing that black dress that judges wear. And then I had to stand up and face the bench and all that shit so I didn't see what happened after that with Zoey. But I found out later that Zoey told Manny she was pregnant. With his kid. And that she was about six months along. And that our mom wanted her to "have it taken care of" before it was too late so it wouldn't get in the way of the goddam career she had planned for Zoey. Those were the exact words she used. Have it taken care of. Manny told me later. But he also told me that Zoey wanted to have the baby. Cause she always wanted to be a mom. And that this wasn't exactly what she had in mind, but it was what it was, and she thought she should make the best of it. And that Manny should help her cause he was the dad. But I didn't know any of that until way later.

Chapter 36

Well the trial was kind of a joke. You know, just a he said she said kind of thing. Except that it took all fucking day cause Bree kept crying. And the judge kept asking her if she wanted a glass of water. About a hundred times. So when it was my turn I just wanted it to be over. And I said that I thought she wanted it. And that I thought it maybe hurt her a little cause it was her first time. That was all. And nobody offered me any water. But then I wasn't crying. And I wasn't really thirsty, either. But I thought they could have at least offered.

Chapter 37

So the judge goes off to make up his mind and they put me in this little room down a long hall with a window at the end. With the nasty black guard dude. Who didn't look too friendly. But I figured it would all be over soon. I wasn't too worried about the judge because he spent most of the trial kind of leaning over his desk, trying to get a peek at the boobs of the girl who types whatever any body says into that little machine. He struck me like a good old boy who did the same kind of stuff when he was in high school. For all I know he might have been pals with old George Wilson Rye. Maybe they went out hogging together on weekends. Who knows? And he was white. I hate to say it, but he was white, like me, and I thought that might help too. I'm not racist, you know. My best friend's a spic. I'm just practical about some things.

Chapter 38

So the door of this room they put me in is open a crack. And I can see Nicky walk past us in the hall. But he can't see us cause the crack in the door is going the wrong way. I thought it might be nice to shoot the shit with him a while, you know, just to pass the time. But I couldn't say Hey Nicky or anything cause the nasty black guard dude had the evil eye on me. Probably wanted to push me down a flight of stairs. So I just sit there and watch through the crack in the door. And I see Nicky stop at the end of the hall and stare out the window for a while.

Then Bree comes down the hall. And she stands next to Nicky and starts staring out the window too. And now and then they sneak a peek at each other, when they think they can get away with it. Then she takes his hand and they stand there some more. Holding hands and staring out the window. I try to look away but the only other thing to look at is the nasty black guard dude. So I look back and Nicky and Bree are facing each other. And Nicky is standing on his tip-toes trying to get his lips lined up with hers, and she's kind of bending over to help him get past her giant boobs. And the guard must have seen my eyes get wide cause he looks out the door, and then he looks at me and says, What the fuck are you looking at, pervert? Then he reaches over and slams the door hard. Which must have scared the shit out of Bree and Nicky.

Chapter 39

So the judge comes back. And his dress gets caught on the arm of the chair behind his big desk. And it takes him a while to get settled. And I don't know why but it struck me as funny at the time. Then he looks over at me and tells me to stand up. And he says, Wipe that smirk off your face, young man. This is a very serious matter. But his false teeth must have been loose or something cause it sounds like Wipe that thmirk off your faith, young man, thith ith a very theriouth matter. And I start thinking about old cartoons. And I'm having a real hard time keeping a straight face.

But he goes on and on. Calls me Young Man about a hundred times. And every time he does I want to call him Old Fart. And he talks a lot about Bree being a minor and stuff like that. And he uses a lot of big words like "sexual predator". Like I was the star of a porno action flick. If I knew I had to write all this shit down I would have taken notes. But I think I'm okay cause he started out with all the bad stuff. And I've seen on tv that when they start out with the bad stuff they always say BUT. And then let you off with a slap on the wrist. But the BUT didn't come. And the last thing I heard was something about 42 months and state and prison. And right then I wanted to talk to Nicky or Jimbo real bad just for a minute so I  could ask them how long that was in years. And then the old fart pushes his teeth back up into his gums with one hand and bangs his hammer with the other and it's over.

And the nasty black guard comes up and puts cuffs on me, behind my freaking back, and starts to lead me out. So I turn around and everything is like in a stop action photo. Manny is looking at his knees or his shoes or something. Zoey's eyes are like golf balls and she's got her hands over her mouth. Bree is turning to leave and Nicky is watching her. Jimbo is still recording. And that bastard Johnson has a hand over his head like he's looking for someone to high five. But Evelyn is looking real sad, and looking right at me.

Chapter 40

Well I didn't know it then but it turns out Zoey thought I'd come home that day after court. You know, to help her tell mom she was gonna keep the baby no matter what she said. So when they took me off to prison, she lost it in a big way. And she ran out of the court house and got hit by a truck and they took her to the hospital. That cocksucker Johnson says she jumped in front of the truck on purpose. But how the hell would he know? He was in the court with the rest of us, not out on the street. I remember the smarmy smile on his face when he saw that nasty black guard dude take me away. I think he says Zoey jumped in front of the truck on purpose cause he still hates me for that groin thing and making him lose his goddam trophy. But I'm in here and he's out there so a lot of people think he's telling the truth and that's why I'm writing all this shit down. Cause they don't know Zoey like I do. And neither do you if you think she'd jump in front of a goddam truck on purpose.

Chapter 41

Anyway, they take me down the stairs and put me in a cell with a bunch of losers. And we just sit there and wait. Seems like we've all got a lot of time on our hands now. And nothing to do. Could've used a toke or two, that's for sure. It's not the cell with the plugged up toilet. This one doesn't even have a toilet. And while we sit there I hear lots of sirens out on the street. But I don't know it's cause they're taking Zoey to the hospital. I'm glad I didn't know it then or I think I would have found it real fucking hard to stay there.

Then after a while they line us up and chain us together. Then we all walk out to a bus and get on it. With the nasty black guard dude. Then we drive for a long time. And I gotta pee real bad but there's no place to go. So it was a painful ride. Not as bad as when I had that disease I got from that St. Mary slut. But pretty damn bad. And I was dancing around a bit when we finally lined up outside the bus. But it turns out the nasty black guard dude wasn't such a bad guy after all cause he sees me crossing my legs and stuff and he unhooks my chains first and lets me go in to pee ahead of the other guys.

Then we wait in another shitty cell til they call for us. One by one. And they call my name and check me in and they walk me down this long hall with cells on both sides. And they stick me in one at the end. With three losers. The whole place is metal and cement. With five coats of paint on it. Gray paint. Five coats. I can tell because you can see where it's been chipped off. And you can see that they used a different gray each time they painted. Probably what was on sale. You don't notice stuff like that when you've got better things to do, but when you're in a place like this, well, you do. Then they slam the door, which makes this really loud echo-y sound because of all the metal and cement. It's cold, too, damn cold, cause all I have on my feet are these shitty plastic sandal things that they gave me when they gave me my orange suit.

So I sit down on this shitty cot. In this shitty cell. By this shitty steel toilet. And I think, well, at least it's not plugged up. Then I sneak a peek at the three losers that are in there with me. And one of them has the roll of toilet paper on his cot like it belongs to him. And they're all looking me over. But nobody says anything. Then one of them coughs up a giant loogie and lands it right on the shitty little pillow on my shitty little cot. And he says, Welcome home, kid. And right then it dawns on me that the worst part of prison isn't going to be cold feet and gray paint.

Well I'm not going to tell you about all the losers I met in prison because it would take too long. And I don't like to think about them anyway. Just let me say that if they were living on your street you'd rent a truck and move real quick. But I couldn't move, of course. I was stuck. And they weren't just on the same street. They were in my fucking bedroom. Like I said, I don't like to think about it.

Chapter 42

So I sit there on my cot and keep my eyes down. And try to think of other stuff. Like what all my friends back home are doing. But that only makes me more sad. And I can't cry cause I'm pretty sure the losers in there with me won't go for that. So I just hold it in and my throat starts hurting something awful. I don't know for how long. Maybe an hour. Then a guard comes by and says the warden wants to see me. For a minute I think maybe this is all a big mistake and they're going to let me out. But then I think yeah right like that's gonna happen.

So he opens the door and takes me down to the warden's office. Which is this really fancy place in the middle of this big gray shit hole. All wood and leather chairs and those lamps with the green shades made out of glass. It smelled better, too. And the warden tells me to sit down. That he has some news for me. Well let me tell you, when you're in prison, the next best thing to getting out or having a visitor is news. So I sit down but inside I'm all squirmy cause the look on his face makes me think it's not good news. And it isn't. He says I don't quite know how to tell you this, son, but your sister was in an accident and passed away at the hospital about an hour ago. Passed away. What an ass. Then he pauses, like he's done this kind of thing before, and lets me get used to the idea that I'll never see Zoey again. Ever.

And about a million years after that I hear him clear his throat. So I look up and he says, They were able to save the baby, son. She's going to be alright. And I'm thinking, She. It's a girl. Like Zoey. But right then, and I know this is weird, I want to tell my mom about it. Of course she already knows, but I wanted to tell her myself. I want to say, Well, dipshit, I've got some good news and some bad news. One kid is alive and the other kid is dead. Wanna know which is which? Like I said, it was weird. But then I hear the warden tell the guard to take me back to the shitty little cell and the guard grabs my elbow and there are tears all over my face so I wipe it with my sleeve and keep my head down and just go with him. To tell you the truth I was kind of glad to be on that shitty cot in that shitty cell by the shitty steel toilet with the three losers right then. Kind of seemed like the right place to be. And right then the loser with the roll of toilet paper tears off a few sheets and tosses them on my cot. News travels fast in prison. So I cried and cried and didn't give a shit what anybody thought about it.

Chapter 43

Well I wasn't there when they buried Zoey. Cause I was in goddam prison. But I'm kind of glad I wasn't. Better to think of her the way she was. You know, like alive. I never really got all that stuff they do when people die anyway. Spending all that money on a box and shit when they wouldn't give you a nickel for something you really wanted when you were alive. It's like, hey, mom, will you buy me this thing? And she says, Oh, I don't think so, dear. But if you die I'll spend enough on a box to pay for a hundred of those things. What a load of shit.

Anyway, Manny told me he tried to get in to see Zoey. You know, before they all drove out to where the graves are. But mom saw him when he came in the door of the place. And she started screaming and throwing vases and shit at him. Until these guys in black suits kind of carried him out. I bet they charged her extra for the vases. Maybe even for taking Manny out. But I think Manny just wanted to say good bye to Zoey and tell her how sorry he was. But it didn't matter cause he said he got a peek at the box before they threw him out and they had the lid shut. Maybe cause Zoey was so banged up from the truck hitting her. But I don't want to think about that.

So when they all got in their cars to go out to the graveyard Manny went too. In his van. And there wasn't much they could do about that cause it's a free country, right? And he said that the cops let everybody run red lights and shit on the way. Even though there wasn't any hurry cause Zoey was dead. But he said it didn't matter about the red lights cause there wasn't anybody coming the other way. Almost the whole fucking town was in the line going out to the graveyard.

And so when they got there Manny parks far away. And kind of hangs back and watches from behind a tree. Cause he doesn't want mom throwing any more shit at him. And he says that everybody felt real bad for mom. You know, cause one of her kids was in prison, that would be me, and the other one was dead. But maybe she's okay with it. Gives her more time to work on her goddam job. So they all stand in line to tell mom how they're all sorry as hell. But it was bullshit. Cause most of them didn't even like us when Zoey was alive. Like they never came over to shoot the shit or have a cookout or a beer or anything. And some of them told us not to walk on their goddam lawns when we were little. I think they just thought, I'm glad it's you and not me, lady.

But after they all left Manny went back to his van and got out his favorite guitar and took it to the grave and left it there. He said he left a pair of my good drum sticks, too, and I was glad he did. Not glad like happy, you know, but just glad he did.

But then I picture the guys who put the dirt back in the hole. And they see the guitar. And the one says to the other, Seems a shame to let a good guitar like this go to waste. And the other guy says, No doubt. But what about these sticks? And the first guy says, Throw em in the hole. Cause secretly he feels bad about taking the guitar. And then he pawns the guitar cause he doesn't want it haunting him. You know, playing notes all by itself when he's home alone at night. And I bet he splits the money with his pal so his pal won't tell any body they stole the guitar from Zoey. Bastards.

Chapter 44

So it's been a few days since I wrote anything cause I just got back from the infirmary. That's what they call the doctor's place here. The doc let me stay for two days. Which was nice cause the food is better and the beds are cleaner. I think he felt bad for me. But I'm not sure I want to tell you why I had to go there in the first place. But I guess I have to.

One night this new guard Billy comes and opens up my cage. He's big and fat and has like three teeth. Smells bad, too. And the three losers in my cell start snickering, but Billy tells them to shut the fuck up. Then Billy tells me to walk down this little hall that has a table at the end. And I think this is really weird, cause they don't usually let us out at night. And scary, cause they have these blue lines on the floor and we have to look down and stay on the blue lines when we're out of our cages. But there aren't any blue lines down that hall.

Then he tells me to put my hands on the table. And I hear him taking down his pants. And, well, that's all I'm going to say about that. Except that I found out two things that night. One was that Bree was right about saving some words for when something really bad happens. I heard myself saying O God O God a lot that night. Let me tell you, I was damn near praying. The other thing I found out was that Manny was right and that there are some things that just shouldn't be. Some things are just plain fucking wrong. And if you think it's weird that I'm thinking all this shit with my face on a table and Billy grunting and groaning behind me, don't. At times like that you have to think of other stuff or you can't get through it. I hope you never have to find out.

Chapter 45

A couple of weeks after my date with Billy I get this letter from Manny and it starts out okay with him saying how he misses playing in the band and stuff. And how he misses hanging with me. And how sorry he is about what happened with Zoey. Which he should be. But then he starts whining about how hard his life is. Which doesn't impress me much cause he's not the one locked up with the losers. And with Billy. By the way, Billy never came back for seconds. Which was fine with me. Seems he only likes fresh meat. But I still sleep with one eye open all the time.

So Manny goes on and on about how he doesn't know what to do. And how he's still hot for Evelyn. And how she won't even look at him any more. And how he worries about Zoey's baby. But doesn't know what to do about that either cause they took her away and put her in a foster home or something. So I tear the letter in pieces and put the whiny parts in the steel toilet and pee on them. And the losers they've got in the cell with me think that looks like fun and so they pee on them too. And then we all let them soak a while. But I stick the good parts up on the wall by my shitty cot. And I don't even care when the losers say Shakespeer's got a boyfriend and shit. I guess cause I know Manny really cares and they don't.

By the way, they call me Shakespeer in here cause I'm always writing this stuff down. In this book with blank pages that Nicky sent me. And probably because they don't know the names of any other writers. Losers, all of them. Let me tell you. I bet they don't even know how to spell Shakespeer.

Chapter 46

So one day Manny comes to visit and I ask him how Bree is doing. And he says much better. And then he laughs. Bigger too, he says. Then he tells me that Bree sees Nicky one night after a game. And she takes him under the seats and says, Listen up, girl. Or whatever you are. I like you, but I like you as a guy and if you're not willing to be a guy then I'm through with you. You'll always be a little girly, we all know that. But being a girly man is not the same thing as being a girl through and through. Cause you're not one. Believe me, I know. I'm a girl through and through and I know.

And Nicky looks at her and says, Well, I don't believe you'll ever be happy trying to be a skinny ass movie star either. And then they both look at each other for a while. And finally Nicky says, I'm willing if you are. And then they just stare at each some more.

And then Nicky takes off his shirt, and his bra. And he throws them under the seats and says, I'm liberated now baby. How about you? Wanna get some ice cream and actually digest it? I would have said keep it down or something like that but you know how Nicky is with the big words. And Bree takes off her high heels and throws them under the seats and off they go. But when they get to the ice cream place they run into Manny and it's a good thing because the guy there won't serve them without shirts and shoes.

Chapter 47

They let us make calls here in prison like once a week. On this phone that's been in the hall since they built the place. It's even got a curly wire on it for christsake. But you can't talk long cause there's only one phone. And there's always some loser breathing down your neck who tells you to make it short or you'll be sorry later. And they mean it when they say shit like that in here. You learn that real quick. So I call Manny.

But Manny only has two things to say so it doesn't take us long. First he says that old Dick Dick Dick got a track scholarship to some fancy school out east. And that he wants Evelyn to go there with him next fall. Old Dick Dick Dick says it will help her get over her crush on the lawn boy.

And then Manny says that Evelyn drove over to his house. And had a real serious talk with him. Said she didn't want to go away to school with old Dick Dick Dick but she didn't see she had any other choice. Said her parents would disown her if she went for a guy like Manny. And he was acting like a loser lately anyway. Just moping around and letting somebody else get Zoey's baby. And so she leaves.

And Manny's mom hears all this from the other room. Cause she's always listening in the other room. And she comes out and puts her hands on Manny's face like she used to do when he was little and says, Time to man up, Manuel. But right then the loser behind me grabs the phone and slams it into the little hook thing and says, Go write in your book, Shakespeer.

Chapter 48

So one day the warden has them bring me down to his place again. But this time he's all smiley. He says, Good news, Losinger. You're going home early. Well I liked that second part so much I didn't bother to tell him he got my name wrong. Even if I could fit a word in. He was going on and on. All kinds of shit about over crowding and good behavior and stuff.

But then he said there's just one more thing. And he told me to sign this paper that said they were real good to me while I was in there. And then I knew they just wanted me to keep my mouth shut about Billy. But I'm a practical man. I told you that before. So I signed it. Even made the A in my last name look kind of like an O. Just in case they had the wrong guy. Cause I don't think I was Billy's first date.

Chapter 49

I could have called Manny or mom to pick me up when I got out. But to tell you the truth I just wanted to be alone for a while. After being in a cage like that with three losers for so long, you just want to be alone. And they gave me a few bucks when they let me go, so I wasn't hurting. So I walked all the way back. Along the freeway. Stopping now and then at truck stops to eat. And to wipe my ass with as much paper as I wanted. And to take a shower now and then. Nice to take a shower alone, let me tell you. I slept outside every night. Even in the rain if it didn't rain too hard. It felt good. It took me three days to get home and when I showed up at Manny's house his mom was all hugs and tears and shit. But she said Manny had moved out and she told me where his new place was.

Chapter 50

Manny was real glad to see me too. But I don't have to tell you that. And he said I could stay at his place while I got settled again. It was kind of a nice place except he had it pimped out to match his van. But it was just me and Manny and no losers so I was good with it. And Manny helped me get a job at the music store. Teaching kids how to play the drums. I really like it. After all, playing drums is the only thing I ever really worked at. And it's the only thing I'm really good at. And it's nice to be able to pass that on to someone else. There's even a little girl who comes in for lessons. I think Zoey would get a kick out of that.

Chapter 51

So one night me and Manny are hanging out at the house. And I get thinking about Zoey's baby that they took away. And I say to Manny, Do you ever think about Zoey's baby? And I'm not sure what he's gonna say cause the whole thing is still kind of a sore spot between us. But he says, All the time, DJ. All the time. So I say, well, maybe we could get her back. You know, from wherever she is. And she could come here and live with us. After all, you're her real dad, right? And I'm her, I don't know, uncle or something.

And Manny says, I don't know, DJ. I don't know shit about how to raise a kid. And I say, Well, we'll get your mom to help. She's had a lot of practice what with all those brothers and sisters of yours. And you turned out better than me. So it's good, right? We've got a dad and an uncle and a grandma.

But Manny says, Yeah, that's great. But a kid needs a mom. I don't think Zoey would be too happy if her kid didn't have a mom. She was real big on the mom thing. You know that. And so I say, Well, that's an easy one too, dude. All you have to do is marry Evelyn. And Manny says, Easier said than done, bro. Like her parents are gonna go for that. And I say, fuck her parents. Zoey's baby needs a mom and that means you need a wife and Evelyn's had the hots for you the whole time anyway. And if that bastard Johnson gets in the way you can just let me take care of him. I learned a lot about dealing with bastards like him in prison.

And Manny sits there for a while, not saying anything. And then he gets up and takes his keys off the counter and says, I'm going for a drive. I'll see you later. So he leaves. And I go out to get some cookies. Cause I'm not locked up in a shitty gray cell with three losers anymore. And it's just nice to go out and get cookies when you want to.

Chapter 52

Well it turns out that Manny drove over to Evelyn's neighborhood to ask her to marry him. But he couldn't get past the gate. Cause the guard in that little booth thing said his name wasn't on the list. I guess nobody needed their pool cleaned that day. So he parks his van a couple of blocks away and comes back on foot. And sneaks through the bushes and finds her house and starts throwing rocks at her window. Corny, right? Just like in the movies. But all it does is set the alarm off and Manny's got to run before the cops get there.

So he sneaks back to his van through the bushes. Then he drives around a while and ends up at the ice cream place. Which works out good cause Evelyn is there with Bree. And I'm there too, eating cookies. But I'm off in the corner cause I'm still not on real good terms with Bree if you know what I mean. So Manny goes over and says, Yo, Bree, mind if I to talk to Evelyn alone? What a romantic. And Bree says no problem and goes off to get another hot fudge or something. But she kind of winks at Evelyn before she goes. As if she knows what's about to happen. Girls just seem to know about shit like that. But Evelyn doesn't look so sure.

Then Bree sits down at a table as far from me as you can get. But we're still kind of there all together cause the place isn't that big. So Manny tells Evelyn how he's got this job playing the guitar. At a recording studio. Which he loves cause he gets to play new stuff every day. And Evelyn says, And no groupies, right? And he says, Yeah, that too. But he says he's good cause he's finally famous, in a way. Hears himself on the radio all the time. Even though nobody knows it's him there in the background. And he tells her it's steady work. And it pays pretty good cause he's so good. If he does say so himself. And she kind of laughs, cause she knows he's good. And I think she's starting to figure out where he's heading.

And then he tells her how he still works with his cousin on weekends. Laying block, you know, just to get out in the sun and to make a few extra bucks. Except that now Manny does the fun stuff with his cousin. And they make me lug the bags of cement and shit around. And he kind of looks over at me and winks. But I'm good cause there's lots of blue sky and sunshine and it's nice to look around and see stuff that's not gray. Even if you do have to lug the cement.

But I think he ran out of sales pitch about then. And so he starts talking about Zoey. And the baby. And how he wants to get the baby back. And how she will need a mom and stuff. And Evelyn can't take any more and says, Are you asking me to marry you? And Manny says, Yeah, Evelyn, I am. And Bree jumps up and makes some squealy girl noises. And I kind of smile and shake my head. And for the first time in a long time I feel like I don't need a joint to be happy.

So I just get some beef jerky. And more cookies. And then we all sit there while Manny and Evelyn plan the wedding. Which wasn't going to be fancy. Cause Evelyn was sure her parents would disown her when they found out. And she'd be out on the street real quick. And she was right. I wasn't there when it happened. But I bet her dad says something like, Well, Snookums, it looks like Evelyn has made her choice. You'd better call old Suckem and Fuckem so we can change the will first thing in the morning. And her mom says, Right away, dear. And we can have them transfer the college funds to the retirement account at the same time. And her dad says, That's my girl, always thinking. And it turns out her dad really was that kind of prick.

But her mom wasn't as bad as I thought. In fact, she tried to give the college fund to Evelyn and Manny. You know, to help them get started. But Manny wouldn't let her cause he wanted to show Evelyn they could make it on their own. So they told her to put it in a trust fund or something for Zoey's baby so she'd get it when she grows up. I don't know what Evelyn's dad thought about all that. Probably didn't even know. Rich women can be real sneaky when they want to be.

Chapter 53

So Manny and Evelyn go down to the court house to get married. But they can't cause it turns out you need a license. And blood tests. And witnesses. And all that kind of shit. So it takes about a week before they can actually do it. But Evelyn moves in with Manny and me. Cause her dad won't let her back in his house. And I try to stay out of the way as much as I can.

But they want both me and Bree at the wedding. So I pull Bree aside one day and try to tell her how sorry I am. And shes tries to smile and say it's okay. But I don't think she really means it. Even though she's always talking about forgiveness and shit with her church pals. But when I'm not there Manny tells her about my date with Billy, you know, in prison. And then she lightens up a bit. I guess forgiveness isn't the whole story. But she stays in the room now when me and Nicky get together. And she doesn't seem to mind hanging with me if Manny and Evelyn are there too.

So the paper work is all done. And Manny and Evelyn and me and Bree go down to the court house. And I'm hoping to God the judge won't be that old bastard with the false teeth. And it's not. So they get married, for better or worse and all that stuff. With me and Bree as witnesses on each side. But the license says Manny and SHEILA Francisco Isidoro Luis Jesus Ortega. Cause Evelyn is using her middle name now that her dad has disowned her. And me and Bree call the two of them the She-Man. Cause they're supposed to be like one person now.

Chapter 54

So they had this parade the day old Dick Dick Dick went off to college out east. Had him sit in a car with the top down. And a shit eating grin on his face. With all his goddam trophies in the back seat. And cheer leaders marching along on both sides. Made me wanna puke. But you gotta love those slutty skirts. And then I thought about the She-Man back home. And how Evelyn, you know, Sheila, made the right choice. And I felt better. A lot better.

Chapter 55

Well it turns out that Nicky wasn't just counting when he was stuck in that locker. He was thinking of ways to sell his art on the web. So after he and Bree decided they should be happy just being who they were, he started doing just that. When he wasn't busy doing his homework or something. He calls his web site his rent free gallery. And he gets customers from all over the world to buy his paintings. But you've seen how good he is. He makes a few bucks at it, too. Enough to buy a used truck for Bree. So she could sell her famous spicy pulled pork on a bun at fairs and ball games and stuff all over the state. Hard to miss with Bree's cooking. Maybe the two of them will open a restaurant someday. Or a real art gallery. Or a gallery with a restaurant in it.

I showed this book to Nicky the other day. And after he read it he said he thought I should call it Copper Oxide. Just the kind of thing you'd expect an arty guy like Nicky to say. But I didn't know what the hell that meant. Sounds like something from chem class. Anyway, I just gave him a nod like I was thinking about what he said. Kind of yes and no at the same time so I wouldn't hurt his feelings. Cause Nicky's a good kid. But Copper Oxide. What the fuck is that?

I want to send old Mrs Lewis a copy of this too. If I ever get it done. But a real one, you know, made out of paper. Like they used to make books in the old days. I think she'd like that. And who knows? Maybe there's some irony in it and she can tell me where it is. I think she'd get a kick out of that.

Chapter 56

Me and Manny and Jimbo still get together now and then. You know, to play a few tunes. But it's not like the old days. Jimbo's got this job at the plant down the road. He's an engineer and not the kind that drives a train. Works with robots. Makes good money, too. So he doesn't have time for the band like he used to. But he's got way better keyboards and shit now, I'll tell you that. And he doesn't live in that shit hole trailer any more either. They gave him the job at the plant even though he doesn't have a college degree. Just cause he's so damn good at what he does. It seems to pay off if you're really good at something.

Chapter 57

So the other day I asked Jimbo how I could get a copy of all the shit I wrote in this book. And he says he can do way better than a copy. Says he can scan it and OCR it, what ever the hell that means. So I say, What the hell does that mean? And he says he can put it on the web so people can read it on their phones and shit. And I say, Okay, sweet. Cause I want people to know what really happened to Zoey, you know. So I give him the book and he does his thing and I guess if you're reading this you can see that it worked.

Jimbo gave me the book back a couple of days later. And I took it out to Zoey's grave and read it to her. But it was raining when I got there. And the pages got all wet while I was reading it to her. And the ink was running and making kind of a mess. But I left it there for her anyway. Thought she might want to take another look at it.

By the way. Maybe you're a picky shit who wants to know how Jimbo got this part of the story. You know, cause it didn't happen yet when I gave him the book to scan. Well I'll tell you, Sherlock. I wrote it down on regular paper and gave it to him later. But I didn't have to put it in the book for Zoey because she was there when it happened. So stop being so damn picky.

Anyway, I'm reading the book to Zoey and I leave it there for her, like I said. And the rain stops. And I look around and see that most of the crosses and Jewish stars and statues on the other graves have that green shit on them. But Zoey's star is still nice and shiny. So I tell her I'm gonna keep it that way. You know, with some wax or something. So it doesn't end up like old George Wilson Rye's sign that nobody ever looks at. Then I tell her I'm doing better but that I miss her a lot. A helluva lot. Then I cry for a while, and if you think that's girly well fuck you.

Then I tell her how me and the She-Man went to see the baby at the foster home place where she was. And how hard it is to get your baby back from those bastards once they get their hands on her. And how the foster people gave the baby a name but it was all wrong for her. I don't even remember what it was. It was that bad. Or maybe that's the weed again, fucking with my brain. But the She-Man filled out all the freaking forms and did all the other stupid stuff the adoption people told them to. And Manny's the real dad anyway. And they're married now. So the baby is coming home to stay with us next week and then we'll give her a real name. I'm pretty sure it won't be Evelyn. But it will be cool to be Uncle DJ. God I miss you Zoey. Then after a while I said, You know, the baby looks a lot like you, Zoey. She sure looks a lot like you. And I went home.

The End

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Now there's a word you don't hear much. Epilog. But Nicky says it's the one I want. I had PS like you put at the end of a letter. You know, when you left something out. But Nicky says epilog is the word I want. So there it is.

But this is what I wanted to tell you. It seems that football guys out east are like really big dudes. And they don't think much of pussy track stars. And they let old Dick Dick Dick know it by stuffing him in a dumpster. And putting this ratty old couch on top of it. Then they got  some beer and sat on the couch and kicked it real hard whenever he made a noise. Turns out they fucked up his ears pretty bad. And now he needs hearing aids to know what other people are saying. I think maybe he needed them all along. Anyway, it sounds like he's getting what he deserves. But I'm not as big on people getting what they deserve as I used to be.

Copyright (c) 2012 D J Lassinger