A kid wakes up to the real world.
|December 14th 2012. I remember clearly I woke up that day happy. It was the first sunny day in weeks. I jumped out of bed and pulled the window shade down the critical half-inch to make it snap upward and reveal the backyard. There below me were my mother’s red roses; my father’s manicured green lawn; the gnarled old bent-over olive tree that I alone laid claim to because I alone climbed it. It grew smack dab in the center of the yard and was perfect for climbing—even for someone like me who doesn’t like heights. I slid the window up as far as it would go and smelled wood smoke. Christmas was just around the corner. Birds were tweeting. Next door I could hear Mr. Lahey swimming his morning laps. It was 7:15. Who would have ever guessed what was to come? Not me. Believe that much.
A first day. A last day. A sunny day. A Friday.
I got dressed with the aroma of slightly burnt beacon hurrying me. My mother, as always, called me by my full name from the bottom of the stairs—
“Charles Alexander Martin Junior?”
I opened my bedroom door. “Who wants to know?”
“Breakfast, your Highness.”
“Bring it up. I’ll take it in bed.”
My mother didn’t bother answering, but I could feel her smiling. She used to get a kick out of me. I was almost twelve-years-old, and just as funny as can be. That’s what my mother used to say. “You’re just as funny as funny can be.” I’m was never quite sure what that meant, but I went along with it. I used to be the class clown. I’d sit in the very back row in school, if that tells you anything. I was also deadly with a Bic pen and a spit-wad. You can believe that, too, while you’re at it.
My little sister was at the kitchen table in her dangling red sneakers next to my dad when I came in. She stuck her tongue out at me. She used to think sticking her tongue out at me was the height of comedy. I didn’t react. What can you do, the kid was eight.
My father looked over his newspaper. “Junior…” he said in his I-just-woke-up-don’t-bug-me voice and disappeared back behind his Connecticut Post.
“Senior…” I said in a low voice I hoped was similar.
I reached for the salt so I wasn’t looking at him, but I heard the newspaper flap once and felt his eyes. He doesn’t find me as funny as my mom does. I thought he was going to say something about my remark. “Don’t be flip.” “Yeah, okay,” I always wanted to say, “then don’t call me Junior, but he didn’t say it and I didn’t say it, but, for the record, who wants to be called Junior the rest of their life? For the last six months I had been asking them all to call me “Bob.” I asked my parents, I asked the kids at school and my teacher, I asked everybody I knew to call me “Bob.” I liked the name Bob. It’s a good cowboy name, but it never took. I liked cowboys. I liked westerns and I liked playing cowboys with my best friend Scotty from Sandy Hook, the elementary school we went to. We both had realistic looking toy six-shooters and holsters and cowboy hats and boots. Scotty even had spurs that jangled. We could definitely have used a couple of palominos and a hideout but that wasn’t in the cards, living as we do in Newtown, Connecticut. I have since gotten rid of the guns. Got rid of all that crap. I could still use the hideout, though. Believe me. A hideout would come in handy these days.
December 14th 2012. Well, here comes the part you want to hear about and I don’t want to tell. You probably could see I’ve been stalling. I guess that doesn’t surprise you. You probably heard. Everybody heard. Everybody. It´s been seven years and Rosy still won’t stick her tongue out at me anymore. She no longer finds much of anything funny. I doubt she ever will again. All her friends from school… all of them! She was the only kid in the first grade that lived. While I hid in a broom closet . Mr. Thorne unlocked it for about seven of us to hide in. We sat there in the dark, listening. Mr. Thorne was the janitor and he got shot three times that day and almost died while I hid in that broom closet. He told us to stay still and to stay quiet and we did.
It was much later, like a thousand years later, that two policemen wearing SWAT clothes opened that broom closet door again. We came out blinking in the florescent light. Found out the world was nothing like we thought it was. Found out, too, some crazy fuck shot all the kids in first grade. All but one.
So that’s that. I hid in a broom closet while all this was going on. If one more person hugs me I swear to God I´m going to throw up. Adults. They were what changed for me in my world. They said they were going to do something about guns. They said and said and said it. Then they said they tried. I don’t know. Whatever they tried was defeated in the Senate by other adults. There was a time I thought they would protect me. I was wrong. All I know is the world changed that day and adults are as weak as kids. Maybe weaker. I remember thinking you all would do something good. Change something. I remember when Rose thought it funny to stick her tongue out at me. I’d take Rosy acting like a kid again over all the thoughts and prayers from you fucking people. Excuse my language. Or don’t. I no longer care what you people think.
If you believe nothing else, believe that.