Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nanowrimo: Day Two

9. The Self-Education of a Young Man

It took all Peach's parents had to teach him to control his caterwaul, but teach they tried. They spared no expense—in time or in money. But in the end, it wasn't the expensive Montessori day care workers or the eminently understanding and almost always nodding psychiatrists who helped Peach reign in his warble. It was Peach himself.

You see, there's nothing more important to a young child than the love of his mother, and it dawned on Peach that if he wanted some of those hugs and mother loving that he craved so strongly, he needed to not spend so much time around broken glass, ceramics, and figurines. Then it dawned on him that he might have something to do with that broken glass, ceramics, and figurines—as well as his parents' adhesive-bandaged feet and constant wearing of silicone earplugs around the house. And then, as Peach was a quick self-study even as an infant, it dawned on him that he was the one creating the broken glass, ceramics, and figurines. It was his voice that did so. He decided then and there that he could make his voice not do so if he so in fact wished. Bring on the hugs!

One day, Peach's mother and father walked around the nursery as though on egg shells—it was, in fact, broken glass—and the next day, silence descended on their four-story walkup and a bag of broken glass rested gently on the curb below, waiting for the trash collectors.

It was the happiest garbage day ever.

10. Regretting the Biological Clock

Peach sat across the small table from a friend. The light strains of a Stan Getz recording played over the café's sound system, and the two young adults both had books placed in front of them. He was reading a collection of poetry by a dead New Englander, and she was midway through a dog-eared science-fiction paperback. Their knees almost touched, and his eyes lingered on her face as she glanced absent-mindedly out the window.

"What were you saying?" She turned back toward him, grinning sweetly, and reached for her cup of coffee. She took a sip, eyes intent on him over the steaming rim.

"My alarm clock. It's worthless," he said, shaking his head as though to clear it. "I don't use the buzzer any more. I wake up to a CD—the same CD every morning. Too lazy to change it, but the thing really is, I don't actually wake up to the CD. So it doesn't matter what CD it is."

"What do you mean?"

"I wake up to its spinning. Or its starting to spin." Peach took a sip of his coffee. "One minute before the alarm is set to go off, I wake up to the CD about to play and the alarm about to go off. And I either hit snooze or turn it off before the alarm even goes off."

"Have you tried it with the buzzer instead of the CD? I mean, if it's somehow important for you to actually hear your alarm."

"Yeah. And I do the same thing. I wake up just before the alarm goes off. It's like I can sense it about to turn on."

"What I don't get, though, is why this bothers you. I mean, you still wake up at the right time, right?"

"Yeah. But the thing is, I worry about the alarm clock."

"You worry about the alarm clock?"

"Yeah. What if it doesn't get any fulfillment from its role in the world because it's never actually able to do what it was made to do?"

Peach's friend laughs with abandon, slapping her thighs sharply with surprise and glee as she rocks back in her chair. Peach looks at her, crestfallen as she tosses her hair and shakes her head.

"What? What's so funny?"

"You're concerned that your alarm clock will take an ego hit because you don't let it do its job?"

"Well, yeah."

"You're weird, sir. How about you go get me a refill?"

11. Meeting Miss Margaret

OK. You got me. I shouldn't have glazed over her like that. You're right. That's her. Margaret. I didn't know I loved her then, but I did know one thing: She sure loved to drink coffee. Later, when my heart had melted toward her entirely, I sometimes wondered whether I was nervous with anticipation just to be in her presence, or if I was merely over-caffeinated. I like to think it was the coffee, but I'm not that strong. Get it? Strong coffee? Oh, never mind.

Later, when we were together, everything was perfect. She didn't mind my, shall we say, talent. And she said it even made her feel safer. I protected her. That was nice. What I'd considered a handicap and something to hide for so much of my life, she considered a gift—something to be proud of. She was proud of me! What I wouldn't give just to hold her hand again.

12. The Lost Years of Peachpit Sebastian

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's irresponsible to give short shrift to more than 20 years of the life of Peach. Once he learned to control his outbursts, life with the Sebastians improved immensely. For the most part, he lived the normal life of an infant, a toddler, and a boy, in that order. But as he moved from his tweens to his teens, he began to pick up on things.

One, he realized that he couldn't just control his outbursts in terms of restraining himself, he could control them in terms of targeted assertions. And it wasn't just a way to make things shatter. Peach found that he could merely make a drinking glass wobble or an open window close. He could move matter—specific kinds of matter—by stopping just shy of breakage. This he tried his best to keep to himself. Although there was an incident in early high school when one bully in particular kept finding that his Ray-Bans were always breaking. That bully spent so much money on Ray-Bans one semester that he had to cut back on cigarettes and condoms.

Two, Peach learned that he could receive as well as transmit. What do I mean by that? Take the alarm clock as an example. Peach could sense when an alarm was going to go off, be it an alarm clock, a fire alarm, the telephone, or a crossing light. In school, Peach would have his textbooks neatly stacked just moments before the bell rang and classes changed over. A couple of times, Peach led his family out of a crowded movie theater or other public place just before a fire alarm began to clang. And he was always able to nose his car into an intersection just as the traffic lights changed.

And for a short while, he dabbled in crime, using his skill to identify retail establishments and building entrances that were unprotected and unlocked. The furthest Peach went in this direction could be considered a crime only in the sense of breaking and entering or trespassing. He'd find a door he could open or force without triggering a siren, make his way into the building and walk around for awhile, absorbing the eerie stillness that comes when in someone else's space—or a public place when no one else is around. And then he'd leave the way he came.

When his interest in just going into places waned, Peach made his passive crime a game of sorts. Peach acquired a gross of small plastic frogs for less than $10—a deal, but the kind of deal you question after the fact. What am I going to do with 144 plastic frogs? On his B&E runs, as he liked to think of them, he'd always leave a plastic frog behind in a conspicuous, noticeable place. If he'd worked his way into a locked-up liquor store, he'd leave a frog on the counter. A laundromat? Inside the soap dispenser machine. An accountant's office? In the very center of the desk blotter.

Every evening, Peach would read the police blotter in the daily newspaper, but his escapades were never reported. Part of him felt insulted. He realized that his crime was small beer but feared that his gifts—the frogs—would go unnoticed. He considered leaving behind larger objects, say, a whole turkey. But then he decided against it. He'd be sure to be noticed lugging around a whole turkey. That's just foolish talk.

13. Peach Gets Noticed

He'd been right, of course. With a whole turkey, he'd be as conspicuous as a floor trader at a mime convention. Nevertheless, when Peach was in high school and still experimenting with his B&E runs—he'd long run out of frogs—Peach caught the eye of a man. The man didn't mean to find Peach. He wasn't even looking. But one dark night, as Peach was inching his way out of the back entrance to a greeting card store, peering cautiously up and down the grimy, dripping alleyway, a man caught sight of him. His jaw dropped in surprise. And stayed there. Peach had the full attention of Mr. Grimace.

As Peach exited the alleyway into the misty light of streetlamps and moonlight, Mr. Grimace gathered his trench coat around him, pulled on the brim of his hat, and scuffled over toward the door Peach had exited. Mr. Grimace looked at the door, put one palm flat against the surface of the door, and reached with the other to grasp the doorknob. Sure enough, the door was locked. Tight. Mr. Grimace tugged again just to test.

Cocking his head to one side quizzically, he stepped back to consider what he had just seen. It was 4 a.m. Was Peach an employee of the card shop? He'd had no key. What kind of business could he have had there so early anyway? Was Peach a burglar? He hadn't left with anything. And what kind of thief secures the door he'd broken in through moments ago behind him as he leaves?

Mr. Grimace closed his mouth and walked the length of the alley, following the footsteps Peach himself had trod brief moments ago.

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