We were supposed to get high at lunchtime behind the uprights in the athletic field in the little bit of woods the dopers had carved out for themselves. And then Piantedosi, who was going to bring the herb, only had some acid. I had sworn never to trip but I was so disappointed about the herb, I said fuck it. Lester Lafko, Piantedosi, me and some other loser, some little kid with braces, friend of Lafko's—Slive. So we all drop then go back to school. After lunch is chem lab, which is why we planned to get high then, not like a math class where chances are you'd get bagged. But we're halfway through lab and I'm feeling nothing. I see that Piantedosi and Lafko are getting off, their eyes are like Bunsen burners.
"I'm not getting off," I say to Piantedosi. "You will," he says, looking amused and winking one of his droopy eyes.
"What is funny?" I say.
His eyes open wide and he ruffles his hair over his ears and holds out his hands in a bowl shape. "'Can oi 'ave some more, suh?'" He laughs. "Trust me, my friend."
Within five minutes I see Piantedosi is right as usual. The hit was moving in with the whole family. As she bends over her test tube, Bonnie Taymore's dark hair ripples like an aurora. And Mr. Barry's bass voice is gorgeous, a reverberant, slow, ramifying rumble.
After last period, while Piantedosi and Lafko are giggling in the boys' room, pushing Slive back and forth to each other like he's a puppet and he's giggling, too, sliding on the tiles and moving his arms around like a marionette, I am seeing eternity. There's me, in my brown denim bell bottoms, my hair combed back over my ear and then flipping out like I'm signaling for a turn, my broken glasses held together by tape in the middle, three new pimples—looking at myself in the mirror and seeing eternity. I leave them smoking cigarettes and writing on the walls and find my way back to the woods where we dropped.
For two hours I sit still and see it all. Caterpillars munching on moss, birds cocking their mechanical heads, squirrels clawing up trees. When the twilight starts coming on, I see that the log I've been sitting on is teeming with life, too, slithering—earthworms, white maggots, streams of tiny red ants. I leap up.
I think, I say to myself, brushing off my pants and jumping around for a second, I think I'm having a bad trip.
"Hey, Chris," says someone behind me and I almost black out from the head rush.
"Holy shit," I say to Slive who's squatting down next to the stump, his untucked shirt dragging on the ground, a finger in his mouth and his big brown glasses slipping down his nose. "Where the fuck did you come from?"
"I think I broke an elastic on my braces," he says. He takes his finger out of his mouth and pushes his glasses back up. Little, skinny, long-necked kid looks like an elf or some such shit there by the slithering stump. He cocks his head sideways like he's listening. Then he smiles at me. "I've been everywhere. Down by the reservoir, everywhere," he says, grinning metal and brushing his dark bangs out of his eyes. "Isn't this wicked!" Then he sticks his finger back in his mouth. Way back. "Yeh, I'm sure I broke an elastic."
"I'm going home," I say.
"Already? You seen Lafko? I can't find them." He listens again.
"No," I say, thinking, those assholes ditched the little fuck. "I gotta go home."
"OK, bye." I expect him to disappear in a little sprinkle of stardust, but he's still sitting there when I leave.
It's five o'clock and still light when I start down the hill, my hands behind slipping on the wet dirt, feet skidding in front. If I just could say I'm not feeling well and then get up to my room. I step out of the woods and stop to brush off my hands and watch the empty playing field, every green leaf of grass looks sharp as a blade.
On the walk home, the streets are flowing like lava, glittering. The leaves on the suburban trees are large and distinct, each line in each leaf stands out. Insects are everywhere and eating everything. I can hear them. For a moment, I stand still on the tilting sidewalk. Everything's in motion except me. It isn't easing up. It feels like it could go on forever.
I can't go home yet, I think, and start up Church Street past my house. While I climb slowly up the hill, the street rolls downhill beside me like a slow river. At the top, at the little green that three streets branch off from, each toward a little rich neighborhood, I stop. Out of a nearby house I hear "Three Times a Lady." It's dusky and bluish out now but about a block up Sargent Street where it narrows I can see Piantedosi and Lafko about to disappear from view. It's Lafko's straight blonde hair down to his shoulders that I recognize, that and his bouncy walk. Piantedosi is laughing really hard, it looks like, bent over and stamping a foot. I think about calling them and decide not to, turning left instead of right, and head down Park Street to circle back home.
I billow down Park, starting to feel a little less mental. The just-lit streetlights pick out the brilliant silica, the sparks of mica, the sharp edges of a thousand minerals in the sparkling white sidewalk. I walk on the park side, checking out the big houses across. The Sinowitz's are done with dinner, the mister is washing dishes with a cloth on his shoulder and the kids are already watching TV. Two houses down, Mr. Boyer is talking at the dining room table. Kelly and her mom are both laughing hard as he gesticulates in the yellow light, his hands leaving trails. I stop for a minute and look at Kelly, who must be almost fourteen by now. When they start eating, though, and I think I can hear the chewing, I move on. The Repucci house is dark. I stop there for a minute as I sometimes do and think of Jackie Repucci's pussy and my face buried there for just twenty seconds of fragrant, breathless living before I'm dislodged by the sound of her mom coming in the front door and me running out of the room and slipping down the back stairs, sitting on the couch just before Mrs. R. walks in the living room and greets me and I say, "Hi, Mrs. Repucci," my nose and mouth full of her black-haired daughter.
I feel myself getting aroused and it frightens me in my condition. What could sprout from my brown denims in this semi-divine state, I shudder to think. Aaron's flowering rod, maybe. I go down the street, past the junior high and circle back up Church Street toward home.
As I round the churchyard and see the glowing house at the top of the rise, I almost trip over Slive, who's sitting cross-legged on the little stone wall that separates the churchyard from my yard. "Fuckin' Slive," I say, laughing. He's still probing the back of his mouth with a finger. "Jesus, Slive, what the fuck?"
"It's getting dark," he says, shivering a little in his striped jersey and throwing his black hair back with a toss of his head. "Isn't this the piss?" he says, grinning. He's only got one shoe on.
"Where's your shoe, man?"
"I don't know. I lost it."
I sit down next to him. He looks jittery and bright. "I think I broke my braces," he says.
"I know. Christ, I'm high. Jesus."
"You goin' in?" He cocks his head toward my house.
"I don't know. In a while, maybe."
"You seen Lafko and them?" he asks.
"I did. A few minutes ago. Longer. About half an hour, I think. I saw them going up Sargent Street."
Slive jumps up, "They're probably goin' up the woods up there," he says, starting to limp away.
"Take it easy, man." I say and watch him until he's out of sight. Then I turn my attention to the house on the hill, loping up slowly with my head down, fascinated by the ground moving underneath me. I avoid the big front porch and slip around to the back.
I hear silverware, plates, conversation in the kitchen, which is off the top of our high, narrow back porch. I sit on the bottom step there on the back porch and listen to dinner above me through the screen door. There's no way I can go in there. But hearing Dad's soft voice calms me down a little. I start to climb up the stairs to take a peek and the clinking of silverware gets louder, my brothers and sisters talking, and then I hear something more ominous in Dad's voice, the reasonable tone that means some kind of trouble. I crouch at the top steps, keeping my head down.
"No need to be rigid about this," he says, "You can always switch with him."
"It's Chris's night." I hear. It's Geoffrey. "I'm not doing 'em. It's Chris's night."
"Well, Chris isn't here," says Dad.
"I'll do them," says Georgia.
"You will not," says Mom. "Absolutely not."
"I don't mind."
"Geoffrey," says Dad.
"It's Chris's turn," says Geoffrey.
"So much for the new regime," says Mom.
"I detect a note of hostility in that statement," says Dad.
"That's right," I hear Mom say and I hear the chair as she backs up to stand, "I'll do the goddamn dishes," she says.
"I don't mind," says Georgia.
For a moment I imagine bursting into the room like a superhero. "Never fear. I'll do the dishes!" But even a glimpse of the ceiling lamp is too bright for me, and I know if I go in I'll feel like I'm trapped in a pinball game.
"It's Chris's turn," says Geoffrey, and I can hear him get up and lumber out of the room. One of the younger kids giggles.
"Young man, come back here this minute," says Dad with his useless authoritarian voice.
"Everybody out!" says Mom, and the note of impending hysteria in her voice gets results. Chairs squeak, plates rattle a bit, then I hear a sound like a quiet herd leaving the room.
"Darling," says Dad, but there's no response.
Then Mom starts to clear the table. For a big woman, she can move pretty quick. My skin is just jumping from the acid, and my heart is beating so fast I'm afraid it's going to stop. Her heavy tread makes the porch stairs tremble. I want to back down, but I'm sort of drawn. I climb one step very slowly.
When I peek over the bottom of the screen door I see Mom rising up next to the sink, a score of dirty dishes piled up on the sideboard. She's wearing a bright print spring dress that hangs straight down to her ankles. Her small eyes are eagle-like as she looks toward the table to see if she's left anything. From below, her double chin looks large, the color of flour, and it shivers as her arms move in the sink. Then, she stops washing and her breathing slows. She becomes very still and for a second I think she's sensed my presence. But I'm wrong.
"I'll do the dishes," she says in a quiet voice, and she picks one off the top of the pile, stretches her arm out straight and drops it. When it shatters, I'm surprised that it doesn't sound all that loud. Calmly she takes the next dish and holds out her arm again and drops it. I can hear the herd moving back towards the kitchen.
"Mom!" Georgia cries.
"Don't bother me. I'm doing the dishes." And she picks up the next plate and calmly and ceremoniously drops it, too. About twenty plates and saucers follow. Except for Dad, the whole family is quietly watching her from the dining room door. It's dark outside now at the top of the porch, and I can see her clearly in her yellow and red dress as she brushes her hands together in a satisfied gesture and says, "There. They're done," before going up the back stairs. As some of the kids come into the room to check out the damage, I back down the porch steps, my head down. I sit there on the bottom step for a while, fifteen minutes maybe, listening to Dad yelling at Geoffrey for a while, far off on the other side of the house, and listening to Georgia and Maddie sweeping up the mess. Georgia is crying.
When the kitchen's empty, I slip in and grab my jacket from the closet. Then I scuttle down the back porch stairs, and find a spot in the yard that has a little cover from a bush. I settle myself onto the lawn, trying to be quiet. I lie on my back using my jacket as a pillow, and watch the stars show up.
I can feel the drug's force diminishing but ever so slowly. When I look up to the house it still looks skewed, like in a distorted mirror. I sigh heavily, getting ready for a long night. Then I hear something down by the churchyard. I sit up and am not surprised to see young Slive hopping the stone wall and moving up the grass toward me.
"Is that you, Chris?"
He sits down next to me. He's shivering.
"You find 'em," I ask.
"No, but I found my shoe."
"Well, that's something. Here, put this on, man."
"Hey, thanks!" He takes my jacket and slips into it.
We're quiet for a while. The whole neighborhood is quiet in the cool evening.
"Isn't this wicked?" says Slive.