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Can't Parry

Sakura is here tonight! I think about her all the time and I am so excited that she is here! She is in a hurry with two big pizzas and she is also very beautiful. Audrey does not think I can see well, but I can see. My ears are not good, but Audrey is wrong about my seeing and I like to use my eyes to watch Sakura Most Of All.

Last night, Audrey said we were going to Ray's Pizza and I could not even believe it! That is where Sakura works! I was in my bed for a long time because I was so excited. Audrey put my tape in my tape machine and rolled the dial all the way to the top. She only does it on some of the nights because it is Too Loud, but when I don't sleep good she turns it on for me so she can Finally Get Some Peace. But it was dark even when the music on my tape didn't go anymore, and then it was still dark for a long time until my room was getting light. I was bored and I was sometimes scared so I used Quiet Words and I pretended that I was talking to Sakura. I practiced some words to say at Ray's Pizza but I can not remember them anymore. I will try to think of new things to say right now and I will not listen to my friends.

A man with a tie on Leads The Way to my table. I think that his tie is Fancy Dressing since we are in a pizza restaurant, and he thinks so too because he walks as tall as he can possibly get. But he is not very tall because Audrey is taller, and she is the shortest of everyone here of my friends.

The Fancy Man picks up a chair so I can fit in that spot at the table. I am next to Audrey again, but I am King of the Table! Audrey sits beside Emma because they like to talk together. Lisa sits on the other side of me. Lisa is fun so I like her to be beside me. Robert sits across from Emma because he is the husband of her and they like to smile at each other sometimes. Mike sits next to Robert, and Jim is the King of the Other End of the Table! I can see Jim very well because he is in front of me. That is good if I want to watch Jim talk, but tonight I do not want to. I want to talk to Sakura. I like to talk to Jim, but we can talk another night. I hope he will talk to the other people instead.

Audrey drove Jim with us because Jim's car is broken. Audrey talked a lot and Jim did not. Most of the time, Jim is doing all of the talking and Audrey doesn't get a chance. Sometimes he Needs to Take a Breath because that is what Audrey tells to me in private. Maybe Jim was quiet because he was hungry. Sometimes that is why I am quiet.

"What can I get for you?"

"Hey, Sakura! How's it going, gorgeous?"

"Hello."

Jim always talks to Sakura first. It was good before so I could know her name, but I want to get the first chance sometimes. Sakura is bending down beside me and Audrey because she might be tired. She is writing in her folder with a little pencil. Her face is shiny and her hair smells like flowers. I try to say some words but my throat feels big. Robert talks instead.

"We'll have an extra large with everything on it, and an extra large...what did we decide on?"

"Half pineapple and ham, half extra cheese."

"And an extra large with half pineapple and ham, half extra cheese."

"Two pitchers of beer and a pitcher of Coke?"

"Sounds good."

"Yeah, that's fine."

Audrey tells Sakura that we also want a water, please. Sakura looks so pretty. I try to get close to her because I would like say something, but it is hard to move in my seat and my body is heavy. I try very hard to move to Sakura but she walks away. But then I can't stop moving! I try to pull the other way, but I am too heavy. I am going to hit my face on the table! I say very quietly for Audrey to help me and then Audrey puts her hands around me.

"Straighten up there, buddy."

I hope that Sakura did not see what happened. I want to be strong for her and that did not look very strong. She would not like a man that hits his face on the table. I will just look at Sakura next time and I will Keep Still.

Jim is talking now and he is not like he was acting in my van. His eyes are very big. He is leaning over the table and his arms are in front of him. I think that maybe Audrey should go help him so he won't hit his face, but then he sits up all by himself. He stops talking. He sits back on his chair and his arms cross over his stomach. He has a smile on one side of his mouth, and Mike and Robert and Lisa are all talking to him at the same time. They are moving around a lot and Jim is very still. I think that Jim has made them mad again. Sometimes Jim can say things that are not very nice, but I do not think he is a mean person. Jim likes to talk and sometimes Jim talks a lot. Sometimes people are happy about what he says and sometimes they are not happy about it. Jim is always happy about what he says. Jim is sometimes happy even when other people get mad. Maybe he likes for them to get mad so he can take a rest from all of that talking!

Jim is talking again. I stop watching his mouth and his voice is not loud, so I do not know what he is saying. I am thinking about what to say to Sakura the next time she comes here.

Jim is loud now and I can hear his voice more. He is looking at Audrey.

"Audrey, what do you think? You know a lot about this stuff."

Everybody is looking at Audrey. Audrey is moving in her seat and she is looking down at herself.

"I'm not sure I understand what you're asking me, Jim." She laughs to Emma. Emma smiles at her and then looks down too.

Jim smiles and shakes his head at his lap. I don't know why they are all are looking at their own selves when someone says something. Jim looks back up at Audrey and bounces his head. His eyes get small.

"Should we as a society feel obligated to help the indigent cultures of the world get their act together, or do we need to focus our efforts here at home?"

"I don't know, Jim." Audrey does not look very happy. She does not like it when she is talking and nobody else is talking. She does not like it when there are a lot of people at the table and everyone is looking at her. She didn't like it ever since we were little children. When Pap asked a question, you had to Keep Your Mouth Shut unless it was your question. He did not ask me a lot of questions, I think it was because of my Can't Parry, but he asked Mama questions and he asked Audrey questions. Audrey did not like to answer the questions. Pap would sometimes wait until she told the answer. But sometimes Audrey had to go in her room with Pap to answer the question. I did not like it when she had to go in her room because it made Mama cry and it had lots of loud noises and Pap's scary voice in there. Audrey didn't have to go in her room with Pap too much because she started to tell the answers to Pap. She still did not like to have questions.

"Okay Audrey, we'll take it one step at a time. Do you feel that there are lots and lots of people in this country in desperate need of some assistance?"

"Well, yes."

"And do you feel that they are getting all they need at this time?"

"No, I don't believe they are."

"Now...do you feel that we should help others outside of this country before we fix the problems here?"

"Went and grew a conscience without telling the rest of us, huh, Jim?" Lisa says funny things sometimes. Some of my friends are laughing.

"Lisa you had your turn. Let's hear what Audrey has to say."

I would like to help Audrey. I was not allowed to answer Pap's questions to Audrey, but I can answer Jim's questions because Jim doesn't have that rule. I do not like to see Audrey sad, so if she gets sad, I will answer Jim's question for her.

"I think we should do what we can to help all who are in need."

"Poor, sweet Audrey. Unlike most, you have yet to shed your childish idealism. Why don't we try something together, hmm? Let's try to take your amorphous statements and give them a little definition, just for fun. Shall we, for the sake of all those who actually appear to have passed eighth grade?"

"Jim, for God's sake, why don't you try changing the subject before you turn into a jerk."

"Mike. You're way too gentle. I can think of many other things he is besides a jerk, one being a body part I happen not to possess and the other being its next-door neighbor."

Everybody laughs at what Lisa said and I laugh too. It is fun to laugh when the talking gets serious. Jim laughed too and now he is smiling. Maybe he is happy now and he will stop talking. I do not understand the way he is talking to Audrey. He is always very nice to Audrey. He tells Mike or Lisa questions to make them mad, but he knows that Audrey does not like questions. He is not being very nice to her tonight. I would like to say some things to Jim.

"Drinks?"

Jim made me forget about Sakura and I didn't have time to think of what I want to say to her. I can not think of any words right now. She sets glasses down in front of everybody and a big pitcher in front of Jim and in front of me and in the middle of the table. She gives Audrey the cup with the water in it. She walks away before I can think of something to say. I make myself promise that I will say something next time.

Robert is holding up a pitcher with the Beer inside.

"All right, who wants beer?"

"Over here." Jim holds up his glass and he points to the top of it with his finger. "I'm going to need some lubricant for the sticky road ahead of me tonight!"

Other people ask for the Beer, so I ask for the Beer. But Audrey is reaching down and she has the can of powder for my drink. She opens the top and scoops out some powder and pours the scoops into the water. I am embarrassed that she isn't more private with it because nobody else has to stir up their drinks. After she stirs it, she scoops some water out with the spoon and puts it in my mouth. I open my mouth fast to eat it so no one sees.

All my friends have a drink now and they are busy drinking. Nobody is talking. Audrey is reaching down again but she better not get the Orange Surprise. It is not a surprise anyway because it is always the same thing. Audrey says that the Orange Surprise is Very Important and it will help me not have a Thumb Wiggle. I do not like the Thumb Wiggles because they Always Mean Trouble! But I do not want to eat the Orange Surprise tonight because my friends will see me and so will Sakura!

Audrey squirts it in the side of my mouth anyway, but I don't think anyone saw it.

Jim is looking at everyone and not talking. He is looking at Audrey the most and he is smiling on one side of his mouth again. He is quiet for a very long time, but then he decides that he would like to talk.

"So, where were we?"

Audrey is looking at herself again. She does not answer Jim's question. I am going to answer Jim's question very soon.

"Audrey?"

"Yessss, Jim." Audrey looks at Jim and she is chewing her lip.

"Well, what do you say?"

"Why don't you ask someone else?" Audrey laughs at Emma again. Emma smiles but doesn't laugh, and she drinks her drink.

"Actually, let's drop it. Hey, did anyone catch that accident on the news last night?"

"What accident?" Everybody talked at the same time and we all laugh again.

"No, no, no; first things first. Let's finish the subject, then we can talk about your story, Mike." Jim is not smiling anymore and he looks serious. He is leaning across the table again and I want to ask Audrey to help him, but then I remember that he did not fall on his face last time.

"Okay, Audrey, what do you think? Do you think we should continue to be parents to the rest of the world while our country slowly rots from the inside? You can sit there and comfortably say, in your nice, warm clothes, waiting for your nice, warm meal, that means should be stripped away from our people and given to foreigners? How can you justify that?"

"Jim, she didn't say anything."

"I'm going to the bathroom." Audrey reaches down the side of her chair.

"What?" Jim smiles and sits up. He lifts up his hands. "I just want her opinion."

Audrey stands up.

"Aw, c'mon Audrey, you know I'm just playing with you. I'm just trying to get you to take a stand. Even if it is against me."

"Jim, you're so arrogant, you'd eat her alive if she disagreed with you. That is, if you even have an opinion on the subject, anyway. Here Audrey, I'll come with you."

I do not want Lisa to take Audrey to the other room. Jim is making me mad and I am mad like everyone else! It is my turn to say lots of words to Jim.

"Jim, you are not being nice to Audrey! She does not like to answer questions so I will answer your question. You do not like to give money to people and that is not nice. You can keep some money so you can buy food and medicine and some music to listen to, but if you have some more money, then you can give it to a person who does not have some food or medicine or any good tapes to play on his tape machine. Is that the answer that you were wondering? Is that what you wanted Audrey to . . . "

Audrey puts her hand on my arm and I stop talking.

She sits down next to me again and keeps her hand on my arm. I am mad at Audrey now. She does not like to talk, but when I talk she puts her hand on my arm. If I do not stop talking when she puts her hand on my arm, she will take me away from the table. Audrey thinks she is my new Mama because Mama had a Cancer so she could live with God! She stops me from doing a lot of things and I feel Very Angry at her right now! She stopped my movie last night and I was not even tired. I was so mad I think my ears must have had steam! She did not listen to me when I said to leave on the movie, and I got mad at her and said a lot of words to her, and she put her hand on my arm. I had to stop talking because then Audrey would be mad at me. I do not like for Audrey to be mad at me because then she cries and then I am alone for a long time. I do not want to be alone. I like to have Audrey with me, so I am quiet for her. But I do not want to be quiet. I want to do Jim's question.

Robert and Mike are talking to each other but I can not see what they are saying because their heads are close together. All the rest of my friends are just drinking their drinks. Audrey is rubbing my arm. I am very still so she will not think I like the rubbing and maybe she will get her hand off! I look at Jim. He is looking down and he is twisting a napkin in his hands. He twists and twists until the napkin breaks and his hands fly away from each other fast. He hides the napkin pieces in his fists.

"Oooh, here we go. I'm starving," Lisa says.

Sakura is here again and I haven't been thinking of something to say to her. She bends down between Audrey and Emma and puts both pizzas on the table. The pizza with the pineapples is on my side of the table. It smells good! My food came from home. I would like some of this pizza, but Audrey says that it will make me choke. So she made a pizza at home for me and blended it in the blender. But it is a cheese pizza and I want a pineapple pizza. I am mad that I can't Waste Food, but I will say to Audrey next time to blend up a pineapple pizza.

"Can I get you anything else?" Sakura asks. She is slicing the pineapple pizza.

"Mmm, mmm."

"No."

"We're fine, thanks."

Sakura stands up. I am going to hurry to say something because she is ready to leave again.

"Thank you!"

Sakura jumps. She looks at me and that is the first time she has ever done that! I am in love with her more than I was before! She smiles with half of her mouth like Jim, and she walks away from the table. I am so happy that I will start right now to think of something to say next time. I will not let Jim get me interested in what he is saying because it is more important to talk to Sakura. I look at Jim so I know that this is my decision.

Jim is looking at me like Pap used to look at me.

When Pap looked at me like that, it would make my stomach hurt. He never said anything when he did that look, except for one time when he told to me I Wish You Would Die and another time when he told to me I Wish You Were Never Born. That is the way Jim looked at me just now, just before he ate a bite of his pizza.

I do not think I am going to eat my food. Audrey will be mad at me for wasting food, but my stomach hurts like it did with Pap and I do not want any pizza now. Jim is my friend. Jim and I go Way Back. All of these people are my friends, but Jim comes to our apartment, and we play games, and we talk while Audrey is cooking dinner so she can't put her hand on my arm. We all go to the movies, and we go out to dinner, and I watch them play Mini Golf. Jim is very good at Mini Golf.

Jim is eating his pizza like he is very hungry, and I watch him because I want to see if he is still Jim. He looks up at me and gives me a fast smile and then gives me another fast smile. Then he takes a big bite of his pizza again. Audrey puts a cold spoon on the side of my mouth and I move my head away from her. Jim is done with his piece of pizza and gets a new piece. He takes two big bites of the new piece and looks up at me. He smiles at me one time and looks back down at his pizza. The cold spoon is on my mouth again and I push it away with my face.

Audrey puts her hand on my arm and I look at her.

"Brendan, why aren't you eating?" I don't tell her the answer and I turn away from the spoon when she puts it on my mouth again.

There is a lot of talking during dinner. It is nice talking because no one is getting mad, but it is dull. Emma is talking the most, and she is talking that Courtney can spell Her First Name and Her Last Name and Rachel is Walking Already, and she is talking about Meatloaf. Audrey and Lisa are talking to Emma, but Robert and Mike are not talking to Emma because they think she is dull too. They are talking to each other, but I can only see Mike's mouth and he is not talking a lot. Jim just likes his pizza and the Beer right now. He is drinking a lot of the Beer. He drinks all of the Beer in his glass, pours more Beer in the glass, and drinks it all again. He is putting more Beer in it again now. I would like to have Beer next time. It must be very good if he likes to drink that much of it. I am sure that it tastes better than water on a spoon.

"Is everything alright here?" Sakura is at the table again. She is so pretty and I love her even more. I would like her to look at me again, but she looks at Jim.

"Yeah, get us another one of these, beautiful." Jim holds up a pitcher. "Anyone else want more? Make that two. Two more pitchers."

Sakura walks away. The spoon touches my mouth again and Audrey's hand is on my arm. "I don't want any!" I say, and I jerk away and look at Audrey. Her hand is tight on my arm and her spoon makes me lean myself to the other side. Audrey helps me up, and when I am closer to her she puts the spoon on my mouth. I pull away as hard as I can and yell "Stop!" and then she leaves me alone.

All of my friends are eating and Jim is drinking a lot of Beer. My stomach still hurts and I do not want cheese pizza so I will not eat. Audrey is eating her pineapple pizza and she does not have to eat blended cheese pizza and that makes me Very Angry. It is not fair to give me that spoon with cheese pizza if she has pineapple pizza and it is not fair to drink Beer when she is making me eat thick water on a spoon. So I will not let her make me eat and that will make her Very Angry too, but that is fine with me!

Sakura walks past me with two pitchers of Beer and gives them both to Jim. I think that Jim is a very lucky man! He drinks what is in his glass and then puts more Beer in his glass.

I am going to stop thinking about Jim because I would like to think about Sakura. I would like to think about what I am going to say to her. She is walking away from the table again and I only talked to her one time tonight. I will have to say more to her next time. I will not seem very interesting if I do not talk. She will think Jim is more interesting. If he would like to have Beer that is fine, but I am the man to be Sakura's boyfriend!

I think I am going to tell Sakura that she has pretty hair. I think she likes her hair because she makes it smell like flowers, so she will be happy that I like her hair too. Maybe I will ask her if she would like to play Mini Golf. If she does, I won't tell her that Jim is very good at Mini Golf because she might like to be the girlfriend of Jim. Maybe I will ask her if she likes going out to see a movie.

I am happy that I have something to say to Sakura. I look around the table. Emma is talking about a Skirt Was On Sale for Twenty Dollars. I think this is dull too, and I am sorry for Emma that she is not very interesting. Audrey and Lisa think she is interesting because they are still talking to her.

Nobody is eating and there are two pieces of pizza left on the table. They are both pieces of pineapple pizza and I would like to have them. I hope Audrey brings them home for me because we won't Waste Food. I look at Jim. There is some Beer in one pitcher and the other pitchers are empty. Jim looks happy because he is smiling very wide and he is dancing in his chair.

"So, Mike, tell us about your accident." Jim is loud and I can hear some of his voice. Jim puts his glass on his mouth and leans his head very far back until there is no more Beer is in his glass. Jim is leaning on the table again and he is still dancing. He looks like he is very happy and that makes me happy. I did not like seeing the Pap look and I hope that he is finished being mad. I would not like for Jim to Wish You Were Never Born again.

"It wasn't my accident. It was on the news." Mike is still looking at Robert, so I think he would like to talk to Robert instead of Jim.

"So, let's here it."

"Well..." Mike does not talk and looks around the table. All of my friends are eating their pizzas again, but they are eating the part of their pizzas with no sauce. He looks at me and I smile to him. He looks at Robert and I think that Mike would really like to be talking to Robert again because his eyes are big to Robert.

"You hear about it, Robert?" Mike asks.

"Yeah, it was pretty bad." Robert takes a bite of his pizza and chews for a long time. He swallows that bite and takes another bite.

"Well?" Jim leans to Mike and Robert.

"Jim, what's up?" Mike asks, and he gets close to Jim.

"Huh?" Jim says with a loud enough voice to hear.

Mike says something I am not able to see.

"Like what? I'm not acting like anything." Mike is still close to Jim. "C'mon Mike, please? Could you please tell your story? Pretty please, with sugar and a juicy, red cherry on top?"

Mike looks at Jim a little bit more, and then he sits back in his chair. "It was right up the road from me, on McMurray. Some guy wasn't paying attention, crossed the street, and a car plowed into him."

Audrey, Lisa, and Emma have questions at the same time.

"He was more than hurt. He wasn't at a crosswalk, but the driver ran the stop sign before the street this guy was on. If the car had stopped, maybe the pedestrian would have had a chance."

"They said the driver was on his cell," Robert says.

"Yeah, but you want to hear the worst of it?" Mike asks.

"I don't know," Audrey says, and she leans on the table like Jim did before.

"The pedestrian didn't live. He was killed on impact. When the ambulance came to take them both to the hospital, one obviously to the basement of the hospital..."

"Mike, jeez!" Emma says.

"When the ambulance got there, the driver was in shock. Didn't say a thing as they pulled him out of the car, or when they put him on a stretcher. Started wheeling him into the ambulance while they were getting the other guy on a stretcher, the dead guy. Guess the driver saw the other guy and was jolted out of his trance like he had been given a shock. He started freaking out. Screamed over and over ‘He's alive! He's alive!' high-pitched, like a girl."

"What happened?" Emma asks.

"Apparently," Robert says, "the driver didn't run over the guy. He hit him and then..."

Mike takes the story back from Robert, "And then the guy sprung off the ground and flew across the hood, ramming into the drivers windshield hard enough to crack it. He was dead, dead on impact like I said, but it wasn't a peaceful dead, a Hollywood dead. He probably gave the driver an eyeful. When you die with your eyes open like that, you don't look all that dead. Probably looked like he was still deep in thought, like he was still walking down the street. Maybe he looked a little surprised, maybe even terrified, but not dead. And then there was the twitching."

"What?"

"Buddy of mine lives over there and heard all the commotion. Came out to see what was going on. He said the guy was lying on the car, stayed on it until the ambulance came. And he was twitching. Like he was having a seizure."

"Mike."

"Uh. Sorry, Audrey." Mike's eyes look at me fast. "The poor guy in the car was freaking out, screaming, and then he was quiet. Everyone just stood around, not knowing what to do. My friend heard the sirens, and the rest is news. I can't believe you all didn't hear about it."

"What are they going to do to the guy driving the car?"

"They didn't say, but there are already people protesting."

"Protesting what?"

"Car phones," Jim says, and he is smiling. "Using your phone whilst you are driving."

"Rrrrigh-t," Mike says, looking at Jim. "You heard about this?"

"Yep." Jim's eyes are closed.

"Why didn't you say anything, man? Why did you want me to tell the story if you already heard it?"

"Because you're a good storyteller, Mike, and we needed a change of scenery."

Mike looks at Jim for a long time. Mike's head and ears are getting red. He stands up. "Man, I'm gone. Where's the waitress?"

"Chill out, dude." Jim still has his eyes closed and he is smiling.

"Shut up, Jim." Mike says, and then he yells over Robert's shoulder, "Waitress?"

"Do you know why they are protesting car phone usage, Mike?" Jim's mouth is still smiling, but it doesn't look like a happy smile.

"Jim, I really don't care right now. All I feel like doing is getting out of here or feeding you my fist for dessert, whichever comes first."

"Audrey, do you know why?" Jim opens his eyes and dances his head at Audrey.

"Waitress!"

"Audrey? Do you know why they are protesting?"

"Leave her alone, Jim. What is your problem?" Lisa turns her head at Jim.

"I'll tell you why, Audrey. They are protesting because using a car phone is not a respected freedom today. Sure, you have the freedom to worship Lucifer on Top-40 radio, you have the freedom to bash the white, corporate male in forums across the country, you have the freedom to publicly denounce anything that is traditional stating it is wrong, oppressive, and evil. And you have the freedom to walk your stupid ass across the street without being on a crosswalk, without looking, without thinking, and not get hit by a car, Audrey."

Lisa says something to Jim that I can't see. Everybody should just not talk to Jim right now because he is not being nice, but Lisa likes to fix problems. She is trying to fix Jim so he will be happy again and not so scary. I do not like it when he is mad with a smile, and Audrey does not like it either because she is chewing her lip again.

Sakura comes to the table. She reaches for the tray in the middle of the table.

"Oh yeah, Lisa? Then why not outlaw car radios? They're distracting. How about your heater and A/C? You have to reach down every once in a while to adjust to your comfort level. Isn't that distracting? Come to think of it, let's not allow passengers in cars because they may talk to the driver, no windows because you have to roll the damn things down, and no speedometers because you'll be forced to look at the itty-bitty numbers!"

No one talks. Robert holds out his hand when Sakura takes a piece of paper out of her folder, and Mike and Robert talk to each other again. Jim is looking at Audrey and she has a tear coming down beside her nose. I am Very Angry, more than I have been in my whole life! I am madder than I was with Pap because Pap was scary all the time and I didn't get a chance to be mad. It is my job to protect my sister, and I am going to let Jim know that he is being Very Difficult.

"Jim, why are you mad tonight? I do not like for you to talk to my sister like that. It makes me Very Angry! You never talk like this. You are a nice man and I . . . "

"Audrey, will you shut him the hell up?" Jim's fist hits the table hard and he stands up. Sakura jumps back and runs away from the table.

"Jim!" Audrey says.

"Every time I open my mouth, that brother of yours starts in with that . . . I can't ever finish a thought without . . . without Brendan going on like that!"

Mike stands up. "Let's go. Outside." He goes around the table to Jim.

"Is there a problem here, sir?" Sakura is standing behind the man with the tie who said the question. He is standing far away from Jim and he is trying to make his body tall again.

Robert walks around the table and stands beside Mike. "No, sir. No problem. We'll be leaving." Robert walks to the other side of Jim and puts his hand under Jim's elbow. He gives Emma the piece of paper from Sakura and says something in her ear.

"Get your hands off me!" Jim yells. He pushes Robert back with the arm Robert is holding. The man with the tie leaves, but Sakura is still standing there. Her mouth is open. I would like to go over to her and hold her hand so she does not feel nervous.

"I just want to say one more thing, so back off!" Jim turns his body fast to Robert and Robert jumps back a little. Jim looks over his other side at Mike and Mike does not move.

"Audrey, I like you. A lot." My stomach hurts. I want to leave. I don't want Sakura to see this. This does not feel good.

"I would like things to work out between us, but I can't take this. I never get a moment alone with you. We can never go out, just the two of us. We can't even leave your apartment for five minutes without Brendan. And he doesn't stop. He never gives us a break. I have to put up with his incessant moaning and howling every time I open my mouth."

"Okay, that's it. Let's go." Mike and Robert pull Jim away from the table. There is a tight, sticky line under both of my eyes. My stomach hurts and my head hurts. I feel my Thumb Wiggle. Sakura is still standing here and my Thumb Wiggle is going to get bad. I do not want her to stand here. I do not want her to see what is going to happen to me.

"And you, Audrey!" he yells. "You have never shown any sympathy for me. Always for your brother. You listen to that retard like he's actually talking. Like he can actually think! Like he's actually more than just the vegetable that he is! You show him more consideration than you've ever shown me. You deserve each other. You can both go to hell for all...."

I can not hear Jim anymore and my Thumb Wiggle is making the other fingers wiggle. My arm is now wiggling and I scream, "Leave, Sakura! Go to work! Go back to work NOW!" but she is still standing there and the Thumb Wiggle is up to my shoulder. My whole body is now wiggling and she is so pretty and she can NOT see this I DO NOT WANT THIS NOW!

 

My head hurts bad. Audrey is in front of my face, and that makes my head worse. A lot of people are looking at me so I close my eyes.

Audrey says that it is my Special Need that makes me do this, my Can't Parry. Mama had a big name for it that I never remembered, and Audrey calls it See Pee. I don't think See Pee sounds good and I think that she is making fun of me, but she says it with a nice face so I do not think she is being mean with it. I saw her tell Emma one day that Pap did it, Pap made the See Pee happen to me when I was a little baby. I don't know about that, but I always know that I have Can't Parry because Pap has remembered it very well for me. I heard that name the most because that is what Pap yelled close to me when he was hitting me. He laughed, but he was mad like Jim.

I want Audrey to hurry up and roll my seat out of here. I do not want to see Sakura because I don't feel good and also it is cold and wet in my pants. I do not open my eyes because I do not want to see if Sakura is standing there. She would not like to have a boyfriend with a Thumb Wiggle. She would not like to play Mini Golf or go out to see a movie with a man who has Can't Parry.

I wait a long time and I feel a lot of people walking all around me. I wait for so long and then Audrey rolls my chair. I keep my eyes closed very tight until I can feel cold air instead of warm, sticky air, so I know that I am finally outside. I open my eyes and the lights on the buildings make the sky not have stars. I think that maybe the first star hasn't come yet. I will wish that Sakura walked away from the table when my Thumb Wiggle got big, and that she will smile at me the next time I see her. I will have to think of something to say to her for the next time.

I stay looking at the sky when Audrey turns me around and rolls me into my van backwards. I think I can see a star. I say my wish inside of my mind. Audrey pulls me all the way up inside and turns me away from the sky. She leans very close to me and pulls up the seatbelt. She buckles it around me and my chair, and she makes sure that I am Strapped In Tight, even though she is sniffing and coughing and bouncing the top of her head in front of me. She stands up and turns and she doesn't let me see her, but I still do, and her cheeks are very wet. My eyes burn and then my cheeks get wet because I want to cry too. I want to cry for Audrey so she won't cry by herself.

Copyright © 2003 Aimee Kovac.

Aimee Kovac holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology. While pursuing her degree, she worked and volunteered for various organizations providing housing and care for individuals with special needs. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son and is currently writing her fourth short story. This is Aimee's first published work.