Page 24

He scolded me for not wanting to put real worms on our hooks, saying that the plastic worms didn’t ever work, but Mom told me that we were supposed to respect nature. She said if we didn’t need it to eat, then we shouldn’t harm it.

We sat chugging our beers and getting bad sunburns.

The silence of the creek was something I always remembered. How we hardly moved in our boat, how the water only waved every now and then when a bird dipped in looking for a quick meal. After five hours of sweat, my fishing rod moved, and Dad jumped to my aid, helping me reel in the biggest catch of my life. “Pull!” he ordered, and I did. I pulled, pulled, and pulled some more.

The moment of truth came when the fish emerged from the depths of the water and we laughed. We laughed so hard I thought my stomach was going to explode and root beer would come out of my nose. Turned out, my fish was less of a fish and more of a big hiking boot. When Dad laughed, I laughed. Dad leaned against the side of the boat. “Dinner might be a little leathery tonight, Levi.” We kept laughing, me clutching my gut and him chuckling at my howls.

That was the last time we’d laughed together. It was the last time we were happy together.

I wondered what had happened.

What had changed and made him stop loving me?

Now the closest I got to hearing him laugh with me was when he watched old black and white comedies on television in the living room each night. He never asked me to join him, and I could tell he was a bit annoyed when I sat with him. So, I chose to sit in the foyer each night, around the corner so he couldn’t hear or see me. When he would laugh, I would laugh.

It almost felt like we were recreating a father-son relationship that was lost in time and space.

I’d never loved black and white comedies so much in my life.

12 Levi

popular | adjective | pop·u·lar | \'pä-py?-l?r\

liked or enjoyed by many people.

suitable to the majority.

frequently encountered or widely accepted.

I didn’t know how to fit in with the popular kids. I sat at their lunch tables, listened to their talk about parties, and tried my best to always smile, but the truth was we didn’t have anything in common. They came from families who had a lot of money and lived lives of luxury. I came from a cabin in the woods. They all played sports and had other after school activities. I had my mom and wasn’t allowed to join any clubs outside of the forest. I only had the violin, and Mom taught me the lessons.

None of these guys played any instruments, and even though the girls said it was sexy that I played the violin, they never went into deep conversations about the best violinists or the interesting idea of mixing classical sounds with modern music.

They mostly talked about sex, drinking, and the next party.

High school annoyed me. Since I’d arrived here I’d been labeled and tossed into a box due to characteristics that were none of my doing. I was placed with a group who had no desire to know me because they were only concerned with the outside. On the outside I fit. On the inside, I was an abnormality.

It was kind of disturbing how they all sort of slept and hooked up with each other like it was normal. Stacy dated Brian who made out with Jessica who had sex with Jason who sucked Victoria’s toes, who gave Eric a blow job after he slept with Stacy who was still dating Brian. It was like a weird, tangled up inbreeding group that only kept it in the family.

Plus, based on the definition of popular, these people were the exact opposite of the meaning. They were mean just for the hell of it. They were such a close-knit group compared to the majority of the school. Sure, they all loved each other, but the majority of the people at Mayfair Heights high school hated their guts.

unpopular | adjective | un·pop·u·lar | \??n-'pä-py?-l?r\

not popular: viewed or received unfavorably by the public.

When I looked across the cafeteria room, I always noticed Aria and Simon laughing with one another. Aria didn’t smile often, and her laughs were few and far between, but her friend had a way of bringing them out of her.

I’d been thinking about her laugh since the morning we’d stood in the forest talking about oxymorons, cancer, and other nonsensical things.

I liked that morning so much more than sex talk, drinking, and parties.

I liked nature, and deer, and Aria Watson—who was a girl who was somehow happy and sad all at once.

Sometimes we would lock eyes across the room and we wouldn’t look away. It was a full-blown staring contest. Who will look away first?

I never lost. She always turned away.

* * *

One night at 3:45 A.M. my cell phone started ringing. I groaned, reaching across my bed to answer it.

“Hello?” I drowsily said, my voice cracking.

“I have this idea that I want to run by you. I’ve been thinking about opening a record store in town and I want you to come home and run it with me. It can be our thing, Levi. We can have all of the best vinyl tracks and stuff. I bet there’s an old broken down warehouse or something we could use. And—”

She sounded so distant through the phone—so far away from reality. I’d wished the sound wasn’t familiar. But it was those same sounds and those same thoughts that pushed me away from Alabama to Wisconsin.

“Mom. It’s almost four in the morning.”

“Oh. Were you sleeping? I’m online now looking up to see if there are any abandoned shops in town. I even been making logos and stuff on Photoshop that we could use for the store. What do you think about blue and fuchsia? We need to come up with a name for the place. I know the people in town are always talking about how I’m a failure and won’t be successful—”