Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, October 01, 2018

"What a Man Would Do" (iv)

(cont.) Mom and Darren are in the heart of a very important talk.

"She got raped, Darren--this girl," his mother says. "I don't care what the guy says--how you excuse it, who did it, how it happened, what she was wearing--this girl got raped and she can't tell a soul--for reasons that are dead wrong, I think, but they're hers."

She hadn't been that mad since the old man left.

"Nobody's supposed to know about this party, about the drinking." She tosses her head back as if it's plain nuts, and it is. "She gets raped, and nobody's supposed to know about beer, and I'm the guidance counselor and I've got to play along, see?--even though I want somebody to hang." She's got fists. "She got raped, dammit, and somebody got away with it--some cocky high school kid, some--"

"Guy," he says. "Just say male, Mom--that's what you want to say, don't you?"

"Okay, some guy," she says. "Some guy who thinks he's a man because he put a notch in his gun--whatever it is men do."

"Geez--" he says.

"Well, it's true." She points at him. "Who's bragging, Darren?--that's what I want to know. Who's the loud mouth? You know." She's got that finger raised. "Who came out of that party bragging. You've had to have heard." And then, eyes full of blitz. "It wasn't you?--God Almighty, I pray it wasn't you--"

"It wasn't me," he says.

She wipes her fingers through her eyes.

"How do you know you got the whole truth?" he says.

"I do," she says.

"Because we're all alike--is that it? You can't trust any of us? Because that's the way we are--every last guy on the planet? We're all bad asses."

"I know when people are telling the truth," she says.

"Maybe I am telling the truth," he says. "Maybe she's lying--this girl. You ever think of that? There wasn't any Barbie dolls at that party, Mom--""

"No Kristines either," she says.


"You know, don't you?" she says. And then, right away, "She got raped, Darren. That's the truth. Some things you just know." She took his hand. "I want to know who," she said. "I can't do a thing legally, but I want to know--and I want you to know. You're my son. I raised you better than this."

What he wanted to say was something about the old man, but he couldn't--not just then. He could have too--he could have brought it up, how he was raised. He could have thrown it in her face. Outside the patio door the lawn is starting to green. It's a late spring, and a squirrel is hanging upside down from the clothes line pole, trying to get to the bird feeder like they always do.

"So who were you with?" she says. "Kristine is gone for the weekend. There's a bunch of girls from another school, plenty of beer. Which one of my students were you with, Darren?"

"Nobody," he says. A lie.

"I know better," she says. "Kids tell me things. I'm the counselor, remember?"

"Does everybody know everybody here?" he says.

But he can't help but remember. The bedroom in that party house belonged to some little girl. There's a picture of great-great grandparents, a man in a chair and his fat wife behind him, something out of the Gold Rush or something--that old, like saints on the wall. A dresser with two Japanese boxes full of earrings and bracelets--girl stuff, like Steph's. A Bible on the little table beside the bed. Kid's Bible--white cover, with pictures, one of those. And there he was. Kristine was gone. Some girl it wasn't dark enough not to see in the light of one of those huge farm lights making the whole place bright as day through the window, even though the shade was drawn. Whatever he'd do, she'd giggle. Lois, she said, something like that. Dumb name--Mayberry name if he ever heard it. Two open beers beside parked beside frilly photo albums on the table with a Daffy Duck light. And there's some giggle-box beside him.

"It wasn't me," he told his mother, because it wasn't him either. He wasn't lying. Not that he wouldn't have gone the whole nine yards right then and there. But he didn't force anything. The whole room smelled like his little sister. And more. His old man was in there, too. His old man was in him, in his molecules, in his genes. He's lying there beside this giggling girl and he gets this big bad look into the darkness inside him, and what he finds is his own old man. "I didn't rape anybody, Mom," he tells her, because he didn't.

"I believe you," she says. "But you know who did." She's grabs a hold of his hand. "And I want to know."

"Why?" he says.

"Because I don't want the guy ever again in my house."

That's what happened.

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