chapter 15


–  – -  - – -–- craffin -–- – - - - - - -  - -  -   -   -    -     -


I closed myself in the bathroom. splashd water on my face and lookd in the mir ror to make sure it was still me there.

good job holdin it together there al, thats what i shoulda said.

but all i could think about was how close i was to not holdin it 
together. well and how fuckd up it would be to talk to claire rightnow.

817, 323, 50...

9 1 ? or was it 1 9 ?

stupid cellphones.

817, 323, 5091. SEND

ring . . .

rang . . .

rung . . .

we’re sorry, the voicemailbox of the verizon
customer you are trying to reach is full. . . .

[ you know the one im talkin about? where she sounds like, Are you still there? ]

that coulda been claire.

claires a verizon customer.

better try the other way jus to be safe.

817 323 5019. send.

the number you are trying to reach is not in ser

the first one again, justin case.

we’re sorry, the voicemailbox of the verizon customer
you are trying to reach is full. . . . goodbye.


When somebody s freakin out at burningman, it can help to hav em talk to someone from their real life. maybe the same thing applied to athens. but who else could i call?

forget religion, the last refuge of a scoundrel is his mama. if he has a mama. which i did, even if i forgot sometimes.

my parents would probly be home. and, like most members of their generation, they couldnot resist a ringing telephone.

i diald from memory, the one number ill never forget.

936. 435

somebody bangd on the door.

hello? [ i calld thru the door ]

[ no anser ]

hel lo?

i crackd open the door a  s n i f f i n g   d o g   n o s e s n i f f i n g d o g n o s e s n i f f i n g d o g n o s e f o r c e d  its way in.

once his nose was in, i had no choice but to
let the rest of max in. soon as he was inside, he collapsd at my feet.
thats all he seemd to want, was to be on my feet.

936 435 3627. send.


should i tellem about my car? i dont my mom to start worrying.


doesnt matter, they wont pickup.


infact id be shockd if they did. athens is like a blackhole,

nothin ever gets in or out


it was like hearin her voice for the first time.

hello? is anybody there?


Al? is that you?

its me. its good to hear your voice mama.

its good to hear yours too al. what a—

suprize... so, how was your trip?

howd you know i was on a trip?

[ pause ]

i talkd to claire.


thi smornin.

ive been tryin to reacher allday, how is she?

shes o-k.

whats the matter?

nothin [ khu-hff ] sorry, i got this throat thing from

daddy, he was only sick for a day, you know daddy,

but ive had this thing since mondee

you sure shes alright?

shes fine.

and evrythings o-k with the baby?

yes, al. how re you?

im a litle stressd. my phone died and i cant get a hold of

claire, and my cars actin up.

your car?

i think its just the battery. so whadid claire say?

nothin much. she got to newyork safe.

she misses you.

shes not mad, is she?

no, uh=uh.

what? did she say somethin?

she said you were crazy for goin on that

trip, but i think she meant the good kinda

crazy. im still gettin use to yall sayin crazy

like that. it use ta mean somethin bad.

i am crazy i guess. i hope its the good kind.

and your remembrin to take your medicine?


[ a lie ]

the one in the morning and the one at night? cause

daddy said if you forget one, it could increase the

sideffects of the other one.

i wont forget.

you sure your okay al?

im fine.

[ another lie. altho i hafta say, lyin to your mother is the best kinda lyin,

because, how else would you live your life?  ]

well be careful. and call me when you get home so ill know you

made it safe.


put a reminder in your phone.

i will.

and never forget your mama loves ya.

mama, whats the matter?

nothin. is anything the matta with you?

i just wish i could talk to claire.

you want me to giver a message?

why? are you gona talk to her again?

i dont know, i was just offrin.

actialy yes. teller my phone died and i havent been able to charge

it, thats why i havent calld back, and if im not there to pick her up at the
airport tomoro im probly havin car issues and she should just take a cab,
and im sory ill be there as soon as i can. and teller i love her—

a strange thing
to say to your mother. but it felt like i was sending a missiv from some
remote outpost.

The call didnot have the intended efect.

im not like superamazing at reading people over the phone, but id
say my mother was hiding something. and she wasnt the type to hide

why would she have talkd to claire? she and claire talkd on the phone ocasionly, thru me. but they never calld each other.

what if somethin happend to claire? no, i askd about that, she wouldnt lie to me directly.

maybe claire was upset. she couldve got to new york and had this revelation that she was makin a big mistake, and she hadnt been able to get aholdof me and needed to talk to somebody so she calld my mother.

or i dont know, it could be goodnews. like if that
gallery chick wanted to giver a show and she calld my mom to share
the news and swore her to secrecy—

i had no idea, basicly.

I went out to the porch and found D and andy in the middle of a conversation.

your flounderin.

no dude im jussayin

your flounderin, D. thats whatcha do when you know your rong.

i am not floundrin andy, all im sayin is hes secret, he coulda

been heer a week for all we know.

do you realy think he coulda been hear even an hour and

somebody wouldnta told somebody?

they noticed me then, and changed the subject.

so how do you feel about being bait, a-l?

for what?

for a trap [ D ]

to catch taylor [ andy ]

why do you wana catch taylor?

to keepim from filmin you [ D ]

i dont think hes gona try and film me. i told im i couldnt

do any more takes.

leme explain somethin  [ D gave me the serius look ] 

the second you let that individual film you, you signed up for two years, minimum.
either fightin im, or bein in his movie, i would recomend fighting— oh dont frett
a-l, we wont make you fightim tonite, you just got here. well fightim for you!

but we only shot this one scene.

dudnt matter. if he is in control of his faculties

tonite, he will find you and he will film you. hes your advasary now, you might
as well accept it. hes a worthy advasary, he was mine for two  an a haf years.

hes still your advasary, D.

no, because i defeated him in final battle.

[  her tone of voice suggested she was bein absurd, but

also somehow serius. this was to become a pattern  ]

i would say hes no longer your nemesis. but hes still

your advasary.

never was my nemisis, my nemisis is andrew prater.

evrybodys nemesis is andrew prater.

yall  [ my head was heating up ]  i think  i need

im realy confused.

look at his lil forehead wrinklin up andy, idnt he the most

preshus thing you ever laid eyes on?

he is prety preshus.

i just wana squeez his noggin like a ripe melon til

it goes pop!

she mimed how she would squeez my noggin like a ripe melon til it went pop.

Lookin back, it all seems so much more unsettling than it did at the time. now im wondrin why i wasnt headin for the hills.

but i wasnt. infact it was quite the oposit. this is when i first
started to imagine what it would be like if i moved here. i could work
at bluesky and pickup a few classes at the comunity college, im sure
they had one, and claire, i bet its cheap to live here, she could get
somethin partime, give her time to paint. course there was insurance
to think about—

but could i even imagine claire in athens? i mean realy?
no way. claire or gabe. its like they were to the wrong scale, or like mixin
lincon logs and legos, or somethin.

i suddenly felt so far away from her. from them.

so far away

and then i couldnt hold it back anymore yall,
i broke down. usualy i cant even muster a tear for funerals or breakups,
but there was nothin i could do to stop it, not once it got started, it was
like a sneeze or, you know—

andy put a hand on my sholder.

i know its hard.

i miss her.

i know ya do al, i know ya do.

let go [ D ] its ok to let go. it dudnt

mean you dont love her.

uptil then id been tryin to hold back the tears, but once i gave up and lettem flow, i felt the sadness fall away and i could see what was underneeth it—


i dont know what for,
for evrything, even the things that made me sad. claire and gabe and the
little life wed made for ourselvs, and all the things to come, bein a famly,

and my ridiculus obsesion with bluesky which had somehow led to me cryin
in front of people who until an hour ago were complete strangers, and max,
the way he lookd at me like id hung the moon. i rememberd a quote i once
saw at the museum of jurassic tecnology— the universe is full of the lives of
perfect creatures

then all of a sudden i was laughing. not like a hah-hah laff, more like a guffaw, the kind that starts in your belly.

not that i stopt cryin. i was still doin that too.

D whisperd—

hes craffin.

you started it, D [ andy ]

tis true.

i couldnt stop— cryin, laffin—

i use to think there was a difrence.

andy said—

your doin great, al.

D echoed—

thats awsom. just let go. let go

keep scrolling

and i did let go

and it was awsom