A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26, 2010. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).
Evelyn has changed into her household sweats by the time she enters the Quilt Room. The smile on her face more serene than usual, she doesn’t sit down right away. Instead, she stretches. And one stretch leads to another.
It’s as if Evelyn cannot stop stretching.
In some way she doesn’t quite grasp, Evelyn is feeling her body open up. Each opening leading to another portal. Each portal leading to another opening.
At a certain point, Evelyn is very close to being able to kiss her own kneecaps.
Not bad, she thinks, for a woman who is two years shy of seventy.
Then, she shifts her focus to the project. The bowl of folded-up papers. She exhales and takes her seat.
She looks to the bowl, which became full again four or five days ago, thus signaling the beginning of Round Two. “Okay,” she says to no one. “Let’s get to it.”
She draws a square and unfolds it. PATRICK, AGE 11-14.
Evelyn finds the box, brings it back to her work area and places it in front of her.
So, Patrick, she thinks, as she begins to open the box. Do you have something for me?
Evelyn pulls out a polo shirt, clearly from the higher end of the age range. Though she likes the lime green color, the shirt has no history, no meat. She casts it aside, adding to the pile she will ultimately take to the thrift shop. Three polo shirts later, she comes upon a tee shirt that Patrick received from his summer camp, a co-ed experience in the Berkshires.
Looking at the logo and the Camp Hickory name, which appears to be constructed out of perfectly rectangular tree branches, Evelyn remembers a discussion that raised more questions than it ever answered.
Evelyn and Davy were sipping after-dinner coffee while sitting side-by-side at the counter. It was a cool, April night, and a nice backyard breeze floated into the kitchen through the sliding screen door.
Evelyn wanted desperately to enjoy the breeze, but Adam, who had just turned eleven, was on her mind. That day, he had announced, rather forcefully, that he did not want to go to Camp Hickory that summer.
“But it’ll be good for you to get away for a few weeks, sweetheart,” Evelyn had said, not understanding her son’s lack of enthusiasm and thinking she might be able to change his mind.
“You can’t make me!” he then said to her, tears welling up in his eyes.
“But I thought you had fun there last summer!” Evelyn countered, feeling surprised and confused by his firm and emotional pronouncement.
“I don’t want to go!” Adam stated again.
When Evelyn shared this information with Davy before dinner, his response had been typically relaxed. He shrugged his shoulders and suggested that they talk about alternatives. He didn’t seem concerned that Adam was so vehemently opposed to Camp Hickory. And that lack of concern allowed him to let it go.
Evelyn, however, could not let it go, and because she didn’t feel like being alone in her obsession, she brought it up again.
“Couldn’t you just talk to Adam about it, Davy? I just think it’s better if he goes there. I mean, we know Camp Hickory. It’s not too far away. It’s affordable. They offer a nice variety of programs.
“Patrick always loved it,” she added then, after a pause.
“Patrick always loved what?” their older son asked, entering the kitchen.
“Hey, sweetie,” Evelyn said, smiling at her grown-up boy. “Did you have fun with Michael and Ray?”
“It was okay,” replied Patrick, who was home on Spring Break and had just met up with some former high school pals.
“Where’d you go?” asked Davy, his voice the most energetic in the room.
“The Canteen,” Patrick responded, opening the refrigerator door and surveying its contents.
“Of course,” Evelyn commented. “That’s where everybody goes.”
“It wasn’t too crowded, actually,” Patrick said, his tone of voice even. “But I didn’t get much to eat.”
“Pull out that casserole dish on the third shelf,” Evelyn suggested.
Patrick opened the lid of the casserole and nodded in approval. The macaroni and ground beef dish was always one of his favorites. He then closed the fridge door and, casserole in hand, he ambled over to the counter. Standing across from where his parents were sitting, he opened a drawer, retrieved a fork, and began to eat the cold casserole directly out of the serving dish.
“Patrick!” his mother exclaimed, assuming a scolding tone.
“What,” asked Patrick.
“Don’t you want to heat it up?”
“No. This is fine.”
“Well, how about a plate? Wouldn’t you like to scoop some onto a plate?”
“No. This is fine.”
Davy laughed at the mother-son interchange. “It’s efficient!” he suggested.
“Thanks for the support, sweetie,” Evelyn said tamely to her husband.
“So you were talking about me when I came in,” Patrick said then, between bites of cold casserole. “Something I loved, apparently.”
“Camp Hickory,” Evelyn stated. “You enjoyed it, didn’t you?”
“It was pretty cool. Yeah, I liked it. Why? Are you thinking about sending me there as a graduation present?”
“No, we were thinking about giving you a car,” Evelyn responded, with a facetiousness that was obvious to all of them.
“Great,” Patrick said. “Then I can drive to camp.”
“Oh, you’re such a smart-ass!” Evelyn commented then.
“He got that from you, you know!” she then said to Davy, love in her eyes and a playful lilt in her voice.
“No,” Davy said. “I think he’s better at it than I am!”
“Glad to make you proud, Dad,” was Patrick’s contribution, delivered in the monotone that he often used to get attention.
“Patrick, you do make me proud,” Davy said, smiling at his son. “You make me very proud. But not because you’re a smart-ass.”
“Thanks, Dad. So, what’s the deal with Camp Hickory? Any reason it’s the hot discussion topic tonight?”
“It’s Adam,” Evelyn responded. “He told me today that he doesn’t want to go there this summer. He was very serious.”
“Really,” said Patrick, a hint of inflection in his voice.
“So what do you think, son?” Davy asked then, more interested in the situation, apparently, than he had indicated to Evelyn earlier.
Patrick, having finished the leftover casserole, walked the dish to the sink and ran water into it. As he reached for a paper towel to wipe his hands, the energy in the kitchen took on a suspenseful tone. Evelyn could tell that Patrick had an opinion. She knew that her son was taking his time to find the best possible way to express that opinion. And as he continued to buy that time, he walked to the fridge and retrieved a bottle of beer. Returning to his place at the counter, he twisted off the cap and placed it on the counter. Took a swig. Placed the bottle on the counter.
“Adam is different,” Patrick said finally, noticing the engrossed expressions on the faces of his mother and father. “Don’t get me wrong. I love him like a brother. But he’s not a normal kid.”
“How do you mean?” Evelyn asked, cradling her coffee mug.
“He just doesn’t seem to enjoy kid things, you know? I don’t know how else to explain it. Anyway, I think if he doesn’t want to go to camp, then he shouldn’t have to. And,” Patrick added, taking another swig of beer, “I kind of admire him for speaking up. I think that took a lot of courage.”
“You did like Camp Hickory, though, didn’t you, Patrick?” Evelyn asked then.
“I thought it was great!”
“I think I’m gonna watch some TV upstairs. Okay with you guys?”
“Of course!” Evelyn responded, surprised that Patrick was asking their permission. “Of course!”
After Patrick had left the room, Evelyn turned to her husband. “So?” she asked him, the question obvious.
“I don’t think we should force Adam to go to camp if he doesn’t want to. And it’s interesting,” Davy added, “I’d never considered this before, but I think Adam might feel the way I did when I was a kid.”
“How do you mean?”
“When I was a kid, I felt, I don’t know, out of place a lot of the time. Like I wasn’t meant to be a kid. I think I was always meant to be an adult.”
“But, Davy,” Evelyn chides, smiling, “you act like a kid now!”
“That’s right. And being a kid as an adult is a hell of a lot more fun than being a kid as a kid.”
“You’re a nut,” Evelyn said, leaning into him for a kiss.
What strikes Evelyn now is that Adam still does not act like a kid. He just cannot seem to escape the earnestness that wakes him up in the morning and takes him through his day’s activities. She wonders if Davy’s observation that night had been correct. She understood it then. And she appreciated it. She even chose to believe that it was true. But Davy’s comments weren’t really about Adam; they were about Davy. Adam’s true identity, apparently, seemed to elude both of them.
Evelyn makes a mental note to call Adam tomorrow. She was planning to speak with him soon, anyway, to see if he will be coming home for Thanksgiving. But she now realizes that regardless of his holiday plans, she needs to make a date. Go into the City, perhaps, and have dinner with him. He’s clearly been haunting her. How else was he able to take possession of the foray into Patrick’s age 11-14 box of old clothes?
* * *
to be continued on May 28th.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.