Growing Pains

School was so annoying yesterday. My teachers always call on me to read or ask me what I think the answer is. I think it must be because I read better than the other kids or something. They called on me a lot yesterday and I really wasn’t in the mood for it. Some of my teachers had my brothers and sisters in class, too, but they’re all a lot older, so I think some of their teachers are gone now. Dead or quit or moved. They were all pretty smart, though, so I think my teachers think I am too. Stupid teachers.

Recess has been really cool this year, though. Last year there were so many kids around, and we had to deal with the immature kids who were still in second and third grade. This year, we get picked up at the junior high school (where I’ll go next year), and they drive us to Loda in the bus. There are some younger kids around, but mostly it’s just us fifth graders, especially at recess. I think their recess is at a different time. Anyway, it’s cool ‘cause we can get some really good games in at recess. Sometimes we play football, but lately we’ve been playing some really good games of soccer. I really like the soccer, ‘cause I’m pretty good at kicking the ball right. Mr. Martin, the p.e. teacher, said that it’s dribbling the ball in soccer just like dribbling the basketball with your hands, but basketball’s pretty stupid. We have to play basketball when it’s colder out, ‘cause we’re supposed to stay on the pavement so we don’t track snow or mud in the school. I play basketball then, but I don’t like it, so mostly I just try to mess up the other team. When it’s hotter, we play baseball sometimes, too. I like to catch, and I can do good at bat most of the time.

The worst part of the day is the ride home from Loda. Yesterday’s ride seemed to take longer than usual. Mom brought me to school that morning because I missed the bus, so it seemed like forever getting home afterwards. We have assigned seats on the bus, so I have to sit by some of the stupid kids. Richie and Stephen sit next to each other near the back of the bus. They’re lucky. All I can do is sit there and look out the window at all the stupid cornfields. The farm kids who sit near me just look out the windows, too.

Some of the worst kids at school are the farm kids. They wear flannel and overalls just like the dumb hicks in the movies. The kid who sat in front of me last year, Jimmy, smelled kind of funny. There were a couple of days when I thought he might have pooped in his pants or forgot to wipe, but most of the time it was just a weird smell. His hair had like a fuzzy spot on the back of his head from when he slept. He would turn around when the teacher was talking and tell me something that he thought was funny, but it never was, and then the teacher would call on me to read or answer a question. And I wouldn’t hear the question or know where to start reading because that stupid farmer kid was talking to me. He sort of reminds me of some of my cousins on my Dad’s side, though, so I’m not mean to him. He’s sitting right across the aisle from me right now. I don’t smell him right now, but I bet he’s wondering if anybody will see if he picks his nose and eats it.

My Dad and I went fishing last summer when he picked me up and took me to where he lives in Michigan. I was up there for like four or five days, and I really liked it. I don’t get to see him very often, since lives so far away and works and stuff. I guess mom was still kind of mad at him because he had the woman he lived with in Michigan as a girlfriend when I was born, and mom didn’t know about it until she answered the phone one day when mom was calling Dad. I guess mom still wanted him as a boyfriend then, but when that woman answered the phone, mom drove to where he lived to tell him what she thought of him. I guess he was a trucker then, and mom told him that he didn’t have to bother having two homes anymore, he could just stay in Michigan. That’s what Spencer told me, anyway.

Spencer is one of my older brothers. I have three brothers and two sisters that live with me. They’re all older. I have a half-sister named Terry who lives with her mom, and she’s older, too. We have the same Dad and different moms. None of my brothers or sisters who live with me have the same Dad as I do. Tim and Rose’s Dad died after Rose was born, so mom married Spencer’s Dad. I’ve seen Spencer’s Dad before, but I never really got to know him. I guess mom doesn’t like him very much, either. She was pretty mad when Chris wanted to live with him instead of her when he came back from the smart school. He moved back in, though, before he left for college. I guess his Dad was drinking a lot then.

I remember Tim leaving for school once, too. I don’t think he was going to college, but it might have been a different smart school that he went to. I was really little when he left for that, but I remember being pretty mad at him, ‘cause he was my favorite before he left. He came back for a while, and was going to everyone else’s school again, but then he graduated. Then he went to the Marines, so I got to go out to California and see him graduate from that. It was a really cool trip out there, but I went with mom and Grandma, and Grandma is kind of crazy. She smokes cigarettes all of the time and really starts to talk mean about people if she gets mad about something. We got to drive through the mountains, though, and we could see the ocean, so it was cool.

Rose has moved in and out of the house a lot. She’s been living in Champaign for a while, like more than a year or something. Carol and Spencer both still live here, but Spencer goes to stay with his Dad for a while sometimes. They drive, though, so they’re not always around very much. Most nights mom and I get some pizza or Just Hamburgers or Hardee’s. I guess mom used to have a pizzeria, but that was before I was born. They always tell me how good the calzones were and that they haven’t found anyone who makes them as good as she did. I still think Pizza Hut is pretty good. They don’t have any calzones, though.

When I went to Michigan with my Dad, we had pizza at a bar there, and it was pretty good. He said that you can always get good food in the small bars that look dirty. He drank a lot of beers there, and when we went fishing he drank more. He’s almost as bad as Craig was. Craig was mom’s boyfriend for a while, but he died. He drank every day and smoked cigarettes all the time. He would always have a bottle of Jim Beam in his back pocket, and he’d take a big drink of that and then drink some beer real quick. He usually drank a whole box of beer everyday. He didn’t work very much, mom said he didn’t have to because he went to Vietnam. I don’t know what’s over there, but if I could just hang out and drink beer all day, I’d like to go there. But Craig died because he drank all the time, so maybe I wouldn’t want to go over there.

My Dad didn’t drink as much as Craig. He did buy some wine coolers for me and his girlfriend’s son, Jonathan, when we went fishing in Michigan. We got to drink some of those, so I drank mine real fast and couldn’t stop laughing when I was done. I tried to tell them the story about tying Louie up with a hose and throwing him off the porch, but I was laughing so much I couldn’t tell it. That was a lot of fun, but I don’t think we caught any fish that night.

My favorite part of the trip was driving there and back. My Dad has a big Harley Davidson, and it’s awesome to ride on. I’m gonna get a Harley sometime, too. Then I can go to Michigan whenever I want and go fishing. Maybe I’ll even go to Vietnam. I don’t know, though. I don’t wanna cough like Craig every morning or yell when I’m sleeping. Mom said his nightmares are from Vietnam, too. He drove a Harley Davidson, too, but not when he was living with us. He wasn’t supposed to drive because he got caught driving after drinking a bunch of beers. I saw a picture of him and his brother by some cool Harleys, though, but his brother died, too. His brother had been dead for a long time when he lived with us, because he crashed his Harley. I don’t know, but I think he’d probably had some beers when he crashed.

My Dad drove after drinking beers, too, but he told me that you just weren’t supposed to drive “drunk.” He said you have to drink more than six beers for that. I don’t think he’d drink more than six to drive his Harley. He wouldn’t want to crash it, ‘cause it’s a really great bike. I wonder if I drank too many wine coolers to drive. I think I only had three or four, so I think I could have done it.

I only drove one time before. Chris had come home from school for the weekend and was going to Rantoul for some Central Park, and when we went home he let me drive out in the country. I did pretty good, but he told me that I need to work on my stopping. We were coming up to a stop sign and I slowed down a lot but there was still a long way for the stop sign, so I started going faster, and then the stop sign got there before I was going slow enough to stop before I was in the middle of the road. He let me drive a little bit longer and then we stopped and he drove the rest of the way. He told me the next day that when we got out, he dropped his cell phone, and didn’t know until that morning. He drove back out there and found where we got out, and he looked around for a while and found it all smashed up. I laughed at him. I don’t know if he got a new one yet.

We saw a deer that night, too. Lucky it was when Chris was driving, ‘cause I probably would’ve wrecked. That would’ve sucked. Chris told me about a time when he stole mom’s van in the middle of the night when he was too young to drive and they saw a deer on a country road. He said it ran right into the side of the van near the driver door and he could see the head smack against the hood, but the deer still ran away afterward. I think that maybe after I drive some more times, I’ll try taking mom’s car while she’s sleeping. It’d be awesome if me and Richie and Stephen could just drive around wherever we wanted to. I’d just run the stupid deer over.

Dad used to hunt deer. He showed me a couple of pictures of the bucks he got with his bow and arrows. He still had the bow, and he let me shoot some targets in his yard in Michigan. I don’t think it was the same bow he used to hunt, though. It was kinda small, and it wasn’t that hard to pull the string. Jonathon couldn’t pull the string back, though, and he’s like a year older than me. I’m taller than most of the kids in my class, probably because my Dad is so big. Jonathon’s Dad must not have been too tall.

After school yesterday, I was supposed to go straight home. My friends and I usually hang out after school for a while. Mom never really gets home before six o’clock on days that she works, so it’s no big deal if I come home between six and seven, but my teacher told me that my mom had called to tell me to go straight home. She called once or twice before when she wanted me to come straight home to help clean the house. Richie and Stephen and sometimes Louie and I hang out and find something to do. The cops in town hate it when we ride around on our skateboards, ‘cause they always think we are making some kind of trouble. We usually don’t try to do stuff we’ll get in trouble for, but sometimes we get in trouble anyway. One time all we were doing was skating in the pavilion at Pells Park. We didn’t do anything wrong, and Officer Baine wrote us a warning ticket. Mom got pretty mad, not at me, but at Officer Baine. She said that it was really stupid that the cops in this town have nothing better to do than bother kids for having fun. She said that they should be trying to find the older kids who were drinking and smoking dope. I thought that was funny, especially because she told him that to his face when he was dropping me off at home, and she wadded up the warning and told him to go do some real work.

Rose and Chris used to smoke a lot of pot when they lived here. They would smoke with Carol, too, but Carol doesn’t do it anymore, and she said Chris quit, too. I don’t think Rose quit. Her boyfriend has long hair and a beard, and when she took me to Champaign to see where they lived, he was wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt and they wouldn’t let me see their room. But when they lived here, they used to have a lot of people come over and go in the basement, and I would go down there when they were gone. In a box behind the couch, there were some weird little pipes and a bunch of seeds. Sometimes I found empty bottles back there, too. I wonder if mom would tell Officer Baine about all of that stuff. She probably would. She told Rose it served her right when she got suspended from school for smoking cigarettes.

When we got out of school yesterday, Richie and Stephen said they were going to hang out at Richie’s house, so Louie and I rode home. Louie lived in the same direction as me, but farther, so he rides with me if I go home after school. He told me to call them if I could come out later that day. Louie probably wouldn’t be able to hang out. His parents were pretty strict. We didn’t even bother to tell him to call anymore, ‘cause he never did.

When we got to my house, I wondered what was going on, ‘cause mom was home, but she had gone to work that day. I said bye to Louie and went inside. My Aunt Linda was over. She is my Dad’s sister, but she and my mom stayed friends even after mom and Dad broke up. I don’t like her much, though. She’s always telling me that I should do more housework and stuff. If our yard was mowed already in the summer, she would make me come over and mow hers, too. She says that she and my mom work hard and they’re old, so I should help out.

Mom looked really sad. She was sitting at the dining room table with Linda, who looked pretty bad, too. I hadn’t seen mom like that since Craig died. Linda told me to sit down with them. I tried to think if I’d done something wrong, but I couldn’t think of anything, so I sat down. Mom didn’t say anything, but started crying pretty bad.

“Bob, your Dad was in a wreck today,” Linda said, starting to cry, too. She was having a hard time talking, but she went on, “he was riding his bike on the interstate in Indiana, and he hit a deer. He’s in the hospital, but he’s on life support. They will have to decide tomorrow whether or not to keep him on life support.”

I just sat and stared at both of them. They were crying pretty hard, and I didn’t know what to do. I walked up to my bedroom and got in bed, and I pulled the blankets over me. I stayed there all night, and I don’t even know if I slept at all.

I woke up this morning and went downstairs. Mom was in the living room with Rose, Carol, and Spencer. They all stared, but no one said anything. Mom’s eyes were red, and I saw a tear roll down her cheek.

“Can I go to see him?” I asked.

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