couldn't die. He had finals.
Edward Morris Jr.
When he slipped on the antifreeze in the crosswalk
while trudging the last mile to homeroom, the lowrider pickup
truck full of stoned football players pulped his midsection.
His last thoughts were whether or not he could
make up the SATs, and a confused, distant realization that he'd
forgotten to take out the trash before he slogged the last cup
of coffee and bombed it out of the line of sight of the house
to light a grateful Marlboro.
He couldn't die. He had finals.
The thought kept slipping away and coming back,
pulsing through his brain as the will to power rose slowly,
with in-between scenes strobing into repressed memory. The sealant
on the casket-liner was still fresh when he got the get-up-and-go.
He had a hard head. His teachers were always telling him that
he could move mountains if he just buckled down and did it.
But it was touch-and-go for a while.
When he got back home, he half expected his parents
to ream him out and make him get a summer job to pay for the
funeral. Under better circumstances, he'd probably agree.
School the next day was heaven.
He smoked a joint with the security guard in the
morning, and learned gory strike songs from Bloody Mingo County,
West Virginia. Filled with smoke and bravado, he rose during
the morning announcements and roared that high school had nothing
to do with reality, that what people managed to actually learn
on their own would be their only salvation.
But he was drowned out when the students mechanically,
somnambulistically began to rise and pledge the flag before
Mrs. Johnson's Prozac hand could twitch out 9-1-1.
Swami-like, he scryed for the pregnant transfer
student who sat behind him, and showed her incontrovertible
evidence, in symbols so personal to her that she could only
gasp, that she didn't have to abort if she didn't really want
to that she could, in fact, get state aid to stay in
school and be moving on with college in a year and a half if
she just patched things up with her mom and looked for the information
in the right places. The girl kissed him on the cheek, leaving
him to puzzle and predict.
At lunch, he went for a walk downtown to clear
his head and caught the principal staggering out of the Pipe
Room Bar. He and Dr. Robertson revolving-doored it back in and
had a beer in the back room. They also had a very nice chat
about arts funding, the U.S. Constitution as it applied to minors,
and kids who had to turn their T-shirts inside-out because the
administration didn't like to think about what the existence
of a band like the Dead Kennedys might mean for their own worldview
that went as far as the Allegheny Ridge.
He showed the principal some Bible passages that
the good doctor was less than familiar with, the introductory
notes from Charles Fort's New Lands, and a Harlan Ellison
short story called "Eidolons." The principal left
the bar snarling, fragile, hypoglycemic and possessed ... and
cackled quietly, shaking a fist at the sky.
But a white light kept blurring the edges of his
vision through the sunglasses he somehow managed to get away
with wearing in sixth-hour study hall. A timeless, hazy glow
kept pulling him forward from his seat and the old tenured bat
on duty at the desk there in Room 54 grated: "Siddown if
ya don't have a pass."
He sang Figaro's famous opening declamation from
"The Barber of Seville" and breathed into her face
the pure-ergotamine spores of a punctured glenoid cavity's rot
behind his black hoody. And then he did, indeed, sit back down
and got back to where he'd left off ...
"Lookit him drawin' pictures," the diamond
dog behind him whispered through her gum. "I bet he's on
Mrs. Garver was later to bail from the room and
make a hysterical conference call from the office to her two
estranged sons, sobbing that it was never too late to patch
things up if they'd only listen.
But he did not see that. He was in English class,
analyzing Jesse Glass' poem, "Gnosis-M,'' watching with
delicate hunger the looks of rapt understanding on the faces
of all those rich idiots.
This was what he came back for, the priceless
sanguine apocalyptic light in all their eyes.
And then Uriel was smirking like LL Cool J beside
him, straightening his skinny black tie with the little sickle
for a tack.
"Pass from the nurse," the archangel
whispered. "Show's over. But don't trip. You gonna see
some things you'd never believe. It's off the hook."
So, shrugging, he let it go, let it pass, let
it wash away. When they got to the lobby, he found that he was
strong enough after all to not look back.