Part II: Adam’s Apple Trick
Jeremiah Ritten got the call at the body shop and immediately jumped on his bike. He kept his mouth open the whole way, but nary a bug sailed into him; four times out of seven, he could make it home free from bugs, and it seemed to him that the ratio was improving every year. At home, he had a scotch. When the door slammed shut, he stood up.
“You heard I guess?” asked Adam.
“Sorry Dad. Going to give me hell?”
“Sure. What flavour? Poached, braised, or broiled?”
“Don’t be like that, Dad. Just say it and let’s go.”
Jeremiah sat and sipped the scotch. “Fine. I think you’re done, like I was. Same guy. Not a bad guy. But nothing special. You won’t starve, you won’t be a criminal, you might even have kids. But you’ll just be another me. Make the same mistakes, do the same stupid shit.”
“Can I have some scotch?”
Adam sat on the stool next to him. “There’s nothing wrong with you, Dad. I have no problem being like you, why would I?”
“Well that’s the issue, isn’t it? Questions like that.”
“Fine. But you have to know, exams aren’t for me. School’s not for me. But I got something I’m working on, something big. You’ll see. Just hold on, okay?”
For the first time in five years, Jeremiah had a second drink. Adam took a shower and put on a shirt. “What’s her name, at least?” called Jeremiah, as Adam snatched the van keys.
“Janice. She looks like Elisabeth Sladen from Doctor Who.”
“No one knows who that is!”
“But you do!” cried Adam, running out.
Adam drove in an evening moment between sunset and insects, in a breeze that was heavy enough to sweep in the car and hide in the back seat. On the radio, Emily Haines was singing “nothing I’ve ever done right, happened on the safe side”. He parked on the road and rang the doorbell of 76 Priam Place.
Janice opened the door. Adam breathed; he had wanted more than anything to avoid trying to explain to her parents why he was here. She was wearing shorts, the first time he had ever seen her dressed like that.
“Hi,” he said.
Adam took a breath and told her that he was the one who had been slipping notes into her locker for the last three weeks, love poems with each letter written in a different colour of crayon. He pulled the latest one out of his pocket and showed it to her. “It’s me,” he said. “I used artist crayons, not kid ones. That’s why the lettering is so fine.”
“Well, I was hoping you’d go to grad dance with me.”
She stared at him.
“Do you know that you look like Elisabeth Sladen?”
“Never mind. How about it, then? Grad dance I mean?”
And with that word, Adam became keenly aware that he had pulled up in his father’s full-size red van; that he was wearing sneakers; that the kid next door was picking his nose; and that there was someone behind Janice listening to the conversation.
“No,” she said again, though he hadn’t made a sound.
“Okay. Fair enough.”
“Can you leave now?”
“Yeah sure. Sure. But I was wondering. Was just thinking…” He took off his baseball cap and tucked it into his back pocket. “Can I ask you something? Won’t take but a minute. You see, I’ll need to explain this to some people and I’m not sure what to say. I made an ass of myself in school today, maybe you heard about it. And now this. I mean, I’ve had better days…” And to his credit, Adam kept talking even after the door closed on him, a full five minutes of addressing his problems to the wooden door with the pewter handle. Then he left.