THE DYING OF BOBBY MARS: SNEAK PEEK 6
If you haven’t read the beginning of The Dying of Bobby Mars, you can start by clicking here.
Hope you enjoy this uncorrected sneak peek.
The first day of school’s here. I stand waiting for the bus, alone. Alone is the norm. My father’s new job—he quit going over the road after my grandparents died—has him working the graveyard shift and slumbering like a vampire during the day. I remember eating a lot of poorly made bologna sandwiches. Five-year-olds aren’t the best at raising themselves, and I wish that my childhood was filled those family meals Sally or Darren always had. That would be more entertaining than sitting at the table, eating quietly, afraid to wake my snoring father. There were no family meals leading up to school. Just me, sitting at the kitchen table we never used together, watching happy families on the TV, eating whatever I could find in the fridge…while my father slept off his six-pack of beer—his pre-sleep ritual—and watching families live happily on the screen feeling envious. Crying sometimes. But now it’s the first day of school. I remember my father telling me that the first day of school is when I met Sally and Darren.
Maybe this isn’t so bad, I think. Yea, right…
The bus screeches to a halt and I hurry to get on. It will be nice to see them again. We had some good times. Look forward to that, Bobby. Your life may have sucked…a lot. But at least there were some good times. Hunting monsters at the creek, riding your bikes until the streetlights came on, your first kiss, being on stage listening to the crowd cheer for an encore, the sex, the parties, the rush of it all…
I step onto the bus, climbing the stairs and avoiding eye contact with anyone.
…but there was also pain littered throughout it all, too. Pain and sorrow that could only be escaped through cheap thrills and clouded minds.
I’m sitting alone on the bus until a girl with fiery hair and green eyes sits next to me. “Hi, I’m Sally.” She says. “I like your backpack. Batman’s my favorite, too.”
I say nothing.
“What’s your name?”
“Bobby.” I mumble.
“I have an uncle named Bob.” She says. “He smells funny, but he’s nice. Always has a bowl of candy for when we visit. What’s your favorite candy?”
“I don’t know,” I say, fidgeting. Looking out the windows, I see all the other children my age waiting at the seven bus stops after mine with their parents.
As we are driving down Route 111 to the school, the bus is buzzing with kids talking and laughing and bullying.
The school reeks of cleaner and new clothes. The teachers are all standing outside to greet us and ask us who we are. They herd us to our classrooms telling us where to hang our backpacks, and introducing us to our teachers. Mrs. Franks, the kindergarten teacher, greets us with bright enthusiasm that has the class of alive with joy. She instructs us to sit at the desks our names are written at. I’ve been assigned to sit with the kids who will play sports and be—as far as this town is concerned—normal. They’ll grow to hate me as much as I hate them. The morning carries on with introductions and Mrs. Franks talking explaining things.
At recess Sally comes up to me. “Want to play with me?”
“Okay,” I say not looking her in the eye.
“Okay, we’re going play monster. Do you know how?”
I shake my head.
“What? It’s the best. One of us is the monster and everyone runs from the monster and whoever the monster catches becomes a monster and then it’s their turn to chase. I’ll be the monster first.”
“This is tag.”
“No. It’s monster because you have to roar like a monster when you chase people and you don’t do that in tag.”
“O,” I say.
We play monster for a few minutes occasionally stopping so Sally can explain to me that I’m not doing it right or that I need to roar like this or louder or whatever. Reluctantly, I listen to her, but I can feel a smile on my face as I chase her roaring with a confidence I lost somewhere on the road of becoming five. Then she stops chasing me and roaring. I see her looking at Darren who’s set up a bunch of toy dinosaurs in a small circle.
I walk over to them. Sally and I watch as Darren re-enacts the conclusion of the dinosaur dynasty with his colorful plastic toys and a large rock.
He looks at us as smug as I remember him. If I had to describe him in a single word, it would be impish. And Sally would be angelic.
“Can I play?” Sally asks.
“Okay.” Darren says, and then he looks at me. “You want to play?”
I nod, and join them, christening our undying friendship with dinosaur battles. Me and Sally argue over who gets to be the tyrannosaurus rex. Darren puts up little fight in that regard. He’s content with throwing the rock.
“Sharptooth is my favorite!” Sally whines. “You can play with this one.”
She hands me the brachiosaurus.
Sally glares at me.
“Just give her the damn thing, Bobby-boy.” I say. “She’s not your enemy. Her and Darren and your father are all you have in this world…”
We three brave the tribulations of being a child in a village surrounded by a flat, endless expanse of corn together. We smile and drown in the juvenile joys that life will soon rob from us. It only takes a decade to spoil everything. Puberty set the stage with angst soaking our minds with hormones that will lead us to seek satisfactions in the only comforts a small town has: fucking and drugs. Those are the only things that brings out that spark these places rob from you.
“Us against them,” I say, seeing my grip give on the lime-green tyrannosaurus rex with the fluorescent yellow belly eyes lingering on Sally.
I watch Darren hurl the rock into the other dinosaurs, laughing, which gets Sally laughing, and then me. We’re all laughing, but it’s hard to enjoy this moment knowing what I know. Knowing what this small, quiet town in the middle of nowhere Illinois will do to us.
Why is isolation so celebrated? I wonder.
It’s safer, suppose. It makes everything easier to swallow. Looking up from the space you occupy is scary. Isn’t that why your dying with a needle hanging out of your arm watching your life flash before your eyes, Bobby-boy?
“You can play with him,” Darren says handing me the offensively orange stegosaurus with the light brown spines and spikes and a florescent yellow belly—the mark of a dinosaur according to these toys. “He’s the strongest because he has all those spikes on him.” He informs me.
“Okay.” I say taking the stegosaurus.
A thought hits me like a bolt of moral vengeance. I feel no different than the dinosaurs.
As if any dinosaur was terrified that it would one day end. That any dinosaur would worry that the glorious reign of tyrant lizards would become nothing more than ashes and dust. As if any of those ancient beasts wandering around their feral world cared to look skyward, and see the doom rocketing towards them.
Are you any different, Bobby Mars? Isn’t that why you’re watching the past unfold both powerless and fascinated? I tell myself. You refused to look up and see the doom that’s been coming for you all your life. That’s why you’re dying, Bobby-boy. You’re dying because you’re a fucking a coward…
That’s right, Bobby-boy. Too hard to dare for fucking more. Closed minds, safe confines…
I hear the bell ring. Children stampede, lining up single file as directed by the recess lady—a stern, strew of a woman…who I think also teaches gym class. Her mullet and blown up bangs look familiar, but I’m pretty sure that hairdo’s a requirement for female gym teachers. That and a mustache.
I line up behind Sally, who is still holding the tyrannosaurs rex and me, the stegosaurus. Our spirits animals. Darren’s spirit was always the comet. And the destruction and chaos it caused. It’s like he worshiped Eris and ate golden apples for breakfast or some shit. Sally and I will get tattoos of comets, and above those tattoos, it will read: In Memory of the Comet that Comes for Us All.
As we file into the building, I’m hit with that musky school smell that won’t dissipate until fall. That scent that festers over a hot summer day; strengthened by discount cleaning products and new school clothes. I haunt the blissful scene of younger times like a foreboding promise of the misery to be.
“None of you guys deserve what happens,” I say, but it is only a thought.
Can I prevent it? I wonder. A chilling thought that carries a weight my mind wasn’t ready for. There is nothing to change. This isn’t—
But if this were a collection of all my memories, I wouldn’t have seen my birth or hear everything that’s happening while I sleep. So, if I really am reliving my live from birth to the needle that brought me here, then perhaps I can…change things.
Is that what God has planned? Is that what he wants? For me to fix my life? If I mend my life, will I wake up next to Sally? Will I hear the children we never had calling out to us? Hear them jumping on the bed and asking if they can have pancakes with extra, extra maple syrup?
Then later I’ll meet up with Darren for bowling and beer, and reminisce about how we not only survived but escaped that black hole of a town we called home?
“Is that what you want, God?” I ask.
There’s no answer. The only noise is me and the twenty something kids in my class marching back from recess, still too hyped up to be quiet. We quickly take our seats as Mrs. Franks writes on the blackboard. I doodle. I glance up from the dinosaurs I’m drawing—I think that’s what they are anyway—to Sally who is playing with her new toy under her desk, her eyes occasionally checking to see if the teacher is looking, trying not to get caught, get in trouble, and to Darren who is fixated on the board like a child with limitless promise. Even now his eyes look so smug and smart. Intelligent enough for him to be so smug. I think Darren’s the smartest person I’ve ever known. But there’s someone else coming to mind too. Stupid smart…
“God! God, can you hear me? Do you want me to save them?” I scream. “Is this want you want? Is this what I’m supposed to do? God…”
Silence from above and the world below the heavens carries on as if there’s no other way for it to spin.
Is there even a someone listening? I wonder. This could just be how the brain dies… Neurons are firing in a panic. Hell, most of this could just be made up nonsense. Could just be my mind filling in all the gaps in my memory…
I mull the thought over in my mind while my five-year-old self returns to doodling. Out of the corner of my eye I see a girl whose hair looks like it hasn’t been cut once in her life, Brittany. She’s smiling, something that looks natural now… When Brittany joins our band of misfits, that smile will become challenging like her face forgot how. I can’t blame her though. Fuck, I doubt I’d be able to smile after walking even a few feet in her shoes.
“Do I have to sperate you two?” Mrs. Franks barks, killing the giggles and making Brittany’s eyes go wide, like nothing could be worse. She violently shakes her head no.
Mrs. Franks glares around the room a moment. “Does anyone know what shape this is?” She asks pointing to a square, someone answers.
A few of these questions pass before I return to drawing, ignoring everything around me. I watch myself put the final touches on a tyrannosaurus rex, stegosaurus, and a comet with arms and legs and a big toothy smile and lopsided eyes all with arms around the other. All happy. Hopeful.
This can’t just be neurons firing. The brain is crazy powerful and all that, but to pull something like this off? There’s no fucking way it could do that in the time it takes you to die. No fucking way in Hell.
“You are offering me redemption, aren’t you, God?”
There’s no answer, but I’ve never wanted to believe something more than this. Believe that I can change the past…and stop all of this.