you, Grace; I really donât.â âI know.â Iâm gulping air. âShopping for something new can be a real pick-me-up if you could only loosen up. Besides, you canât go for the rest of your life in tee shirts and blue jeans and your uncleâs fatigue jacket.â âI know, Mother, but please donât talk about Uncle Larry. I know youâre right, but the problemâs not a matter of understanding . I need some deep breaths.â âMaybe it is a problem of understanding,â she says. âThe girl in the store was just being friendly. Donât shut her out.â âShe was getting too close. It would never work. I could never have a friend named DeeDee.â âYou wonât have any friends at all if you donât try.â âI couldnât explain it to you. A girl named DeeDee could stand naked in the locker room without a moment of stress.â âWhat is that supposed to mean?â âPlease drop it, Mother. Canât you see I need to breathe? It just wouldnât work. She wouldnât like me if she got to know me. No one does. When youâre crazy wild, you donât have friends.â âI want you to stop it. Youâre not crazy wild.â We have lunch at McDonaldâs. Mother has a cheeseburger, and I have the chefs salad. I have to pick out the little chunks of ham and the bacon bits. I donât know if the bacon bits are really a meat byproduct or if theyâre something artificial, but Iâm not taking any chances. I eat about half the salad. When we get home, I sit out on the balcony, in my niche. It is a hot, hot Saturday afternoon. I am mostly hidden but I have a field of vision between the draped towels. Mr. Stereo has his pup tied to a scrawny tree near his patio. The tree grows in a small seam of gravel between this parking lot and the next one. I know it is a Russian olive tree because I looked it up in a tree book my dad and I used to use in the woods and fields. Such a lovely name for such a pitiful, lonely, shapeless tree. How could it be otherwise? Its soil is gravel and litter. I canât imagine an olive growing on it and Iâm sure it will never have a mourning dove in its branches. Watching the Surly People is like digging at a festering wound; it frightens me and yet I canât stop myself. I could hide in my room, I suppose, but the sky blows around and speaks with a firm whisper: Itâs important to know everything. The Surly People are no accident . How the sky finds its quiet voice in the midst of all this noise I do not know. Mr. Stereoâs patio speaker is loud and there are two or three others blaring in the parking lot. Every once in a while someone sets off a firecracker or a whole string of them. At least a dozen people have found spots for sunbathing in the parking lot. Some of them are sitting in lawn chairs and others are lying on the hoods or tops of cars. Everyone drinks beer and smokes cigarettes. Every once in a while, a new car arrives, spilling out stereo noise and loud people. The people stay long enough to drink a beer or two, and then they leave, their engines roaring and their tires squealing. A girl named Brenda and her friend Irene are sunbathing on top of an old, corroded Dodge. The car radio is loud through the open windows. Five or six boys are draped over the car or leaning up against it. Somehow, they can enjoy their own noise and screen out the rest. Most of them go to West High; I have seen them there. One of them, whose name is DeWayne, is working on a motorcycle next to the car. His shirt is off and one side of his face is disfigured with burn-scar tissue. One of his eyebrows curves up instead of down; he frightens me. It isnât hard to know information about them. They spray their lives around like a hose. The girl named Brenda sits up on top of the car. The top of her bikini is untied and for a moment her large breasts swing free.