King Dork
that his services were needed elsewhere, and so he ended up at
    the bottom of the totem pole and at my house every now and then palming Vicodins and swallowing them with some
    bourbon from Carol’s entertaining area.
    In teen movies, there is often a guy like Sam Hellerman
    who is a minor but important member of the “in” group. A
    glasses-wearing cutup, kind of outrageous, whose sarcastic comments and goofy antics are accepted and appreciated by
    the others in the group, though they tend to receive his bits of dialogue with a degree of eye-rolling. Sure, he’s the second one to get his chest ripped open by the masked psycho with 38
    the garden implement (right after the sluttiest girl in the group has her throat slit while starting to take her clothes off ). But he had his moment.
    That’s how it was for Sam Hellerman. His moment
    was over.
    So I met Sam Hellerman at the oak tree, and we walked
    to my house. He assembled his materials, consumed them,
    came into my room, and lay down on the floor. I let him slip into the void, and put on Quadrophenia. Even though Sam Hellerman was there, after a fashion, I was alone with my
    thoughts.
    After Quadrophenia, I put on The Who by Numbers and thought rather intently about the lyrics to “Slip Kid.” I don’t want to take any Vicodin for the same reason that I try never to sit with my back to a door.
    M S. RAM B O
    PE had started with Track, which basically means you go
    around the track without stopping for the whole period.
    You’re supposed to run most of the time, though you can
    take periodic breaks where you walk till you’re ready to start running again. Of course, Sam Hellerman and I took full advantage of this loophole and walked most of the time, talking about this and that, like, say, whether the Count Bishops or Slade had had more influence on the sound of the first wave of British punk rock. Every now and then, Mr. Donnelly
    would notice and would yell something like “Come on, girls!
    Stop playing with your lip gloss!” By which he meant, though it’s not all that easy to explain why he chose those particular words, that we were walking too much and that he wanted
    39
    to see some “hustle.” We would then jog sarcastically for a few minutes till his attention turned elsewhere, and then resume our discussion at a more leisurely pace.
    After the Track segment was over, near the end of the
    Plasma Nukes week, we moved on to Tennis. Tennis is kind
    of a riot. You’re supposed to hit the ball with the racket so that it lands in the space between the white lines on the other side of the net and bounces. Then you hit it back if it somehow manages to get hit back in your direction in such a way that it lands and bounces in the space between the white lines on your side of the net.
    No one is very good at this. But I have as much chance
    of performing this operation as a jar of wet gravel would have of calculating pi to a hundred places.
    Sam Hellerman is the same way.
    So here’s our Tennis technique. We hit the ball as hard as we can so it flies over the fence and lands in the bushes outside the tennis area. Then we spend the rest of the period
    “looking for the ball.”
    One day we were goofing off, holding the tennis rackets
    like guitars and practicing duckwalks and windmills and scis-sor jumps. I suck at this also, of course, but Sam Hellerman is surprisingly good.
    The PE teacher in charge of tennis-related activities is
    named Ms. Rimbaud, which is pronounced Miz Rambo. She
    looks a little like a frog. If she were actually a frog, she would be highly prized as a source of arrow poison by the natives of South America because of her rich red color.
    She noticed our arena-rock tennis-racket antics and ran
    over to confront us. I don’t think I had ever seen a human face turn quite that vibrant a shade of red.
    “How would you like it,” she said, “if we all came out here and started playing tennis with guitars?”
    40
    New band name: T * * *
    ennis

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