Picture six-year-old Gordon Swannson skulking along a shag-carpeted hallway in the predawn stillness of his parents’ 1960s-style suburban ranch home. Gordon has dark, sunken eyes and a wheeze that would frighten almost anyone else’s mother. He takes furtive gulps of air like an oxygen-coveting little thief. He’s asthmatic. He’s a boy genius. He taught himself to read before the age of three and now he’s already devouring college textbooks, but only in the fields that interest him: Dinosaurs, Geology, Abnormal Psych…. He could spot a Parasaurolophus from a mile away. He knows why tectonic plates shift and how igneous rock formations are made. He’s the youngest boy ever to diagnose himself as suffering from bipolar disorder, just by reading about it. But maybe boy genius isn’t quite the right term for him. Maybe he’s more of an idiot savant. Consider the evidence: The seat of his fuzzy blue inflammable pajama suit is sporting charred brown tiger stripes—the unfortunate aftermath of a bedwetting incident that he tried to conceal by draping his sodden PJs on top of the electric wall heater in the tub room. He watched in fascination as the heater’s coils turned an urgent orange. These’ll be dry in no time, he thought. Then the stench of roasting urine gave him away.There’s also this intellectually damning fact: He still believes in the Easter Bunny. That’s why he’s sneaking around in his charbroiled pajama pants. It’s Easter Sunday, 1973, and Gordon wants compensation. He knows he’s a wheezy little bastard, every parent’s nightmare. He’s already been in the hospital for asthma at least a dozen times—and he’s about to go in again. His life so far has been miserable, but he’s sworn to God that he’ll try to make the best of it. He thinks the least God can do in return is let him have a look at the Easter Bunny. That’s why he’s up so early. Gordon is convinced the Easter Bunny delivers his gifts under the cloak of darkness—like Santa Claus… or Dracula. At least that’s his best guess.
Gordon tiptoes out of the hallway into the den, where moonlight ghosts through floor-to-ceiling curtains hiding sliding glass doors that open onto the backyard patio. He can just barely make out a Kelly green dime-store Easter basket sitting on the fireplace bench next to the andirons. It’s an electric fireplace with ceramic logs and the andirons are there just for show. Gordon turns on the fireplace so he can see better, experiencing a little déjà vu in the light of the fake orange flames. He rummages through the basket’s squiggly cellophane grass, emerging with a large chocolate Easter Bunny, several hard-boiled eggs that he dyed with his grandmother the previous evening, and a miraculous, miniature stuffed Smokey the Bear.
Although Gordon’s world is full of advertisements featuring anthropomorphic animals—think Charlie the Tuna, Tony the Tiger, and Mickey Mouse, for starters—Smokey the Bear is far and away his favorite. Why? Because Smokey is the only one who gives him a deep and somehow profoundly satisfying sense of existential responsibility. “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Not a single forest fire has ravaged the town of Kingsburg, California, from the day he was born there, and Gordon is not averse to taking full credit for that fact.
Nevermind that there aren’t any forests in Kingsburg. It’s all farmland—The Raisin Capital of the World, actually. But there haven’t been any hellacious, earth-scorching vineyard fires, either… thanks to Gordon.
The curious snuffling of his basset hound, Sam (short for Samantha) rises to Gordon’s ears from the low corner of the sliding glass door nearest the fireplace. Sam is narcoleptic. Any loud noise or too much excitement will cause her to fall into a sudden sleep, an instant paralysis of dreaming. Basset hounds being low to the ground, she never hurts herself. If she’s running, playing fetch, and she hears a garbage can clang or a truck backfire, she simply falls on her side, skidding to a halt on one of her long, floppy brown ears. After a few minutes of REM sleep she’s back up again, feeling fine, wagging her tail as if nothing happened. Gordon adores the dog. There are times when he thinks Sam is the only living creature in the whole world that truly loves and understands him. This is one of those times. He gets down on his hands and knees and peeks through the curtain, finding himself staring into Sam’s round brown eyes. Sam returns his gaze with a look of abject loyalty and incomprehension. She wags her tail, hoping it’s Alpo time. She paws at the nose-marked glass, asking to be let in. Gordon mistakes these gestures for sympathy and affection.
“Sam,” he whispers, almost bringing tears to his eyes with his own pathos, “when I grow up, I’m gonna marry you… if I don’t die first.” Once again, Gordon has landed squarely on the idiot side of the idiot savant equation. At least on this occasion no one capable of criticism is around to witness it. Sam merely licks her chops in response. She knows she only gets fed once a day, at the same hour every evening, but a dog can dream, can’t she?
Gordon dives deep into reveries of married life with a basset hound. Would Sam still let him use a leash? How would she look in a bridal gown? Would she be allowed to wear white, or would getting humped by the Rowley’s Doberman last April count against her? Etcetera. Then a twinkling in the camellia bush beyond Sam’s wagging tail distracts him. Colored lights are flitting around in there, like Tinkerbell’s spark-farting fluttering at the beginning of each new television episode of The Wonderful World of Disney. Can camellias erupt in spontaneous combustion?
Airborne splashes of neon pink, tungsten blue, and electric yellow suddenly leap from the bush and dance about in the cool night air, coalescing into the shape of a cartoon rabbit. The eerie, faceless rabbit noiselessly bounces across the cement patio on long hind paws, hopping from one side to the other. As it hops closer, it whirls apart into separate splashes of light; then its individual components—ears, legs, palpitating nose, fluffy tail—suddenly reassemble into a rabbit again. Gordon’s heart is full of wonder, but his mind is full of dread. He’s always been prone to daydreaming, but this is more like a paranoid-schizophrenic break with reality. It scares him. Nevertheless, he decides to invite the Easter Bunny in.
Wheezing, tongue curling out the corner of his mouth in determination, Gordon fumbles with the grey plastic lock on the sliding glass door. Sam, meanwhile, manages a growl as the apparition nears, then falls on her side in a fit of narcolepsy. Finally, the lock clicks free and Gordon rolls aside the door on its sandy aluminum track. It sticks after traveling a length of about eighteen inches, but that’s wide enough to greet the mystery. Gordon opens his arms for an embrace. There’s a moment of beatitude—or something very much like it. God, after all, has answered his prayers. Then the Easter Bunny lunges through the curtains and hurls him to the floor, pummeling poor Gordon in a frantic show of malevolent colored lights.
• • • • • • • • •
No one ever believed Gordon’s version of what happened that day. Everyone said he must have been hallucinating. It was strange, thought Gordon, how adamant they all were. How they wouldn’t even give him the benefit of the doubt. It was as if they were all afraid of something—the truth, perhaps. What it all boiled down to was this:
No one wanted to hear that the Easter Bunny had beat the crap out of him.
Toward the conclusion of that Easter Sunday—late evening in the Kingsburg Memorial Hospital, under an oxygen tent—Gordon contemplates his sorry state. He feels like he’s drowning, trying to breathe from under a bag of wet feathers. Through the condensation beading on the inside of the clear plastic tent, he can just barely make out his loyal old grandmother, half-asleep in a chair. An IV drip runs into Gordon’s skinny, blue-veined arm. He feels a dull ache where the needle pokes into the crook of his elbow, the pinching stickiness of adhesive tape holding his wrist to a splint.
There’s more tape holding a tube to his chest. A doctor had come by earlier to tell Gordon a pneumothorax had collapsed his right lung. Gordon had sworn that was where the damn rabbit bit him. But would anyone listen to him? No. “Bunnies are nice,” the doctor said. “The hell they are,” said Gordon. His Grandma Helen was so disturbed by what he told her that she gave Gordon a book of Bible stories to read, fearing his soul might be in jeopardy.
The book is a cheap, illustrated Sunday School edition with oversized type. Its laminated front cover depicts a round-bellied Mary on a donkey being led by a morose Joseph, who is probably wondering how his wife came to be with child without allowing him to do the begetting. The Star of Bethlehem shines down on them both from above the title: A Young Lad’s Book of Bible Stories. Gordon—who prefers his fairy tales to come from the Brothers Grimm—thumbs through the book out of sheer boredom. But then his attention is caught by a kitschy illustration of a small, bandaged boy, very much like himself (except for a too-perfect haircut), lying unconscious in a hospital bed with his right arm upraised and a radiant Jesus attending him.
The text that accompanies the illustration tells the sad tale of Little Toby, a boy like any other, who is run over by a large Buick while riding his bike across a bridge in a sleet storm. Little Toby is knocked forty feet in the air and lands in the river, where a kindly policeman fishes him out (at least he wasn’t eaten by piranhas, thinks Gordon, who has a morbid and ungovernable imagination). The policeman calls an ambulance to come and cart Little Toby off to the hospital, where it is discovered that he has thirty-three broken bones and a case of double pneumonia. Things look bad for Little Toby. So bad, in fact, that when he regains consciousness in the middle of the night, with no one around to comfort him, he gets a tad hysterical. He holds up his broken right arm and prays to Jesus, asking to be taken to heaven. Holding up the right arm is somehow crucial, according to the book. Anyway, it gets the Son of God’s attention. Jesus swoops right down in a blaze of holiness and rockets Little Toby off to Paradise. End of story.
Self-pitying tears well in Gordon’s eyes as he sets the book aside. Then he does something he’s never done with any sort of sincerity before: He asks Jesus into his heart. And of course he props up his right arm before he goes off to sleep. Gordon desperately wants to leave his earthly existence behind. Who wouldn’t, after getting his ass kicked by the Easter Bunny?
That night Gordon has a dream he’s had many times before. It starts out like an old silent movie: A black title card flickers with implosions of dust and white scratches as it spells out Marauder in the Bog, or perhaps Murder in the Jungle—Gordon can never quite remember for sure. He hears an ominous gypsy song as the dream-film opens on a bayou shack under coal-black skies, surrounded by tall reeds swaying in the moonlight. Gordon lives in the shack with his parents, who just happen to be cartoon characters—the mother and father from the comic strip, “Dennis the Menace.” Gordon, not a cartoon, knows he must run away. He leaves the security of the shack and ventures out into the cold reeds. They tower above his little blonde head. He looks back over his shoulder and sees, through the shack’s window, his cartoon mother serving his cartoon father a cartoon turkey dinner. They don’t seem to miss him. Barefoot, unarmed, Gordon wends his way along a muddy path, but soon loses his bearings. Then he hears a rustling and deep, heavy breathing. Terrified, he starts to run, but the path ends in a cul-de-sac. The wall of reeds to his right shudders and parts and the face of a black, furious crocodile-ape roars out at him with a terrible gnashing of teeth.
Gordon wakes up with a scream.
Jesus, that loafer, doesn’t show up for Gordon that night. But early the following morning, before Gordon is fully awake, he feels someone clasping the fingers on his upraised right hand. “Hold this,” a voice says—not the voice of Jesus, unfortunately, but the voice of his best friend and future nemesis, Jimmy Marrsden. Gordon finds himself holding up a G.I. Joe doll in dirty miniature fatigues. There’s an amber-brown, nacreous bald patch on G.I. Joe’s head where Jimmy burned him with a magnifying glass. Jimmy backs up and points an imaginary machine gun. “Brrraattt-a-tat-tat!!!” he sputters. Imaginary bullets ricochet down the corridors of the otherwise quiet hospital. G.I. Joe’s loose peg of a neck wobbles in Gordon’s unsteady grasp and then his shiny head falls to the floor.
Gordon scoots up into a sitting position and wipes away a swath of condensation from inside the oxygen tent. Through the round window he’s created, he sees his mother and Mrs. Marrsden on the far side of the room ensconced in aquamarine acrylic chairs. They’re wearing spangled pantsuits and oversized Gucci sunglasses that remind Gordon of a close-up photograph of a butterfly’s retinas that he saw in a recent issue of National Geographic. They murmur to each other in low, sinister tones while puffing on menthol cigarettes. Gordon’s grandmother pointedly ignores them, focusing her wrinkled, crimson lipsticked scowl on her knitting instead. Just as Gordon registers this maternal tableau, Jimmy jumps up on the bed and peers in at him like a sea monster at a ship’s portal. He’s a welter of freckles, red ears, belligerent eyes, and unruly brown hair. Gordon shelters his testicles from Jimmy’s bouncing Keds basketball shoes. Keen on creating the impression that he could die at any moment, he greets Jimmy with a quivering half-smile and a tubercular croak.
“Hiya, Gordon!” Jimmy shouts with enthusiasm.
“Hi, Jimmy,” Gordon says, then fades back into his pillow, as if even that effort might have cost him a lung.
“How ya doin’?” A question asked while bouncing, with no real concern.
“Not so good….” Gordon assumes an expression of fake piety and picks up the Bible story book he fell asleep with, beckoning to his knitting grandmother: “Grandma Helen?”
Instantly solicitous, Grandma Helen gets to her feet. “What? What is it, sweetie?”
“Why do innocent children suffer and die?”
With tears brimming from her pink-lidded, heavily mascaraed eyes, Grandma Helen leans over and gives Gordon a hug, almost bringing down the oxygen tent around him. “Oh, honey…” she says in that trilling, swoony voice of hers (she reigned as Queen of the 1936 Kingsburg Raisin Parade, and her illustrated likeness graced the packages of Sunny Maid Raisins for the next thirty-three years—hence her flair for histrionics, which Gordon has inherited). Grandma Helen bravely stifles a sob, then says: “I don’t know why innocents like you should have to suffer. That’s one of life’s great mysteries!”
Gordon’s mother and Mrs. Marrsden roll their eyes behind their Gucci sunglasses and blow mentholated smoke heavenward.
“You’re not that innocent, Gordon,” Jimmy pipes up. “You peed on your dog.”
“He did what?!” Grandma Helen drops Gordon as if he’s contaminated.
“You did it, too!”
“Yeah, but at least it wasn’t my dog.”
“Jimmy! Goddamn you!” Mrs. Marrsden says.
“Don’t worry, mom. Gordon’s mom already spanked us for it.”
“I really let ‘em have it,” Gordon’s mother concurs.
“Well, good!” Mrs. Marrsden says. “That’s good! Now you better get your little butt off that bed, or I’ll spank it again.”
Gordon and Jimmy’s mothers were ardent believers in capital punishment. They thought of little boys as sociopaths in short pants. There were times when Gordon had to admit there might be some validity to that theory. It was no use pretending he was a saint. He could be spiteful, cowardly, and vain. He’d been known to commit an occasional act that defied morality and reason, just like most other little boys his age. For instance, he really did pee on Sam, and he would never understand why he did it. He loved that dog! But Jimmy had a way of making him do things that he would never do on his own.
They’d been up in the old walnut tree in Gordon’s backyard looking for aphids and a particularly ugly strain of greenish-yellow caterpillar with blood-red humps (Schizura concinna). Sam had seen the boys up there and wanted them to come down and throw sticks for her. To get her point across, she was up on her hind legs with her front paws scrabbling against the tree’s trunk, barking at them. It was Jimmy who suggested they pee on her. He made it sound like a delightful new game: Whiz on the Basset Hound! And before Gordon had time to think through all the implications of what he was doing, he was right there beside Jimmy on a sturdy branch, doing his best impression of that statue beloved by the Belgian nation, Mannekin Pis. As the twin spumes of micturation splashed down on Sam’s long basset face, she turned and shambled away. Throwing sticks was now out of the question, apparently. As Gordon watched her go with her white-tipped tail dragging the ground, he felt something deep inside his chest turn to ash and crumple. He wanted to cry long before his mother saw Sam in all her pee-stained wretchedness and marched outside to whip the coils of an egg whisk across the backs of their skinny, sun-browned legs.
That was only the latest of Gordon and Jimmy’s excretory adventures; they owed their friendship to a much earlier one. It was actually Gordon’s earliest memory. It began on a summer day in Kingsburg, when the asphalt roads were so hot they had turned soft like licorice taffy and walking barefoot on them was not an option. Gordon was almost two and had just graduated to wearing Big Boy underpants—an accomplishment he was quite proud of. His latest slogan, repeated interminably, was: “Only babies wear diapers.”
On this particular day, his mother and Mrs. Marrsden had decided to get together in the wading pool in the Marrsden backyard to drink rum-and-cokes and spread vicious rumors. Gordon’s mother wore her hair in a crisp Aqua-Net shellacked bouffant and came sheathed in a one-piece bathing suit of the latest Space Age fabric. She looked like a glamorous poodle groomer from one of the orbiting moons around Saturn. In contrast, Mrs. Marrsden arrived with her black hair in a close-cropped pixie cut, wearing a daring flower print bikini with wide yellow straps that emphasized her enormous, shelf-like bosom. Careful not to spill their drinks, the two women filled the wading pool with water from a stiff green garden hose, then they told Gordon and Jimmy it was time for them to learn how to swim. Gordon—cutting a heroic figure in the aforementioned Big Boy underpants—thought this was a fantastic idea, and as soon as his mother lowered herself into the pool with a giddy shiver, he was clambering at her side, asking her to help him in. Jimmy, however, needed some coaxing. He was more interested in running around the yard naked, his red swim trunks having proven too constraining. Mrs. Marrsden had to chase him around the swing set a few times before she was able to catch him by the arm and drag him into the pool, where he splashed and yelled like a freshly-hatched gargoyle as she got him into his trunks again.
The initial caress of that cool, limpid water against his naked chest was a thrill Gordon hoped he would always remember. He felt free, buoyant, electric, able to breathe in deep lungfuls of crystalline air. His first asthma attack had occurred just a few months earlier, after his mother had left her pet cat, TwinkleToes (six toes on each foot, mangy, invidious), in the playpen with him while she was doing some vacuuming. She found Gordon twenty minutes later with his face pressed against the pen’s netting, turning a cyanotic blue, as the cat sat behind him calmly licking its mutant calico feet. Gordon’s mother rushed him to the emergency room, where Dr. Brockett gave him a shot of epinephrine, and, after asking a few questions, deduced that Gordon had a severe allergy to cat dander. The good doctor suggested giving TwinkleToes the boot. And although Gordon’s mother eventually did send TwinkleToes away (not without misgivings), Gordon’s lungs had never been the same. They always felt restricted to some degree—until that first dunk in the wading pool.
Gordon and Jimmy both turned out to be natural swimmers. They crisscrossed the pool, shoving off from one mother to the other, paddling like happy little tadpoles. Once Gordon looked up, blinking water, expecting to see his mother, and found his hands resting on Mrs. Marrsden’s breasts, instead. He felt a little embarrassed about that, but it was also sexy. Mrs. Marrsden simply laughed and shoved him on his way.
Everything seemed to be going along fine—it was the happiest time Gordon could remember having—but then the two mothers shrieked as one and leapt out of the pool, trailing great sheets of water from their swimsuits. Gordon felt himself hoisted into the air by angry hands. He was set down on his feet, hard, and then his mother was bending down in front of him. She looked extremely upset—and it frightened him.
“Gordon,” she said, “did you go Big Job in the pool?”
He couldn’t imagine such a thing. “No!” he said emphatically, hoping it would quell his mother’s rage.
“Tell the truth. Did you go Big Job in the pool?” She shook him. Her green eyes warned of impending violence.
“No! I didn’t!” Gordon declared. And truly, he didn’t think he had.
“Then who did?”
Losing his own sense of reason and proportion, Gordon pointed a finger at Mrs. Marrsden, now standing beside the pool with a kitchen strainer.
“She did,” he said.
“Oh, I don’t think so!” This was said in a rush as Gordon’s mother yanked down his pants. Gordon looked to his feet. He didn’t want to believe it, but the evidence was clearly there. His body had betrayed him. Five little brown turdlets rested in the soggy crotch of his now permanently disgraced Big Boy underpants. He supposed he wouldn’t be wearing those again for a while. Damn!
The whole situation was so overwhelming that Gordon might have burst into tears if it hadn’t been for Jimmy’s presence. Even at the age of two, Gordon wanted to play the stoic in front of his peers. He glanced over at Jimmy, to acknowledge his humiliation, but Jimmy was in an odd squat with his back to him, like a Russian weightlifter straining for his first Olympic gold medal. As Gordon watched, a greenish-brown seepage started dripping from beneath Jimmy’s red swim trunks and running in rivulets down the backs of his legs. Gordon knew what was happening even before Jimmy bellowed: “It was me! Jimmy! I went Big Job in the pool!”
Mrs. Marrsden went over and tugged on Jimmy’s elastic waistband, taking a quick peek at his rear end. “I don’t think so, kiddo,” she said. “The turds in the pool are floaters. What you did looks more like leftover guacamole. But nice try, anyway….”
Gordon and Jimmy had been the best of friends ever since.
• • • • • • • • •
Two months pass before Gordon’s collapsed lung re-inflates and he’s able to leave the hospital—a long stretch of time in the life of a six-year-old. Gordon spends it getting to know some of the people on the hospital’s staff. There’s Jeff, the male nurse, who brings him old issues of custom car magazines, then chides Gordon for looking at the supercharged, candy-flake-coated Mustangs and Hemi ‘Cudas while ignoring the bikini-clad girls standing next to them. There’s also Gwen, the foxy, long-legged Candy Striper, who unknowingly gives Gordon a clear view of the crotch of her white cotton panties whenever she rises on tip-toe to check the fluid levels in his IV bottles (Jeff’s counsel wasn’t lost on him, after all…). He also becomes acquainted with Bethanny, the over-weight night nurse (very sympathetic about nightmares), Oscar, the janitor (“You should see the crap I have to pick up. It’s disgusting!”), and Rosaria, the ancient, decrepit Mexican woman who gives him his sponge baths (always handing him a soapy rag and averting her eyes while he washes his “special part down there”).
And then there’s suave Dr. Brockett, Gordon’s hero, who looks like Spock on Star Trek, but without the pointy ears. Dr. Brockett always warms up his stethoscope by blowing on it before he puts it on a patient’s chest, and he once sternly told Gordon’s mother he would give her all the shots, instead of Gordon, if she didn’t stop smoking around her asthmatic son. For those reasons and many others, Gordon thinks Dr. Brockett is one of the most admirable, intelligent adults he’s ever met.
(Unfortunately, in the months ahead, Dr. Brockett will become addicted to something Gordon’s mother and Mrs. Marrsden refer to as “Happy Pills.” He will get arrested for driving his red Alfa Romeo on the wrong side of the road at eighty miles an hour while on his way out to Riverland to go water-skiing. In the Police Blotter write-up in the following week’s issue of The Kingsburg Recorder, it will be noted that two braless hippie girls and a bucket of Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken accompanied the doctor on his wild ride. It’s an embarrassing situation to find oneself in, but Dr. Brockett will do the responsible thing and pay his bail, then check himself in to a drug rehab clinic in Fresno. There, while detoxifying, he will be approached by a coalition of concerned citizens, including several members of the Kingsburg city council. They’ll suggest it might be time for Dr. Brockett to abandon his well-established medical practice and relocate to a place like New York or San Francisco, where moral laxity such as his will perhaps be better tolerated. Kingsburg, they’ll imply, is too small a town to handle so large a scandal. The upshot of all this is that Gordon will get stuck with a jolly, balding, bow-tie-wearing pediatrician named Dr. Smiley, whom he’ll grow to loathe, while his childhood idol, Dr. Brockett—the adult he most wants to emulate—is never to be seen nor heard from again.)
Gordon’s seventh birthday arrives while he’s still in the hospital. Only his Grandma Helen makes note of it, giving him a pair of bright blue galoshes and a matching rain hat, along with the Merck Manual he’d requested. Gordon’s mother and father are out-of-town. In Spain, actually, going to bullfights. His father won the trip by selling a record number of Westinghouse air conditioners. The Swannsons own a hardware store that has a local monopoly on air conditioners—and it gets hot in Kingsburg. So hot that Gordon’s father wins one of those trips just about every year.
Gordon wishes he were in Spain, too, instead of lounging around in a boring old hospital. At least the oxygen tent has been put away, so he can watch television, but at this hour there’s nothing on but soap operas. To pass the time, Gordon recalls images from the travel brochures his parents left lying around the house. He imagines himself in Madrid. He sees himself wandering the marble halls of the Prado, passing by the Titians, Goyas, and El Grecos. Finally, he encounters Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych: The Garden of Earthly Delights. Seeing Bosch’s lurid panoply of saints and monsters in his mind’s-eye incites a tingling in Gordon’s bladder. He suddenly needs to pee. He reaches for the turquoise plastic pitcher on his bedside table, kept there expressly for that purpose. He’s still attached to IV bottles, which makes it almost impossible for him to get up to use the bathroom. Gordon pushes his pajama bottoms to his knees and takes aim with his little dink.
Just as the first squirt successfully thrums against the pitcher’s bottom, the door to his room swings open and Jeff, Gwen, Bethanny, Oscar and old Rosaria all parade into the room singing, “Happy Birthday.” Wide Bethanny leads the way with a cake on a hospital gurney. Gordon is mortified, but there’s no stopping what he’s started.
Rosaria is the first to notice his predicament, getting an eyeful of his special part for perhaps the first time ever. “The boy, he unpantsed!” she says, with a kind of ancient Aztec indignation.
“He’s pissin’ like a racehorse, is what he’s doin’,” says Jeff. “Damn, buddy, you better slow down there, or you’ll need another jug.”
“Maybe we should come back another time,” Gwen suggests. They all agree and turn around to head back the way they came.
“Don’t worry, Gordon,” Oscar says on his way out, “I seen worse.”
“Happy Birthday!” trills Bethanny, leaving the cake behind.
Gordon swears he hears giggling once the door is closed. It isn’t right, he thinks. No six-year-old… no, wait… no SEVEN-year-old should have to suffer so much pain and ignominy. There’s only one thing to do. He props up his right arm and starts praying to whatever celestial beings are available, pleading for another swift end to his existence. He knows it’s hopeless. God is having far too much fun with him.
Just call him the Whiz Kid. Everyone else did.