Specifically for the first chapter club, but I appreciate any feedback. I have an idea of the direction I'm going to take this in, but I wan't to hear very, very honest feedback. I have no idea where I'm going to take it in terms of length.
Foreword To say that Danny was cool would have been a gross understatement. The kid was just so much more than that. He was the kid that everyone wanted to hang out with, yet he was also a kid that no one could even claim to be an acquaintance of. He just had that peculiar mystique to him, you know? And when I say that I don't even think the term, "mystique", does him any justice. I don't even think there's a word in the dictionary to classify him. His lifestyle, his calculated mannerisms, the way he spoke: none of it could be used to funnel him into a social group. Any social group at all. I mean I know there are high-schoolers who think they don't fit into one of the groups, but they do. Everyone has a group. But Danny was that one kid. He was an enigma, a perpetual enigma. I swear to God if I could live forever I would never crack his code. So when I finally got an opportunity to take a step inside the dark depths of his domain, I seized it with open arms and an open mind. I think the "open mind" part was key because, simply put, the kid's weird. It turns out that, behind the shroud of his enticing mystique, there lies something which I should have expected but never did. Nonetheless, it was an eye-opening night. See, I would tell you the whole story if I could, but just as the word "mystique" doesn't do Danny any justice, my limited perspective doesn't fit the bill. Alas, from here on out, I'm leaving it to God, the quintessential, omniscient, and omnipresent narrator. Unfortunately, the omnipresent narrator is quite busy. Alas, when God found bits and pieces of time to narrate this story, the events emerged as splotches of verbal paint. In other words this story is told in a non-linear fashion. Perhaps you should think of this sorry book as a canvas upon which the artist cast varying dots of color. Anyhow, whether Danny's tale inspires or confuses is up to the reader. Enter with an open mind, and you will leave with an open heart. I "Jesus!" yelled Frank, slamming his foot on the brakes and rotating the wheel to the left. Screeeeeeeeecchhhhh. The Audi's solid steel exterior made a large thud as it plowed into Danny's right thigh and tossed him forward. Two pill bottles rolled across the road towards the sidewalk. Danny lifted himself up and pressed both hands down on his thigh. His femur wasn't broken. He could walk. Glancing right, he zipped across the street with an audience of convertibles and SUVs looking on. "Son! Son!" yelled Frank, "are you okay? Holy shit. I didn't even see you." Danny didn't answer as he collected the pill bottles. He could hear sirens about a mile away. By now they would have an rough I.D. He stepped onto the grassy lawn that backed up to the sidewalk. A massive bruise was already forming. Danny took off, limping slightly. When he finally made his way off the lawn and onto Crest Road, he began removing some of the makeup. "Looks like the Kelly family is away," thought Danny, hurdling their picket fence, "what a surprise." He felt around the crotch of their garden gnome. The spare key was right where it needed to be. The Kellys had a nice home: colonial, roomy, painted with warm colors. The shower was particularly impressive. Five streams of water went to work on Danny's restless body. The makeup came off with little effort, revealing a tired, young face. Danny removed two lime green contacts, placing them in the small ziploc bag that he had tucked in his set of toiletries. He stepped out of the shower and went to town on his tangled mess of blond hair. The shears buzzed louder than usual, tearing through every stray strand until his pony tail seemed like a distant phase. The scissors handled the more precise work. Danny wet his hair again, making sure that all of the loose strands fell into the sink. He began carefully applying brown hair dye. One hour and another shower later, Danny's stint in Andover was no more. The bathroom appeared just as scrupulous as it had when he entered. Any and all incriminating evidence rested in his toiletries bag. The rags he was wearing at the pharmacy were in a black trash bag, and he had been reduced to a pair of Santa Claus boxers. His new brown hair was slicked back. "Hello, Daniel!" uttered Danny, inspecting himself in the mirror. The landline rang. He walked to the nearest phone and verified the caller I.D. "Hello?" "Dan?" "I'm glad you remembered the number." "You're a size 30 waist right? "You bet, partner." "Awesome. The good news is that you'll look like any other suburban hack." "How much was it?" "Cheap. Don't worry about it, man. You don't need to pay me back. My parents have money up the fucking wazoo for me to spend on stuff like this." Danny paused. "You've been so damn gracious, André. You really have. I can't thank you enough, man." "Na, forget that shit. You would do the same for me. How's the pain?" Danny pressed down on his right thigh and winced. "It's funny how life works, André. You seek a remedy for a certain ailment and you can't help but acquire another." He chuckled, "I suppose it would be more accurate to say that pain ran into me." "You are out of your mind, Danny boy. You really are. Was it a big car?" "Just an Audi." "Ah, I see. Well, I talked to my man in San Carlos. He's planning on closing the deal today, so the apartment should be set when we get there." "Did you tell this guy that I don't need an apartment to myself? It's ridiculous enough that I'm moving to San Carlos. I can share it with one of his other benefactors." "He insisted, Danny. Come Monday you will be enrolled in Carlmont High School." "They have a shuttle right?" "I believe so, yes." "Good. I think my days of driving are over for the time being." Pain zipped up his leg. Danny grunted. "André?" "Yeah? Are you okay, man?" "Yeah, just fine." "I'll be there in ten minutes." "Per...perfect." Danny hung up and began unscrewing one of the pill bottles. He choked down one of the pills with a water bottle. They never really went down easy. II It was a friday. For many high school students, this phrase most likely ignites a spark of hope in the soul which rises from the dreary depths of monotony and warms the frontal cortex, whereupon each student's eyes transform into two candles. But Andrew's eyes didn't insulate this characteristic warmth. The candles in his cornea had ceased to burn years ago: three years ago to be exact. For Andrew, high school had gotten old within the first two weeks of freshman year. In fact, it was the second week of high school that Andrew dreaded the most. The supposed excitement surrounding the inception of teenaged academia faded away and he couldn't do anything but swallow the reality of his perpetual imprisonment. It wasn't the classes that bothered Andrew. It was the concept of high school in all its recurring glory. The golden California sunshine had long been blotted out by clouds of hot air, cheap perfume, and pot smoke, leaving Andrew wondering if he would ever escape from the confines of suburban ignorance. Andrew, his eyes wide with agitation, stood in the school parking lot. Scotty began banging the roof of the car, "Andrew! Andrew!" Andrew turned to Scotty, briefly eyeing Tim and Andrea as he went. The lethargic gears of his brain sputtered and reversed their direction as he registered Scotty's stubborn insistence. "Yeah?" "Unlock the car." Andrew processed this demand slowly, groping the door handle with his bony hands. "You know what, Scotty? Why don't you drive today?" Scotty turned to Andrea, his bright eyes and smug face silently communicating a sense of frustrated amusement. "I'll drive?" Scotty asked, pointing his fat, freckled index finger at his right pec. "Yup." "Sounds good!" he shouted, cackling as he moved to the driver's side. Andrew handed him the keys and patted him on the back, "have fun, buddy." "Wait, are you coming?" Andrew started walking out of the lot. "Nope." III Danny's feet traced smooth fluctuations in the tarmac as he continually pulled his right foot away from the road just in time to avoid the passing cars. Andrew walked a considerable distance behind him. Danny's rhythmic risk taking had, at this point, lulled Andrew into a daze which had gone unbroken for minutes on end. "Why is he doing that?" thought Andrew. "Does he....does he want to get hit?" "Should I stop him?" An obnoxious car horn pierced Andrew's oblivion. He watched the car pass by and began jogging to catch up with Danny. His efforts were to no avail. "He walks so damn fast!" thought Andrew. Andrew picked up his feet a bit and managed to align himself with Danny. It wasn't until they were level that Andrew could distinguish a slight limp in Danny's left stride. His exposed left forearm bore a long scar that seemed to weave around splotches of freckles like the Mississippi River. Without acknowledging Andrew's presence, Danny rolled his sleeve down to cover the scar. Andrew opened his mouth to speak but realized that he had nothing to say. They walked side by side, yet always five yards apart, until a fork in the road dismissed them to their homes. ... The next day at lunch, Danny sat alone, repelling students like mosquitoes. Andrew, the adventurous honey bee that he was, failed to sense the invisible repellent and swooped in. He shoveled a hefty spoonful of overcooked broccoli between his overactive jaws. "So...how you doin'?" "I prefer to be alone." Andrew smirked ever so slightly, "So am I breaching some sort of bubble that you've established?" "Other people who are attempting to be social do in fact bother me if that is what you are insinuating." "Well that's fun." "I don't need other people to have 'fun'." "You must be a real kicker then, man!" Andrew extended his arm to Danny. Danny peered down passively, his thin lips never breaking into even a hint of a smile. "Listen, man, I don't know if you're aware of this, but every single girl in this school wants a piece of you. You have to hop in..." "The girls at this school are stupid." Andrew's smirk flattened and he contorted his face. "Whoa, man! Are you gay?" Danny looked directly into Andrew's eyes, the dull pigmentation of his cornea bleeding sincerity. "No." "Then what's your deal?" "My deal is that every girl I've spoken to was incapable of discussing anything outside the realm of cheap pop culture." "Oh, you're so goddam' smart, Danny. You really are." "I never said I was smart." "Well you must have some sort of superiority complex," said Andrew, pointing out the unoccupied seats to their left and right. Andrew leaned back, "I just don't get it. There are hundreds of kids who want to chill with you, but you can't be bothered." Danny looked straight ahead, once again maintaining his bland expression. Andrew came down hard on the table with his right palm. "Are you walking home from school today?" Danny was unchanging. "I'll take that as a yes." IV The sweet and crisp October air seemed like a blessing in the midst of Monday afternoon's monotony. Andrew and Danny had assumed the usual position along the sidewalk. The cars that Danny had evaded for a month now knew better, and they made a point of swerving around him. An absence of discourse seemed like a formality to the boys at this point. Neither of them spoke, but their silent sentiments were aligned with the pace at which they walked. Danny walked slowly today. Andrew was stiffly observant of Danny's bizarre preferences, but the weight of the day pressed down hard on his psyche. "Danny." Andrew cringed, perturbed by his own impatience. Danny wasn't angry. He wasn't much of anything. "Yeah?" "What do you do in your spare time?" "Is this some sort of childish ploy to get inside my house, Andrew?" "What? N...no!" "Okay. Okay. I believe you. Why do you care about what I do in my spare time?" "Because whenever I walk by your house there's only one light on." Andrew winced and clenched his fists. Danny stopped walking and turned his angry face towards Andrew's. "Why the fuck have you been walking past my house at night?" Andrew heaved a long sigh and raised his hands. "That's so fucking weird, Andrew. Christ!" Andrew gazed at the empty sidewalk as Danny threw himself into the busy street, dodging SUV's and evoking a symphony of car horns as if he was the immortal conductor of traffic. He emerged, unscathed, on the opposite sidewalk. V "Son! Son!" Danny looked up at the store clerk, "huh?" "The total is four dollars and fifty cents," said the clerk, extending his sweaty palm. Danny reached into his pockets and placed a crumpled bill in the clerk's cupped hands. "Fifty cents will be your change," said the clerk, placing the bill into one of the neat slots in the register. The clerk stopped and motioned to the bottle of water that Danny had purchased. "It's funny how wars work, you know? Of all the things the government can ration, bottled water just seems so silly. Can't they just fill up canteens or something? You got the last bottle for the week. I don't get another shipment until next Monday." Danny looked back at the large refrigerator where he had picked up the water, "well aren't I a lucky duck?" The clerk smiled, seemingly unable to register Danny's curtness. "You look like a fresh, young soul. They'll be callin' your draft number soon." Danny grunted his acquiescence. "How do you know they haven't done so already?" asked Danny with sarcastic zeal, tapping the clerk's beefy arm. He erupted into a wild fit of laughter. "That's a good one, buddy!" he roared, wiping hot tears from the sides of his eyes. Danny seized his water bottle and made for the door, smiling. "Keep the change, won't ya'? Buy yourself somethin' nice." The clerk beamed and closed the register. "Will do, buddy. Will do." Danny shoved the door open and stepped outside into the early hint of sunlight. His long frown returned. "Kansas," thought Danny, "what a fucking dump." He unlocked his car and sat pensively in the front seat and unscrewed the cap of the water bottle. He put the bottle to his lips, hesitated, and placed it in his lap. Danny stared into the transparent abyss. After a minute or so, he clutched the bottle, held it out the window, and dumped the contents onto the tarmac. The final splash of water was followed by a mangled clump of plastic and the screeching of tires as Danny continued his journey west. VI The panel of teachers settled into the room briskly that morning. They all faced Danny. Danny scanned their clothing. Danny's thin, brown hair had been greased and slicked back. He had grown a rather impressive beard for a young man of his age, and there was a high probability that the shirt he was wearing had become engrained in his ripe skin. "That's a mighty fine blouse you got on there, Ms. Rivers," said Danny, mocking her heavy southern drawl. "Daniel, if we're going to help you, we are going to need your respect." "Sure thing, sugar pop," muttered Danny. Mr. Brown raised a clenched fist and shook it at Danny, "now you listen to me you little punk!" Ms. Rivers touched his arm and he lowered it calmly. "I'm sorry for snapping, Danny." "Don't worry about it, Mr. Brown." Mr. Austin nodded, satisfied with Mr. Brown's apology. He peered around the room to ensure that all the teachers were present. "Now Daniel," he began, "the first thing that you need to understand about these sessions is that they are an alternative, per your request, to seeing a licensed therapist. With that being said, Mr. Fortin is a former child psychiatrist, and we feel that he is the only reason we are permitted to hold these sessions. Does his presence pose any concerns for you?" Danny stared into the eyes of Mr. Fortin, carefully analyzing their contents. Mr. Fortin returned the strong gaze. He was unfazed by Danny's audacity. Danny took a long breath and crossed his right leg over his left. "I suppose his presence poses concerns. But I wouldn't place those concerns above my mental health." Mr. Austin leaned forward, "is that a 'yes', Daniel?" "Call me Danny. And it is a 'yes'."