|Woods behind 2503 Heading Avenue (ie, 'The Nuclear Woods')|
It is 1988 and it is autumn. The world is changing like your body is changing. The temperature of the planet drops off considerably in mid-October. The gym-shoe squeaky, prepubescent rasp of your own voice begins it's steady tonal plummet towards the baritone verbal pluck of near adulthood. Oily bushels of hair have begun to foam whorled islands across your body. Sprinkles of hard acne dot your forehead with feelings of self-consciousness. And dreams....spangled slips and subtle nocturnal gyrations...you can feel the bubblegum breath and feral movements of fellow classmates Holly Lyons and Angela Passages, girls who all but ignore your pulse at the lunch table now comb your entire body, cartwheeling limbs into a moist orchard of eternal spring.
It is autumn 1988 and the world is golden . Everywhere you look there are wooden stems, political placards sprouting up from the patches of thoroughly groomed lawns. Signs trumpeting the antics of Dukakis and Benson. Bush and Quayle. It is 1988 and you are in fifth grade. The world is opening up the way a book opens up; with a stiff spine and sticky pages. You attend a Lutheran school where God exists above the hard-yellow ceiling lights. Where the world is six-thousand years old. Where you were born a sinner. God is a Republican, according to the beliefs espoused by your parents and your church.
Cedric Dockery wears hand-me downs from the mission. Part of his house was torched by a fire last week. He raises his hand and requests that the class pray for Greg Louganis the day after the Olympic diver hit his head twirling off the high-dive in Seoul. Mrs. Reinhardt assents her chin and complies, praying ardently for a man with tainted blood.
There is DARE and there is BOOK-IT. There is learning how to just say no and there is learning how to properly install a filmy, oval-centered diskette into the classroom Apple. The thick white-handles of the soccer goal in Logan Field is stapled into an earth littered with golden sheaf's; leaves skirting, dancing, swirling into a thick spool; the dance of time.
Your best friend's name is Patrick. He lives down the street from your sister's friend Shannon, a little cul-de-sac called Downs Circle. His father is a professor at Bradley and in mid-august, the two of you straddled the thick petals of your BMX's across campus hurtling water balloons at college girls who worship the sun with their cinnamon skin, poofy hair scrunched in side-pony tails in bikinis flanked by boom boxes.
After school you follow Patrick into the woods behind Heading Avenue. Patrick fires up a cigarette he filched from his mother's pocketbook earlier in the week. You take turns firing his BB gun at posum's dangling upside down from dead-tooth limbs. You skip rocks into the orange-rust that slivers through the SKIPPER, where the names of heavy metal bands who purportedly worship Satan are spray-painted on the gravel siding, next to expired initials of high-school couples.
"Some day V.B" Patrick tells you. "We'll be shooting the shit down here and we'll find a body of someone really famous and then we'll get allot of cash for it and be set for life." Patrick says, between copious drags.
"Some day V.B., it'll just be the two of us. And everything will be alright."
The two of you marshal the bb gun back and forth between your grasp. The sun is a heavy nerf-orange nuclear glow that burns almost 100 million miles above your heads. Burns and burns and then when it finally sets you realize that everything it once gave life to is no longer here.