For a kid of twelve, he had an even enough disposition. But for some reason he insisted on living in his own little world. And he was perfectly content doing so. Harry did well enough with his schoolwork, and was eager and enthusiastic about many things like his 70s music and playing his guitar and his READING. But he never shared anything with anyone much, just kept to himself mostly. When it came to dealing with other people, particularly the neighborhood kids and his classmates in school, he shut them down. Most people thought of him as timid, the scared type. But in his mind the truth was other people were mostly boring to him.
He wasn’t anything like them, was he?
He put on his shoes, grabbed his knapsack and winter gear and made way down the steps. His Mom usually wasn’t up yet at this “bewitching” hour, but she’d gotten up early to get HIM up. Plus, she thought it best if she was there to see him off. She knew he’d be anxious, and that in turn made her anxious. She already had the radio going in the kitchen with that bluegrass music she likes, and there was all kinds of breakfast action going on, with dishes clanking and food frying up on the stove.
“Harry, sit down. Your breakfast will be up in just a minute,” she said, putting down a glass of grapefruit juice while eyeing him up and down. “Do you have your scarf and gloves?”
“Yeh Mom. But I told you I don’t wanna go. Do I have to?” He looked at her with his best puppy dog expression, but his voice was nervous and shaky.
It betrayed him.
“Harry, the bus is gonna be here in like ten minutes, you gotta get going now. It’s gonna be okay, you’ll see.” She put down his plate of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, which is how he liked it. Harry gobbled down his food while his Mom stood watching, a smile forming on her face.
She hoped he would make it through the next two days.
Why was it that every time they tried to encourage him to find friends, he always wound up alone in his room? Listening for hours and hours to his music and reading his books about everything under the sun and that damn Neil Young over and over. He behaved as if he was some modern day poet or philosopher or mystic.
“Harry, the bus’ll be here any minute.” She picked up his plate and gave him a look. “Get your coat on, we’ll go wait outside. At this time in the morning that driver won’t wait.” Harry sighed and slowly stood up, and stubbornly got himself bundled up.
“Mom I told you I’m gonna call you if I gotta come home. You said you’d come pick me up right? That’s what you said.”
Well Harry you’re gonna have fun, you won’t need me to come pick you up.”
“Harry, enough. You’re gonna be fine, you’ll have a good time. Come on now Harry let’s get going here.”
They went out the front door and saw the bus coming down the street. Harry got on and thought about how glad he was that these kids were still sleeping and quiet. Better that way. He saw his Mom waving goodbye through the window, and he sat down in a seat by himself. He took his Stephen King novel out of his knapsack, and with his penlight started to read.
Escape from the world again.
The bus made way up the mountain road toward the campsite. As they ascended above the cloud line, Harry looked out the window and saw the sun coming up over the horizon. He thought how the clouds below looked like pillows from here. He could imagine how soft and comfortable it would be to lie down on them. The other kids were starting to stir, cracking jokes and talking amongst themselves.
Oh this is going to be intolerable I know it.
Harry got through the first day relatively unscathed. Although he was required to participate in the dodge ball game (which was almost a fate worse than death), and had to sit with the other kids during lunch and dinner in the big lodge, he felt that he held his own. Plus, none of the other kids made fun of him or messed with him too much, which was a relief. When it got dark Harry went into his tent with his Walkman plugged into his ear, and lie down. He could hear the loud voices out by the bonfire. Someone was playing a guitar, and there was some singing going on too.
And it sounds familiar.
Harry took off his Walkman and listened. Familiar. He got up and stepped out of the tent, cocking his ear. He could see the scout leader singing, and a couple of the kids were doing their best to chime in. The bonfire was crackling and it lit up their faces. He quietly made his way and slipped into the group, and in a split instant recognized what he was hearing:
“I’ll lick my wounds as i see fit—I’ve lots to do to heal them—and nobody can do that but me…”
Harry started singing under his breath: “Ain’t gonna be nobody. No, not anybody baby. Nobody, not anybody but me…”
Harry closed his eyes and sang louder. He thought it was funny HE was the one that knew all the words. Of course he was. He could hear the other kids tripping along trying to sing the right words and he smiled. They don’t know great music, he thought. He sang and in his heart listened to the words. Harry thought the words were from another time and place. A time when bravery and spirit ruled the day. A place where dodge ball wasn’t something anyone had any time or interest in thinking about.
When people lived their lives like they were important.
That’s what Harry thought. Eyes closed, he sang louder. He was in his own little world, but suddenly jolted back to reality. It was the sound of his loud voice that did it. When he opened his eyes, everyone was staring.