Authors: Janet Tashjian
My mom has a medical conference on Saturday, so I watch YouTube videos while Dad works. He points to the storyboard he's illustrating and shows me how the director will use it to plan her camera angles and shots.
I know it's a matter of time before he tries to tie the subject into my life, and after a few moments, he does. “Just like the illustrations you do. Have you found them helpful?”
“I do my drawings because they're fun.”
I head back to the couch and the laptop. It's Saturdayâcan I have one day off from learning stuff, please?
I email a quick note to my grandma in Boston, then head for the online Garfield archives. I swear, I don't know what I'd do without him, Calvin, and the other guys. Garfield makes me think about Margot; it's been a week since Carly and I visualized the story with her. Next time I readâwhenever that isâI'll definitely do that again. The beach scene we re-created from Margot's book that day reminds me of Susan James, so I type her name into the search engine. After a million other sites come up, I find a Web page in Susan's memory with photos and quotes from her family.
Staring up from the computer screen is a girl with long brown hair, a huge smile, and a Red Sox cap. In another photo, she holds a field hockey stick with four other athletic girls. I read about what a good student she was, how she helped her neighbors after school, how she loved her younger brother and playing piano. I guess when you're dead no one talks about how you used to fart in bed or talk with your mouth full.
On the last page is a guestbook. I scroll through the entries and read what her high school classmates and teachers have to say about her. She's been dead for almost a decade, yet the latest entry was written only a month ago. I guess some people still miss her.
When I look up, I realize I've just spent an hour reading. Part of me is proud of such an accomplishment, but another part wants to protest by jumping on my bike and racing to the pier to watch the guy spray-painted in silver stand like a mannequin for money. The whole time I was reading the entries, a thought kept nagging at me, and now it finally hits the surface. All these people who miss Susan, like her friends Lauren and Danny, miss her because of me.
Although no one on this Web site knows I exist, I'm the missing link in their pain. I feel something dark in the center of my chest. I should've figured this day would be a disasterâwhoever heard of thinking on a Saturday?
For several minutes, I face the blank screen, then gather my courage and begin typing my own entry.
What were you thinking? You obviously had friends and family who loved you, people more important than some two-year-old you just met. I've seen photos of me at that age; I was cute, but not THAT cute.
I guess what weighs on me most is this: Am I supposed to grow up to be some guy who stops wars or creates new energy sources just because you saved me? Can I still be a normal kid who makes a lot of mistakes, maybe even MORE mistakes than the average kid? I guess what I really want to say is: I didn't ask you to save me, but I'm glad you did.
I hit “enter” and watch my note disappear into time and space.
I make a deal with Margot: If I read the first chapter of one of my summer reading books, she'll give all the Mustangs a break and get us out of Fraction Friday. As much as I don't want to read one of the books, I
don't want to have some fake contest with one of the other camp groups about fractions and percentages.
I settle on my bed with Bodi and try the whole movie thing Margot taught Carly and me a few weeks ago. It's harder to do without Margot here, but I take my time, trying to picture every little detail of the story. I even try to predict what might happen in the next scene. I make it halfway through the chapter before I have to take a break.
Bodi puts his front paws on my chest, and I soak in the cool breeze coming from the open windows. I grab my markers and sketchbook and check out all the illustrations I've done so far this summer. As I look through the drawings, I get an idea. I hold the book in one hand and flip through the pages like one of those old flip-o-ramas and suddenly the story of my summer appears like a movie: Mom vaulting over the laundry, me rummaging through the attic.
I feel a little like Carly, eager to find a teacher, because I can't wait to show Margot my vocabulary word flip-o-rama. But there's someone else I have to show first.
Dad is whacking weeds alongside the driveway when I show him my new invention. He pulls off his headphones, wipes the sweat from his hands, and flips through the book himself.
“I used to make these all the time when I was your age,” he says. “I wish I'd thought of it as a way to study vocabulary words. Would've saved Mrs. Patrick from yelling at me all the time.”
I wipe the edges of my sketchbook, which are already smudgy from Dad's hands.
“Makes you really want to get going on that assigned reading and fill the whole book with new words,” he says.
And just like that, my fun new invention becomes contaminated by work. I go back inside to put away my pad. The attic is steaming hot, but I find the boxes of Christmas ornaments and lights, then get Henry from down the street. We decorate the trees and shrubs in the front yard, even up the trunk of the palm tree near the driveway. I plug the whole thing in, and we sit back and watch the blinking lights.
It would make a great scene for my flip-o-ramaâif I ever decide to draw again.