It’s been a day of eradicating demons. It all started with the rosebushes. They’ve been encroaching upon our lane for some time now, like a serpent and porcupine’s freak offspring, slithering and stabbing and gliding and grabbing at vehicles, pedestrians and wayward shih-tzus. My grandfather seemed to be on their side. “Just cut them off out here. Don’t go back in there. You don’t have to cut them at the base, you can just cut them off out here.” I stared at him icily, and then spat: “They’ll grow back,” with a venom typically reserved for DMV employees and elderly drivers. He shrank slightly. “Well, if you want to.” I snickered inhumanly and glared at my prickly adversary. “Oh, I want to,” and then, after the first efficient snip, “very much.” I came to about twenty minutes later, standing in front of a huge pile of massacred rosebush. I was bleeding all over. And I was God. My grandfather’s timid voice rose above my Nietzschean reverie, temporarily. “Ben,” he quivered, “what are you going to do with all of it?”
It wasn’t until later in the evening, when I was sitting in Starbucks with Erik Kierkegaard Skoglund (yes that’s his name, knock it off) that I saw the wounds while crossing my leg. Sinewy, vibrant, red lines slashing the pinky white flesh – like some abstract painting hidden in a back closet at the Guggenheim, too experimental and raw to be shown to the public. In an extraordinary flash of bad taste, I jocosely attributed the scars to my “manic-depressive” tendencies. Erik blinked. “I have to pick up my dad at 10:15.” His dad, the new principal of Heritage Christian High School in white-ghetto-no-wait-there’s-Mayfair-mall West Allis. A stiflingly endearing little boiler room of paranoid public relations and meticulous christian imaging. Incidentally, my high school. I smirked bitterly. “Let’s go.”
I scampered down the halls, hugging the yellow concrete block walls with the skittish ecstasy of a kitten breaking the house rules for the first time. “Would you stop that,” Erik hissed, “I’m the Principal’s son. We’re not going to get in trouble.” “Shhh you bastard,” I hissed back, “you’re ruining the fun.” Almost all of the classroom doors were open. I sprang about maniacally free-memory-associating, energy provided by the double shot espresso: “I had History here this bubbler never worked what? it works! golly this is weird I mean how completely weird you can’t even know how weird this is what is with the painted boxes covering up the piping? I can hardly stand anywhere I’m so tall jeezlouisus this is total insanity I am so dwarfed I am a dwarf right now where’s Snow White,” I awed in conclusion. Erik, it seemed, knew all of this already. The nonplussed party pooper. It didn’t matter. We parted company and I crawled in the Camry and took off, listening to every song I ever loved in high school, care of Madame iPod – Wonderwall, Don’t Stop Believin’, Fast Car, Fire and Rain, Same Old Lang Syne, they flew and banged around inside the car like injured seagulls looking for an open window. I casted a glance at the backseat to see the demons, crammed securely together in the child’s car seat, mine to cherish forever.