$9.99 / Perfectbound
ISBN: 9781457501487
120 pages

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Excerpt from the Book

1983, B.C. (Before Cancer)

Wednesday, September 28, 1983

“Oh, God, Mikey, don’t do it.” That’s what I said to myself as I watched Mike finish constructing his signature paper airplane and begin to line up the flight path toward our science teacher, Mr. Rudolph. To be honest, though, I wanted Mike to throw it. I wanted to see the class’s reaction, and I wanted to see if Mr. Rudolph, a rumored alcoholic who was barely “there” even when he was there, would even have a reaction.

As Mike pulled his arm back to throw, I cringed. If his accuracy with the paper airplane was half as good as it was with a football, there was no way he was missing Rudolph. I’ve seen Mike throw a football before. I’ve been on the receiving end of hundreds of his perfect spirals. He’s good, real good. Dan Marino good. Next year, when we get to high school, he’ll probably skip the freshman and JV teams and go right to varsity—if, and it’s a big if, he can keep out of trouble.

Mike actually stood up to get the perfect flight pattern. For dramatic effect, he raised his finger, checking the wind. Then, a gentle release. As Mr. Rudolph, glasses hanging on his allegedly alcohol-enriched red nose, continued obliviously reading aloud from the text, the entire class watched with anticipation. It was like watching a slow-mo version of a 50-yard touchdown pass. In my head, I could hear the NFL Films music playing as the plane headed west over the heads of students, took a right turn, and then headed due north toward its intended target. On its final approach, the plane soared over the seed projects, most of which were barely finished yet received an A anyway— Rudolph the Red-Nosed Teacher never spent time actually grading the projects.

Inexplicably, the plane rose over Rudolph’s head and made a U-turn. As it was about to hit Rudolph in the back of the neck, I covered my eyes and peeked out through a narrow slit in my fingers.

Direct hit! The nose of the plane hit Rudolph square in the back of the neck.

I waited for the eruption of hoots and hollers from the class. Instead, I saw Mr. Rudolph swat the plane away as if it were a fly. Other than swatting, he didn’t even move. He just continued reading from the text. Rudolph’s nonreaction elicited only a few giggles from the class. That was it. Very disappointing. The class fell back into what it usually did while Rudolph read from the text. Andy Sacks and Melissa LaCosta went back to groping each other in the back of the room. To be honest, I was surprised they’d even stopped to watch the plane ride. Vinny Zamon and Lenny Corsentino picked up where they had left off, shooting spitballs. They’ve actually gotten pretty good and have almost completed a spitball happy face on the window. Althea Thompson, Dara Bromm, and Dina Kaplan continued their MASH game, trying to predict who they will marry, what cars they’ll have, what kind of houses they will live in, how many kids they’ll have, and what careers they will have. I wondered for a brief second if I was on any of their lists, especially because Althea and I were a couple back in 5th grade—not that that meant anything in 5th grade, but still.

I looked across the room at Mike, who was sitting back with his hands behind his head and his feet up on the desk, a triumphant smile on his face. He winked at me.

“Well done, my man,” I mouthed to him. I’m a people watcher by nature. I love to sit back and observe the action. I’ve been to the airport a few times, and although my parents complain when our flight is delayed a few hours, I love it. I could sit around and watch people for hours. I like to watch reunions coming out of the gate. I like to make mental lists of the people I’ll save in the event of a crash.

With the paper-plane incident over and the boredom of 8th grade science setting in again, I leaned my head into my left hand, which was supported by my elbow, and all the noise became muted.

That’s odd, I thought. I lifted my head. Back to full volume. I put my head back down. Muted. After a few more repeats, I switched hands, this time covering my right ear. No muted noise. Back to covering my left ear. Muted. I could barely hear out of my right ear.