restricted access Denny
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8 8 8 8 8 Denny We are worried about Denny. We have reason to believe he may go all Columbine on us. Experts warn parents to watch out for signs, and it hurts to say, but we’ve seen plenty. Day and night our son is like an lcd banner, signaling something we can’t read. If he implodes and comes out shooting, the first thing to show up in the crosshairs will be us. He was cute when he was little but now he’s heavily encoded: black everything , hanging off him in tatters—Matrix coat in mid-August, T-shirt, jeans, bits of peeled sunburn and cuticle gnawed to shreds. Black lipstick and blue bruises around the eyes. That glare. Shake him and dirt flies out—grot and nail clippings, crushed rolling papers, inexplicable knots of hair. Stacks of secret writing that Denny covers as you come into the room and no friends except that creepy kid who won’t look you in the eye. Shrinks list things to watch out for, and it isn’t just to protect the innocent, sitting in class when the armed fury comes in and lays waste. They’re warning us! Some lout killed his parents with a baseball bat not far from here, they were dead before the sleeping neighborhood rolled over and shut off the clock. In addition to knifings and ax murders, I read about deaths by assault weapon or repeating rifle, people executed by their own children on their way out of the house to massacre their peers. It’s awful going around scared, but there you are. Poor Stef and I are forever on the alert. Our mutant enemy blunders around the house at night making messes and bumping into things, and, worse? We’re the ones who apologize for being in the way. Back in our room, my wife throws herself down on the bed and sobs, “I’ve failed,” but, listen! There may be an enemy within but in spite of the cycle of guilt and mutual recriminations, we know it isn’t us. I don’t know what’s up with Dad. He and Mom are getting all weird and creepy, lurking with their knuckles hooked under their chins like disturbed squirrels, jumping away with uh-oh looks and shifty eyes when I come in. It’s not like they’re avoiding me. Unless they are. 2 k i t r e e d How did it get so bad? The tiptoeing and the shrinking, the nights when I go to bed in tears? I want to hug my boy and make it better, but it’s like making overtures to a porcupine. Every gesture I try goes astray and if I get too close, I get hurt. What’s a mother to do? He was a hard person when the doctor dragged him out kicking and screaming, and it’s been downhill ever since. Maybe we were too old to be parents, unless we were too young. We had a baby because we were that age and it was expected, but nobody told us what it would be like. The event? The glories of childbirth thing is an atrocious myth. It was painful and scary and astounding. Stan and I spent the first months exhausted and terrified, but that’s nothing compared to now. We love our son, but he’s not very easy to like. Denny’s always been sweet with me—well, except at certain times, but God it’s hard, and I’ve tried everything. We need to sit down and talk but my son is hooked up to his music like a patient to an iv and I don’t even know what’s going into his ears. If I ask him to pull out the earbuds so we can have the conversation he gets all weird and hostile and slouches away with a look that frightens me. Denny, if it’s something I did, then I’m sorry. Isn’t this punishment enough? When you’re warned about the enemy within, the first thing you do is blame yourself. It must be something you did, like failing to pay attention or hitting , which can make schoolyard assassins of kids. Hit Denny? I just wouldn’t, although God knows there were times when I was close. The flip side of guilt is things you failed to do, but on that score Stephanie and I test clean. Believe me...


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