Beneath the Weeping Tree: Part 1 — The Notebook

The ApartmentsThe cover of the notebook was faded, drained of its color by time. Like the brick facade of some boarded-up firehouse, it could hardly be called red at all. More of a pink, really. The edge that opened to the pages within was tattered by its lengthy term in the bedside drawer, and the spiral, at one time a perfectly-aligned chrome coil, had lost its shape—the tiny loops bending into one another like a bench-load of old men. “Summertime Blues” ribboned across the middle of the cover, words placed there by a careful hand. The title set this notebook apart from the others in the drawer. About a half dozen of them were crunched in there behind a neglected Bible, a litter of foam ear plugs and a bound collection of sweepstakes entries. This evening, the other notebooks were still in his mom’s drawer back at the apartment. He only removed one at a time in order to avoid suspicion. With a little patience, there’d be plenty of time to eventually read them all.

Cooper squatted on the wobbly sheet of plywood high in the tree. Dusk would settle soon, and he imagined he would end up descending in the dark. A bird cawed, and he watched it dart from one treetop to another, he then returned his attention to the notebook. Its spiral binding snagged his shirt. He wove it back out of the material, leaned against the tree, and flipped open the cover. Above him, tassels of willow danced in gentle loops from the top branches, pixilated by the fading glow of sunset. They were like tiny spires, he thought, each blending in with the others like an accusatory threat. There were hundreds of them, and if they were to fall from branches like tears, he’d be buried in their thrust—invisible to the rest of the world. Just like his mother. He didn’t want to duck beneath the wing of anonymity as she’d done, and he toyed with the idea of abandoning his platform and climbing the tree’s pinnacle to avoid his far-fetched burial fantasy. Instead, he settled into the first pages of the notebook.

July 5, 1980

The 4th started off as an amazing day, but I should’ve seen it coming—the disappointment that would be thrown on me later. He does it to me every time—builds everything up like we’re the most durable couple in the entire world with nothing but plump babies and picket fences in our future. But it never takes long for his tune to change. I really don’t know what’s going to happen here, and I’m a little scared. I thought things might change yesterday. Grandma used to tell me “your mind is like a tire on the car: it can always be changed.” But it doesn’t seem like that adage applies to Hank.

I should’ve known things would go a bit haywire when I saw him show up with a cooler of beer. He knows I can’t drink because of my “condition”. He’s so into denying that this situation even exists that he tells me I can drink until I’m showing. That’s just another lie that he’s told himself so many times that he might actually believe it by now. He had three empties rattling around on the floor of the car by the time we got to Black Rock Beach. He said we needed to be there by noon to secure a spot for the fireworks at dusk, but I think what he really wanted was a place to put away a 12 pack while looking out at the bikini girls (who aren’t pregnant) and think about the possibilities. “Baby this” and “baby that” he keeps saying. He sweetens up all of his lame excuses with the glass-bottomed hope that I’ll see things his way. But I wish that he would just see things my way and I used yesterday as an opportunity to tell him so.

We had just gotten to the beach, and as I’d predicted, we were some of the first people there. The tide was creeping in gently, and after we spread out the blanket, I sat under the umbrella while he set up his cooler and radio. I watched for a while as the barge off shore was loaded up with fireworks. I wonder how you get a job being one of those people, floating out on top of the ocean with a boat-full of explosives!

Toward the end of the first six pack he nodded off, and I sat there and watched some of the other people who’d started setting up their stations on the beach. It’s strange; since the doc told me I was pregnant I’ve lost interest in reading books. I guess it takes something as real as this to make me disinterested in the world of fiction. One cool thing about it is that I am more inspired by people-watching now. It’s so fun to sit and check them out, just imagining what is hidden in the deep folds of their lives. I wonder how many of them have parallels with me. A fat old lady sitting in a lounge chair, a lifeguard walking up the beach with a newspaper tucked under his arm, a little girl digging frantically in the muddy sand where the tide rolled in. I wondered about where they all lived and what they were each thinking. I rooted for the little girl’s sand-creation to survive the tide.

When Hank woke up, his back was streaked red in the spots he hadn’t been able to reach with the sunscreen. I almost laughed but I didn’t want to risk pissing him off or sending him into one of his “poor me” fits of silence. He can be such a baby sometimes! I needed to keep him in good spirits so I played the motherly role (hoping he’d take notice of my ability in that area) and soothed his back, rubbing in extra lotion. Finally, he rolled over and reached into the cooler for another beer. He was all groggy and when he yawned I could see sticky lines of saliva connecting his lower and upper lip. Such a lovely sight; the father of my future child! I figured it might be a good time to discuss the baby, but when I brought it up, he raised the palm of his hand toward my face to shut me off. He doesn’t want to talk about it!

Hank needs to take some responsibility for our child. The only time he mentions it is when he tells me I should just get rid of it. “We’re not ready for it right now,” he says. I know that he’ll never be ready for any responsibility. So I just sat there and watched him pour another few beers down his throat. When dusk finally happened, the fireworks went off as planned; big blossoms of light radiating out above the people gathered on the beach, spiraling toward the water, but disappearing before they made it to the surface. It’s amazing how there is such a beautiful bloom, and then the next moment there is no evidence that it even existed.

I feel like our relationship is similar; we had our fireworks and now when I try to remind him about our responsibility, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’d rather pretend that the fireworks never happened.
I’m scared . . . .

Cooper shut the journal and slid it into his back pack where he was sure not to forget it. Anything left behind was a potential victim to rain or wind or theft. And she’d just about kill him if she found out that he’d been prying into her private thoughts. He sat there—up where he always hung out during the intermissions between school and sunset. It was a place apart from his mother’s nagging questions and away from any sense of accountability. There was no chance of encountering the heady stare of his English teacher, Miss Foster, or the mocking catcalls of the jocks who rode the school bus with him. Up there in the tree he needed to look out for Number One and that’s all. A liberating idea. He was free to read from his mystery stories—Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe—uninterrupted, or mimic the movements of squirrels (as he often did) in an attempt to study their habits. During the past week, he began to swipe the journals from his mother’s nightstand. Real mysteries were buried in those pages, and he knew that he might begin to understand her life if he took the time to figure them out.

He always tried to avoid making personal connections with the entries, maintaining the “outsider-perspective” of a fiction reader. It was a devise that was suggested to him by one of his elementary teachers a few years back, and he never gave it much thought back then while reading James and the Giant Peach or Bearstone. But his mom’s journal entries were different, almost inviting him to guess where he fit into the happenings. Often he was mentioned by name as she wrote a mixed bag of entries describing times he made her proud—like when he designed the runner up car in the pine box derby back in Cub Scouts—but also throwing in her ideas about things he did that pissed her off. He read her impressions from the day he scribbled with crayons on the bathroom wall when he was five or six years old—she was thinking of completely shutting him off from any Christmas presents that year.

The entry he just finished was in a class of its own. It painted an image of his mother in her fragile youth. In her own words, she appeared confused and scared, but perhaps more important was the inner struggle that tortured her. As long as he’d known her, his mom had never been a huge advocate of giving voice to her opinions unless it regarded him. He could tell when something didn’t sit well with her, but she usually let it slide and opted for silence instead. And that seemed to be the case with the journal entry. But this was different. He was implied in there—an unborn child with a hurting mother and a calloused father. Hank. There was a name he’d never heard uttered in their apartment. Was Hank indeed his father? The prospect of asking her about Hank bore visions of an explosive battle. Not only would he be implicated in stealing her privacy, but the question would act as a tool, violently tearing the stitches from a wound that certainly would never heal. He understood that she must carry deep resent for this man, Hank, and asking about their relationship would do nothing to lift the burden.

Until he knew more.

Through the thick foliage, the sharp report of a backfiring car was followed by squealing tires. He imagined a jacked up Camaro peeling across the parking lot of their apartment complex, thudding over the speed bumps and fishtailing out into the road that connected the development with the rest of the island. It happened all the time. He had fantasized securing a steel cable across the access road, anchoring one end to the sign that boasted “Black Rock Villas” in gawky, gold lettering, and the other to a light pole. It would bring great satisfaction to watch the car halted by a shower of sparks from the capsized light post or else drag away the sign that marked the driver for the world to see. It wasn’t exactly a status symbol to claim residency at “The Villas.” It was the stigma of living there that had spurred Cooper into sneaking glances at his mom’s journal.

At first, he’d wanted to learn enough about her life to know how they’d landed in the housing complex—a single mother and her only son. He waited for her to get into the shower before going to her bedroom to read the journals. Most were filled with trivial entries, describing new recipes she saw on TV or an info-mercial that captured her interest. After a few days, though, he discovered a hard-bound notebook toward the bottom of the night stand drawer. A light stain—coffee or coke, he guessed—smeared its cover like some amorphous silhouette. In it, he read about her arguments with his grandfather and about people named Marjorie, Hank, and Leonora. Although he remembered his grandpa, he never met or even heard of the rest of them. But the descriptions of every day events in his mom’s life carried a thrill that he couldn’t explain. And when he almost got caught prying into the journal that afternoon, he disciplined himself that only in his private place could he read the entries.

The tree fort was a secret that he believed was safe from the rest of the world. Countless afternoons of scouring the areas around the apartment complex trash dumpsters had yielded the raw materials to make it all happen. The rectangle of plywood that turned out to be the floor was the first item discovered, and the first installed. Tiny fragments of carpet clung to the rusty staples that lined its rough surface and he’d spent an entire Saturday sanding it smooth and then lugging it out to the woods, keeping a careful eye over his shoulder to make sure that nobody was tracking his movement. His mom had a coffee tin full of odd shaped nails and screws and he borrowed a few of them to affix the platform in the crook of a large willow tree he scoped out during the previous spring. He noticed the perfect curvature while out collecting soil for a school science project and he immediately earmarked the spot for his “getaway.”

During elementary school, Cooper had friends whose fathers built them tree houses to go along with their jungle gyms and sand boxes and rope swings. But, while those contraptions proved fun for most kids his age, it didn’t seem natural for him to use them. It was like using a public restroom—not as relaxing as home. So, the idea was planted for many years and it felt good to finally set out to make good on the concept.

A shelving unit had been tossed, along with some wrought iron handrails, and on a Sunday in May, he rigged up a rope to hoist all of the materials up into his secret nook. As dusk neared on that evening Cooper experienced a sense of accomplishment like no other in his life. He leaned out over the wrought iron railing and sucked on a cigarette, his day’s work complete. When darkness descended on the woods, he leaned back and scattered a flashlight beam across the old rack of shelves. Remnants from torn-away stickers lingered on their wooden surface, and he made a mental file of all of the things he planned to bring up there to transform it into his home away from home. It was like a satellite bedroom and it pleased him deeply to think about the prospect of hanging out there without the possibility of his mother’s voice needling through the door. “Could you take out the trash?” “Can you run to the store for me? I’m out of cigarettes!” “Did you do your homework?” Nothing to listen to but the song of birds and whisper of leaves as the wind riffled through them.

He looked to the spot and was pleased to realize that it had turned out pretty much as planned. A small stack of books was wedged into the lower shelf, while the upper shelf trophied a pair of candles. His mom always warned him against burning candles in the apartment, telling him stories of neighborhood kids setting the house on fire during her childhood. She described the entire sky lighting up in a deep orange tint as if the night time was melting. “It was just like a fireworks display,” she told him, and he could still remember wondering whether she’d ever seen an actual fireworks display that she could compare it to.

Now, as he zipped her journal into his back pack and prepared to head back to the apartment, he knew that she had.

Continued in:

 

With Drawn: Part 25 — The Man of theHouse

Jacob's HouseContinued from: With Drawn: Part 24 — Break on Through

Harriet Berring was a middle-aged woman with pewter hair and an endless array of pantsuits that were all various shades of beige. Harriet Berring was a real estate agent, and at this time, she was sitting behind the wheel of her Mercedes sedan. She couldn’t really afford the Mercedes she sat in, but it looked good when she arrived in the car to show houses to potential buyers. She was able to justify the car’s expense to herself and to her husband by saying that it was in a sense an occupational prop. It made her look successful, and it gave her confidence.

Harriet did not feel confident now, however. Harriet Berring, sitting in her pantsuit behind the wheel of the Mercedes that she couldn’t afford, was trying to determine if she should get out of the car and go into the house on Savage Street. Her heart had leapt when she turned the corner onto the street and saw the light on in number 42’s living room. She had pulled into the house’s driveway, trying to remember if she maybe left the light on herself, but then, as she put her car in park, she thought for a moment that she may have seen movement inside the house—like shadow puppets against the drawn blinds.

Despite Harriet’s nervousness—actually it was closer to fear—over how neither the light should be on, nor the blinds be drawn, she conceded that she was responsible for the house, and that she should further investigate why there was a change in the house’s appearance. So she got out of the car, holding an umbrella that had been in the car’s backseat. Harriet held the umbrella even though it was not actually raining outside. She held the umbrella because she intended to use the umbrella in the manner of a club on anyone that may have been inside 42 Savage Street.

Harriet tentatively approached the abandoned house’s front steps and she climbed onto the house’s front porch. She still held the umbrella in one hand, and she held her cell phone in her other hand. She had already punched in the numbers 9-1-1 on her cell phone, but she had not yet hit the send button. This way, if she ran into any trouble, she could immediately contact Emergency Services.

Harriet’s heart was pounding because her fight or flight instinct were now in full effect. As she unlocked the lockbox on the front door’s doorknob, she comforted herself by thinking that maybe one of the Hamptons had been in the house, leaving the light on and drawing the blinds. This type of rationalization is normal in people. It’s what makes it possible for people to do things despite fears or trepidation. This is what made it possible for Harriet Berring to unlock the door at 42 Savage Street, despite the fact that she thought there could be someone, possibly a dangerous someone, inside the house.

Harriet slowly opened the front door of 42 Savage Street and she peered into the house. “Hello?” Harriet called into the house. Her voice was shaky.

Her voice was shaky because often when people become frightened or nervous, their voice will quiver due to a dramatic increase in a person’s heart rate.

Harriet called in her shaky voice, “Is anybody here?”

Harriet walked through the house’s front hall to the doorway leading into the living room. She tentatively stepped into the living room.

She gasped.

Her gasp was more like a squeak. It was a sound not unlike a frightened mouse. Harriet had gasped because there was a man standing in the living room. Harriet was going to run from the house, screaming and swinging her umbrella and pressing send on her cell phone. But then Harriet noticed that it was not a man standing in the living room. What she saw was a painting of a man standing in a mural on the living room wall.

Harriet inspected the mural—the intricate details of the grassy field, tranquil sea, and of the man in full dress uniform—and because she was both shocked and impressed, she said this: “Wow.”

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 26 — Fight Night

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With Drawn: Part 24 — Break on Through

Mystic Island Hospital and AsylumContinued from: With Drawn: Part 23 — Unseen Barriers

Joanne Walsh sat in Dr. Charles Adams’s office. Joanne felt like she spent most of her time in offices lately. Doctor’s office, principal’s office. Only, Dr. Adams, seated across from her now, was not looking at her in the manner that Principal Cooper generally regarded her. Principal Cooper generally regarded Joanne like he thought she was to blame for her son’s condition, which I guess on a genetic level she was, but Jacob’s condition had nothing to do with her mothering, which is what Principal Cooper seemed to imply. Dr. Adams’s expression was not like this. In fact, Dr. Adams had almost the opposite expression of Principal Cooper. Dr. Adams had a look of pitying understanding. Dr. Adams knew that Jacob’s condition was not Joanne’s fault. He knew that Joanne was not a bad parent. He knew that it was more that Joanne had been a winner of some sort of cosmic lottery.

Dr. Adams was a small man that wore thick glasses that magnified his pitying, understanding expression. He was now holding the drawing of Amanda Lansing in his hand. Dr. Adams glanced from the drawing to Joanne and then back at the drawing. He said to Joanne, “I can assure you, Mrs. Walsh, this is normal behavior for a boy of Jacob’s age. He is becoming interested in the opposite sex.”

Joanne said to the doctor, “I don’t think you understand, doctor. This isn’t just a drawing of a naked woman. This is the psychologist at Jacob’s school.”

Dr. Adams raised his eyebrows, the doctor studying the drawing more closely. The doctor said, “You don’t say?”

Joanne nodded toward the drawing in the doctor’s hand, Joanne saying, “It’s pretty detailed, don’t you think?”

Dr. Adams studied the drawing a moment longer. The doctor then looked up from the drawing to Joanne. He said, “And you’re worried that perhaps… What was her name again?”

“Lansing. Amanda Lansing.”

“Amanda Lansing,” the doctor said to himself, looking again at the picture. He then looked at Joanne and said, “You’re worried that perhaps Jacob is spying on Ms. Lansing?”

Joanne shook her head, saying, “No, I don’t think he’d do that.”

“Then you think that perhaps Ms. Lansing posed for this drawing?”

Joanne looked at the doctor as if the doctor was accusing her of paranoia.

Paranoia is when a person thinks that other people think he or she is crazy. Although Joanne was not crazy, she sometimes felt like she was acting crazy.

For a moment, she felt like she was with Principal Cooper again.

Dr. Adams said, “Look, Mrs. Walsh, this drawing is very detailed, for sure.” The doctor admired the drawing again more closely, saying, “And we both know that Jacob has photographic recall and an uncanny ability for creating virtual photographs with pencil and paper.”

Joanne said, “Yes, but she’s nude.”

Dr. Adams said, “I wouldn’t worry about this. It’s just adolescent curiosity. In fact, you should be happy that he is showing such an age-appropriate interest in the opposite sex. I assure you, Mrs. Walsh, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Joanne seemed unconvinced for a moment, but then she stood up, glancing at the clock on the wall and saying, “Okay, I’m late for my night shift, Dr. Adams. Thank you for seeing me so late. Sorry for wasting your time. I guess I am overreacting. There just seems to be so much going on with Jacob lately.”

The doctor said, “Please, Mrs. Walsh, there’s certainly no need to apologize. It’s hard enough raising a boy Jacob’s age, never mind one without the same social expectations or understandings as a typical teenager.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Joanne said, holding out her hand for the drawing of Amanda Lansing.

Dr. Adams baulked a moment, subconsciously pulling the drawing toward him. The doctor said, “I should probably hold onto this… you know, so I can talk to Jacob about it if he and I meet.”

Now, while Joanne and the doctor had been meeting, Jacob was standing before the painting of his father on the living room wall of the abandoned house across the street from the Walsh’s home—the portrait of his father having moved and now looking at Jacob.

Jacob said to the painting, “Can you hear me, dad?”

The painting of David Grist began to speak. But, again, Jacob could not hear what his father was saying to him.

Jacob said to the painting, “What? I can’t hear you, dad.”

The painting kept speaking.

And Jacob kept saying, “I can’t hear you.”

The painting of Jacob’s father then stopped speaking, and it held up its palms, flat against the inside of the painting, as if there was a barrier of glass between Jacob and his father.

Jacob reached up and placed his hands against the wall of the Hamptons’ living room, but for a moment, Jacob could have sworn he felt the fleshy palms of his father’s hands, and for a moment, Jacob truly believed he was touching his father’s hands, and for a moment, Jacob wished he could be on that grassy field with his father. That wish seemed to reside in his head in the same focused-unfocused way that Jacob would stare at his drawings before they would move. And that’s when David Grist pulled his hands away from his son’s palms, and that’s when Jacob’s hands fell into the painting as if there was no wall at all, no invisible barrier between Jacob and the field and the tranquil sea and his father.

Jacob paused a moment. He looked at his hands and then back up at his father. He worked what was happening out in his mind. Although what was happening seemed to have no basis in logic or reason, it was happening, and so Jacob had to accept it as reality. He stepped onto the grassy field of his painting.

Jacob could see the green painted grass stretch off around him and the blue painted sky stretch off above him, and his painted father standing before him. And it was this painting of David Grist that was the first to speak, David saying, “I’ve been waiting for you, Jacob.”

Jacob said to the painting of his father, “You have?”

The painting said, “Of course I have. I’m glad you found me, and I’m sorry that I ever had to leave you.”

Jacob said to the painting, “You’re not really my father.”

The painting said, “I’m not?”

“He’s dead. You’re a painting.”

The painting said, “And David Grist’s body was just flesh and bone. But flesh and bone alone does not make a person. Don’t worry, Jacob, I am your father, and I am here for you whenever you need me.”

“I need you now.”

“I know you do, Jacob. You need to tell me what is wrong so that we can fix it.”

Jacob said, “I’m feeling squeezed.”

“Squeezed?”

“My head feels squeezed and my heart feels squeezed.”

“Why do you feel this way?”

Jacob said, “It happens when people make fun of me, or when they are mean to me. Or even sometimes when I’m not sure if they’re being mean or not. It’s confusing, and my heart feels like it implodes and then it wants to explode.”

David said, “And what do you think will stop your heart from feeling this way?”

“Stopping the people from being mean.”

David said, “You can’t stop people from being mean. Some people are just mean by nature.”

“Then I want there to be fairness.”

“What would fairness be for you?”

“I want people to have to pay for being mean.”

Something seemed to catch David’s attention.

Jacob turned to see what his father had noticed. Jacob looked out of the painting, the grassy field ending abruptly into the abandoned house’s living room. Lights washed across the drawn blinds of the living room window. Outside, a car was pulling into the abandoned house’s driveway, its lights illuminating momentarily the windows’ drawn shades.

David said, “You need to go now, Jacob.”

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 25 — The Man of theHouse

With Drawn: Part 23 — Unseen Barriers

Jacob's HouseContinued from: With Drawn: Part 22 — Home of the Wolves

Jacob was peering out his bedroom window. He was peering out at his mother hurrying down the front walkway toward her car. Jacob watched as his mother stopped and turned back toward the Walsh’s front door and said something. Jacob could not hear what his mother was saying because he and his mother were on opposite sides of a sheet of insulated glass, and the sound waves of his mother’s voice were unable to penetrate that barrier. Jacob thought about the drawing of Amanda Lansing and the drawing of his father, and he thought about not being able to hear what they had to say either. Jacob wondered what insulated barrier kept him from hearing them.

Jacob could almost read his mother’s lips. He knew that she was saying something about being late, and Jacob knew that she was talking to Dennis at that moment. He knew this because he and Dennis were the only two people she would be talking to, and Jacob knew that she wasn’t talking to him. Joanne then got into her car and backed down the driveway, onto the road, and then she disappeared down Savage Street.

Jacob stepped away from his window and he walked out of his room. He descended the stairs to the living room. In the living room, Dennis was slouched on the couch. He was watching

the television and drinking a beer. Jacob wandered past Dennis, Jacob heading toward the kitchen so that he could sneak out the Walsh’s back door and head over to the abandoned house across the street.

Dennis was flipping through channels on the television, and as Jacob was crossing in front of the television, Dennis’s channel surfing had landed on the movie Terminator 2.

Terminator 2 is a sequel to the movie The Terminator. Both movies are about robots that look just like humans, but both robots have difficulty acting like humans.

On the television in the Walsh’s living room was the scene in Terminator 2 where the robot that looked human was mounting a Harley Davidson motorcycle outside of a bar. This was after the Terminator had beaten up a bunch of bikers.

Jacob liked the Terminator because Jacob could relate to him as he tried to logically work out human emotions and behaviors. Jacob liked the Terminator in the second movie, that is. The Terminator in the first movie was an asshole.

Jacob stopped to watch the scene that was on the television for a moment, Jacob not realizing that he was blocking Dennis’s view of the movie.

Dennis said to Jacob, in that way known as sarcasm, “You make a better door than a window, even though you’re a pain.”

Jacob said, “What?”

Dennis waved his arm at Jacob, Dennis no longer sounding sarcastic. It was more like a desperate plea, “Will you look out?”

Jacob said to Dennis, “I heard you call me a whore.”

Dennis said, “No, I called you a door. You make a better door than a window, because you were blocking the television. Then I called you a pain, which you are. Wait, why am I explaining this to you? Just get the hell out of the way.”

Jacob stepped out of the way of the television. He paused a moment, still trying to process what Dennis had said about doors and windows.

Dennis grumbled, “‘You called me a whore…’ That doesn’t even make sense.”

Jacob said, “You don’t make sense.”

Dennis said, “Just proved my point, you little shit. Now get the hell out of here. I’m tired of arguing with a retard. Bad enough your mom leaves me here to babysit your dumb ass.”

“She actually leaves me here to babysit you, you drunk asshole.”

Dennis stood up from the couch and strode toward Jacob as if he was going to strike him.

Jacob scurried out of the room and into the kitchen. He glanced toward the living room. He could hear the sounds of Dennis plopping back down on the couch, the sound of his stepfather groaning as he dropped back to his seat, and the sounds of his channel surfing.

Jacob grabbed his backpack beside the back door. It was full of art supplies. Jacob shouldered the bag and darted out the door. He crept around the Walsh’s house and then darted across the street to the abandoned house’s yard. Jacob looked back toward his house, making sure Dennis’s face wasn’t peering out the living room window. Jacob then looked up and down the street to see if anyone was around to see him. Jacob crept around the back of the Hamptons’ house to what was once the Hamptons’ backyard. He walked over to the bulkhead, opened the rusty door, and crept down into the basement.

Now, because Jacob had a photographic memory, he could remember every dimension of the basement. This made it quite easy for him to navigate through the basement in the dark, and so Jacob had no problem making his way to the basement steps and ascending the steps to the door leading into the kitchen.

Jacob opened the door and stepped into the kitchen, navigating the dark room to the living room. When he stepped into the living room, he snapped on a light switch that was beside the room’s entranceway. The overhead light washed over the room and the wall and the painting of Jacob’s father.

Jacob stepped up to the painting and he stared at it in his focused-unfocused way. And the portrait of Jacob’s father shifted, David Grist’s head tilting slightly before his eyes focused on his son.

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 24 — Break on Through

With Drawn: Part 22 — Home of the Wolves

Mystic Island Middle SchoolContinued from: With Drawn: Part 21 — The Second Mural

Principal Cooper walked into the Mystic Island Middle School gymnasium. On the far side of the gym, Jacob Grist was standing on scaffolding. The custodian had set up the scaffolding so that Jacob could work on his mural. Jacob was painting the mural on the wall above a row of doors that led outside to a parking lot. This way, John Berkley had said, the mural would be the final image everyone saw as they left the sporting event they were attending, and so it would be more apt to stay with them.

In the center of the mural was an enormous football player. The football player was in a three-point stance. This meant that he was bent over and had both his feet and a hand planted on the ground. Football players lined up like this so that they would have more leverage to clobber an opposing player. Across the football player’s barrel chest, on his uniform, was this: MYSTIC WOLVES #1.

Positioned around the football player was a team of basketball players. The players were in various defensive and offensive poses. Jacob had researched online how basketball players would be positioned. He did the same for the football player.

On the left side of the mural was a baseball player in the follow-through of a pitch. On the mural’s right side was a batter about to hit a baseball. Jacob didn’t have to research baseball players to know what they’d look like. Baseball was Jacob’s father’s favorite sport, and Jacob used to watch the games with him. Jacob didn’t care much for the game, but he did like to calculate batting averages in real time, impressing his father by calling out a batter’s statistics before they were flashed up on the television screen.

Leaping from the top of the mural, as if toward the viewer, were two snarling wolves, and above these wolves were the words: HOME OF THE MYSTIC ISLAND WOLVES.

Principal Cooper regarded the mural. He nodded. He did not expect the mural to be so expertly crafted, and what’s more, he did not expect it to be so appropriate in its conception. This caused Principal Cooper’s head to involuntarily nod with approval.

Principal Cooper called across the gym to Jacob, “Wow, Jacob. This is really amazing.”

Jacob stopped painting, and he turned to look at the principal. Jacob didn’t respond immediately to the compliment. He searched the principal’s facial expression for any signs of what his mother called sarcasm. When he determined that the principal’s compliment was most likely sincere, Jacob said, “Thank you.” He then turned back to the mural and continued working on it.

It turns out that the principal’s comment was sincere, and Principal Cooper continued to admire the mural, still nodding his head. The principal then noticed that Jacob had yet to add faces to the mural’s figures. Principal Cooper paused a moment, then he called up to Jacob, “Now… Now, um, Jacob, I have to ask you this. What kind of faces are you planning to put on those figures?”

Jacob said, “Not sure yet.”

The principal said to Jacob, “I mean… you have a talent for caricatures. There won’t be anyone we know drawn up there, right?”

“No.”

The principal smiled and said, “Good. That’s good.” Then the principal was nodding again, and he was saying, as if to himself, “This mural is truly great, Jacob. Truly great job.”

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 23 — Unseen Barriers

With Drawn: Part 21 — Another Mural

Jacob's HouseContinued from: With Drawn: Part 20 — A New Approach

Joanne returned home from her nursing shift—it wasn’t the late shift she sometimes worked, so she arrived home about an hour after Jacob had eaten his dinner. Joanne walked into the living room. Dennis was sitting on the couch. He was watching television and drinking a beer. Joanne said to Dennis, “Where’s Jacob?”

Dennis said, not looking away from the television, “Said he was going for his walk.”

Joanne looked out the window at the street. She said, “I don’t see him.”

Dennis shrugged, saying, “Probably around the block.”

“I didn’t see him when I was pulling in the street.”

Dennis shrugged again. He was going to say something sarcastic, like, Wasn’t my turn to watch him. But then he realized that it actually was his turn to watch him, so instead he said, “He’s fine.”

Joanne spotted a light on in the living room of the abandoned house across the street. She said, “Looks like someone’s over at the Hamptons’ house.”

The Hamptons were an old couple that had lived at 42 Savage Street, across the street from the Walsh’s house. When the old couple died, their five grown children all fought over who had control of the house. So by not being able to decide what to do with the house, they collectively decided, by default, to allow the house to fall into disarray.

Joanne said, “Maybe the kids finally decided to get rid of the house.”

Joanne called Mr. and Mrs. Hamptons’ offspring, kids, even though all five of the Hampton offspring were older than she was.

Dennis said, “Be nice if they did something with that shithole.”

Meanwhile, across the street, Jacob was standing in that shithole’s living room. He had pulled the blinds so when his mother had looked out at the light in the Hamptons’ house’s window, she did not see her son.

Jacob had borrowed paints from Mr. Berkley. Mr. Berkley had loaned the paints to Jacob so that Jacob could work on a mural that the art teacher wanted Jacob to do in the school gym. But Jacob decided he was going to do two murals, one in the school gym, and one in the abandoned house at 42 Savage Street.

Jacob stood before the empty wall in the abandoned house’s living room. On that wall, Jacob was painting a perfect rendition of a grass field, the field overlooking a tranquil sea. In the foreground of the mural was a live-size, exact rendition of David Grist, Jacob’s father.

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 22 — Home of the Wolves

With Drawn: Part 20 — A New Approach

Mystic Island Middle SchoolContinued from: With Drawn: Part 19 — The Principal’s Office… Again

Principal Cooper and Mr. Barney were talking together in the school hallway. Principal Cooper would always stop to talk to Mr. Barney if he saw him in the hallway. This is because back when Principal Cooper was in middle school, a jock like Mr. Barney would have been cool to talk to, even though, back when Principal Cooper was in middle school, jocks like Mr. Barney would hardly ever talk to him. So Principal Cooper would now talk to Mr. Barney in the halls because Principal Cooper was now cool enough to do so. However, Mr. Barney talked to Principal Cooper for a different reason. Mr. Barney talked to Principal Cooper not because Principal Cooper was cool, but rather because Principal Cooper was his boss.

While Principal Cooper and Mr. Barney spoke together, they heard someone saying these words: “Look at that, just the two men I wanted to talk to.”

Principal Cooper and Mr. Barney turned to find John Berkley striding toward them, John with his arms spread wide like he wanted to hug the two men.

Judging from Principal Cooper and Mr. Barney’s expressions, it did not appear that John was just the guy they wanted to talk to. John was neither cool enough in Principal Cooper’s eyes to talk to, nor did he have enough authority to warrant a conversation with Mr. Barney.

Principal Cooper said, as if wincing, “Hello, John.”

A wince is an expression someone makes when he or she is in pain.

Principal Cooper wasn’t actually in pain. It was more that he found talking to John Berkley painful.

Truth is, Principal Cooper didn’t even realize he had made a wince, which was okay, because John didn’t notice Principal Cooper had made a wince either.

John said to Principal Cooper, “So I was doing some thinking. During those detentions with Jacob Grist, he and I were discussing murals and the great mural painters. You know, Rivera, Siqueiros, and such. And I was thinking about what you said about Jacob needing to get more involved in this school. And that’s when it hit me.”

John paused as if it should have hit the other two men, too. The truth is, it didn’t hit them. In fact, John Berkley might as well have been speaking Mandarin Chinese to both of the men. Principal Cooper had a difficult time trying to decipher what point John was trying to make, and Mr. Barney understood nothing that came out of John’s mouth whatsoever.

Principal Cooper glanced at Mr. Barney to see what Mr. Barney thought of what John was saying. Mr. Barney raised his eyebrows and looked off down the hall. This expression was meant to illustrate to Principal Cooper that Mr. Barney was quite bored with John’s banter.

When John realized that what had hit him had not hit the other two men, he said, “What if Jacob did a mural here in school? Something he can be proud of, something the other students can respect.”

Principal Cooper glanced at the gym teacher again. Only this time, the principal had an expression on his face that conveyed that John might possibly be onto something. Mr. Barney still had an expression on his face conveying that he thought John was speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Principal Cooper said to John, “Interesting idea. A mural of what and where?”

John said, “Well, this is where Mr. Barney comes in.”

Hearing his name mentioned in all that Chinese made Mr. Barney say, “Huh?”

John said, “What if Jacob was to do a mural in the gym? It could be a mural depicting school pride, you know, sports teams or something.”

Principal Cooper glanced again at Mr. Barney, and the principal said to the gym teacher, “Well, what do you think, Harvey?”

Mr. Barney said, “Grist? You mean that weird kid that Tommy Rogers drew all over with a Sharpie?”

John said to the gym teacher, “Yes, that Grist. And he’s not, that weird kid.

The italics above are because John stressed those words with the tone of his voice.

Mr. Barney said, “Didn’t he draw a picture of a kid getting his head ripped off or something? How do we know he won’t draw something bizarre up on the gym wall?”

John said, “I’ll make sure he doesn’t.”

Mr. Barney snorted. His snort was because he didn’t believe that John would be able to keep Jacob from drawing something bizarre on the gym’s wall.

Principal Cooper wanted to snort, too, but he kept a professional demeanor, which is to say that he did not let on that he also thought John would fail in keeping Jacob’s artwork in check. The principal said, “When is he supposed to work on this mural?”

John said, “He could work on it during study periods, or after school. Whenever he has the spare time.”

The principal said, “Jacob doesn’t do any of his schoolwork as it is. He should be spending his study periods getting caught up with his assignments.”

John said, “Jacob doesn’t do his schoolwork because he doesn’t find value in school. Let’s give him a reason to care. Let’s give him something connected with the school that he can be proud of.”

The principal looked at Mr. Barney and said, “Harvey?” He did this because he was wondering what Mr. Barney thought of this idea.

Mr. Barney shrugged, which was meant to express that Mr. Barney didn’t like the idea very much.

But the principal did like the idea. And so Principal Cooper said to John, “Very well. But you be sure that Jacob Grist doesn’t end up doing some giant mural of Tommy Rogers getting his head ripped off.”

John said, “He won’t. I promise.”

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 21 — The Second Mural

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With Drawn: Part 19 — The Principal’s Office… Again

Mystic Island Middle SchoolContinued from: With Drawn: Part 18 — Physical Graffiti

Joanne Walsh sat in Principal Cooper’s office. Principal Cooper sat behind his desk. Joanne said to the principal, “I have to tell you, Principal Cooper, I’m getting pretty tired of having to come here.”

Principal Cooper said to Joanne, “I don’t know what to tell you, Ms. Walsh, the police have been contacted, but you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to press charges.”

Joanne told the principal, “The Rogers family are friends of my husband, so, no, we don’t want to involve the police over this matter. But the fact remains, you seem completely unable to keep my son safe from bullying here in your school.”

“I can assure you, Ms. Walsh, we take bullying very seriously here. The boys in question have been disciplined harshly.”

“That discipline being?”

“I can’t discuss other students’ records in such a manner, but I can assure you, they have been dealt with harshly.”

“I bet they have,” Joanne said. She was being sarcastic, of course.

By the way, even though Principal Cooper can’t tell Joanne Walsh what punishment Tommy, Danny, and Frankie received for their assault on Jacob, I can tell you. The punishment was that the three boys received two-day suspensions from school. The three boys would spend those two days playing video games together online.

Principal Cooper said to Joanne, “Look, I’m as concerned about the treatment of Jacob by these three boys as you are. But the fact remains, Jacob does have a hand in these bullying incidents. By continuing to draw these pictures that he draws, he is bringing a lot of negative attention upon himself.”

Joanne said, “You sound like those men that blame rape victims for inviting rape.”

Principal Cooper furrowed his brow. What Joanne said, some may call a low blow. This is when someone says something so harsh that for the person on the receiving end of the insult, it feels like he has been kicked in the testicles. Getting kicked in the testicles really hurts.

Joanne continued, “I know Jacob is viewed differently. He is different. And I know his drawings can be disturbing at times, but that is due to his exceptional artistic ability. If they were stick-figure drawings, they wouldn’t cause this much commotion. And if he was more like the other children, these drawings wouldn’t matter.”

“Ms. Walsh, I don’t think that…”

Joanne ignored the principal’s attempt to speak, and she said, “And it is due to Jacob being different and exceptional that he is being targeted. And it is because of his autism that he is different and exceptional. So, as per the law, you are supposed to provide FAPE, Free Appropriate Public Education, to my son. So you need to figure out how to protect him from this bullying. Because if you don’t, then who will?”

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 20 — A New Approach

With Drawn: Part 18 — Physical Graffiti

Mystic Island Middle SchoolContinued from: With Drawn: Part 17 — KIA

Jacob stood in the boy’s locker room of the Wellbrook Middle School’s gymnasium. Jacob was alone in the locker room. He was alone because all the other students were in the gym. Jacob always waited until the last possible moment to change for gym class. All the other boys were eager to get out of the locker room and into the gym so that they could start playing their stupid games. Jacob could not care less about their stupid games, so Jacob always took the opportunity of the other boys’ mass exodus to change into his gym clothes in privacy. It was not easy to mull around for the ten minutes it took for the other boys to change, and Mr. Barney, the gym teacher, always complained about Jacob being late, but this was a lot better than having to listen to the boys making fun of Jacob’s scrawny body and pale skin.

Jacob opened his backpack and he removed his gym clothes from it. He scanned the rest of the locker room, like prey scanning for predators, and when he determined that no one else was in the locker room with him, he slipped out of his clothing, leaving on only his tighty-whities underwear. Jacob was about to slip on his sweatpants, when Tommy, Danny, and Frankie seemed to materialize from behind a row of lockers. The three boys covered Jacob’s mouth, and they pulled him to the back corner of the locker room.

Danny and Frankie pinned Jacob to the floor. Tommy crouched over Jacob, Tommy glaring down at him. The expression known as a sneer was on Tommy’s face. Tommy growled at Jacob the same way Dennis often growled at him, Tommy saying, “Hey there Piss-casso, think you’re the best artist around here, do ya?”

By the way, Tommy purposely mispronounced Pablo Picasso’s name. He combined the name, Picasso, with a slang term for urine in an attempt to say that Jacob’s artistic ability was something that belonged in a toilet, a point which, of course, Tommy already illustrated by actually putting Jacob’s artwork into a toilet.

Tommy produced a black Sharpie marker, Tommy saying, “Well, Vincent Van Gay, I’m a pretty good artist, too.”

This time Tommy was trying to insult Jacob by combining the name of the artist Vincent Van Gogh with a slang term for a homosexual.

Tommy uncapped the Sharpie and he drew a crude rendering of a giant penis on Jacob’s stomach. He gave the penis a smiley face and then added a fountain of ejaculate exploding from the penis’s head.

When Tommy was finished with the drawing, he leaned back and admired his work. Tommy said, “Mo-fart couldn’t have drawn it better.”

This time, Tommy combined Mozart’s name with a slang term for flatulence. This insulting combination might have been more effective if Mozart had been a painter.

Jacob bit at Frankie’s hand, which was holding Jacob’s mouth.

Frankie winced and removed his hand from Jacob’s mouth, Frankie shaking his hand in the air.

Jacob shouted, “Leave me…” but his voice was stifled when Frankie returned his hand to Jacob’s mouth.

Tommy said to Jacob, “Don’t bother calling for help. Mr. Barney’s already in the gym along with everyone else. You’re all mine.”

Tommy drew a crude vagina beside the drawing of the penis on Jacob’s stomach. Tommy wrote in big letters above the vagina the letters: PUSY.

Danny said to Tommy, “You spelt pussy wrong.”

Tommy said to Danny, “Like I care.” Tommy then told Danny and Frankie to hold Jacob’s head still.

Jacob fought to turn his head back and forth, but the boys managed to hold Jacob’s head still.

Tommy wrote this word across Jacob’s forehead: FREAK.

Tommy saying, “Spelt that right.”

The sound of a whistle came from the gym as Mr. Barney signaled that it was time for attendance. Jacob’s three attackers looked at one another. They then released Jacob and ran off toward the gym, all three boys laughing.

Out in the gym, Mr. Barney was taking attendance. He noticed Tommy, Danny, and Frankie bursting from the locker room, the three boys laughing. Mr. Barney had a notion that the boys were up to no good, but he didn’t care enough to even imagine what the no-good thing could be.

Mr. Barney was an over-the-hill jock. This meant that he was once a very good athlete, but his aged body had to rely solely on past deeds to maintain that reputation. He had big muscles that were beginning to sag with age, and his thick hair had long ago gone from black to white.

The students were sitting in the gym’s bleachers as Mr. Barney called out names for attendance. Mr. Barney called, “Mark Granger.”

And Mark Granger called back to Mr. Barney, “Here.”

Mr. Barney called out to the group of students, “Jacob Grist?”

There was no response.

Mr. Barney looked up and scanned the faces of the students sitting in the bleachers before him. Mr. Barney did not see Jacob Grist, so Mr. Barney said to the group of students, “All right, where’s Grist? He still in the locker room?”

Mr. Barney then heard the locker room’s door open and close behind him. The gym teacher didn’t bother to turn around, instead, he called over his shoulder, “This seems to be happening every day. I always seem to be waiting for one particular student before I…”

Mr. Barney stopped his statement when a buzz of giggles and gasps and murmurs developed among the group of students facing him.

Mr. Barney turned around and spotted Jacob Grist scuttling across the gym. Grist was dressed only in his underwear and he had drawings all over his torso and face. Mr. Barney dropped his clipboard as the class broke into laughter.

Mr. Barney said this: “Oh, shit.”

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 19 — The Principal’s Office… Again

With Drawn: Part 17 — KIA

AfghanContinued from: With Drawn: Part 16 — Words Unheard

It was a Corporal Grey Hendrickson that told Joanne and Jacob about what happened to David Grist in Afghanistan. Grey Hendrickson did not know Joanne or Jacob, nor did he know David Grist. It was Grey Hendrickson’s job simply to inform David Grist’s next of kin that Sergeant First Class David Grist had been KIA.

KIA meant that Sergeant First Class David Grist was “Killed In Action.” It was not referring to a car company of the same name. Jacob always thought it was strange that Kia the car company would name its brand after something as unpleasant as a soldier being killed. Jacob had heard once that the car company Chevy had named their car Nova, which means “no go” in Spanish, so Jacob figured that maybe sometimes car companies aren’t very good at naming things.

Grey Hendrickson gave no real explanation to Jacob and Joanne as to what actually happened to David. He only informed them that Sergeant First Class David Grist had been killed in action and that he, Corporal Hendrickson, was very sorry for Joanne and Jacob’s loss.

Often someone will tell a person mourning a lost family member that he or she is sorry. Most of the time, people who say sorry for a person’s death have no involvement whatsoever in that person’s death, yet the person apologizes as if he or she was somehow to blame. Perhaps Corporal Hendrickson was actually apologizing on behalf of the United States Army, which was responsible for Jacob’s father’s death.

Anyway, after Corporal Hendrickson said he was sorry, Corporal Hendrickson left, never to see Jacob and Joanne again.

Joanne cried for three days straight.

Jacob didn’t cry at all.

Jacob’s lack of crying was not due to Jacob not caring that his father was dead. Jacob cared very much. He was very sad that his father died. The reason that Jacob didn’t cry was because Jacob didn’t cry over things.

Dennis Walsh, David’s best friend, was there to comfort Joanne.

No one was there to comfort Jacob.

Jacob comforted himself by drawing in his sketchpad.

It turns out that it was another soldier, a Specialist Timothy Wilcox, who told Joanne and Jacob about how David Grist had run into the Afghanis’ home to try and save a family before a missile had blasted the home into rubble. A teary-eyed Specialist Timothy Wilcox told Joanne and Jacob about how David’s three-man unit was on patrol and how they had taken a detour into a small village. They took that detour into that small village because a passing convoy had told them that there was unexploded ordinance on the village border, the villagers telling the convoy that insurgents had left the unexploded ordinance as a trap for U.S. soldiers.

Unexploded ordinance is a fancy name for a bomb.

Insurgents is a fancy name for people that soldiers were supposed to kill. In history, sometimes insurgents are considered good guys—like the Greeks fighting against Persia—and sometimes they can be considered bad—like the Vietnamese fighting against the United States. In our own country we’ve had good insurgents like the Minute Men, and bad insurgents like the indigenous tribes that lived on the continent now known as America before a lot of white people took it over. These tribes were known as Indians. Today, it is politically correct to call people of the indigenous tribes that lived on the continent now known as America: Native Americans. Although why they would want to be known as Americans is a mystery.

Timothy Wilcox told Jacob and Joanne about how the three-man unit, which consisted of himself, Sergeant First Class David Grist, and Sergeant Lawrence Meeks, entered the village. The three men were part of a bomb disposal unit, so it was their job to dispose of unexploded ordinance.

In the village’s center, a group of Afghani children were playing soccer. And sitting on the stoop of one of the houses was an Afghani woman in a burka.

A burka is an oversized dress that some Muslim women wear. The dress is so over-sized that it covers her entire body. It even covers her head and face. Some Muslim women wear this dress because it is a rule stated in their religion that says they have to wear it. Muslim men don’t have to wear this type of garment, probably because it was Muslim men that came up with the rule in the first place.

The woman in the burka on the stoop of the house held a baby in her arms and she had two toddlers, a boy and a girl, sitting at her hips. Sergeant First Class David Grist was regarding this sight when it came over the radio that the very village that they stood in was targeted for an airstrike, and that the house with the woman and children on the stoop was thought to be harboring insurgents, and that house was the airstrike’s intended target.

Sergeant First Class David Grist began yelling to the children playing soccer to run. And all the children did run, screaming. And David yelled for the woman and the toddlers to run. And the woman and the toddlers did run. Only problem was, they ran into the house that was targeted to be blown up.

Before Specialist Timothy Wilcox or Sergeant Larry Meeks knew what was happening, Sergeant First Class David Grist darted into the house. And then… Boom. The house was turned to rubble.

The teary-eyed Specialist Timothy Wilcox told Joanne that he was very sorry. He even begged Joanne to forgive him. And then he was gone, never to be seen again.

This did not mean that no one could physically see Timothy Wilcox any longer, or that he actually disappeared. It meant that most people that had known Timothy Wilcox would never know what happened to him.

What did happen to Specialist Timothy Wilcox was that he was arrested two days later by Military Police. Specialist Timothy Wilcox was what was known as being AWOL. AWOL means: Absent Without Leave. Timothy Wilcox was not allowed to be anywhere that the Army didn’t say he could be. And the Army did not say that Specialist Timothy Wilcox could be at Joanne Grist’s home. In fact, the Army didn’t even say that Specialist Timothy Wilcox could be in the United States. He was supposed to still be in Afghanistan.

While Specialist Timothy Wilcox was speaking with Joanne Grist in the United States, Sergeant Larry Meeks was in a military prison in Afghanistan. He had been AWOL as well. In the future, he and Specialist Wilcox would be in jail for a long time due to other crimes.

The story that Timothy Wilcox told to Joanne and Jacob, about how Sergeant First Class David Grist had sacrificed himself in an attempt to save a family, was a lie. But because he told this story to Joanne and Jacob, and because the true story would be very embarrassing to the United States Military, the Army had to use his story as the official account of the incident, even though the story he told was logistically unbelievable.

A General Warren Longbottom was in charge of signing off on the official account of Specialist Wilcox’s version of the incident, which was now officially the true account of Sergeant First Class David Grist’s death. Before signing the documents that spelled out this new “official account” of the story, the general said, “This is the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.”

It was true that the three United States soldiers were in that village that was attacked. And it was true that David Grist was in that house that was blown to rubble. But the three men were not in that village to remove unexploded ordinance. And David Grist was not trying to save a family.

The true story was this: Sergeant First Class David Grist, Sergeant Larry Meeks, and Specialist Timothy Wilcox were freelancing as a security detail for an Afghani warlord’s opium shipments. This Afghani warlord also happened to be a high ranking official in the Afghani military and the appointed governor of the Helmand Province. The three soldiers were in that village to meet up with a drug smuggling convoy that they were supposed to escort safely across the desert. The three men, unlike in the account given by Timothy Wilcox, had no idea that a strike was coming. For one thing, they would have no reason or capability to intercept such an order. And even if their radios had picked up such an order, they wouldn’t have heard it anyway. When the order for the strike was given, Tim was gambling with the other Afghani men on a fight to the death between two roosters, known as a cockfight. Larry was in a back room injecting heroine into his veins with a syringe. And David had snuck off to the warlord’s home to have sexual intercourse with one of the warlord’s many wives.

Sexual intercourse is when a man puts his penis into a woman’s vagina. Or, as we learned earlier, one could say he was putting his dick in her pussy.

When it was time for the three soldiers to rendezvous with the drug shipment, the three men emerged bleary-eyed from the prospective houses in which they’d been. It was Tim, the sharpest eyed of the three, that recognized the distant glint in the sky above them. Timothy realized that the glint was most likely a Predator drone airplane.

Fearing that the drone was running a reconnaissance mission, the three United States soldiers scattered to hide in the buildings from which they had just recently emerged.

The Predator drone airplanes were equipped with state-of-the-art reconnaissance equipment, high resolution cameras and the such, but they could also be equipped with bombs and missiles. This Predator was armed with missiles.

David Grist, in running back into the house from which he’d just emerged, returned to the warlord’s home.

And, of course, being armed with missiles, the Predator was not on a reconnaissance mission. It was, instead, on a seek-and-destroy mission. And it sought to destroy the warlord’s house. The very same house in which David Grist was hiding.

It turns out that the true story of what happened was even more asinine than the account given to Joanne and Jacob Grist by Timothy Wilcox.

There is an expression, “Go figure,” which is what people sometimes say when a true story is stranger than a fictitious story.

“Go figure,” is what General Longbottom said after signing off on the new official account of what had happened to David Grist.

That official account now stated that David Grist had sacrificed himself to save a family from an errant Predator missile strike, rather than the fact that he was hiding in an Afghani warlord, drug kingpin’s home after secretly having sexual intercourse with one of the warlord’s many wives, and, instead of running to safety, thinking he was well hidden from a drone’s reconnaissance mission, he was blown to smithereens.

Go figure.

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 18 — Physical Graffiti