“Umm…D-?” I asked tentatively as we drove up the hill.
“Yeah?” he said, his arm across his forehead.
“Where do your folks live?”
There was rather a long pause. “My, uh, parents live with me?”
“No, but that’s where your dogs are.”
“I have TWO dogs,” he said.
“They like dancing.”
“Um. Okay. But we can’t let them out to pee if I don’t know where they are.”
“They’re …at …my …parents’ …house?” he asked tentatively.
I paused for a moment this time. “Yes. Yes, your dogs are at your parents’ house.”
“Ah,” he said, and leaned back in the seat, putting his arm over his forehead again.
“D-?” I asked.
“Where is your parents’ house?”
“You mean you don’t KNOW!!??”
“No, not at all.”
“Oh GOD!” he panicked. “The DOGS!!”
“Hey, you know what? We’ll go to my house, check out the phone book, and you can tell me which address looks familiar. How many W-s can there *be* in the phone book, anyway?”
He stared at me.
“Yeah,” I conceded. “I know. IT’s a common name.”
He closed his eyes and covered his face with both hands. “Come on, D-,” he said, “you need to remember this….” after a few moments, as I was pulling on to my street, he sits up bolt-straight. “I KNOW!” He shouts.
“You DO!!??” I ask, excited.
“Yes! I jumped out of a tree!” He shouted.
“I know!!” I shouted back.
“Because I read about it in a poem!”
“By Walt Whitman!” I was very, very excited.
“Or Robert Frost!” He announced.
He was grinning widely at me. I nodded a couple of times, encouraging him to continue. “What?” he asked.
“Well, where do your parents live?”
“Oh, I have no idea,” he said, still pleased with himself. “Why, are we going to see them?”
I sighed, pulled into my mother’s driveway, and shut off the car. “Let’s just go see,” I said, “before we go to the clinic.”
“I have a concussion!” he announced, his smile growing.
“Yes, you do.” We walked into the house. He was *much* steadier this time. He didn’t even need my help, although I walked close to him in case he got dizzy. The screen door banged closed behind us. My mother sat in her favourite chair, perched in front of the picture window.
“Hi kidlet,” she said. “Hi D-.”
“I have a concussion!” D- announced, happy as a pig in poop.
My mother glanced up at him. “Do you, now?”
“Yup! I jumped out of a tree!”
My mother glanced over at me. “There’s a poem,” I began.
“Robert Frost,” my mother said.
“Or Walt Whitman,” D- said, still grinning.
“No, it’s Robert Frost,” my mother said. “It’s called Birches.”
“I told you no good comes of Walt Whitman,” I said to D-.
“But,” my mother began, stubbing out her cigarette, “the boys in Birches did not get concussions.”
“Well, yes,” D- continued, sitting on the couch as I went to find the phone book, “I suspect my technique needs some work.”
“He chose a tree that was too big,” I called from the kitchen, “and the wrong sort of tree. And it broke.”
“So, really, you plummeted out of a tree, more than jumped out of a tree?” my mother asked.
“Well, the plummeting was precipitated by the jumping,” I called back.
“And now I have a *very* bad headache,” D- said, still grinning, “and I can’t remember a thing!”
My mother stared at him, a smile touching her lips. When my mother smiled, her mouth turned down instead of up. “cenobyte certainly has some interesting friends,” she said.
“Ah-HA!” D- called, wincing at his own volume. “Your name is CENOBYTE! I knew I’d figure it out eventually.”
“Actually, my name is Millicent,” I replied. “cenobyte is just my nickname.”
He stared at me for a minute. “I see you’ve forgotten that cenobyte is full of shite,” my mother said.
“Yes, I had forgotten that,” D- said.
I showed him the phone book. There was a choice of several W-s, but only four D– W-s. “I’m not sure,” he said. “I can’t remember.”
“Well, would you like to have a cool drink and just sit for a minute and try to remember, or would you prefer to go to the clinic?”
“I think I’d just like to sit for a minute.”
My mother lit another cigarette. “You could ask R-,” she said. R- was friends with D- as well, and she taught with my mother.
I phoned R-.
“Hello, R-,” I said. “This is cenobyte. I’m wondering if you could help me with …erm… a rather strange request…”