Excerpt from Just Plain Weird

 

I. ELIZA

 

 

 

Raffles was probably right. It wasn’t human nature to leave things alone. It was normal for people to try to fix things that didn’t need to be fixed; or, infinitely worse, trying to fix things that were broken, because some things are meant to be broken– and that is all there is to it. Raffles also said that half the time when you didn’t leave things alone it led to some kind of trouble. I wasn’t convinced of that, though, because if that were true, then it would seem you’d be hearing about trouble all the time– unless, of course, most of the trouble in the world were kept hidden in closets, or something, and the public in general never finds out about it all.

Raffles had always been acknowledged as the smartest kid in school, and when we let out of school last June, he announced that he wouldn’t be returning to public high school in the fall. He would be going to Thomas Edison Academy, which was a private school that accepted only very smart kids. It was a very hoity-toity institution. You had to be about as smart as Albert Einstein to get into the place (which left me out of the running from the get-go); also, it was very expensive, which led me to believe Raffles had got some kind of scholarship, since his parents were by no means rich.

I couldn’t say exactly when Raffles became my best friend. I only knew it had nothing to do with me. It seemed as though he’d shown up at my house one day, and assumed the position of my best friend. I’d often think, Buddy, if I’m your best friend, you got problems. Still, throughout my middle school years I somehow managed to tolerate his presence while we did mainly normal things, although I believed Raffles was far from normal.

We would spend endless hours each summer in the tree house my father built a few years ago. I hadn’t asked him for a tree house, but he’d built it out of some belief it was his parental duty. His job required him to go on the road for long periods of time, so guilt, too, might have been involved in his decision to build the tree house. It was a trade-off for all the times he wasn’t around, all designed to make him feel better, as though he had said to himself, “Sure, I’m not home as much as I’d like to be, but at least the kid has a tree house to play in, right?” For weeks I’d watched as he grunted and groaned, lugging lumber on his back up the ladder and into the tree. What I remembered most about him building the tree house was how he seemed to lose one of his tools every three or four minutes. That was the way it had always been with him; his tools seemed to vanish magically now and then, and he could never figure out how. Then, about two minutes after the tree house was finished, he magically vanished….

 

 

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