Author / Speaker


 

The first time I really noticed Booey Robichaud, we were six. We’d known each other before that, in the absent way young children know each other, like dust motes that temporarily settle a few inches apart. It was first grade, and Abraham Radnor had gotten in trouble for something again. By six Abraham was already pointed razor straight to NCDOC Central Prison in Raleigh, which still happens to be North Carolina’s involuntary home for its most violent offenders. I don’t remember the infraction. Farting in class, yanking a jacket over someone’s head and playing hockey fight, telling “off color” (our teacher, Mrs. Sizemore’s, word) jokes none of us understood anyhow.

Whatever it was, Mrs. Sizemore had us all sit on the rug in a fidgety circle. We held hands back then. I don’t know if they do that anymore now, on account of how parents don’t want their children’s personal space violated, but we held hands then, and as soon as we did, we all felt the tingly power of the crowd.

One by one, Mrs. Sizemore had us stand up and say why we thought what Abraham did was wrong.

I don’t remember what I said. Probably somethin’ that allowed me to sit down quick. How would I remember what I said, if I don’t remember what cauliflower-eared Radnor did? But I remember what Booey said. When his turn came, Booey stood slowly. Booey never moved fast. He always moved like he had all the time in the world. He was like a driver looking for a parking place. He stood, and he pulled at the bottom of the ratty down jacket he always wore back then. On our island, no one’s parents had much money.

He looked us up and down without an iota of judgment.

“How would it make you feel if everyone in the class stood up and said what was wrong with you?” he said.

Right then, our round rug discussion ended, because Mrs. Sizemore realized one thing that was wrong with her.

If you bet Abraham Radnor wrapped Booey in his huggy arms, you haven’t been livin’ in this world long. Abraham Radnor beat the livin’ snot out of Booey that very afternoon in the woods behind Albert Styron’s store, and about ten of us watched him do it. The strange don’t like being pitied by the stranger still. Booey took the punches, and then he pulled down on his jacket and walked deeper into the woods. Even Abraham didn’t follow him. Back then, we really thought he was some kind of spirit. A real ghost. I mean, he gave us the willies.

He gives me the willies now, but for completely different reasons.