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Mirth Part 1: Misery On Perry St.
#6 Perry St. I swung open the front door of the poor house and looked up at the dent on the roof.
“I’ve been living in you for the past seven years,” I said, shaking my head. “And yes, I still hate you.”
Skipper, the little neighbor kid, passed by and saw me talking to my house. He looked at me like I had five heads.
“What are you looking at, Jumpstart?” I scowled. He giggled. So I added, “What are you in girl scouts? Man up! You’ve only got fifteen more years â€˜til you can drink and only ten more years until you can drive!”
“Melly’s talking to her dumb old house again,” he called out to all the people of Perry Street. Ha, that sucker. He’s been born here and he still doesn’t get that NO ONE CARES unless there’s blood or fire. Okay, maybe just fire.
My dad bought this pretty sad looking place on the edge of this very disturbing street. On this street there are all these cute little dumps they call houses. Might as well just call them trailer parks without the wheels. Okay, fine a little bigger. They’re almost all one-story houses except for this one white house that could easily be mistaken for a rather large rock. But anyway, out house was especially crappy and my dad bought it because he liked a challenge. He’s a carpenter and a construction worker, you see. He also does plumbing and electricity stuff. I wasn’t very surprised that he bought the poor wreck, although I was hoping some paranormal miracle would strike and the house would blow up or something bizarre like that. But no, everything was going “smoothly” unfortunately, so I was not in much of a state of shock. And it didn’t help that Dad was the kind of guy who ate at the Cheesecake Factory because he thought it was a clever method they used to make the meal look bigger by using enormous plates. Seriously, no one cares about how smart or sly they are. It’s all about the food, calories, and price!
So, Dad did a pretty good job on the reconstructing thing. He basically had to tear the whole place down and build it back up from scratch. Meanwhile we slept in tents, living off Poptarts, and wearing hand-woven ponchos from Peru. Okay, I was kidding about the ponchos but the tents and the Poptarts were totally real. We had this discussion about what color we should paint the building (if you would actually want to call it a building). I wanted something normal like yellow. Dad insisted on green. Obviously I won because we were using my money to buy the paint because Dad slipped into debt. He had a fit and sat smack dab in the middle of the kitchen (or what was supposed to be a kitchen) floor and started muttering mouthfuls of what ever at me in French. And this is why when people look at my father they say, “So, that explains the daughter.”
It’s okay. I’m used to this. Actually bored by it. That’s why people think I sound so bored and tired all the time. Because of my unenthusiastic voice people think I don’t care about their *** or I’m not even listening. But I am, you know? You can’t just sit there and not listen when someone’s spitting into your face trying to squeeze in a little bit of info about their boyfriends or their parents into your mind. And if people would actually listen to ME once in a million freaking years, they might find out that I’m truly a girl who can have just as much as emotion as anyone else. It’s just that I’m not so annoying and intimidating by spilling all over everyone.
My dad bought a station wagon that looked ancient when I was about ten years old. The only transportation vehicle I can depend on now is either my bike or the city bus, which doesn’t even reach our side of the town. So, mainly my bike. It’s yellow with the handle bars that look like hooks. Another reason people think I’m so weird. Most people my age these days have these masculine gray mountain bikes that could probably kill a small cat if it was dropped. My bike is the opposite. I’m not one of those I’m-so-freaking-cool people who ride their bikes on the streets in neon colored jumpsuits that some people in this world should never have to see (no offense to those to wear them). I like to play it loser and ride on the sidewalks. There are these bratty little kids a couple of blocks away from Perry Street and they yell some colorful words and throw Pepsi cans at me when I ruin their precious hop-skotch. Oliver and I always hang out on our bikes.
Oliver. He’s the coolest guy on the block.
Okay, that’s not really saying much because the only people who actually come out of their houses on Perry Street is him, Skipper, the little old lady who kick boxes on Tuesdays, Me, Dad, and little Scrappy the dog.
“Hey, Mel!” he called from a few yards away. I was trying to get my yellow bike out of the fence. It got stuck there and I was trying to push the wired opening open with my left palm, the right one clutching the bike handle tightly.
“Do you need some help?” he asked. When ever I see Oliver, I always see him in a yellow or purple polo. Today he was as purple as those rotten cherries I almost ate this morning.
“Yeah, thanks,” I said. He stretched his leg out and kicked the fence hard. My bike jolted free. He was kind of skinny for a 15-year-old, but he was a soccer player.
“Did you do Mr. Malloy’s project yet?” he asked, quietly. He was so shy, but in a good way. After all, we were best friends. Oliver was the smartest person I know. He’s also the funniest (without even trying to be funny) and the most talented. He sketched my face once on that slick sketch pad of his. It looked like a photo, I tell you. But in school he’s basically considered…well, not normal. Well, I mean, neither am I. Or any of the other people in this society. At about 1:30 pm every school day in middle school, there always happens to be a backpack or coat thrown down the staircase. In high school, those backpacks and coats were replaced with people. But hey, that’s not new.
Then I remembered I was answering a question. “No,” I said, shaking my head. Again I sounded totally uninterested as if was tired of little Ollie. “Have you?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Can I come biking with you?”
“Sure. Sure thing,” I said. “I was just going to pump my back tire though. Some little kid bit it or something. I bet it was Skipper. But you can come anyway.”
“Okay, wait one second. I need to get mine pumped, too,” he said. He sprinted back to his house and got his bike. It was red and a little more modern than mine. Just a little more. We rode down Perry Street. The tiny kick boxing old lady came out of her house and started yelling at us in a series of rather interesting swear words. It took me a while to realize that we left bike tracks on her tulip garden.
“That little old woman seems pretty mad,” said Oliver. “Should we go back and apologize?”
“Oh, please, Ollie,” I said. “She needs to take a chill for once.”
“When did you start saying chill?” he said. “I thought you said only fourth graders who shaved said that. Do you shave?”
I stopped and gave him a face. “No, Oliver. I do not shave.” I turned around and looked back at the street. “This place is hell, Oliver.”
“It is?” he said. “I kind of like it.”
“No, you don’t,” I scoffed. “You just think you do, but you really don’t.”
His eyes turned glassy and his mind appeared to be blank. “I don’t get it. If I think I kind of like it…doesn’t it mean I do like it?”
Boy, was this kid confused.
“No,” I said sternly. “See, you’re turning into one of those suckers who think they would enjoy a life in a small, cute, boring town that no one knows the name of. Would you really give up all those cities like New York or Tokyo just to live with that little grandma living across your street who wants more than anything to bash your head with her cute little gardening shovel on Halloween night?”
“But that wasn’t me. That was you,” said Oliver.
“Oh, just rub it in, will you?” I said. Waving my arms like a lunatic I continued, “Just think for once, Oliver. And I’m not saying think about the quadratic formula or who ruled America in the 1200sâ€”.”
“America wasn’t found until the 1400s,” he blurted out.
I put my arms down. I looked at him like he was pathetic. He really was.
“Oh, sorry,” he said.
“So, think about this: You’re an artist or an architect living in the downtown streets of Seattle.”
“Seattle…,” sighed Oliver. “That sounds nice.”
“Face it, Ollie,” I said. I flailed my arms around shouted into Perry Street. “THIS PLACE IS HELL!!! Only smaller and more uncomfortable because you’re not dead and you can still feel stuff.”
“Okay, let’s say you’re right,” he said. “So, what do you want me to do? Move out? Run away? My mom would kill me.”
“Is your mom in charge of your life?” I asked.
“Kind of, yeah,” he said.
I put my hand on my forehead. “Oh, Ollie. You are hopeless.”
He seemed hurt. “Then why do you hang out with me?”
“Because we’re freaks. And that’s what best friends do: hang out with each otherâ€”and then tell them to live a better life than this,” I said. I gestured to the miserable street. The little old lady with the garden shovel came out of her house to refill her bird feeder. I swear, no birds really go there. They don’t have the guts. The neighbor kids empty the feeders and then throw the little sunflower seeds at her window. Yet, she is still refilling them. “Hi, Mrs. Peters!” I called out to her, waving a hand frantically around in the air above my head. She gave me a look and stuck up one notorious finger. I turned back to Oliver who was still scratching his head fruitlessly. “See?” I said. “Do you really think this is what we have to face every now and then when we say hello to our neighbors?”
“I have to face it at school, too,” he said. So naÃ¯ve.
I looked at his feet and blew a piece of hair out of my face.
“Oh, sorry. Not helping,” he said.
I sat on someone’s porch and leaned my head into my hand. “One day, Ollie, I’m gonna get out of this dump. I won’t bring anything but my bike, iPod, toothbrush, guitar, and my college savings.”
“Where will you go?” he asked.
“To London,” I said.
“I heard some people walk around naked there and women sunbathe with their shirts off there,” he said.
I turned to poor Ollie. I forced a smile and said, “Thank you, Ollie. Very valuable info.”
“You’re welcome,” he said.
I squinted into the street. I peered into Mrs. Peters’s lawn. Wait, what was she doing? She was throwing down her bird feeder. Then she glared at us like we were plotting some mastermind scheme to sabotage her life. She was moving closer. And she had a gardening shovel in her hand.
“Uh, oh,” I said. “Ollie, move.”
“What?” he said. “Why?”
“Move. Go! Now!” I cried. We ran with our flat-tired bikes all the way to the gas station before the old lady caught up to us. It wasn’t until both of our bikes were pumped up and we got two Mountain Dews that it was safe to return to Perry Street.