The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen (16 page)

BOOK: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
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“You said you wouldn’t see Karen while I was gone,” I said. “You promised.”

It took him a moment to process this. “
is why you called me at work?”


“This is not an emergency –”

“Yes, it is! It’s a family emergency!”

“Henry, when I leave work I don’t get paid. Do you understand that?”

“My friend saw you.
Holding hands

Dad shook his head. He pulled off his work boots. “Sit in the living room with me.”



So we sat in the living room. “You lied to me,” I said.

“No, I did not. I promised not to have her in our apartment, and I didn’t. But she invited me out for a coffee,
and I went. That’s all it was, Henry. A coffee.”

“Then why was she holding your hand?” I demanded.

Dad hesitated. “I told her about Jesse.”

Lucky for me I was sitting down, or I would have toppled over. “You

“Henry, you have no idea what it’s like for me –”

“Are you nuts?? It’s gonna take, like, five minutes for every single person in this building to find out! They probably already know!!”

“You’re wrong. She promised me she’d keep it to herself.”

“And you believed her?? She’s a liar, Dad! The first time we met her, she gave us store-bought cookies and said they were homemade!” I stood up and started pacing. “The whole point about moving here was so we could start over. The whole point was that nobody ever had to find out.”

“Henry, there is nothing wrong with a few people knowing what we’ve been through –”

“Yes, there is!!! Don’t you get it?? They’ll look at us different. They’ll avoid us. They’ll feel sorry for us – or they’ll think we’re monsters, too! Oh, man, why did you tell her?”

It was Dad’s turn to stand up. “Because she understands! Because there is no one else for me to talk to!” he shouted. “I can’t talk to any of my old buddies in Port Salish; my
parents are long dead; and I sure as hell can’t talk to my wife!” He slammed his fist against the wall. It went right through the drywall, leaving a big gaping hole. “Karen’s a good listener. And she understands what we’re going through, more than you can imagine –”

“Bullshit!” I shouted. “I hate you!” Then I ran into my room and locked the door, and I’ve been here ever since.

Dad’s tried a couple of times to get me to come out, but I’m not budging, even though I’m starving.

I will stay here all night. I will stay here forever. I will stay here till they have to drag my rotting corpse from the room.

My parents will have two dead kids on their hands.

6:30 p.m.

Unbelievable. Here we are, in the middle of a MAJOR FAMILY CRISIS, and what has my dad just done? He’s invited Mr. Atapattu in! They’re in the living room, watching a hockey game. I just heard Dad tell him, “Henry’s not feeling well.”

LIAR!!! I’m feeling perfectly fine!!!


8:30 p.m.

I’m starving. My father is letting me starve to death while he and Mr. Atapattu talk and laugh and watch the game.

10:00 p.m.

Mr. Atapattu finally left. My dad has gone to bed. I just snuck out of my room and went into the kitchen to grab something to eat.

There was a bowl on the counter, filled with one of Mr. Atapattu’s curries over rice. It was covered in Saran Wrap. Dad had stuck a Post-it Note on top:
Henry, just nuke it for two minutes. Dad xo

So I nuked it. I just finished eating it in my room. It was a lamb curry this time, and it was really good. I think my taste buds are getting used to the spices.

At least my hunger is satisfied.

One thing is crystal clear: I’m the only one who’s trying to fight for this family.

And I’m beginning to think we may not be worth the fight.

2:00 a.m.

Thanks to my stupid dad and stupid Karen, I am still wide-awake. On tonight of all nights! The Provincials are tomorrow. I need a good night’s sleep.

Since I am wide-awake, I am going to write a note.

2:15 a.m.

I just delivered my note. I only had to run up one flight of stairs in my pajamas and slip it under you-know-who’s door. This is what it said:
Stay away from my dad. Stay away from our family!!

Now I’ll be able to sleep.

, M

I really thought we could start over. Start fresh. But I was wrong.

Even though I was tired from a crap night’s sleep, the day started out great. The whole team piled into a rented van for the ride out to Richmond. Alberta saved a spot for me beside her, but I pretended I didn’t notice and sat beside Farley instead. I feel kind of angry with her. I know this sounds stupid, but it’s like that saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” If she hadn’t seen my dad and Karen together, it would have been like it had never happened. Alberta made it real. And even though I know I shouldn’t blame her, I still kind of do.

When we got to the school in Richmond, the parking lot was packed, and groups of kids were heading inside. We were directed into the cafeteria. Tons of teams were there, from all over the province. Imagine the sound of hundreds and hundreds of kids talking and laughing all at once. It was an incredible buzz. Farley kept jumping up and down and saying, “This is spectacular!”

For a brief moment, I forgot all about the big steaming pile of poop that is the rest of my life, and I let myself get caught up in the energy and excitement. I felt great. I felt happy.

And then I saw Jodie.

Jodie and Jesegan and Parth and Aidan and Ryan and a couple of others I didn’t recognize. They were hovering around one of the tables, no more than a hundred meters away.

I froze. My first thought was,
What is she doing here?
Which was followed by,
she’s here!
Of course Jodie would be on Port Salish Secondary’s Reach For The Top team. This was the girl who’d wanted to be on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” as much as I had. And then it dawned on me: We could be competing against them!!

I needed to leave. But, first, I had to look at her one more time. Dumb as it sounds, I needed to see if I could tell how she was doing.

So I peered out from behind Shen’s back and gazed at her, trying to look for signs. She looked thinner. And her hair was longer. She was dressed the same as always – in jeans and a pale yellow T-shirt. Yellow is her favorite color.

Then I looked into her eyes at the very moment that she looked into mine. Our gazes locked. Her mouth made a little “o” of surprise.

She dropped the papers she was holding. Next thing I knew, she was making a beeline for me.

I turned around. Mr. Jankovich was checking the schedule to see who we were playing first. “Sorry, Mr. Jankovich. I have to go.”


“I feel sick. Barf sick. I have to go.”

“But how will you get home?”

I bolted. I ran out of the cafeteria and out of that school as fast as I could. I found my way to the Canada Line station. I didn’t have any money. A nice older lady took pity on me and bought me a ticket.

I’m home now.

When Dad got back from work, I told him what had happened. I thought he was going to lecture me about why I should have stayed. But he didn’t. He just went really pale. Then he took a pack of TUMS from his pocket and popped two into his mouth.

I told him I thought we should move to the Yukon. Or, better yet, Newfoundland.

His answer surprised me.

He said he’d think about it.

Which only made me feel worse. ’Cause I realized he was scared, too.

1:00 a.m.

When we’re born, we get 50% of our DNA from our mother and 50% from our father. But siblings can still be totally different from each other, because what they get from each parent could be the
exact opposite

Sometimes I stare at my face in the bathroom mirror, looking for the DNA Jesse and I shared. We didn’t look alike at all. Jesse had dark brown hair like Mom; my hair is vibrantly red, like Dad’s. Jesse was tall and skinny like Mom; I’m short and stocky like Dad.

Where I can see Jesse is in my eyes. They’re green, with little flecks of brown, big and round. Sometimes I feel like he’s looking out of my eyes, seeing what I’m seeing.

Jesse and I saw a lot of things the same way. We laughed at the same jokes. We always picked the same couple to root for on “The Amazing Race.” If Mom and Dad kissed in front of us, we’d both scream, “Gross!!” And
without ever talking about it, we both picked the Great Dane as our favorite wrestler.

And then there are all the ways we were totally different.

But the point is this: No matter how much or how little DNA Jesse and I shared, when people find out you’re related to a guy who committed murder/suicide, they can never treat you the same way ever again. They can’t help it. ’Cause they can’t help thinking that you are deeply messed up. They can’t help thinking that, at any moment, you could go postal, too.

So I know why Dad is scared. I know why I’m scared.

We keep trying to run. But we can’t seem to hide.

2:30 a.m.

She looked the exact same. A bit taller. A bit thinner.

But other than that? The exact same.

On the outside, anyway.

, M

Dad didn’t make me go to school on Friday. He even let me cancel my appointment with Cecil.

I haven’t left the apartment all weekend. Dad left once yesterday, to get groceries and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. When Mr. Atapattu knocked on our door to watch “Saturday Night Smash-Up,” we pretended we weren’t home.

The phone rang a lot yesterday too. I let Dad answer. A couple of the calls were from Mom, but she knows I’m not talking to her. Farley and Alberta called too, but I don’t want to talk to them, either.

12:15 p.m.

It’s past noon. Dad is still in bed “sick.” And I’ve just discovered we are completely out of toilet paper. Dad forgot to buy it yesterday.

I can feel a Number Two coming on.

3:00 p.m.

So I found three dollars and forty-two cents under the couch cushions and went to the corner store. It was barely enough to buy two measly rolls of TP.

On the walk home, it started to pour. I jogged the rest of the way. For the first time in months, I didn’t feel
breathless, and my wobblies didn’t bounce up and down like jelly.

A woman wearing sweatpants and an anorak was struggling to find her keys. She was carrying a bunch of heavy grocery bags. I opened the door for her.

It wasn’t till she peeled off her hood that I realized it was Karen.

“Henry,” she said grimly.

She looked different, and it took me a minute to realize I was seeing her without makeup. Her hair hung in wet strands around her face. She had bags under her eyes, and her skin looked gray. She looked like death warmed over.

“Can we talk?” she asked.

“No,” I said. Then, stupidly, instead of making a dash for the stairs, I dashed into the elevator and pressed the
button repeatedly. She just followed me inside.

“Fine,” she said, putting down her grocery bags. “I’ll talk, and you listen.” Then she did an unbelievable thing for a grown-up: She pushed me to the back of the elevator and planted herself in front of the doors as they slid shut. We stood staring at each other in the unmoving elevator.

“This is kidnapping,” I said. “You’d better let me go, or I’ll scream.”

She rolled her eyes. “Like anyone would want to kidnap you. Just shut up and listen, and this’ll be over before you know it.”

I shut up.

“First I want to say, I’m really sorry about your brother, Jesse.”

Hearing her say his name made me want to throw up.

“Believe it or not,” she continued, “I know how it feels.”

I snorted. “You don’t have a clue –”

“My dad committed suicide when I was fifteen.”

That shut me up again.

“I’m not going to lie to you, Henry. Some of the bad feelings never go away.”

“Gee, great. Thanks for that.”

“Would you rather I lie to you?”

I thought about that for a moment. “No, I guess not.”

“I just wanted you to know, you’re not alone.”

“Yeah, but your dad didn’t kill someone else.”

“No. That’s a whole other layer of yuck you’re going to have to get through.”

“Again. Thanks.”

She shrugged. “You’re already doing way better than me. Nobody got me into therapy, I can tell you that. Drinking was my therapy.”

“Are you a drunk?”

“I prefer the term ‘alcoholic.’ Trying to quit again, though. I’m almost two weeks clean and sober.”

Two weeks – big deal
, I thought. “Is that why you look like shit?”

She looked like she wanted to punch me in the face, but all she said was, “Probably. I
like shit, so it stands to reason.”

I nodded.

“Thing is, I get what your dad is going through. And if he wants to talk, I’m going to listen.”

“What if he wants to do more than talk?”

She looked me right in the eye. “When you two moved in, I got my hopes up. Your dad’s not a bad-looking guy. But, as much as I like him, he’s not my type. And now that I know
are part of that package … 
not interested.”

With that, she turned around and pressed the buttons for our floors. The elevator jerked into motion.

We rode in silence. When the doors opened on the second floor, I stepped out. “Do you still miss your dad?” I asked.

“All the time,” Karen said. She turned her face away as the doors closed.

, A

Dad insisted I go back to school today. “Just stick with your story,” he said when he dropped me off. “You were sick.” Then he sat in his truck until he saw me disappear through the front doors.

BOOK: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
7.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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