A new person entered the scene.
He didn’t look like the type to change the direction – the purpose – of Club Dead. But he did.
Club Dead had lost its original appeal. It allowed kids with agonizing grief to vent. They did, and while not cured, they felt better. They needed someone to listen. That’s one thing Club Dead members did very well: listen.
The gravity of those first meetings, the tension as someone told his or her story, the release of doing so, no longer held the group together. They had become friends. Maybe not all the hundred plus who came and went to our meetings on the stage at lunch, but it was a positive vibe sitting up there. That must explain why Stone laid off.
Regarding the play, only a small group wrote it. That couldn’t sustain Club Dead.
Club Dead needed a new purpose. Joseph Screen supplied that.
Emma told me he liked to be called Screen. She should have known. They were a couple.
Screen appeared at our school at two weeks ago. His father accepted a job at the research medical lab up the hill at Boylston College. All professors and scientists who worked at Boylston send their kids to our school. Many skilled people agreed to work at Boylston after learning about our school’s high academic standards. They were competitive people, and they wanted their children to attend a rigorous school.
My dad was a doctor at Boylston, and he interviewed Screen’s father. After Screen’s father had accepted a job to work at Boylston and arrived, my dad and mom went to dinner with him. When he learned that Screen would dine too, he asked me and Emma if we would come along. I demurred. Emma said yes. A week later she and Screen were dating.
“That was fast,” I said.
“Screen acted fast.”
“And you responded.”
“I want a lot of out of life.”
“What’s he like?”
“Ask better questions Fab.”
“Why can’t you call me CJ?”
“I cannot remember to. I mean no harm.”
“I know. How about this: what did he do at first that you liked?”
“At the dinner he spoke in favor of universal health care and strict regulation of doctors’ salaries.”
“I bet dad dropped his soup spoon when he heard that.”
“Dad likes young people. He humored Screen. Said his big fat salary was picking up the tab for the lamb brochettes Screen was eating.”
“How did Screen respond?”
“He ordered a chocolate soufflé.”
“And I bet that’s when you fell for him.”
“Yes, I do like chocolate soufflé.”
“When did he make a move on you?”
“He did not. I made the first move.”
“Respect my privacy little sister.”
Emma and I were twins. She came out first. I came out twenty-eight minutes later. She sometimes spoke to me like I was a little kid.
Screen joined Club Dead on stage. He sat down next to me. But since space was tight, he sat next to others, too.
“You’re Emma’s sister, right?”
“Yes. You’re Screen.”
“You know how I want to be addressed.”
“Emma told me. Do you know how I want to be addressed?”
“CJ. Emma told me.”
“That’s good. She won’t even call me CJ.”
“Emma says nice things about you.”
“Why are you here, Screen?”
“I hear talk about Club Dead. I want to be where the action is.”
“What do you think of the action?”
Screen watched students eat and talk.
“Got an interest in death?”
“In fact, I do.”
Then Screen told me about his grandfather, who was a taxidermist. Screen learned taxidermy growing up. He lived in the desert and worked on animal life he found there. The spiny mouse, squirrels, gophers, red spotted toads, chuckwallas (a lizard!), iguanas, bats and an armadillo.
“That’s very eccentric.”
“Before you look at the splinter in your neighbor’s eye, take out the log in your own eye.”
“You don’t talk like the average teen.”
“I’m not average.”
“I see why Emma was drawn to you.”
“Are you flirting?”
“No. Emma’s not average. I couldn’t see her spending time with anyone but above-average.”
Dawn listened without saying anything. Brink and Carrie looked up from their whispers. Emig, Fretwell and Tallie stopped writing the play. Tuttle scowled. Frank’s face, from a distance, expressed a question.
“You know how to get attention.”
“So what do you do in Club Dead?”
“When people have something to share, they share. Lots of the time we sit around and talk with each other.”
“Doesn’t sound like much of a club.”
“Maybe you could teach us how to do taxidermy.”
“That’s a private pursuit.”
“If you want to be a solitary, why did you come up on the stage?”
Screen said nothing.He stood and hopped off the stage. Just like that. No good-byes or see-you-laters. I was not the only one who noticed that.