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Pay It Forward(5)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

So, it seems odd to me that no one will ask. If they suddenly did and I were forced to repeat the story, I might decide I had liked things better before. But it’s not so much that they don’t ask, but why they don’t ask, as if I am an unspeakable tragedy, as new and shocking to myself as to them.

Occasionally my left arm will draw comment, always the same one. “How lucky that it was your left.” But even this supposed consolation is misguided, because I am left-handed, by nature if not by practice.

Until I was shipped home from overseas, I had a fiancée. I still have pictures of us together. We were a handsome couple—ask anyone. To someone who wasn’t there, it might seem as if my fiancée must have been a coldhearted woman. Surely she could have married me just the same. I wish Eleanor had been a coldhearted woman, or even that I could pretend such to be the case, but unfortunately I was there. The real truth is hard to re-create. The real truth is that we both agreed so staunchly not to see it or care about it that it was all we could see, nor had we time left over to care about anything else.

Eleanor was a strong woman, which no doubt contributed to our defeat.

She is married now and lives with her husband in Detroit. She is a plastic surgeon. I haven’t entirely decided how much significance to attribute to these facts.

Any of them.

From The Diary of Trevor

I saw this weird thing on the news a couple of days ago. This little kid over in England who has this, like…condition. Nothing hurts him. Every time they showed a shot of him, he was wearing a crash helmet and elbow pads and knee pads. ’Cause I guess he would hurt himself. I mean, why wouldn’t he? How would he know?

First I thought, Whoa. Lucky. But then I wasn’t that sure.

When I was little I asked my mom why we have pain. Like, what’s it for? She said it’s so we don’t stand around with our hands on a hot stove. She said it’s to teach us. But she said by the time the pain kicks in, it’s pretty much too late, and that’s what parents are here for. And that’s what she’s here for. To teach me. So I don’t touch the hot stove in the first place.

Sometimes I think my mom has that condition, too. Only on the inside where nobody sees it but me and maybe Loretta and definitely Bonnie. Except, I know she hurts. But she still has her hand on that hot stove. On the inside, I mean. And I don’t think they make helmets or pads for stuff like that.

I wish I could teach her.

Chapter Two


Ricky never exactly came home, not like she thought he would, but the truck did. Only not like she thought it would. It had been rolled a few times; all in all it looked worse than she felt. Only, it ran. Well, it idled. It’s one thing to start up and run, quite another to actually get somewhere.

Much as she hated that damned Ford extra cab for imitating her own current condition, she could have forgiven it that. Potentially she could. It was the way it kept her awake at night. Especially now, when she’d taken a second job, at the Laser Lounge, to keep up the payments. And since it was the truck’s fault that she didn’t get to bed until three, it at least could have let her sleep. Surely that would not have been asking too much.

Yet there she was again at the window, double-checking the way moonlight slid off the vehicle’s spooky shape. The way its silvery reflection broke where the paint broke. Only Ricky could screw up a truck that bad and walk away. At least, it would stand to reason that he had walked away, seeing that the truck was found and Ricky was not.

Dragged off by coyotes? Stop, Arlene, just get ahold of yourself. He’s sitting in a bar somewhere, talking that same sweet line to some poor girl ain’t learned yet what it all adds up to. Or what it all don’t add up to.

Unless, of course, he limped away, not sauntered off, maybe dragged himself to a hospital, maybe got out okay, maybe died, far from anything to tie him to a Ford extra cab, far from any ties to hometown news.

So there could be a grave somewhere, but how would Arlene know? And even if she did, she could not know which one or where. Even if she bought flowers for Ricky out of her tip money, she would never know where to put them.

Flowers can be a bad thing, a bad thought, if you don’t even know where to lay them down. Just stop, Arlene. Just go back to bed.

And she did, but fell victim to a dream in which Ricky had been living just outside the town for months and months and never bothered to contact her with his whereabouts.

Which made her cross to the window again to blame the damn truck for keeping her awake.

“SO THEN, WHAT IF I GET IT HOME and it’s bent? I just spent two hunnerd dollars on nothin’?”

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