(McCormick tells Sal Bergen about the night when he was six and thought he was going to die…)
The poison-lemon-juice arrow grazed his cheek and became a part of him.
The spindly shaft matched his skeletal appendages. He was the skinniest boy in any class. Frayed green fletching precursed thrift store and even home-sewn outfits Barbara sent him off in (more out of Pioneer thrift than necessity, he explains to the crossed, hairy ankles just visible from the couch). And the crux of the biscuit, that fraudulent head, only pretending to be special.
That’s how you see yourself? Sal spits.
No, he admits. Then, yes.
Whenever he trips someone’s wires like that, McCormick knows he must be wrong.
Did the Delaware cul-de-sac teach him he’s a Sad Sack?
The neighbors had big lawns and lots of kids. After dark they threw crab-apples at bats that dove from beech trees. But it was just dusk when McCormick, the youngest, ran in front of the bull’s-eye painted on a hay bail.
Bud, the oldest, was sorry to say he’d dipped his arrow in poison lemon juice.
Fear of dying—Bud said he would by morning—was overmatched by shame over what he’d let happen. It was fitful 4am before he called Barbara and Bill to his room and said goodbye.
Back to school. Taking the pan off the heat, stirring and folding, returning to the burner. Keeps the eggs soft. They saw Gordon Ramsay do it on Master Chef.
Around the age June is now, a lack arrived. He not only settled but reached for the smallest gun in the pile before Cops and Robbers. And when they got to Montana he became referee in recess football. Not a player. Never meant to be.
He worried he’d pass incapacity on. Or the food allergy would make June hang back.
But she always takes a big bite. This kid has appetite.