I was thirteen the year the drifter came to town. It was the same year of the persecution of Sharon, but we’ll get into that later. My name is Carson. I’m named after my mom’s favorite writer, Carson McCullers. She’s from the South and writes moody, provocative pieces. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I haven’t actually read any of her books; first, because I was too young and now, because I don’t want to. I think we’re supposed to read The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter this year for school and my Mom says the lead character is just like me, but I’d just as soon not know what my mom thinks is just like me, so I hope we don’t.

So, about my parents, they’re not what you’d call liberal. That’s supposed to mean they care about their taxes more than they do the plight of the poor and stuff, but my mom volunteers for lots of stuff and my dad sends money. I don’t really give a care about all of that. I mean, I do care about poor people, I’m just not sure what to do about it. My mom’s brother, Uncle Jack, took me to a mission once to feed the poor on Thanksgiving. It made me feel sad. He said it was good for me to see how other people live. I wondered who fed them the rest of the days when we weren’t there. Still, it was a good thing to do. I was only eleven then, and so kind of stupid.

When the drifter came I had to learn to make subtle distinctions. She was not poor, even though she had no money. She was rich in her mind and in her spirit and she always had everything she needed, always. She was my friend, no matter what anybody says about her now. She was the best friend I ever had, even better than Sam, because she gave me my self confidence, which I didn’t have before because, well, just because. The drifter’s name was Judy.

Judy came to town on a cold rainy day. Sam and I had only recently started to hang out at Round Table Pizza with the other kids. Well, we really didn’t hang out with them so much as near them, because we weren’t really part of the ‘in’ crowd. We weren’t geeks either, just not really ‘in.’ But then, we were younger than most of them still.

Round Table Pizza is where the kids go after school to hang out and smoke cigarettes and play the juke box. The kids that don’t smoke go to the Ice House because they don’t let you smoke there. I don’t’ smoke, but Sam does. I keep telling him it will give him cancer, but he says he’ll quit in his mid-twenties when he goes through his second major life change – his first being at age twelve when he started forming his own opinions about music, and coincidentally, or not, started smoking. He listens to this woman named Patti Smith instead of all the disco stuff the other kids listen to. She’s a poet and kind of weird, but to be honest I like her better than most music I hear on the radio, but I don’t pay that much attention. I guess I like soul music like Earth Wind and Fire and The Spinners and Parliament Funkadelic. Sam thinks Patti is a “prophet” and a “goddess” or something, and he also likes these boys called the Ramones and some other ones called The Dead Boys. It’s weird, some of the names. But like I said, I really don’t have strong opinions about that stuff. Maybe about any stuff really. I mean, I’m just figuring things out. One thing I do have strong opinions about is how people should not be mean to people, especially for no reason, like with Sharon, but I’m getting ahead of my story, so…

Getting back to Sam, because he really is an important part of this story, maybe the whole reason I’m writing it at all. Sam is really small and kind of pretty like a girl. He has beautiful green eyes and the longest, darkest eyelashes I’ve ever seen on anyone, even a mascara model in a magazine. He’s really good looking, but in a delicate sort of way. Sometimes people, especially guys, call him names like sissy, fag and queer. Maybe this is why he took up smoking, to look tough or something. I don’t really know, but I know the names bother him, even if he says they don’t. Sam is also not very sporty. He’s really into music and that’s his main thing. But most of the boys at school are into sports or else they’re geeks. Sam isn’t really what you’d call a geek, like a science guy, or a straight A student, or anything, so it’s hard to place him in a category, which seems to be an important part of being in Junior High, so far as I can figure out anyway. Figuring out what category people go into is the main pastime of a lot of people in Junior High. I guess I’m guilty of it too. Here I go doing it right now.

my dorko best friend