One hundred and ninety-eight hours before Jenny Greenspan's
birth control pills should kick in, Connor is in juvenile
traffic court explaining how he followed a pickup truck through
a yellow light and slammed into the side of a minivan.
"It was raining and hard to see." He tries to sound apologetic,
the way his brother suggested on the ride over. Really he just
wants court to be over so he can use the bathroom; he's had a
weird stomachache since Jenny told him about the pill last
night. "I assumed it was okay, because the truck ahead of me
made it through. I was only following."
"Your Honor, the conditions were treacherous." Next to
him Jack pipes in -self--assured and authoritative. "If you look
at the accident report, the officer even made note of it."
Bored and gray-bearded, the judge looks at Jack and actually
yawns, says Connor should be more careful next time and pay the
seventy-five-dollar fine at the cashier's window. Connor thanks
the judge because Jack thanks the judge. Hurried as always, Jack
pulls on his beige trench coat and fishes his wallet out of his
briefcase before they've even left the courtroom. He rips out a
blank check, hands it to Connor, tells him to wait in line while
he calls his office. By the time Jack comes back Connor is
forging his brother's signature and finishing with the clerk.
"Fucking ridiculous we had to come all the way down here," Jack
says. At twenty-seven, he's ten years older, a second-year
associate in their father's law firm, Connor's legal guardian
for five and a half more months. "We could have just mailed
"Yeah, it would have been easier." Connor agrees to be polite;
he's just glad his driver's license wasn't revoked. He's got his
eyes on the men's room down the hall. "Can I run to the
"Aww come on, Conn." Shaking his head, Jack flips up his wrist
and looks at his watch. "I have to drop you home before I can go
back to work."
Connor starts to say he didn't enjoy spending Friday afternoon
in court either, but changes his mind. Last month, while waiting
for Jack at the Bagley Road Repair shop after the accident, the
unsalvageable remains of his car bleeding oil and green fluid on
the garage floor, Connor had felt oppressively guilty and had
developed a laundry list of things he would do to make Jack's
life better: learn to cook so Jack wouldn't eat greasy takeout
every night; pick up Jack's dry cleaning; apply to Case Western
and Ohio State and not just schools out west. So far he has done
none of those things-he hasn't even thanked Jack for paying
his traffic fine. Maybe not using the bathroom is a place to
"I can wait until I get home," Connor says, though he's not
entirely sure. "Thanks for coming with me. I know you're crazy
"Go ahead," Jack growls, as if it's truly a great concession.
With the back of his hand, he waves Connor to the men's room.
"Just don't take forever, okay?"
On the toilet stall walls, graffiti claims Pearl Jam sucks, the
East Side could kick the West Side's ass, and everyone should
vote Clinton. Briefly Connor fantasizes these notes are from the
mind of a serial murderer or a bank robber-infinitely more
interesting than another juvenile traffic offender. But then he
reads that Jill C. gives awesome head, and he's thinking about
Jenny and the pill again. On the phone last night, she said they
should have sex when it started working next weekend. "Sure,"
he'd said; he didn't think seventeen-year-old boys were allowed
to turn down such offers. Even if the seventeen-year-old boy was
almost certain he didn't love his girlfriend.
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