Excerpt of Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman
(Page 4 of 5)
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"Nothing with me," you said. "Trev's a little sick, though."
"Fuck you," Trevor gurgled from the bushes.
You laughed and I laughed too. You held up the bottles
to the porch light to see which was which. "Here, nobody's
touched this one."
I don't usually drink beer. Or, really, anything. I took the
bottle. "Wasn't this for your friend?"
"He shouldn't mix," you said. "He's already had half a bottle of Parker's."
You looked at me, and then took the bottle back because
I couldn't get it open. You did it in a sec and dropped
the two caps in my hand like coins, secret treasure, when
you handed the beer back to me. "We lost," you explained.
"What does he do when you win?" I asked.
"Drinks half a bottle of Parker's," you said, and then
Joan told me later that you got beat up once at a jock
party after a losing game so that's why you end up at other
people's parties when you lose. She told me it would be hard
dating her brother the basketball star. "You'll be a widow,"
she told me, licking the spoon and turning up Hawk. "A
basketball widow, bored out of your mind while he dribbles
all over the world."
I thought, and I was stupid, that I didn't care. And then you asked me my name. I told you it was
Min, short for Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom, because
my dad was getting his master's when I was born, and
that, don't even ask, no you couldn't, only my grandmother
could call me Minnie because, she told me and I imitated her voice, she loved me the best of anyone.
You said your name was Ed. Like I might not know that.
I asked you how you lost.
"Don't," you said. "If I have to tell you how we lost, it
will hurt all of my feelings."
I liked that, all of my feelings. "Every last one?" I asked.
"Well," you said, and took a sip, "I might have one or
two left. I might still have a feeling."
I had a feeling too. Of course you told me anyway, Ed,
because you're a boy, how you lost the game. Trevor snored
on the lawn. The beer tasted bad to me, and I quietly poured
it behind my back into the cold ground, and inside people
were singing. Bitter birthday to you, bitter birthday to you, bitter
birthday to Al - and Al never gave me a hard time about
staying out there with a boy he had no opinion about instead
of coming in to watch him blow out the sixteen black
candles on that dark, inedible heart - bitter birthday to you.
You told the whole story, your lean arms in your jacket
crackling and jerky, and you replayed all your moves. Basketball
is still incomprehensible to me, some shouty frantic
bouncing thing in uniform, and although I didn't listen
I hung on every word. Do you know what I liked, Ed?
The word layup, the sexy plan of it. I savored that word,
layup layup layup, through your feints and penalties, your free
throws and blocked shots and the screwups that made it all
go down. The layup, the swooping move of doing it like
you planned, while all the guests kept singing in the house,
For he's a bitter good fellow, for he's a bitter good fellow, for he's a
bitter good fellow, which nobody can deny. The song I'd keep, for
the movie, so loud through the window your words were
all a sporty blur as you finished your game and threw the
bottle into an elegant shatter on the fence, and then you
started to ask:
"Could I call you - "
I thought you were going to ask if you could call me
Minnie. But you just wanted to know if you could call me.
Who were you to do that, who was I saying yes? I would
have said yes, Ed, would have let you call me the thing I
hated to be called except by the one who loves me best
of anyone. Instead I said yes, sure, you could call me about
maybe a movie next weekend, and Ed, the thing with your
heart's desire is that your heart doesn't even know what it
desires until it turns up. Like a tie at a tag sale, some perfect
thing in a crate of nothing, you were just there, uninvited,
and now suddenly the party was over and you were all I
wanted, the best gift. I hadn't even been looking, not for
you, and now you were my heart's desire kicking Trevor
awake and loping off into the sweet late night.
Excerpted from Why We Broke Up
by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman.
Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.