"Get out." Jack bends down so they're eye level. "You're done driving today."
"It wasn't my fault."
"You decided we were in England." Jack drums long fingers on the car frame. "How is that not your fault?"
"You were making me nervous."
"Yeah, well, it makes me nervous when you drive into other cars. You're going to give me a fucking coronary." Their father's heart hadn't outlasted his fifties. Instead of exercising or eating vegetables, Jack makes lots of slightly off comments about having heart attacks. "Come on. If I have to take you out of the car, we're both going to feel really stupid."
Connor doesn't move, and Jack reaches in and unhooks the seat belt. Putting one hand on Connor's shoulder, Jack slides the other under the bend in his brother's knees. Maybe half an inch taller, Jack outweighs Connor by twenty-five pounds, could probably pick him up without much effort.
"Fine, I'm moving." Connor smacks Jack's hands away, climbs over the console into the passenger side, feet tangling with the gear shift and the cup holder.
Jack sighs, gets in, starts driving.
Cleveland rolls past, brown and crunchy in early November. Springsteen's Born to Run album is in the cassette deck, so low it's barely audible. As "Thunder Road" starts its whiny harmonica intro, Connor fiddles with the volume knob. But it's hard to adjust it blindly and he doesn't want to chance looking at his brother. So he stares out the window, tapping his fingers on the cold, cold glass in time with the music.
"Are you mad at me?" Jack asks.
"No," Connor tells the window.
A two-mile silence.
"Look, I don't think we can do this without killing each other," Jack says, turning onto their -cul--de--sac. "Call the driving school you went to last year. Just give them a check."
It's the same kind of thing his parents did before they died--his father when Connor was ten; his mother of an aneurysm while showing a house in Shaker Heights two years ago. When Connor was born, his parents had been old enough to be his grandparents; there'd been lots of things they paid other people to do for their youngest son.
"I can't just go to the driving school," he says. "You're going to need to sign something."
"Have them fax me whatever I need to sign," Jack says. "Do you need a ride anywhere? I told the reporter I'd meet her at nine."
Waiting for the garage door to roll open, Connor can see into his bedroom window, where the shades are open, lights left on. Over his desk hangs the framed black-and-white poster of John Kennedy, hand under his chin, looking pensive and presidential.
"Jenny can pick me up," Connor says, out the door and in the house before Jack even puts the car in park.
One hundred and ninety-two hours before Jenny Greenspan's pills start working, Connor's head is between her thighs in a pile of dead leaves in Lakefront Park.
"Higher, higher." Jenny is on her back, jeans and panties bunched around hiking boots at her ankles.
He and Jenny have been going down on each other every weekend for the past four months, but he still has no idea what she's asking for, what he's supposed to be doing. His friends offered bad metaphorical advice-like your tongue is a fine-point pen; not like you're trying to wallpaper a house. None of them warned it would taste very, very bad or that her pubic hairs would get caught in his throat. Jenny's orgasm-a series of uninspired "oh Gods"-seems largely faked, far too similar to that scene in When Harry Met Sally.
Excerpted from Family and Other Accidents by Shari Goldhagen Copyright © 2006 by Shari Goldhagen. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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