Well, it's almost over now, Patrick said.
He had been wrong. It was just starting. None of Patrick's friends had explicitly told him they didn't want to hang out anymore; the cop who came into Zoney's every night had never said, I'm keeping my eye on you, Cusimano; like father like son. The supervisor at the warehouse where all three Cusimanos had worked had never suggested the remaining two find other jobs (and in fact, Mike still worked there). But always, from the very beginning, Patrick had read a sudden wariness in people, as if bad luck was catching and he was a carrier. The sidelong glances and pauses in conversation that stretched just a beat too long; the police cruisers that seemed to drive past their house on Division Street more often than they once had, or linger in the rearview a block longer than was reasonable; the weird sense of disengagement, of nonexistence, when cashiers and waitresses and bank clerks who saw his name on his credit card or paycheck couldn't quite seem to focus their eyes on him. Like he was nonstick, made of Teflon, and their gazes couldn't get purchase.
Nothing overt. Nothing you could point to. Just a feeling. If he'd never bought the newspaper at the SuperSpeedy, it wouldn't have come to anything more than that. He could just have bulldozed through, like Mike, waiting for people to get over it. He'd avoided coverage of the accident as much as he could. He didn't want to see the roadside shrine, with its creepy collection of plastic flowers and cellophane-shrouded teddy bears that wouldn't ever be played with, and he didn't want to see the kid's stricken mother holding a photo of her dead kid in the bedroom where he'd never sleep again. He'd bought the paper that day because his job at the warehouse had already started to feel impossible, but he hadn't taken anything from the rack but the classifieds. It hadn't occurred to him that the obituaries would be in the same section. Even if it had, it wouldn't have occurred to him that the kid's obit would still be running a month after the accident.
But he'd turned a page and there it was, oversized in the middle of all that sad muted eight-point death. Until then he hadn't actually seen the dead kid's photograph. Looking at it, at the kid's gap-toothed first grader grin, he'd felt--not bad, bad was his new normal. He'd felt worse. He wouldn't have thought that was possible.
The obit listed a memorial website, where you could make donations for the family. It took a few days for him to work up to it but eventually Patrick had suggested to Mike that they give some money. Anonymously, of course. Not out of guilt, although that was certainly part of it; more out of a sense that here was a thing, albeit a small thing, that could be done. But Mike, who had been drinking beer and watching Comedy Central in near silence ever since the accident, had only glared. For a moment, Patrick had thought his brother might hit him.
Instead, Mike had asked why the hell they would do that, since it wasn't like the old man had killed the kid on purpose. And it wasn't like they had any money to spare--only the old man had made full-time union wages, and losing his paycheck had hurt them badly--and it also wasn't like anybody was offering them free money, were they? "Fuck the kid, fuck his fucking family, and fuck you," Mike had said. "Dad's going to be in jail for fifteen years. They don't get anything else."
Determined to send the money anyway, Patrick had used one of the computer terminals in the public library so Mike wouldn't catch him, typing in the web address with his almost-maxed credit card ready to go. He'd scrolled down the page past the kid's picture, trying not to feel cynical about the sappy graphics and badly rhymed poetry (My broken heart can only cry, I pray to God and ask Him why) and looking for the donation link. He'd found the other one first.
Click here for more information about John Cusimano and his sons.
Excerpted from Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet Copyright © 2013 by Kelly Braffet. Excerpted by permission of Crown, 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
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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