stealing condoms from joe jr.'s room
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 that."
"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 bathroom--"
"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 start.
"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 busy."
"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.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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