"This is the parking lot where we come out," Mom had said, either not noticing that Pete wasn't looking at the map or pretending not to. "A van shows up there around three. It'll take us back around to our car. Two hours later we're home again, and I'll haul you guys to a movie if we're not too tired. How does that sound?"
Pete had said nothing last night, but he'd had plenty to say this morning, starting with the ride up from Sanford. He didn't want to do this, it was ultimately stupid, plus he'd heard it was going to rain later on, why did they have to spend a whole Saturday walking in the woods during the worst time of the year for bugs, what if Trisha got poison ivy (as if he cared), and on and on and on. Yatata-yatata-yatata. He even had the gall to say he should be home studying for his final exams. Pete had never studied on Saturday in his life, as far as Trisha knew. At first Mom didn't respond, but finally he began getting under her skin. Given enough time, he always did. By the time they got to the little dirt parking area on Route 68, her knuckles were white on the steering wheel and she was speaking in clipped tones which Trisha recognized all too well. Mom was leaving Condition Yellow behind and going to Condition Red. It was looking like a very long six-mile walk through the western Maine woods, all in all.
At first Trisha had tried to divert them, exclaiming over barns and grazing horses and picturesque graveyards in her best oh-wow-it's-waterless-cookware voice, but they ignored her and after awhile she had simply sat in the back seat with Mona on her lap (her Dad liked to call Mona Moanie Balogna) and her knapsack beside her, listening to them argue and wondering if she herself might cry, or actually go crazy. Could your family fighting all the time drive you crazy? Maybe when her mother started rubbing her temples with the tips of her fingers, it wasn't because she had a headache but because she was trying to keep her brains from undergoing spontaneous combustion or explosive decompression, or something.
To escape them, Trisha opened the door to her favorite fantasy. She took off her Red Sox cap and looked at the signature written across the brim in broad black felt-tip strokes; this helped get her in the mood. It was Tom Gordon's signature. Pete liked Mo Vaughn, and their Mom was partial to Nomar Garciaparra, but Tom Gordon was Trisha's and her Dad's favorite Red Sox player. Tom Gordon was the Red Sox closer; he came on in the eighth or ninth inning when the game was close but the Sox were still on top. Her Dad admired Gordon because he never seemed to lose his nerve -- "Flash has got icewater in his veins," Larry McFarland liked to say -- and Trisha always said the same thing, sometimes adding that she liked Gordon because he had the guts to throw a curve on three-and-oh (this was something her father had read to her in a Boston Globe column). Only to Moanie Balogna and (once) to her girlfriend, Pepsi Robichaud, had she said more. She told Pepsi she thought Tom Gordon was "pretty good-looking." To Mona she threw caution entirely to the winds, saying that Number 36 was the handsomest man alive, and if he ever touched her hand she'd faint. If he ever kissed her, even on the cheek, she thought she'd probably die.
Now, as her mother and her brother fought in the front seat -- about the outing, about Sanford Middle School, about their dislocated life -- Trisha looked at the signed cap her Dad had somehow gotten her in March, just before the season started, and thought this:
I'm in Sanford Park, just walking across the playground to Pepsi's house on an ordinary day. And there's this guy standing at the hotdog wagon. He's wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt and he's got a gold chain around his neck -- he's got his back to me but I can see the chain winking in the sun. Then he turns around and I see...oh I can't believe it but it's true, it's really him, it's Tom Gordon, why he's in Sanford is a mystery but it's him, all right, and oh God his eyes, just like when he's looking in for the sign with men on base, those eyes, and he smiles and says he's a little lost, he wonders if I know a town called North Berwick, how to get there, and oh God, oh my God I'm shaking, I won't be able to say a word, I'll open my mouth and nothing will come out but a little dry squeak, what Dad calls a mousefart, only when I try I can speak, I sound almost normal, and I say...
Copyright © 1999 by Stephen King. Reproduced by permission of the publisher Simon & Schuster
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