Author: Rich Chambers
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 2
Buy at: www.roguephoenixpress.com
William Bur is an 18 year old senior in high school who for the first time in his life faces, but does not recognize, one of life’s ultimate questions--what’s next? The recognition comes from the adult William Bur, who narrates and comments throughout. It is the adult Bur that celebrates the idea of the “moment,” even if the teenaged Bur is too busy with his 18 year old self to see it. Instead, caught somewhere between the 17 year old child and the 19 year old adult, the 18 year old Bur finds himself trudging through his high school graduation, the summer that follows, and the Labor Day weekend that unofficially marks the end of so many things other than just summer.
I was eighteen Looking back now, I have to be careful not to idealize that period of my life. It would be easy to do. I think many of us have a tendency to reflect upon and cherish our late teen years. The innocence and lack of responsibility is so undeniably appealing, particularly the lack of responsibility.
I lived with my mother, grandmother, and two brothers. My parents had divorced when I was ten. Being a child of divorce, I possessed the seemingly standard feelings of abandonment and loneliness that came with the territory; although, to be honest, I am not sure if I was consciously aware of the true affect they had on me at the time. The majority of who I was was turned inward, lacking the maturity to realize that life exists beyond the sphere of the self and that there were always others at any given moment having similar life experiences to mine. At eighteen, it often felt to me like I was the only one who had ever lived through a divorce.
It was all about me! The world existed within the boundaries of my family, my friends, my school, and my part-time job. Nothing else seemed to really matter. I was somewhat aware of the odd current event that happened outside of my personal sphere, but I did not have a sense of how any of it related to me, nor did I care. Yet I do remember watching the odd newscast and sometimes reading a newspaper in an effort to impress a girl with my "vast" knowledge of current events. Quite funny as I think about it now, but life was different at that time.
Actually, I shouldn't say "life was different at that time" because as I get older, I have started to realize how much of life stays the same. It is probably more accurate to say I perceived things in a unique manner at that age, relative to my age.
My dad walked out on my mom when I was nine years old; the official divorce came a year later. Mom was about four months pregnant with my brother Sam. (My dad walking out on my mom when she was pregnant was something that I had a hard time coming to terms with. It took many years and an adult sensibility that was able to look beyond the surface and the superficial before I was able to accept his actions--the key word being "accept," which I feel obligated to point out differs in definition from "approve" or "disapprove.") My grandma moved in shortly afterwards, and with her came a pile of strength and emotional support for the whole family. Unfortunately, all she had in the economic department was a measly government pension check. So needless to say, things were financially pretty tight. As soon as my older brother Gus and I were old enough, we started working and contributing money to the household--not a lot, but enough that mom was thankful, and enough for each of us to think that we were really helping her out. Throughout this time, Mom and Dad were consistently doing battle regarding child support and visitation rights. They tried to keep us out of it, but there was no way we could be kept out of it. We were "it." As a result, by the time I had reached my eighteenth birthday, I honestly thought I was experienced and I "knew it all." I don't want to take away from the fact that I had had some experiences that were profound in their own right, but I definitely still had so much to learn, with the most profound being that I was only eighteen.
So there I was, late in my final high school year staring absently at the Friday afternoon clock. I hated school, or at least I truly believed that I did. It was something to hate. In an odd way, it gave me a voice in that final year of school. A purpose. I had no desire to embrace school, so rejecting it seemed to be a whole lot easier than any other option that presented itself. Besides, everybody around me, my parents, teachers, and counsellors all said I had to do well in school in order to open up options for my future. But I didn't think that far ahead and I resented being told that I should. Feeling backed into the corner of adolescence and not wanting to accept that I actually was an adolescent, I rebelled. Disliking school was my rebellion. Thankfully though, I wasn't that convincing a rebel.
As the class bell began to ring, I dutifully collected my books and trudged out into the hallway to my locker. I somehow knew graduating was important even though the confused young rebel inside me was making some kind of attempt to convince another side of me otherwise.
"Hey, Bur, what's up?"
I finished stuffing my books into my locker and turned to see Colin Francis approaching. Colin was one of my closest friends. (At eighteen, much of my life revolved around him and five other close friends. We were the Group of 7; although, we never applied a name or label to us at the time. This is only something I came up with in my university days when the first inclination of composing this narrative hit me.)
"Hey, Colin. Not much, man. Just happy it's Friday."
"I hear ya. Hey, whatcha doing tonight?"
"I gotta work. I took an extra shift."
"Jeepers, Bur, you're always workin'. You gotta get yourself a little bit more like me and stop giving that place we work at so much of your time. It ain't worth it."
"Jeepers"--Yep, it was an odd word to hear, but one that Colin was quite known for. In a way, his excessive use of this innocent sounding slang kind of defined his personality. Colin was generally a relaxed and fun loving guy, and it wasn't uncommon for him to berate me for what he considered to be too strong a commitment to our part time employer.
"Just lookin' for some extra cash," I said as I attempted to belittle my situation in the hopes of downplaying any of Colin's insinuations. "One of these days I'll have enough to get myself some kind of car."
"Not on the money we make, man." He started to laugh while inattentively kicking the side of my locker. "I was lucky my dad got me that job last summer or there is no damn way I would have been able to get my car. What shift you got?"
"Six to close."
"Sorry, Wil, can't give you a ride in. I'm closing too though if you want a ride home?"
"Hey, no worries Colin. You don't have to. I'll have my bike. But thanks for the offer."
"Not a problem Wil. What are friends for?" He laughed again in his light-hearted manner, turned, and walked away.