Excerpt: 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'

My hands slithered down the wheel from ten-and-two to a desultory seven-and-five. His memory was accurate. Since according to you in defacing my maps he had only been trying to help, you replaced the squirt gun, which he tossed into his slag heap of a toy box and never touched. The squirt gun had served its purpose. Indeed, I'd had a spooky presentiment when I finished grinding the barrel into the floor that since he had been attached to it, he was glad to see it go.

When I told you about the tea set, you were about to brush it off, but I shot you a warning glance; we had talked about the need for presenting a united front. "Hey, Kev," you said lightly. "I know teacups are for girls and sort of prissy, but don't break 'em, okay? It's uncool. Now how about some Frisbee? We've just got time to work on that bank shot of yours before dinner."

"Sure, Dad!" I remember watching Kevin streak off to the closet to fetch the Frisbee and puzzling. Hands fisted, elbows flying, he looked for all the world like a regular, rambunctious kid, exhilarated at playing in the yard with his father. Except that it was too much like a regular kid; almost studied. Even that Sure, Dad! had a rehearsed, nyeh-nyeh ring to it that I couldn't put my finger on. I had the same queasy feeling on weekends when Kevin would pipe up — yes, pipe up — "Gosh, Dad, it's Saturday! Can we go see another battlefield?" You'd be so enchanted that I couldn't bring myself to raise the possibility that he was pulling your leg. Likewise, I watched out the dining room window and could not believe, somehow, that Kevin was quite that inept at throwing a Frisbee after all this time. He still tossed the disc on its side, hooking the rim on his middle finger, and curled it ten yards from your feet. You were patient, but I worried that your very patience tempted Kevin to try it.

Oh, I don't remember all the incidents that year aside from the fact that there were several, which you tagged with the umbrella dismissal, "Eva, every boy pulls a few pigtails." I spared you a number of accounts, because for me to report any of our son's misbehavior seemed like telling on him. I ended up reflecting badly not on him but on myself. If I were his sister I could see it, but could a mother be a tattletale? Apparently.

However, the sight I beheld in — I think it was March, well, I'm not sure why it unnerved me quite so much, but I couldn't keep it to myself. I had gone to pick up Kevin at the usual time, and no one seemed to know where he was. Miss Fabricant's expression grew pinched, though by this point, were Kevin abducted by the murderous pedophiles we were then led to believe lurked behind every bush, I'd suspect her of having hired them. The missing child being our son, it took a while before one of us thought to check the bathrooms, hardly his bolt-hole of choice. "Here he is!" sang his teacher at the door to the Girls' Room. And then she gasped. I doubt your recollection of these rusty stories is all that sharp, so allow me to refresh your memory. There was a slight, dark-haired kindergartner named Violetta whom I must have mentioned earlier that school year, since she touched me so. She was quiet, withdrawn; she would hide in Miss Fabricant's skirts, and it took me ages to coax her to tell me her name. Quite pretty, really, but you had to look at her carefully to discern that, which most people didn't. They couldn't get past the eczema.

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