Well, it says right there in the Profile where I live. It's a little town in Maine like a lot of other little towns in Maine, I guess, nothing special about it that I ever noticed. The Wilbur's River ain't very big but it's clear as a sheet of new glass and you can see right down to the bottom of it, to the rocks and the sand and once you're a few feet away from the shore it ain't hardly muddy at all. The trees come right down to edge of the water, which means the river's eroding the soil right out from under them, and once in a while a big tree will fall over and if you're lucky it'll be at a narrow spot and you can cross right over the river on the tree. When I was a kid I used to look for trees like that and then walk out on them to the middle of the river and pick a a branch to roost on and then just watch the water run away under me. In the spring and summer you could tell where the quiet pools were by where the trout would hang around, sometime a half dozen at a crack, nosing around the rocks and flapping their tails in slow motion. They fed on stuff like mosquitoes (mosquitoes has got a e in it? I didn't know that) and water spiders, which is why I liked to go out there. I'd fill up my pockets with rocks and throw them at the water spiders, try and sink them. You must know what water spiders are--they're these bugs about the size of your little fingernail with long legs they use to skitter around on top of the water like spiders skitter on land and they zip pretty good--it ain't so easy to hit one even with a big rock, that's how quick they are, but I never used big rocks anyway, I wasn't no sissy. I liked a small rock, well, small-ish, nice and round with a smooth edge on it and I'd skip it at them, try to confuse them or maybe catch one on a bounce that was trying to get away. I did it, too, quite a few times. Nobody else could do it, they couldn't ever figure out which way the bug was gonna jump, but I could sometimes, sometimes I just knew and when I got that feeling I knew I was right and I almost always was, though that don't mean I got the bug every time because I didn't. Even when you knew which way it was gonna jump, that don't mean you knew how far, and for me that was the real trick of it all--to make that little rock jump just far enough to catch that bug dozing, thinking how lucky it was it just got away, and them smash! Here comes that damn rock right behind it. It was something like real life doing it that way, because that's the way life is--you think you slipped out from under her and wham! Down she comes on your head like a big round rock some god skipped at you who knew which way you were gonna jump--and just exactly how far. I didn't know why but when I was a kid I always had this feeling when I got a bug that I was getting even for something, though I never knew what. Maybe I was getting even for life. No, that ain't right. Getting even for what? Nothing bad ever happened to me when I was a kid that I would have thought I had to get even for. Except my dad being drunk all the time, and school, of course, which was a trial from Day One.
What school was, school was like this jail where you had to go even when you hadn't done nothing wrong, that's what I never got about it. "Well", the grown-ups would say, "it's for your own good." Which is exactly the same damn thing they said when they whipped you for forgetting to take the trash down to the road or skipping school. And that's another thing--skipping school. I used to skip, and what'd they do? They'd suspend me--give me three days off from school. That never made no sense to me at all and still don't. One time I said that to the Principal, Mr. Leduc (The Duck, we used to call him behind his back), I said, "Mr. Leduc, I don't get this. I skipped school so as punishment you're gonna order me to skip more school?" That got him mad (well, hell, the truth is it didn't take much to make The Duck mad. One time Billy Kramer got dared by Jimmy Melanson--that was Heidi's brother, I told you about Heidi, well, a little anyway--to do something to The Duck's car so he couldn't go home. See, he lived about 20 miles from the school and whenever there was something wrong with his car he'd have to call Mrs. The Duck to come get him and she hated that, we could hear her yelling at him all the way to the ballfield about why didn't he get rid of that old clunker and get a real car, why, did he think she just had all the extra time in the world to go traipsing around rescuing him from one goddam breakdown after another, that she had nothing else to do with her time, well, he just better start to understand that she had just as much important stuff to attend to as he did and it was about time he realized it and she'd go on all the way down the drive and out the gate and we could still hear her sometimes until she got past Wellman's Drug halfway to the middle of town.
So anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, about Billy Kramer fixing The Duck's car. So Billy, he was a helluva car mechanic. By the time he was 14 he could just about take a Chevy trannie apart and put it back together blindfolded if he wanted to, there wasn't nothing he didn't know how to do on a car. (Me, on the other hand, I barely know which end of the key goes in the ignition.) So he gets to thinking and he decides he don't wanna do nothing dangerous, I mean, like fixing The Duck's brakes so they quit on him halfway home in the middle of nowhere, which would be funny but there's too damn many hills and if the brakes let go in the wrong place, Billy could end up killing The Duck and while he didn't like him much he thought that was kind of extreme punishment just for not being likeable. So he decides what he'll do is he'll fix the car so it starts, goes five or six yards, then dies. I think he said he put a crimp in the gas line or something, but to be honest, I don't really remember how he said he did it but he did and we all went and hid behind the corner of the shop building where we could see him but he couldn't see us and we waited to see what would happen.
Well, it was pretty funny, alright. The car started up and The Duck just about got it turned around to head out the drive when it quit, but he didn't get out or anything, he must have figured he let the clutch out too quick and and he just started it up again and started off, but then when it quit on him again, you should have seen his face, all crumpled up like a ball that's had all its air sucked out of it and don't know whether to fold up like a hankie or just slide to the ground and die. That time he got out and he lifted the hood and messed around inside and that was the funniest part of all because we all knew goddam well he didn't know the first goddam thing about cars, he knew less than I did, for chrissake, and god only knew what he thought he was doing in there pulling this and tugging at that, what kind of damage he could do didn't bear (bare? no, that can't be right) bear thinking about, when Jimmy lost control of his nose.
I guess I gotta explain that. See, Jimmy has this real loud, sort of honking laugh that sounds like a flock of geese in a steel-mesh pen all pissed off because they ain't been fed when they think they oughta be, and you can hear it a long long ways away so he'd been holding his nose so to kind of quiet it down to this snort like the bad muffler on my Dad's Ford 150--when it's just idling it ain't too bad--which works OK but then he can't breathe so good and he has to take his hand off once in a while to get a good deep breath and then he has to be real careful he don't laugh while he's breathing or else it's even louder, and just when he was taking one of these breaths The Duck took it into his head to walk around the car kicking the tires like he really thought that was going to fix it and Jimmy just lost it. The Duck whipped around like a stuck trout at the first jerk of the hook and stared right at the shop building though I don't think he knew exactly where the noise was coming from and if Jimmy had been able to get control of his nose again we might have been alright but then Billy, the jackass, whispered in Jimmy's ear, "Maybe he'll try blowing in the tailpipe next", and Jimmy was off again. Well, that was it. There wasn't no mistaking where it came from that time and The Duck marched over yelling at the top of his lungs and swishing with his hands at the steam that was coming out of his ears and we all got suspended for three days, which was OK with Billy because he wanted to go fishing but Jimmy got in real trouble with his parents and they sent him off to a military school down south somewhere, Mass maybe, or Maryland--it started with a M--and we didn't see him again for months til his Mom made his Dad bring him back after they beat Jimmy up and busted his arm, which he never would talk about after that.
All that for a little thing like fiddling with his car a little. It didn't seem to us like The Duck had much of a sense of humor, but then we wasn't married to Mrs. The Duck and that makes all the difference in the world I guess.