The physiology of love a.., p.1
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       The Physiology of Love and Frogs, p.1

           matthew lewis
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The Physiology of Love and Frogs

  The Physiology of Love and Frogs

  Copyright 2013 Matthew Lewis

  Chapter 1

  Lately, so many things have been in flux. Everything I once knew; it’s all changing. In the last month I’ve moved to a new town, started attending a new school and going to a new church, basically engaging in what amounts to a total physical and spiritual make-over, although the church part isn’t really my cup of tea anymore. After everything that’s happened, I have trouble praying, finding myself constantly at odds with the divine. These days it feels weird to even walk out the front door, and to then make my way to a bus stop that seems foreign after frequenting the last for all of primary and middle school, gathering with the thickly accented that treat me like a stranger? Yeah.

  Though we decided to remain in Tennessee, Mom thought it “for the best” for us to move to the country, the simpler life possibly allowing us to forget. I’m not sure I agree with that, wondering how one simply chooses to no longer remember, but we desperately did need the change. After Dad died, that old world, it just wasn’t the same anymore. It felt smaller somehow, less vibrant, darker even. For a while we seemed to be standing still. Mom had quit her job and would lock herself in her room for days on end, staying in there more and more after we put him in the ground. That’s what we did, too. We didn’t “lay him to rest” or “give him peace.” We put him in a hole in the ground and covered him with dirt, sticking a concrete slab on top with his name and the words “will always be loved.” There wasn’t enough dirt in the world to fill the hole inside left by his absence.

  I sort of dropped everything after that happened too, the science and chess club, collecting comics and reading books, going to school; none of it mattered. I kept seeing him lying there, partially straddling the bed with his legs on the carpet, a cup of Mountain Dew splashed everywhere and a plate in a million pieces on the floor, tattered papers lodged beneath his body. Heart attack while doing his taxes, and at the age of 52. According to the medical examiner, he’d apparently struggled, even managing to get to the phone before the convulsions set in. He dialed 911, but by then all he could do was repeatedly mutter my mother’s name. Days later, I found one of his fingernails lodged in a nightstand, completely ripped off and just waiting for someone to find it. That’s not exactly something they tell you about on television or in books.

  Mom finally got to where she couldn’t look at his things any longer, his old pictures, his Silent Hill collection, the two turtles he kept as pets just too painful. She told me to take what I wanted and to box the rest, so I did. I pocketed a few trinkets before taking a lifetime of memories to the curve, leaving most of it for Good Will. When we ultimately discussed moving, I felt relived. While there were so many good things associated with the old place, there was that day, too. That horrifyingly terrible day. Dad wasn’t like my old dog Scruffy, either. I couldn’t very well bury him in the backyard and buy another. Seeing the moments we shared in every stick of furniture, I couldn’t forget.

  And while so many things changed for the better, some stubbornly remained negative, like the bus ride for example. I’ve been taking it for the better part of three weeks now, and although I know a few of the faces, most feel unfamiliar. Walking up that little ramp, I say hello to a bus driver that gives me this blank stare before bypassing benchseat after benchseat in search of a place to sit. While a few still have space, none of their occupants seem willing to scoot. One even sets his book bag beside him as if to say “You Are Not Welcome,” and that’s no good because the further back you go, the closer you come to that unspoken social divide. I’m a freshmen and the seniors further back expect me to know my place even if I’m not from around here. I could stand in the aisle for all they care, and I don’t really feel like being verbally harassed or thumped in the ears or worse.

  Surveying those seats, I start feeling butterflies doing a tango in my stomach, when she thankfully calls my name.


  That’s me by the way. Winston Collins, age fourteen and a half, born November 22nd, 1999 to Tammy and Bernard Collins. Abnormally tall for my age, I’ve grown a good six inches in the last year and am almost six foot four now, much to my mother’s and our furniture’s chagrin. Keeping me clothed is a pain when my shoe size increases monthly, and don’t get me started about how clumsy sudden growth makes a person. I like my hair long but had it cut for my father’s funeral, and that tangle of auburn hues is a mess. Every time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded of the Harry Hausen classic Jason and the Argonauts, my frilly mane comparable to their golden fleece. I never wear name brands or band tee-shirts, preferring something meaningful instead. Lately I’ve been sporting a Silent Hill 2 “Our Special Place” tee-shirt, it reminding me so much of Dad. Add blue jeans and tennis shoes and a lime green backpack, and that’s me.

  “Over here!”

  Glancing forward and to the right, I see Tammy Richards nudging one of her girlfriends to scoot as she motions me over. Excitable as ever, with flaming red hair and a beautiful smile, she giddily bounces back and forth despite the cramped quarters. Seeing her always makes me feel better. I really like her. She was the first person to say hello and to accept me into her social clique. Turns out we’re neighbors too, advantageous considering the fact that we’re lab partners and “work buddies,” as my sixth period economics teacher likes to say. We even started studying at her place. At first, I’d walk to her house every other day to work on our current assignment, “creating a project that would help better the world,” but lately that’s become a daily preoccupation. Walking to her house, I mean. And perhaps making the world a better place, mine anyhow, depending on how things go.

  “Tammy,” I call back while stumbling her way, smiling a big, dopey smile as I move. She normally doesn’t ride the bus so I didn’t really look for her, but today seems to be my lucky day. Standing, she forces her friend, whom I don’t know, to sit by the window while she takes the middle. She even gives me a hug, lingering for a few seconds afterward.

  “ I’ve been saving a spot for you, silly.”

  Amidst small talk and introductions, I think about how good today is starting to look. I’ve been sporting a crush on her and have contemplated asking her out a million times already, but it just never seems like the right…something. Her father and brothers are constantly at home, and I don’t really feel comfortable telling her how I feel with them around, and school just seems - wrong most of the time. Seeing her here now though, looking deep into my soul with her beautiful green eyes as she smiles and speaks, I keep thinking that today might just be the day. Later, in fifth period science lab, over our mandatory frog dissection, maybe I’ll tell her how I feel.

  Yeah, today’s might just be the day.

  Chapter 2

  School isn’t exactly what I’d call and ingratiating experience, aside from fifth and sixth period that is. Stepping off the bus, I say my goodbyes, excusing myself as I push my way through droves of people, trying to beat the buzzer. Hurriedly passing under a ballooning covered access, I clear those two massive glass doors and stop, a line forming from there. Taking off my backpack, I empty my pockets into a small plastic tray before having the contents checked by our on-site security specialist, who’s basically an overweight female rent-a-cop that seems tolerant at best. After that, I’m told to walk through the metal detector and somehow manage to set it off, much to annoyance of an elderly gentleman who’s forced to “wand me.” Afterward, I’m given my stuff back and told to go.

  The future of America, indeed. What message is that supposed to send?

  Ten minutes wasted, I hurry down a long hallway intersecting a half-dozen smal
ler ones, turning down two more before finally approaching a wall of lockers. Hastily opening mine, I shove my stuff inside, retrieving two books before bolting. The first bell sounds and I run, late as ever as I walk into Ms. Johnson’s homeroom.

  “Mr. Collins,” Ms. Johnson annoyingly calls, sounding every bit the devil hidden beneath a beehive hairdo and long skirt that everyone save faculty knows she is. “You’re late, as ever.”

  I want to tell her to take it up with the bus driver or the metal detector if she truly has a problem, but keep my opinion to myself.

  “Sorry,” I tell her, knowing she’ll probably mark me down as tardy yet again, further complicating my attendance record.

  During my time off, my mother was visited by a truancy officer, who actually had the nerve to tell her that it didn’t matter what happened, that I couldn’t just stop going. I had to see a shrink at a judge’s bequest and even contemplated home school, but wondered how that was “getting back to normal.”

  Taking my seat, I listen as Ms. Johnson finishes taking role before standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, afterward listening to home room announcements and watching a ten minute video on proper hygiene. The drudgery of a brand new day. How enticing.

  For first period I have Statistics, a fun subject because I like puzzles, but the monotone voice of my teacher is murderously dull. We work through tedious examples of drudgery partially-disguised as life lessons, one example on how to take sample size consuming most of our allotted time.

  Second people is much of the same, only concealed by a different set of parameters. We read Shakespeare aloud from our World Lit. books, sometimes pausing for our teacher to provide various insights into what he’s saying and why. During the final ten minutes, she even asks us to write down what we like most about what we’ve read so far to receive extra credit. The only thing I can think to note is that I that I like knowing we’re constantly getting closer to the end.

  Next is the class that isn’t a class, physical education, and most students, athletes aside, seem to find it particularly loathsome. After being told to dress out, which basically means running to the locker room to change into a skimpy pair of shorts and a tee-shirt two sizes too small, our class is forced to play basketball by a coach that’s also my history teacher as he continually berates the fact that someone as tall as myself can’t “get to the basket.” Like awkwardly slamming the basketball will somehow make me a better provider later in life.

  When the bell finally rings, I speedily dress, ready for my next class that also isn’t a class. Lunchtime. My old school didn’t count it as a period at all but this one does, and I find that interesting considering every period is supposedly geared toward teaching us a life skill. So what mystery am I beholden to here? Fetching food I don’t want slopped onto trays molded from hard plastic very much like the ones utilized by the penal system, afterward being forced to pay exorbitant sums before being told to mingle in a lunchroom divided into stratified cliques. Perhaps I learn to daydream there, imagining what’s to come soon afterward. Fifth period. Science class.

  Chapter 3

  When the next bell sounds, I’m ready, having already cleaned up my mess and dumped my tray. Making my way to my locker, I rush from point A to point B as the five minute buffer between classes quickly ticks by. Inside, hidden beside my laboratory workbook, is something I plan on giving to Tammy.

  The bear.

  Red and black with little hearts for eyes; my father had given my mother one that looked almost exactly like it the first time he asked her out. He loved telling that story and she delighted in the details; I’d practically grown up hearing about how much meaning it held. It was the only thing aside from photographs she ultimately ended up keeping, once telling me she could look in its eyes and still see him, as though it had somehow captured a tiny portion of his mislaid soul. I’d been keeping mine here in case I worked up the nerve to ask Tammy out, and quickly slipped it into my backpack, making certain no one took notice.

  Walking toward that classroom, I felt my heart thunder inside my chest and pound well into my throat. Could anyone else hear it? I didn’t think so, but then again it did seem to be making my shirt dance.

  Stepping inside, I bypass the old wooden desk our teacher sometimes liked to stand on to get our attention, turning left as I ignore whatever he’s written on the wall-length chalkboard and the various posters detailing famous quotes or strange sayings, homing in our shared workstation. There are six of them here all told, each neatly spaced one to the right or left, with an aisle in the middle and space separating them from each wall. Basically large tables with two drawers and a sink in the middle, complete with a metallic-blue surface for easy cleaning, their surfaces are normally cleared and shiny. Today they’re covered with a variety of implements however, including pins the size of lengthy fingers and a scalpel for us to share.

  I find it odd that I have to walk through a metal detector, surrendering things like combs because they might pose a potential threat, only to be provided a razor-sharp cutting utensil and gargantuan needles. O well.

  Tammy’s already there, sitting on the “station seat” that looks like a bar stool and reading a paperback novel, already wearing her “lab coat,” which is basically a cooking apron with sleeves, with her hair pulled back in a bun. God, she looks adorable. Smiling, I sit my backpack down and notice her look up.

  “Hey there, buddy bear,” she says, sitting her book down.

  “Hey there yourself,” I reply, thinking how cheesy that sounds.

  “You ready for this?” she asks, picking up one of the pins and waving it back and forth.

  “Me? You know I crave formaldehyde after lunch.”

  “Yuck,” she notes, laughing. “I always thought you looked pregnant, though,” she adds before reaching over and lightly patting my stomach.

  I think about asking her out then and there, telling her how much I enjoy her company and just how comfortable she makes me feel while I’m still feeling self-assured, but a booming sound suddenly erupts from the front of the room and diverts my attention.

  “Hey, party people,” one of my classmates, Chris Givens, yells after throwing his books on the floor. Strutting over to the chalkboard, he starts running his nails across its surface, seemingly delighting in taking his time.

  Typical athlete, I think, recalling how many times he’s already hassled me in the hallway and just how often he’s ask to copy my assignments. Always trying to lead the herd from the front; typical wannabe alpha male asshole.

  After he finishes and starts walking over to collect his books, two of his male friends walk in, flanked by two females. Mike Givens, Chris’s brother, John Richardson, all-state defensive player and the only black kid in class, Joni Pierce, bombshell blonde and stuck up to boot, and Libby Ray Ingles, brunette with the same attitude as Pierce. The football-player-and-cheerleader clique, all present and accounted for. Joy.

  They speak loudly as they walk toward the back of the room, discussing the weekend to come.

  “Daddy’s going to be out of town,” I hear Joni say as she walks by, talking to John and Mike.

  “Nice,” John responds, smacking her ass with the flat of his palm as Mike starts in with his hyena-like laugh.

  They’ve almost cleared our table when I make the mistake of making eye-contact with Joni, who just so happens to be John’s girlfriend. Not that it would’ve been a problem normally, but unfortunately he took note.

  “You making eyes at my girl!” he suddenly yells, bursting toward my desk like a madman. Placing his hand on my shoulder , he leans in so close that I can feel his breath on my nose. “I outta break your face!”

  “Do it!” Mike taunts from the side. “Do it!”

  “Cut it out, John!” I hear Tammy say.. “Take your bimbo and sit down, or I swear to G-OD I’m going to call Joni’s father and tell her you guys have been practicing, what’s that’s formation called, the ménage a tois in her living room
after hours. That’s three-way, in case you dipshits are too dumb to figure it out yourselves.”

  I half-expect John to punch me in the face, but instead he slowly leans forward and whispers in my ear. “Lu-cky. But your girlfriend won’t always be around.” After threatening me, he looks at Tammy and starts backing away from me slowly. “What’s with you and this loser? You got the hots for him or something?”

  “Better him that you, syphilis dick,” Tammy retorts.

  “Bitch,” Joni says, staring.

  “Yeah, I’M the one teaching my cheerleader friends to back my ass up to anything.”

  “Come on,” John tells her, “let the cunt have her little fuck buddy if she wants. Not like she matters or anything.”

  “God I hate them,” Tammy says under her breath as they start laughing and walk away. “No wonder it takes five of them to make two groups of two.”

  I laugh, finding that funny.

  “You alright?” Tammy asks as another of my classmates, Peter Grange, a portly guy who mostly keeps to himself, files past, quickly followed by his lab partner, Susan Spears, as she pushes her coke-bottle lenses up and looks over at me, meekly holding her books to her chest.

  “I’m fine. He’s lucky you stepped in though, because I was about to show him my patented “Cracka Your Assa” kung-fu chop,” I tell her while slicing my hand through the air.

  She giggles and shakes her head.

  “I would’ve loved to have seen that,” she tells me.

  “No you wouldn’t. These puppies,” I hold my hands up, “they’re registered as lethal weapons.”

  We continue to talk as Mikey Dillian and his girlfriend, Cheryl, both clad in black with matching nail polish, file past, taking the seat behind us. Tony Parker, Madeline Streek and Cirel Page, all drama club members and boisterous talkers, seat themselves at the table in front of us and the one across the aisle, and Dana Delayhee, the last cog in our machine, enters alongside our teacher, Mr. Mullens.

  Closing the door behind him, Mr. Mullens approaches to his desk and starts rubbing his hands. “It’s frog dissection time, ladies and gents, and you know what that means. Time to learn some hands-on physiology.”

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