Chapter 1 – 3: New Places and New Faces
Chapter 1: Tyler McAllister is a skinny city boy from Los Angeles who moves to Wakefield, a small rural town in New York. He meets a chubby farm boy named Lymie. They have nothing in common. Amazingly, they become best friends. Lymie stays over one night and that friendship prompts Tyler to talk Lymie into visiting a quarry.
Upon arriving at the quarry, they notice a car is there. One of the doors is open and they see that the interior is red. One figure is sitting on the passenger side and a guy in a dark jacket climbs in the driver’s side. They speed off toward town.
The kids decide to go swimming. Suddenly, Tyler feels something sliding down his back. He flips to his stomach and pushes into a heavy, wet, woolly thing that rises up out of the darkness into the moonlight. It is a face, pale and bloated with slimy hands reaching for his throat. He jabs and kicks at it and yells for Lymie.
Chapter 2: Lymie convinces Tyler that he should call to report the body, because the sheriff would recognize his voice. Tyler makes the call, but he is very nervous. Afraid that Tyler will give their names, Lymie grabs the phone.
They wonder what might have happened. Tyler suggests that the person might have been murdered. Remembering the car, he says he should have told the cops about the car. Lymie rejects that idea and suggests that they go to bed and let the cops figure it out.
Chapter 3: The experience causes Tyler to have a nightmare. In his dream, he is swimming and is confronted by a body. He escapes and runs down a hall in which boys in blue uniforms with black stripes grab at him. A fat kid with a high-pitched whiny voice offers a hand and leads him to his room. When he turns to thank him, the kid’s face becomes the evil face. He gets away from him and runs down the hall past the boys. He is tripped and falls to the floor and sees the boys gaping down at him with evil faces.
A man speaks softly. He recognizes the voice. It is his father and he helps him to his feet. When he sees his ripped clothes, he becomes angry and shakes him. Explaining that it wasn’t his fault, his father only squeezes and shakes harder. As Tyler grabs at his hands, he feels nothing but bone and then his face melts into a skull.
Another hand takes his arm and shakes more gently. It is Mrs. Saunders waking him up to shower and come to breakfast.
Quickly, Tyler showers. As he grabs his lemon shampoo, he remembers how his brother had called him the Lemon, because his hair was so yellow. He also remembers his Mom and the trouble she had with a car. It kept conking out and making her late for work and appointments. His mother got rid of it. She said that was the trouble with lemons. After hearing that, he decided that he was just like that car. But, he felt that he had been ten times as much trouble as the car and probably twenty times more expensive. He thanked God he couldn’t be traded in.
Chapters 4 – 5: Buster
Chapter 4: The best place for news in Wakefield was at Buster’s. He ran a cruddy game room on the east side of town and Tyler couldn’t wait to get there. His brother Christopher had called and knew about his nightmare. He asked Tyler a lot of questions to find out if something was bothering him, particularly regarding the fact that he and their mother would not be there for his thirteenth birthday. Tyler did feel bad about it, but he didn’t want Chris to think he would have nightmares over something dumb like that.
Lymie was awed by Tyler’s situation, because he had a brother with lots of bucks and a servant. Tyler tried to explain how it was with his brother and that Mrs. Saunders was not a servant. She was more like a grandmother and part of the family. He explained that she had taken care of Chris when he was a kid. Lymie didn’t buy it and asked why Tyler called her Mrs. Saunders and why she didn’t call him Mr. McAllister. Tyler decided that Lymie didn’t understand and so he didn’t see any sense wasting any more time on the subject.
When Tyler and Lymie arrived at Buster’s, no one was there. Buster said that everyone was probably at the quarry watching the cops fish for some bonehead who decided to take his last swim. Buster told them to leave, because he was closing. Tyler asked if he was going to the quarry and could they ride with him. Buster told them it would cost them five bucks a piece one way and they were not to talk. Tyler had seven dollars and Lymie only had two. They told Buster that they would have to owe him one. Buster replied that he would trust them, because no one ever owed him money more than a week.
Chapter 5: When they arrived at the quarry, they saw police and emergency equipment by the water. Among the crowd was a large, shapeless woman sobbing quietly and two men trying to comfort her. Tyler turned away toward the water and closed his eyes. Suddenly, he wanted to get as far away from the woman and the body as possible. The woman triggered a bad memory from last summer for Tyler.
He recalled that his allergies were going crazy and his father was upset because he had been kicked out of military school. His father and mother argued about it. His parents were divorced and his father only visited on weekends to see him or take him someplace. He was scared that because his parents fought over him, he might decide not to come back because Tyler wasn’t worth it.
His brother Chris decided that Tyler needed to get away and took him on a vacation to Colorado. On the fourth morning of the vacation, he learned that his father had been killed in an airplane crash. This triggered an asthma attack so severe that he needed to be hospitalized. It also caused him to cry like never before. Even though he recalled being more miserable than he had ever been, an awful weight had been lifted. Listening to that woman, he knew how she must felt and that there wasn’t anything that anybody could do about it.
When the body was lifted, it was BooBoo Anderson. Tyler forced himself to look at the bloated body. Buster helped lift the body onto the stretcher and cleared a path for the men carrying the body to the van. The woman ran to the stretcher and pulled the sheet back. It was her son. She called him Bobby. She tried to shake her son as if she thought she could wake him up. When the body didn’t move, she flung herself at the stretcher. Buster gently but firmly lifted her up and led her through the crowd.
As Tyler and Lymie sat quietly on the edge of the rock wall, Tyler thought about how he had never really paid attention to BooBoo at school. He remembered how kind BooBoo had been to him when he had been thrown out of Old Lady Waverly’s class for sleeping. BooBoo had tried to comfort him. He assured him that he wasn’t bad and that other kids had done dumb stuff too. His drowning made Tyler’s heart sink.
Chapters 6 – 8: New Friends and Bullies
Chapter 6: Tyler woke up groggy and was running late. Chuckie, the groundskeeper, gave him a ride, but he barely made it to school on time. As he raced toward his locker, Mary Grace Madigan was organizing her locker and sorting out all the books she would need for the morning. As he struggled with the combination to his locker his papers and books fell to the floor. She looked at him and laughed and asked if he wanted any help. Without waiting for an answer, she began pulling everything from his locker and before he knew it she had organized his books in a neat pile.
Chapter 7: Mr. Johnson, the gym teacher, wanted the class to run four “laps”. The first to finish would get to be a captain and Mr. Johnson would pick the other captain. As Tyler was a morning runner, he knew it would be a piece of cake. As it turned out, Tyler finished half a lap ahead of everybody.
Tyler picked his team, including Lymie. He didn’t choose Beaver Bruckman. Lymie warned him that he’d be sorry. He was right. Beaver kept slamming him. Tyler called pass interference, but Beaver swore he never touched Tyler. He continued to slam. When Tyler called interference again, Beaver asked if Tyler was calling him a liar. Tyler suggested that they just play the game, but Beaver kept getting into his face and pushing hard into his chest. The last straw was when Beaver cuffed him on the side of the head. Something exploded in Tyler and he lashed out with his fist. His body was electrified and his arms windmilled some punches. Afterward, Tyler felt lousy, but something inside him felt good about not letting himself be pushed around.
Beaver was waiting for Tyler at the fountain with a group of high school kids. Tyler ducked Beaver’s first punch and delivered one to his navel. Beaver hit him on the top of his head and continued with blows to his upper body, face and ribs. Tyler hit the ground and remained there with his head between his knees and his fingers behind his ears. After a sharp kick to his side, all was silent.
He heard a voice asking if he could get up. He knew it was Chuckie, their groundskeeper, and he pleaded with him to leave him alone. Chuckie replied that he was not leaving without him. Crying, he told him that he had wet his pants. Chuckie pulled him to his feet and told him to get in the car. While driving, Chuckie commented that it looked like he took quite a beating. Tyler didn’t answer. Chuckie then commented that he had heard from Mr. Johnson that he had done all right that morning.
Once they arrived home, Chuckie pulled him out of the car and started yelling that a hot head needed to be cooled down. He held him by his neck and the seat of his pants over the sprinkler. As much as Tyler struggled he couldn’t break free. Mrs. Saunders came running to his rescue. Chuckie told her that Tyler needed to be cooled down and winked at him. Tyler realized after looking at himself that he was wet all over. Mrs. Saunders was angry, but Tyler told her that the sprinkler treatment had worked and that he felt better.
Chapter 8: Tyler thanked Chuckie for rescuing him from Beaver and helping him avoid being humiliated in front of Mrs. Saunders’ friends. Chuckie explained that the sprinkler deal was a last-minute thought.
Tyler shared with Chuckie that whenever he did something embarrassing, his brother Chris would tell him something that he had done that was embarrassing. In that way he didn’t feel so bad. He asked Chuckie to tell him something that he had done that was embarrassing. Chuckie’s story went back to when he had taken driver’s education and they had to watch gruesome scenes. Thinking the girls would freak out first, Chuckie did instead. He threw up all over his desk and in a girl’s hair that was on his desk. He ran away and wanted to disappear from the face of the earth.
Chuckie had volunteered to take Tyler to the doctor and on the way, he and Chuckie shared more stories. As it turned out, the doctor wouldn’t give Tyler a shot after seeing him. He thought he might have an allergic reaction. Instead he gave him some oral medication.
After dinner, Tyler decided on a wrestling match instead of a movie. They were lucky enough to get tickets. The show was pretty much as Tyler had expected, a lot of fake kicks, punches, interviews and arguments.Tyler was fascinated by the crowd and wondered why people believed it was the real thing.
On the way home, he asked Chuckie why Mrs. Saunders had sent him to pick him up, because he always walked home. Chuckie replied that BooBoo Anderson didn’t drown in the quarry. The water in his lungs was chlorinated. Somebody dumped him in the quarry after he was dead. He had been struck in the head so hard that his neck snapped. Those gossipy ladies had gotten Mrs. Saunders so shook up talking about murder that she was afraid for Tyler to walk home alone.
Chapters 9 – 10: Naps and Secrets Exposed
Chapter 9: The next day at lunch, Lymie teased him about how he looked and brought him up-to-date on the latest news about BooBoo Anderson. Mark Blumberg, the principal’s son, and his friend Jack Robbins had told the police that they saw two grubby looking hitchikers walking down the street toward BooBoo’s house. Now the theory was that hitchhikers had murdered BooBoo.
Because of the pills that the doctor had given Tyler, he had trouble staying awake in Old Lady Waverly’s class. Every time he would nod off, Mary Grace would jab him in the back with her pen. Finally, Old Lady Waverly caught her and moved her to the front of the class. Unfortunately, without Mary Grace, the inevitable happened.
Chapter 10: Tyler was thrown out of Old Lady Waverly’s class and sent to Mr. Blumberg’s office. While there, Mr. Blumberg reviewed his activities since his arrival at school. This included sleeping in class, tardiness, and fighting. As he questioned Tyler on each of these items, Tyler responded honestly which only seemed to dig a deeper hole for him.
Mr. Blumberg also questioned Tyler about his family and who was there to supervise him. The fact that Tyler’s mother was not available and he was left in the hands of Mrs. Saunders and Chuckie didn’t sit well with him. Mr. Blumberg decided that he needed to talk with Mrs. Saunders. Unfortunately, when he called Tyler’s home, there was no answer. He told Tyler to go to the guidance office and wait until he could contact Mrs. Saunders.
Left alone, Tyler began to feel bad that now Mrs. Saunders would be dragged into his problems. Indeed, he thought, he was an unfixable lemon doomed to screw up. Memories of his prep school came back to him. He recalled how his roommate had been brutally bullied and did nothing about it. When he had tried to help him, his attackers came at him. He lost it and picked up a chair and began slamming his attackers. The housemaster had to stop him, but that fight led to many others until he was asked to leave the school. That was the summer that he was so sick and his father died.
He was jarred back to reality when he heard the door behind him open. He thought it was Mr. Blumberg, but it turned out to be Mark and Jack. They were talking about throwing BooBoo into the quarry. Jack seemed worried, but Mark was not, because of the hitchhiker story. Mr. Blumberg returned and Mark asked him for the keys to run over to Jack’s house. They were unaware that Tyler was behind the bookcases until Mr. Blumberg told him to leave. When Mark and Jack saw him, they stared at him looking like they had just seen a ghost.
Chapters 11 – 13: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Chapter 11: Knowing that Mark and Jack knew he had heard them really scared Tyler. He thought they might kill him. As he hurried down the street, a big black car pulled up beside him. Jack called out to him to get in. As he jumped out of the passenger side, Tyler saw the car’s red interior. He took off before he knew it.
Tyler ran and ran, He jumped over fences and made it to the cemetary behind his property. As he ran through the cemetary, he figured that Mark and Jack would count on him going home and might be waiting for him. He dashed across his lawn and ran up to Chuckie’s cottage. He banged on the door, but no one was home. Next, he ran to the garage, but it was locked. Then, he ran to his house. As he fumbled with the keys, he looked down the driveway and saw the big black car in front of the entrance archway. When Jack jumped out of the car, he ran inside and double locked it. He even flipped the switch to the burglar alarm. He watched from the den window and saw Mark and Jack in the car. Finally, the car rolled slowly down the street and out of sight.
As it turned out, Mrs. Saunders was home and when she opened the door to the den Tyler almost jumped out of his skin. Tyler asked if she was mad about him falling asleep in class. She said she wasn’t and told him not to worry. Everything would be straightened out with Mr. Blumberg tomorrow.
Upstairs, Tyler paced in his room, because he didn’t know what to do. He called his brother Chris, who was not available. He decided it wouldn’t be any use calling Lymie. He felt he was really jinxed. He wished he was one of those people who had their lives organized. Tyler concluded that he was a lemon, a textbook case, clear and simple. If his mother had bought him to a store instead of giving birth to him, she could have exchanged him for a kid who worked better.
Chapter 12: It was 5:00 when the phone rang. Tyler woke up a little disoriented and finally realized that he had fallen asleep after school. It was Mary Grace and she was concerned because she had waited for him after school, but he didn’t show up.
He told her he had something important to tell her, but that she couldn’t tell. He asked her if he could come over that evening, because it was too risky in the daylight. He told her he would see her sometime after eight. He told Mrs. Saunders that he had to go over to Mary Grace’s house to get help on math. She told him to be home by 9:30 and in bed by 10:00.
Tyler waited until it was good and dark and ran like mad to Mary Grace’s house. He rang Mary Grace’s doorbell and as soon as the door opened he rushed through and almost jumped over Mary Grace’s mother. She looked at him kind of funny and called Mary Grace. Mary Grace’s father introduced himself and just as he was about to offer Tyler a seat, Mary Grace called him to come upstairs.
Tyler didn’t know where to begin, so he told Mary Grace how he and Lymie had sneaked out of the house and went on from there. He told her about BooBoo and Mark and Jack. Before he knew it he had told her his life story. After dominating the conversation for at least an hour with his problems, Tyler apologized. Mary Grace told him she didn’t mind and that she felt that she had gotten to know him better than any of the other kids she had gone to school with.
Mary Grace thought Mark and Jack were covering up something. She told Tyler that she didn’t think they would hurt him. it was almost ten and Mrs. Saunders called. Mary Grace’s father drove him home. Mrs. Saunders was waiting on the front porch and she didn’t look pleased.
Chapter 13: The next day at school Lymie was very upset that Tyler had told Mary Grace everything. He felt that Tyler had broken a promise. As he ran around the track he wouldn’t even look at Tyler. Tyler became very upset and told Lymie that he hated it when people were disappointed in him. He begged Lymie to at least look at him, but Lymie continued around the track without raising his head.
Before he knew it Tyler tripped Lymie and he fell to the ground. Tyler pinned down his shoulders with his knees. As Lymie struggled, he almost flung Tyler off. Tyler apologized again and told Lymie that he would belt him if necessary, because he didn’t want him mad at him. Suddenly, Lymie started laughing at Tyler. This made him mad and he ground all his weight into his shoulders. Lymie told Tyler to get his bony knees off of him before he cut him and started to laugh again. Mr Johnson came along and made them get up.
Tyler asked him what they should do. Lymie was convinced that they should keep quiet and see what happens. Tyler didn’t feel good about keeping quiet, he felt they owed BooBoo something.
Beaver was captain and he picked Tyler to be on his team. He also expressed relief that he wasn’t hurt. Tyler knew that Beaver didn’t so much have a change of heart as he was relieved he hadn’t gotten arrested or sued. He asked if Lymie could be on the team. Beaver said yes. His final words to them was that they’d better win.
Chapter 14 – 16: The Powerful and the Powerless
Chapter 14: Tyler watched Mrs. Saunders for a second as she sat alone outside the principal’s office. She looked tired and troubled. He deliberately squeaked his sneakers on the linoleum so that she would know he was there. He asked her if she was still mad. She replied that she wasn’t. Also, she told him that she had seen a few teachers and principals for Christopher too.
Tyler said that he couldn’t remember Chris ever getting into trouble and it was good to know that he wasn’t the only one that had messed up. Mrs. Saunders said that Chris was a good boy the same as Tyler, but he wasn’t perfect. She told him that he took things too seriously and that he wasn’t the only boy in the world who wasn’t perfect. Tyler remarked that he wasn’t trying to be perfect, just normal like everyone else. Mrs. Saunders told him that there were numerous ways to be normal and that he brought a lot of joy to his family. More important, he shouldn’t think of himself as a bother or a burden. She said that he was something special even to his father. Tyler felt really good about what Mrs. Saunders said.
Just then, the door opened and Mr. Blumberg stood there looking as if anything he might say would be the most important thing in the world. Mrs. Saunders told him she could understand his concern about Tyler falling asleep in class, but he needed to understand about Tyler’s allergies and the medications he took which could cause drowsiness. Mr. Blumberg mentioned his tardiness and Mrs. Saunders told him that she had to take responsibility for him being late. As for the fighting, she told him that given a chance he would settle into the routine soon enough. Mr. Blumberg waved Tyler’s permanent record in Mrs. Saunders’ face and reminded her that he had trouble with fighting at his last school. Mrs. Saunders stated that Tyler had a good record with the exception of the boarding school which was a mistake, because he didn’t belong there in the first place.
Mr. Blumberg brought up the subject of parenting and made reference to the fact that Tyler’s mother was not around and he questioned the modern notion of entrusting one’s children to the care of others. He implied that she and Chuckie did not offer the proper stability that a child needed. He went on to say that because Tyler’s mother was not around she obviously had prioritized her career over her son. At this point Tyler was upset and blurted out that the statement was not true. At that point Mr. Blumberg suggested that perhaps Tyler should leave the room. Tyler said that he was going to stay.
Mr. Blumberg went on to say that because his wife was home to supervise his son, his son’s permanent record folder didn’t have any surprises. He held up Tyler’s folder as a kind of contrast.
Tyler told him that he thought his son was perfect. To that Mr. Blumberg said that his son’s record spoke for itself. Tyler then replied that the record should show that his son threw BooBoo Anderson in the quarry.
Mrs. Saunders gasped and Tyler thought she was going to have a heart attack. She then tried to show Mr. Blumberg what he had driven Tyler to say. But Tyler yelled that it was true and that BooBoo had drowned in Mr. Blumberg’s pool.
Mrs. Saunders continued to try to get Tyler to be quiet, but Tyler insisted that it was true because he had heard Mark and Jack and BooBoo had chlorine in him. Mr. Blumberg remained cool and indicated that he and most of the teachers were in his backyard having their annual faculty party. Tyler yelled that it must have been in Jack’s pool. Mr. Blumberg stated that Jack had no pool.
Tyler turned to Mrs. Saunders but she was looking at him sadly. Tyler yelled that he didn’t lie and she knew he didn’t lie. Looking at her with tears in her eyes, Tyler ran out of the office.
Chapter 15: Tyler hiked out to Lymie’s place in the country. Once there he hid in a tree overlooking Lymie’s farm. At one point he saw Lymie come out with a bale of hay to feed the calves. He thought about sneaking up on him, but Lymie’s father came out with another bale. He watched them talk and then Lymie, his father, and his brothers went inside. It was dinnertime and he imagined that they were sitting around the table passing all kinds of food around. Tyler was so hungry that he was tempted to go down and join them.
Tyler realized that he didn’t want to see anyone anyway. He thought Lymie probably didn’t want to see him either after he had blabbed about the BooBoo incident the second time. He tramped back to the place where he could be alone and think, the rock ledge.
He was hungry, but he couldn’t go home and face Mrs. Saunders. He thought maybe tomorrow. He found a rock and began to clear a little cave in the brush for a little shelter. After he had hollowed out a narrow hole, he started to slide into it. He yelled when he ran into a pair of brown work shoes. He looked up and it was Chuckie, who dropped him a sweater and a jacket and told him to put them on.
Tyler asked Chuckie how he had found him. He told him that Lymie had said he was probably there. Tyler asked if he had heard what he had done and asked him if he thought he was a liar. He asked if Mrs, Saunders thought he was a liar. Chuckie did not give him a definitive answer to either question.
Tyler explained that Mr. Blumberg thought he was no good because nobody cared about him. Chuckie explained that Mr. Blumberg was not as bad as he seemed, because he had his own problems.
Chuckie tried to tell Tyler that he used to come out to the same spot when he was young. Tyler didn’t believe him and thought he was just saying that. The more Chuckie tried to reason with Tyler, the more Tyler put himself down. He concluded that he was stupid, a liar and a jerk as a result of his actions over the last several hours. Chuckie told him that even if he was all those things who told him he had to be perfect for people to care about him. At the word ‘perfect’ Tyler exploded again and indicated that he was a walking disaster and that his mother could retire on the money that she had spent on doctors for him. Crying, Tyler shouted that he was the one that drove his father out of the house. Even when he came back on Sundays, they fought over him. On that note Chuckie announced they were going home. Tyler tried to resist, but Chuckie was too strong for him.
On the way home Chuckie told Tyler that he knew more about him than he thought. He explained how his mother had bought the house and gave him a job. He told him how she had talked incessantly about her children and how she and his father had made life difficult for him and that she wanted to make it up to him. She had said that at one point she and his father had separated, but later got back together because he was born, but they couldn’t get along. For one thing, she had said that Tyler’s father wanted her to give up her career. After Tyler had begun to have asthma attacks, it became a reason to fight. He became a tug-of-war between them. But, Chuckie emphasized, his parents loved him. Tyler told Chuckie that his mother had often told him that his father thought highly of him, but he figured she was just saying that to make him feel better.
Tyler asked if he could go to Chuckie’s house, because he couldn’t face Mrs. Saunders. Chuckie agreed, but told him he couldn’t understand how he was able to squeeze so much guilt in such a little body. Tyler said he wasn’t that little, but he felt better than he had in a long time.
Chapter 16: After Tyler had showered, dressed, and ate, he and Chuckie discussed the BooBoo incident. Chuckie asked Tyler what he was going to do. Tyler stated that there was nothing he could do, because nobody would believe him now. Chuckie indicated that Lymie had told him all about their night at the quarry.
Chuckie stated that he had seen Blumberg’s car at the school. At the time he didn’t think anything of it. As they talked further, Tyler shouted that it must have been the pool at school. He asked Chuckie what they should do and Chuckie replied that they couldn’t do anything that night. He suggested Tyler go home and get some sleep,but Tyler asked if he could spend the night at his house. He apologized for being so much trouble. As their conversation continued, Tyler found a reason to apologize for everything. Chuckie commented that it got tiresome listening to him apologize all the time. At that, Tyler said he was sorry, but then realized what he had said.
Before Tyler settled in, he asked Chuckie about Mr. Blumberg’s problem. As it turned out, Mr. Blumberg’s wife had been a pretty good actress on Broadway, but he convinced her to stay home when they had Mark. She never forgave him. When Tyler’s mother moved to Wakefield, it brought back memories and rumor had it that it was tough on both of them and that she couldn’t look at him anymore.
Chuckie indicated that it is harder to hate a guy when you see he has problems. Tyler said that he didn’t hate him anymore. But then he asked Chuckie if he had changed his mind about him. Chuckie said, “I’m crazy about you, I don’t know how I managed to live all these years without you. There is just one thing though. Try not to piss all over my floor”. (Page 151)
Tyler knew Chuckie was wearing a big stupid smile, so he answered back, “Sure, Chuckie, as long as you promise not to throw up all over me”. (Page 151) At that Chuckie burst out laughing.
Tyler felt that he was a pretty lucky kid. He already had three of the best friends anybody could want: Lymie, Mary Grace and Chuckie.
Chapters 17 – 19:The Plan
Chapter 17: The next morning Tyler didn’t want to go to school, but Chuckie was insistent. Tyler asked Chuckie if he had come up with any ideas. Chuckie said that he hadn’t and without witnesses or evidence, the only hope was that one of the guys would confess. Tyler was not hopeful of that happening. Chuckie told him that he was surprised, because he thought Tyler was an expert on guilt. Tyler told him that he was, but only on his own.
Chuckie asked if he had read The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. Tyler said that he had, but he didn’t see how that would apply to Mark and Jack. Chuckie explained, “If somebody has a guilty conscience about something, it’s like that guilt is crying out inside them all the time, except they’re the only ones to hear it. But if it’s loud enough inside them, they start thinking other people can hear it too. Or see it in their faces. And if the guilt gets bad enough, they just might confess to save themselves the mental agony.” (Page 154) Tyler thought that Mark’s conscience was on permanent hold and he wouldn’t confess if there were pictures. Chuckie asked about the other guy and reminded Tyler that all it took was for one of them to break.
Chapter 18: When Tyler got to school, he saw Mark and Jack leaning against the wall looking cool and tough. Surprising even himself, Tyler walked past them and smiled. Mark mumbled something to Jack, but Jack kept his eyes on his shoes.
Tyler hurried to study hall and met Lymie and Mary Grace. He told them that he had told Mr. Blumberg about Mark and Jack. Lymie was upset and asked Tyler if there was anybody he hadn’t told. Tyler explained that Mr. Blumberg got nasty about his mother and it made him hyper. Lymie understood and thought that it was no wonder Tyler had run away. Tyler told them what Chuckie had said about guilt.
Lymie didn’t have a plan, but Mary Grace did. She agreed with Chuckie and thought that Jack was the one to work on, because, as a kid, Mark would never admit anything even if ten people saw him do it.
Mary Grace got some paper from Tyler and composed a sign. She told Tyler to put one on the gym bulletin board. Lymie was instructed to put one in the main foyer. She said that she would put one on the cafeteria bulletin board. Tyler was concerned that the teachers or Mr. Blumberg would yank the signs down. Mary Grace thought it wouldn’t be a problem, because by the time a teacher or somebody finds them, who knew how many kids would have seen them. The sign read:
DUE TO THE SUCCESS OF LAST SATURDAY’S
SMALL PARTY AT THE SCHOOL POOL
ANOTHER PARTY WILL BE HELD THIS SAT.
AT 8:00 P,M
SIGN UP LIMITED TO FIRST ONE HUNDRED
SO DON’T WAIT
SEE JACK ROBBINS TO SIGN UP
BEFORE 3:00 TODAY (Pages 160-161)
Chapter 19: At lunchtime the sign in the cafeteria started to draw some attention. Pretty soon kids were craning their necks to see what the excitement was. A few kids had already tried to sign up for the party and said that Jack had been pretty nasty to them. A few of the junior high kids started a petition and said that if they couldn’t sign up they should be able to have a party of their own.
During the day Tyler saw Jack and his face was bright red and he looked like he wanted to cry. He also saw Mark, but he looked meaner than he had ever seen him. Tyler hoped Mary Grace was right about him, because he looked like he could be a killer.
At the end of the day Jack and Tyler were called to Mr. Blumberg’s office. Mr. Blumberg told Tyler that Jack had accused him of writing the announcements. Tyler told him that he did not write them. Mr. Blumberg asked Jack why he thought Tyler had written them and Jack said it was because he didn’t like him. Mr. Blumberg asked Tyler if he liked Jack and Tyler said he didn’t know, because he didn’t really know him that well. Mr. Blumberg closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths and dismissed them. Later, Mr. Blumberg announced that there would be no pool party.
Chapters 20 – 22: Confession is Good for the Soul
Chapter 20: After Tyler got home from school, he was anxious to tell Chuckie what they had done to Jack. Chuckie didn’t get very excited and told Tyler that one had to be careful about pushing people too hard into corners, because one could get hurt. Tyler shrugged off Chuckie’s concerns, because he thought Chuckie was probably mad because he didn’t think up his own plan.
Chuckie went on to say that he wasn’t putting the plan down, but he was concerned that he would get beat up again. Tyler told him that he could take care of himself. Chuckie answered back by asking if his other pants were dry. This made Tyler mad, but as he swung at Chuckie, his punch was blocked and Chuck wrestled him to the ground. Tyler kicked and squirmed, but Chuckie was stronger. Tyler asked him why he kept bringing up about him wetting his pants, knowing that it bothered him. Chuckie replied that when it stops bothering him, he wouldn’t have any reason to bring it up. Tyler told him that he probably would tell everybody. Chuckie said that he wouldn’t. Tyler was not convinced and told him that he deliberately tried to get him mad. Chuckie said that he did, because he was too sensitive for his own good and he was a hot head and a reactor.
Tyler didn’t understand what Chuckie meant. Chuckie explained that a reactor lets others call the shots. Tyler thought about it and asked if his blowing up at Blumberg was an example. Chuckie told him that it was, because if he knew what his mother was like, then it shouldn’t matter what anybody else thought. Also, he told him that when he teased him about pissing his pants, he was ready to block his punch before he even decided to swing. Chuckie summed up his comments by telling Tyler to stay in control and call the shots himself. Tyler remembered how he felt when he saw Mark and Jack. He was in control.
After a while, Chuckie said that he had to go to Albany and told Tyler to finish mowing the lawn. As he was walking away, he laughed and told Tyler to try to keep the seat dry. Tyler had to laugh too and then he realized that maybe there was hope for him.
Chapter 21: Tyler was glad that Chuckie wasn’t around to hear all the apologizing he did, but it was good to have Mrs. Saunders on his side again since he was getting ready to make another stupid move. He needed to get to Buster’s to see if their plan had driven Jack to confess. Chuckie had already told him not to ask permission, so he wasn’ going to.
He told Mrs. Saunders he was pretty beat and that he was going to bed early. By 8:30 he climbed out of the window and slid down one of the porch columns. When he arrived at Buster’s, the usual crowd was there. Lymie had said that he might get a ride there if he could talk his mother out of grounding him for sneaking to the quarry. Tyler didn’t think that was going to happen, so he didn’t expect to see him. Mary Grace didn’t go to a place like Buster’s. After playing a game or two, Tyler thought Lymie wasn’t missing anything and he knew that Mary Grace knew she wasn’t missing anything.
He saw Jack and stopped in his tracks. Jack came over to him and said that they needed to talk outside. The first thing Tyler asked was where was Mark. Jack said he was on a date. Jack looked at Tyler and said that he wasn’t going to hurt him, he just wanted to talk.
They went outside and sat on Buster’s car with their backs to the windshield. After a while Jack started talking about the BooBoo incident. He stated that it was an accident and that he and Mark were scared, because they had taken Mark’s father’s keys and stolen some of his beer and got into the school without his permission. He started to cry, but he explained that all three of them had been drinking a lot. He and Mark were doing flips off the diving board and BooBoo wanted to try. He admitted that they shouldn’t have let him, because he wasn’t any good at things like that, even if he hadn’t been drinking.
Jack stated that BooBoo kept doing belly flops and he and Mark sneaked into the locker room with all of BooBoo’s clothes to make him think that they had left him alone. They waited for him to follow them, but he never did. Then they went out and saw him lying at the bottom of the pool. Tyler asked if they had tried to save him. Jack said that they had, but it was too late. He had hit his head on the board and he was dead. Tyler asked if he had wanted to call an ambulance. Jack said he didn’t know and that it was different when you’re there. He said Mark told him that they had to get him out of the school, so they dressed him and put him in the car. Jack kept sobbing and Tyler commented that they put him in the trunk of the car and dumped him in the quarry so everyone would think he drowned on his own. Jack said yes, because Mark said it didn’t matter because he was dead and they had to worry about themselves.
Jack said that what really bothered him was Mark’s attitude. It was as if it didn’t matter about BooBoo as long as they didn’t get caught.
Tyler commented that maybe Mark felt bad, but just didn’t show it. Jack expressed doubt and told him how excited Mark had been to see Beaver beat him up.
Tyler told Jack that everyone messes up and that people would stand behind him. Jack said that he might as well get it over with and headed toward the police station. Tyler offered to go with him, but Jack said that it was something he had to take care of on his own. He told Tyler he was an all right kid and that he would see him around.
Chapter 22: Tyler watched the police station from across the street. He could see through the big window that a cop was answering the phone and doing paper work. Jack had disappeared into a back room with a couple of cops.
As Tyler sat on the bench in that lonely park, he wondered why he couldn’t go home. He had won, so why wasn’t he celebrating?
An old car pulled up and a man and a woman got out. The man was saying that he knew how to take care of his own son. The lady was saying that he should listen to what he had to say. Tyler could see the man wave his hand angrily at the cop in the station. Tyler felt sorry for Jack.
Tyler laid down on the bench. He still couldn’t go home. Suddenly, there was a hand on his shoulder asking if that was his new address. He turned and it was his mother. She took off her long coat and wrapped it around him. She said she and Chuckie had been looking all over for him. Tyler said he was sorry. That was the one thing he could always remember to say.
His mother told him that she had heard there was a cute boy who was about to become a teenager and she was afraid there would be a party and she would miss it. Tyler told her that he had forgotten, because he had been busy. His mother told him that Chuckie had told her most of it. He told her that Jack was in the station and he started to cry. He asked his mother if she thought Jack would have to go to jail. She said that he wouldn’t, because it was a terrible accident.
Tyler explained that the whole thing had been like a game and he wanted to win to prove he was right. He stopped and his mother asked him if he had found out that life isn’t just about the good guys fighting the bad guys. Tyler thought back to the wrestling match and realized that everything wasn’t so simple. Jack was no bad guy and Mark had his problems.
Tyler told his mother that everything is so complicated and his mother replied that he was smart enough and sensitive enough to realize that. On that note she suggested that they head for home. Tyler stood and handed her coat to her. His mother told him to keep it on, but Tyler said it was a lady’s coat and to please not make him wear it.
As they were walking down the sidewalk, Mr. Blumberg drove up. Mark got out and asked Tyler if he was happy. Tyler said that he wasn’t. Mr. Blumberg said that he was real sorry. Tyler’s mother told him that it was all right and that Mark was just upset. Mr. Blumberg told her that he meant he was sorry about everything. Tyler’s mom looked puzzled, because no one had told her what Mr. Blumberg had said about her. Tyler looked at her and told her it was a long story. His mother said he could tell her later. She also said that she had a hunch that his other birthday guest may have already arrived. Tyler asked if it was Christopher. His mother said that it could be. Tyler was so happy to think that everybody would be together again that he started towing his mother down the street. All of a sudden his mother realized that it was after midnight and Tyler was thirteen. She started squeezing him and planting kisses on his face. Tyler was embarrassed and told her to stop before anyone saw them. She laughed and said she wanted everyone to know he was thirteen and that she loved him more than ever. She yelled, “I LOVE MY SON, EVERYBODY! I LOVE MY SON!” (Page 186)
Tyler told his mom that she could kiss him at home if she needed to. She agreed, but said she wanted to be first, because Mrs. Saunders would try to crowd ahead of her. At that, she took off running down the street. Tyler took off after her, feeling pretty good.
Tyler thought to himself that thirteen might turn out to be a good year for lemons.
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Oftentimes, one is told when the world hands you lemons, make lemonade. For many people this advice is readily accepted. and for others it’s not so easy. Even though Tyler was told he was special and a joy to the family, his life experiences kept him from believing what his family told him. He was loved, but he wasn’t challenged. He wasn’t given anything to think about but his illnesses.
At the end of Trouble with Lemons when he asked Jack if he wanted him to go with him to the police station, we see a glimmer of hope. Over the course of the novel, we see Tyler being sweetened by courage, dignity and at the end, empathy. At the end of the novel when Tyler asked Jack if he wanted him to go with him, he had forgotten about himself, and felt the need to give Jack some hope in spite of his problems.
- Image: Amazon.com
- Davidson, Edward H., editor, Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. The Riverside Press. Massachusetts. 1956.
- Hayes, Daniel. The Trouble with Lemons. Ballantine Books, New York. 1991.