Symphony 98


“Mrs. Herrera, the way Jesse act’s in class . . . “


“It’s probably just the way he remembers his father acting during those last two years. It’s up to you to talk to the counselor and stop him before he destroys himself.”

“I can’t.”

“Mrs. Herrera, you managed to tell me.”


“Please. For Jesus’ sake.”

He could barely hear her as she said, “I’ll try.”

# # #

Neil was still thinking about the Herreras when Lisa Cobb came to him before school the next morning and asked, “Did you read my paper?”

After the Stockton incident, Neil had told each student to write about what made him feel most threatened. He said, “Sorry, Lisa, I was so busy last night that I didn’t correct anything. I’ll get to them tonight.”

“Oh,” she said, “I was just worried because I didn’t write what you asked for. I don’t have anything that makes me feel threatened, so I made up a story about a girl who did. Is that all right?”

Neil smiled. “Isn’t there anything you are afraid of? The dark; tight places; Freddie Kruger?”

Lisa said, “No, nothing,” but she couldn’t look at Neil when she said it.

# # #

That night Neil read Lisa’s story first. It said:

There was a girl named Julie who lived alone with her mother. They were just like best friends, and every time Julie’s mother went shopping or to a ball game or did anything fun, she always took Julie with her.

Then one day a stranger came to Julie’s house. Julie’s mother let him in and fed him because he seemed to be hungry. Then he went away, but he came back, and later he came back again. Every time he came back, Julie begged her mother not too let him in, but she said he was all right and “A nice guy!” and she would always let him in. But Julie didn’t like the way he looked at her.

Then one day the guy said “I like it here. I don’t think I’ll go home” So he stayed all night in the kitchen while Julie lay awake and wondered what he was doing. That night she thought she heard him walking around outside her bedroom but in the morning he was gone and she was glad.

Now she and her mother are all right and Julie is happy again, sort of, but she wonders if he will come back and if he does will her mother let him in again.

Julie didn’t like him cause he yelled at her a lot.

Neil set the story aside. It was profoundly disturbing. Many of the images came right out of prime time television, but Lisa had invested those images with a personal energy that was like a cry for help. He was further troubled by knowing that he had had this feeling before in connection with Lisa, but he could not remember when. more tomorrow


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