Arthur is seventeen and lives north of the Bronx, in the suburbs. He is short and has difficult-to-style hair: coarse with a long wave, feminine hair that would be unattractive even on a female. His father taught him to drive when he was eleven. Four years later his mother died of T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia.
It is 1997.
On his desk Arthur has a phone his brother gave him, his brother who is in school and is a math major. It is white plastic, cordless, facedown in its cradle, and there is a Scooby-Doo sticker, Scooby with legs bunched like a bouquet, stuck to it. Arthur does not want to scrape this sticker off, does not want to risk residue. It is noon on Saturday and he is at his desk and has a sharpie and is painstakingly and repeatedly outlining Scooby’s form, so that Scooby is encased in a series of radially expanding Scooby-shaped bubbles.
The phone rings.
Arthur’s best friend is a girl they call Grover. That’s not her real name, the fact is she has another, that she used when they were six and seven and before, up until they were about nine. A lot of people don’t even know what that name is.
“Hey,” Arthur stands and goes to close the door of his room. There is a mirror on the back of this door and onto the mirror he has taped the face of Robert Johnson, cut from a poster, and he has taped Robert Johnson’s face in such a way that when he stands at a line, a piece of masking tape, approximately 3 feet from the mirror, it is the same size as his own reflected head. Arthur stands at the line of tape.
“Hello?” He can tell she is driving. He stares into Robert Johnson’s eyes. Robert Johnson’s eyes are sympathetic.
“Hey,” says Grover. “I’m coming.”
“OK.” Arthur fits his face perfectly under Robert Johnson’s.
“What?” she has the window down, so she is smoking. It makes the back of his neck itch.
“OK,” says Arthur.
“Alright!” she is shouting. “See you!”
Arthur slides the phone back into place. He looks around the room and sees he has to gather up the two pairs of boxers caught under the wheels of his desk chair and also the socks which he peeled foot from foot while seated. Also, he is naked, so he needs to get pants and a shirt out of the clean drawer, which is the bottom drawer of the dresser, where everything stays cold, which is how he likes clothes to feel.
He gets a t-shirt. FLOYD it says in puffy paint: tangerine on gray. His brother made it. Arthur steps into pants. He can hear the screen door in the front scream as its spring is extended, then the click and bang and Grover on the stairs. She shoves the door to Arthur’s room open so its knob strikes the wall.
“You aren’t dressed?”
He turns to her with his hand on his fly and zips it, pointedly, up.
“Oh god,” she says. She rolls her eyes. “You have the suit?” She is already starting to rush around the room. He has seen Grover in this dress so many times now that he’s not planning to say anything about it. She pushes past him and bangs open the door of the closet, the one part of the house he tries to keep clean, which he accomplishes by keeping it empty. “Dude, there’s nothing in here.” She brings her face back out where he can see it. She has no make-up on and her hair is in a bumpy ponytail.
“What time is it?” he asks.
She raises her faint redhead’s eyebrows. “Oh,” her voice is light, sing-song-y, “It’s time to do the shit on my list.” She says, “li-ist,” because it is about horror.