Hit & Run 3

He entered magazine contests and it didn’t matter what the prizes were. Mrs. Bocci was the first housewife in their neighborhood to own a brand new Maytag dishwasher. He won an extra dryer, which his parents passed on to their aunt and uncle for Christmas that year when his newest cousin was born.

He loved the surprise of each free gift. Sur-prizes, he called them. Joey sent away for samples of things just for the hell of it. He had the time; what else was he going to do with all those hours stuck sitting in his wheel chair? His family received the first volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. A through Androphagi. He kept Mom in perfume and the rest of the family in soap and shampoo. Any time a new product came out, such as the first mint toothpaste, Joey ordered it. The Boccis were always the first ones on the block to try any of them.

His past time took on epic proportions. They didn’t just have free food samples to try. Joey ordered free animal feed samples too: packets of birdseed. Hamster food. Gold fish pellet food. Pouches of cat food and dog food, even horse feed. His parents finally told Joey to stop with the animal feed already; they couldn’t even have any pets because of the danger of allergies or infection from scratches. Joey’s dad donated it all to the local animal shelter.

Once or twice a week the mailman delivered a package containing free items with company logos. Joey would read about a new product being promoted and bing, the coupons were clipped and filled out and in the mail before anyone could stop him. The Bocci household received free tote bags, baseball caps, tee shirts and socks and other products. Actually his parents didn’t try to stop him from sending away for those items once they realized how much money his obsession was saving them on clothes.

He won a ride in the local weather helicopter – and because he couldn’t fly because of air pressure and collapsing sinus issues, Lou and Mr. Bocci went in his place. Now that was cool!

Here the tale ended abruptly, the silence Margaret’s cue to ask questions. It didn’t matter what she asked, really, as long as it gave Lou an idea of what she wanted to hear about next. “Was he persistent or just incredibly lucky?”

“Margaret,” Lou explained patiently, “no one was ever stupid enough to call Joey lucky. But yes, he had a run of luck where it seemed like the Universe was giving him a break to make up for the crap cards he’d been dealt just by being born. He really did have fun entering contests and winning stuff.”

“What’s the coolest thing he ever won?”

Lou frowned. “I just told you: the helicopter ride. At least to me and my Dad it was the coolest,” he amended, yielding to the apologetic look on his girlfriend’s face. “And he won fourth prize in a contest for a new Pontiac. My parents took the cash from that one and put into savings bonds. That money helped put me through college.”

“It was okay with Joe? He didn’t want the money for himself?”

“Well,” Lou said slowly, “by then his lucky streak was running out. Joey hid it from the rest of us. He’d started getting weaker again instead of stronger… He didn’t have a whole lot of time left. And I think he was trying to win money and prizes for us to make up for the gap that would be there after he was gone.”

Margaret sighed and hugged her boyfriend. “Jesus, Lou. How could your family stand it?”

Lou shrugged. “We didn’t get calloused or anything, but it wasn’t like any of us didn’t know the end was coming. We just kind of… went on as we had been. What else is there to say? Joey was the glue for a broken situation; it was broke from the minute he was born. He was the glue holding the entire family together in spite of everything.”

“I just think, I mean, I can’t imagine how you all dealt with it.”

“Margaret, I never cease to be amazed at what people just deal with when they have to. How did my family deal with stuff? We just, did. Until we couldn’t any longer. When Joey went in the hospital the last time we thought it was temporary, just more of the usual batteries of tests. When his doctors found the tumor I think everyone knew that this was going to be it.”

“At least you all had each other. Your family was so strong!”

He looked at her with a strange expression. “Babe, that’s the whole point of what I’ve been telling you. We weren’t strong. Joey was! We were people he was supporting through his illness. The only thing we had in common was the DNA connection. Joey was never related to anybody I could figure out, not really, unless it was some kind of genetically defective super hero who hasn’t been invented or born yet.”

– from my short story “Hit and Run” in Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Available online at amazon.com, amazon.de, and amazon in countries everywhere. Go to my posts Hit & Run 1 & 2 for more on Joey, Lou and Margaret.

13 thoughts on “Hit & Run 3”

  1. Jadi, oh, the exceprt at Salon is called “What Happened in the Basement” from a book called Tiger Tiger. It is plainly written, but bread crumbs and hints keep drawing the reader in. I relisted it here for you since it us actually from 2011, not yesterday as i wrote. So just search Salon for it. Best, R. Ps i learn a lot from you too!

    1. Hi again Renee! I was so intrigued by your first mention of the excerpt that I hunted for it this morning until I tracked it down. Yikes! You were right – it’s horrifying and so, so well written. The book’s reviews run the gamut from 1 to 5 Stars! Clearly this is a story that readers love or hate — and make it important if only because it elicits such strong reactions. Thanks again (I think…) for bringing it to my attention. I’d forgotten how good Salon is, too.

      1. Agreed, as a mother of two girls i kind of wish i had not read it, but it’s best to understand the world we live in. I will send you other titles that have narrative drive as i recall or encounter them

        1. That will be great – I’m already looking forward to receiving whatever you send. (Postscript to our Tiger, Tiger thread: As a massage therapist I have worked with victims of abuse. It is shattering. I cannot imagine what they went through in order to survive. Tiger, Tiger rips away the shield of that ignorance.

  2. I really love Joey’s character – how you detail his compulsion to collect and win–from hamster food to helicopter rides. Somehow, though, I wanted the story to start quicker, enter sooner with more urgency that would make me wonder what was going on with Joey… (Salon had a great yet sickening memoir excerpt today called something like “What Happened in the Basement…” and it draws you in and grips your gut.) Jadi, I Love these details: “free animal feed samples too: packets of birdseed. Hamster food. Gold fish pellet food. Pouches of cat food and dog food, even horse feed.” Your story makes me want to know more about Joey! – Renee

    1. These are great comments!! Writing for my blog is different from writing short stories or novels. In many ways I find it harder. I’ve learned a lot while selecting passages from my book to excerpt here as blog posts. I love the way the feedback from other writers, like you, helps me to improve.

      And one of the greatest bonuses is the way I get directed to items of interest: I’m now heading over to Salon to read the article you recommended. Thanks!

    1. David, thanks for such a great compliment. I suspect you’d like my novel this excerpt is from: Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Hit & Run is the first chapter of the book. Take care, and thanks again for commenting.

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