Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Friday Night Races - Part III

This is the continuation of Friday Night Races and Friday Night Races - Part II

It was Tuesday morning. For the first time since early Sunday, Moshe, David and I were together. I hadn’t slept well since Friday night, and judging from the look on Moshe and David’s faces, they hadn’t slept well either. My parents attributed my haggard look to the stresses of leaving for Israel. And maybe it was true. I hadn’t stopped moving since Sunday. Between packing and buying last minute items, the past forty-eight hours had gone by in a blur. Plus, talking to the cops.

It took a while for the police to take the Gregg’s calls seriously. 17-year-old runaways aren’t high priorities, even in a quiet town like Oak Park. By Monday morning, though, the cops decided to do a little investigating. Being that we were the last three people to see Chaim, they came to ask questions. Standard cop stuff. What was he wearing? Did he ever talk about running away? What did I know about the girl he was planning on meeting? But I kept to the story we had agreed upon, and had nothing to offer the police. A call later that evening confirmed that my friends had upheld their end of the bargain as well.

We were past the security gate, and had two hours until our flight. We walked into the terminal bar, the only place in the airport where we could smoke indoors, and took a table. We ordered cokes and chain smoked cigarettes, not a word passing between us. We shared a secret now, one that bound us together but was also putting a wedge in our friendship.

It was Moshe who finally broke the silence.

“Remember Sruli,” he asked softly.

Sruli. If anyone was ever the life of the party, it was Sruli. Big and strong and smart and well-liked. He had the softest touch on the basketball court, and never missed a free throw. The fifth inseparable member of our group. Until he died of cancer in 10th grade. We hadn’t spoken his name since the Shiva. But it was the unspoken anger over his death that had led the four of us to choose the path we chose, that led us to find an outlet on a Friday night in Utica.

“I used to think about him all the time, whenever we were all together. And then he started getting dimmer and dimmer, and we moved on. If we don’t tell the Gregg’s, we’re never gong to move on. And they will never know what happened to Chaim.”

Moshe’s plain-spoken words hung over the table for a moment, suspended by the small cloud emanating from our cigarettes.

No one filled the silence, and Moshe continued. “I think we need to tell them. They have the right to know. I mean, if it was one of us, what would we want for our parents?”

This time, David answered. He spoke slowly and quietly, but the determination still glistened in his voice.

“Don’t you think I thought of that, Mosh? If there was a way to tell them, I would. But think about this. Monday’s paper reported that witnesses said the victim was with three friends. If they ever find out that it was Chaim in that car, it is not going to take long for anyone to figure out who the three guys were with him.”

David pointed his finger at me. “One,” he said, before pointing his finger toward Moshe. “Two,” he counted, before pointing his finger back at himself. “Three” he said, with a touch of finality.

“Look,” I said, “I don’t know what the right thing to do is, but we need to talk this out. What if everyone knew we were there? I don’t even know if I care.” I mashed my cigarette out, and took another Marlboro out from the pack. “Maybe I don’t give a shit if the whole world knows I was out on a Friday night, or that I ate at Wendy’s on the way out there. It’s such bullshit.”

“What are you going to Israel for, then?” Moshe asked.

“Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe its peer pressure. I don’t know.” I took a deep drag of my cigarette, and exhaled slowly. “In the last two years, God killed Sruli, the top guy in our class, with cancer. Then he burnt a guy to a crisp on Friday night because he was out driving on Shabbos. It all seems pretty damn random if you ask me.”

“Maybe you don’t care,” Moshe answered, “but I do. It would kill my parents if they found out what we do.”

“So you’re willing to let the Greggs suffer so that your parents can live a lie?”

Moshe and I both looked at David. He hadn’t said a word in a while, and we were surprised to hear his stance.

“Listen, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. I’m in the same boat as Mosh.”

“I don’t know what to do,” I said. I watched David and Moshe both light another cigarette. “This wasn’t the way this was supposed to happen. It was going to be the four of us all year.”

I looked over at the bank of pay phones located next to the bar. Moshe and David followed my gaze. All it would take is one phone call. To the police. Not the Greggs. That would be too hard.

A call which would destroy hope for the Greggs, and paint their son, our friend, in a whole new light. A call which would give the family closure and shame. Or shame and closure.

Not to mention, a call that would expose us. As frauds. Or liars. Or maybe just rebellious kids who got their hands caught in the cookie jar.
Over the intercom, we heard them call our flight. We put out our cigarettes, picked up our carrying bags, and ran to the gate.

As we walked to the plane, David grabbed both of our arms. “We have four hours in Kennedy before we fly to Israel. When we land, we vote. And then, we do what we decide.”

“If we vote to call, we call the cops. If we vote not to call, we never discuss this again. Majority wins. Agreed?”

Mosh and I both nodded in agreement.

I tried to sleep on the plane, but when I closed my eyes I pictured a car bursting into flames. I wanted this over. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely eat. I wanted to forget about this and never think of it again. As the plane circled over the Atlantic, and headed down toward Kennedy, I knew what I would vote.

We sat down on the table, each with a piece of paper and pen in front of us. We agreed to write down our vote, no one wanted to be the third vote in a one-to-one tie. We were deciding whether or not to call, and we were supposed to write “call” or “don’t call” on the paper in front of us.

The voting was done quickly, and as agreed, David was in charge of opening the votes. He opened all three pieces of folded paper, and laid them out on the table. In various degrees of readability, all three of us had written “don’t call.”

“That settles it,” David said. “Let’s go find someplace we can smoke at. Flying always makes me nervous.”

The preceding work was fiction. This is the continuation of Friday Night Races and Friday Night Races - Part II


Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

keep 'em coming. If this is how your mind works. I look forward to buying one of the first copies of your first book. An autographed title page would be nice, too.

July 20, 2005 2:21 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I suspect your readers are too stunned to comment.

July 20, 2005 3:52 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

I suspect my readers are weary of long posts.

Or I don't have any readers today. They are all off to buy more orange-colored gear to send their kids off to camp in.

July 20, 2005 3:53 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

i just can't accept blanket political indoctrination like OM was describing this morning. It's just wrong.

July 20, 2005 4:49 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

I don't mind it if it is part of the camp. If she sent her kids to a zionist camp which felt strongly about Israel and included it in its programming in some way other than making Orange day, it is OK.

But if it is a typical right-wing-don't-really-give-a-damn-about-Israel-because-Moshiach-isn't-here-yet-but-maybe-we-can-get-some-pub-out-of-orange-day camp then I am against it.

July 20, 2005 4:56 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Air: It's the latter.
This story is great. But it does make me fear the way your mind works. You probably had many imaginary friends when you were a kid.

July 20, 2005 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am so glad that you took up my suggestion and expanded on this story. I can't wait for the next installment.

Some of your readers are too busy to look at this every day, but we do stop by once or twice a week.

Btw, I definitely believe this is publishable, it is a great story and I can't wait to find out whether their conscience bothers them once they are in Israel.

Keep up the great work.

July 21, 2005 5:04 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

AT -- your inspiration is annonymous? How odd.

July 22, 2005 12:12 AM  
Blogger Air Time said...

I have an anonnymous muse. Truth is he is mostly right, whoever he is. His commentss and a few others led me to continue the story.

I don't know if I will continue the boys' foray into Israel. We'll see.

July 22, 2005 9:21 AM  
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