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Vol. 3, No. 1

Making Book
by Dale Peck

It had been so hot that day.
      The sun beat down so hard it almost had a rhythm to it. I mean, the sun's rays pounded against the top of my head like the bass track on a gangsta-rap single, boom-boom, boom-boom,boom-boom,boom-boom, and I could almost believe that the angelic visions in front of my eyes were being forced out of my brain by the relentless heat: acres and acres of barely covered baking flesh, virtually motionless in the foreground but undulating in the distance, where thousands upon thousands of swimmers rolled in the surf like potatoes floating to the surface in a pot of boiling water. I hit freeze-frame just as Ace Ferucci stuck his naked white ass in front of the camera, and, at the same time, my mom called my name. And I mean Ace's ass in freeze-frame was bad enough, but then my mom too.
      "Fuck off!" I yelled at the TV in general and at Ace's ass in particular, but with the video paused and the television suddenly silent--there had been a bass track, courtesy of these two like totally obnoxious dudes who'd been next to us on the beach, but it disappeared when I paused the video--I could almost see my words carry past the television to my door, and then push on through to my mom at the top of the stairs.
      "Boo?" she called again, a funny, half-worried, half-peeved sort of undertone to her voice, and then she knocked on my door. It must've been about five, I guess, sometime after school but before their bridge game, and thank god--I mean thank god!--I hadn't really had a chance to get into the video yet. "Boo, I wondered if I might . . ."
      She eased the door open, but by then I'd composed myself and was staring at the TV and trying to make my face look like, Ah, summer--which "summer" was a shot of Ace's ass I barely had time to fast-forward past before my mom's head appeared in the doorway. She held the doorknob in one hand and a drink in the other, and for a long time she just looked at the TV. Ace was gone, but in his place was this like totally stacked brunette, or, really, just her chest, which in context was even more incriminating than Ace's ass. My mom looked at the TV, and then she looked at me on the bed with the pillow on my lap, and when I followed her eyes down I saw that I was holding the remote so hard my knuckles were white, and I dropped it as if it had burned me. "Boo," my mom said. "Boo, could you come downstairs for a moment? Your father and I have something we'd like to discuss with you."
      I was so relieved I practically thanked her. They were in the living room when I came downstairs. Even I have to admit we've got a pretty fantastic living room, which is centered around these two absolutely amazing Chippendale sofas facing each other. I mean, my dad restores furniture for a living, and he'd done nothing but the best job on those sofas. In particular, the leather on them was like butter, which on the one hand feels especially soft but on the other hand means you sort of have to watch yourself when you sit on them, or else you'll just like slide right off them. But anyway, my mom and dad were sitting on the one sofa and I sat down on the other one. In between the two sofas is this coffee table, which my dad always calls contemporary to the sofas--which means it was made at the same time they were, but he's not sure who made it--and like right on top of the coffee table was a pair of underwear, and the fly was facing up, and like right on the fly were these stains. The underwear was mine, the stains were mine, too, and if I mention that I was fourteen then I don't think I have to say anything else.
      "Have a seat, Boo," my dad said, even though I was already sitting down.
      I guess right off I should mention that my parents more or less never called me Book, ever, unless they were mad at me or introducing me to their friends.
      And I guess, saying that, that I should also say how it is I ended up with such a dumb name. See, my parents aren't just bridge players: they're fanatics. They've played bridge every Tuesday against Angela and Tony Ferucci since like way before I was born. I don't really play bridge myself--I've watched them a lot, but the one time I asked them to teach me they laughed and said I should call them again when I'm like thirty--so if any of you play bridge I apologize if I'm getting this all wrong. Anyway, what happens in bridge is that you make your bid by taking six tricks on top of the number of tricks you bid for, so to take a bid of, say, five clubs, what you really have to do is take eleven tricks, which is actually a hard thing to do, and, I mean, whatever, if you don't get it it's not really important. What's important is that those first six tricks are called book, and when you take these tricks it's called making book.
      Supposedly it was my mom who was struck by the phrase. Like I said, my dad's a furniture restorer but my mom's an editor, so I guess it makes sense that she was the one. I mean, my dad's not particularly articulate if you know what I mean: Have a seat, Boo, when I'm already sitting down, and like that. Making book. It was the second word that they used for my name, my real name--I didn't start using Booker until last summer--but I bet it was the first word that really got them. See, my mom edits this food magazine you've probably heard of even if you've never read it, but the only reason she edits it, she once told me, is because she can't write a decent sentence to save her life, and she can't cook either. What she does have is great taste, in food and writing both, which is why her magazine's so famous. My dad's got kind of the same relationship to furniture. I've seen him take what looks like a bundle of wood and turn it back into a two-hundred-year-old Louis Quatorze dining chair--which he then sells for like an amazing amount of money--but whenever he tries to make something himself it's a total disaster. I guess what I'm trying to say is that my parents have never been able to make anything, except me.
      "How's school, Boo?" my mom started things off, and she reached for her drink. My mom always allows herself two drinks before dinner--she calls them "aperitifs"--and I was guessing from the little wobble in her hand as she picked up the glass that she was already on her second one. The glass was sitting right next to the underwear on the table, but she just picked it up and drank from it and put it back down on the table as though the underwear wasn't there.
      "You want to put a coaster under that?" my dad said. He himself was holding his beer in his lap. "I mean, the wood."
      "I'm sure it'll be fine," my mom said.
      "It'll leave rings. That table was a lot of work, I could sell it for a mint."
      "Well, okay," she said then, and then she sort of looked around for a coaster but there wasn't one, and I guess she didn't want to get up or something, and so what she did was, she picked the drink up and put it down on my underwear.
      No one said anything for what seemed like a long time.
      "Boo," my mom finally said.
      "Look, Mom, we talked about it already. In school. Health class. I know all about it. Everything's fine, really." And then I remembered: Tuesday. "Hey, won't the Feruccis be here soon?" By which I didn't actually mean Mr. and Mrs., but Ace, who always came over with them.

 

~

That summer the Puerto Rican girls had straightened their hair like Mariah Carey but the white girls were still frizzing their hair out with big perms like, I don't know, like the women on the 700 Club or something. What can I say, Long Island. But straight or frizzy they were all in bikinis--the one-piece was definitely out--and one of the two brunettes sunbathing in front of us was lying on her back, sucking in her stomach and making these like fingerpaint-type designs in the baby oil and sweat that puddled around her belly button, and her friend was on her stomach and doing this thing where she hooked a finger through the string that ran around her hip and pulled up on it to cover the top of her ass, after which she'd slide a finger under the seat of her suit and pull it down to cover the bottom of her ass, and I tell you what, I could've watched her do that all day long. But instead Ace came running up from the dunes and said he'd got an idea, come quick and bring the camera and tripod, hurry up Booker, we haven't got all day, and what could I do? Ace saw me looking back at the two brunettes and just sort of smiled and said what he had in mind was way better than that. What he had in mind, he said, would keep me warm all winter long.

 

~

"Boo," my mom said now, like I hadn't said anything. She smiled, and took a drink, and when the glass was in her hand you could see that it had left a little hollow ring on the front of my underwear, and when she put it down I could see that she was careful to put it down in exactly the same spot. "I'm sure that your health teacher was able to give you a perfectly adequate technical explanation for the changes occurring in your body."
      "Technical," my dad sort of threw in.
      "No, really, Mom, I mean, thanks, I appreciate it, but you should get ready for your game."
      "Nevertheless," my mom went right on, "your father and I feel it is our duty to provide you with a warmer, more emotional rationale for what's going on."
      "Emotional." My dad's beer was empty but he took a little pull from it anyway. He looked at his watch. "The Feruccis are due in about an hour."
      My mom picked up her glass again. "I found this in your hamper," she said, and I guess it must've been that I didn't really want to focus on the underwear or whatever, but I was kind of confused for a minute.
      "Your glass?" I said.
      My mom tittered then, which is what she calls it, which when I asked my dad what she meant he said it was sort of the sophisticated way to chuckle.
      "No, no, the glass was in the cabinet," she said. She hadn't put her glass down and she took another sip. "I mean your underpants."
      "The underwear," my dad tossed in, trying to be helpful.
      All three of us kind of looked down at them. The front was pretty much wet from my mom's drink, which unfortunately brought out the stains all the more, and my mom, I guess since we were all looking at the underwear, she didn't put her glass back down but instead took another sip, and then, when nobody said anything, another, but by that point her glass was empty and she just looked over at the bar. She didn't get up though, just looked back at me.
      "I'm sure it must seem a bit overwhelming to you," she said finally. "I mean, the changes. But your father and I are here to assure you that the things that are happening to you are perfectly natural, and that these processes, which must seem a bit"--she paused long enough to look down into her empty glass, and then she settled for a word she'd already used--"overwhelming," she said, and kind of shrugged, "they'll all work themselves out in time, and come to seem perfectly natural."
      "Perfectly natural," my dad threw in at that point, I'm not sure if he meant to clarify what my mom was saying or if he was just repeating her. He looked at his watch again. "Forty-five minutes, really." He spoke to my mom this time, and I knew that he wanted to get this over as much as I did.
      My mom was looking at her drink again, and then she looked at my dad, and then she said, "Maybe just this once. Another aperitif."
      "I could go for a beer myself," my dad said. "Boo, what about you?"
      I'd've loved a drink, but whatever.
      My dad went over to the bar to fix new drinks, and while he was up my mom and I just kind of smiled at each other. I mean, she kind of smiled a little bit, and then I kind of smiled back at her, which made her smile a little more, and so I felt like I had to smile even more back at her, which of course only made her smile even wider, and so on, until by the time my dad came back we were both grinning like circus monkeys.
      "Ho ho ho," my dad said. "What's the big joke, huh?" He sat down and then he set the drinks on the table, but right off the sound of the glass on the wood must've made him realize that he'd forgotten to bring coasters because he immediately picked them up, and he sort of held them for a moment, kind of half getting up and then sitting back down again and getting up and sitting back down and then finally just handing my mom her drink and putting his beer in his lap.
      At that point it was starting to look like this was going to take all night, and the thought of Ace Ferucci walking in and seeing my underwear on the table was making me kind of panicky. But the new drinks seemed to speed things up, and I guess, well, the long and short of it was that the books my mom had read were all about making sure your pubescent adolescent takes responsibility for his or her new feelings, by which I'm pretty sure they meant being careful when you have sex, but my mom and dad, you know, being more practical people, kind of reduced it all to would I please make sure that if I had any further "accidents" as the stains had come to be referred to then would I please make sure I soaked my underwear in a sink filled with water-- cold water, hot would only set the stains, cold water with a capful of bleach in it--so that this wouldn't happen again, by which I think they meant the stains and not the conversation, but whatever. I was all ready to get up and grab my undies and go back to my room--it must've been well after six by then--when my dad kind of put his beer down.
      "Boo," he said. "There is one more thing."
      Well. I guess I should've realized that the whole setup was a bit much for a laundry tip. I mean.

~

    The thing about Ace is that he's always had good luck with girls. On the one hand he's so big and on the other so sweet and dopey, and so whatever--what I'm saying is that it wasn't long before he came back to the dunes with this girl in a yellow bikini with this totally eightiesed-out short spiky haircut that actually sort of looked good on her. From where I sat I couldn't really see her face--especially since Ace's was more or less glued to it--but I could see his hands, making like Lewis and Clark and exploring her entire body. Ace was good. He'd told me the secret: never let your hands sit too long in any one place, that way the girl'll never have an excuse to push them away. And like I said, Ace's hands were busy, traveling from top to bottom and back to front, he kept constantly moving so the girl never got nervous like some girls do if you cop a feel while you're making out. Which I don't think this girl would've got nervous anyway: her hands were as busy as Ace's, and if anyone seemed a little put off it was him, what with me in the bushes with the camera and the girl's hands snaking inside the back of the loose waistband of his Jams, and through all this the two of them were doing this sort of slow descent to the blanket, like, first one of Ace's knees went down, then one of the girl's, then Ace's other knee, then the girl's, and so on, until eventually they were stretched out on the blanket and somehow even while doing that Ace had managed to untie the neck string of the girl's bikini top, and two tiny triangles of fabric hung below her breasts like banana peels. It wasn't until Ace, you know, actually laid himself right on top of herself that I could tell the girl was reaching her stopping point, and thank god she did or I don't know what I would have done. Before she left I heard her say that she went to Coram and Ace said maybe he'd drive over there one day and the girl sort of smiled and said she was going to have half days on Tuesdays all next year. When she was gone Ace just fell down on his back with his arms and legs spread wide open, and I was about to slip out of the bushes when he made this noise, it sounded just like a hungry dog watching someone open up a can of food which they then, like, eat themselves, and this noise stopped me dead in my tracks.

 

~

My mom stood up now.
      "Boo's right," she said. "I really must call Angela and Tony." Meaning Ace's parents.
      "Barbara," my dad said. Meaning my mom, who was heading for the door.
      "It will only take a moment. It's Angela's turn to bring the wine, and you know how she always `buys' that same terrible Chianti. I know they're Italian, but still."
      My mom supplied the quotation marks with her fingers. And even though I knew she was just trying to create a diversion, it was also true: Mrs. Ferucci did always bring the same kind of wine, and just one bottle at that, by now it should be pretty obvious that one bottle wasn't going to go very far in that crowd--believe me, the Feruccis could match my folks drink for drink any night of the week.
      Before she called Mrs. Ferucci my mom came back over to us and just sort of dropped her empty glass in my dad's lap. "You two carry on in my absence," she said, and then she marched unsteadily out of the room.
      When my dad got up to "refresh" her drink--that's another word my mom always puts quotation marks around--I grabbed the underwear off the table. They didn't really fit in my pocket and so I just stuffed them down the front of my jeans and kind of pulled my shirttails over the little bulge they made.
      If my dad noticed the missing underwear when he got back with the drinks, he didn't say anything. He sat back down, and nodded his head at me. I nodded back and then he nodded again, but I remembered the smiles thing with my mom and so I forced myself to look down at the coffee table. That's when I saw the videotape. I guess my dad must've grabbed it when he got the drinks. It was just an ordinary videotape, I mean, there was no reason why it should've creeped me out the way it did, except maybe the way it was placed between my mom's glass and my dad's beer exactly where my underwear had been, and then too there was the fact that the tape was labeled Making Book, which the ink was kind of faded and the label half peeling off, but you could still read it.
      Making Book. No quotation marks.
      The phone was just in the other room, and my mom's voice came sailing through the door.
      "Angela? Barbara Davis here." My parents have known the Feruccis since way before I was born, but my mom still always uses her full name when she calls them. My dad once said this was a sign of my mom's insecurity, to which my mom said drinking was a sign of insecurity but using her full name on the telephone was simply good manners.
      "I've discovered the most amazing Camembert," my mom was saying, which I suppose is the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from an editor at a food magazine. "It's so creamy it's like pudding. Anyway, I was thinking that a Le Grand Cru St. Emilion would be perfect with it, you know, something just full of tannic acid. Oh, well, Chianti. Did you by any chance try that zinfandel I--well, if you've already been shopping. I'm sure that would be fine. No, no, don't bother. We don't want to hold up the game, after all."
      At the word Chianti my dad looked at me and nodded, and, unable to control myself, I nodded back. We were just about to go into the whole marionette routine when my mom came back into the living room. My parents both picked up their drinks and I sort of fluffed my shirttails over the front of my jeans, and the first thing my mom did was ask me how "Ace" was. She always does the quote thing with Ace's name, too, because it's not actually his real name, which is Tony, like his dad's. Anthony. My mom says the Feruccis gave Ace his nickname just to imitate us, meaning the bridge thing, I guess--meaning making book--because ace, besides being a card, is also a kind of title that really good bridge players get.
      "He's fine, I guess."
      "Tony was saying Ace was going to start on the football team this year." This was my dad.
      "I guess." I was pretty sure Ace was only second string, but it wouldn't've been the first time Ace's parents had overstated the case--or mine for that matter. Mr. Ferucci certainly knew I hadn't made the team, which I'd only tried out for because my dad more or less insisted, and so I just nodded at the video on the coffee table, which was now covered with water rings. "What is this, like, a tape of you guys playing bridge or something?" At which point my mom tittered so loud it was practically a guffaw.
      "Well, no," my dad said. "Not exactly."
      "Really," my mom said. "Is this really, I mean, do we have to do this?" But my dad--like I said, he doesn't really say much, but when he does set his mind to say something there's no stopping him.
      "I think we are in a position to offer Boo a unique gift," he said. "After all, how many people can say they actually know where they actually come from?"
      Well, right then who flashed in my mind was Ace Ferucci. Ace's parents, according to my mom, liked to think of themselves as "liberal," which is how my mom characterized the fact that they'd like videotaped their son being born. They played it for me once about a year ago, and I mean, it--I mean, the tape--it was kind of interesting and all, but still, every time I looked at Ace I just had this vision of his face all covered with slimy goo. And plus too, and this is something I didn't realize, but the umbilical cord looks like a hose growing out of your stomach when you're born, and that is just gross.
      "A unique position," my dad was saying, or saying again.
      "I would hardly call it unique," my mom said. "It was more like missionary."
      "A special gift," my dad said, "to help you through what you're going through right now."
      "But really," my mom tried one more time. "We should be discussing that weak no-trump opening. Angela and Tony will be defenseless against it."
      "A special gift," my dad repeated, "to help you understand where you come from."
      My mom just kind of sighed then, and held up her glass, which it seemed like she'd drained it pretty damn quick. "You want to know where you came from, Boo?" She kind of waved the glass a little. "Look no further," she said. "Boo," she said, "you came right out of this glass, which if you get right down to it is where most children come from."
      "Barbara."
      My mom made her noise, but she didn't say anything.
      "Maybe we should just play the tape," my dad said.
      At this point I was too freaked out to say anything, and so when my dad asked me to put the tape in the machine I just did it. In our house the TV and the VCR are in this mahogany armoire my dad restored, a pretty fancy piece of work with burled columns on the sides and a relief running along the top of it, and so anyway I put the tape in the machine but I didn't start it, just brought the remote back to my dad, which he took it, and held it in both hands, the way you might hold something you wanted to buy but knew was too expensive. And then, you know, then I guess he decided that whatever it cost it was worth it, and he started the tape. And what was on the tape was my parents. And they were . . .
      Well, like I said. The tape was called Making Book.

~

I suppose I should've come out of the bushes then, but I didn't. And Ace didn't call out to me or anything. He just lay there on the blanket looking up at the sky and I just stood in the bushes and listened to the thin whir of the camera. This went on for a while actually, until Ace reached down to like fix himself in his shorts, and, you know, I hadn't paid much attention before but once he put his hand down there I could see that he was, you know, hard. Still. He sort of angled it down one leg of his shorts, but even before he could finish that tiny movement he froze, and I realized two things: that he'd forgotten I was watching him for a moment, and that he'd just remembered. And what was even stranger was that for a moment I'd forgotten I was watching him, too, if you know what I mean, and then when he froze I remembered, too, that I'd been watching him the whole time, and that I was, well, I was . . . I mean, my shorts were a little constricted, too. And so, whatever--anyway, for a moment Ace's whole body was as rigid as the thing he was holding in his right hand, and then, slowly, he relaxed but he didn't let go. He relaxed, and his body seemed to sink into the blanket and the sand beneath it, and then, when it had settled, I saw that his hand was sliding the fabric of his shorts up and down, just a little bit, but his hand was squeezing hard and he didn't stop, and if I listened really hard I could hear that same boom box playing out on the beach, and if I listened really, really hard I could hear the movement of Ace's shorts. He stopped soon enough. By which I mean he didn't "finish," just stopped, and then a moment later he rolled over on his stomach and pretended to be asleep. But even that took a moment of squirming, his ass lifted slightly as he twisted around trying to get comfortable, and meanwhile I just waited in the bushes until the tape ran out. I had set the camera to the slowest recording speed so it took another two hours before the machine finally clicked off, by which time Ace really was sleeping, and when I woke him he didn't mention anything, and he never asked for a copy of the tape, either.

 

~

"We had quite a few tapes for a while," my dad told me, "but we got rid of all the duds after a while." He explained to me how they were almost positive this was the right one. They'd been really careful, he said, plotted out my mom's cycles and things, made sure that whenever they, I mean, whatever, that they always had the camera running.
      My mom rolled her empty glass between her palms.
      "It's a good thing I didn't let you get that Beta camcorder," she said, "or we would never have been able to watch this." She made her noise then, twice, and she said, "On second thought."
      I guess the thing that amazed me most was that after a few minutes it didn't seem so strange. I mean, it was kind of like it was with Ace: I almost forgot who it was I was watching, and that they were right there. And my parents had their own bathroom and everything, we were hardly the show-and-tell kind of family, but even so, I'd seen them both naked a few times, and like once or twice I'd heard them through the wall. This just kind of like, I don't know, put it all together.
      "Your mother and I weren't exactly young when we had you," my dad was saying. "We'd waited a long time. We both had our careers, and we wanted to be sure we could provide for you, bring you up comfortably."
      It was weird the way he said that, as if they'd known who I was going to be before they even had me.
      "I guess we were just filled with the specialness of it all, and it occurred to us that we could, we should share that specialness with you. So."
      "Actually," my mom said, "we were trying to think of a way to one-up Angela and Tony and their little monument to Anthony's entry into the world." She looked at my dad to see if he would contradict her, but he didn't say anything. "Well," she said eventually, "if no one is going to refresh my glass." She stood up, very slowly, and made her way to the bar, but then as it turned out she just walked right past it and out of the room, leaving my dad and me alone with the videotape.
      He kind of looked at me, and smiled, but he didn't say anything else.
      On the tape my parents did what you do. They were sweet about it, which I guess made me happy, I mean, it wasn't wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am. I can't believe I just thought that about my mom. At any rate, I'm not going to go into what all they did, but one thing, my mom was on the bottom, which I remember learning was better for conception, which I didn't know if my parents knew that or if that's just how they took care of business, and I didn't ask either.
      Toward the end my mom pulled my dad's ear close to her mouth and you could see her whisper something but you couldn't hear it on the tape. My dad kind of nodded, and then a moment later he started calling out, "I'm making a baby, oh yeah, I'm making a baby," and my mom started calling, "Oh yeah, make that baby, make that baby," and so on, "I'm making a baby," "Yeah, you make that baby," which was what I focused on, because if I'd focused on anything else I think I would've just died of embarrassment.
      That's when the doorbell rang.
      My dad and I kept looking back and forth at each other and at the television. We were stuck in that loop again, and nothing could get us out of it. On the tape my parents were almost finished--I mean, you can just tell that sort of thing--and the doorbell rang again, just as my mom appeared in the doorway, and that broke the spell. My dad and I both jumped up.
      "Isn't someone going to--" she began, and then she saw that the tape was still playing. "Oh my God!" she said, and then she looked at me and pointed. "Oh my God!" she said again. "He's gotten excited!"
      I looked down. My shirttails had fallen open and the bulge made by the extra pair of underwear stuffed down there seemed really large.
      "No, Mom, it's just--" I reached into my jeans, and my mom kind of screamed. She put her hands over her ears for some reason, and ran from the room.
      On the tape my parents were just kind of lying next to each other, and then they kind of rolled over to face the camera and said, "I think we made a baby that time." They were both all sweaty, but at least they'd pulled the sheet up.
      The picture disappeared then, and I turned and saw my dad with the remote in his hands. I had the underwear in my hand, and we kind of looked back and forth at what each other was holding, and then my dad shrugged, and I shrugged back, but we both just shrugged once.
      "Hello?" Mrs. Ferucci's voice came from the foyer. "Anyone home?"
      I chucked my underwear in the armoire with the television and closed it. My dad looked around for some place to stash the remote like it was also some incriminating piece of evidence, but then he smiled goofily. For just a moment, though, I'd thought I'd seen him consider stuffing it down his pants.
      Mr. and Mrs. Ferucci walked into the living room, followed a moment later by Ace. His round cheeks were red and his upper lip was wet with sweat, and even as I looked at him I realized something: it was my dad I'd been watching on the videotape. I mean, it hadn't turned me on or anything, watching him, but I'd been a lot more focused on him than on my mom.
      "Richard?" Mrs. Ferucci said. "We rang the bell, but no one--" She held out a dusty bottle of Chianti.
      "We heard noises," Mr. Ferucci said then. "What the hell's going on in here, an orgy? I thought we were here to play cards."
      He laughed then, one of those really loud Italian belly laughs, and in a minute my dad was laughing with him and it was almost easy to believe that nothing had happened. My dad handed me the remote control and then took the wine from Mrs. Ferucci. He actually kissed the bottle and said, "Magnifico!" and then he sent Mr. and Mrs. Ferucci to the game room to get everything set up while he went to find my mom. "Shuffle along, shuffle along," is what he said, and everyone laughed again like it was some really clever pun. When they were gone, Ace pointed to the bottle on the coffee table.
      "Looks like we missed a party." He tried to make his voice deep but it cracked on the word party.
      The remote in my hand was wet with sweat, I wasn't sure if it was mine or my dad's, but when I looked down at it I saw that my hands were actually shaking, I was so keyed up that I wanted to jump up and down, scream out loud, laugh like a maniac, I wanted to grab Ace Ferucci by the collar and kiss him like my father had kissed Mrs. Ferucci's crappy bottle of Chianti.
      Well, no. Not exactly like that.
      All of a sudden I understood how it was that my parents had come to make that tape in the VCR. Not, I mean, the one-upmanship thing my mom had mentioned, or my dad's "specialness" bullshit, but just the particular blindness that comes over you sometimes and practically forces you to do something you wouldn't normally do. I imagined Ace must've had the same feeling that day in the dunes, just as Ace's dad must have felt it when he pointed that camera at his wife in the delivery room. And I say I understood it but I didn't really. I felt it.
      "Yo, Booker-man. What's going on?"
      And I mean, Ace. He was one of those people who take up all this room in the world without ever really doing anything. I'd always thought of him like a snowman: all the fun was in making him what I wanted him to be. But now I realized he could actually do something.
      I looked down at the remote in my right hand, but even as I looked I felt my left hand float up like it was the most natural thing in the world for me to do and land right on Ace's shoulder. I even squeezed. I practically kneaded Ace Ferucci's shoulder, and beneath my hand Ace's skin felt as soft and pliable as clay.
      "Booker?" Ace said. His voice was confused, but he didn't go anywhere.
      From the game room, the faint sound of shuffling was drowned beneath another of Mr. Ferucci's belly laughs. Our parents, I realized, might have been dealing out the first hand of the evening, but they'd made book a long time ago. They had, and Ace and I had as well. Now it was time to take our first trick.
      My hand seemed almost superhuman now. It turned Ace and steered him toward the hall.
      "Booker? What's up?"
      And I didn't answer him because I didn't actually know what was going to happen, but I was sure about one thing: the camera was going to be turned off.

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