by Chad Alan Gibbs
Publication date: May 20th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Edwin Green’s ex-girlfriend is famous. We’re talking cover-of-every-tabloid-in-the-grocery-store-line famous. She dumped Edwin one year ago on what he refers to as Black Saturday, and in hopes of winning her back, he’s spent the last twelve months trying to become famous himself. It hasn’t gone well.
But when a history class assignment pairs Edwin with Parker Haddaway, the mysterious new girl at school, she introduces him to Garland Lenox, a nursing-home-bound World War II veteran who will change Edwin’s life forever.
The three escape to France, in search of the old man’s long-lost love, and as word of their adventure spreads, they become media darlings. But when things fall apart, they also become the focus of French authorities. In a race against time, who will find love, and who will only find more heartache?
In which our hero complains about his assigned seat.
You can’t make this shit up.
That’s what Garland Lenox would say about this story—my story—the story of how I tried to win back Sadie Evans, my super famous ex-girlfriend. Of course, Garland said that a lot. It was his go-to reply anytime anyone raised so much as a skeptical eyebrow at one of the more outrageous details of his own life story. Details like …
“Scientists said they’d never heard of a Great White that far up the Mississippi River, but when they pulled its tooth from my leg they had to rewrite their little science books.”
“Saddam Hussein never could remember all the rules to chess. He’d move pawns backward and he wouldn’t even touch his bishops because he said they were papists.”
“The Super Bowl is faker than professional wrestling. I know the fella in Bakersfield who used to write scripts for the NFL. Why’d you think they take two weeks off before the big game? It’s so the players can rehearse.”
Garland would watch you while he told his tales, and if he saw even a shadow of disbelief he’d pounce: “Son, you can’t make this shit up.”
In the week I knew the old man he said those words to me approximately sixty-three times, though for the record I’m not his son. Garland called everyone son, even Parker sometimes, though I’m pretty sure he knew she was a girl. Also for the record, I never once accused Garland of making up anything, though I usually had my doubts, and sometimes my face would betray me. But in my defense, you’d likely catch a raised eyebrow at the final table of the World Series of Poker after Garland said something like,
“NASA built a space station on the dark side of the moon and they’ve been sending teams up there twice a week since 1974. I went there once in the eighties and trust me, it’s boring as hell. Just a bunch of nerds playing Atari.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This story—my story—began on a Monday, April 13th, which coincidentally was a year to the day from Black Saturday (the day I lost Sadie Evans), and not so coincidentally the day I met Garland Lenox. I was a junior then, at J. P. Hornby High school in Hornby, Alabama, a little town east of Birmingham named after Josiah Prescott Hornby, a former Alabama governor known best for keeping a passel of pet possums in the governor’s mansion.
“He was also a self-taught dentist,” our history teacher, Mr. Graham, said when one of my classmates broached the subject of our collective embarrassment, but we told him that only made it worse.
On that fateful morning I walked into Mr. Graham’s first period class and groaned when the realization I was about to spend five straight days in that abyss of despair manifested itself in a stabbing pain behind my left eye. Like boy bands, each class at J. P. Hornby was awful in its own way, but I hated Mr. Graham’s class in particular because of our alphabetically assigned seats, something he claimed sped up the attendance-taking process.
Of course there were shouts of protest when he arranged us on day one, because everyone knows last names are too arbitrary of a way to assign seats. Mr. Graham’s alphabetical reign of terror was particularly unkind to me. My last name is Green, because my ancestors had green teeth or began recycling way before it was cool. And because of this, in a cruel twist of surname fate, I had to spend sixty minutes each morning sitting behind Tyler Godfrey, who hadn’t cut or washed his hair since getting into Lord of the Rings cosplay in eighth grade, and in front of Parker Haddaway, the terrifying new girl who’d spoken exactly two words to me since her January arrival.
“Hi, I’m Edwin.”
That said, I thought pretty much everyone at J. P. Hornby was a dick slap, so in reality every seat was an assigned seat between two people who’d serve time if mouth breathing were ever declared illegal. But even I’d have enjoyed a change of scenery once in a while.
Monday was our first day back at school from spring break, and I sat there between Parker and Tyler’s gross hair, rubbing my head and trying not to listen to the what and where of everyone’s vacations, when Mr. Graham walked in and all conversation slid to a stop.
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