"A Good Catholic Boy"

It was raining outside on a late Friday afternoon, fat, full droplets of it splatting on the roof of the Reeves apartment. The rainy rhythm of the city was audible, vaguely, from the top floor of the building. Car engine voices were slurred to purrs as they whirred lightly by in soft roars. Manhattan's heartbeat slowed like it was an actual person who could be calmed by the slippity-slap of cold February rain.

In the depths of Room 411, and even deeper into the depths of the four- story apartment building, Anthony Reeves's bed covers were tucked snugly all around him, leaving nothing visible but his head of mussy, greased blonde hair and an imprecise hump under a soft, thick navy comforter that had lost its comfort and become a rock to hide under; much like when Anthony was a kid, afraid of the dark and hoping that the Boogie Man couldn't get him if he was under his covers with none of body parts exposed to the darkness of the room. His room had begun to cradle his withdrawal like a loving mother. It never asked him what was wrong, or if he wanted a Tylenol, or if he knew what time Train A was going to crash into Train B, or if he was having trouble at home. It just lifelessly accepted whatever mood he was in and let him be.

He moved like a nine-hour symphony and his weight had dropped. A pervious 140, it had fallen steeply to 115. It had earned him the right to be teased by the boy who sat behind him in Spanish class. "Scrawny" and "Twiggy" were Jake's new favorite phrases and he pretended not to care when he was unable to get a response out of Anthony, even an angry one. But reality, words, events drifted lightly above Anthony like fizzy wine bubbles- rippling and glittering above him in a distorted yellow filter from his position at the bottom of the glass. He absorbed the words like quicksand sometimes, letting it fall to the deepest, most vulnerable parts of him and fester. But sometimes he took time to consider that he deserved some of the nicknames. Jake had a knack for effortlessly scratching away some of Anthony's other emotions and exposing the all-encompassing guilt about the depression.

But now Anthony was huddled safe under his indifferent rock, the gray from the sky seeped into his lightless room, dimming it gray-blue with a secret whisper of lavender.

In the kitchen, his mother was busy making rustling sounds in the cabinets and getting Gabe into his high chair for dinner. Gabe was busy protesting this and asking for his sippy cup here and there. Brenda had assumed that Anthony was watching television or reading in his room.

The apartment lock ticked with the sound of Richard's keys and then opened. He entered with a windbreaker sprinkled with crystal raindrops and an armful of Chinese take-out, Anthony's favorite.

"Dah-ee!" Gabe greeted his father enthusiastically, "Dah-ee, Dahee!"

"Hey, Pumpkin Head," Richard said, and shifted a cardboard box so he could lightly stroke Gabe's baby-soft hair. Richard transported his armful of dinner onto the kitchen counter and removed his windbreaker.

"It's a monsoon out there," he said.

"It's been pretty dry for February, though," Brenda responded, "We need a little rain."

"Mmm-hm. Where's Anthony?"

"Where do you think?" Brenda said ruefully, a little bitterly.

Richard sighed. "Still?"


"This is getting ridiculous. There's something wrong with him."

"Yeah, well, he won't talk to us. Every time we try and talk to him he tells us we're over-reacting."

Richard hung his jacket on the coat rack.

"I think we need to take him to see someone," Brenda said quickly, not giving herself time to be careful about it.

"Brenda, we talked about that."

"We could find some way, couldn't we? We found a way to buy him Christmas toys and sneakers and video games.." she said tactlessly, without back-up logic for the statement.

"Wecannot afford therapy," Richard enunciated slowly.

"But there's something wrong with him!" Brenda snapped and implored at the same time. "Richard, he could be depressed, he could have bipolar, he could be suicidal and it's just slipped under our noses!"

"He's not suicidal."

"How do you know?" Brenda shot back, "When's the last time he's told us anything? And how long have we just assumed it was because he was going through a teenager phase? Richard... Jeez, Richard, there's something really wrong with him."

Richard squeezed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.

"I'm so tired of going around and around in circles about this with you," he said in a low, quiet voice, "What do you want me to do? You know we can't afford therapy. What do you want me to do? What do you want me to say?"

He lifted his palms slightly, and then let them drop.


"I don't know. Just... something," Brenda said softly. "He's shut himself up and.. We have to take charge, we have to force him to tell us, we have to make him do something."

"I know we have to do something.." Richard lowered his voice calmly. "But sitting here in the middle of the kitchen yelling about it right across from his room isn't going to help."

Brenda sighed shortly, shook her head, and opened one of the take-out boxes. Gabe reached out toward the rice impatiently as Brenda sprinkled some onto the plate on his high chair. He clumped some of it into his pudgy hand and stuck it gracelessly into his mouth, grains escaping, cascading down his bib, some sticking to his chin.

"Go tell him to come and eat," Brenda muttered.

Richard pursed his lips slightly and walked deeper into the apartment, toward Anthony's closed door.

"You know what to do, Gabey?" Brenda asked the toddler absently.

"Gay-ee," Gabe chirped his own name back at her, and inserted another clumped handful of white rice into his mouth.

Richard raised the back of his hand and knocked lightly on Anthony's bedroom door with his knuckle.


"S'open," came the low and weak reply from the other side.

Richard turned the brass knob and opened the door to find something not unlike a bear cave, dark and grim compared to the rest of the apartment, which was adorned with lamps and florescent bulbs.

"Hey, kid. It's dark in here. Mind if I shed a little light on the matter?"

"No. G'head."

Richard flipped the light switch beside the door with one finger. Anthony's face scrunched up slightly from across the room, his eyes squinting at the burst of sudden brightness.

"What are you doing all huddled up under the covers?" Richard asked. He walked across the small, square room and sat on the edge of Anthony's bed, near the head where his son was. As the springy mattress creaked under his weight, his heart broke to see Anthony the way he was- cocooned in his blankets, hibernating from them. Richard brushed a strand of Anthony's stubborn blonde hair out of his eyes.

"Tired, I guess," Anthony said quietly.

"You okay?" Richard felt absently of Anthony's forehead with the back of his hand, knowing that he didn't have a fever. He never had a fever, no matter how many times they felt of his head.

Anthony nodded.

"Remember I told you if you ever wanted to talk about something, I'm here."

"I know," Anthony said.

"You haven't talked to your friend Ben today. Everything okay with him?"

"He has basketball tournaments in Brooklyn all day."


There was silence as Richard forgot that he was still smoothing back Anthony's hair, letting him drift out again. Finally, he patted Anthony's upper arm, slightly breaking their hazy trances.

"Wanna come eat? Got Chinese, your favorite."

"M'not really hungry," Anthony said, and sank the left side of his face deeper into his pillow.

"You haven't had anything to eat all day," Richard reminded him.

"I know, I'm just... I'm not hungry."

"Well, come on and try to eat," Richard said. He slapped Anthony's arm lightly and stood up.

Anthony curled himself up into a tight fetal position and hugged his comforter around himself. He suddenly felt exposed, naked, and intruded upon. His parents had been treating him like they did when he used to get sick and stay home from school, speaking with soft "honey"s and "pumpkin- head"s; and the Tylenol. They obviously thought Tylenol was the ultimate power medication, a solution to everything from growing pains to pneumonia; all since the funeral of Anthony's classmate. Anthony hadn't even known the boy very well, but everything in his life had suddenly been deeply shifted by it, like plate tectonics of Anthony's own private planet. His world seemed to have divided down the middle, on either side of the date of the funeral. There was before the funeral, a light memory like a good dream. And then there was after the funeral, where something else had crept into Anthony- like a virus. But depression wasn't catching, was it? No, but he had quarantined himself from his friends and family just the same.

"I'll eat later," Anthony grumbled, irritably now. "I'm gonna lie here a little longer."

"Mm-mm," Richard shook his head. "Come on and eat. Then you can come back and watch T.V. or read or write or something."

"I'm not hungry, Dad," Anthony insisted.

"Get up, Anthony," Richard said sternly.

"Dad, please... just go away and leave me alone for a while."

"No, Anthony, I'm not gonna let you lie in bed all day without anything to eat. Get up. Now."

Richard bunched a handful of the comforter up in one fist and jerked the covers from the mattress. He felt some evil intention inside himself as he did it, as if he were ripping something away from inside of Anthony. Anthony curled up as it happened, the way a little white maggot curled up when someone lifted a rock and found him underneath.

"Come on," he said shortly, and smacked Anthony's upper thigh like a rider prodding a stubborn horse. "Don't make me drag you into the kitchen, because I will."

"Go away!" Anthony snapped loudly, thickly.

Richard, taken slightly aback, straightened his back a little in surprise.

"Just leave me alone!" Anthony said, in that odd, low, half groan, half bellow.

"Anthony, get your butt out of bed, pronto," Richard shot back. He grabbed Anthony by the scant but lean meat of his upper arm and pulled. Anthony slid across the mattress, taking the sheets with him, toward the floor, and Richard gave him time to get his footing. Finally, he rolled over and was sitting up on the edge of the bed. His hair, mashed flat, was clinging to his forehead and upper cheekbone. Richard had always found the long front of Anthony's hair annoying. It would look so much better cut short, up closer to his hairline, showing his face, his eyes.

"I'm not hungry," he grumbled again, half-heartedly, without much hope.

"I don't care. You're going to eat," Richard said with the air of someone wrapping up a conversation.

He made his way across the room to the open door. He caught Brenda looking in from the kitchen counter where she was attending to Gabriel. She pursed her lips and busied herself with the toddler again. Richard frowned slightly. He knew what she would say later: You were too rough on him, Rich, you know he's sensitive. She still treated him like a little kid who still needed to hide behind her skirt.

Rich heard the mattress squeak slightly as it was relieved of Anthony's weight. He continued into the florescence of the kitchen and pulled out one of the two stools, the farthest to the left, his designated spot. Anthony slid slowly into the empty one.

"Rice?" Brenda asked from her own stool across the counter. She held up the white cardboard box.

Anthony shook his head. He hissed softly, pressed his palms together and squeezed them between his thighs for warmth.

Brenda sighed and started to lower the box. She felt so helpless that she thought there was no use in having arms or legs or a voice to soothe Anthony with. Even her love, as strong for him as it was, was lost inside the place Anthony had secluded himself to. Things were crumbling all around her, dangling out of reach like the carrot in a cartoon. Wires were snapping, catching fire in an unstoppable chain, and everything was going up in flames. It was clawing at Richard, nibbling on him, and Brenda could tell that the rope of his temper was unwinding, unthreading, threatening to finally snap.

"No," Richard intervened decisively, snatching the box. "He's going to eat some rice. He loves rice."

He shook some onto Anthony's plate, hoping with a dying flicker that if everything around Anthony was like it always was, Anthony would finally give in and slip back into the flow- hoping that he could force the puzzle pieces together, when Anthony's piece had been drenched, water-logged and deformed.

"I don't want any rice, Dad," Anthony said.

"You eat it," Richard snapped. He stabbed a piece of Mongolian beef with his fork and lifted it stiffly to his mouth. He was bewildered at what had happened to his perpetually quiet but cheerful son, angry that he didn't know what was going on, and angry that Anthony seemed to believe that he couldn't talk about it. It was ridiculous. Whatever it was, Anthony was hanging onto it with his bony fingers, clasping it at his chest and locking it away. It was silly. It was silly how Anthony perceived things at such a personal and serious angle. And things that he should have perceived seriously, he'd always been light-hearted about. Most of all, Richard was angry that whatever direction he tried to approach, whatever he tried, he wasn't helping his son- only shoving him deeper under the water; the way big Labradors sometimes tried to save children who cried for help when drowning, but only ended up slapping them underneath the surface with their dog-paddling legs.

"I'm not even hungry at all," Anthony tried dimly.

Richard slapped his fork back onto the counter, off-centered with its place on his napkin. His heart had doubled over in size, pumped like a jagged rock in his chest. He clenched his jaw, felt the muscles on either side stand out in his lower cheek.

"All right," he said rigidly, and backed off of his stool.

"Richard," Brenda started.

"No," Richard said loudly, without thinking. "Get your jacket, Anthony."


"Just go get it, like I said! Don't try to analyze it, Anthony, just do what I said!"

"Iwasn't, I just wanted to know!"

Richard picked his own windbreaker off of the coat rack, slipped it on, and grabbed the car keys from the counter.

"Richard, what are you doing?" Brenda asked. "Where are you going?"

"Just down to the docks a few blocks- Anthony! Go get your jacket on, now!"

Sluggishly, Anthony slid out of his seat and went into his room.


"What! What is it, Brenda, what do you want!"

What did she have a problem with now? She wasn't happy with how he was handling it before, and now that he'd decided to do something about it, she was stillunhappy. If she thought he was being such an awful parent, why didn't she offer something? Therapy was expensive. Therapy was something that they used in the movies, in books, on family television shows. When it happened to real people, they just had to find a way to crawl out of it. Read the Christian Parentingbooks. It was just unfortunate that they never happened to stick Talking With Your Teen About Depression in there. It would fit quite nicely betweenTalking With Your Teen About Puberty and Talking With Your Teen About Drugs.

"What are you doing?" Brenda demanded.

"I'm taking him down to the docks, and we're not coming back until he tells me what's wrong with him."

"I don't think that's the way you should do it."

"How do you think we should do it!"

"Fine," Brenda said shortly, and waved her hand stiffly. "Go. Take him down to the docks and see if you can wait it out."

Anthony emerged from his doorway with one arm in his gray, hooded, cotton jacket that zipped down the middle. He slipped his other arm inside and looked up at them, uncertain. Lightly holding the unzipped tail ends of his jacket in his thin hands, he eyed them both and waited for some signal that it was okay to be worried.

Richard opened the door.

"Come on," he said, strangely deadpan.

Hesitantly, Anthony made his way across the kitchen and to the front door, past Gabe, who was still obliviously packing food into his mouth with his fingers. Brenda said nothing, stared fixated at her meal, and poked it distantly with her fork. Anthony glanced at Richard, who watched him walk out of the apartment and then followed, closing the door behind him.

Anthony heard the keys jangle as Richard stuffed them into his pocket. They stopped at the elevator, and Richard punched the 1 button with his thumb.

The drive was, of course, silent. Anthony stared down at his knees and occasionally looked out the window at the wet metropolis. A few people in serious-suits held newspapers over their heads and jogged out of the rain. The windshield wipers kept pace, whumped slowly and steadily. At the apartment building, Richard had cranked the car to the sounds of one of the old Christian rock cassettes, but had quickly snapped it off and drove in silence. Twice he'd let his thoughts of worry, anger, frustration, and exasperation -all snowballed into a giant Super Feeling that included all of these and had their combined power of effect on the human brain- get in the way of his driving. He'd gotten caught up in them, been dragged into their constant undertow, and his foot had eased effortlessly off of the gas, slowing the station wagon down amid the delicate flow of traffic. Anthony had been forced to remind him, uncertainly and a little panicky, to pay attention to the road.

Anthony hadn't exactly expected the destination they arrived at. Richard parked the car on the asphalt that overlooked the bay. It was tainted by the ragged, stained wood of docks and small factory buildings that hung off of their own peninsulas and puffed gray smoke. The February metropolitan ocean reflected the gray sky like a mirror cracked with sea swells and spindrift. Tiny white wonders appeared at random, as if parts of the water lolled over, briefly exposed their white bellies, and rolled back over again. The indistinct furry roars came in sounds like the sounds heard from clogged or popped ears. Detached, background sounds, purrs that lowered when confronted with louder, urgent, real, solid ones. Rain pelted tiny, brief holes into the water and spit a dull waterfall onto the windshield- drummed its hard, tiny fingers on the hood of the car, ran like snot from a runny nose down Anthony's side window.

But their actual presence at a beach didn't seem as morbidly strange as the fact that Richard was smoking a cigarette. Anthony had known he'd started in college, but quit when Anthony was little. Richard had produced a Marlboro pack upon parking, shook out a cigarette, and lit it with a lighter from his other pocket. He'd brought it leisurely to his lips and Anthony watched the tiny red-orange embers light up in the dwindling daylight. Richard inhaled deeply and thoroughly, and released the smoke through his nostrils like he did back in college, feeling his nose flare like a horse's. He'd cracked the window just enough so that he could flick the ashes onto the pavement outside without the rain getting into the car.

"If Mom knew you were smoking that, she'd kill you," Anthony said in a low, hesitant voice. He sat inanimately in the passenger seat, and didn't look at his father.

"I'm not worried about this, and I'm not worried about what your mother would say about it. I'm worried about what in the world is the matter with you," Richard said quietly, slightly holding out the hand with the cigarette and then moving it back to his lips.

"I thought you quit a long time ago," Anthony muttered.

"I thought I did too. But, you know, Anthony, when nerve-scrambling things happen to you, sometimes you fall right back into the craving."

"So it's my fault?"

"You know, kid... what has gotten into you?"


"Well, that's too bad. Because we're going to sit here until you tell me."

Silence. The low, hollow rhythm of the rain drummed steadily on.

Richard sucked slowly on the end of his cigarette, and blew a tiny, delicate cloud of smoke toward the slit at the top of the window. He stuck the ash end of it out and flicked the tip he'd been smoking with the end of his thumb so that it tumbled from the cigarette and to the ground.

"Is it drugs? Are you taking something you got from some punk at school?"

"No," Anthony said, adding "of course" with the scornful tone of his voice.

"Is it a girl?"

"It's not a girl, Dad," Anthony said, with an air of both agitation and disdain.

"Then tell me what is wrong with you!" Richard barked, annoyed at Anthony's belittling of each of his tries, and his refusal to admit what actually was wrong.

"You!" Anthony shot back suddenly, tactless and thoughtlessly, facing him for the first time since their arrival at the bay. "You! You and Mom expecting this certain thing from me and not expecting me to do anything else... and..."

Anthony's voice trailed away. He lost confidence, sighed, and plopped back against his seat. He turned his eyes to the side window again.

"And what?" Richard prodded.

"You've always just assumed I was your perfect little boy," Anthony said quickly, in a slur of anger and frustration and regret.

"You were always a good kid, Anthony. You never gave us any trouble, and I just don't know how to deal with this. I know how awful that is. But you never talked to us about not wanting to be Catholic. What.." he sighed. "What, Anthony? You never said anything about it."

"How was I supposed to! I was always so... just scared of doing something you wouldn't like. I did everything for you and Mom. Everything, I tried to make you happy and think that you raised me right and I never even actually thought that I didn't agree with it until now. I just... kept following whatever you said and... I don't know... God...

"This is the first time I've ever done anything for me. This is like the first time I've listened to what I wanted. It's like, the first time I've heard myself actually speak up and tell me what I want."

He looked down at his knees, felt the silence press against his skin, cheeks, and neck in a hot, humid cloud.

"Maybe Gabe'll grow up and be a priest or something," he added darkly.

"We never expected you to be a priest or anything, kid. We never expected you to be perfect. You just.." Richard tightened his lips in a rueful, tiny, that's-just-how-it-is smile and quirked his sandy-brown eyebrows upward. "You just were."

Anthony tucked his knees up to his chest and put his sneakers on the dashboard, curling himself up into a slight ball in the passenger seat. It made him look younger. Childish. He looked out at the curtain of water that flowed down his window and fingered the drawstrings on his gray cotton jacket absently.

"Bren wants to take you to a psychiatrist," Richard said.

"Like we could afford that."

"We'll find a way. We need to find someone who can help you, kid."

"Why? Because I don't want to be Catholic?"

"Because you're depressed, Anthony. Do you honestly not see that? That there's something wrong with you?"

Anthony held his kneecaps in his palms and continued to stare out the window, silent. He clenched his jaw and held back an unexpected sting of pre-tears. Hearing it said out loud, having it exist somewhere outside of his own mind, was like a giant monster from a horror movie suddenly springing to life.

"So.." Richard said in a muffled voice, "I guess we'll look through the phone book tonight... see if we can find a good one."

"What a great way to have some family time. Looking for a shrink," Anthony said in a low, sardonic voice that cracked shortly, like nails on a chalkboard, with his last syllable. "Maybe we can watch the Friday night movie on the Family Channel while we're at it."

Richard crushed the spark out of his cigarette by twisting and mashing it against the bottom of one of the empty cup-holders in the console, sticky from leaky Coke cups.

"I can live without your attitude right now, kid," Richard said stiffly, and flicked the leftover butt of his cigarette out the window. Then, thinking better of the ashes in the cup-holder, he removed the tray, and emptied it onto the parking lot as well. So that Brenda wouldn't know. He'd already been worried about the smell of smoke on his clothes. Problems kept branching off into more problems, multiplying like the hamsters they'd bought Anthony when he was little and had to get rid of because of all the offspring. Richard cranked the car, pivoted his waist, turned around to see behind the station wagon, and started to back out of the empty parking lot.