By the time the community pool had opened up for the season, the memory of Lenny McCarther had faded from the minds of everyone at Harold High, wiped away like a forgotten equation on a dusty chalkboard. Lenny’s classmates were not the only ones who had managed to quickly vanquish his recollection; the whole community had gracefully tossed Lenny into their quiet little closet, along with the other hushed-hushed skeletons of Harold’s past. And as black smoke from hundreds of back-porch grills – being fired up for the first time of the season – vanished into the humid southern air, a boy named Lenny McCarther vanished from the memory of the town of Harold without a trace.
With the annual Harold Summer Market on the way, along with the countless amounts of upcoming fundraisers in the park, who had time to mourn over the loss of a teenage felon who came from a broken home? The upstanding citizens of Harold much preferred gossip to grief, and so naturally the only talk of Lenny’s death was not of sorrow, but of speculation.
Rumors surrounding Lenny’s death began to infect the community like an epidemic; the convent chatter at PTA meetings echoing off metallic lockers, bouncing back through smoky garages on Friday night poker tournaments and reverberating in hushed whispers amongst uncomfortable pews on Sunday morning. “The paramedics had to pry open his hands – still frozen into a white knuckled grip – to remove the bouquet of roses from his hands,” Dr. Richardson told his secretary, who shuddered in response. “I heard it had something to do with the father,” Marie Wolcott told her favorite barista, leaning over the counter to add, “I heard he was the one who killed Lenny.” While watering the flowers in her front lawn, paying no attention to the gathering storm clouds that basked everything in an aquarium light, Diane Pulshalski told the mailman that she heard Lenny was drunk: “Stumbling down the middle of the road in the dead of the night. You believe that? If you ask me, he deserved what he got. Should’ve stayed on the sidewalk.”
Paul Steiman was the first to tell me about Lenny, heedlessly bringing it up as an inconsequential anecdote in-between describing his brother’s new motorcycle and recalling the time he caught Mrs. Power’s slipping a flask out of her purse during study hall. I shrugged when I heard the news, asking Paul how it happened. “Fucking hit and run,” Paul said, kicking the same rock he had been kicking for the past six blocks, “Pretty wild, right?” By the time Paul and I reached Harold High’s front parking lot, the conversation had drifted to the shape and size of Bethany Kohler’s tits, the news of Lenny death already fading.
The memorial assembly at Harold High felt like a perturbed formality. The air in the darkened auditorium was tense, conflicted. It didn’t help that the accident had occurred while Lenny was walking to his mother’s grave, holding a bouquet of roses he stole from the local grocery store.
The principal of Harold High made a brief speech filled with neutral generalizations, referring to Lenny as “a young man we all knew and will miss.” Students uncomfortably shifted in their seats, knowing that the young man being talked about had earned the nickname The Hound of Harold for his unruly temper. Teachers avoided eye contact, shuffling through the aisles and checking their watches, knowing that the young man being talked about had sexually molested a junior high girl underneath the bleachers at the Harold Hawk’s homecoming game.
I spent the summer after Lenny’s death going to keggers in unfinished basements. I lost my virginity in the backseat of a used sedan. I broke my wrist hopping over a cemetery fence. I didn’t think about Lenny McCarther once. I didn’t miss him.
In later years, I’d look back on my yearbook and come across his picture. It would take a second to conjure up a memory of who Lenny was: the kid who kicked the chair out from under me in study hall or the kid who chucked the basketball at my face in gym class or the kid who killed Stacey Peterson’s pet rabbit or the kid who use to piss in the bathroom sink or the kid who said he hoped that Billy Knight died after Billy got bit by a rattlesnake or the kid who would whip his dick out in the back of the bus.
When I would run into Paul at AA meetings, I’d sometimes ask him, “You remember Lenny McCarther?” Paul would look at me blankly, his shaky hands pushing his glasses up the brim of his nose.
“Lenny McCarther. He was in our class. He died in a hit and run.”
“Oh, Lenny McCarther,” Paul would say, nodding his head. “Yes, yes, Lenny McCarther – The Hound of Harold. That kid was a real asshole.”