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An Excerpt from Trombone Answers


   Another nice thing about being 13 at the Fry was that you could go to the Duck Pond and think you were doing something hilariously ironic that the people working there had never seen before: “Oh look. Some eighth-graders are standing in the line with the kindergarteners. How utterly droll.” Finley paid his quarter and picked a plastic duck out of the big metal tub of water. His duck had a three written on the bottom, so he got to reach into the box with the three on it. “A whistle!” he cried when he saw his prize, and he danced around as if he’d just hit a grand slam to win the World Series. I had to wait till they dumped some prizes from the number one box into the number three box, then drew a duck with a two on it. From the corresponding box I pulled out a six-sided die with sayings on each side. “Joe, check out this dice,” I said. “‘Avoid the appearance of sin.’ ‘Remember to turn the other cheek.’ ‘Honor thy father and mother.’ These are all good moral things to do—where’s the sport in that?”

   “Are you sure? Maybe one side says ‘Go on a killing spree’ so it’s like a one-in-six chance.”

   I checked. It didn’t. The other sides said “Obey your elders,” “Copyright 1971 Christian Novelties Ltd,” and “Choose a date who will make a good mate.” I slipped the die into my pocket, but that last one, that clever little rhyme, sank deeply into my subconscious and began its long, long wait for the right time to jump back out and haunt me.

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