Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Paper Towns - Chapter 15

After parking in my driveway, we walked across the strip of grass that separated Margo’s house from
mine, just as we had Saturday. Ruthie answered the door and said her parents wouldn’t be home until six;
Myrna Mountweazel ran excited circles around us; we went upstairs. Ruthie brought us a toolbox from
the garage, and then we all stared at the door leading to Margo’s bedroom for a while. We were not handy
“What the hell are you supposed to do?” asked Ben.
“Don’t curse in front of Ruthie,” I said.
“Ruthie, do you mind if I say hell?”
“We don’t believe in hell,” she said, by way of answering.
Radar interrupted. “People,” he said. “People. The door.” Radar dug out a Phillips-head screwdriver
from the mess of a toolbox and knelt down, unscrewing the locking doorknob. I grabbed a bigger screwdriver
and tried to unscrew the hinges, but there didn’t seem to be any screws involved. I looked at the
door some more. Eventually, Ruthie got bored and went downstairs to watch TV.
Radar got the doorknob loose, and we each, in turn, peered inside at the unpainted, unfinished wood
around the knob. No message. No note. Nothing. Annoyed, I moved onto the hinges, wondering how to
open them. I swung the door open and shut, trying to understand its mechanics. “That poem is so damned
long,” I said. “You’d think old Walt could have taken a line or two to tell us how to unscrew the door
itself from its jamb.”
Only when he responded did I realize Radar was sitting at Margo’s computer. “According to Omnictionary,”
he said, “we’re looking at a butt hinge. And you just use the screwdriver as a lever to pop out
the pin. Incidentally, some vandal has added that butt hinges function well because they are powered by
farts. Oh, Omnictionary. Wilt thou ever be accurate?”
Once Omnictionary had told us what to do, doing it proved surprisingly easy. I got the pin off each of
the three hinges and then Ben pulled the door away. I examined the hinges, and the unfinished wood of
the doorway. Nothing.
“Nothing on the door,” Ben said. Ben and I placed the door back in place, and Radar pounded in the
pins with the screwdriver’s handle.
Radar and I went over to Ben’s house, which was architecturally identical to mine, to play a game called
Arctic Fury. We were playing this game-within-a-game where you shoot each other with paintballs on
a glacier. You received extra points for shooting your opponents in the balls. It was very sophisticated.
“Bro, she’s definitely in New York City,” Ben said. I saw the muzzle of his rifle around a corner, but
before I could move, he shot me between the legs. “Shit,” I mumbled.
Radar said, “In the past, it seems like her clues have pointed to a place. She tells Jase; she leaves us
clues involving two people who both lived in New York City most of their lives. It does make sense.”
Ben said, “Dude, that’s what she wants.” Just as I was creeping up on Ben, he paused the game. “She
wants you to go to New York. What if she arranged to make that the only way to find her? To actually
“What? It’s a city of like twelve million people.”
“She could have a mole here,” Radar said. “Who will tell her if you go.”
“Lacey!” Ben said. “It’s totally Lacey. Yes! You gotta get on a plane and go to New York City right
now. And when Lacey finds out, Margo will pick you up at the airport. Yes. Bro, I am going to take you
to your house, and you’re gonna pack, and then I’m driving your ass to the airport, and you’re gonna put
a plane ticket on your emergencies-only credit card, and then when Margo finds out what a badass you
are, the kind of badass Jase Worthington only dreams about being, all three of us will be taking hotties
to prom.”
I didn’t doubt there was a flight to New York City leaving shortly. From Orlando, there’s a flight to
everywhere leaving shortly. But I doubted everything else. “If you call Lacey . . . ” I said.
“She’s not going to confess!” Ben said. “Think of all the misdirection they used—they probably only
acted like they were fighting so you wouldn’t suspect she was the mole.”
Radar said, “I don’t know, that doesn’t really add up.” He kept talking, but I was only half listening.
Staring at the paused screen, I thought it over. If Margo and Lacey were fake-fighting, did Lacey
fake-break-up with her boyfriend? Had she faked her concern? Lacey had been fielding dozens of
emails—none with real information—from the flyers her cousin had put in record stores in New York.
She was no mole, and Ben’s plan was idiotic. Still, the mere idea of a plan appealed to me. But there
were only two and a half weeks left of school, and I’d miss at least two days if I went to New York—not
to mention my parents would kill me for putting a plane ticket on my credit card. The more I thought
about it, the dumber it was. Still, if I could see her tomorrow. . . . But no. “I can’t miss school,” I finally
said. I unpaused the game.
“I have a French quiz tomorrow.”
“You know,” Ben said, “your romanticism is a real inspiration.”
I played for a few more minutes and then walked across Jefferson Park back home.
My mom told me once about this crazy kid she worked with. He was a completely normal kid until he
was nine, when his dad died. And even though obviously a lot of nine-year-olds have had a lot of dead
fathers and most of the time the kids don’t go crazy, I guess this kid was an exception.
So what he did was he took a pencil and one of those steel compass things, and he started drawing
circles onto a piece of paper. All the circles exactly two inches in diameter. And he would draw the
circles until the entire piece of paper was completely black, and then he would get another piece of paper
and draw more circles, and he did this every day, all day, and didn’t pay attention in school and drew
circles all over all of his tests and shit, and my mom said that this kid’s problem was that he had created
a routine to cope with his loss, only the routine became destructive. So anyway, then my mom made
him cry about his dad or whatever and the kid stopped drawing circles and presumably lived happily
ever after. But I think about the circles kid sometimes, because I can sort of understand him. I always
liked routine. I suppose I never found boredom very boring. I doubted I could explain it to someone like
Margo, but drawing circles through life struck me as a kind of reasonable insanity.
So I should have felt fine about not going to New York—it was a dumb idea, anyway. But as I went
about my routine that night and the next day at school, it ate away at me, as if the routine itself was
taking me farther from reuniting with her.


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