Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Paper Towns - Chapter 5

“Part Six,” Margo said once we were driving again. She was waving her fingernails through the air, almost
like she was playing piano. “Leave flowers on Karin’s doorstep with apologetic note.”
“What’d you do to her?”
“Well, when she told me about Jase, I sort of shot the messenger.”
“How so?” I asked. We were pulled up to a stoplight, and some kids in a sports car next to us were
revving their engine—as if I was going to race the Chrysler. When you floored it, it whimpered.
“Well, I don’t remember exactly what I called her, but it was something along the lines of ‘sniveling,
repulsive, idiotic, backne-ridden, snaggletoothed, fat-assed bitch with the worst hair in Central Florida—
and that’s saying something.’”
“Her hair is ridiculous,” I said.
I know. That was the only thing I said about her that was “true. When you say nasty things about
people, you should never say the true ones, because you can’t really fully and honestly take those back,
you know? I mean, there are highlights. And there are streaks. And then there are skunk stripes.”
As I drove up to Karin’s house, Margo disappeared into the way-back and returned with the bouquet of
tulips. Taped to one of the flowers’ stems was a note Margo’d folded to look like an envelope. She handed
me the bouquet once I stopped, and I sprinted down a sidewalk, placed the flowers on Karin’s doorstep,
and sprinted back.
“Part Seven,” she said as soon as I was back in the minivan. “Leave a fish for the lovely Mr. Worthington.”
“I suspect he won’t be home yet,” I said, just the slightest hint of pity in my voice.
“I hope the cops find him barefoot, frenzied, and naked in some roadside ditch a week from now,”
Margo answered dispassionately.
“Remind me never to cross Margo Roth Spiegelman,” I mumbled, and Margo laughed.
“Seriously,” she said. “We bring the fucking rain down on our enemies.”
“Your enemies,” I corrected.
“We’ll see,” she answered quickly, and then perked up and said, “Oh, hey, I’ll handle this one. The
thing about Jason’s house is they have this crazy good security system. And we can’t have another panic
“Um,” I said.
Jason lived just down the road from Karin, in this uber-rich subdivision called Casavilla. All the houses in
Casavilla are Spanish-style with the red-tile roofs and everything, only they weren’t built by the Spanish.
They were built by Jason’s dad, who is one of the richest land developers in Florida. “Big, ugly homes
for big, ugly people,” I told Margo as we pulled into Casavilla.
“No shit. If I ever end up being the kind of person who has one kid and seven bedrooms, do me a
favor and shoot me.”
We pulled up in front of Jase’s house, an architectural monstrosity that looked generally like an oversize
Spanish hacienda except for three thick Doric columns going up to the roof. Margo grabbed the
second catfish from the backseat, uncapped a pen with her teeth, and scrawled in handwriting that didn’t
look much like hers:
MS’s love For you: it Sleeps With the Fishes “Listen, keep the car on,” she said. She put Jase’s
WPHS baseball hat on backward.
“Okay,” I said.
“Keep it in drive,” she said.
“Okay,” I said, and felt my pulse rising. In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the
nose, out through the mouth. Catfish and spray paint in hand, Margo threw the door open, jogged across
the Worthingtons’ expansive front lawn, and then hid behind an oak tree. She waved at me through the
darkness, and I waved back, and then she took a dramatically deep breath, puffed her cheeks out, turned,
and ran.
She’d only taken one stride when the house lit up like a municipal Christmas tree, and a siren started
blaring. I briefly contemplated abandoning Margo to her fate, but just kept breathing in through the nose
and out through the mouth as she ran toward the house. She heaved the fish through a window, but the
sirens were so loud I could barely even hear the glass breaking. And then, just because she’s Margo
Roth Spiegelman, she took a moment to carefully spray-paint a lovely M on the part of the window that
wasn’t shattered. Then she was running all out toward the car, and I had a foot on the accelerator and a
foot on the brake, and the Chrysler felt at that moment like a Thoroughbred racehorse. Margo ran so fast
her hat blew off behind her, and then she jumped into the car, and we were gone before she even got the
door closed.
I stopped at the stop sign at the end of the street, and Margo said, “What the hell? Go go go go go,”
and I said, “Oh, right,” because I had forgotten that I was throwing caution to the wind and everything.
I rolled through the three other stop signs in Casavilla, and we were a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue
before we saw a cop car roar past us with its lights on.
“That was pretty hardcore,” Margo said. “I mean, even for me. To put it Q-style, my pulse is a little
“Jesus,” I said. “I mean, you couldn’t have just left it in his car? Or at least at the doorstep?”
“We bring the fucking rain, Q. Not the scattered showers.”
“Tell me Part Eight is less terrifying.”
“Don’t worry. Part Eight is child’s play. We’re going back to Jefferson Park. Lacey’s house. You
know where she lives, right?” I did, although God knows Lacey Pemberton would never deign to have
me over. She lived on the opposite side of Jefferson Park, a mile away from me, in a nice condo on
top of a stationery store— the same block the dead guy had lived on, actually. I’d been to the building
before, because friends of my parents lived on the third floor. There were two locked doors before you
even got to the condos. I figured even Margo Roth Spiegelman couldn’t break into that place.
“So has Lacey been naughty or nice?” I asked.
“Lacey has been distinctly naughty,” Margo answered. She was looking out the passenger window
again, talking away from me, so I could barely hear her. “I mean, we have been friends since kindergarten.”
“And she didn’t tell me about Jase. But not just that. When I look back on it, she’s just a terrible
friend. I mean, for instance, do you think I’m fat?”
“Jesus, no,” I said. “You’re—” And I stopped myself from saying not skinny, but that’s the whole
point of you; the point of you is that you don’t look like a boy. “You should not lose any weight.”
She laughed, waved her hand at me, and said, “You just love my big ass.” I turned from the road
for a second and glanced over, and I shouldn’t have, because she could read my face and my face said:
Well, first off I wouldn’t say it’s big exactly and second off, it is kind of spectacular. But it was more
than that. You can’t divorce Margo the person from Margo the body. You can’t see one without seeing
the other. You looked at Margo’s eyes and you saw both their blueness and their Margo-ness. In the
end, you could not say that Margo Roth Spiegelman was fat, or that she was skinny, any more than you
can say that the Eiffel Tower is or is not lonely. Margo’s beauty was a kind of sealed vessel of perfection—
uncracked and uncrackable.
“But she would always make these little comments,” Margo continued. “‘I’d loan you these shorts
but I don’t think they’d fit right on you.’ Or, ‘You’re so spunky. I love how you just make guys fall in
love with your personality.’ Constantly undermining me. I don’t think she ever said anything that wasn’t
an attempt at undermination.”
“Thank you, Annoying McMasterGrammician.”
“Grammarian,” I said.
“Oh my God I’m going to kill you!” But she was laughing.
I drove around the perimeter of Jefferson Park so we could avoid driving past our houses, just in case
our parents had woken up and discovered us missing. We drove in along the lake (Lake Jefferson), and
then turned onto Jefferson Court and drove into Jefferson Park’s little faux downtown, which felt eerily
deserted and quiet. We found Lacey’s black SUV parked in front of the sushi restaurant. We stopped a
block away in the first parking spot we could find not beneath a streetlight.
“Would you please hand me the last fish?” Margo asked me. I was glad to get rid of the fish because
it was already starting to smell. And then Margo wrote on the paper wrapper in her lettering: your
Friendship with ms Sleeps with The fishes We wove our way around the circular glow of the streetlights,
walking as casually as two people can when one of them (Margo) is holding a sizable fish wrapped in
paper and the other one (me) is holding a can of blue spray paint. A dog barked, and we both froze, but
then it was quiet again, and soon we were at Lacey’s car.
“Well, that makes it harder,” Margo said, seeing it was locked. She reached into her pocket and
pulled out a length of wire that had once been a coat hanger. It took her less than a minute to jimmy the
lock open. I was duly awed.
Once she had the driver’s-side door open, she reached over and opened my side. “Hey, help me get
the seat up,” she whispered. Together we pulled the backseat up. Margo slipped the fish underneath it,
and then she counted to three, and in one motion we slammed the seat down on the fish. I heard the
disgusting sound of catfish guts exploding. I let myself imagine the way Lacey’s SUV would smell after
just one day of roasting in the sun, and I’ll admit that a kind of serenity washed over me. And then
Margo said, “Put an M on the roof for me.”
I didn’t even have to think about it for a full second before I nodded, scrambled up onto the back
bumper, and then leaned over, quickly spraying a gigantic M all across the roof. Generally, I am opposed
to vandalism. But I am also generally opposed to Lacey Pemberton—and in the end, that proved to be
the more deeply held conviction. I jumped off the car. I ran through the darkness—my breath coming
fast and short—for the block back to the minivan. As I put my hand on the steering wheel, I noticed my
pointer finger was blue. I held it up for Margo to see. She smiled, and held out her own blue finger, and
then they touched, and her blue finger was pushing against mine softly and my pulse failed to slow. And
then after a long time, she said, “Part Nine— downtown.”
It was 2:49 in the morning. I had never, in my entire life, felt less tired.


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