The Book of the Three


Junie was a special breed at County. He was a part of us but he was also not a part of us. He did not look different from us. Not much. Except of course his coloring and his indeterminate gray eyes but we had long since stopped seeing such things. His hair was a mop—coarser and curlier, yes, but moppy, just like ours. He wore his letter jacket, just like we did. He wore his faded blue jeans. They were frayed at the bottoms, just like ours were. He talked like us, too, when he talked. He did not talk much. He went with us to the Mounds at night. Sometimes even on a school night. Some of us drank beers. Some of us pretended to drink beers. Junie pretended, mostly. He laughed with us. We were just boys. Bigger ones. We said the things bigger boys say. Sometimes Junie said them too. We loved Junie. Junie was one of us and he was not one of us which was just what we loved about him. We could tell Junie was going places. This was it for us but not for him. We knew that. That was why we loved him. Part of it was his station, how he had the Reverend and the Missus Temple adopt him and save him from a life of simple obscurity. A life he said he only barely remembered. Like he dreamed someone else’s dream. But also his home life wasn’t all peaches and a bag of chips and most of us knew what that was like. Missus Temple had slowly retreated into herself and Junie never much liked the preacherman and the preacherman never much liked him. We learned just not to ask why. It did not matter to whom he belonged. He belonged to us. Anyway. Brother Paul sometimes said he’d dug Junie from the ground and we almost half believed him. But the main reason Junie was going places was ball. By then Junie did more than chuck it up there. He pitched. He worked fast. He changed speeds. He threw strikes. He was playing chess. Everybody else was playing This Little Piggy Went to Market. Junie was smarter than everybody. Not just on the mound at Kyle, Jr., either. He did his schoolwork, for one. He did it on the sly. He did not think we knew he did it, but we knew. In ninth grade, all the honor rollers got a rose at the last assembly. Junie had to walk up there to get his rose. We gave him hell about it. The next year Mrs. Dalrymple called and called and called his name. He did not go up. Finally she went and found him out among the rest of us in the bleachers. She handed him his rose. The next two years there was an arrangement set up. The school got a new gymnasium. There was a mean old cougar painted on at center court. It was supersized and it looked real. There was a shiny scoreboard too. It had “Cougars — Guest” on it. The old one just had “Home—Guest.” Which was just what everybody else had. Plus the school library got a brand new set of Encyclopedia Britannicas and a bunch of posters about how we should read more. Mrs. Dalrymple mailed Junie a certificate of achievement. We knew because she told us. She would search us out in the halls when the time came to mail the certificate. Do you know what this is boys? This is Junie Temple’s certificate of achievement for having a perfect report card and perfect attendance and also no library fines or after school detentions. I am putting it in the mail today. He says I have to mail it because he does not want to make out like he is special. I just think that is awful. Don’t you boys? Is it not awful a boy as talented as Junie thinks he will be shunned by his peers for high achievement? She thought it would shame us. She said “peers” like it was a turd she was chewing on. She was not an altogether pleasant lady. But it did not shame us. It just made us proud we were Junie’s crew. We were his peers. Amen.