It started out like any other day. Nobody wants to believe that. People who don’t know what they’re talking about say, “Well you must have missed something,” or “how could you not know?” I think it makes them feel better. I think it makes them feel that if they had been me, if they’d been in the same place at the same time, they would have somehow done it better than I did.
I know I didn’t do it perfect, but I did the best that I could—at least I did something—and I hope that’s enough.
That day, Mac was already at the old lodge in the park when I came up the hill. I could see her up on the balcony off the main level. On the front of the old building the door is at ground level and you can walk right inside. On the back, because the lodge is built into the hill, the main part is two stories in the air, so the balcony is maybe fifteen or sixteen feet off the ground.
We weren’t even supposed to be on the balcony, nobody was, because there were “issues” with some of the decking boards. That’s city government-speak for some of the wood was rotting. There was a chain blocking the bottom of the outside stairs. A yellow Keep Out, Danger sign hung from the heavy metal links.
An old lady with a walker could have stepped over that chain. Here’s a hint, people: If you want to keep kids out of somewhere, you have to do better than just a droopy chain. And just so you know, those Keep Out, Danger signs, they just make some people more determined to get in. People like Mac, for example. Okay, and me. Call it teenage rebellion. That’s what my mother calls it.
So, anyway, Mac was there first, up on the rotten wood balcony, on top of the railing. Yeah, I mean on the railing, as in walking across it like she was that guy who wanted to walk over the Grand Canyon on a tightrope, although Mac was on a six-inch wide piece of wood instead. Now, see, some people would say that was a sign, but I don’t think it was. Mac was always getting up on that railing, holding out her arms and walking from one end of the balcony all the way to the other side.
Sometimes she’d close her eyes. Once she stopped in the middle and pretended she was jumping rope. She scared the piss out of me every time she got up there, but I knew not to let on that it bothered me because if I did, then Mac would do something more over the top and maybe she would fall.
I stepped over the chain and went up the stairs, getting to the top just as Mac got to the end of the railing. My heart was pounding in my chest, the way it always did when she got up there, but I just looked at her with a half smile and said, “Hey Mac.”
“Hey Daniel,” she said. She jumped down and pointed at the Tim’s bag I was holding. “Whatcha got?”
I opened the top and she looked inside. Then she looked at me. “Okay, so what do you want?” she said, glaring at me through her bangs.
I pulled the bag away and went over to sit against the wall of the building. “I don’t want anything,” I said. “Geez, Mac, it’s just a freakin’ donut.”
“Yeah, well since when do you buy me donuts?”
“I don’t,” I said. “But they’ve got this contest thing they’re doing and big whoop, I won a chocolate glazed donut, which I don’t like but you do, and so I figured I’d give it to you but if you don’t want it, I can just find a squirrel or something to eat it instead.”
Mac came over and sat down beside me, bumping me with her shoulder. “You are such a girl sometimes, Danny-boy,” she said with a grin. She took the chocolate glazed donut out of the bag and I pulled out the dutchie I’d bought for myself and we sat there taking turns drinking the coffee I’d gotten too.
So maybe there was a sign after all. Maybe the fact that I’d won a stupid donut at Tim’s—and believe me I never win anything—and of all the donuts they sell it was Mac’s all-time favorite. Maybe that did mean something. At the time I thought was it was just a donut. Maybe I was wrong.