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Joseph was a hard man to fool, cunning, and always assuming the worst of people. If I had still been perceiving people as animals, I think he would've been a snake. But for some reason he believed me, probably because he couldn't imagine anyone cutting class for the purpose of walking around in the freezing rain.

"You don't look so good," Joseph said. "Maybe you shouldn't be walking around in the rain."

"No, no. It's helping me, really."

"Go back to the nurse's office and lie down for a while," he ordered.

"OK," I said, though of course I no intention of doing so. He left me standing there and I watched as he drove away down the street.

I knew I had to get the hell out of the neighborhood after that encounter. And anyway, by this time, school was about ready to be over, so I figured I'd better get in my car and get out of there before everybody started coming out and getting in their cars--which would make it that much harder to drive out of there. Plus, I might have had to talk to some of my friends, answer questions about where I'd been, put up with their teasing, whatever. I wasn't in the mood for conversation.

Though I hadn't been paying much attention to where I was, it turned out, like I had suspected, that I was near the school, and even closer to the lot where I had parked my car, about a block away from school. I walked through the lot to my car and quickly got in, but once in, I was shivering so much I couldn't drive. Luckily, I had an extra shirt in the car, and I put that on, and that helped a lot.

Though I was still too wasted to be driving, I started up the car anyway. Then I noticed that the back window was all fogged up; I couldn't see a thing. I turned on the defogger and waited for it to clear up. It seemed to be taking too long, however, and I was getting really impatient. After a couple minutes I just said the hell with it, I couldn't wait any longer. I put the car in reverse and backed out of my spot.

And I hit something. Shit. Trembling, I got out of the car to look. I'd backed the car too far backward, hadn't cut the wheels in time. I'd backed across the drive and all the way into another lane of cars, hitting a big green van right in the side. There was a huge dent in the van--like a foot and a half to two feet in diameter--where I had hit it. "Fuck!" I started cursing aloud, "Goddamn it!" And I hadn't hit it that hard either--as wasted as I was, I was certain of that. The collision hadn't put a scratch on my car. My luck to hit a goddamn van: those vans are junk.

I knew whose van it was too, since it had a sort of a school spirit-type theme: the bumper and the back window were plastered with stickers depicting our school mascot--a leprechaun, or a drunken Irishman or whatever--in various fighting poses. A blatant rip off of Notre Dame. The van belonged to Billy Ray Decker, big and stupid, an offensive guard on the football team. He's going to kick my ass, I thought. And though it's never really a good idea to fight with people who are on acid, I wasn't thinking along those lines at the time. Even if he didn't try to kick my ass, he would surely yell at me and curse me, and I just couldn't deal with such a situation, not in my present condition. I shivered just to think about it.

Then I looked around the place: nobody was in sight. It was a lucky break. I got back in my car and drove off quickly, spinning my tires on the wet pavement.

Heading out of the lot, there was a long drive along which cars were also parked. Halfway down the drive, there was the Mr. Joseph again. He was on foot this time,


   
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