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Authors: Matt Beam

Last December

BOOK: Last December
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PUFFIN CANADA

LAST DECEMBER

MATT BEAM
is a writer, photographer, and teacher living in Toronto. His young adult novels, published in Canada and the U.S., include
Earth to Nathan Blue, Can You Spell Revolution?,
and
Getting to First Base with Danalda Chase
.His first book of urban photography is titled
City Alphabet
. Matt teaches high school English and is a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

Also by Matt Beam

FICTION

Earth to Nathan Blue

Can You Spell Revolution?

Getting to First Base with Danalda Chase

PHOTOGRAPHY

City Alphabet

PUFFIN CANADA

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Canada Inc.)

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Published in Canada by Penguin Group (Canada), a division of Pearson Canada Inc., 2010
Simultaneously published in the United States by Front Street, an imprint
of Boyds Mills Press, Inc., 815 Church Street, Honesdale, Pennsylvania 18431

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (WEB)

Copyright © Matt Beam, 2009

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above,
no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

Manufactured in Canada

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION

Beam, Matt, 1970–

Last December / Matt Beam.

ISBN 978-0-14-305656-0

I. Title.

PS8603.E352L38 2010       jC813’.6        C2009-905642-9

American Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data available

Visit the Penguin Group (Canada) website at
www.penguin.ca

Special and corporate bulk purchase rates available; please see
www.penguin.ca/corporatesales
or call 1-800-810-3104, ext. 477 or 474

Last December

(December 11, 1982)

Usually, Sam, when I think of doing myself in, my synapses can’t help zipping all over the place, like that pink super-ball I used to have when I was a little kid, except there’s tons of them. But the thing is, my brain isn’t working so well today, for way too many reasons to explain, so it’s like all I have is a few really important synapses floating in my brain, like aimless asteroids in space. And even though I have only a few synapses, they just won’t go away, and one of them is the everything-is-connected synapse, which reminds me that everything I do, even picking my nose, connects to the next thing I do, and then that thing is connected to the next next thing, and then that thing is connected to the next, next, next thing, and everything feels way too crazy, especially killing myself, and then I just feel paralyzed.

So, Sam, I don’t even know what you’re going to be like (if you ever come out of Ma’s womb). Like if you are going to be secretly into science like me, or if you’re even going to go to St. Clair High School and have Mr. Davis (if he’s still around) to talk to you all excited with his big eyes and that white stuff on the corners of his mouth like he does when he talks about neutrons or Galileo or dinosaurs. Well, anyways, if you haven’t learned about them yet, synapses are the things that shoot forward to make chains inside your brain so that you can think and do things
like yawn or say the wrong thing or do yourself in. When you do yourself in, your synapses stop, and so does everything else in your body.

But somehow I just can’t imagine my synapses stopping, Sam, because even though they
are
moving slowly, they keep switching around on me, and suddenly, instead of thinking about suicide, I can’t stop worrying about the soreness on my cheek because that soreness turns into one of those deep underneath zits 99.9 percent of the time. And then I switch to thinking about what Jenny is doing right now, and I know she’s probably hating me to death and also probably studying for exams, because that’s basically what I’m supposed to be doing. And then my sex synapses take over (more on them later), and I imagine Jenny still sleeping in her bed (which I’ve never seen, Sam) and how I could probably see her emgees through her pajamas if her covers weren’t over her chest, because she probably wouldn’t be wearing her bra to bed (I don’t think).

And then, Sam, I don’t know what to think, because all these crazy thoughts shouldn’t belong in the same brain, and I get paralyzed again, and all I want to do is stop writing and give up.

I bet you’re scratching your head now, Sam. I just read what I wrote and it sounds crazy and all over the place and stupid, but kind of true at the same time. So I’m not going to cross out any of it, because Byron said that art, things like painting and writing and stuff, should have “balls-to-the-wall realness,” which he told me happens when you use your heart and instincts instead of thinking everything out and planning in your head. Besides, Sam, I want to write all this down as fast as I can, so
that I don’t forget anything important.

By the way, Byron is also the guy who told me that everything is connected and nothing is worth it, because he said that this guy called god with a small
g
is responsible for starting the universe eons ago and that god with a small
g
isn’t some guy with a beard sitting on a throne way up in the clouds controlling everything, no, because even though he started everything way way way back, he doesn’t have any idea how things are going to turn out in this stupid and crazy and chaotic universe. And as you can see, the universe isn’t the only place that’s stupid and crazy and chaotic.

The Beginning

Okay, Sam, so I’ve been staring at the ceiling and pacing my room and not studying for any of my exams and not eating any food because I still feel sick to my stomach, and it seems like writing this letter or note to you is the only thing that will stop my heart from beating like a slimy little creature trying to get out of a cage, and it’s the only thing that stops me from thinking about Jenny and Ma and Byron and doing myself in (or feeling like everyone probably wants me to), and so I guess I figure that if I’m really going to do myself in, I should sort of explain every-thing, because maybe you’ll want to know that it wasn’t your fault, and it was basically all mine.

I’d better restart at the real beginning or something, somewhere where all this will make sense, like last spring, at the end of eighth grade, because that’s when I shot up 23/8 inches, and I basically felt like I’d been abducted by aliens, like in
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
, except I didn’t get covered in a sticky cocoon,just a lot of zits. Yeah, that’s also when things started happening to me out of the blue, like when my voice shot up so high that it went silent during my biography-presentation thing about Mike Palmateer, the totally amazing Maple Leafs goaltender, and the
whole class was in stitches and falling out of their seats while I felt like I was going to die.

And because I shot up 23/8 inches that year, I grew out of my goaltending equipment, equipment Ma had saved for years to buy for me, and then she forced Mike, her stupid boyfriend at the time, to take me out to buy some new gear, but he actually didn’t. He said it was a waste of money and just found some used stuff in the classifieds and drove me out to some weird guy’s place in the boonies. Then he haggled with the guy for like a half hour, and when we drove back, all he could say was “Jesus H. Christmas, kids are expensive.” And when we got home, Ma tore a strip out of him, even though he handed her back $200, because she knew how much new pads would’ve meant to me, and she said she “couldn’t stand to see that look on my face.”

So anyways, Sam, I got someone else’s really smelly goal-tending equipment, which was also a little too big for me, and I guess, I have to admit, I was pretty happy with them anyways, even though the season was over. (I play in an outside league, not in an arena, because it’s way cheaper, because you freeze your butt off and your toes, too, and when you take your skates off, your feet burn like crazy and when you are younger you bawl your eyes out.)

Then Mike broke up with Ma about a month later in May, and Ma didn’t even cry. She said it didn’t matter because
I
was really her number one guy, and I guess I have to admit she’s always sort of called me that.

But the thing is, Sam, when Mike left, Ma didn’t have enough money for our rent, and so we had to start planning to move in the
summer. Everyone at school found out that I was leaving the area because I was too poor, because my old best friend, Josh, spread it around, and so I beat him up—I put him in a headlock until he couldn’t breathe, and then he gave in. But when I let him go, Josh called me a science dork in front of a big crowd, and everybody in school started calling me a science dork, which was only sort of true, so I basically didn’t have any friends for the rest of the year.

Maybe the best place to start is this past fall, on the first day of my freshman year, when I walked from our new apartment, 1,394 steps to my new school, St. Clair High, when I took one big step through the massive wooden doors of the school and into this whole other scary world where I didn’t know a single soul. And to be honest, that whole first day was full-time freaky because after my homeroom English class with Mrs. Reese, I saw these crazy crazy guys just down the hall from my locker.

BOOK: Last December
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