Nick and Finn

I just finished a novel about old friends that was recommended by an old friend. He thought I would like it and I did. That’s the thing about old friends – they know you.

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Traveller is a novel by Ron McLarty. It’s a story split between a nostalgic recanting of the protagonist’s high school gang and a murder that takes thirty years to be committed. A good novel can take over my thinking almost to the point of possession. Since I started this book I have been thinking about my own youth and narrating it in Ron McLarty’s voice. And I have never met him. I don’t even know what he sounds like.

One of the main themes of Traveller is bullying. Not just getting elbowed in the corridor between classes but the, just short of mortal peril, type bullying. It’s a theme in a lot of American high school fiction. I don’t know if I was just really lucky or if American authors are prone to hyperbole but I never experienced much bullying. Saying that, a scene in McLarty’s book reminded me of an incident at my senior prom.

Even though he was 17/18 like the rest of us Nick Finellie, due to some sort of congenital disease, looked like he was 13 – just. I’m sure he never forgot what he looked like but often we did. He was a great guy, full of life. We never told him at the time but we loved him. At the senior prom he found himself alone in the men’s room with a group of thuggish guys from another school’s prom being held in a wing of the same venue. When they pointed out that Nick looked like he was an 8th grader in a Halloween tuxedo, it wasn’t anything the feisty Finellie didn’t know already– he probably pushed first but can you blame him? Just as things could have gotten bad for Nick – Mark Finnery came in. If Nick was the smallest in our class, Finn was definitely the largest. The natural center on the football team, Mark was not fat – he was just big. He sized up the situation and walked over to the largest of Nick’s tormenters, who grew smaller with every step. He didn’t shout, he didn’t push, he didn’t punch, he didn’t even threaten. He just took the carnation from the guy’s lapel and ate it. They all backed out of the restroom happy to be alive.

Nick’s dead. The same condition that stopped him from growing meant that his heart didn’t last as long as the rest of ours. I don’t know what Fin is doing – I hope he’s a diplomat.

Traveller by Ron McLarty is a good read – give it a go.

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