Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Solomon never needed to leave the house anyway. He had food. He had water. He could see the mountains from his bedroom window, and his parents were so busy all the time that he pretty much got to be sole ruler of the house. Jason and Valerie Reed let it be this way because, eventually, giving in to their son’s condition was the only way to make him better. So, by the time he turned sixteen, he hadn’t left the house in three years, two months, and one day. He was pale and chronically barefoot and it worked. It was the only thing that ever had.
He did his schoolwork online—usually finishing it before his parents were home every evening, with bed head and pajamas on. If the phone rang, he’d let it go to voice mail. And, on the rare occasion that someone knocked on the door, he would look through the peephole until whoever it was—a Girl Scout, a politician, or maybe a neighbor—would give up and leave. Solomon lived in the only world that would have him. And even though it was quiet and mundane and sometimes lonely, it never got out of control.
He hadn’t made the decision lightly, and it should be said that he at least tried to make it out there for as long as possible, for as long as anyone like him could. Then one day trying wasn’t enough, so he stripped down to his boxers and sat in the fountain in front of his junior high school. And right there, with his classmates and teachers watching, with the morning sun blinding him, he slowly leaned back until his entire body was underwater.
That was the last time Solomon Reed went to Upland Junior High and, within a matter of days, he started refusing to go outside altogether. It was better that way.
“It’s better this way,” he said to his mom, who begged him each morning to try harder.
And really, it was. His panic attacks had been happening since he was eleven, but over the course of just two years, he’d gone from having one every few months, to once a month, to twice, and so on. By the time he hopped into the fountain like a lunatic, he was having mild to severe panic attacks up to three times daily.
It was hell.
After the fountain, he realized what he had to do. Take away the things that make you panic and you won’t panic. And then he spent three years wondering why everyone found that so hard to understand. All he was doing was living instead of dying. Some people get cancer. Some people get crazy. Nobody tries to take the chemo away.
Solomon was born and will, in all likelihood, die in Upland, California. Upland is a suburb of Los Angeles, just about an hour east of downtown. It’s in a part of the state they call the Inland Empire, which really floats Solomon’s boat because it sounds like something from Star Trek, which is a television show he knows far too much about.
His parents, Jason and Valerie, don’t know too much about Star Trek, despite their son’s insistence that it’s a brilliant exploration of humanity. It makes him happy, though, so they’ll watch an episode with him every now and then. They even ask questions about the characters from time to time just so they can see that excited look he gets.
Valerie Reed is a dentist with her own practice in Upland, and Jason builds movie sets on a studio lot in Burbank. You’d think this would lead to some great stories from work, but Jason’s the kind of guy who thinks Dermot Mulroney and Dylan McDermott are interchangeable, so most of his celebrity sightings can’t be trusted.
A week after he turned sixteen, Solomon was growing impatient as his dad tried to tell him about an actor he’d seen on set earlier that day.
“You know . . . the guy with the mustache. From the show . . . the show with the theme song . . .”
“That’s every show on TV, Dad.”
“Oh, you know the guy. The gun guy!”
“The gun guy? What does that even mean?”
“The guy. He holds the gun in the opening thing. I know you know the guy.”
“I don’t know. Hawaii Five-O?”
“That’s a movie, not an actor,” his dad said.
“It’s a television show. How can you work in Hollywood?”
“You get your schoolwork done today?” Solomon’s mom asked as she walked into the living room.
“This morning. How was work?”
“I got a new patient today.”
“Keep bringing in those big bucks!” his dad joked.
“She says she went to Upland Junior High. Lisa Praytor? Does that ring a bell?”
“Nope,” Solomon replied.
“Nice girl. Beautiful molars. But she’s going to need to get those wisdom teeth out in a year or two or she’ll have to get braces all over again.”
“Did you have braces?” Solomon asked.
“Headgear. It was awful.”
“Oh, it all makes sense now. You want to put others through the torture of your childhood.”
“Don’t analyze me.”
“Solomon, stop analyzing your mother,” his dad said from behind a book, one of those creepy mystery novels he was always reading.
“Anyway, she’s a nice girl. Pretty too. Only one cavity.”
Solomon knew good and well what was going on. His mom was doing that thing she did where she thought talking about some pretty girl would suddenly cure her son and have him walking right out the front door and straight to high school. It was innocent enough, but he hoped she wasn’t actually that desperate for him to change. Because, if she was, then wouldn’t these little moments, built up over time, eventually collapse into a mess?
He’d heard their conversations about him a few times. When he was ten he learned that if he held a plastic cup against his bedroom wall, he could hear everything his parents were saying in their bedroom. The last time he listened was when his mom asked his dad if they were going to be “stuck with him forever.” After she said it, he didn’t hear anything for a while. Then he realized it was because she’d started crying as soon as the words left her mouth. Hours later, Solomon was still awake wondering how to answer his mother’s question. He eventually decided on a hard yes.
PART ONE • SPRING
ONE • SOLOMON REED
TWO • LISA PRAYTOR
THREE • SOLOMON REED
FOUR • LISA PRAYTOR
FIVE • SOLOMON REED
SIX • LISA PRAYTOR
SEVEN • SOLOMON REED
EIGHT • LISA PRAYTOR
NINE • SOLOMON REED
TEN • LISA PRAYTOR
ELEVEN • SOLOMON REED
TWELVE • LISA PRAYTOR
THIRTEEN • SOLOMON REED
FOURTEEN • LISA PRAYTOR
FIFTEEN • SOLOMON REED
SIXTEEN • LISA PRAYTOR
PART TWO • SUMMER—ONE MONTH LATER
SEVENTEEN • SOLOMON REED
EIGHTEEN • LISA PRAYTOR
NINETEEN • SOLOMON REED
TWENTY • LISA PRAYTOR
TWENTY-ONE • SOLOMON REED
TWENTY-TWO • LISA PRAYTOR
TWENTY-THREE • SOLOMON REED
TWENTY-FOUR • LISA PRAYTOR
TWENTY-FIVE • SOLOMON REED
TWENTY-SIX • LISA PRAYTOR
TWENTY-SEVEN • SOLOMON REED
TWENTY-EIGHT • LISA PRAYTOR
TWENTY-NINE • SOLOMON REED
THIRTY • LISA PRAYTOR
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