The other day I was looking through my bookshelf and came across one of my favorite short stories, The Body by Stephen King. This of course the story that one of my all time favorite movies was based on, Stand By Me. I hadn’t read the book, or even watched the movie in ages. In fact, I’m not sure when the last time I even thought of them was.
The great thing about a favorite book, much like a favorite song, is how quickly it can take you away. An author like Stephen King or a song like Stand By Me, has a tendency to be so perfect that you somehow feel like you’re in another time and another place a million light years from where you reside in reality. I opened up the book, turned on the soundtrack and let the familiar words flow over me, like hearing an old friends voice on the phone after a million years. The strange thing was the place I started picturing in my mind was not the summer of 1959 in a town called Castle Rock, but the summer of 1986 in another small town. My small town, Livermore.
Suddenly the pictures of my mind weren’t of the train tracks that I watched River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton hike down that summer a million times at the Vine Theater, but the train tracks that ran behind my house. The ones where Mikey Perry lost his life a couple summers later. The tracks I would later cross every day of my high school career at least twice, until I got my license anyway. Those tracks, that old hardcover version of Different Seasons (the book that the story The Body was in), my sister, a certain movie soundtrack, and of course my best friend and next door neighbor, Laura. Hiking down the tracks as far as we could without actually ending up in the hills of the Altamont Pass.
I remember my dad putting our old green army tent in our front yard and the three of us would camp out in the front yard. I remember the hum of the air conditioner, the dreaded countdown for school to start, and the soundtrack to Stand By Me ALWAYS playing. Pictures of River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton pasted all over me and my sister’s room. That summer of ’86. All of these things came across my mind like a flash as I read those first pages of The Body. Tears slowly started to well beneath the surface. I quickly, without thinking about it, flipped the pages of the book until I came to the part where Gordie describes reading about Chris’s death.
Laura died in October of 2005 from cancer. I hadn’t spoken to her since right after Patrick was born, and even then it was only via email. I heard through myspace & my sister actually, that she had passed away. I guess her getting sick, getting diagnosed and passing away, all happened very quickly. My daughter was only 7 months old, I was busy chasing around 2 year old son, and it was the Day after Thanksgiving that they had her memorial service in Modesto. I didn’t go. It’s strange how the little decisions you make on a whim sometimes haunt you forever. I should have gone.
To this day whenever I hear that oh so familiar opening to Stand By Me I think of this line from the movie, “Although I hadn’t seen him in more than ten years I know I’ll miss him forever. I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anybody?”
So as we all celebrate Thanksgiving, I can’t help but be thankful for my childhood. My warm sweet memories and the good friends that have touched my life.
I guess my following of Wil Wheaton on Twitter has less to do with “Wil Wheaton” himself, and more to do with all the great memories he represents for me.