The Music of What Happens - Bill Konigsberg

There’s this thing my dad taught me when I was a kid. One time when I was eight, and he was swinging me around the living room by my ankles. Man I used to love that, flying free with that centrifugal force, knowing that if my dad let me go I’d go flying. He got a little wild this one time I guess, and my head thwacked against the armoire where we keep board games.

The world went spinny and a sharp pain radiated across my skull. I was shocked too. Which I guess is why I didn’t cry right away. But then I did.

“This is when you warrior up,” he said as my tears fell. “Pain doesn’t mean that much.”

I sat on the floor crying and rubbing the spot on my forehead that would soon turn into a purple bruise in the shape of Texas just above my right eye. Kept wailing and waiting for my mom to come and make it all feel better. But I guess she was out buying groceries, because she didn’t come. For the longest time. And Dad turned on the TV and ignored me. He wasn’t the perfect dad while he lived with us, but he was right about this one thing. My tears dried, my headache went away, and I sat down next to him and watched the end of the Cardinals game, and when he cracked a joke about how Kurt Warner’s wife looked like a boy, I laughed a little. I came away realizing I had powers I didn’t know I had.

I was a freakin’ warrior.

That’s the lesson I’m thinking about, nine years later, as I stand here at the Gilbert Farmers’ Market with my mom, freaked out about whatever the hell last night was. I’m thinking about the shit show that went down when I skulked in at six in the morning to my mom standing there, arms crossed, brow furrowed fierce. As I look around the market, I’m realizing that I could freak the fuck out about everything, or I could warrior up. I force a smile, choosing the latter.

And when my mom’s enthusiasm for grass-fed beef makes her start saying creepy things she probably doesn’t mean to the seller guy, I decide it’s time for this warrior to wander off on my own.

“I can’t wait until I get your beef in my stew,” she says, and since she’s my mom and that’s disgusting, I say, “Uh, I’m gonna hit the food trucks.”

She glances my way and says, “You watch yourself, Maximo. No more trouble, you hear?”

Cumin. Creosote. The bleating of cicadas and my heartbeat, pounding. No. Nope.

I nod, gulp, and hurry away. The fine people of the Gilbert Farmers’ Market do not need to know my business.

I love the Saturday morning farmers’ market. I know it’s weird and I’d never tell Betts and Zay-Rod, but I dig the friendly people, the parade of cute dogs, the booths giving free samples.

Organic cotton candy is like, really? I pass them up because sugar is sugar, organic or not. I like the hot sauce guys, Homeboys. Anything spicy is good to me, and they give you chips to sample the sauces, so. Double win. I’m a closet foodie. The Amigos don’t know, but at home I will sometimes cook dinner. Mom’s the tamale queen, but I like to cook Asian, Italian, French. It’s fun to experiment in the kitchen. Give me some garlic, soy, and sugar, and I can whip up some magic with just about any protein.

I try a few samples and head to the food trucks, because everything tastes better coming off a truck. I’ve sampled them all. There’s a kettle corn truck, a waffle truck — my favorite — a burrito truck, and one that makes ceviche. And then there’s this new one at the end of the aisle.

The exterior is dirty and faded white, and it says Coq Au Vinny across the top in bloodred Comic Sans lettering, which looks a little amateurish. There’s an angry-looking cartoon chicken standing there with its arms crossed and its eyebrows raised, like it’s about to peck someone’s head off. Above it is an upside-down fryer, held by a short, squat Mario Brothers kind of guy. He’s using the fryer as a chicken catcher, like he’s about to capture the angry bird.

I walk closer to check out their menu. That’s when I see the skinny kid who sits in the back of my AP Language and Composition in the ordering window, looking