Please be aware that this story contains some harsh language.
Jimmy never listened when we tried to tell him that ‘Acceleratron’ wasn’t a word. He would just shrug, and shake his head, as though he had a Ph.D in this subject and we were all naïve, uninformed students. “Acceleratron,” he would swagger, his words tinged with a hefty dose of southern accent.
An ‘Acceleratron,’ as he explained one morning over breakfast, was a force of nature that made life speed up and become more concentrated. “Pr’tend that life is like sugar, right?” He would say. “An ‘acceleratron’ is like maple syrup. All that sugar crammed into just one bottle, and then poured over anything you like. It makes life happen a hell of a lot more, and it makes life a hell of a lot more awesome.” He reached for the butter and slathered a hefty load onto his pancakes before dumping syrup over the cascading breakfast. “I love maple syrup, because it’s an Acceleratron.”
Jimmy had a way with words that left me hesitant and skeptical, and yet, I think that was why we got along so well. For all of his zealous enthusiasm for made-up words and maple syrup sized doses of life, I was there on the other end to balance him out. But every once in a while, he would say something and tip the scale.
After we ate breakfast, we loaded up our rifles and went out to the woods, past the end of his street. Heavy forests blanketed Youngsville like carpet on the floor of the state of North Carolina, and Jimmy saw it as his duty to spend his time absorbing the silence.
“Helps me grow my thoughts,” He muttered in a hushed tone, so as not to disturb his budding deliberations.
The forest had always been a place for me to escape, to get away from my thoughts for a while and enjoy the distance between them. But for Jimmy, the forest was a locked safe where he could pull his thoughts out, without risk of them running away.
We walked a mile into the woods, quietly pacing and positioning as we went. Finally, we found a spot to hold out. The silence grew, and with it, Jimmy’s musings.
“You gonna start back with your pop after graduation?” He asked.
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
“What’re you gonna do, then?”
“I’m thinkin’ about moving.”
“Movin’? Where to?”
“Talkin’ to a company outta Chicago. They got some big stuff goin’ on.”
“Shit.” He muttered, and I could tell that the silence had halted his once-lush musings. “Shee-it. Chicago’s a damn crazy acceleratron.”
“Jimmy, acceleratron is not a word. You just sound stupid when you use it.”
“It is, too, a word.”
“No, it’s not.”
“You move to Chicago, it’s gonna either be like rocket launching, or like jumping off a ten story. There’s no in-betweeners when you got an acceleratron in the mix.”
I shook my head.
“Not worried about it.”
“Well, you should be. Damn acceleratrons’ll make you do all kinds of shit. They make you start to think differently, they make you start to see things that aren’t there, or imagine that you can do things that you can’t. They make you reconsider shit that you ain’t got no business reconsidering.”
I scanned the tree line, letting Jimmy go on his rant.
“You remember that girl, Monica? She was a damn bad acceleratron for me. I had my summer planned out. I was takin’ a road trip. I was going places, gonna get the hell outta Youngsville and not be back until th’ morning of the first day of senior year. But once she started acceratin’ my life, then BAM! Plans out the window.”
I nodded, absently. I didn’t want this talk. Not right now. I pretended that Jimmy’s voice hadn’t scared away all possibility of seeing wildlife in the near vicinity.
Jimmy shrugged, and stood, pissed off.
“You ain’t even listenin’!”
He threw his rifle.
And a loud bang snapped everything into shattered pieces of time. The gun sprayed a volley and smacked into Jimmy’s flesh.
Jimmy collapsed, sprawling, gripping his shoulder, and screaming. I lunged toward him and saw his shoulder spilling over with a deep, dark, crimson. I took my coat off and wrapped it around his shoulder. Profanity flew from my lips, and as Jimmy slowly calmed, I stood, running my bloody fingers through my hair in shock. I heaved, adrenaline coursing through my veins. I shook.
I called an ambulance and carried Jimmy through the woods, back to the house. The lights and the sirens came blaring through the silence of the forest, ruining any possibility of budding thoughts or profound musings. They carted Jimmy into the ambulance, and I watched as they shut the doors.
“He’ll be okay.” One of them looked at me and told me. “He’s gonna be okay.”
The ambulance raced away.
I was a naïve, uninformed student of vocabulary; acceleratron is a word.