"Bees," I said. "Strangers. Strange foods. Fridays. Darkness." I sit next to my friend Stan on the front steps of my house, listing.
My best friend Stan eyes me suspiciously. "Darkness? Only little kids are afraid of the dark."
"No, it's true," I reply. "I've seen it. One time, I turned off the light while he was sleeping, and when he woke up, he screamed. I heard him tell her that he felt like he was suffocating."
"Man, your dad is weird. I thought grown-ups were only supposed to be afraid of boring stuff, like taxes," Stan says.
"You're an idiot. No one is afraid of taxes. Taxes are when the government takes your money. That makes people mad, not scared," I say.
"Whatever. My point is, I don't get it. Your dad is old, but he's still scared of baby stuff."
I sigh and rub my forehead with my hand, feeling pretty old myself. I feel that way a lot. Stan and I have actually had this conversation many times before, the one where he tells me how weird my dad is like I don't already know. I still remember sneezing without covering my mouth when I was four and seeing the look of horror on my dad's face. I've always known.
I pick up a rock off the ground. I can't see the germs covering it, but I knew they were there. I rubbed the rock between my hands. I felt like putting it in my mouth, but I dont. Unlike my dad, I would rather the whole world didn't know I am a weirdo. Instead, I thrpw the rock into the street. It makes a soft plinking sound as it hit the pavement. I pick up another.
"Has he always been like that?" Stan asks. He knew I would rather talk about something else, but he also knew I would answer. I am willing to put up with a lot to keep my only friend.
"No." I think of the yellowing photo album shoved under my bed. Mom and Dad, wedding cake all over their faces, frosting in their nostrils. Both smiling. "Not always." I threw another rock into the street. "Let's go the park and play ball." I eye the sun, halfway to the horizon. "I have to be home before dark."
It's 7:05 pm. The sky is still pink, not black, so I figure I have a few minutes to spare. I doubt there has ever been a kid who loved Daylight Savings Time as much as me. Dad is in the kitchen, making dinner. He pulls the tray of lasagna out of the package, then turns.
"Hey, Sport." He turns back, peels off the plastic.
"Hey, Dad." I realize my shoes are still on, so I quickly backtrack into the entryway and slide them off. He doesn't seem to have noticed. Crisis averted.
"Sorry it's lasagna again," he says. "I forgot to send in the grocery order yesterday. I just sent it, so the new food will be here tomorrow. I got the chicken patties that you like."
"Thanks," I say. I don't really like the chicken patties, not anymore. I don't like lasagna anymore either. Or chicken pot pies, or enchiladas, or mac and cheese, or any of the other dishes in the oven-baked rotation. But Dad won't use the stove, we don't have a microwave, and I have no one to teach me how to cook. So.
"Dad, I have to talk to you about something," I say. He stops opening a can of green beans and looks at me. He raises one bushy eyebrow.
I take a deep breath. "It's the class trip."