Bogsey had the accident when he was twelve. His dad, Donnie, was teaching him to drive which sounds like a terrible idea, for a twelve year old. But in deep red Oklahoma farm country, sometimes normal people did do that. They sat their kids on their lap and let them turn the steering wheel on country roads. Hill Valley was full of roads like that where you might not see anybody else for an hour and even then they were likely to recognize your car and wave and move out of the way in a big cloud of gravel dust.
He was an ugly kid. Nobody ever knew who his mom was and Donnie was rarely sober. They were a family of drunks. Bogsey had bad scraggly hair that nobody ever washed and his nose was too big and his eyes kind of bulged like a chihuahua. Just another one of those kids that you knew never would have a chance at anything because everybody around them was shit. We lived in a world that was allergic to telling people what you actually thought, where you kept your mouth shut. Nobody spoke up about any of it and so you just knew Bogsey would end up like his dad and his grandpa.
The problem that day was Donnie put Bogsey on his lap and told him to drive on the highway after Donnie had been down at Sportsman's and was several shots of tequila deep. They almost made it home, actually. But then Bogsey hit Ray John's parked tractor going about forty-five miles an hour. Ray John was out in the alfalfa taking a leak, they say he was so deaf he didn't even hear it and just went ahead and finished pissing. It was lucky he was there though or nobody might have found them for awhile.
Donnie just hit his head on the steering wheel bad. Ray John called the ambulance and he went to Memorial with a concussion, but Bogsey got thrown from the car and took a hard lick in the gravel. They took him to the hospital and our parents all called us at school. They said, it's not good it's not good, he got transferred to Tulsa General and no one knew what was happening after that. Since Donnie was all beat up Bogsey was actually transferred up there by ambulance, alone, that poor kid.
Brother Roger had a prayer service we all went to that night at the chapel and we all sweated and generally felt like it was our fault, what had happened. There was no possibility of not praying till your eyes bled out. Looking completely despondent was expected of us. Geenie Ann Malone held my hand which was the first time she had ever done that and Cudzel cried and ruined his blue shirt with the necktie. He was so fat and the shirt didn't fit anyway, not at all, so it was kind of a good thing that he ruined it. It was such an old gross looking shirt anyway and it took that night and a mortal tragedy to convince his Grandma to buy him new clothes.
Brother Phillip volunteered to drive to Tulsa that night and pray over Bogsey because he didn't have anybody else. Everybody went looking for Donnie, a couple of people to help him but more than a few to kick his ass for what he did, but he checked himself out of Memorial and left town. People say he moved to Alaska. To this day if he ever sets foot in Hill Valley some old lady or another who remembers is going to kill him, even all these years later.
Everybody was Bogsey's best friend after that, especially since he wasn't around. Cudzel and he hadn't really gotten along since that time Cudzel pooped his pants on the softball field in second grade but they were best friends after the accident, when Bogsey wasn't around. He couldn't stop talking about how much he loved him. It was complete garbage but what do you say at a moment like that. He got so sweaty and cried and you couldn't be hard on him. Geenie was the same way. We all expected the next morning to hear Bogsey was with Jesus, deader than a doornail, waiting for us at the resurrection.
The next day word got around quick, he was in a coma but nobody knew anything more, or when or if he might wake up. About two weeks went by with nothing. Then, on a Friday morning, Brother Phillip's wife Agatha began calling everyone and they to a man had started giving condolences but she had told them it was worse, it was worse, the child was alive and had woken up but Satan had entered into him.
The exact language varied depending on if you heard the story from Ethel Lewis and the Bridge club or Florence Elk of the Women Voter's League but regardless Bogsey had called Sister Agatha some variant of either a overweight gossiping heifer or a stinking sow-lipped adulteress, all of this from his hospital bed. So he was awake and full of beans but he had mortified the preacher's wife.
The language spun around town and the women all said “Oh my goodness” but behind their backs there was the tacit realization that it was true, everyone had known that Agatha was in the sack deep with the Baptist preacher Geoff Windy and she was banging Buster Sacks the owner of the Piggly Wiggly grocery on the regular in the loading bay. And apparently Bogsey had known it too. Agatha and Phillip thought Donnie was a drunkard and a cheat, though they never said so, they just scowled at him. Bogsey loved his Dad despite the fact that he was an asshole so he hated preachers in general but especially those two. That day had also told Brother Phillip that his breath smelled like beef and that secretly people called him Brother Hiccup. We said hiccup because we dared not mention farting, but Brother Phillip did not hiccup, he farted, audibly, especially when he had caught the throes of the spirit most prominently. It was completely true, all of it, we had been making hiccup jokes from the back pew for years and fart noises and our parents knew it too but everyone kept quiet because you did not mention farting in public.
Well Bogsey came back to recuperate with Lucy Wallace's family which made me jealous because of the shorts Lucy wore to school. He got back to Hill Valley just before school let out so he had the summer to recuperate. Only he didn't need much recuperating at all, unbelievably. He was Bogsey, but in a way he was so completely different. His whole personality had changed and he absolutely couldn't lie to anybody. About anything. Even normal things that you lie to people about just to get by and get along.
Something had spun around in his brain. We'd be bike riding down country roads, usually we put up with Cudzel being way behind because he was out of shape and sweaty, it was just kind of understood that you didn't give him a hard time and everybody handled it fine. But Bogsey told Cudzel he looked like a bloated walrus. That ended that. We couldn't be out there any longer. Cudzel started crying and we cut the whole thing off. Bogsey went back to the Wallace's and I sat with Geenie under a tree by the baseball field after we watched him go home.
“Cudzel is fat,” she said. “Someone ought to tell him. He eats too much and he doesn't take a bath. The girls notice. I've been reading about scurvy and I think he has it.” Geenie had always wanted to be a doctor. She loved baseball and medicine. But those were things women weren't supposed to enjoy at that time, at all, so she just read about diseases and told me about them. I had wanted to be a painter since I was little. But my parents considered the arts an inroad to homosexuality, so I kept that a secret as well.
Cudzel lived with his Grandmother who had Alzheimers and only bought ketchup and Oreos at the store. So he only ate ketchup and oreos and he got sick all the time. She didn't pay her water bill either so his odor was legendary.
“I'm not saying it isn't a problem,” I said. “I just think there's a nice way to say things like that to somebody.”
“You think getting hit in the head made him so he couldn't lie?”
I didn't have an answer. It hadn't made him stupid. Bogsey was doing great at school despite the fact that he was pissing everybody off and had no friends except us. He'd point out every flaw you ever had. He ended at least three serious relationships I can think of that year because he told girls their boyfriends were cheating. Marty Buckets broke his nose because he quite loudly called him out for copying from Lindsey Dubois during a math exam. If Marty Buckets hadn't cheated he would never made it past second grade, he was that stupid, he couldn't get dressed without copying off somebody.
Geenie was my best friend at the time. I had been in love with her since I was five and made plans to marry her since I was seven. We played baseball together and I came over to her house to look at her brother's baseball cards. We weren't supposed to be anywhere near them so I only got to look when her brother was gone. They were meticulously organized, team by team, row by row, with the little plastic covers that cost a lot of money to buy. She would steal the little blank filler cards that opened up the packs and write me notes on them at school.
We had been back at school for a month and we were sitting in her brother's room, the sun was getting low and it was just us. She had called me and told me to come over because she had something to tell me.
One thing I didn't realize about girls at the time, they're infinitely more practical. When they do think about boys they're just as bad as we are but they have to deal with a lot more stuff than we do. Anyway I had wanted Geenie to be my girlfriend for years, and she asked me over and said she wanted to talk and I had full intentions of kissing her, right there in front of Hubert's Roger Maris card, the one he kept on the mantle with the “MINT CONDITION CERTIFIED” sticker on it. Her parents were gone. We sat on the couch, she was wearing a pencil skirt and for some reason I remember her dog Marvy wouldn't stop barking outside. It was early fall but still hot weather in Oklahoma.
But that wasn't it at all. “We're moving,” she said. “You're my best friend and I wanted to be the first one to tell you. Dad got a job in Phoenix cleaning dynamite out of a museum.”
“Phoenix, Oklahoma?” Was there such a place, even?
“No, Phoenix Arizona. Like with deserts and cactus.”
“Is it far from Oklahoma?”
“Pretty far, I think. Like I don't want you to think I can't visit, ever. But it's pretty far. There's always telephones and postcards and things.” Her parents had a brown couch that they kept a plastic cover on that we always sat on in the living room. The dog was barking outside and I felt the kind of uncontrollable, unmentionable sadness that goes along with things changing, but when you're young you don't even have words for what it feels like or what that kind of emptiness means. We just sat there on the brown couch for awhile and didn't say anything. What do you say at a moment like that? You're growing up and the world of bike riding and summers and long days with nothing to do that you thought would last forever is gone now, setting like the sun, and that feeling is your first clue to it all. I wished was Bogsey, in a way, so I could tell her the truth without having a choice about it.
“I left the light on at my house,” I said. It was the dumbest thing I could have said, but I had to leave. I didn't even say goodbye. I just got back on my bike and rode home and cried. I wasn't going to let Geenie see that though. It was dark and still felt a little bit like summer and in Oklahoma in September the mosquitoes still bite so I had red welts to match my red eyes when I got home.
I was the only one of my friends who graduated from high school in Hill Valley. Bogsey only spent another six months with the Williamses. They got ahold of an aunt who lived in Broken Arrow and she took him in and he disappeared. Geenie moved and was gone fast, without a lot of explanation, just up and disappeared. Child services got involved with Cudzel and he went into foster care. I graduated, took a job in accounting in Washington State and traveled around the country. I was married for twenty years and it was terrible, we were roommates who raised children together and when they grew up and left there wasn't anything for us except to get divorced. I kept my job for the paycheck.
My life was a little bit aimless after that until one day I got a call from my director that strangely enough they wanted me to go back to Hill Valley. I hadn't seen or heard from anyone there in years. But apparently Bogsey had gone on to work in oil and gas and make a fortune in California somewhere, and he had died of cancer but left a substantial amount of money to the community center. He could have been buried anywhere but it turns out he had asked in his will to come back to Hill Valley to be buried. As it went, he owned a major stake in the accounting firm I worked for and so it fell on me to do some tax management for his gift to the city.
I decided to go to the funeral because I thought I'd be anonymous. And at first it seemed that way. No one I knew. All the people that had been there when I left years before were gone.
But then I saw Geenie Ann, standing by the casket. She was wearing a black dress, gloves, her hair long and curly just like when we were kids. She was like me, married, divorced, living in Arizona. We hadn't seen each other in forty years. We laughed about the bizarre way that life brings you back together as we stood and looked at Bogsey, all dressed in his three piece suit. He still had bulging eyes.
“He made it big, in the end. I'd never thought he'd have a shot,” I said.
“He called me a month ago and told me he was dying,” she said. “God knows he he found me. We hadn't spoken in years. He told me he had cancer and wanted to tell me about when he got thrown from the car. How it all changed.”
I was shocked. “What did he say?”
“He tried to explain it to me. He said when he was in the coma he’d had a dream that he was constantly swimming upstream against a river. And he could see everyone he knew pushing him down into the water where he didn’t want to go, where he would drown. But he told me he realized was the one forcing himself to go against the river. His Dad, his town, the school, all pushing him down he didn’t want to go. In the dream he got out of the river. And if he told everyone how he felt and never lied to anyone he could choose where he went. He said that's when he woke up.” She started crying.
Then she said, “He also told me you’d had a crush on me since you were five and you’d saved every baseball card note I ever wrote you in school in a box in your room.” She touched my hand. It was entirely true, and I still had the box.
I left after that and we exchanged numbers. We hugged and that was all. I guess I wasn't ready for Bogsey's honesty. But business took me to Phoenix a couple of times and that worked out OK. I quit my job that I hated and became an illustrator. Geenie Ann and I kept seeing each other and eventually I told her I'd loved her since I was five and we got married. Our grandkids play baseball and she's the coach. She volunteers at a hospice.
God bless Bogsey. I don’t know if he was brain damaged or not. But God bless him for climbing out of that river of shit and changing my life.