My name's Pascale. That's Pascale Teresa Brady, though it's Pascale to anyone who knows me. Hell, even if you don't know me, it's Pascale. Pascale. Not Teresa, not Brady, not nothing. Just Pascale. Thought I'd get that outta the way now. Someone back in grade school thought it'd be funny to start calling me the Big PB. She thought it was clever, you know, because I'm kinda a small person. Always have been. Took me a few years to stomp that nickname out, but you know how kids are, right? There's always something new they're trying to do to make your life hell, especially if you stick out.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, huh? I guess I'll throw down the basics first. Lay some groundwork, you feel me? Gotta put down a foundation before I can get anywhere. I'm Pascale, like I said. I'm from the Bronx. Kingsbridge. Got a lot of Irish blood in me, you know? Last name like Brady, right, I bet you saw that one coming. My family was in Kingsbridge a long time. I mean, we ain't there no more, but hey, every family's gotta move sometime, right? But that's not yet. Like I said, I started out in the Bronx. My dad always said it's a tough place to grow up, and I guess he'd know. He and my mom both grew up in the Bronx too. But hey, you didn't come here to hear about them. I was born there 23 years ago, not exactly, you know, but close enough. About 23 years ago. Close enough to 23 that the days don't matter, right? But yeah. Growing up, I was always
oh hell, what's that word that Rays always uses? Pre... Pruh... Precocious, that's it. Rays calls me precocious all the time. And yeah, guess I was a precocious kid. I never listened to my parents, not at first anyway. I tried to get outside the apartment anytime they wanted me inside. It's boring inside, you know? Everyone in the building knew me, because they heard my parents yelling my name any time they had to chase me down. Who lived in that building? Well, there was us, of course. The Bradys. Pascale and Devin and Bridget. Picture-perfect family, right? Just the three of us. Well, picture-perfect whenever they could get me down for a picture. Most of the pictures from when I was little, I'm a motion blur. My parents never let me have soda or candy, they were afraid I'd, like, redshift. Or blueshift or something, I don't know. I'm an engineer, not a physicist. I guess there's overlap, but whatever.
I'm getting sidetracked again. That happens a lot. My mind's ticking so fast, you know? I got a million and one thoughts in my head every second. Anyway. The Bronx. Right. My family was Irish, and most of my family was Catholic, right? But my parents, I guess they weren't religious people. Just let the whole thing drop. I don't know much about the whole thing. Kids at school thought that was weird. They wanted to know why aren't I Catholic, right, with the whole Irish thing. I always had to tell them, hey, you want to take that up, you talk to my parents. You have your people call my people, right? Usually put the nail in it. Most people didn't want to bother. A couple'a punks here and there got on my case about it, sure, but nothing to get worried about.
Now that I think about it, I guess I am gonna have to tell you about my parents, a little bit, maybe. Just to help you understand my circumstances, you get it? I got to flesh out this story here a little bit. Set up some background. Devin's my dad. Worked upper-lower management at a grocery store. It was one of those mom-and-pop places, you know, real small. Had some real ridiculous selection of fruits and vegetables, right? People loved it. I never figured out where'd the owner get all this stuff. He had some crazy multicolored apples, and, like, bananas from Russia and crazy stuff like that. Guy was a paranoid sonova, though. But anyway, Dad worked there. Right. Worked his way up from bagboy when he was a kid, you know? Real store loyalty. So when the store wanted to branch out, my dad was at the top of the list. That's why we moved, you know. But that's not yet. My mom - that's Bridget - stayed at home. Kid like me, she just about had to. How many times I got sent home from school for cutting up, I don't know. It took me most of grade school to get my act together. Can you believe it? In fourth grade, the school said I was in danger of flunking out! I just never tried, that's the problem. I could do all the work, but it was boring stuff. Never wanted to do it. So much more fun to run around the class, you know? Raise some hell when I could. But there was one day, you know? One day that got me turned around.
So my mom got this brother. Guy named Mike. I heard about him every so often, but I never met the guy. Mom always said that he was too busy to visit us, then Dad'd always say that's not true, you know it's not true, and Mom would always hush him down, you know? Now I take after my dad, so when I was a kid, when this'd happen, I always figure, hey, maybe my dad's just being contrary. I'm the same way. But no, it all made sense on this day, right? It was in June. I remember it, because it was the last day of school. I walked home, I lived close enough to school that I could walk home, and I let myself into the apartment. Now, this is when I'm about 10. End of fourth grade, right? I wasn't as happy as I shoulda been, though, because go figure, I'm gonna get saddled with summer school. Already had however many years of it, and it sure as hell wasn't working, but you know how it goes. Got stuck with it again. Anyway, I get home, I'm already in a bad mood, and when I get home, I hear some yelling from the kitchen. One of them's my mom, and the other's some dude whose voice I don't know. I sneak around to the kitchen, because I figure maybe this is something I shouldn't be hearing, right? There's this man in the kitchen. Short and scruffy-looking, like he hasn't seen a razor in days. His clothes all got patches on and his hair looked all greasy. Real ugly piece of work. My mom yells something about how she's not loaning him money again, can't he see she's already in the hole because of all the money she loaned him. And he says, promise, this is the last time, he'll pay her back, he just needs one more loan, just a thousand bucks'll do it. Mom clenches her fists, and see, this part I remember really well, because it was almost like it happened in slow motion, like in the movies, you know. She balls up her fists and tries to clock the guy one, but he ducks away and runs for the door. Mom starts to chase him, right, but she lets it go and she just goes and sits on the couch. And she starts crying like nothing else. Like, puts her face in her hands and just lets the waterworks go. Never saw her cry like that before. I try to sneak past her, because I feel like I'm about to get in trouble for something that I don't know what, but she sees me, and she wants me to get over on the couch. I figure this isn't the time for being contrary, or what's that word, precocious, so I do it. Mom just puts her arms around me and holds me close to her. She's still crying, I can feel the tears in my hair, but before I can say anything, she tells me that I'd better not turn out like Mike. That I need to make something of myself. That I need to make our family proud, God knows there aren't enough people in it that can say that. She says that the only thing she wants out of life is to see me be a success, and that I just need to keep plugging away at school to do it. She says that she knows I don't like school, no surprise there, nobody in our family did. But it's what I need, she says. It's what I need to keep from becoming another Mike.
I never cut up in school again. Summer school, fifth grade, middle school, high school, straight As, except for that one class in high school. 9th grade English. I wasn't ready to be reading that many books, and I couldn't absorb them all, you know? Some parents, they might have gone down to the school and asked to get the homework reduced, maybe, or asked about what could I do to make up my grade so I wouldn't fail or nothing. But that's not my parents. My mom figured that if I was having trouble, it's because I wasn't practicing enough, and, get this, she asked the teacher for more work! More work! That class kicked me up and down, but I managed to get through it. Barely scraped by with a C. That C cost me being the valedictorian in high school, you know? But I'm over that. I earned that C. I'm proud of that C. That class beat the hell outta me, but I beat it down even worse, at the end.
But I think I'm getting ahead of myself again. Where was I? Oh yeah, right, so, I think I was talking about who all lived in our building, right? There was us, sure. But it was a small building. Not many other tenants beside us. We got to know them all good. Or, I guess they got to know me good, because I bounced from place to place pretty quick, but I dunno what it is. I guess I never paid too much attention to any of them. I know there was this Russian guy, I think he was a teacher. He looked like a teacher, anyway. He had these big thick glasses, and he was bald, but he had a goatee, and he always wore a sweater, even in the summer. I figured, guy's Russian, shouldn't he be extra hot in the summer or something? I dunno. Maybe he liked being warm after being in Russia so long. He lived on his own. Well, not on his own. He had like 30 cats in there with him, and here I thought we weren't supposed to have pets at all. Maybe that's just what my parents told me to keep me from getting a pet when I was little, because now that I remember it, they said the same thing when we moved to the new apartment. Can't believe I never picked up on that. Damn. My parents were more tricky than I gave them credit for. Anyway. Russian dude. I don't remember him that well, but if you asked me, I could name every single one of his cats. Hannah, Anna, Victor, Richter, Bob, Rob, June, Moon, Noon, and Alice and Malice. Okay, so maybe there were only 11. And the guy was really stretching for his rhyming names. They didn't even fit. Malice was the only one who wasn't a vicious sonova. He, well, they lived in the apartment next door to us, and I'd swear up and down during the night I could hear them meowing. During the day, no, I couldn't hear nothing, but the night
I dunno. Maybe I was just imagining things. Mom didn't want me playing over there, but I tried to sneak over there whenever I could because, hey, cats, right? But whenever I tried to sneak back, Mom always knew, because Dad was allergic. She knew that if he started breaking out in sneezes, I was somewhere I shouldn't be.
On the other side of us was the most interesting man in the building. I didn't know nothing about him. Guy always left his apartment before dawn and was back after I was supposed to be in bed. On weekends, he never left the room. I could tell he was in there, because his car was in the lot, right? Guy drove a Mercedes, and it was always in the lot on weekends; we'd always see it when we came in from grocery shopping or whatever. Sometimes, I could hear music through the door, or sometimes people talking, but I never knew who he could be talking to, because I never saw nobody going in or out. One day I ran into the guy - I was out of the apartment at night when I wasn't supposed to be, I snuck out, right, because I just couldn't stay in bed - and I saw him when he was coming into the building. Tallest man I ever saw, long, skinny face, dressed entirely in black. Like, deep black. Not just black, but black hole black. Ultrablack. He didn't pay me any attention and went inside, and he shut the door before I could get in. I only ever got to see the inside of his apartment once, a few years later. In the middle of the day, a day off school, I tried to open his door, and it worked! I figured the guy must have just left it unlocked or something by accident. So I went in, and you'll never guess what I saw.
Yeah, nothing. It was like nobody lived there at all. There was not a single thing in that apartment. Like nobody lived there. I went back and told my mom about it, and after she got on my case about breaking and entering, she told me that Mr. Black - name fit him, I guess - had moved out the week before. I asked her why didn't I know anything about it, then. She said that I should have, considering I got in the way of all the moving guys and almost made one of them drop a chair down the stairwell.
So our apartment building was pretty cool. But I didn't live in it for all my life. After my first year of high school, that's when my dad got the offer to go and open a branch of the store in North Carolina. Raleigh. I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to move. I loved the Bronx. I loved New York. I didn't want to move to some hick town in the Bible Belt. Dad was all about telling me how Raleigh's one of the fastest growing areas in the US, and how it's got tons of amazing opportunities, but I didn't care. I'd be leaving my friends, my home. For what? To go to a place I didn't even know, where people talked funny, where it was always too hot and too muggy, where everyone didn't know up from down.
But hey, it's not like I had any say in the matter, right? It's what it was. I moved, and there wasn't nothing I could do about it. We moved down during the summer - my parents didn't want me missing school or nothing, so that cut down when we could leave, right? Sucks starting in a new school in the middle of the year. Anyway, so at the end of my freshman year, before we left, my friend and I decided to do something special to remember the years by. Oh, right, my friend. I'm not the kinda person who makes a lotta friends, you know? I make one or two real good friends, and that's about it. Anyway, this guy, Fargo, right? He's a year older than me. Met when we took PE together and I completely whipped him in running. Guy looks in shape, you know? But turns out running's not his thing. So I managed to completely lap him. Now Fargo's not the kinda guy who'll let that go, so we spent the entire semester competing with each other. Once the class turned into Health class after the semester mark, we didn't really fight each other, though. Fargo's a good guy, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, but dude's not so hot at academics. Way more a physical guy. He told me he was taking a lot of his classes a second time, and he was trying, but it was hard stuff.
Anyway. Fargo. Last day of school. We decided that since I wasn't gonna be in the Bronx too much longer, that we should take a tour of the town one last time. And we just started wandering the streets, you know? We came up on this building that was being built, but none of the workers were there - I guess it was getting too late in the evening, and they all wanted to call it quits on the day or something? I dunno. Anyway, we went in, right? Maybe it wasn't the smartest thing in the world, but hey, you only live life once, that's what Fargo always said, and I can't say I disagree. So it was dark, and the building was only the barest frame so far. No walls or anything, just beams all up over the place. There were a few lights that I guess the workers left on, and they were making all these cool shadows that just stretched all over everything. At least, I thought it was cool for a while. But I think I'm getting ahead of myself. So we walked around this building for a while. Fargo wanted to climb up some of the beams, but I figured if someone saw us, we probably want to get away real quick, right? So climbing up and down things, maybe not the best idea. Fargo told me I'm no fun, but that's the thing about Fargo, even when he says stuff like that, the guy's never serious. Well, almost never. Always got a smile or a smirk or something on his face. So, anyway, there we are, Fargo looks like he's about to jump up a pole anyway, but then we hear barking. It sounds like it's from far away, right, so we make to leave, but the dogs were a lot closer than we thought - they jumped us as we left the lot. There are three of them, and they're all vicious looking things. Big dogs, giant teeth, all slobbery and growling. Fargo tells me to run for it, I guess because I schooled him at running so much, but I tell him I'm not leaving him alone, because I'd come right back anyway. He tells me again to run, and I tell him again what does he think he's talking about. Right then, that's when one of the dogs jumped at me, instead of the rest of them, because the rest of them are just circling. This one jumps at me, and Fargo pushes me back, but the guy pushes me into one of the beams, right? I hit my head pretty good, and that's the last thing I remember for a bit.
When I wake up, the dogs are gone, and Fargo's just standing there, watching... I don't know what. Real vacant expression on his face. He's holding his hands in front of him, and the air smells like someone's been cooking something. But the dogs are gone, so progress there. I get up, and I ask Fargo what's going on, but he just tells me that we need to leave. I kept hounding him about it, hah, hounding, I didn't mean to do that, but Fargo never said anything about it. Whatever it is, I think he's trying to forget it happened either way. So much for making a day neither of us would forget, right?
Anyway, so we moved to Raleigh. We ended up living in south Raleigh, near the college, and apparently the high school I went to had some relationship with one of the companies in RTP, right? The company poured money into the school, so long as the school offered tech courses and had good grad rates. So I took a lot of tech stuff in high school. That suited me just fine. When I was in middle school, and my first year of high school back in New York, I liked messing with electronics and stuff. Didn't really build anything too substantial, but it was still fun times, so I wanted to learn more about it in school. Best classes I took in high school. I still didn't make a lot of friends in school, no surprise there, but I did make one, this girl named Vics, sorry, Victoria. She's this real quiet girl, but she and I had a lot of the same tech classes together. Those tech classes helped me out so much. I mean, yeah, they helped me out with getting into college and learning about what I wanted to do with my life and all kinds of useful hands-on stuff, but then there's stuff like... well, here, let me tell you what I mean.
There was this girl in one of my English classes, right? Now, you may have noticed, but I don't got a lot of variety in the wardrobe department, you know? My clothes mostly all look the same. Not a whole lot of diversity there. I wear red and blue, and mostly shorts. I like the symbol for hurricanes, you know, the one that looks like you took a 6 and spun it around itself, so a lotta my clothes got that on it. Anyway, this chick in my English 11 class starts ragging on my shirt. It's my favorite shirt, too. Bright red, and it's got this hurricane logo on it, big, on the front in yellow. Stands out, right? And I'm the kinda person who stands out. So this girl's a total punk, but somehow she's totally popular too. Never figured out how that works. High school's a crazy place. Anyway, I ride out her making fun of me, and when she's not looking, I snag her cell phone. A few tweaks here and there, right, and then I slip it back. Next time she gets a call, bam, she puts the phone up to her ear, it jolts her. Wasn't a strong jolt, just as strong as static electricity, right, but you shoulda heard her yell. Really caught her off guard. She didn't try to pull one on me again. Not many people did. I guess word traveled quick.
Anyway, so we graduated, Vics and I, same year. I got accepted into the college near here, right? And why wouldn't I? Great engineering school. No better place. But I guess Vics didn't want to do tech no more. She went clear across the country to this tiny university in Washington. I dunno, I never heard of it. I dunno why she wanted to go there, and we started talking about it, right? She sprung it on me real sudden. And you know me, right? I don't exactly hold with pulling my punches. So when she caught me by surprise like that, I mighta said some things I didn't exactly want to say. That conversation didn't really end too well. I guess that friendship didn't exactly end too well. I haven't heard from her since that day. Guess I need to learn to keep my mouth shut, huh?
I don't really talk too much about my college years, you know? Not much major stuff happening. Though college was when I finished my first major invention. My senior project, I made these killer armbands, you see them? I never take them off. They've got a calculator, a phone, a radio, all that kinda stuff in them. And they're real easy to modify, so I can just keep adding stuff to them, right? Cool stuff. I got an A on that project, and the company I work for now wants to produce them.
Oh yeah, the company I work for now! I work for this place called Creative Designs, you know? Really cool. It's that place that gave money to my high school, so they were real happy to snap me up right outta college. Great place to work. I get a lot of freedom to work on whatever I want to. I think the admins there are just sorta like, hey, Pascale, just keep making us money, okay? And I'm like, okay, whatever you say.
Real great batch of people work there, too. My supervisor's this guy named Mullsy, Mulligan. Guy loves his music. They had to give him a special office, you know, because people were complaining about how loud he keeps it. I think the offices above him are empty, too. But he's a good guy. Maybe a little bit of a pushover, and he's jumpy, but he's a good guy. The person who runs the company, Ms. Lawson, now she's something else. I've never seen anyone as happy as her. She's always grinning, she's always got a cheerful hello for everyone, it's amazing. Her assistant, though, that guy's another story. Francis Fox. He is something else. A real trip, and not in a good way. He's twitchy, and he never looks you full-on in the eyes. And he's always rushing around. I dunno. Something about him gets me the wrong way.
But you know how I make, like, one friend wherever I'm at? Here, at Creative Designs, I found one too. Rays, Rayley Triggs. She works in the design department of the company. We met one day at lunch. She's something else, and in a good way. She always has something funny or smart to say, and she's brilliant at the creativity thing. Like, okay, I can invent, but she can make things look good. I never got the hang of that part, but hey, engineer, not design. We eat lunch together every day, and neither of us have missed a day yet. There's always something new for us to talk about, and even when we don't have work, we ended up living pretty close to each other, so we can go catch movies or watch TV together or stuff like that. Fun stuff, you know? Stuff where we don't have to be in work mode or whatever. I think of all the friends I've made, Rays's gotta be the best. I dunno what I'd do if anything happened to her.