Nate Zamost took that week off school. We wondered what he did those long days other than the funeral, which didn’t take more than a few hours. The Zamosts lived in one of those houses just across the fence from Foley’s Pond. Nate’s sister, Barbara—they called her Babs—slid under the chain-link and waddled down to the water. This was in 1983. She was two and a half.
The day Nate came back to school, we refrained from playing Kill the Guy with the Ball at recess. We stood around in a ragged circle on the edge of the basketball court and spoke to each other in polite murmurs. We were a group of guys in junior high who hung out together. It wasn’t like we weren’t capable of understanding. Some of us even had sisters. But instinctively we seemed to get it that our role was not to understand or even to console but, in the spirit of funerals, to act. So we stood there and looked at our shoes and kicked at loose asphalt. Nate went along with it. He played chief mourner by nodding his head slowly. I remember Stu Rothstein finally trying to say something.
“Look, it’s not like it’s your fault,” Stu said. “I mean how could you have known she knew how to slide under the fence?”
Nate looked up from his shoes.
“I taught her.”
What could anybody say to that? Stu took a stab. He’d always been decent like that.
“Well, it’s not like you told her to do it when you weren’t looking.”
Stu didn’t say anything after that. Nobody else did, either.