Everybody's Gotta Leave Sometime
The day seemed to be a fall day. Perhaps it was Indian summer. He remembered how she used to claim up and down that Indian summer had been invented by the Indians to fool the settlers into letting down theirguard.
He remembered so many, many things. So did all the ones who had been with him all those years. All those years they had been children.
Am I aging now? he asked God, and perhaps himself. Will I finally get taller? Will they let me into high school, and maybe college? Will I have to get a job?
There were no answers he could hear.
He looked around at all his pals. They all seemed to be hiding the same expression, but they weren't doing very well at it.
Finally, he had to say it.
"He's leaving us," he said. "He won't be drawing us anymore."
"Oh," said the freckle-faced girl in the sandals. "Oh, Chuck. That is like, a four-alarm bummer,
and..." She swallowed hard and hung her head. The black-haired, shorter girl in glasses squeezed her arm.
The piano player thought he should say something. He cracked his knuckles to give himself time to think. "We knew it would happen someday," he said. "He wouldn't give us to anyone else. And he couldn't live forever."
"Yeah," said Violet, tossing her head so the ponytail whipped the side of her face. "Now, neither will we."
"I think he's a stupid blockhead," the domineering girl groused. "The least he could have done was let us negotiate for an extension."
"Lucy, I don't think he can do that," offered her brother, holding his blanket. "He's getting sick.
"That sick?" She looked at him with curiosity, sadness, and big-sister hostility.
He nodded. "The sick you maybe don't get better from," he added.
Charlie Brown cleared his throat. "That's, um, why I asked you all to show up here today. People won't be seeing us for much longer. Not in new stories, that is. They'll be seeing our old stories, but we..."
Pig-Pen, who hadn't been seen in their neighborhood for a long time, finished it when he heard Charlie Brown falter. "But we'll have to go on," he said. "On our own."
"IT AIN'T FAIR!" howled Lucy. "Nobody asked US about it!"
Patty, not Peppermint Patty, looked disgusted. "Nobody ever asked you if you wanted to get born, either, Lucy. Or if you want to die."
"Well, let me put my answers forth right now, so you can record them," snapped Lucy. "One, I wanted to get born, despite having to put up with my brother here. Two, I don't want to die. That's IT. We will not compromise on those demands."
"You can't make demands of God, Lucy," said Linus, fondling his blanket. "Or of him."
The dog looked forlorn, as did the small bird standing beside him. It was true, he acted as much like a human as did any dog in creation, even Rin Tin Tin. But they still couldn't hear his thoughts. The bird clutched Snoopy's leg and looked as if it were weeping. The dog stooped to stroke the feathers on the bird's crest with one paw.
"Snoopy," said Charlie Brown, to himself and aloud. "Snoopy will die someday."
"We'll all die someday, Charlie Brown," offered Schroeder. "Maybe that won't be the end of it. Maybe we'll get to see each other once we do die."
Linus said, "I suppose that depends on us all ending up in the same place."
Lucy hauled off and knocked him off his pins.
Everybody gathered around Linus, who was lying loggily on the grass. "What'd you do that for?" protested Charlie Brown.
Lucy huffed, her arms folded. "Well, when he starts making comments about not all of us being in the same place when we die, I'm sure he was thinking about maybe me being in someplace other than where he expects to go!"
"Oh, Lucy," said Charlie Brown. "It's maybe the last day before we have to start aging, and get on with our lives, and you want to celebrate by slugging your brother."
"How would it be if I slugged you?" she said, threateningly.
Schroeder stepped between them. "That's enough, Lucy. I think you should go home."
"When I'm good and ready," she said.
"No," said Charlie Brown. "No, let her stay. It's the last day, after all. Maybe the last day we'll
have all to ourselves."
Lucy looked as though she wanted to make a smart remark. Then she sat down and began crying.
Linus got up and, steadying himself, went over to her and draped the arm that wasn't holding his blanket over her shoulders. Then he let her cry it out.
Shermy stepped up and faced Charlie Brown. "I'm kind of glad you asked me over here, especially since it's been awhile since I've been here. Gosh, though, to think I'm never going to be in the stories again."
"Me neither," said Franklin, coming closer. "But it was fun while it lasted. Take care, Charlie Brown."
He shook Charlie's hand. Then he left, and Charlie stared at his hand, wonderingly.
Schroeder was next to step up and shake. "I want to thank you for the toy piano, Charlie Brown. Without that, I might not have had a career. I'm aiming for the Van Cliburn competition next year."
"Gosh," said Charlie. "Best of luck, Schroeder."
"I'd like to say it was fun playing ball all those years," said Schroeder. "But it really was lousy. I
liked being with you all, though. And don't worry. Compared to Beethoven going deaf, this is nothing."
Lucy called out. "Schroeder. Do you think you could maybe come by in a few days or something? We're going to be getting older. Maybe we could, you know, start
dating, or something..."
He looked at her more gently than Charlie Brown would have thought him capable. Then he said, "I'm sorry, Lucy. Anything you thought we had was from your side only. So long."
Schroeder turned to go. Lucy got to her feet, but Linus held her back. After a few seconds, she stopped trying to drag her brother across the field.
Patty and Violet came up to Charlie Brown next. "It was nice knowing you," said Patty.
"Yeah. For a round-headed kid with no potential at all, you're kind of a nice guy," added Violet. "Kind of, I mean."
Charlie Brown looked awed. "Gee, girls, that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me. You take care. Both of you."
Sally sidled up to her brother. "I'm not going to say goodbye to you, for pete's sake. We're going to be living together till you get out of high school. I'm going home and help Mom with dinner. Bye." She walked off.
Linus got back to his feet. "It ought to be dinnertime by the time we get back, too, Lucy."
She waved him off. "I'll be there. You go on without me."
"Take off, brother!"
Linus stayed long enough to shake Charlie Brown's hand. "I'd like to say thanks, too, Charlie Brown. I don't know what I'm going to do in high school if they don't like blankets. But I think I'll find a way."
"I'm sure you will, Linus," said Charlie.
"I'm kind of mad at him for never letting me see the Great Pumpkin," reflected Linus. "But I guess it's all right. Like Thomas Wolfe said, 'You can never go home again.' And as St. Thomas Aquinas noted--"
"That's okay, Linus," said Charlie, huskily. "I'm sure he noted a lot of things. You take care of
"Sure, Charlie Brown," said Linus, after a pause. "See you around."
That left only Snoopy, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Lucy around with him. He didn't quite know what to say, but he decided to try something anyway.
"This field," he said. "We've been playing in it for fifty years. I think I won one ball game."
"Well, we won another one," said Lucy. "That was when you weren't pitching."
"Oh, thanks a lot, Lucy," said Patty with emphatic sarcasm.
"No, it's all right," said Charlie Brown. "I know I was never anywhere near a good pitcher. Not even as good as Joe Shlabotnik. But we had some fun."
"Yeah," said Marcie. "And we always stayed with you."
Lucy said, "Yeah. We always did stay with you, you blockhead. We could'a picked Schroeder, or Shermy, or even my brother to be manager. But we stayed with you."
"I guess you did, at that," said Charlie, as if something very big was dawning on him. At least the
approximate size of the sun, which was touching the horizon and going down.
Patty struggled for words. "Even when I was on the opposite team, beating you 40 to zip, I could tell you had something, Chuck. A real negative charisma. Like my dad said the Mets had before 1968. That's something to be proud of."
"Gosh," said Charlie, since nothing much else would do.
"Marcie," said Patty, "would you run along home? I want to talk to Chuck all myself in a bit."
"I understand, sir," she said. She stepped up and shook Charlie's hand. "Be seeing you, sir."
"So long, Marcie," said Charlie. Then she, too, was gone.
"Charlie Brownnnn," called Lucy, ominously.
He looked in her direction.
She was holding a football.
"Where'd you get that?" he asked, wonderingly.
"That isn't important. The thing is, I'll hold it while you run up and kick it."
"I agree, Lucy," said Patty. "You'll just pull it away and poor Chuck will break his neck when he tries to kick it."
Lucy looked hurt. "How can you even think such a thing? This is the last time we may have to ever do this. The very last time. Don't you think I'd give him a real chance to kick it, after all these years? Don't you?"
"No, I don't," said Patty. "C'mon, Chuck. Chuck?"
Charlie Brown was backing up several yards.
"Oh, no, Chuck," moaned Patty. "You can't be really going to...Chuck? CHUCK!!"
Charlie Brown roared forward like an express train with a stripe painted down its side.
Horror-stricken, Peppermint Patty looked on as if watching the iceberg come nudge the Titanic from the observer's deck.
Charlie burned grass from his starting point to the place where Lucy held the ball, poised between finger and turf. He was almost there. He was drawing back his leg for a kick that would propel the thing into the end zone and beyond, the greatest place-kick known to Man, one that would make even Howard Cosell drop his toupee in awe.
His foot whooshed forward.
Lucy whipped the ball away.
Both of Charlie Brown's feet, and, shortly afterward, his body left the ground. He barely had time to scream, "AUGHHH!"
He hung parallel to the ground for a long moment.
Lucy came over, checking him out for signs of coma. "You knew I'd do it, didn't you?" she said,
"Yeah," he groaned.
"Why did you do it?"
"Because," he said. "This is the last time we'd ever have to do it. And--I wanted to make you happy."
A half-dozen emotions ran over Lucy's face. Then she stooped over and kissed him on the nose. After that, she grabbed the football and ran in the direction of home, not looking back.
Peppermint Patty and Snoopy were hovering over Charlie Brown now. "That was a very nice thing you did for her, Chuck," she said. "Stupid, but very nice."
"Thanks," he said. Snoopy seemed to be examining him. Woodstock leaped onto his chest, then his face, squinting into one eye, then the next. He leaped off, squeaked some things to Snoopy, and both of them left.
Patty pulled Charlie Brown back to a sitting position. "This might be the last time I ever see you, Chuck," she said.
Charlie didn't say anything. The sun was setting.
"I got to admit, I'm not much of anything like that little red-haired girl you wanted," said Patty. "But I can't help it. I'm just me. Ol' frizzy-haired, freckle-faced, tomboy-me. Can I tell you something, Chuck?"
"Sure," he said. He wasn't sure he wanted to be looking at her face when she did.
"The first time I ever saw that girl--her name was Heather, right?--we were both at camp, but you didn't see me. I saw her, and I saw what you saw in her. I mean, I did, Chuck. She was beautiful. You really should have gone after her."
"I know," said Charlie, quietly.
"And Linus was there, and he saw me crying. He asked me why and I told him. I told him...how ugly I felt, next to her. Like my split ends had split ends and I was never going to be looked at like Heather would, and I was darn sure, really darned sure, that nobody like you would ever look at me like that, ever, and I was crying..."
Charlie Brown waited.
"And then Linus kissed me on the freaking cheek," she said. "It stopped me cold. He said that someday somebody would look at me and say that I was a rare beauty. I couldn't believe it. But it was like, in the movies, where a pilot goes into a nosedive and pulls up. I felt like I could make it again. That maybe I wasn't so bad after all, even if I'm not so great in school and play a lot of boys' sports and beat the heck out of them at 'em. I mean...we never seemed to have a lot together, Chuck, but I'll settle for what we had. At least, it was a lot better than nothing."
Charlie Brown said, "I'll say it was, Patty. A lot better."
"Yeah, thanks. So...what the heck, Chuck. We've all gotta go home sometimes. I've got to go now, too. My dad's cooking lasagna for us. I like to think I've helped him make it, too, ever since Mom left. I...aw, Chuck."
"It's all right, Patty," he said. "My mom's fixing steak and potatoes. She does those really good."
Patty was quiet for a minute. Then she said, "We'll probably see each other from time to time, Chuck. Just because we're not in stories, and we go on to finish junior high and high school, doesn't mean we have to stop seeing each other."
"Yeah," he said. "I guess we have to go, Patty. And thanks for everything. Even beating me at baseball."
"Nothing personal, Chuck. You hang in there."
She turned to go and hoped she could keep the basketball that seemed to be inflating in her chest
from poking out anything wet from her eyes, because such things had a tendency to do that.
In the summer, the field was used for sandlot baseball. You could still see the baselines very
clearly. You could also see the pitcher's mound where, so many times, she'd seen a ball's impact
dumping Charlie Brown onto his back. She wanted to chuckle, but was afraid she'd jar something else loose if she did. Patty took one step, then another, and others in succession, over the field as the shadows lengthened and the sun's corona was barely visible in the distance.
She whipped her head around.
She couldn't say anything.
"Patty," he said. "I'd sure like to have you over for dinner tomorrow night. If you can work it out with your dad, that is."
After a pause, she said, "I'm not so sure I can work that out, Chuck."
"Oh. Okay," he said.
"Because I want you to come over to my house," she said. "The only thing that rivals my dad's lasagna is his leftover lasagna. So you be sure and be there, okay?"
"You can believe it," he said, smiling. "You know something, Patty?"
"What?" she said, as quietly as possible.
"I never noticed it. But...well...it might just be the way the sun hits it, but your hair looks kinda red sometimes, doesn't it?"
She smiled, and ran a hand through her hair.
"Maybe it does, Chuck. Maybe it does, sometimes. Tomorrow night, or I'll rub your face in center field."
"I'll be there."
"I gotta go, Chuck."
"I do, too," he said. "See you soon, Patty. Growing up may not be as bad as we thought."
"Chuck," she said, holding in a volcano under her loose-fitting blouse, "I always knew you were smarter than you looked."
Then both of them turned in the direction of home.
Peanuts characters were created by Charles Schulz and are copyright United Features Syndicate. No money is being made from this story, no infringement is intended.
And, quite obviously, this one's for my favorite cartoonist of the last 40 years. So much for that.