These Things Happen: A Novel
by Michael Eon

Published: 2023-09-19T00:0
Paperback : 276 pages
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Daniel Zimmer will do almost anything to end his pain—except for the one thing that might work.

Growing up in 1970s Brooklyn under the shadow of his tyrannical father and against the backdrop of the Son of Sam murders, the Karen Ann Quinlan tragedy, and the New York Yankees' ...

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Daniel Zimmer will do almost anything to end his pain—except for the one thing that might work.

Growing up in 1970s Brooklyn under the shadow of his tyrannical father and against the backdrop of the Son of Sam murders, the Karen Ann Quinlan tragedy, and the New York Yankees' back-to-back championship seasons, Daniel Zimmer struggles to find a sense of safety and belonging. Daniel and his brother Max find moments of solace in the rebellious rhythms of early punk and metal bands like the Ramones and Judas Priest. But when faced with an unexpected family tragedy—for which he feels responsible—Daniel discovers the magical escape that alcohol can provide, numbing his pain and guilt.

Carrying the trauma of his youth into adulthood, Daniel falls deeper into alcoholism as he fights to face life on life’s terms. Then, just as he finally begins to embrace sobriety, Max attempts suicide and Daniel’s ex-fiancée makes an unexpected reappearance. Forced to face his demons head-on, Daniel struggles to take things one day at a time.

Flashing through Daniel’s life, past and present, this nostalgic ode to Brooklyn is an unflinching account of the inevitable ups and downs of recovery and coming of age. Ultimately, it is a story of the ravages of generational abuse and the power of recognizing addiction and opening the door to the possibilities of redemption.

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Chapter 24

I felt as though I’d been standing in front of my kindergarten class for hours, although it was probably only a few seconds.

“These things happen, Daniel.” Mrs. Vance squatted next to me and put an arm around my shoulders. “Don’t worry.”

I glanced up into the shocked faces of my classmates and then down at the yellow puddle beneath my desk in the front row.

“Do you have a change of clothes?” “No.” I began to cry.

“I’ll be right back.” Mrs. Vance walked out the classroom door, leaving me standing at the front of the room, shaking. There was silence for a moment, and then whispers became snickers. She returned with the school janitor—a giant with a big nose carrying an old pair of overalls—and waved me into the hallway.

After I had changed my clothes in the boys’ room, I returned to class, tripping over the rolled ends of the long pants but glad to be out of my wet corduroys.

Mrs. Vance gave me a calm look while the janitor cleaned the floor, thrashing his mop inside a steel bucket now brimming with yellow-tinged foam.

I stared up at the ceiling, fascinated by the water-stained tiles and the circles around the lights.

When I lowered my head, the faces of the other children blended into a mishmash of pink skin and black dots. Their small heads pointed toward Mrs. Vance, whose mouth was moving. I could tell that she was scolding them for laughing, her bony finger extended and waving. But the individual words were all a blur.

I stepped aside for the janitor, who rolled his mop and bucket into the hallway.

“Watch your step,” he whispered, motioning to the wet floor behind me. His kindness was comforting, but his huge size still frightened me.

“I’m . . . I’m sorry, sir.”

He reached for the doorknob and winked. “Don’t worry about it, kid.”

I tried to wink back but wound up blinking both my eyes instead. When I turned around, my classmates were gawking at me. I lowered my head and shuffled toward my desk in the first row, but my foot caught in one of the long pant legs. I tripped and made a clattering noise as I fell into the desk next to me and had to right myself.

There was a moment of silence and then the classroom erupted with laughter. I looked at Mrs.

Vance, who seemed pained by my embarrassment, one hand over her mouth, the other holding a storybook.

“Hush!” she shouted. “You children quiet yourselves!” I slid into my desk chair.

“Children!” She clapped her hands loudly. “Stop this minute!” But they kept laughing.

Mrs. Vance’s lips trembled. I knew she could feel my pain, but I could no longer take their teasing. I pulled the pant hems up to my knees and sprinted into the hallway and out onto the playground.


I stood beneath the tall tree on the hill at the far side of Elsa Ebeling Elementary School. My borrowed overalls had completely unrolled, and now I was out of breath and still just as embarrassed as before. The school’s other kindergarten class was at recess, and a bunch of boys and girls I didn’t know were running across the blacktop.

The clouds were low, and the air was sticky. I leaned against the tree to roll up the overalls, then sat cross-legged on the thick green grass. Something crawled on my knee—a large black ant. I poked at

its front end with my finger and watched its pincers open and close. Then I tilted my head back and looked at the sky. Sunlight was trying to sneak through a small gap between two of the largest clouds.

“Hi,” said a girl’s voice from behind me.

I ducked my head and focused on the small patch of grass between my crossed legs. I didn’t want to be noticed, and definitely not spoken to.

The girl walked around to stand in front of me. With the corner of my eye, I saw her point at the giant overalls. “Those are too big. Why are you wearing them?”

“I don’t know.” I shrugged and squirmed.

“Silly.” She bent and put her hand on my shoulder. “You can tell me.” No, I couldn’t.

She squeezed my shoulder. I lifted my head, and our eyes met. Hers were dark green. I’d never seen eyes that color before. Her nose was pointed, and her blond hair reached all the way down her back, covering her blue flower dress.

“You’re not in my class.” She smiled. “I know.”

She suddenly coughed hard into her hands. The noise sounded like a barking dog that had swallowed a whistle. She bent forward and took a deep breath.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said with a smile, wiping her hands on her dress. “I have asthma.”

I continued to stare up at her warm smile. “Oh.” I didn’t know what asthma was.

“It’s hard for me to breathe sometimes.” She took another deep breath, then pulled out a small plastic pump-looking device. “Just sometimes. This is my medicine.”

“I . . . I hope you feel better.” I didn’t know what else to say.

The girl grinned and returned the inhaler to her pocket. “I can sit like that, too.” She sat beside me on the grass under the large tree and folded her legs. “I saw you from over there. You were sitting all bent over, and you looked like Quasimodo.”


She laughed. “The hunchback of Notre-Dame. He’s from an old movie I watch with my dad.” She tilted her head and looked to the sky. “Wow!”


“There!” She opened her eyes wide.

I looked up where she was pointing. A sliver of sunlight was peeking through the small space between the two large clouds, and a bright, white ring of light had formed around the entire outer edge of both clouds. I had never seen anything like it. It was beautiful.

“It’s heaven,” she said, staring at the sky.

“Hmm.” I smiled. “Heaven.” A place I didn’t know much about.

Our eyes met for a second before I returned to the ant. My embarrassment from Mrs. Vance’s classroom was still bothering me, and I poked at it, harder this time. Its pincers sank into my thumb, which instantly throbbed.

“Hey—that’s one of God’s creatures.” The girl crinkled her blond eyebrows.

“Uh . . . I guess. Sorry.” I pulled my hand back and we watched the ant limp away. A life saved. “Come on.” She stood and wiped the grass from the back of her dress. “It’s time for lunch.”

I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to be seen in my stupid borrowed outfit. “I’m not hungry.”

“That doesn’t matter, silly. We have to go.”

The whole sun appeared from behind the clouds, and I shielded my eyes to gaze up at her. She reached out a hand and smiled again. “My name’s Brie. What’s yours?”

“Daniel.” I took her hand. It was warm.

She pulled me up and shook my hand. “Nice to meet you, Daniel.” She pulled me along with her, but as we approached the dozens of kids who waited restlessly beside the school, I started to drag my feet.

“Don’t worry,” she insisted. “It’ll be okay.”

I managed a small smile and we walked, hand in hand, across the lawn and onto the blacktop. We were the last two people outside, and she rushed toward the door.

“Come on!”

I pulled on her arm.

She swung around. “What?” Her voice was soft and kind.

“Thanks, Brie.” I squeezed her hand. Suddenly, my overalls felt warm and cozy and dry. She put her hand on the door and opened it. And I followed her inside. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

1. Would you recommend this book?

2. How did you find the author’s writing style?

3. Who was your favorite (and least favorite) character?

4. Did the book cause you to become emotional in any way? Which part(s) and what emotion(s)?

5. Did you find the book thought-provoking? In what way(s)?

6. Did you learn anything new from the book? What?

7. Do you think the book would make a good movie?

8. Did you have a favorite quote from the book?

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