I preferred getting up early in the morning since it was the only time I had the house to myself. I put on my old blue private-school pants, which were now too tight because I was having a growth spurt. I yanked a white T-shirt down over my head and slipped into Dad's old mud-stained loafers. Mom had given up on dressing me as a catalogue cover boy for Sears, so I dressed myself to look like a combination mental-health outpatient and day laborer to blend in with the tough local kids...I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and, since I was already dressed, sprayed deodorant on the outside of my shirt. I grabbed my black book from the bedroom floor and shoved it into my backpack. I carried it with me at all times just in case my muse decided to pay a visit while I was on the bus, or trying to figure out how to open my combination lock at school. A muse could strike at any time, an old writers' magazine had stressed, "even while one was engaged in personal hygiene". I wanted to be prepared.