--- J O N B O I L A R D
I sniffed model airplane glue with Walter while his mom waited tables at the VFW. His kid sister smelled like soap. She said she was sick and stayed home from school. I gave her money from my uncle's wallet so she'd ride to the center of town on her bike with the basket to get us a family-size bag of ranch-flavored Doritos and two one-liter bottles of Pepsi. Mighty Mouse was flying over cartoon skyscrapers. We watched him on the black & white television that had rolled-up aluminum foil for an antennae. A train went by on the tracks right outside the house and from the couch we saw it pass in dark kitchen-window-size squares. When the cabinets stopped rattling Walter said Fifteen cars. When we couldn't even hear it anymore because it already went under the dry bridge past Elder Lumber I told him I counted seventeen. He said he hated that I always had to have the last word. He punched me in the shoulder and said I always had to be right. A fat black fruit fly was trying to escape through the screen part of the side door. It buzzed and bounced against the cat-scratched screen and buzzed and bounced trying like hell to get out.
The yellow telephone erupted like a fire drill. It was on the chipped-pink tile floor of the bathroom where Walter's mom talked in a hushed whiskey voice from the edge of the clawfoot tub between cigarette drags late at night when she thought everybody was asleep. I rubbed my eyes and my head where it hurt from the glue hangover and Walter woke up too and said Don't answer it. He said It's probably the school. Then my nose started to bleed and I filled my nostrils with Kleenex. From the big-numbered clock hanging crooked from a nail on the wall I could see that it was the beginning of fourth period at the high school where we were freshmen.
We'd left right after home room. We'd walked across the parking lot and past the weed-cracked tennis courts and through the softball field and the old Dwire Lot to the house that Walter's mom rented from Chip Patluski. Walter's kid sister was in eighth grade and she had good marks and blue ribbons from 4-H and a fancy letter from the board of education saying she could spell better than anybody in Franklin County. Walter's mom called Kayla her last hope. I heard her put the kickstand down on her bike and take hold of the plastic bag from Rogers & Brooks. I heard her come through the side door and it banged inside the frame and she jiggled it until it shut all the way. Walter went into his bedroom and came back with a pack of EZ-Wider and the Sucrets tin where he kept the dope he bought from Jimmy Warfield's father. He told Kayla to get lost, to do homework, and he licked his index fingers and thumbs and rolled a fat one in his lap. We took a few hits and ate the Doritos and I drank my Pepsi. Batman and Robin were on the television. The fruit fly was bouncing off the screen door again and the plastic clock was ticking and the wind outside was brushing a weeping willow branch against the vinyl siding of the house. The telephone rang four-and-a-half times. Somebody on the television said We've got to get out of here. Walter was breathing through his nose and making snoring sounds and when I looked at him the ends of his fingers were Dorito-orange and all around his open mouth was Dorito-orange and the plastic one-liter Pepsi bottle was unopened between his legs.
I heard Kayla in her room with the door mostly shut listening to Bryan Adams on Walter's old boom box and turning the pages of a magazine. I pushed the door open with my big toe and the rusty hinge creaked. She was lying face down on her bed that looked like a little girl's bed. She was wearing somebody's old Calvin Kleins from the hand-me-down store in Northampton and a three-quarter sleeve REO Speedwagon concert t-shirt. I told her that she smelled like Dove soap and she let me come in and sit on the bed with her. We made out and I took her shirt and bra off and dropped them on the sticky hardwood floor. Then she stood up and locked her door and took her jeans and panties off. She told me I made her feel beautiful and grown up and somehow unconnected to anything. I said some things that I knew she wanted to hear and after a short while she took my clothes off and said Make sure you take it out this time.
The greenish paint was flaking off the plaster walls of her room. There were dark spots of mildew on the south one that faced out over the front yard. We smoked some old Marlboro lights that she got from the dresser in her mom's room and she said that her mom would kill her if she found out. She said her mom put too much pressure on her to be perfect. She said I was lucky not to have anybody to tell me what to do. I told her more lies about my feelings and things to shut her up and blew smoke rings that drifted up to the bowl of the dead-moth-filled ceiling light. I listened to the wind outside go around the house and from her window I watched it make mini tornadoes of raked maple leaves in the yard and dirt and driveway. The rain came straight down and then the wind turned it sideways for a while. Kayla said Oh shit the windows and put her jeans and shirt on and pushed her underwear under the bed with her foot. She closed her window against the rain and I heard her going through all the rooms closing windows while I got dressed.
Walter woke up and said Where the hell did you go off to? I told him it was raining. There was a game show on the television. Walter told his kid sister to leave the one in the living room open because we wanted to fire up another doobie. She looked right at me, flipped me the bird, went into her room, slammed the door. Walter said What's up her ass? and I shrugged my shoulders. We took a couple hits and tried to blow the smoke toward the window so his mom wouldn't smell it when she got home. We didn't know any answers to the game show questions but there was only one other channel that was from Springfield and it didn't come in during rain.
The one good headlight lit the room up for a few seconds when Walter's mom turned into the driveway from Stage Road. Her car hiccuped and sputtered when she shut it off. I heard Kayla spray Lysol and open her bedroom door a few inches. Walter's mom came in holding a Greenfield Recorder over her head and a paper bag against her hip. She said It's coming down like cats and dogs out there. Kayla boiled water for macaroni and cheese, chopped hot dogs, buttered slices of stale white bread. Walter's mom served iceberg lettuce that was brown around the edges with a mayonnaise and ketchup dressing that I watched her mix with a fork. Then she brought our dinners on paper plates to the couch where we ate. Walter's mom took a shower and said she was going to be late. She said It's poker night. She said It could be a big tip night. She said I can't afford to be late. She jerked her thumb toward us and told Kayla to stay away from the flunkies. I don't want them rubbing off on you. Walter nudged me in the ribs and I laughed out loud.
We drank vodka right from the bottle I took from my uncle who had temporary custody of me. Kayla smoked one of her mom's cigarettes. Walter was passed out again. Kayla told me she made an appointment with Nurse Harper for between study hall and History on Wednesday. The radio played a block of Def Leppard. She made a face when she put the bottle to her lips but tilted her head back and gargled the vodka like Listerine and eventually swallowed. She went on to say that Nurse Harper was going to give her the results of a test. She told me that she already pissed on one from the pharmacy and it was positive. Kayla was leaning on her elbow and trying to find something in my face that was not there and I took a long snort so I could close my eyes. She cried and said my name to bring me back but the wind outside was the familiar ghost of something a long time dead. Rain came down in big drops that sounded like a devil's footsteps.
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