“The Buddy” by Michael J. Lee
--page 6

        “How’d it go yesterday?” Robert said.
        “Oh, great man, great.”
        “Clay’s so old, Scott. I don’t know.”
        “He was way nice to Stewart too. Way nice. We hung out. Played Xbox. We’re planning a camping trip. Couple days with nature.”
        “Clay meet your Dad?”
        “You kidding? No friends over. That’s the rule.”
        “We should hang out more. Do you wanna sleep over this weekend?”
        “Clay and I are gonna hang out. But give me your number. We could probably squeeze you in the middle seat.”
        “I gave you my number last week.”
        “I lost it. You got mine?” Scott said.
        “I got yours,” said Robert.


        The phone rang that Saturday morning. “Clay wants to get his truck washed,” Scott reported. “He wants you to come.”
        Robert thought he detected a hint of defeat in his friend’s voice. He asked to be picked up in front of the Shell station, because the last thing he needed was his mother seeing him getting into a fast truck without any seat belts. So when the truck roared up to pump number two, Robert sat waiting in the bushes, next to a pile of abandoned tires.
        This busted Robert up, although he quickly vanished the smile from his face. What was on his mind was Mr. Handler’s suggestion that he place himself in someone else’s shoes. Although he thought the suggestion was stupid, it would not leave him alone. He imagined himself as Scott for a moment, and asked what Scott really wanted. At first he thought it was the frog, but Clay was faring better than Robert, and he had no frog, at least none that Robert knew of. Clay had a disposition of calm confidence, a look that suggested that all the mysteries of the world had been revealed to him, and having received them he was now a little bored. So Robert decided that he must play it very cool if he were going to succeed. This meant no frog, no outrageous behavior. He climbed into the truck and squashed in between his two companions.
        “Heard about your French kiss,” Clay said. He made his eyebrows jump like a bad actor. “Maybe at the carwash you’ll get to finish what you started.”
        “Maybe,” Robert said. “Whatever. She liked it.”
        Heather was not present at the carwash, but there was enough flesh to make Robert quickly forget. Clay rolled down the window. “Hey sweetie,” he said to Emily Brown. “Don’t get the PA system wet, ok?”
        She nodded, noticing his young passengers. “Hey Scott,” she said.
        Clay rolled up the window and the girls began hosing the truck down. Then they took to it with soapy sponges. “Some of them got big ones, don’t they?” Clay said. “Man o man.”
        “Look at that one,” Scott said, pointing to a blonde. The girls smiled as they worked. Then it occurred to Robert that the girls were watching the three of them while they worked. He suddenly wished that they would look away, and just wash the truck. “Robert, do a voice,” Scott said.
        “Naw,” Robert said. “I’m happy just to shut up and watch.” Clay fixed his green eyes on Robert and nodded, like he was discovering something crucial about his passenger. “No voices?” he said. “Not even with those staring you in the face?”

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