I really don’t know why the tears came. Sowers was a bad man, so I really shouldn’t have felt bad for what I’d done to him. But then again, maybe the tears weren’t for him but for what he’d done; maybe they were for those boys. Those boys, any one of which could have been me. It didn’t really matter why the tears came though; there was nothing I could do to stop them. All I could do was wait for them to pass. And when the tears finally stopped I realized just how late it was and just how exhausted I was.
But sleep came only fitfully before the sun started to rise. I thought about skipping school, but then I would have to come up with a good excuse for mom and that wasn’t going to happen, so I forced myself out of bed and into the shower, though that barely helped. By the time I shut off the water I was even more tired than I’d been when I started it. I couldn’t see myself making it through second period without a little help, so against my better judgment I hopped on the KZ and went straight to Weed’s place.
“Give me some of your devil’s elixir,” I said, flinging open his curtains as he pulled his pillow over his face.
“Go away!” He mumbled through the pillow.
“I’m serious, I need your help.”
“Making it through a school day drunk takes a lot of practice,” he continued, not taking the pillow away from his face, “and you’re not ready for it.”
“That’s not what I meant,” I said, pulling the pillow from his face, “I need some energy, and lots of it.”
He slid the pillow from his head, a grin showing on his face.
“I knew this day would come.”
“Don’t make a big deal of it, I just didn’t sleep last night, or really the night before either.”
“You sure you’re up to this?”
“I said don’t make a big deal out of it.”
“First you have to tell me I’m a genius.”
“Not going to happen.”
“Then at least tell me I was right.”
“Fine, You were right.”
And now to fulfill the bet…”
2 years ago, after a weekend long party, Weed had come up with some concoction that combined high levels of caffeine with ginseng, vitamins, pre-workout supplements and asthma medication. He swore it not only cured his hangover but also gave him superhuman energy; I called him an idiot and swore he was just trying to kill himself. He ended up bouncing off the walls and not sleeping for two days, but he didn’t seem to suffer any lasting problems from the stuff so he bet me one day I’d beg him for his recipe. I hated that he was right, but knowing what was coming made it even worse.
“Where do you want it?” He asked, barely able to contain his excitement.
I rolled up my sleeve and braced myself but I still wasn’t prepared when the electrical charge hit me, practically dropping me on the spot.
“Damn,” I said, as I tried to shake it off. I don’t know where Weed had gotten the cattle prod but we’d been trading shots with it for several years, usually the result of losing a bet. Even with that much experience, though, it still hurt like crazy.
“Now let’s get you wired,” he said.
“After that jolt, I might not need anything else.”
“Trust me, you’re going to thank me later.”
He was right, again. After chugging the nasty concoction Weed mixed up for me I started to feel better and by the time I reached school I was wide awake, even a bit more energetic than normal. I didn’t sleep through a single class but by lunchtime I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
“Yeah, that happened to me the first few times too,” Weed said, “but it’ll go away before long.”
‘Before long’ turned out to be another couple hours, just before the final bell rang. As I made my way to my bike I was finally beginning to feel like myself again, and for that I was thankful. I was even more thankful to see Shawna standing there beside the KZ.
“Hi,” she said.
She had her books clasped in one arm, her other arm was resting on the handlebars.
“You look like you’re doing good.”
She had no idea how far off she was.
“You too,” I replied, and I meant it. She looked very good but with a sadness in her eye. It was a sadness that had been there when I first met her but that had faded over the years. I wasn’t sure if something had happened with her and Matt; though the thought did bring a little smile to my face and I hated myself for it.
“I thought maybe we could get together tonight, just to hang out.”
I felt my smile grow a little bigger.
“That’d be good; Mom’s been asking about you.”
“I’ve been meaning to stop by but… you know…”
“Yeah. Why don’t you come over for dinner? She’d be happy to see you.”
“That sounds nice.”
“And then maybe we can throw in a Monty Python DVD?”
“Make it a John Hughes movie and it’s a deal.”
“Uh, I’ve got to go,” She said, the smile fading from her face. I glanced over my shoulder to see what she was looking at and saw the red Corvette pull into the parking lot. I didn’t know what to make of it so I just waved as she made her way towards Matt’s car.
“Please tell me you’re not going down that road again,” Weed said. I didn’t even see where he came from.
“We’re friends. Period.”
“Just friends. She’s coming over for dinner with Mom. Nothing more. Besides, she’s with Matt.”
“For as long as that lasts.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, my interest peaked.
“I’m not even going there. You’re looking for any straw to grasp.”
“I’m over her entirely. Completely.”
“So you’re ready to move on to someone else.”
“If the right girl comes along…maybe…wait. What’ve you done?”
“Trust me,” he said with a grin that terrified me.
“I know better than that.”
“Have I ever led you astray?”
“Only always. Like that time you convinced me to get on that sled tied behind your car.”
“That was a blast”
“Yeah, up until you floored it, got me up to highway speeds, then slammed on the brakes.”
“We never got above 50.”
“I still face planted onto your rear bumper.”
“And you lived.”
“Or like the time you told me that mound of wasabi was guacamole.”
“Now that was funny.”
“I couldn’t feel my tongue for a week!”
“That’s what made it so funny.”
“Or that time with the jumper cables and nipple clamps…”
“Okay, that one might have been a little too mean, but in my defense I didn’t know body hair could catch fire that quickly.”
“So whatever you have planned, I’ll pass.”
“No you won’t.”
“And why wouldn’t I?”
“Two words – boarding school girls.”
“You realize boarding school is two words, right?”
“But schoolgirl is one word.”
“Yeah, that’s how they spell it on all of the movie titles in the back of the video store.”
“Yeah, because pornos are known for their grammatical accuracy.”
“Don’t be putting down the most American of arts.”
Regardless, of where you take your spelling lessons I’m saying no to the whole thing, whatever it is you have planned.”
“Come on, this weekend will be their first one home after being stuck on a campus with only girls…”
“How do you even know any boarding school girls?”
“Boarding school, correctional facility, same thing.”
“No it’s not even close.”
“Hot girls locked up with no guys, only other hot girls, doing god knows what to each other…”
“Life is not a porno. It’s not only hot girls that get put in those places, and I really doubt they’re doing what you picture them doing.”
“Why do you have to kill the dream?”
“Have you even met these girls?”
“Kind of. I mean, we’ve exchanged letters and pictures.”
“Do I even want to know when or how you became a penpal to girls in a correctional institution?”
“It’s been a little while. Last summer, while you were busy fawning over Shawna, I joined through a church youth group for a couple weeks. I thought it would be a good way to meet some chicks.”
“The youth group or the pen pal program.”
“The youth group, at first, but when that didn’t work out I moved on to plan B.”
“You’re going to hell, you know that, right?”
“That’s where the hot naughty girls will be.”
“You really need help,” I said, slipping on my helmet.
“That’s not a no.”
“Because I already said no.”
I fired up the bike while shaking my head at Weed.
“Fine,” he said. “Your loss. You still coming over to work on Pamela?”
I hesitated to say yes. I wanted to work on her. I wanted to get her all fixed up and back out on the road, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to say yes if He came to me again with another assignment. And what would happen if I said no? But then I realized it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, the first assignment came while I was at home, asleep. Avoiding my car wouldn’t keep him from coming to me again. And I had made a deal, it was time to live up to it.
“Nate?” Weed asked. “You coming over?”
“Yeah,” I responded. “Let’s get her done.”