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As a child there were only two things that I loved more than my mother, and that was Spaghetti-Os and Leonard. When you are seven years old, the scariest thing in the whole world is the possibility of a monster birthed from a pile of dirty jammies hiding beneath your bed. What better to soothe your terrified little heart than a spoonful of Spaghetti-Os? When you are seven years old, there is nothing more euphoric than blowing bubbles or catching fireflies, and it only gets better when accompanied by a bowl of yummy brightly colored pasta. And when you are seven years old, the sight of a lost balloon floating high above the clouds or a moth caught on its back left to die brings tears to your eyes, and for whatever reason, macaroni doused in high fructose corn syrup cleverly disguised as tomato sauce seems to be the perfect comfort. But this isn’t about Spaghetti-Os. This is about Leonard.

I met him at the Laundromat in August of 1976, while I was folding my mother’s intimates. It was one of those sticky days, all muggy and hot, when you can feel the sweat trickling down your back or between your thighs, and you spend your afternoon inside so that no one will see the apparent perspiration stains on your tee shirt. For a little boy whose diet mainly consisted of canned dinners and Tab Cola, it only made sense to spend the day in the Laundromat, alternating tee shirts every half hour. The only other people there that day were an elderly man sleeping in the corner, who I’m sure to this day was dead from heat stroke, and the Kingsley’s promiscuous nanny, washing the sheets again. And then there was Leonard, at first just a blurry outline of another plump and equally sweaty seven year old boy, another boy who liked playing with sea monkeys and talking about Three’s Company. And so began our friendship.

Throughout the rest of that summer, Leonard and I did absolutely everything together. He accompanied me on all of my quests and expeditions, and once even navigated us out of the Cave of Mutant Woodpeckers. Sometimes he came to church with me and my mother and we would play tic-tac-toe in the hymnals (he would always let me win). And when Mom went out with her friends every Saturday night and left me with a TV dinner and a baseball bat in case of burglars, Lenny was there to make me feel just a little more safe. We became inseparable, and as the lazy days of summer wound to an end, and second grade was just around the corner, our bond only grew stronger.

“Who’s that fat kid talking to himself?” The other children would say when they didn’t think I could hear. Lenny was never far behind with a consoling compliment or gentle hug.

“What are we going to do with you, you are such a queer boy,” the teachers would say, shaking their heads. But then there was Lenny, a friendly familiar voice to talk to, a shoulder to cry on.

As days turned to weeks and rolled into months and years, I began to change. It started in junior high school, the dreadful swamp of hormones and bad haircuts, with an awkward growth spurt that left me towering above the rest of the invalids. Then it was headgear and the anticipated array of acne. Lenny was there to help pick the pizza crust from my braces and remind me to shower every night. He was there to listen to me gush about Melanie Jacobs, the prettiest girl in school with Farrah Fawcett hair. But soon the headgear was removed, I discovered soap, and my peers grew a few more inches to even me out among the crowd. Soon came high school, and a range of physical activities to rid me of my baby fat. Soon I was no longer a victim to ill-fitting paisley shirts and premature comb-overs, soon Melanie Jacobs was gushing over me. Where did Leonard fit into the equation?

He didn’t.
It became more and more difficult to relate to him, much less hold a conversation. My aspirations changed with my hairstyles, but Lenny was static, a perpetual mirror of my pre adolescence. Our conversations became shorter and more sporadic, until they were more fragments of sentences and one-worded greetings than chatter between buddies. And then he began to fade. First he grew paler, as if he hadn’t eaten in years, and then the edges of his body began to blend into his surroundings, until he just quietly disappeared.

Leonard wasn’t gone forever of course. Sometimes he pops up here and there, but always at the right moments, when I need him most. He was there to applaud while I accepted my diploma when my mother couldn’t make it to my graduation, he was there to shed a happy tear when I wed my wife, there to shed a sad one during a friend’s funeral. And while Lenny isn’t by my side every step of the way, he does always manage to stop by whenever there’s a rerun of Three’s Company.



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Prose said...
Jul. 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Perfectly executed!  

I love this so so SO much!

 
Padfoot507 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm
This is amazing, i love every bit!!! It makes me want to laugh and cry :') You are an amazing author, dont ever stop writing!!!!!!
 
brighteyes This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm
Thank you so much, that means a lot! I read some of your poetry, it's really lovely. You have a very lyrical way of writing that I admire :)
 
Padfoot507 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm
aw thanks  :) i wish i could write stories the way you do, though! You make every bit (even the smallest facts) so interesting!! Please keep writing :)
 
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