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We are sitting on the trunk of the car
that never moves from this spot. The car with three flat tires, the one that will someday be
Robert's car. Robert is always thinking about cars. I am only thinking about how if I tore the
label off my root beer bottle it would look more like real beer. I have never had a beer but my
friends like it very much when I tell them stories about how I have, and how in California you can
get a beer whenever you want because nobody cares very much.
But this is not California. I guess Phoenix is sort of like Los Angeles, where the rest of my
family lives, except that there is nowhere in Arizona for kids to go to get drunk. And you cannot
really get a beer whenever you want in California anyway.
So we wait until the evening when it is cooled off, and we go sit on the trunk of the car that never
moves and pretend our root beers are not root beers.
'My mom says my grandparents are alcoholics,' I say happily. They live in LA. I take a lopsided
swig and go on. 'I don't know what that means but if it means that they like to drink a lot, my mom
must be an alcoholic too. She is always yelling unless she has been drinking,' I say, copying a
phrase I've heard at school, 'and then she just laughs a lot, and real loud, too.' I expect Robert
to know what I am talking about. One of our favorite games is for Robert to pretend to be scared
whenever my mom laughs one of those really loud laughs. We get a real kick out of that.
But instead of answering, he just laughs at me, and it's a mean laugh, too. When he finally stops,
he just drinks the last of his root beer and throws his bottle down the street and doesn't say
'What'' I ask, helpless.
He doesn't answer.
I want to ask again, but I am already embarrassed and I don't want him to laugh at me again.
Instead I throw my bottle down the street too, and I try to laugh. But my bottle is not empty yet,
and it doesn't break. And when I laugh it sounds like someone is poking me in the small of my back
and I want them to stop.
I wish I had asked again.