1.The rain falls lightly on the window as I wait for Eli to come out of his house. I turned off the car five minutes ago and it’s already cold inside. I can see my breath in the car. The soft leather seats aren’t comfortable if there is no insulation.
The platinum gray sky is distorted and blurred through the drops on the glass. Every so often the drops will clump together and roll quickly down the pane. I rub my arms slowly through my shirt, a long sleeved wool flannel with blue and black plaid. I focus on a single drop, willing it to move.
Then Eli taps on the window and startles me. I unlock the door, and as he gets in and slams it shut many of the drops fall but not the one I was watching. Small talk ensues as I start the car, but fades out quickly. Eli slumps against the window, his short but shaggy hair pushing against the glass. It’s the early afternoon, but the monotone gray of the sky erases all sense of time.
We eventually hit the downtown area of Laffotta, the town we live in. Downtown consists of a long stretch of road, Bellows Blvd. West Bellows is covered with restaurants and upscale shopping, and a couple of shopping centers that don’t really look like shopping centers. You go east and you hit the businesses you can actually use, hardware stores and fast food. There’s a Starbucks on each half.
We park in the hardware store’s parking lot. Eli gets out and I stay in the car. By now the rain is falling steadily, a shimmer of sparks through the glass. The sound of the drops hitting the car creates a nice backdrop of white noise, and when I lean my head back and can feel myself drifting off, my thoughts going gray with the sky…
Then Eli knocks on the window again and I let him in. He’s wet, his hair looks like it’s been doused. He’s wearing a black rain jacket but apparently he has no use for the hood. He’s carrying a plastic bag and I can’t see what’s in it.
He asks where we’re going and I say, “Where are we going?” and he doesn’t know either. So we drive in the rain to the nice side of Bellows and park behind a restaurant called “Terzzetto’s” which I’ve heard is really good but have never been to. There’s a sign at the end of our parking place that says “customer’s only” and I gesture to it but Eli just laughs and so do I.
We sit in the car for a while before we get out to see if we recognize anyone inside Terzzetto’s. There’s a thin blonde girl at the window with a boy slightly younger than us that I think goes to our school. Eli points to them and says “Isn’t that Sara?” but I don’t know and he laughs again, but only softly, and says “What ever happened with that?” and again I say I don’t know and he says “Well are you okay dude?” and I just mumble but don’t really respond
We don’t see anyone else we recognize and so we get out. As we walk past Terzzetto’s I look in the window at the blonde girl and I don’t think it’s Sara but I can’t really tell because her head is turned away from me. The boy is wearing a t-shirt from our school and his hair is cut severely short, so he looks mangy. I wonder if maybe it is Sara, but I don’t really care and forget about it quickly as we keep walking.
“I love this weather.” Eli says. He’s walking with his hood down and his head back, his black eyes slightly open. “Yeah, me too.” I say. He nods in agreement.
“Are we going to eat?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says, “What should we get?”
“Something cheap. How about Cheese steak?”
“Like, at the sandwich place?”
“Yeah. I have one of those discount things the football players sell.”
Eli agrees to go. We’re heading the wrong direction so we turn around. The wind blows the rain against our backs slightly, so it’s more comfortable to walk. I’m wearing a light grey raincoat over my blue-black flannel and a white tee shirt under that. My hood is pulled up but the front of my hair pokes out from the brim, because I like the way it looks.
“What are you doing on Halloween?” I ask. Eli shrugs. He’s shorter than me, slightly, but bigger. His voice is clean and crisp as he says “I prefer Easter”. I used to yell a lot so mine is slight ragged, like a very loud whisper, and people can’t always understand me, especially in the rain. I ask him again, “What are you doing on Halloween?” and he looks at me and says “Oh. I don’t know dude. It’s on a Wednesday this year I think.” I nod and say that I don’t know either.
We finally arrive at the cheese steak place and inside are about twenty little kids, each maybe eleven, and they’re all wearing dark green baseball jerseys that say something in cursive across the front. A few of them are wearing their matching hats backwards and all of them are wearing athletic shorts of colors that don’t go with their jerseys and their legs are wet. I see a parent in the corner on the cell phone.
Eli says “What the f***.” and then kind of giggles. I see an empty table and I go and put my rain jacket on the back of a seat that’s at it. I stretch my shoulders and bring them around in a circle and I notice that the front of my flannel’s collar is damp.
We order our sandwiches and go sit down at the table. The kids are being noisy and the parent is talking sternly, audibly, but I notice he’s still on his phone and isn’t even looking at the kids. Most of them have sandwiches but I notice a bigger, pig-like kid who doesn’t and who looks like he’s going to cry. I see that a blonde, tan boy is holding a foil wrapped sandwich under the table and also has one in front of him and he and the boy next to him, who has dark hair and electric blue eyes, are glancing furtively at the piggish kid.
Eli’s telling me about some girl he tried to hook up with and I’m trying to listen but then our sandwiches are ready and so I go to get them. As I walk over to the counter I almost slip on the linoleum because it’s so wet from the water on the boys shoes and legs.
I sit down and unwrap my sandwich. It’s steaming slightly, and it tastes good and sweet when I bite into it. Eli grins when he takes a bite too, but the starts picking out the grilled onions. “Why are you doing that?” I ask. “I don’t like their color.” He says. But I think they taste fine and so I keep eating.
Eli continues his story about the girl but I couldn’t understand the beginning so I focus on the fat kid, who really looks like he’s going to cry. He might already be but his hair is wet from the rain or sweat and so that may be why his face is wet too. He has little hands and he’s wiping his piggish face and I can tell he’s really mad. None of the other boys are talking or even looking at him except the boys at the other end of the table with the sandwich under the table. They’re laughing really hard but trying to be quiet.
Then a kid next to those two gets up and the sandwich falls out of their hands. It slides gently on the wet floor from under the table, and I notice there is a name written on the foil. The piggish kid sees it and his face looks confused, and then he looks down the table and sees the boy with the blue eyes laughing really hard. The piggish kid stands up, quietly and quickly, and walks over behind the blue-eyed boy. The kid stops laughing, sort of, and looks right at the piggish kid. I notice that Eli is watching this too.
The blue-eyed boy is smiling but talking confidently, obviously pretending to know nothing. But then the piggish kid puts his hand behind the boy’s head and slams it down really hard, right onto the table. The Blue-eyed boy’s head shoots back up quickly except his eyes are closed and his lip is busted right in the middle and there’s blood shooting out of his nostrils, every breath expelling ropy gobs of scarlet mucus. And then he starts screaming. He touches his face and screams harder and the piggish boy is yelling at him and looks like he’s going to grab his head again but then he gets scared or something and just keeps yelling. The blonde boy isn’t doing anything, just staring at the pool of thick, dark blood that’s forming on the table and the linoleum. The parent is yelling at all the kids from the corner and he still hasn’t put his cell phone away.
Eli is grimacing and I can’t tell what my face is doing but the people behind the counter are staring at the boys and look a little freaked out and a couple of the other kids have started crying to and so we get up to leave and as I look behind me when we’re about to exit I notice the blue-eyed boy is holding something in his hand and it’s a tooth.
I look at my phone and it’s only been a half hour since we parked. Eli mutters “Jesus” a couple times and each time I say “Yeah, what the f***” in agreement. Eli asks if I want to go get some coffee, and I say I do. He doesn’t want to go to Starbucks though. He suggests that we go to the 7/11 in Matero, because we might run into someone from school there.
Matero is a little town that borders Laffotta. It’s small and has almost nothing in it but two shopping centers. In fact, it’s more of a cross section for the three main roads that connect the towns in the area, which are Laffotta, Matero, and Olera. Together they make the “Lamatera” area. Of the three, Laffotta is the biggest, then Olera, which also has a downtown, and then Matero. Laffotta and Olera have freeways running through them, but Matero is just this little disconnected suburb with a good high school and a thriving rest home. Eli and I go to school in Matero, but live in Laffotta. We’re about equal distance from both the Laffotta and Matero schools, but us and a small group of other people from our neighborhood go to Matero High. I guess we like the mascot, the cougars, better.
So we drive to Matero and go to 7/11 but no one’s there except this one kid I recognize from school that I think plays… football and is always being obnoxious in the halls. I think he’s older than us. I look at him through the windshield, which is slightly fogged because my defroster doesn’t work well, and say “That kid is fucking weird.” Eli laughs and says “Yeah, he’s so loud. He always yells weird s***.” And we laugh a little more before we get out of the car and the boy looks at us, and I can tell he recognizes us but he doesn’t wave and just goes back to looking at magazines or whatever. Eli gets two coffees from the machine and I sip mine and it’s good. We buy them but stay inside. The cashier is this big black guy, and he’s cool and talking to us about people who park badly. “I’m trying to get all the business I can, you know? And these teenagers come in here, and they can’t park for s***. Who taught them to park? You guys have been here after school? This place is full to the brim. It’s a good business location. But the parking lot is small! And these kids in their big cars, or even their little cars, they come in here and go over the line by two feet and then no one can park there and I lose business.” And we nod and agree. When we leave he smiles and says “Have a nice day!” even though the day is almost over and it’s raining really hard. We smile back and say “You too dude!”
We don’t drive away though. We sit in the car and I notice that the weird kid is still in their looking at magazines. Eli notices this too and he reaches into the bag he got from the hardware store and pulls out a pack of bright yellow zip lines, the ones people use for baby proofing. I look at them and say “sick.”
The kid doesn’t come out for another fifteen minutes and we’ve finished our coffee and are really bored. Then he does and I start our car and wait until he’s in his and then follow him as he turns out of the parking lot. He heads farther into Matero, and I don’t think he’s noticed that we’re following him since it’s dark and I can hear music coming from his car. I decide to put some music on too so I plug in my iPod and put on Phillip Glass, Glassworks.
Eventually the weird kids car turns onto a side street and we follow him onto it and then flash our lights until he pulls over. He parks and I see him lean towards his rear view mirror to see who we are and then turn around in his seat to look closer. Eli gets out and puts the zip lines in his pocket in one motion. I get out too. Eli pulls his hood up all the way and I mirror him again, and pull it tight so that my hair isn’t visible. The rain is thick and the kid is still in his car.
Eli walks ups to his window and taps on it and I laugh as I see the kid jump a little. I see Eli gesture towards the kid’s rear lights and the kid nods and gets out and he’s maybe six inches taller than Eli and at least as big. His voice is high and annoying and as he turns around in front of me to look at his lights, which are of course fine, I kick the back of his knee and his legs collapses and he falls on the asphalt.
He rolls over and his eyes are big and he’s confused. Then he laughs, begins to say “It’s slippery!” But I cut him off by kicking him so that he rolls over onto his back and then Eli kneels down and sits on him. By now the kid is kicking but not saying anything and I don’t think he knows what’s happening and I look for a gutter while Eli zips the kids hands together and then bends the kids left leg up and also connects his foot to his hands so that the guy can’t walk or get up but can kind of squirm. The rain is still falling really fast and hard.
I see a gutter across the street and so I go over to Eli and I grab the kid under his armpits and kind of drag-push him towards it. The gutter is low next to the curb and the water is running into it loud and fast. I hold the kids face above the metal grate for a second so he can register what he’s seeing and he kind of grunts and then I drop him. He turns his head so that he can breathe and he kind of flops there and the water is moving fast around him. He’s kicking with his one free leg but he’s barely moving and the street is slippery beneath him. I look up and I think I see a blind close behind a window across the street but I don’t know and Eli says “Let’s go” and so we get back in my car. But then I see that the weird kids door is open so I get out and take the keys out and close the car door and then go over to the kid on the ground and say “I’m putting these under your car” and so that’s where I put them. Then I get back in the car and we drive away.