Summers we stole squirt guns and soaked ourselves in the craggy gulch that split our two trailers. The sun burned our skin in ways our parents never could. We were white kids who looked nearly black. I said, “We can be heroes when we grow up,” and Gordy laughed and laughed at that.
In autumn, pine cones dropped like dull brown grenades. Pine needles coated everything. They reminded me of crossed out words or the scratch marks on my sister’s skin. The air smelled empty. Gordy and I filched junk food because our dads usually ran out of grocery money, spending what we had at the track. When I told Gordy, “I bet your dad is going to pick a winner,” he didn’t laugh. He didn’t utter a sound.
It was easiest to steal in winter. With our oversized jackets, we could hide loaves or cartons of whole milk, cream cheese and nacho chips. We made a fire beneath a boulder where we’d retreat whenever our parents fought. We roasted slices of bread the way other people did marshmallows. I said, “We should become actors when we’re older.” Gordy said, “Man, why are you always talking that shit?” I said, “What shit?” Gordy said, “That dreaming shit.”
The last spring I saw Gordy it had failed to rain for two months straight. Nothing turned green. The ground crackled underfoot. The air stung when you sucked it into your lungs. Even the bugs were too afraid to come out.
I never saw the actual fire, just the cinders afterward. The police asked me where he was hiding. They even searched the woods and put up posters.
Now I’m sitting in the gazebo watching the sky weep white flakes the size of coins. My wife wants to know what I’m thinking. She says I should open up more, that we should talk.
published 22 February 2012