Alex took a break from sucking on Jenny’s neck to bark up at Ben. “Keep it under a hundred kilometers an hour, man!” he said. “Don’t want to attract any attention.”
Ben locked eyes with Alex in the rear-view, firing him a look as if to say what am I, a fucking idiot? Alex launched a face back, loosely translated as just shut the fuck up and do it. He dove back into Jenny’s nape, engulfing it. She whispered something in his ear. They looked up at Ben, giggling. Ben raised a backward fist, unfurling his middle digit.
Fuck it. He released his grip on the wheel. Not much longer. He feathered his fingers while steering with his leg, a skill about which Ben was disproportionately proud. Gonna do my part, dumbfuck as it is. Not that he could forget it. Alex peppered orders from the back seat constantly. Really obvious shit, like: Act natural at the border, Ben! Don’t speed, Ben! Don’t get in an accident, Ben! Don’t open the hash window, Ben!
It was pretty trojan, actually. The drugs were stashed in the slit beneath the back window of his Olds in a sleeve Alex made from some exotic plastic he had found on the internet that supposedly masked the scent of drugs and explosives from dogs. About twenty-five ounces of hash could be compressed into the sleeve and inserted into the window well. Not a huge brick. Still, enough of a payoff to be worth the trip across the border, and they could use the cash.
After meeting up with their Toronto contact, they had taken a night at The Professor Arms, a dilapidated hellhole off King’s Highway. Alex shoved the Gideon bible off the night table and plugged in a Sears hot plate he brought for the occasion, which they used to warm the hash, making it malleable while retaining the THC. The process was monotonous, to say the least, and Ben’s hands were spotted with burns from nodding off at the switch. A few hours before dawn, the sleeve was packed and ready for insertion. They parked Ben’s car out of view behind the dumpsters and took the door apart, which involved a hell of a lot more re-jiggering of internal mechanisms than Ben had imagined. Alex seemed to know his Olds more intimately than he did. By the time they finished, Ben discovered he had a newfound respect for Alex. He resented it.
Busted-ass air conditioning, thought Ben. He pulled a Tim Hortons napkin from the glove compartment and patted his forehead. With the drugs in the slit, the ‘hash window’ had to stay closed at all times, a real bummer on this brutal August day. Don’t hassle it, thought Ben. Just two hours to Buffalo. It would be good to be home, while the money lasted. I think it’s time I throw down to get Cat Scratch Castle for Iggy. He grinned, picturing the raggedy tortie leaping from tower to tower. I’ll cover the whole thing with fucking catnip!
“Ben!” snapped Alex, shaking Ben from his feline reverie. “Pull over! I have to piss!”
“Sure thing, boss,” said Ben. They had been friends since second grade, but lately Alex was pulling some sort of bullshit rank. Ben glanced at Jenny in the rear-view, her shiny black mane showering over slender arms, which were crooked under her chin as she napped. So cute. He shook his head, scowling at Alex. Way out of his fucking league.
“Ben, goddamn it! Pull the hell over!”
Ben ditched the Olds onto the shoulder and slammed it into ‘park’.
Alex crawled over Jenny. She screeched awake as a knee dug into her lap. He shoved the door open, tumbling out onto the shoulder. He sprung up, brushed himself off and strutted to the front of the car, unzipping.
“Do you have to do it right here, man?” said Ben. “Walk over to the goddamn woods!”
“It’s faster this way, dude.” He shook off, a few drops dribbling onto his boots. “The quicker we get this job over, the quicker we can start fucking partying.” He crawled back over Jenny, still unzipped.
“You gonna make Jenny pee on the side of the road when she needs to go?”
“Yeah!” said Jenny. “You gonna make me do that?”
“Of course not, baby,” said Alex. “I would never make you do such a thing!” He snatched an empty Gatorade bottle from the floor. “How’s your aim?”
Jenny rolled her eyes. Alex rolled his back.
“Ben, let’s fucking go, dude,” he said, still zipping up. “Hit the motherfucking gas, man!”
“Yes, admiral!” exclaimed Ben.
Alex slammed against the back seat as the car lurched.
Ben cranked the radio to drown out Alex’s bitching. Loverboy’s Working for the Weekend filled the Olds, one of Alex’s favorite songs, and, mercifully, he shut up. Entranced by the cheesy ‘80s anthem, he was soon in its throes, bobbing his head, drumming on his thighs, butchering a lip-sync. As the chorus came around, Ben braced himself. Sure enough, when it hit, Alex bleated out the words. An impassioned, atonal performance:
Everybody’s working for the weekend!
Everybody wants a new romance!
Everybody’s goin’ off the deep end!
Everybody needs a second chance, oh!
You want a piece of my heart?
You better start from start!
You wanna be in The Show?
Come on baby, let’s go!
Alex was beaming.
“Ben!” he yelled over the music.
“What?” said Ben.
“That’s us, man!” said Alex.
“What?” said Ben.
Ben flipped his palms to the roof, steering with the back of his hands. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Working for the weekend!” shouted Alex. “That’s us, man! We’re working for the weekend! We’re in The Show!”
“Whatever!” shouted Ben. “I don’t care!”
“That’s fine!” said Ben. “Yes, we’re working for the fucking weekend. I get it!”
“It’s like the song!” said Alex. “WE’RE WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND LIKE THE SONG!”
“I GET IT!” yelled Ben.
Alex hadn’t been this upbeat the entire trip, so Ben went ahead and kept the ‘80s station pumping.
When they passed Saint Catharines, Ben killed the radio. The border was only a few miles away. Time to get our shit together.
When he spotted the border station, his heart dropped. Traffic was backed up for over a hundred yards, crawling.
Great. Ben gripped the steering wheel with sweaty palms. Well, at least this won’t be stressful or anything.
The car fell silent as a cloud of nervous tension enveloped. Jenny rustled around in her purse, coming up with a prescription bottle. She popped it open, pouring three purple tablets into her palm.
“What the hell are those?” demanded Alex.
“Baby, chill the fuck out.” She tossed the pills onto her tongue and took a pull off an Aquafina bottle. “They’re just diet pills.”
“What? Why – ” said Alex. “Those things make you fucking crazy!”
“If anything, they make me friendly!” said Jenny. “You said be friendly at the border, right?”
“Did you have to take three?” He punched the back of the driver’s seat, making Ben jump. “It’s too late,” he said. “Just smile and keep that chatterbox shut. You get verbal diarrhea when you chew that shit!”
“Jesus, Alex.” Jenny slumped down in her seat. “You don’t have to yell at me.”
Alex softened. “Don’t stress, baby,” he whispered. “We just have to be chill, and everything will be cool.” He pointed at the guard station. “We’re a football field away. Just gotta run the ball into the end zone and spike that motherfucker.”
“We’re from Buffalo, man,” said Ben. He drummed on the wheel to erratic music playing in his head. “You might wanna lose the football analogies.”
“Football’s fucking stupid,” said Jenny.
The traffic oozed forward. The other lanes always seemed to be moving faster, but whenever Ben switched, his lane slowed down just as the others sped up. Finally, the Olds was on deck. An eternity later, the Camry in front of them cleared the station.
The border guard, a paunchy fellow glazed with sweat, waved them forward.
Game time, thought Ben.
“Everybody smile,” said Alex, smiling by way of example. “Just a couple young kids on a weekend camping trip.”
Ben eased the car forward, smiling.
“Hello there!” said the border guard. “How are you today?”
“Just fine, sir!” said Ben. “How are you doing?”
“I’m not really doing so well, thanks for asking!” said the guard. “To tell you the truth, I’m doing kinda crappy!”
Great, thought Ben.
“Gosh. Sorry to hear that, sir!” said Ben.
“IDs,” said the guard. “If you have passports, I’ll take those, too.”
“Not a problem!” Ben handed over their identification. The IDs were legit, so this part was no problem.
The border guard arched an eyebrow at the IDs. A half-eaten McRib sandwich was splayed out in his booth. He set the IDs aside and took a mouthful of the vulgar-looking thing. Barbecue sauce squeezed out the side of the bun and slopped down his chin onto his right thumb. He pinched the sauce with a soiled napkin and wiped his chin, but missed a dollop resting in the corner of his mouth.
“Americans,” he said. “What can I say? Welcome back! I guess.”
“Thanks, sir!” said Ben. “Back to the good ‘ole US of A!”
The guard rolled his eyes.
“What was your business in Canada?” he said. “Just thought everyone was nicer up there?”
“Ha! No business, sir,” said Ben. “You know –“
“No, I don’t know,” said the guard. “You have to tell me.”
“Yup!” said Ben. “Just checked out Toronto, did some touristy stuff, then a little hiking and camping up near Claireville.”
“There’s camping in Claireville?” He squinted into the car. “Where’s all your camping gear?”
Crap, thought Ben.
“Well, of course, we don’t have any!” he offered. “I mean, we left it there. In Claireville? We left it with…friends?”
“You left your camping gear with friends?” said the guard. “Who are these friends?”
“Oh, I don’t know…” said Ben. “You know!”
“No. Actually, I don’t!”
“Well,” said the guard. “I think that’s super! That’s really convenient!”
“Yes, it is!” said Ben. “Super convenient!”
“So nice to have friends.” He held up Ben’s ID. “Isn’t it…Benjamin?”
“Yes, sir,” exclaimed Ben. “Amen to that!”
“Are you religious, Benjamin?”
“No, sir,” said Ben.
“Then why do you say ‘Amen’? I can’t understand that.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Ben. “You just, say things sometimes. Amen to this…Amen to that.”
“Yes, amen to that, Benjy!” said the guard. “Except me, I no longer have any friends, do I?” He took another enormous bite of McRib. “They all think I’m a real piece of work, don’t they, Benjy? A real dum-dum. A real ass. Don’t they, Benjy?”
Ben felt a bead of sweat dislodge from the base of his neck and trickle down the length of his back.
“So!” said the guard, a lively smile overtaking his face. “If it was so gosh darn great with all your precious friends, why bother coming back?”
“Well, we’re from Buffalo, sir.” He pointed to his ID. “Home sweet home and all!”
“Ah, yes. Of course! Home sweet home,” said the guard. “I had a home once, didn’t I, Benjy? And a wife.”
“Sir?” said Ben. “I guess so, sir.”
“Ben,” whispered Alex. “You’re fucking it up!” He leaned into the front.
“Life throws you curveballs, eh, sir?” said Alex. “Well, best of luck with everything!”
“You said it!” said the guard. He shuffled the IDs. “You’re Alexander?”
“In the flesh!” said Alex. “You can call me Alex.”
“My name is Ned,” said the guard. “Ned Grossman.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Grossman!” said Alex.
“Please,” said the guard, raising a generous hand. “Call me Ned.”
In the rear-view, Jenny was wiggling. Eyes wide. Pupils dilated. She cupped a hand over her mouth. “He’s got a glop of barbecue sauce in the corner of his mouth!” she seethed. “Can’t he feel it?” She licked at phantom barbecue sauce in the corner of her own mouth. “Why can’t he feel it?”
“I see it!” hissed Alex through smiling teeth. “It doesn’t matter.”
“That must be Jennifer!” said Ned. “Holy cow-patty, what a beauty! Benjy, pal. Do me a favor and roll down that window so I can see you good-looking kids better!”
Ben smiled. He went to put down the window, then froze. Shit!
“Oh! Ah — Sorry, sir!” he said. “I mean, Ned. Wouldn’t you know it? The window’s actually broken. Can’t put it down!”
“Broken window?” said Ned. “Well, then, this is your lucky day! You’re not gonna believe this, but I was an auto mechanic in a former life!”
He waved them forward.
“You guys are all set,” he said. “Go ahead and pull over there to the left by the police station, and I’ll take a look at that window for you.”
“Oh, nooooooooo,” said Ben. “No, no, no. No thank you. Not necessary. We couldn’t. We’re used to the window being like that.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Ned. “It’s hotter than Satan’s nacho farts out here! Go ahead and pull over up there by the police station. We’ll have you out of here with a working window in a jif!”
“Sir?” said Jenny. “Can I explain something? There’s a bit of barb – “
“— I won’t take no for an answer, Jennifer!” said Ned. “Really. It’s no sweat! My tools are in my trunk, and I have a break coming up anyway. You’d really be helping me out. My therapist says I thrive on being useful!” He swept his hand in the distance. “Go ahead, pull up over there on the left by the police headquarters.”
“Really, we’re in a huge rush,” insisted Alex. “Our mothers are waiting for us to have a really big dinner, and it’s Ben’s birthday, you see, so our moms are expecting us soon, and we wouldn’t want to miss the big party.”
“Nonsense!” said Ned. “There’s no need to be polite!” He waved Ben’s ID in the air. “Benjy’s birthday isn’t for five months! Unless this is a fake ID?” He leaned out of the booth toward Ben. “You drinking under age, Benjamin?” he asked.
“What?” stammered Ben. “I – “
“Oh, hahahahaha!” said Alex. “Just kidding!”
“Never kid a kidder!” exclaimed Ned.
“Hahahahahaha!” choked Ben.
“Go ahead and pull up there to the left by the police station,” said Ned. “Over there where all the police cars are parked.”
He pointed toward a police station where police cars were parked.
“We’ll get that window fixed before a hummingbird can say ‘hummingbirds don’t’ talk, dummy’! Ha! Just right up there to the left, by the police station!”
“Sure thing!” said Ben. He rolled the car forward, parking at the location that Ned Grossman, US Border Guard and former auto mechanic, had suggested. Behind them, Ben could see Ned conversing with another border guard, who looked pissed as he took over Ned’s station.
“Guys,” said Jenny, rocking back and forth like an asylum patient. “I’m gonna have to wipe that barbecue sauce off his face. I need to wipe it off. Isn’t it driving you absolutely mad? Why can’t he feel it? Doesn’t he have any nerve endings in the corner of his mouth?”
“Everybody just calm the fuck down!” said Alex. “We need to come up with a reason why we need to leave by the time that fat fuck gets back. Think.”
“HOW CAN I THINK WHEN HE’S GOT A HUGE GLOP OF BARBECUE SAUCE ON HIS FACE AND NO NERVE ENDINGS IN THE CORNER OF HIS MOUTH AND WON’T FUCKING WIPE IT OFF!” said Jenny. She clenched her jaw, hopping up and down like a seven-year-old who needs to pee real bad.
“By the way. Quick thinking with the birthday party thing,” said Ben. “And that camping story was a real gem.”
“Fuck off, Benjy.”
Two police officers emerged from the headquarters, one leading a German Shepherd on a thick leather leash. The officers noticed them and started walking in their direction. Ben swore he saw the German Shepard squinch up its nose as they approached.
“Oh my god oh my god oh my god,” said Jenny.
Ben rolled down his window. “Howdy, officers!” he said. Howdy?
“Hiya!” said the female officer. She leaned down, peering into the car. “What’s going on out here?”
“Nothing! We’re just…uh…you know, waiting for Ned,” said Alex. “He’s gonna help us with our car window. It’s on the fritz! Wow, what a nice guy!”
The officers looked over to Ned, whose butt crack was beaming in the sun as he rummaged around in his trunk.
“Sure,” said the male officer. “Real breath of fresh air, that Grossman.” The officers exchanged a look.
“Carry on,” said the female officer. “Do me a favor? Tell ‘ole Ned it’s his turn to scrub the break-room toilet, and don’t just check off the box without cleaning it this time.”
The officers walked away, chuckling amongst themselves. After a few steps, the German Shepherd craned against its leash, whimpering. It tilted its head, staring Ben directly in the eyes. It squinched its nose again. Once. Twice. Three times.
“Come on, Goliath,” said the female officer, tugging on the leash. “Come on, boy.”
Ben sat in paralytic fear. The dog continued to look at him, through him.
“He knows,” whispered Ben.
Suddenly, the German Shepherd turned and trotted away, tail wagging.
“The dog doesn’t know shit!” said Alex. “The stuff works!”
“What stuff works?” exclaimed Ned, who had appeared in the opposite window.
“Whoa!” said Ned. “Easy, there, little lady!”
“Sorry…so sorry!” said Jenny breathlessly. “Just…nervous?”
“What’s there to be nervous about?” said Ned. “What are you, drug smuggling banditos or something?”
Is he fucking with us? thought Ben.
“Sir?” said Jenny. “There’s a bit of barbecue sauce in the corner – ”
“Guys,” said Ned, frowning. “I’m afraid I have some really bad news for the three of you. I didn’t wanna have to do this to you, since you seem like super nice people – ”
Alex, Ben and Jenny froze.
“ – but I didn’t bring my tool set with me today. I always carry the darn thing, then the one time I need it, of course! I forget to throw it in the trunk.”
“Oh…oh!” said Alex. “That’s ok!”
“Yay!” squealed Jenny.
“Thanks so much, really,” said Ben. “What a nice thought.” He found himself shooting Ned a double thumbs-up. “Maybe next time, eh?”
“Next time?” said Ned. “Do you mean it?”
“What?” said Ben.
“Do you really mean it?” said Ned.
“Well, sure,” said Ben, “I guess?”
“Ned,” said Jenny. “Can I please ask you something?”
“Sure,” said Ned.
“You have a huge glop of barbecue sauce in the corner of your mouth,” she said. “Don’t you want to wipe it off? Isn’t it…disgusting?”
“Oh, dear,” said Ned. He felt at the corner of his mouth.
“No, the other side,” said Jenny, miming a wiping motion on her face.
“Oh, right.” Ned swiped the sauce off with a stiff finger.
Jenny let out an audible sigh of relief. “Thank fucking Elmo,” she whispered.
Ned popped the finger into his mouth, suckling. Suddenly, his lips began to tremble, and all at once, he started to weep.
“Sir…Ned! What’s wrong? ” said Alex. “We’re sorry. She didn’t mean it! She’s got O.C.D. She’s an idiot!”
“Oh, it’s just…my Martha,” said Ned, “We’d drive out to McDonald’s on Thursdays, and she always asked for extra barbecue sauce on her McRib.”
“My gosh,” said Jenny. “I’m so sorry. What happened to her? Is she dead?”
“Might as well be,” said Ned. “She ran off with another man!”
“Gosh, I’m so bummed about that, Ned,” said Alex. “Listen, sorry to be rude, but we really need to get going. Is it ok to leave now?”
For a full minute, Ned stood there in silence, pinching his eyes between his thumb and pointer finger. Finally, he raised his head.
“Can I ask you guys something?” he said, clearing tears from his eyes.
“Of course,” said Alex. “Anything!”
“Can I…come with you?” He pointed to the border station, shaking his head in disgust. “There’s nothing for me here anymore.”
“Well,” said Alex. “Actually. The officers said it was your turn to clean the break-room toilet?”
“Exactly!” said Ned. “Please! Take me with you!”
“Umm…I guess so?” Ben checked Alex in the rearview. “Is that allowed? Isn’t that, like, against the rules or something?”
“SCREW THE RULES!” said Ned.
The officers with the German Shepard looked back toward the car.
“I’m sick of playing by the rules!” said Ned. “You’re looking at a new Ned Grossman from here on out!”
“Well…allrighty then!” said Alex, apparently finished with his cost-benefit analysis of the situation. “Let’s go, Ned my boy! Hop in and let’s roll!”
Jenny got out to ride shotgun with Ben, and Ned jumped in the back with Alex.
“I feel so alive!” exclaimed Ned.
“Tell me about it,” said Alex. “Hit the gas, Ben. Let’s get the holy fuck out of here.”
Ben slammed on the accelerator. Iggy, looks like you’ll be getting Cat Scratch Castle after all! He cranked the ‘80s station again, and Journey filled the car. Alex and Ned sang horribly, at the top their lungs, like old friends.
When the station changed to talk radio at the top of the hour, the crew settled back into doldrums. Ben caught a stale aroma drifting from the back seat. It smelled like old couch with undertones of fish and a hint of barbecue sauce.
“It’s so hot,” said Ned, scratching his crotch. “No A.C.?”
“No, sorry,” said Ben.
“You sure this window doesn’t work?”
“No,” said Alex. “Doesn’t work, like we said.”
“Do you guys have any snacks, like chips or anything?”
“I think there’s a granola bar in the side pocket there,” said Ben. “You can have that, if you want.”
Ned fumbled around in the side pocket and came up with the granola bar, squinting at it.
“This has peanuts.” He held it up for everyone to see. “Do you have anything that doesn’t have peanuts?”
“No. Sorry, dude,” said Alex. “That’s the only kind we have.”
“I’m allergic to peanuts,” announced Ned.
“I figured,” said Alex.
“Do you have any chips?” said Ned.
“Yeah, sorry,” said Alex. “No chips, like I just said two seconds ago.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Ned, pointing up the highway. “McDonald’s!” He clapped his hands together. “Done!”
“Not for me, thanks,” said Ben. “I don’t eat meat.”
“McDonald’s?” said Jenny, “Gross.”
“Shit, I haven’t eaten McDonald’s since, like, junior high,” said Alex. “That stuff is poison, dude.”
Ned shrunk down in his seat, staring out the window. He jammed his pinky into his right ear, digging out a moist nugget of earwax. He balled it up between his thumb and pointer finger, flicking it across the car. It bounced off the hash window, landing in Alex’s lap. Alex just sat there, mouth agape, staring down at it.
“I gotta say, guys,” said Ned. “No offence, but this kinda sucks so far.”
“Ben,” said Alex, still staring at the nugget of earwax in his lap. “Pull into McDonald’s. Let’s let ‘ole Ned here get some munchies.”
“Fine,” said Ben. “But let’s do the drive-thru. We’re almost home.”
“No, let’s definitely go inside.” Alex gave Ned’s shoulder a smack with the back of his hand. “They always screw you at the drive-thru. Am I right?”
“This is true,” said Ned.
Ben tore across two lanes to make the exit. Ned hopped out of the car and jogged toward the fast food mecca, almost trampling a blonde-haired boy who was sprinting joyously toward McDonald’s Playland.
Ben, Alex and Jenny trailed Ned into the restaurant, where he had somehow pushed his way to the front of the line.
“Welcome to McDonald’s may I take your order,” said the cashier in monotone.
“Yes!” said Ned. “Can I have the two cheeseburger meal?”
“Yes! Super size.” He turned back to Alex, smiling. “Duh, right?”
“That will be $5.45.”
“I’m not done yet.”
The cashier closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh. She appeared to be collecting herself. Her eyes peeled open again, half way.
“Can I have some Chicken McNuggets?”
“Would you like the 20 nuggets for $4.99 deal.”
Ned turned back to Alex and Jenny, who were already shaking their heads no.
“Just the ten piece.”
“Can I have a chocolate milkshake?”
“Small or large.”
“No, that’s it.”
Ned paid the disgruntled talking head.
After some complaining, Jenny ordered a salad and Alex got a Big Mac. Ben passed. They gathered their orders, unloading onto a table abutting the Playland. Ned plowed orgiastically through his fast food feast.
“This Playland is amazing,” said Ben, admiring the interworking of tubes, slides and catwalks that ushered children to an enormous pool of multi-colored plastic balls.
“Yeah,” said Ned. “I used to come to this same McDonald’s when I was a kid. My parents used to live pretty close to here.”
“Wow, what a coincidence,” said Jenny.
“So this is like a major homecoming for you!” said Alex.
He’s acting weird, thought Ben.
“Yeah,” said Ned. “I guess it is!”
The blonde boy Ned had almost trampled ran over, chased by his exasperated mother.
“Hey, you!” The boy stabbed a finger at Ned. “Come watch me go down the slide!” His mother snatched him up.
“The nice man is eating,” said the woman. “He can’t play with you.”
“Nonsense!” said Ned. “I’d be happy to play with your boy! I love little boys!”
“No, really,” said the mom. “That’s not necessary.”
“I insist on playing with your boy!” said Ned.
“Sure,” said the mom. “Whatever.”
Ned leapt from the table and skipped into the Playland with the boy, his mom shuffling wearily behind.
Alex whispered something into Jenny’s ear. Her eyes widened, and she giggled. They got up from the table and walked into Playland holding hands. Ben followed.
Ned was standing by the pool, throwing plastic balls to the boy, who was smacking them out of the air, making explosion sounds as he hit each one.
“Wow,” said Alex, leaning over the pool of balls. “Hey, Ned. Looks like somebody dropped a twenty dollar bill in there.”
Jenny stifled a laugh.
“What?” said Ned. “Where?”
“Right there!” He gestured into the middle of the pool. “Smack dab in the middle!”
“Twenty bucks?” said Ned. “I don’t see it.”
“It’s right there, man,” said Alex. “A crisp twenty, right near your new buddy there. You blind?”
“Shhh!” said Ned. “We don’t want anyone to get our loot, do we? I think I see it now!” He looked over at Ben, grinning. “This is so exciting!”
Ben scanned the pool of balls. He didn’t see anything.
“Darn it, I need my glasses,” said Ben. “Of course! Left them back at the border.”
“THEN WHY DON’T YOU TAKE A CLOSER LOOK!” said Alex. He planted a foot into Ned’s backside and shoved.
“Weee!” squealed Ned as he belly-flopped into the sea of balls, a tidal wave cresting over the side of the pool, sending colored globes bouncing everywhere.
“Run,” whispered Jenny in Ben’s ear, and she took off. Alex was already out the door.
Ben chased them into the parking lot, where they were doubled over, clutching their bellies.
“Open the door, dude!” shouted Alex. “Let’s go!”
They jumped into the Olds.
“What the hell, Alex?” said Ben, firing up the car. “Was this your plan all along?”
“Why didn’t we just leave him in the parking lot?”
“I was hungry!”
“You said that stuff was poison!”
“It’s also good fucking grub!”
“Wow,” said Ben.
“Don’t stress, Ben,” said Alex. “This is better for ‘ol Ned. Besides, I didn’t want to have to whack him back in Buffalo.”
“Whack him?” said Ben.
“You think I wouldn’t do it?” said Alex.
“Oh, please,” said Jenny.
Ben took a parting glimpse in the rear-view as they peeled out of the McDonald’s parking lot. Ned was flopping and flailing in the pool of plastic balls with the blonde-haired boy. The boy’s parents looked horrified, but it seemed like Ned was having a blast. He and the boy were talking and gesturing excitedly. Whether they were still looking for the twenty dollar bill, or just playing, or whether Ned even realized they were gone, Ben could not say.