1 CHUNKY MOLD
You’d have to be nuts to trust a magician. I learned that lesson the hard way. And then, if you can believe it, I actually became a magician’s assistant. That part was the Rainbow Girl’s fault, but the rest of it I blame on a little dog named Flip.
The trouble started the second Friday of seventh grade. Damon Rayburn shoved me out of the lunch line. “Thanks, Coffin,” he said.
“For what?” I said.
“Offering to buy me a slice.”
If you think a little threat like that could get me to surrender my pizza money to an idiot like Damon Rayburn, you know me pretty well. He slapped the back of my head and cut to the front of the line.
“You’re half a foot taller than him, Coffin,” this kid half a foot shorter than Rayburn said. His name was Chucky Mull, but everybody called him Chunky Mold. “You should have belted him. Now he knows he can push you around.”
“Allow me to quote Yoda, from The Empire Strikes Back,” I said. “‘A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.’”
“You were being called upon to defend your inalienable right to eat meatball pizza,” Mold said.
“Yoda also says don’t be a wimp.”“Yoda never uses the word wimp.”
“He says, ‘Fear is the path to the dark side.’ Dude, hello, The Phantom Menace?”
There was no debating Mold on this stuff. He had the T-shirts—the sheets too. I shoved him toward our spot far, far away in the dark corner where they kept the garbage dumpster nobody ever dumped. Mold’s mom had stuck a note on the waxed paper that barely covered his foot-long hero. It said, LOVE YOU. ⁄ He tossed the note and crammed a hunk of sandwich into his mouth. “Any chance you would consider splitting that with me?” I said. “Come on, Mold, you’ll never be able to finish the whole thing.”
“Watch me,” Chucky said. “Holy crud, here she comes.”Mrs. Pinto worked her way toward us. She was really pretty for a principal or even a normal human being. “Hi guys,” she said.
“Good, how are you?” Mold said.
“If you ever need anything, stop by my office, okay?”
“You too,” Mold said.Mrs. Pinto patted my shoulder as she left.
“She totally just touched you,” Chucky said. “You, a loser, caressed on your loser shoulder by Mrs. P. I sent her the wink almost like four hours ago now. Nothing. Why are you staring at me like that? Dude, the emoticon? Are you visiting from The Stone Age?”
“I know what the wink is. I just can’t believe you sent her one.”
“So?”“She’s old. Mold, she’s like thirty.”
“It’s not what you think. On Facebook the wink is a sign of supreme respect. It’s like when somebody inspires you, you wink at them. It’s true. It’s an ancient custom that goes all the way back to classical times, the Greeks and Romanians. It’s like you’re bowing to her to acknowledge her awesomeness.”
“Then why not just send her a bow?”
“Because there’s no emoticon for that, you moron. Just because she has a totally amazing butt doesn’t mean she can’t be my hero too, for her, you know, incredible wisdom and everything.”
“That’s why you winked at her—her wisdom.”
“What do you know anyway? You’re not even on Facebook. It’s a real thing, I swear. In many cultures it’s considered rude not to send the wink.” He batted away a fly from where the peanut butter slimed his lip like a gluey booger.
I had to believe him, firstly because you can tell when somebody’s lying, and he truly didn’t think he was, and most of all because he was right about me not being on Facebook. The whole friends thing: It wasn’t really happening. Even Mold was more aggravation than ally. I moved to the neighborhood less than two years before. In a year me and my mom were heading to Florida, right after she retired. We could live great down there for cheap, she said. I figured why bother making friends when I was out of here pretty soon?
“Chucky, not even a bite? Really?” I said.
“Dream on,” he said, or something like that. I couldn’t tell with the sandwich all gunked up in his braces.
Copyright © 2016 by Paul Griffin. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.