Friendless, hypersensitive and strange, Mike befriends Paul from his sixth grade class. Their shared sick humor makes Mike stranger, but Paul is instrumental in helping him survive childhood.
The opening to “Friendship:”
I imagined the look on Mom’s face when she’d return from work in a couple of hours, that special expression reserved just for my moments of irresponsibility. Or maybe it would be her words, “Locked out of the house again, Michael? I thought you’d outgrown the habit of losing the spare key, but apparently not.”
Hoping to avoid another of her weighty judgments, I checked all doors and openings – even the four dormer windows on the roof – trusting that at least one might be unlocked, but our house was, as ever, suppressed and sealed tight.
Desperate, preparing to smash glass if I had to, I pushed on our little kitchen window several times when, to my delight, the wood frame jiggled. Benefiting from using what little torque my eleven-year-old arms could muster, the window suddenly blasted up all in one motion. But now, all over the kitchen counter, was a bloody red mess of tomatoes that had fallen from the ledge.
After crawling through the open window frame, I figured no one would know the difference if I put the semi-split tomatoes back on the sill. After I wiped the splattered ones away, everything was as before, and Mom would never know I’d been locked out.
As I helped prepare dinner that evening, she reached for one of the tomatoes. Spotting the ooze that seeped from it, she checked others for similar cuts and, in the process, noticed the window left ajar.
“Did you …”
“Michael, were you locked out again?”
“I had to, Mom, over two hours to wait and …”
“You could’ve gone over to a friend’s house, or gone …”
“What friends? I don’t have any.”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic.”
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