Not long before the school day ended, the sun had shown its face again and scared away the rain. Jason left his school and moved past the bus stop kids, the car riders and the little groups of kids who, like him, walked to and from school, either by choice or by circumstance, and crossed over to Lee street, with its Leave-it-to-Beaver houses and its perfectly manicured lawns. His house was on Burch Avenue and Lee Street was the quickest route on foot. That and there were no mean dogs on Lee Street, well except for Mrs. Smith’s Chihuahua Rodney, but ankle biters like Rodney didn’t scare him none.
He was about halfway down Lee when he saw Terry Callahan standing next to the streetlamp across from Linda Bennett’s house. Terry was a grade behind him in school, but two years his elder, having flunked the fifth grade twice, was well on his way to flunking a third time, and was the one person that knew how to bury himself right up under Jason’s skin.
Terry saw Jason and waved then dropped his backpack to the sidewalk and waddled towards him. Terry was fat, smelled like fried bologna most of the time and his wardrobe seemed to consist of nothing but grease stained baggy jeans and tee shirts from every comic book ever created. Today he was sporting a green Dr. Strange tee with a fading, crumbling decal and no sleeves. His hair, which was firebrick red, was always greasy and in need of cutting and today, it was in no better shape then usual.
“Hey, Jason! Wait up, man!”
Jason stopped and waited for Terry. When the older boy did catch up his chest was heaving breaths in and out so hard that Jason expected to see him exhale his lungs. “Ho…hold on. Got…got to…got to catch my breath. You trying to kill me, walkin so damn fast.”
Jason, who had not even noticed that he had been walking fast to begin with, just looked at Terry and shrugged. “If you weren’t so…big boned,” Jason said, using the term Terry so often used to indicate his weight. “And in better shape, you wouldn’t be about to barf up your insides right now.”
“Ah, man. I wait here for like ten minutes to tell a guy my biggest good news ever…and he cuts on me. What kind of shit is that?”
“Lighten up, Callahan. I’m just messing with you.”
“You could be nice to a guy every once and again, that’s all I’m saying.”
“So what’s your biggest good news?” Jason asked, not really interested but quite aware that if he didn’t ask Terry would not stop pestering him until he did.
“Hold on,” Terry said and trundled over to where he had dropped his backpack. He picked it up, slung it over one bulbous shoulder and came back over to where Jason was waiting. “Ok. What would you say if I told you I know away you could get your PSP back from Ricky Shands and impress little miss proper…” Terry, smiling like a deranged clown on acid, gave a nod towards Linda Bennett’s house. “…at the same time?”
“And how do you plan to do that?” Jason asked with authentic curiosity. Ricky Shands, local school bully and Linda’s current beau, and a couple of his close buddies(Jerry Tucker and Matt Harman) had cornered Jason behind the Gym on the last day of school and taken away his PSP. Forced him to give it up. Jason had complied rather than take a beating, either way they would have taken it, and he had known this, so he had chose option one and saved himself a world of misery. His heart hurt to see it go, as it had been a Christmas gift and the best one under the tree, but he had handed it over. He wanted it back, more than anything, but…
“What makes you think Ricky even still has it? It’s been like six months, dude, it’s probably busted by now or traded to one of those other dicks he hangs with.”
“I saw him with it. And I know it’s yours…cause your initials are carved on the back of it.”
“Ricky’s a lot bigger than me, Terry, and he’d kick your fat ass all over town. It’s a lost cause.” Jason was walking away from Terry as he spoke.
“C’mon, dude, I know the perfect way.” Terry said as he fell in alongside Jason, panting heavily, struggling to keep up, and trying to get a word in between breaths. “They won’t even know it was us.”
Jason slowed his walk and looked at Terry with a questioning glance.
The bigger boy, relieved by the slower pace continued with his pitch. “The Barton house over on Douglas.” He spat, fighting to catch his breath.
“What about it?” Jason asked, ignoring the way Terry was wheezing and hitching breaths like a chainsmoker attempting to run the triathelon.
They had reached the end of Lee Street and Jason stopped to check for traffic, at this time of day you could usually expect to see one of the older kids come speeding by in one of their suped up rides, oblivious to anything but the ungodly thump of bass or a glass pack muffler.
“That’s where they hang out after school. In the backyard, smoking cigs and jerking each other off for all I know, but dude, they are always there alone. Jerry and Matt usually hang with him, and sometimes that weird kid from the seventh grade, Johnny something, shit, I don’t know his name. Dude freaks me out.”
Johnny Dawson, that was his name, and Jason knew a little about him. He was tall and lanky with greasy hair and a face full of pimples that he would pop while sitting in class, wiping the pus on his jeans. The kid was weird, no agument there. He had transferred in about three months ago and word around school was he was kicked out of his old school cause he had been caught stroking off Barry the Bulldog, the school’s mascot. Jason didn’t know if that was true , some form of gossip always seemed to trail in behind the new kids, but he didn’t doubt it either. Just last week he had got into some trouble over bringing a dildo to school and harassing the girls in his class with it. Screaming how he was going to stick it in their butts. Though Johnny had found his obscene antics hilarious, Miss Malcom, the history teacher and Principle Davis, did not. He was suspended for three weeks.
“Why would they hang out with that guy? That’s just creepy.”
“Tell me about it,” Terry agreed. “But they do. And sometimes Linda and a few of her friends hang out with them too, dumb bitches think they so cool smoking cigs. So what do you say, Jay, you in or out?”
Checking the traffic once more, in a hurry to get home and not entirely sure he wanted to go along with whatever it was Terry was cooking up in that disillusioned mind of his, Jason said, “I don’t know…it sounds… Dude, if we do anything to those guys we’re likely to get our asses burned.”
Terry looked at him a moment, frustration and irritation plastered across his face as big as a billboard advertisement, he shifted from foot to foot with nervous impatience. It reminded Jason of the way his little sister Amy looked when she was waiting her turn at the upstairs bathroom in the mornings before school. “They won’t know it was us,” Terry persisted. “No way in hell they’ll know. Them boys will be too scared to notice anything but how fast they can get home.”
“Look. I got to get home before my mom calls out the National Guard to look for me…but I’ll think about it. Is that cool?”
“Yea, I guess so,” Terry said with an air of disappointment. “But you think about it, Jay, and let me know in the morning. I swear, dude, this will have those boys shitting their pants.”
“I’ll think it over. See ya, Callahan,” Jason crossed the street, leaving Terry to sulk on the corner of Lee and Burch.