By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Last Wednesday some sleazoid dirt-scum bottom-feeder swiped Bud's brand-new nine-million-dollar ski jacket. Right out of his locker. His locked locker. In broad middle-school daylight. In the twenty-seven seconds between Social Studies class and the Geography of the Amazon Basin. (How do they do that anyway? Why don't they knock off banks if they're that damn good?)
"What?" "They took what?"
"Your new jacket?"
"Two years old. I only have one."
"That's new! You know how long I've had my jacket?"
"Your voice is going up."
"You told me to tell you when--"
"Never mind that."
"Since March, 1995."
"You know what that jacket of yours cost?"
"More than your first car."
"A '52 Chevy."
"Right. A Fleetline. I guess I, ah, told you that."
"I didn't let them steal it on purpose, Dad. I'm sorry."
"Yeah. Well. I know. We'll--see what we can do." I can't remember the last time I saw Bud cry.
Damn, it makes me mad when something bad happens to Bud. Crazy-berserk-psycho-nuts comes closer. When I think of some slack-jawed mouth-breaker pushing him around or making fun of his homemade haircut it just--well, you know. And just the thought of some greaseball twisting Bud's skinny arm behind his back is enough to get me two years in county jail. (Last summer I chased down a BFI garbage truck and ripped off both side mirrors and the hood ornament because the driver scared Bud with his airhorn. I think I surprised the guy.)
But the point is, see, the first thing stuff like that does is to make me mad--at Bud. Take a couple of weeks off from work and figure that one out. Sure beats me. Last April some schoolbus troll poked Bud in the nose. Nothing serious. Bloody nose, grass stains on his new pants. Kid stuff. (Why is it the dirtballs all seem to mature nine years ahead of normal kids? This thug was only twelve but he looked like he spent his time smoking Camel straights in broad daylight.) My usual cool-headed logic prevailed:
"Well didn't you do something? Hit him back or something?"
"He's twelve, Dad."
"So what! Listen, the next time some creep tries that, you just--"
And before I knew it I had Bud around the neck. I caught myself and managed to turn it into a hug, but it was a headlock all right and we both knew it. Man. It's bad enough to kill the messenger, but to grab a skinny ten-year-old who already has a bloody nose . . . and who happens to be the best thing that ever happened to me . . . hell is going to be way too good for me.
The truth is, to Bud I'm probably part of the problem. He's got quadratic equations, rope-climbing in gym, and Susan Ragsdale to worry about. He probably doesn't need Piltdown Man to come home to. I mean he opens his locker door and his brand-new two-year-old seventeen-million-dollar jacket is gone. What's the first thing he thinks? Not "Dad can fix it," or "Dad'll get it back." But that he's got to face me. Some life.
Must have been a nice bus ride home for him. Cold.
Then, Saturday, Bud didn't make little league. You might've noticed the world ending that day. Got real dark? Lotta lightning? It would've been around two-thirty. It took Bud about three hours to walk the five blocks home from the field. Lotsa dents on his chest from where his chin was hitting.
"I didn't make it, Dad."
"Bethany Towers made it."
"I was the worst one there."
"Worse than Jason Billings?"
"Jack Page's kid there?"
"Then you weren't the worst."
But all that did was make Bud start up the stairs to his room. Even professional primetime comedy wasn't going to save this one.
"Listen, Kiddo, you busy right now?"
"Well grab your fishing rod. Maybe we'll see if they're hitting.
"Sure, now. If you're not busy."
"It's almost supper time."
"We'll stop at Mac's. Maybe pick up a video for later, too. If you're not busy."
"I'm not busy."
See? I can learn. Some things.
Maybe I'll start hanging around Bud's locker at school. Hanging around inside it.