Author's Note: This is my 2012 NaNoWriMo story in all its unedited glory. It is obscenely long, because I am far too lazy to break it up properly into chapters. Sorry. There is a bit of swearing, drug use, and general mischief. This is unfinished, and I may not update for ages. You've been warned.

I could not sleep. Again.

I lay in bed, staring up at my ceiling fan, wishing for sleep. Let's go, Mr. Sandman. I want to go to SLEEP. This was the third night in a row where I had not fallen asleep before three o'clock in the morning. It is now three fifty-seven. And it's a Monday.

I hate Mondays.

I return to staring at my ceiling fan, which is lazily rotating. I watch it turn, over and over and over and over again, until I finally feel drowsy. I roll onto my side, and attempt to sleep again.

This time, I'm lucky.

Morning arrives in the form of my mother shouting.

"Leon, get up! I've been yelling for five minutes, you're going to be late for school again," Mother dearest, I am running on roughly three and a quarter hours of sleep, please refrain from screaming. "Get dressed, and hurry it up. I can't be late for work."

I groan and start to get up. She leaves. I get out of bed and peel off my sweatpants. I dig through the lump of clothes on my floor, and locate a pair of natty, torn jeans. I yank on the jeans and a homemade Black Flag t-shirt, shove my feet into my sneakers without socks (I never wear socks), and go upstairs. I've got a lovely little basement bedroom. Lovely, I suppose, although it is probably not the word anyone else would use to describe my room.

I head into the kitchen and get a granola bar and an apple.

"LEON! Let's go! I'm in the car!" Mom says. I exit the kitchen, snag my backpack off the counter, and go out into the garage, where, true to her words, she's in the car. It's running, and the garage door is open as well. I climb into the passenger seat and put my backpack on the floor.

Mom looks me up and down. "Did you even brush your hair?"

"Uh, no." I had no time, and I probably wouldn't have if I did have time.

"Those jeans are going in the garbage when you get home. They're full of holes. Honestly, Leon—is that a grass stain?" She points. I examine my knee, the one without a hole. It is indeed a grass stain. I think it's from last week, when Bones thought it would be funny to tackle me while we were cutting across the soccer field.

"They're not full of holes. There's only one hole. And it is indeed a grass stain." I reply, picking at a loose thread on the pocket stitching. Honestly, does she need to question everything? If I hadn't gotten up so late, she would have told me to go change my pants half a dozen times, and my shirt at least three times. I usually just ignore her or go and change into something she hates more than what I was wearing, just to be difficult.

"Leonard, you simply must take more care in your appearance." I ignore her and turn up the radio, only to find it's turned to that New Age-y station that only plays Enya and vaguely Zen-like inspirational talks. I twist the dial around to the classic rock station and find it playing Led Zeppelin's "Going to California". I sigh happily and slouch in my seat. At least there is one good thing for this Monday morning.

I look out the window, towards the houses all lined up neatly in rows. We've just crossed the invisible line in town separating the upper class from the middle class, and that means we're nearly to Jackson Academy. I spy Bones walking, his skinny frame wrapped in leather and denim. His Mohawk is flopped over his forehead, evidently he chose not to spike it up today. Mom notices him as well, and sniffs.

"Dear, I wish you wouldn't hang out with that boy. He's trouble." She says, and I ignore her.

"Bones is my best friend." I can't just quit being friends with him. It just doesn't work that way. It's not like I want to quit being friends with him, anyways.

"Why does he insist on being called that? Ryan is a perfectly nice name, and it is the one his parents gave him." Mom says, turning the music down a little.

"He didn't call himself 'Bones'. Dink started it, and he liked the nickname."

"Dink?"

"Darius." I don't know why I clarified that for her. But this is the first semi-civil conversation I've had with my mother in weeks, one without her berating me about my clothes or my hair or my homework or my plans or my friends. Well, she did tell me to dump Bones. But she says that a lot. It was close to a 'normal' conversation, at the very least.

"Oh, Jenny's son." I nod, but don't give any more information on Dink. He's been having a bit of a rough time. He drinks, not just socially like a lot of people, but he drinks for therapy. Says it dulls everything, slows things down.

"Leon, you haven't been smoking, have you?"

Yes. I have been. Bones has a pot stash that would make a dealer jealous. But of course, I don't say any of that.

"No." I lie instead. No need to worry her, I guess. No need to get her on my back again, actually. It's not like I can stash my weed in my room anymore, with Mother dearest checking through my stuff randomly when I'm not around. I think she actually brings in one of the K9 guys, because one of them usually has a couple minutes to spare for the district attorney. It gets annoying, getting your own room gone through every so often. Zero privacy. We arrive at the school, and I get out of the SUV and sling my backpack over my shoulder.

"Bye, Leon. Have a good day at school." Mom says.

"Bye." I slam the door shut behind me, and walk into the school. I know there is no way Bones would be here yet, unless someone gave him a ride. I unlock my locker, shove my backpack into it, and lock it back up again. There is no way I would leave my locker unlocked here, because this is pretty much a school for petty thieves and druggies and the occasional arsonist. Jackson Academy doesn't expel people for much of anything. They just want you to get an education, even if you're beating people up and smoking pot in between classes. I think some kid got expelled a couple of years ago, but I think he had a gun stuck in the back of his pants or something. It may have been a knife. Weapons are strictly forbidden.

I guess Jackson is sort of a last resort for the kids who have been expelled from everywhere else. It's also a private school, so most everyone here is either loaded, in some serious debt, or extremely intelligent and on scholarship.

Speaking of scholarship, I spy Joey Welk skulking around in the corner by the water fountains and make my way over to him. He's dressed in a vintage Space Invader t-shirt, a worn black leather jacket, and faded drain pipe jeans. His hair is slicked back in his trademark greaser style. Well, I guess it's really not 'his' style, considering it originated in the 60s. But he is definitely the only one at Jackson who dresses like he just stepped off of The Outsiders film set. I mean, Bones dresses like a Sex Pistol, but punk is a bit more common than Joey's 60s thing. He's got this entire obsession with that era, too.

"Hi, Joey." I say, and then I get a drink of water from the fountain.

"Hey, Leon." He replies, carefully smoothing his hair back on the sides. Not like he needs to, I don't think I have ever seen a hair out of place on his head.

"Dude, you gonna hook me up with some weed?" I ask, it's a bit of a running joke between us.

"Nah, man, you know how straightedge I am." Joey replies, and he is. I always ask him for weed because Joey never has any. He does not smoke, and he refuses to try it because if he gets into trouble with the law he will lose his scholarship.

"Are you going to Bones' party on Thursday?" I ask, Joey scratches his neck.

"I don't know yet. I might, if I don't have any homework." He replies, I laugh.

"Only you. Only you, Joey, would choose homework over a party thrown by Bones. Dude, you know how awesome his parties are. C'mon, man." I tell him, Joey just shakes his head.

"I have to keep my grades up." I notice Bones walking towards us out of the corner of my eye. Then I hear running footsteps, and Bones leaps onto my back. I nearly fall down, but I manage not to. Bones is so light it is ridiculous. I honestly have no idea how he stays that unbelievably skinny, because he eats like a horse. A really, really hungry horse, for that matter.

"LEON!" He yells, and smacks me on the back of my skull with his hand.

"Ow! Why?" I ask, and attempt to get him off of my back. "Dude, get off." I spin madly in a circle, and Bones finally slides off of me. He is like a frickin' monkey.

"Leon, you are coming to my party on Thursday. Joey?" This is not a question. This is a command.

"If I don't have homework, Bones." Joey explains, somewhat sheepishly.

"Joey! You'd pass up my rager of a party to do homework?!" Bones says, like Joey's done something horribly naughty and Bones is scolding him for it.

"I gotta keep my grades up. Plus, I can't get into trouble." Joey reminds him, and Bones shrugs.

"Well, all right. I guess that's an all right reason. Sort of. Kind of. Maybe." Bones says, grinning like the Cheshire Cat the entire time. He fiddles with his lip ring and then socks Joey in the shoulder. Joey punches Bones in the arm and then Joey rubs his shoulder.

Ann stomps up, her pink hair curly and wild. She looks angry, as usual. Ann the Angry, that's what Tofer calls her. And she is angry, although about what, no one ever seems to know. I think that she is just one of those people who are pretty much angry all the time for no reason, the same way people can be happy for no reason at all.

I have always thought being angry, really angry, not just steaming or sulking, was a lot of hard work. My specialty is sulking, with a minor in the Cold Shoulder. Also, the way I figure, if one is constantly angry, then how does it show when she is actually mad about something? There is no contrast, really. Almost everyone in my small group of friends is gathered in the corner now, minus Dink and Tofer. Tofer will probably be along in, I check the wall clock, three minutes or so, because he rides the bus and his bus consistently arrives at 7:45, meaning Tofer arrives at the corner around 7:49. Dink, however, probably won't even make it school before first hour. It is sort of a miracle if he does manage to get to school at eight o'clock.

"Hi, retards." Ann greets us in her typical manner, which consists of frowning at each of us in turn and us frowning back. Ann is really the only girl in our circle of friends that is not a girlfriend, and all of us have come to a consensus that dating Ann would be like dating your sister. Ann agreed with us, only she said none of us could measure up to her boyfriend who is in college, Billy, so we sighed good naturedly and carried on.

"Hey, Ann."

Bones is goofing around with Joey, but notices Ann and stops for a moment to ask her a question.

"You coming to my party on Thursday? It's gonna be a crazy one, my mom is going out for the evening, and so is my dad," Bones lives with his mom and his dad, but alternates between their houses. His parents do not get along well and rely on Bones to transfer messages for the most part. But Bones being Bones, things get mussed about. "so, I told my mom I'm staying at my dad's house and my dad I'm staying at my mom's house. I highly doubt that they will call and ask if I'm there or not, it's not like they actually care."

"Bones, you are ridiculous." I tell him, laughing a little and shaking my head.

"Leon is right, dude." Ann agrees, staring at Bones with what appears to be admiration. Although all he did was lie to both of his parents in a clever way, not like, punch a shark or defeat a giant evil space monster. I'm not sure cleverly lying warrants admiration. Whatever. It's Ann.

Tofer swaggers up in a stained Bowser shirt and baggy basketball shorts. He is amazingly geeky, but usually the only cue that he is, is his shirt. Otherwise, you wouldn't know. Tofer plays soccer and baseball, and is pretty ripped. He lifts, and I wish I had the drive he has to lift weights for hours. I went with him to the weight room adjacent to the gym after school a couple of times, but I always get bored or tired of it after fifteen or twenty minutes. Tofer lifts for like two hours sometimes.

"Tofer." Ann growls, watching him walk up.

"Ann." Tofer says, moderately pleasantly but I can hear the underlying venom, and stands next to me. Tofer and Ann do not get along at all. Ann and Dink, however, can barely be in the same room together without fighting, so I guess Tofer and Ann sort of tolerate each other. Ann and Dink, well, they fight like cats and dogs.

"Hey, Tofer." I greet him, he offers his fist and I pound it. Joey and Bones say 'hey' and continue talking about whatever they are talking about.

"Hi, Leon. Did you get any sleep at all last night?" He asks. Bones never notices much of anything, and Ann ignores everything, and Joey just sees it but says nothing. Tofer, though, he asks about things and is way too blunt most of the time, but it is nice to be noticed.

"Nah, man, I didn't even get four full hours." I reply, frowning at my shoes.

"Yeah, I can tell. You look awful."

"Thanks, Tofer. Way to keep my self esteem up." I say. I look in the metal of the water fountain, and barely recognize the kid in the reflection. My eyes look almost sunken in, and the shadows underneath them are as dark as bruises. My skin has this weird, waxy look to it, like I'm not real. My hair is standing up everywhere, as usual, and my shirt has a rip in the collar.

"Anytime, my friend, anytime." Tofer replies, and then the bell rings obnoxiously. It's only the five minute bell, so none of us react. A group of freshmen nearby immediately disperse and rush to classes, but we just sit there and continue talking. There is no reason to get to class five minutes early and then have to sit there for five minutes waiting for the teacher. Or longer, depending on the class, because some teachers are late, and Mr. Collins occasionally never shows up for class. Not because he's old and he forgot, he's only like twenty-four, but because he just doesn't want to come in that day. He will never get fired though; the guy is an awesome math teacher. I had him last year, for Geometry, and I have him as my study hall teacher as well. He is a pretty cool guy, for a teacher. Also, I am almost positive he smokes weed, because he came in one time wearing a jacket that was just reeking of the stuff.

We finally disperse and head vaguely towards class, although I know that Bones is going to the Art room, where he will sit in the back paint closet in the dark with his headphones on and listen to Minor Threat, at least until Mr. Smith finds him and makes him do something.

I have to go to Woodshop 2, which is part of Ms. Levi and Mr. Con's domain. Ms. Levi teaches Woods, and Mr. Con, just call me Joe please, teaches Metals. I arrive in the shop around four minutes after the bell rings.

"Well, look who decided to join us. Have a seat, Mr. Phillips." Ms. Levi says, and then makes a mark on her sheet. I assume she's checking the box that says 'tardy'.

"Okay, class, today we're going to have a work day for your personal projects. Tomorrow, though, we are going to be talking about stains and painting, all right?" Levi announces, and then turns us loose in the shop. Nobody has cut off their own finger, or cut off anyone else's finger yet, so I guess she feels like she can leave us on our own while she sits in her office. Okay, she does not sit in her office the whole time, she also floats around the shop checking to see if people need a hand with their projects. I'm working on a skateboard deck. No, I did not build a skate deck, I just bought a plain one to do some wood burning on the bottom of it. I am burning a dragon into it that I got Joey to draw for me. That kid is an amazing artist, that is for sure. He did all these little, intricate scales for me to burn really, really carefully. But it is gonna look great. Plus, the dragon is skateboarding, and there's like, flames coming off the wheels. It's awesome.

I plug in a wood burner and wait for it to heat up. Neil swaggers over to me and sits himself down across the table, where he also plugs in a wood burner.

"Dude, you look like poop." He says, grimacing.

"I know I do." I say, glaring. Neil nods, and puts on his headphones. He bobs his head to whatever music he is listening to, and I test my wood burner on the wooden table top. It is still not quite hot enough to do anything worthwhile.

Neil is wearing that backwards baseball cap he always wears. His hair is long, dark and wavy, and it is barely contained by the hat. Neil is probably the worst dressing guy I know. He is wearing a stained white tee shirt with the sleeves ripped off, and black and gray pinstriped cut off shorts. I don't even know where the guy got black and gray pinstriped cut off shorts. Seriously, where does one find those? I've never seen anything like them at Goodwill, which is where I shop. My mother hates Goodwill with a passion like nothing I have ever seen out of her, which is one of the main reasons I shop there. Plus, it's cheap and there is a ton of stuff there. Maybe I do not require cheap, because my mom's the DA, but it's still nice. She loves to withhold money and refuse to let me get a job at the same time. It's ridiculous, but I suppose it is a bit of a clever punishment. I cannot just mooch rides off of Bones or Tofer all the time, so I'm stuck until I can pass my license test. And I won't be sixteen for another two months. I'm the second youngest in my class, the first youngest skipped two grades in elementary school.

I am just young for my class. I lightly press the wood burner against the table again. This time it leaves a dark mark, and a tiny curl of smoke rises. I start tracing the pencil lines on the dragon's scales, carefully, matching Joey's neat curves. Neil gets up and walks over to the chop saw. I ignore him and continue working on my dragon. It's only halfway done with the basic lines, and I still want to shade it in all nice and fancy like. Then I'm going to stain the deck, pick up some new trucks and wheels, and assemble it. It will be the first board I've done the design on myself, I have built two others before. One longboard and one skateboard. Mother dear hated that I spent money on them, money that she gave me to buy some new jeans. I don't know how she thought that giving me money to buy jeans would work out, because for one, I don't buy new clothes, I only buy used, and for two, if she gives me money I'm just going to spend it on whatever the heck I want.

I look up as Neil returns with six pieces of wood of about the same size, a hand held drill, and a box of screws. He starts screwing the wood together into a vaguely shaped cube, and I turn back to my wood burning. Neil doesn't skate, and the only reason I really 'know' him is because our friend circles overlap with Bones. Neil is friends with Bones, thus Neil and I are sort of acquaintances. We're classmates in Woods, obviously, but not in grade, because Neil is a junior and I am a senior. All I know about Neil is that he's friends with Vern, who is the main weed dealer, and Vern goes to the public school across town. Vern is who I used to get my weed from, before I got caught shoplifting and my mother found the weed in my jeans when she was going through my room looking for other stolen merchandise. She flipped out on me, so I stopped keeping weed and rolling papers in my room, even though I felt like I might be able to hide them well enough. Now I just go over to Bones' house and smoke a joint with him sometimes. Weed makes me really sleepy, and since I haven't been sleeping so hot lately, I might just do that after school today.

Ms. Levi emerges from her office and wanders around the shop, checking up on people, making sure that no one is goofing off. She nods approvingly at my dragon, and since Neil is using a drill on wood that is not the table or walls, lets him continue with whatever he is making. He's got a box now; he appears to be going to add a lid.

Then he slaps the last piece of wood on the top and screws it down.

"Dude, why?" I ask him, gesturing at the completely useless cube of wood he has just finished. He holds up one finger, signaling for me to wait, then he whips out a pencil and scrawls something on the top of the box.

He holds it up. It says 'Box o'nothing'. "That was a colossal waste of wood."

"I have no idea what colossal means, but it is the best box ever."

"It means huge. How did you even pass English 10?"

"I didn't. I'm taking it over right now, man." I shake my head, and Levi calls for everyone to start cleaning up, there's five minutes to the bell. I unplug my wood burner, and put it back into the wire hanger that some Metals student made, then stow my unfinished skateboard in my woods locker. I lock the locker, and then go stand by the door to wait for the bell to ring. And it does, a minute or two later. Neil pushes past me through the doorway, and I follow him out of the shop. Next class, English 12, with Bones.

I stop at my locker and pick up my English textbook, Pride and Prejudice (blech), a pencil, notebook and folder. Bones bumps his shoulder into me as I walk into the English and Science wing.

"Hey, Bones."

"Leon, I hate Pride and Prejudice. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. It sucks. It is an awful work of fiction, and should not be considered literature. It is terrible. I even tried to read the one with zombies, and I couldn't read that. Not enough zombies. Why are we subjected to this nastiness?" Bones complains, irritably shifting the books in his arms.

"Dude, I know." Bones gets kind of rant-y sometime, and it is best just to let him talk it out, lest he get really angry and try to start a fist fight. Bones and I have fought a couple of times, I mean, we argue all the time, but we have only actually hit each other three times. And there was that one time we had a wrestling match that disintegrated into a fist fight after we had a shouting match about what was a legal move and what wasn't.

We arrive at the classroom, and go inside and take our assigned seats. The bell rings shortly after, but Mrs. Lynch has yet to arrive, which is unusual for her, she is extremely strict about being on time and not ever being tardy. Thus, after sitting in class for nearly ten minutes, talking to Bones, and everyone else in class talking about the fact that there is no teacher showing up, this girl ruins what could have been a teacher-less class hour by going to the office and telling the principal that Mrs. Lynch is not here for her second hour class.

The girl, her name is Merrill, she returns with the substitute, who apparently thought he only had to teach the first block class, which unfortunately is the same class as ours, and thus he has the curriculum prepared for us as well.

"Uh, sorry I was late, guys. Thought I only had to teach first block. I apologize. My name is Mr. Kent, and I uh, will be your sub for the next couple of weeks. Mrs. Lynch was called away on a family emergency unexpectedly." Mr. Kent says. He looks like he's not even twenty-five. What he's doing teaching high school English, I don't know, because he looks like the kind of coolish hipster dude you'd see making eclectic music or writing about obscure abstract things in notebooks. He's dressed in a black and white checked button down with a plain dark red tie, and black jeans. Unfortunately, the illusion of professionalism he's putting on is ruined by the tattered and stained pair of Chucks he's wearing.

"Okay, I see you're reading Pride and Prejudice. How do you like it so far?" Merrill raises her hand, as does Danny, but Bones blurts things out without raising his hand.

"It sucks major butt." At least he didn't swear, that is all I can say.

Mr. Kent consults his papers, probably a seating chart.

"Uh, Ryan?"

"I prefer Bones."

"All right, Bones, I am going to have to agree with you. I hated Jane Austen with a passion all through high school and college." Bones grins. "How many of you guys dislike this book?"

Most of the class cautiously raises their hands, with the exception of Merrill, who crosses her arms and looks angry.

"I'm going to put Ms. Austen on hold for a while, that all right with you?"

The class murmurs their agreement, and Bones shouts: "YEAH IT'S ALL RIGHT!"

"Good, we are going to read On The Road instead. Mrs. Lynch will most likely return to Pride and Prejudice when she comes back, but for now, it's Jack Kerouac for us." Mr. Kent explains, I have never heard of On The Road, but Charlie goes nearly catatonic with glee next to me, so it must be half decent. Charlie made me read some long poem about angelic hipsters and whatnot, I forgot the title, but it was awesome, so this road book is probably good. I like the sound of it, at the very least. I like road trips and adventures and things of that nature.

Mr. Kent has procured copies of the book for everyone, and he passes them out now. Then he takes down the numbers of the books and the names of the people with that particular book. Then he reads the as many pages of the first chapter as he can, because the bell cuts him off after the first five or six or seven pages.

Charlie practically skips out of the room ahead of me, clutching the book to his chest. Bones looks pleased with the fact that Pride and Prejudice has been retired, because we were only three chapters into that book. I just walk out, down the hallways to my locker, and shove my things into my locker. I have A lunch, so now I get to go eat nasty cafeteria food in a too crowded lunch room. Bones and Ann both have A lunch as well, so at least I get to talk to them. I get into the lunch line, which is not super long yet, and wait for my turn to get slop. I feel like a hog at a trough sometimes. Today's lunch is spaghetti, or what passes for spaghetti at Jackson, which is disgusting noodles and chopped tomatoes. At least the garlic bread is too hard to mess up even for this school.

I pick up a tray and allow the lunch ladies to slop food onto it, and then I swipe my lunch card and sit down at our lunch table. I am the first one there, Bones joins me shortly after I sit down. He brings his own lunch.

"Dude, that looks super nasty." He says, pointing at the spaghetti. "Are you really going to eat it?"

"Yeah. My mom disabled the ala carte thing, so I have to get the entrée and not peanut butter and jelly or Poptarts or anything good. I might start bringing my own lunch." I reply, stabbing my fork into the spaghetti and cautiously lifting a bite of it to my mouth. It tastes about as good as it looks, which isn't very good. I choke it down with a gulp of chocolate milk. Ann sits down with no lunch, looks around at Bones and I, but says nothing.

"I ain't eating that nasty spaghetti." Ann says, scowling. "There is no way."

"So don't." Bones says, lifting his lunch box in way of 'dude, just bring a lunch from home'.

"I'm going to drive down to the Mickey Dee's. You fools can stay here and eat your nasty looking lunches." And with that, Ann gets up and leaves the table. She heads to the doors and walks right out. Since Ann is eighteen and has a car, she is allowed to go off campus for lunch. Since I am neither eighteen nor do I own a car, I am not allowed to go off campus for lunch. Bones and I tag along with Ann when she is not completely and utterly angry sometimes.

"Dude, I want to go off campus for lunch." Bones says with his mouth full of sandwich. I nod in agreement. Lance and Jamie sit down at our table, each carrying a lunch tray. Lance has peanut butter and Jamie has spaghetti. They sit at our table because we are sort of friends, not super close, but we make small talk at lunch and would be partners with them in science class and stuff like that. I run into Lance at a party, I say hey and carry on. That's how it is.

"Hi, Lance. Jamie." Bones greets them, I echo him and they say hey back. Lance is short and stocky, he wears a stocking cap all the time for whatever reason, and Jamie is short as well, but skinny. He never wears a stocking cap. They are a goofy pair. Lance is wearing a Lil Wayne tee shirt today, and Jamie is wearing a Little Ritchie tee shirt. Their musical tastes are very different as well.

"Are you guys coming to my party on Thursday?" Bones asks, looking expectant. Lance and Jamie never miss a party.

"Heck yeah we are! You haven't thrown a party in ages!" Lance says excitedly, shoving Jamie's shoulder playfully.

"Duuuuude." Is all Jamie says, just a long, slow, drawn out, 'duuuuuude'. Jamie is high. He probably went out to his car during second hour to smoke. Lance doesn't appear to be high, well, at least not as high as Jamie.

"Good, very, very good. Tell whoever you wanna, I want it to be a big one." Bones says, grinning maniacally. Dink slams his tray down on the table, making his spaghetti jump.

"Dude, what's up with you?" I ask, he does not look so good. He is wearing a pair of dark sunglasses, but I can see the edge of a purple and black bruise peeking out from under the right lens.

"I got caught on Sunday trying to steal some whiskey. I was fricking wasted at the time, too, so not only did I get it for shoplifting but also underage drinking. Flipping sucks." Dink explains, glaring down at his spaghetti. "My parents were pissed. When they bailed me out my dad punched me in the face." Dink explains, lifting his sunglasses and pointing at the bruise. "I punched him back, but I was completely wasted, so it didn't do much."

"That sucks." Bones says, taking a swig from his water bottle. "That sucks a lot."

"No crap, Sherlock." Dink replies, then winces. "I have a killer hangover."

"Did you go to jail?" This from Lance, who knows all about underage drinking.

"Sort of. I just sat in this room that had a two-way mirror in it until they called my parents." Dink explains, rubbing his temples.

"You coming to my party?" Bones asks, even though Dink is no fun to have at a party. He always gets extremely drunk, and he is not a fun drunk guy. He either gets really angry and throws things and punches people, or he starts telling people his life story and crying. I prefer it when he is throwing things, to be honest. I have zero idea of how to deal with crying people. Zero.

"Probably not. I don't want to tick my parents off anymore than they already are. They were furious yesterday." Dink explains, Bones shrugs his shoulders.

"Yeah, I suppose not." Bones agrees. He gets up and throws away his trash from his lunch. I get up and follow his steps to the trash can, where I dump the rest of my spaghetti and too sugary canned pears. Then I return to the table and sit back down. Jamie and Lance dump their trash not soon after Bones and I sit back down, and Dink ends up dumping his entire tray without eating any of it but his milk.

The bell rings shortly after, and we head to our respective classes. I have Photography with Mr. Quant next, which requires nothing besides a digital camera, and mine is locked in his office, because otherwise I would probably forget to bring it every day.

Quant is a weird teacher. His classroom is at the farthest end of the school, down the last hallway. His room is full of computers, broken laptops, broken video cameras (some of which still run on film and or cassettes), several working TVs, several broken TVs, and a handful of desks and tables and chairs crammed in the middle of all this. I don't think I have ever seen Mr. Quant outside of the Dragon Lair, as everyone calls it, due to Quant's fondness for goofy dragon shirts and the lair like appearance of the room.

I arrive in the Lair, and the lights are off, as usual, blinds drawn. The lights never get turned on, because the computers are generally all on, so the room is lit eerily by bluish light. The rest of the class is there, but the rest of the class is just six girls and Zach Miller, the only other guy in the class. The girls' names are Shania, Lorrie, Erica, Janice, Cindy, and Sarah. I get along with one out of six of them, because I hate Lorrie and Sarah because they are idiotic, and Cindy is friends with them and thus hates me for hating them, even though I have nothing against Cindy. Erica punched me in the neck last year for kissing her best friend Janice even though Janice knew Erica liked me, and Janice decided that she would rather be Erica's friend than go out with me, so she dumped me and has not spoken to me since she dumped me. Shania and I get along all right, we talk in class and she let me take pictures of her for this class. They turned out pretty sweet.

I also took a picture of Cindy and Sarah having a rare argument, but Lorrie saw me and flipped out. I ended up having to delete the stupid thing.

Mr. Quant is still at his computer, busily typing away at something. He finishes whatever he was working on, and stands up from his desk.

"All right, minions, you are going to be doing a Photoshop project. I want you to choose a project from online, something requiring merging of photos and tone changes, okay? Something challenging, too, yeah?" Mr. Quant explains. He is wearing a black and gray tie dyed tee shirt with a green metallic dragon breathing orange metallic fire on it. His dragon shirts are legend, wait for it, dary.

We mutter our agreement, and then take seats at the computers ringing the room. I log on, pull up Chrome, and start looking for a cool Photoshop project to do. Zach sits down next to me and logs on. Zach is cool. He and I are cool. Zach is black, with the sweetest dreads I've ever seen. Honestly, they are just awesome. Past his shoulders, and he has got a couple of pale green glass beads on some of them, and it is awesome. He makes me wish I was black and could have dreads as sweet as his. Seriously, I guess I could get dreads, but they would be white boy dreads, and white boy dreads are stupid looking. Very few white people can rock dreads, and I am definitely not one of them.

Anyways. I get sidetracked on a comic strip site, and read the strips for a while until I get tired of that and decide to actually find a Photoshop project. I finally decide to just do a couple of face swaps, because I found easy directions on a website. I spend the rest of the class hour looking for the perfect pictures of people to swap faces with, and end up with no pictures by the time the bell rings, because I got distracted reading about people playing pranks on their friends or enemies.

I log off the computer and head out of the classroom. Next I have Senior Family and Consumer Education, which sucks majorly, and which I plan to attempt to sleep through.

The teacher, Ms. Kay, is ancient and never notices anything, plus I sit in the back of the classroom, so unless someone decides to be a terrible person and tattle on me, I should be good to go. I stop at my locker and grab a pencil and notebook for the class, then walk to B wing, where the room is located. I take my seat in the back and put my head down on my desk, using my arms as a pillow. The bell rings and Mrs. Kay starts talking, and her monotone voice lulls me to sleep almost immediately.

I manage to sleep through the entire class hour, only walking up because the bell startles me out of my slumber. I feel worse, though, not better after my nap as I expected. I feel groggy and like the inside of my eyelids are made out of sandpaper. Gross, I have drool on my chin. I wipe it off and walk out of the classroom.

I dump my stuff into my locker, shove On The Road into my backpack, toss it over my shoulder and walk down the hallway to the half hour study hall that ends the school day. I meet Tofer in the doorway to the class, which is in Mrs. Bradley's room. Mrs. Bradley is one of the math teachers. She adores Tofer, of course, because of his insane mathematic ability, which is almost frickish at times. Actually, it is frickish at times. Very frickish. He can do incredibly complex equations in his head, and get them right. He loves computers and codes his own simple games. I'm guessing his ridiculous memory for numbers helps with the coding.

Tofer and I sit in the back of the classroom and talk about Skyrim. Tofer loves the game for the graphics, not so much for the game play, he's much more into shooting things and solving puzzles. I just like wandering around and collecting items. The fact that the game can never really be completed just entertains me to no end. That means I can just explore the world forever, shouting at dragons and taking things from random people's houses. It's a great game.

We spend the entire half hour talking about Skyrim's interesting looping ocean thing, which means one can never ever reach the end of Skyrim. Then the bell rings, and I take off to locate Bones. I find him leaving the school, and catch up with him.

"Dude, you coming to my house? I scored some weed from Vern if you want some." Bones suggests when he sees me at his shoulder.

"I was totally just going to ask if I could mooch some off of you at your place." I reply, laughing a little.

"Great minds think alike, man."

"Dang right."

"Dang? Grow up."

"Shut up, Bones." I say, shoving his shoulder. He shoves me back and laughs. We walk to his house, which is like a mile away from the school. It's not a bad walk though, no nasty big hills or anything like that. Just flat.

We walk in silence to his house, Bones has put his headphones on and is listening to something really loud, it sounds punky, which is the only thing I would expect from Bones. I do not put my headphones on, even though I have them in my backpack. I guess I just want to walk in silence for a while. Sometimes I think that silence is the most beautiful sound. Just pure and quiet and lovely silence.

We arrive at Bones' house, which is green. It's a rather nice house, or I've always thought it was at least.

Bones leads the way up the stairs to his front door, which he opens and we go inside. Larry and Polly Ann are in the living room watching TV when we get there, and they chorus a 'hi!'. Bones and I go upstairs to his room, which is awesome and big and has a tiny balcony with two chairs overlooking the backyard. Bones tosses his backpack on the floor and I do the same thing, he digs around in his chest of drawers for the weed and rolling papers.

Bones locates the little bag of weed and his rolling papers and then he rolls a joint. He puts the rest of weed back into his dresser, and checks that his door is locked. Then we go out onto the balcony and sit on the chairs. Bones pulls out his Bic lighter and lights the joint.

"Fudge, hold on to this for a second. We need music." Bones commands, and goes back into his room. I hold the joint between my thumb and pointer finger and take a deep drag.

Sigh. That is good. Bones starts some music up, and he picked out some lovely Jimmi Hendrix. Bones sits down in the other chair, and I pass the blunt back to him. He takes a drag, and blows a smoke ring skyward. I wish I could blow a smoke ring, but no matter how hard Bones has tried to teach me, I can't do it. He passes me the joint back, and I inhale.

Bones puts the joint out when we're about halfway through it. I do not object, because I've got a nice buzz going.

"Jimmi has the best guitar fingers in the entire world." I announce, standing up and pointing to the stereo, which is in Bonesy's room. Then I sit back down, not really knowing why I stood up in the first place.

Bones giggles. And giggles. And giggles some more. "Dude, dude, I know! Y'know he used to play with his thumbs," Bones dissolves into laughter, which I find hilarious and start laughing as well. We are just sitting on his balcony, laughing our heads off at pretty much nothing.

"Ooooh, Purple Haze." Bones murmurs, I don't pay him any attention because there is this really cool looking bug crawling on the table, so I get down on the floor and stare at the bug. I like the bug. It is pretty looking. It has black spots on a red background. And a funny little face like something I used to look at once.

"Bonesy, there is a red and black bug down here, man, you need to look at it." I say, and I have this feeling like Bones is very far away when he responds.

"Yeah, okay." He slides off his chair and lands in a heap beside me. He is just lying there, staring at the sky.

"Bonesy, you have to look at the bug. Not the sky." I say, poking his forehead. "Look at the bug."

He sits up and looks at the bug. "Leon, are you a moron?"

"No?" No is definitely the correct answer to the question, because I am not a moron. "No!"

"Leon, that is a ladybug." Bonesy says, pointing at the cool bug.

"Bones, don't be like that. It could easily be a gentlemen bug. It doesn't have to be a lady. There are boy bugs too. Are you being sexist?" I ask him, he giggles again.

"No, I'm not. I did not name the stupid bug." Bones replies, and flicks the bug away. I watch it, and it flips around a little, and then opens its wings and flies off. Cool. Hmm. This balcony is nice. I stand up and hang over the edge of the railing that surrounds it.

"Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" I shout into the yard. "Wherefore?!" Bones' dog, Tank, looks up at us and barks twice.

"Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I'll no longer be a Capulet." Bones finishes, and I stare at him, because we had Romeo and Juliet in English freshman year. That was three years ago. And he remembers that line?

"Hot fudge, Bones." I exclaim, and stare at him. "How did you do that?"

"I pushed air through my larynx to make my vocal cords vibrate, thus—"

"No, you remembered Juliet's other lines?"

"Well, yeah, some of them."

"Bonesy, you are cray cray." I say, then realize I said 'cray cray' with a straight face, in a serious manner, and bust out laughing.

"Leon. Never, EVER say 'cray cray' seriously again. That word is stupid and makes you sound like a moron, and we've already established that you ain't a moron." Bones says, but I am too busy laughing hysterically to care what he is saying right now. "And no one should be allowed to say 'cray cray'. For that matter, no one should ever say 'totes' either. I hate that."

I giggle some more and then hiccup. Bones has stopped talking and is just sitting in a chair, slouched down far enough that the back of his head rests on the back of the chair, staring at the November sky. The leaves are just starting to fall, and I look out towards the empty lot next to Bones' house, which is full of trees and weeds. Some of the trees look like skeletons. I hate the changing of the seasons. One thing ending, another beginning and stuff, but the ending thing gets me every time.

I can hear Bones breathing next to me, slow and steady, like the ticking of a clock.

"Bones."

"Hm?"

"Each breath we take is like the ticking of a clock that is going to eventually run down, but until that very last moment, it keeps ticking."

"Man, Leon, that's kind of deep." Bones says, and I look at him. He shifts so he can look at me, and then he sighs and turns back to staring at the sky. He closes his eyes. The music stops inside, but neither one of us gets up to turn on any new stuff. The leaves rustle and clatter together, and for now that is music enough. I use my feet to pry my shoes off, and then my socks. One of my socks falls off of Bones' balcony, but I ignore it. Who needs socks anyways. They are stupid. Einstein never wore socks. Tofer never wears socks. I think there is a link between intelligence and never wearing socks. I resolve never to wear socks again. Maybe my grade in English will go up. Maybe my feet will sweat so much they shrink.

You never know what might happen if you don't wear socks.

I decide that I've had enough of chairs and stand up, then lie down on the floor of Bones' balcony. I stretch out, my calves end up on top of Bones' feet, and he pulls his feet out from under my legs and puts them on the railing. He is still wearing his Doc Martens. His Doc Martens are beautiful, beautiful boots. Perfectly broken in, perfectly worn, perfect combat boots. I want a pair of boots as beautiful as Bones' Doc Martens. Boots like that do not come easy though. I think boots like that have to be born, not made. Definitely born.

Boots like that have to be created, have to be crafted and beat in and scarred and ripped to shreds and stitched together again. Bones spilled paint on the left one, blue paint like the color of a summer sky. I like to make similes. Maybe because I am high. Maybe because although English is not my best subject, I like books and words and poems. I like Walt Whitman.

"Bones, do you have any Walt Whitman?" I ask, picking at a crusty stain on the hem of my tee shirt.

"Do what?"

"Do you have any Walt Whitman?" I repeat, Bones sits up a bit.

"I didn't understand a word you just said, boy." Bones says.

"Is that a quote?"

"Napoleon Dynamite," Bones pauses, and then he continues. "2004 comedy film co-written and directed by Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess, starring Jon Heder as the title character. The film was Jared Hess's first full length feature and is partially adapted from his earlier short film, Peluca."

"Bones."

"Yes?"

"Is that from Wikipedia?"

"Yes." Bones replies. Bones is a nutcase.

"Did you memorize the first paragraph on Napoleon Dynamite from Wikipedia?"

"Yes."

"Why?" I ask, I can't for the life of me understand why he would do this.

"I was bored," He says, fiddling with his belt loop. "Wanna hear the Pulp Fiction one?"

"Sure, I guess."

"Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino, who co-wrote its screenplay with Roger Avary. The film is known for its rich, eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline, and host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references. The film was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture; Tarantino and Avary won for Best Original Screenplay. It was also awarded the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. A major critical and commercial success, it revitalized the career of its leading man, John Travolta, who received an Academy Award nomination, as did costars Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman." Bones recites, never once faltering.

"You are insane." I tell him, and he nods sagely, as though this is some great advice or something.

"I memorized Forrest Gump, Reservoir Dogs, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the Cowboy Bebop one too." Bones says, looking extremely proud of his accomplishment. I just stare at him, openmouthed.

"Bones, you are a remarkable human bean." I say, and he grins. "You are also an insane human bean." I add, and he laughs.

"Dude, I know. I know." Bones replies, grinning even more widely. "You know what?"

"What?" I ask, not sure if I want to know or not. Bones would probably tell me what it is regardless of how I feel about whatever he is going to tell me, though.

"I also memorized Hamlet's to be or not to be monologue, because we're doing Hamlet for the play this year, and I want to be the first Mohawked Hamlet." He explains, and I grin.

"Dude, you would be perfect for Hamlet." I say.

"That's what I thought!" He exclaims, and gives me a high five.

We sit there for a little while longer, Bones almost assuredly thinking about being Hamlet, and me thinking about how cold my feet are. But I do not want to put my socks and shoes back on, so eventually I just get up and drag Bones inside with me.

I curl up in his squishy bean bag; he throws a black blanket with white and gray skulls on it on top of me. I take it gratefully and wrap it around my feet. No socks or shoes in November is apparently not the greatest idea ever. Bones flops onto his bed, but not before putting on more music. This time it's Pennywise, a band Bones has loved forever. I swear, the kid grew up listening exclusively to punk rock and wearing tiny leather baby jackets. Actually, he did not wear tiny leather jackets as a small child, because his mom and dad are opposed to punk in principle. His mom is a rather well paid plastic surgeon, and his dad is also a rather well paid plastic surgeon, and they are all about making and keeping people pretty. Bones is not particularly pretty, nor does he want to be pretty. He is way too skinny, which is why I call him 'Bones', and he wears jeans that are too tight and too ripped, and a leather jacket that is too leather and too metal studded for his parents.

Bones' parents are divorced. His mom lives on one side of the rich part of town, his dad lives on the other side. He hates his dad with a passion, and finds his mother only slightly more bearable.

I check my phone and find that is nearly five o'clock. I have to get home before my mother. She'll be home right around five thirty or five forty-five. I have to go home.

"Bones, I have to go home."

"What?" He asks groggily, I think he was dozing.

"I have to go home." I repeat, and stand up from the beanbag. Bones is sprawled on his stomach on his bed, spread eagle.

"You can take my bike if you want. My mom won't be home until six, thus no car." Bones explains, and then gets off his bed and leads me downstairs. He stops at the pantry and grabs a bag of Doritos, which he carries with him out to the garage. He eats some of them and I take a handful and stuff too many into my mouth at once.

I've borrowed Bones' bike dozens of times, and he's borrowed mine, so I know that his is the yellow bike with the black splatters, not the black bike with the red stripes, which is his little brother's.

"Bye, Leon."

"Catch you later." I reply, and hop on the bike and pedal out of the garage. I like biking, so I don't mind the ride home. Even if it is a little chilly. Even if I did manage to leave my sneakers at Bones' house.

By the time I get home, my feet are numb and the plastic bits on the pedal that help keep your foot anchored to the pedal have left marks on my feet.

I am an idiot, clearly. I hide Bones' bike in the garage behind some old flattened cardboard boxes, because my mom knows what Bones' bike looks like and I'll get a lecture if she realizes I spent my time after school over there instead of here. She hates Bones. She thinks that he is a bad influence. I think she thinks he is a bad influence because of his Mohawk and the way he dresses, which I told her that is judgmental, but she didn't listen. Mother is very judgmental. Although she does like Bones' mom a lot. Mom and Lauren would get along, too, because they have matching delinquent sons. Okay, so we aren't really matching, but we both have the delinquent thing down pat.

I go into the kitchen and raid the pantry, because now I have a serious case of the munchies. I always get them when my buzz is pretty much going away, fading out, and I get hungry. I grab a bag of potato chips (plain except for sea salt) and go down the stairs to my room. I turn on my TV and flip to Boomerang, which shows all the good old Hanna Barbara cartoons from the golden days of animation. The Jetsons' is on, which happens to be one of my all time favorite shows, and I settle onto my bed to watch it with my chips. I turn up the volume a little, and curl up in a little ball type of thing, with the chips within easy reach.

When the episode finishes, and the other one is around five minutes in, I hear my mom pull in the driveway. Her car, a silver BMW, is pretty quiet, but I always hear it anyways.

"Hi Leon!" She hollers, and I don't bother to answer. She probably saw my shoes…Wait. I left my shoes at Bones' house. She comes down the stairs in her heels, which don't make much noise on the carpeted staircase.

"There you are. Your shoes weren't in the mudroom, so I was not sure if you were home." She notices that my shoes are nowhere to be seen in the mess of things that is my room, either. "Leon. Where exactly are your shoes?"

"I don't know. Somewhere around." I lie, I know exactly where they are, which is chilling on Bones' balcony, soaking up some November sunlight.

"Okay. I made tuna casserole this morning, I'm reheating it if you want some." She notices the chips and takes them. "You'll spoil your dinner."

I groan. Tuna casserole is my least favorite thing ever and she knows it.

"I'm not hungry." Total lie. I am starving. But even starving, I can't stomach tuna casserole. Pretty much any fish at all, I am not a big fan of. The occasional deep fried, beer battered cod is okay, but anything else is a great big nope.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." But my stomach growls and gives me away. Mom looks at me, sighs, shakes her head and goes back upstairs, taking my chips with her. Those were my chips…

I sigh. This sucks. My chips. I text Bones and tell him to bring me my shoes tomorrow. He doesn't text back right away. I assume that he went to sleep after he ate his Doritos.

Scooby Doo is on after the Jetsons', so I watch that. I like Scooby Doo. I feel really sleepy, but I try not to doze off, because if I go to sleep now, at almost six thirty, I will never go to sleep when I want to go to sleep.

I fall asleep anyways.

When I wake up, my room is dark, the TV is off, and I am under the covers on my bed, ones I was previously on top of. I sit up and look at my alarm clock. Are you kidding me? It is three twenty-seven in the morning. I flop back into bed. This is poop. I feel more awake than I ever feel when I am supposed to get up for school, and I don't think that there is any chance of me going back to sleep for the two and a half hours before I should get up for school. But this is the most I've slept in four days. I feel better. Even if I woke up at three twenty-seven in the morning. At least I got over five hours of sleep. I turn the TV on low, so not to wake my mom, and watch Comedy Central, where they are showing standup comedians of years past. Mitch Hedburg is on, but I am not a big fan of his comedic style, so I switch the channel to Discovery. The Discovery Channel is doing some sort of special on digging for dinosaur bones, so I watch that instead.

The special on dinosaurs turns out to be two hours, so by the time it is over, it's five thirty. I sigh. There is no way I will be going back to sleep at this hour. I can hear my mother walking around upstairs, getting ready for work and whatnot. I watch some episode of something about polar bears, and then get up, peel my clothes off, and take a shower. I accidentally wore my jeans to bed again. The hot water feels good on my shoulders.

I get out of the shower and dry off, then drop the towel and rummage through my drawers and my floor for some clean boxers. I finally locate a pair and tug them on, then go back to the floor to find a pair of jeans.

I find some black ones that have huge splatters of white paint, blue and red paint, and green paint, from last year's musical. I helped paint flats and backdrops because Bones practically begged me to help. They didn't have enough stage crew or something, so I ended up helping work lights for the performances as well. I just aimed the spotlight at whoever needed the spotlight, and then I turned on the spotlight and followed the actor or actress with it. It was okay, I mean it wasn't terrible by any means, just different. I think I might help with the play, too. I would hate being onstage, but I don't mind working behind the scenes. Joey likes to act, as well, which I was astonished to hear from him, because he is kind of shy, and quiet around people he doesn't know, but onstage, that kid is loud and can be anyone. Which is the point of acting, to be someone else, obviously, but Joey really does become someone else. I grab a plain black tee shirt off of the floor as well, and pull it over my head.

My stomach complains loudly, and I go upstairs, grabbing my backpack on the way, to get something to eat. Bones texts me back, finally. The text says that he will bring my shoes to school. I text him a quick 'thx', which I know he hates because he hates txt speak. It's funny. He probably won't even text me back, and he doesn't.

I pour myself a big bowl of Frosted Flakes, pour the milk in as well, and take a giant bite. Thus my mouth is full when my mother walks into the kitchen. She looks surprised to see me awake, and smiles.

"Good morning, Leon." She says, pouring herself a cup of coffee. I'll bet she has already had like three cups.

"Mornin'," I manage, through a mouthful of Frosted Flakes.

"Don't talk with your mouth full."

"Thorry." My mouth is still full. She sighs and takes a sip of her coffee, then checks the clock. It's seven fifteen. I eat a another bite of my cereal, and then turn on the radio that is sitting on the table next to me. Again with the pseudo Zen station. I flip to the classic rock one, but it's on a commercial break. That is a bad omen for the rest of the day. Bad juju. I shovel the rest of my cereal into my mouth, dump the bowl in the sink, and retreat back downstairs.

My phone buzzes and I pull it out of my pocket to look at it.

hey I am outside, you want a ride? It's from Dink. He must not have lost his car when he got in trouble. Probably because both his parents work early in the morning, as well as in the opposite direction of the school. I text him back in the affirmative, and then return upstairs.

"Mom, Dink is giving me a ride to school." I tell her, picking up my backpack and slinging it over one shoulder. I put on a pair of ancient sneakers, ones with holes in the toes, since my normal ones are stuck at Bones' place.

"Okay, that's fine." She gets a good look at me, standing in the doorway. "Don't you think you should change yo—"

"Gotta go, bye Mom." I cut her off, and nearly run out the door. Dink is waiting in his extremely sweet 1982 Camaro. It is a gorgeous car. Yellow with black stripes, looks like Bumblebee from Transformers, only nice and refurbished. I open the passenger side, toss my backpack in the backseat, and sit down.

"Hey." Dink greets me, pulling back into the street.

"Hi. Thanks for the ride, Dink."

"No problem." He replies, and then hears the opening bass of Queen's "Under Pressure", and cranks it up. I like Queen. Dink has a set of black fuzzy dice dangling from his rearview mirror. He sings along to the song on the radio, and bobs his head. I laugh, and he socks me in the shoulder, but not too hard.

Dink is a good dude. He's got his own demons, like anyone, but he's a good dude anyway. Unless he is drunk. Then he is not a good dude. He either punches you or he cries on you, neither of which are very fun.

His bruise is nasty looking, especially now that I have seen it without his sunglasses obscuring it. It is not particularly swollen, but it sure is an impressive shiner. It frames the outside of his eye with nearly two inches of bruise in places.

Dink catches me looking at it and shakes his head. He prods it gently with one finger.

"It was stupid." He says, fixing his eyes on the road.

"Yeah." I agree quietly. Dink is smart, he pulls in A's without even trying, but when it comes to making good decisions, he doesn't always come through.

"Seriously, I could have gone to juvy," He laughs a little, sadly, without any humor. "I'm just lucky that the cop that came was Officer Mason. He's way more lenient than the rest of those pigs." He says, still not looking at me. He doesn't so much as glance over.

Mason is the one who caught me and Bones attempting to steal a street sign last year on Halloween. He threatened to take us down to the station, but then reconsidered and let us off with a warning.

"Mason isn't bad, for a cop." I say and see Dink nod out of the corner of my eyes.

"No, he isn't." He agrees, and turns the radio up. Conversation over. We don't say anything else until we reach the school, where Dink turns off the car, but doesn't get out. I start to open my door, but Dink grabs my arm.

"Wait."

"What?" I ask, he swallows hard and pushes his hair back.

"Leon, I n-need help." His voice is shaky. I look him in the eyes. Dink has bright, anti-freeze green eyes. Dink does need help. He drinks way too much. His liver could give out by the time he is twenty five.

"I know." I say, because that is the only thing I can think to say. Dink looks like he might cry. Oh, please don't cry. I cannot handle tears. I freeze up, I don't know what to do.

"I don't know what to do."

I have no response. I have no idea what he should do, either. The only thing I can think of to do in this situation is to reach over and hug Dink. So I do. He wraps his arms around me, tightly, and squeezes once. Then he lets go and gets out of the car. I get out as well and Dink looks at me over the top of the car.

"Thanks."

"I didn't do anything."

"You listened." He says, and we walk through the parking lot to the school. Ann glares at us over her shoulder as she walks into the school. She makes a point to pull the door shut behind her, since Dink is with me. She hates Dink. Dink hates her.

"Ann sucks." Dink mutters under his breath, as he yanks the door open and I follow him into the building.

Dink goes down to cafeteria, but I continue on to my locker. I get there, but Neil has Lauren pinned up against it. And they are making out ferociously.

Fantastic. I hope that they don't slobber on my locker. I tap Neil hesitantly on the shoulder, hoping he isn't in a bad mood. Sometimes he punches for no good reason. He pulls his mouth off of Lauren.

"What? I'm busy." Neil snarls.

"Uh, that is my locker." I say, Neil sighs heavily, but he and Lauren slide over two lockers so I can get to mine. "Thanks." But I doubt Neil hears me, since he already has his tongue down Lauren's throat. I thought Neil was with ('with' being a relative term) Romeo, but I guess not. I heard from Tofer who heard from Vern who heard from Neil's younger brother that Romeo and Neil were friends with benefits or something to that effect. Neil is a total man-whore. But I guess being friends with benefits means that you can be sticking your tongue down other people's throats. I don't know. I'm not really familiar with 'friends with benefits' etiquette.

I toss my backpack inside and close and lock the door. Neil and Lauren are still making out. I glance back at them, and Neil has his hand up Lauren's shirt. What a delightful couple.

Bones runs down the hallway towards me, brandishing a couple of small pieces of paper. He knocks over a freshman and frightens a couple of sophomores, but finally makes it to me.

"LEON, I HAVE RIGHT HERE IN MY HAND TWO TICKETS TO GO AND SEE COCAINE BLUES!" He screams, and begins jumping up and down. "Dude, jump up and down!" Cocaine Blues also happens to be one of my all time favorite bands. I jump up and down.

"Bones, how did you even get tickets to them?" They've recently become every punk and every hipsters' favorite band for some reason, so every show they've had has been packed, even though they have been performing at bars and scummy clubs. At least it has been packed according to the pictures. I have yet to make a show of theirs. Especially since they recently made the switch to venues with actual tickets and bouncers. I guess they still play in clubs, but the clubs have people waiting outside for hours to get in. The band also has the dubious honor of sharing their hometown with us. Erik, the singer slash drummer, actually went to Jackson, while Lars, the singer slash guitarist, went to the public school on the other side of town.

"Secret show! My brother told me about it, and you have to have this email, which you can only get by word of mouth, because if it shows up online they'll cancel the show! But if you have the email, you email them and say "Lars, Erik, I want two tickets to the secret show' they send you back: 'Sir Bones, I wish to you to view our musical abilities in the intimate setting of the living room' then they send you the tickets."

"Wait. We're going to see Cocaine Blues play in their living room?"

"No! It's a hint! We have to figure out what the clue means!"

"But you already have the tickets."

Bones sighs exasperatedly.

"Yes! I know! But all that's on the tickets is 'Cocaine Blues' and the date," He flashes the ticket at me. November 15th is the show. "and the time. No location! Plus their email is 'solveitblues56 !"

"Okay, okay, I get it. So what does the 'living room' mean?" I ask, Bones grins madly.

"I'm pretty sure it means this cool café hidden in the end of that alley in Chicago."

"What."

"I'm pretty su—"

"No, dude, I heard you. What as in why do you know there's a cool café hidden at the end of an alley in Chicago?" I ask, Bones looks extremely pleased with himself.

"Well, I had this feeling like 'intimate setting of the living room' was important," Obviously it was, Bones.

"Get to the point."

"So I stuck it into this anagram generator without the 'of the' part, and the anagram thing spit back a bunch of names and stuff, right? Also, I split 'intimate setting' and 'living room' because that gave me better anagrams. And then I scrolled through the list until I got to a bunch that seemed familiar but were also all very similar."

"Go on."

"And I plugged each of the anagrams into Google until something popped up that looked promising."

"So what was the anagram that worked?"

"Grim Interstate Timing Viol On."

"How long did it take y—"

"Three hours. It was ridiculously boring, but it is worth it so I don't care." Bones explains.

"There's a café in Chicago called Grim Interstate Timing Viol On?"

"It's actually Grim Interstate Violin, but the anagram was close enough so that when I Googled it I got the café." Bones says, then he digs in his backpack and locates a folder. He pulls out a Google maps printout, and points to a spot in the middle of downtown Chicago. "According to the reviews, it has terrible coffee, terrible service, and terrible décor, but it has both fantastic bluegrass bands and equally fantastic chai tea, although the rest of the tea is nastier than the coffee. Also, their baked goods are apparently delicious."

"Bones, I don't know if you've forgotten, but we live in Washington. Not Illinois." I remind him. He stares at me blankly for a moment, then nods.

"Right, I know. I don't know if we'll have to actually go there. But you know my cousin Oliver just happens to go to school in Chicago." Bones says, he has a ridiculously large family that sometimes seems to have spread out over the entire continental United States, as well as Canada. Apparently his dad was the black sheep of his family, because the rest of them seem to be radical and generally very cool and nonconformist (at least the ones I've met or Bones has mentioned to me). It's an interesting situation for Bones, to be surrounded by all of these people who agree with him, but then have his parents be total opposites of him and the rest of his extended family.

"We're going to your house after school and we're going to work on this, because Larry is having all of his stupid middle school football friends over and they're going to be extremely annoying." Bones tells me, and since I am really not interested in trying to fend off middle school football players, I agree with him.

"Okay, so Oliver frequents those stupid café type things, but we have a problem. It is a bluegrass café. He hates bluegrass. Actually, Oliver detests bluegrass." Bones explains, shaking his head as though anyone who hates bluegrass must be crazy. I happen to know that Bones' guilty pleasure is bluegrass. It's not good for his punk cred to be known for listening to bluegrass, so he doesn't really talk about it.

"So explain to him the significance of the situation!" I practically yell. The bell rings, and Bones trails behind me as I walk to the shop.

He's muttering to himself. "Well, I guess I could bribe him…it should be easy. Wait. Oliver is the one who refuses all bribes. Dennis is the one who will take any bribe." Bones says, almost to himself.

"You have to get him to go to Grim City Violin or whatever it is." I say, Bones sighs heavily.

"I know that, Leon. What do you think I'm trying to figure out how to do?" Bones says, frowning. He follows me into the shop.

"Aren't you going to go to art?" I ask him, art is what he has first hour. Evidently today he has woodshop.

"No. There are more pressing matters than the boobs I'm sculpting." He says, completely seriously.

"You're sculpting…boobs?" I ask hesitantly. I wonder what Mr. Lake thinks.

"Not just boobs. It's a bust. The girl is going to be half robot. Like a cyborg, right? And she has boobs, as girls do, and I happen to be working on the boobs right now, okay?" Bones explains, slowly, like I am of lesser intelligence.

"Don't patronize me, man."

"Sorry, anyways, Grim Interstate Violin. Is your mom picking you up?"

"No, she has to work late again." I say, sitting down in my spot across from Neil. Bones sits on the table and swings his feet. Ms. Levi takes attendance.

"Okay, class, we're going to learn about stains and paints later, because I want you guys to get in some good work today. Instead of cleaning up at five to, we'll clean up at quarter to, got it?" Ms. Levi explains, and I go grab a wood burner and my skateboard deck. Bones nods approvingly when he sees it.

Neil sees Bones and glares at him. They are friends, but they got into a fistfight last week and have yet to make up. Honestly, I can't even remember why they got into a fight. I know Bones was in a mood, and Neil is always ready for a fight, but other than that, I can't recall what set them off.

The main thing is that they have yet to make up, but I assume they will eventually. They always do.

Neil goes off to do something, and Bones starts talking about the Cocaine Blues riddle again.

"Look, if I get Ollie to go to GIV, then what? What happens? Is he supposed to look for something, or is he supposed to order something specific off the menu, or what? I wish we could go and check it out for ourselves." Bones says, then he starts shredding a piece of painters tape someone left stuck to the table.

"I don't know. Maybe you should email Cocaine Blues back and ask them. Put the anagram and this Grim place in there. Maybe you don't actually have to go there, you just need to figure out what the place is?"

"Leon! What if they're playing at Grim Interstate Violin?! We'd have to go to Chicago!" Bones shrieks. Yup, that was definitely a shriek. And Bones shrieking is quite rare. He's more of a yeller, really.

"Bones, I can't just go to Chicago. Neither can you." I tell him, calmly, as if I am speaking to a small, slightly hysterical child.

"We could! We could get Riley to drive us! She would definitely drive us!"

"She wouldn't."

Bones considers for a moment. "Yeah. I guess you're right."

I burn some of the scales on my dragon carefully. Bones sits quietly on the table. Neil still has not come back from wherever he went.

Bones continues shredding the tape, until he has a small pile of blue, sticky confetti. I pay no attention to him, until he takes it upon himself to dump all of the tape confetti on my head.

I sigh. "Thank you for that." I brush the tape off of my head, then check for any pieces that stuck.

"Anytime, my friend, anytime." Bones laughs. I return to my wood burning. Bones takes out a pencil and starts drawing on the table. He must be thinking. He always draws on things when he's thinking. Or when he's drunk. I have a very wobbly, though to scale, Sharpie drawing of the Eiffel Tower on my bedroom wall.

At quarter to, everyone starts cleaning up and Ms. Levi gives her lecture on paints and stains. Bones mysteriously disappears for the part, and then he reappears when the bells rings. We leave the classroom together, and head towards our respective lockers.

I grab my stuff out of my locker for English, and then walk to the classroom. The halls are crowded, but Bones locates me and grabs my arm.

"Dude, what if Cocaine Blues is going to be playing at Safety First?" Bones theorizes.

"Safety First sucks though. Plus, they won't play Cocaine Blues, because Cocaine Blues swears." Safety First is this crap club right on the very edge of Seattle, and the name isn't ironic, they put 'Safety First' at all times. Bands that don't swear, Bands that don't rile up the audience too much, Bands that pretty much suck. They occasionally, very occasionally, have a band that happens to be mellow and non-swearing that is actually awesome, but it's rare. Safety First is also the only club I am actually allowed to go to in Seattle. I rarely go. I break that rule all the time.

"True." Bones and I take our seats in the classroom, and this time Mr. Kent is actually in here, sitting at Mrs. Lynch's desk.

I remember something, and turn to Bones.

"Did you bring my shoes?" I ask, Bones looks at me.

"What?"

"Did you bring my shoes?" I repeat, a little louder.

"I'm not deaf. Yes, I did bring your stupid shoes. But my dog chewed up one of your socks."

"That's okay; I'm no longer wearing socks."

"It fell off the balcony and Tank got a hold of it." Bones explains. The bell rings, signaling the end of passing, and Mr. Kent gets up from behind his computer and starts blabbering on about On The Road. I listen to him talk about Sal and Dean, who are apparently the main characters. I wish I were Sal. Bones could be Dean, and we'd travel across the country on fifteen dollars and hitch rides and have marvelous adventures and do too many drugs and write things so creative people's minds couldn't handle it and other things of that nature.

But it's no longer possible to do that. Fifteen dollars won't even get you a bus ride to the California border anymore. You hitch a ride and you'll probably get murdered. It's depressing how much the world has changed in the fifty some years since Sal and Dean tore across the US.

Bones has gone to sleep next to me and is drooling on his notebook. Charlie is actually nodding along to some of things Mr. Kent is saying. I pay attention, for the most part.

"Okay, I'm done talking. Take the rest of the hour to work on this worksheet," He holds up the sheet of paper. "And start reading chapter two."

Darla passes me the worksheet, and I look it over. It only has three questions. I fill out question one, and half of two, but get bored and start reading chapter one. I forgot to finish the chapter yesterday, so I figure now is as good a time as any to catch up.

The bell finally rings, which startles Bones so much he nearly falls out of his desk, but he doesn't, just packs up his stuff and follows me out of the classroom. Lunch, oh yes please.

I throw my stuff in my locker and practically dash down to the cafeteria so I can get in line. I get my lunch, which is Baked Ham, but it sure doesn't look like Baked Ham. The ham looks as though it is made out of plastic. Dink is already at the table, an icepack held to his eye, but not the eye with the bruise.

I am about to ask what happened, when Lance beats me to it: "What happened to you?"

"I got into a fight in the locker rooms with Neil." He explains, frowning.

"What did you say to him?" I ask, Dink shakes his head.

"I was giving him crap about Romeo," Dink explains, adjusting the ice pack. "I guess I crossed a line or something. You know how Neil can be." I nod. Neil can be nuts.

"Can I see your eye?" This is from Jamie, who has just sat down.

"Yeah, whatever." Dink takes the icepack off, and his left eye is almost swollen shut. Its bruising is mostly purple, but has some darker blues as well. He has a split lip as well.

"Ow."

"Yup."

Bones sits down with his tray, and whistles when he sees Dink's face.

"What did you get into?" He asks, then takes a massive bite of his mashed potatoes.

"Neil and I had a fight in the locker room."

"Who won?" Bones never cares what the fight was started over, he only cares who won.

"Nobody really won, Mr. Davis pulled Neil off of me."

"You say Davis pulled Neil off of you. Does that mean Neil would've won?" Bones asks, Dink glares at him.

"Does it matter?" He growls, putting the ice pack back on his face.

"Well, kin—"

"Bones, shut up." I tell him, because Bones never gets the whole 'shut up' unless it is actually stated. He shuts up, but pouts over his lunch. I roll my eyes and ignore him.

Lance is wearing a different hat than yesterday. This one is white and red and says 'SLACKER' in large letters.

"Hey, uh, Bones?" Lance begins, almost hesitantly. Jamie nudges him in the ribs.

"Whattaya need, Lance?"

"You care if I bring Emma to your party on Friday?" Lance asks, quickly, like he's worried Bones will refuse to allow more people at his party.

"Frick no, man! More the merrier!" Bones exclaims, slamming his water bottle on the table, which sends water all over Jamie, who squeals.

Lance grins, and whips out his phone, presumably texting Emma.

Bones considers something for a moment, his eyebrows knit together. "Tell her booze is the price of admission!" Dink perks up a little at the mention of booze.

"All right, all right. I told her to bring drinks."

"Good! I like drinks!" Bones says, happily.

"How long have you been going out with her anyways?" I ask, because I vaguely remember Lance mentioning her at some point.

He beams. "Almost two weeks!"

"Dude, you're too excited for only two weeks. That face," Lance is grinning like a madman. "is more appropriate for the six month mark, or maybe even the year mark." Dink observes, but Lance ignores him and starts blabbering on to Jamie about how Emma is beautiful and hot and has the best curly hair he's ever seen, and how they'll have been together a week and a half on Friday.

Ann doesn't show up all lunch period. She must've skipped even stopping by the table before going off to get lunch someplace other than the cafeteria.

Bones stares at me. "Leon," He begins, with a look on his face like he's just discovered the cure for cancer. Actually, Bones would be more likely to have that look on his face if he's just discovered the cure for a hangover. "I know how to get Oliver to Grim Interstate Violin!"

Dink stares at Bones, with a 'what?' look plain on his face.

"How?" I ask, Bones grins.

"I am going to send him a ton of DONUTS!"

"Bones, no."

"Oliver loves donuts!"

"No." I say again. Bones is being irrational, as usual.

"But Ol—"

"NO!"

"Wait, Oliver won't take bribes anyways. So donuts are out."

"Dude, why would donuts be in in the first place?" I ask.

Bones shrugs. "Oliver likes donuts."

"Look, Bones, everyone likes donuts. But sending someone a bunch of donuts doesn't mean they'll go to the club that plays music that they hate." I tell him, as matter-of-factly as I possibly can.

I get up from my seat and dump the trash and uneaten food off my tray into the garbage can, toss my tray onto the pile, and return to the table.

"Leon."

"Now what, Bones? Are you going to send Oliver a big batch of cookies?" I ask, grinning.

"Shut up. It was a good idea." Bones says, mock-glaring at me.

"Nah, man, it wasn't." Jamie puts in. "I don't even know why you wanted to send this Oliver person donuts, but it sure wasn't a good idea."

Bones starts to say something, but thinks better of it and closes his mouth.

The bell rings, and we head off to our separate classes. I don't bother to stop at my locker, because Photography never requires actual paper. Only computers and cameras in this class.

I arrive at the Lair, and sit down at my computer. Lauren takes her spot next to me. She looks pleased today, probably because of her earlier exploits with Neil. Zach slides into the seat on the other side of me.

"Hey, man." Zach greets me.

"Hey." I reply. The bell rings and Mr. Quant stands up from his desk and claps his hands together.

"Work day!" He shouts, and sits back down. He puts on a huge pair of headphones, and swivels around on his chair to the monitor that faces the class, putting his back to the class.

Romeo storms in, his wild, curly hair surrounding his face. He looks pissed. He stomps straight towards me, but then I realize he is not going for me, but for Lauren.

"Lauren." Romeo says, too calmly for how angry he looks.

She turns in her chair and looks at him.

"Uh, what do you want?"

"I just wanted to inform you that mackin' on my man is not okay."

"What?"

"HE WAS MY MAN FIRST, YOU LITTLE SKANK!" Romeo shrieks, and the rest of the class lets out an 'ooooooooh!'. Lauren looks slightly embarrassed but more pissed than anything. She stands up.

"Look, Romeo, Neil said he didn't have a girlfriend yesterday when I talked to him," I think she means 'stuck her tongue down his throat' but I don't bother to correct her. "at the party yesterday, but he never said anything about a boyfriend." Romeo stares at her.

"Well, now you know, so keep your skanky little hands off him. He's mine, M-I-N-E, mine, got it?" Romeo doesn't wait for Lauren to answer, just continues: "Good, now stay the fuck away." Romeo says, Lauren just looks at him.

"Obviously, Neil doesn't realize that he's 'yours'," Lauren puts air quotes around yours. "because he kissed me last night, not the other way around."

Romeo's face falls. He goes from looking completely and utterly pissed off, to completely and utterly defeated. I feel sort of bad for the guy, really, but everyone knows Neil is a manwhore. He does what he likes with whoever he likes. Romeo should've figured out that when Neil got bored, he'd drop him like a pair of dirty underwear.

Lauren smirks, and sits back down. Romeo just walks out of the classroom silently; Mr. Quant still has his headphones on and doesn't even notice his absence. That was brutal. Even as breakups go, it was brutal. If this was a breakup. Neil's relationship status with Romeo is still rather unclear. Actually, that argument made it even less clear than it was before, if that's even possible.

Zach turns towards me in his chair, but speaks across me to Lauren.

"Uh, so what exactly was that about?" He asks, looking puzzled.

"Neil and I made out at a party last night, Romeo was apparently banging him or something, thus Romeo's little tantrum." Lauren explains, looking bored. "I don't know why he flipped out, it's not like Neil means anything to me, he's just a good kisser."

"Well, Romeo doesn't know that." Shania says, from her spot on the other side of Lauren.

"If Romeo happened to get the impression that Neil is more interested in me than him, too bad." Lauren says, Shania frowns.

"I don't know. He looked crushed." Shania says.

Lauren shrugs. "Romeo's hurt little feelings are not my problem."

Shania's frown deepens, but she doesn't say anything.

I open PhotoShop and continue working on my project. After around ten minutes of work, my phone buzzes. I take it out of my pocket and look at the text.

It's from Jamie.

uh romeos liek balling in the bathrrom wat the fricks going on

Jamie and his terrible spelling. It might just be him typing too fast, but it is also his terrible spelling. I text him back: some stuff went down with lauren i guess neil cheated on him with her? they had an argument in photog class

I stick my phone back into my pocket and return to working on my picture. It is in that nasty stage between almost good and horrible, and I'm hoping to move it into the 'almost good' stage before too long.

My phone buzzes again, it's probably Jamie. I check it, and yep, it's Jamie. I hav been in here 4 liek 10 minutes smoking & romeos still crying

Apparently Neil actually meant something to Romeo. weed? does romeo know ur in there? I don't bother putting my phone away again, just set it on the table. I look over my shoulder to see what Mr. Quant is doing, he's still got his headphones on. He doesn't usually care about phones in his class anyways, but better safe than sorry.

Jamie texts back almost immediately. it aint weed man not in skool i aint that stupid thx i think romeo knows he jst dont care.

I text back a simple 'oh', and then give up on my project for the last part of the hour and just mindlessly surf the Internet.

The bell finally rings, and I log out of the computer and leave the classroom. I stop at my locker and grab a pencil and notebook for my nasty Consumer education class, then walk to the class room.

I see Romeo walking towards me, his eyes red and puffy. He passes me with a lost look on his face. I glance back at him as I walk away. I make it to the FACL room just before the bell and slide into my seat. Bones is nowhere to be found, but that's not all together unusual. He's probably out back behind the Dumpsters smoking or something.

And, sure enough, I get a text from him saying hey I am smoking out back join me?

I text him back a yeah sure this class sucks, then tell Ms. Kay I have to grab something from my locker. I doubt she'll even notice my absence when I leave.

I walk through the halls until I reach the door leading outside to the where they keep the dumpsters, then glance around quickly. I duck outside, and find Bones nestled between the two dumpsters, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He smiles when he sees me, and I walk between the dumpsters and sit next to him. I pluck the cigarette from his mouth and take a drag. I'm not a fan of cigarettes, really, but sometimes I just like a little smoke in my lungs. That sounds completely ridiculous, I know. I like a little smoke in my lungs, it's just one of those things I find comforting.

I guess in a roundabout way I find lung cancer comforting.

Bones takes another pull on the cigarette and the end of it glows bright orange. He exhales the cloud of smoke in a sigh.

"I hate this school." Bones says. The smoke from his cigarette blows into my face.

"I know." I reply, Bones hunches his shoulders and looks down at his hands, which are folded in his lap, his cigarette now held loosely between two fingers. Bones doesn't say anything else after that, he just stares off towards the baseball field and smokes the cigarette down to the filter. He lights a second one off the first and continues smoking.

"Can I have one?" I ask, Bones complies and lights it off his own. I rarely smoke cigarettes, but sometimes it's just the right time and place for one. I take a drag. Bones only smokes Camels. I can't remember exactly why, other than that he likes the way they taste.

Dink used to smoke these nasty menthol ones, I've forgotten the brand. Anyways, he quit last year, so I guess it doesn't even matter.

One of the very few things I know about my dad is that he used to smoke Lucky Strikes. I can remember very clearly hugging this tall, skinny man, and the feel of his scruffy cheek and leather jacket against my face. He smelled like smoke, so maybe that's why I have the attachment to it.

Bones flicks some ash off the end of his cigarette. The chill from the concrete feels as though it is seeping up right into my skeleton. His headphones are slung around his neck, and I point at them, wordlessly asking permission. He nods and lifts the off his neck, handing them to me along with his iPod Classic. I slide them over my ears and scroll through Bones' extensive collection of music. It's almost all punk rock, with a sprinkling of bluegrass and a healthy amount of classic rock.

I settle on The Adolescents and listen to their debut album. Bones just sits and says nothing; he seems to be in one of his moods. He gets like this sometimes, quiet and solemn, untalkative and unlike his usual, happy go lucky self. Whenever he gets like this I usually just let him be and not try to talk to him because he usually just ignores me completely or responds with one word answers. I glance over at him, and he is still staring far away. He doesn't even seem to be here between these dumpsters.

Bones finishes his second cigarette and lights his third off of it, then grinds the second out on the cement. I have just finished the Adolescents' entire first album when the bell rings for study hall. Bones ignores the bell and finishes his cigarette. This time he doesn't light another one, just grinds the current one out and sits there motionlessly. I take his headphones off and hand them and his iPod back to him, he takes them without a word and stows his iPod in his pocket and puts his headphones back around his neck.

I look at him, I mean really look at him. Bones is the skinniest person I have ever met. When we looked at pictures of Nazi prisoners of war, someone joked they looked better fed than Bones. It's not that he doesn't eat much, because he eats more in one day than most people seem to eat in three days, and he's still a twig. He's got his floppy, disheveled Mohawk, of course, and his nose ring and his stretched ears and his lip ring, but underneath all of that outer stuff is my best friend. I sound like a total chick saying that, but seriously, Bones is my best and closest friend. He's always been there for me.

We met in third grade, when he kicked my Spiderman action figure out of the sandbox, and then declared that the sandbox was his. I tackled him and he pinched my arm so hard he left a bruise the size of a quarter. The teacher pulled us apart, and asked us what we were doing, and I said 'nothing, just playing' and Bones said 'yeah, we were just messing about' or something to that effect, and the mutual defiance of an authority figure cemented our friendship for good. Bones actually busted up Spiderman several weeks later, and we had a huge fight, in which I refused to speak to him for two whole days (that's a big deal in elementary school, man!), until he gave me his Batman action figure, because, I swear these are his exact words, 'Batman is way better than that bastard Spiderman'. He said this as he was giving me his Batman action figure.

We were all right after that. I mean, we obviously fight and argue, but we've always gotten over it. I mean, just last week Bones flipped out on me for not liking Pink Floyd as much as he thought I should. It was because I'd never seen the movie The Wall, and thus apparently did not like Pink Floyd or something. I adore Pink Floyd, actually, but Bones freaked and it escalated until he punched me in the neck and then I punched him in the stomach. We got over it after Bones decided to get the stupid movie off Netflix and watch it. So we did. It was awesome, but probably not worth getting into a fistfight over. Actually, it was awesome enough to get into a fistfight over, and I told Bones that after watching it and he agreed, and then I knew we were cool again.

We sit out by the dumpsters until the last bell rings, then I get up, and offer a hand to Bones, who takes it. I haul him up, and we don't bother going back into the school to grab backpacks or anything, just start walking towards my house.

As we walk Bones decides he hasn't had enough cigarettes yet and taps another out of his pack, which he lights with his cheap Bic lighter. He lets the thin white stick dangle lazily out of his mouth. Bones is still in his silent mood. He hasn't said anything, not even something about Cocaine Blues.

We arrive at my house, where we go inside and kick off our shoes. Bones tramples down the stairs to my room, he sounds like a herd of elephants going down steps. Honestly. He must be feeling better. I grab two root beers from the fridge, and follow him downstairs.

"Ooooh, I'll have that." He says, when he sees me with the pop. I toss him one, and he cracks it open with a crack-sisssssss. "Hey, Jamie texted me and said that he heard about this party…you want to go?" Bones grins, and I open my soda, then take a sip before answering.

"Where is it?" I ask, a party does sound pretty good. There aren't a lot of parties on Tuesdays, so it's probably someone's birthday.

"Uh, it's at someone named Bradley's house. He goes to the public school. I've not been to any of his parties before." Bones explains, he has his cigarette in one hand and his soda in the other now. He's on his fifth cigarette since we ditched fourth block and study hall. I don't care if he smokes in my room, but my mother will be on me if she smells smoke, so I crack open one of the tiny little basement windows that are over my bed. Bones gets the message and moves over by the window to blow smoke out of it.

"Bradley?" I ask, I do not know any Bradleys.

"Yep. Jamie said he's a total jock, kind of a butthole, I guess, but throws some sick parties. You in?"

"Sure I'm in." I respond, and take another drink of my root beer.

Bones grins. "Figured you would be. I already told Jamie we'd come. He says that he and Lance and Wesley will be here around seven to pick us up." Bones says. He puts his cigarette out on the metal windowsill, and then tosses the butt of it out the window.

"You should never assume, Bones. But whatever." I set my root beer down on the little side table and flop onto my bed. Bones is sitting on the floor with his back against my bed.

A couple minutes later, I hear typing. "Leon, can I use your laptop?" Bones asks, I roll over so I can see him. He already has my laptop on his lap and is logged in as a guest, he even already has his email open and is composing a message to Cocaine Blues.

I roll my eyes. "Sure, man."

"Sweet. So should I just say 'Grim Interstate Violin' and see if they respond, or what?" Bones asks, fingers poised over the keys.

I look at the back of his head. "Yep. How do you know if 'Grim Interstate Violin' is even the answer? The answer could be anything in that clue, dude."

"I don't know. It just feels right. Plus, I doubt that they will penalize me for sending them the wrong answer, if this is even what we're supposed to be doing." Bones says, and finishes typing out the email, signing it with both my name and his name this time. He clicks 'send' and the computer makes a little whoosh noise to signal that the message sent properly.

Bones then promptly yells at the top of his lungs, dumps the laptop off his lap onto the floor, leaps up, and runs around my room hollering with his arms above his head. I lie on my bed and stare at his antics, before picking up the laptop to see for myself what he is screaming about.

Dear Sir Bones and Sir Leon,

We are pleased to inform you that you have successfully deciphered the first clue. We'd like to congratulate you on that. The next clue is much more straight forward: Follow the rope down the tree, into the loop de loop of a swing, that's where you might find the ring.

Wishing you well,

Cocaine Blues

Lars and Erik

I pick up the laptop from the floor and I just stare at the email. Lars and Erik took precisely two minutes to send back an email. Probably a bot, but still. Possibly one of their friends is working on their email, or maybe Lars or Erik themselves just typed the email and sent it to us. Bones leaps onto the bed, shoves me over and stares at the laptop screen.

"Follow the rope down the tree, into the loop de loop of a swing, that's where you might find the ring? What is that even supposed to mean?" Bones asks, looking confused.

"It means something about a playground and maybe a tree house." I say, Bones face lights up and then goes dim again.

"Why a playground?!" Bones asks, giving me a weird look.

"Dude. 'follow the rope down the tree' that's a definite tree house. 'into the loop de loop of a swing' probably a playground." I say. "How did you figure out the anagram one if you couldn't figure out this one?"

"Oh. I don't know. It was easier, but it took more time." Bones explains, shrugging his shoulders.

I stare at him. He is ridiculous. I decide not to dignify that with a response, and instead read through the riddle again.

"Isn't there a band called Treehouse Swing?" I am thinking out loud, because I can very vaguely recall hearing about an indie electro pop band called Treehouse Swing somewhere.

"It cannot be that obvious." Bones says, frowning. "Plus, what about the part about the ring?"

"Yeah," I think harder. "Maybe the ring is a tire swing?"

"But what does that have to do with a band called Treehouse Swing?"

"I have no idea."

"Back to square one." Bones says, glaring at the computer. "Wait. There's this indie band called Tired Of You, and they play swing music!"

"TIRED OF YOU?! Like a rubber tire! Like a rubber ring! Yes!" I yell, and hit reply on the email, quickly type in: Dear Cocaine Blues, 'Tired of You'. Sincerely, Sirs Bones and Leon. We sit in dead silence, until the computer dings and Bones hollers something unintelligible.

The email says:

Sir Bones and Sir Leon,

You're wrong.

Wishing you well,

Cocaine Blues

Lars and Erik

"No!" Bones yelps, and yanks the computer away from me. He opens up Google and types in 'tired of you band' which spits back a Wikipedia result. He checks the genre. "Tired of You actually plays jazz!"

"Boooooones!" I groan. "C'mon, man! Now what do we do?" I take the computer back from him and look at the riddle again. Maybe there's a literal park where we have to go. There are three or four parks in town, but at least one of them has no playground, as is just playing fields.

"We go to the closest park." He announces, extremely calmly.

"That's Sydney on Elm Street."

"Then we're off!" He yells, and slams the top of my laptop shut. Bones then runs up the stairs on all fours. I set my laptop on the nightstand and follow him upstairs. He is lacing up his combat boots as fast as he possibly can. I just shove my feet into my sneakers without untying them.

Bones runs down the street, laces flopping because he decided tying the laces on his boots would take too long. His leather jacket flying, I run after him. He stops about halfway to the park, and has a short coughing fit.

"Damn cigarettes."

I don't say anything to him, just let him cough. Then we're off running again, until we reach Sydney Park. Why it's named Sydney, I don't know. But that's what the sign says, and there's a statue of a girl that gets stolen every year and mysteriously returned several weeks later.

The statue has no plaque or anything explaining what it is though, so I don't know who it is or what it is supposed to represent.

Bones collapses under a tree, and I just stand there and pant. Physical activity is not at all one of our strong suits. I mean, I can skate, but running sure ain't skating.

There are a couple of younger kids, probably nine or ten, playing on the jungle gym, and a couple of kids around that same age on the actual play structure. The there's a blonde girl around our age, with a smaller version of herself who I assume is her younger sister. I spy a tire swing, and make my way other to it, leaving Bones still lying on the ground.

"Dude! Wait!" He hollers, and gets up off the ground. There is a leaf stuck in his hair. He jogs towards me, I continue walking towards the tire swing. Bones catches up, and we walk the rest of the way to the swing.

"Leon."

"Hm?"

"Tree house." He points to a yard where, sure enough, nestled in about ten feet off the ground is a small tree house. I look around the tire swing, kick through the mulch surrounding it, then finally feel around the inside of it. All I feel is tire, but then my hand touches something taped to the rubber.

"Bones, Bones, get over here, man." I whisper, and rip the thing off the tire.

"What is that?!" Bones asks, grinning so wide his face looks like it might split in half.

"It's an envelope!" I say, peeling off the duct tape and the plastic wrap surrounding it.

"Holy—" Bones begins, but I shush him. The envelope is addressed to no one in particular, it only says 'to the finders'. I carefully tear it open, and there is a piece of paper inside.

Typed on the paper are three sentences.

Congratulations, lucky you, aren't you the bees knees? You've got yourself an envelope, found by the trees. I suggest you next look under a boulder in a cave where a bear likes to shave, and don't mind me, I just like to doze near the prose.

"What does that even mean?!" Bones complains. "And why do they have to rhyme all the time?"

"Dude. I don't know. And rhyming makes things seem more puzzle-y or whatever." I tell him.

"Oh. I suppose so." Bones replies. He then plucks the piece of paper out of my hands to read the riddle.

"'I just like to doze near the prose'. I assume that means someone who likes to sleep near books. Library, or bookstore?" Bones asks, his brows knit together in concentration.

"No idea. And what is the bit about the 'cave where a bear likes to shave'?" I ask, reading the paper over Bones' shoulder.

"I have a feeling it is some sort of hair place. I do not know what hair place, or where, but I think it is a hair place." Bones says.

"Yeah, I think you're right." I agree, and start walking back towards my house. Jamie is picking us up at seven, anyways. I pull my phone out of my pocket and check the time. It's quarter to six. My mother is probably home by now. She won't be pleas—wait! She has to work late on a case tonight!

Bones and I walk back home, both of us silent. I am thinking about the riddle, and I'm sure Bones is as well. We get back to my house a little after six, having walked very slowly for whatever reason.

We go back downstairs, where I flop onto my bed and Bones flops onto the floor. He locates my TV remote and turns it on. It's still on the Discovery channel.

"MYTHBUSTERS!" Bones yells, and then he goes dead silent. MythBusters is his favorite TV show.

We watch the rest of the episode, until Jamie texts me saying that they are outside and get out here, it's party time. I leave a note for my mom saying I might not be back tonight, might be staying over at Bones'. I'm guessing that I will end up staying at someone's place, and Bones' place is the most likely.

"Time to go!" I say, Bones groans.

"I want to watch MythBusters!"

"Bones. Party, or MythBusters?" Bones stares at me with the most torn look I have ever seen on his face. "Haven't you seen this one before anyways?"

Bones sighs. "Yes. Okay, party. Let's go." He gets up off the floor, turns off my TV, and follows me up the stairs.

Jamie is waiting in his man van, which is super rusty and super teal. Lance is in the passenger seat, and Wesley slides the door open and lets us in. Sitting behind Lance in the other bucket seat is Lars, not Cocaine Blues Lars, but German foreign exchange student Lars. Lance's family is his host family, and Lars likes parties. Bones and I climb into the back seat.

"Hey, we have to pick up Polly, Carolina, Georgie, and Terrence." Jamie tells everyone, glancing in the rearview mirror.

"Jamez, zere is not enough room." Lars says.

"Relax, Lars, I crammed thirteen people in here once and it was fine." Jamie says, grinning.

"If you're zure." Lars replies uncertainly. He doesn't seem too sold on the idea of four more people in a seven passenger van when there are already six people in the van.

Lance cranks up the music, which is Little Ritchie, since it is Jamie's van. Little Ritchie is Jamie's favorite musician. Lance professes to hate Little Ritchie, but I know that he actually does like him.

We stop at a house I don't recognize and pick up Polly and Carolina. They pile into the van, Polly sits between me and Bones, and Carolina sits on Lars' lap. They're going out. Polly is weird. She licks Bones' arm, then cackles like a maniac. Bones looks concerned, which means Polly is really weird, because Bones rarely looks concerned due to people.

At the next stop, Georgie clambers into the van. She sits on top of Polly in the backseat with Bones and I. Georgie is fat and I feel bad for Polly. She's probably getting crushed under Georgie. Polly does not even complain, which is rather impressive.

Lars and Carolina are whispering to each other, but everyone else is just being quiet and listening to Little Ritchie.

We make the last stop at a run down house on the edge of town. Terrence lives here, apparently. I don't know Terrence very well at all, this is the first time I've actually seen his house. He comes bounding out of his front door and down the sidewalk, and Wesley lets him into the van. He sits on the floor between the two bucket seats.

"Hey, guys." Terrence greets everyone, and we each say something to the effect of 'hi' or 'hello' or 'hey' or whatever. Terrence is the oldest one in the van, at nineteen. I know that because I remember Lance telling me he failed seventh grade or something and got held back a year.

Finally, we arrive at this Bradley person's party. And his house is huge. It is mansion style. No. It is not 'mansion style' it is a huge mansion. We pile out of Jamie's van, to people watching it probably looks similar to a bunch of clowns getting out of a clown car.

We get to the door, but before I can open it, it slams open and two guys hustle some other guy outside, where the guy in the middle promptly barfs all over a fancy bush. They take the guy back inside, and our motley group of people follows the three guys inside.

Inside the monstrously large house is a ton of people. Seriously, it's like their entire school is here. I head for the kitchen, where drinks are sure to be, and Bones and Terrence follow me back there. There's a couple of jock boys doing shots of something around the kitchen table. They're playing some sort of drinking game that involves Monopoly.

I step over to the island counter, where there is an assortment of booze. I pour myself a red Solo cup of orange juice and vodka, because I like screwdrivers. Bones pours himself a rum and Coke, we split up. Bones heads downstairs, and I walk around for a while, saying hello to people I know and nursing my drink. I narrowly avoid a conversation with my ex-girlfriend Mel, by ducking behind some giant guy holding a bottle of Jack Daniels. She doesn't see me, thankfully. That relationship didn't end so well. I like to claim it was mutual, but she dumped me.

After about an hour of walking about the house, I wander back to the kitchen, where the jocks have dispersed and there are now some of the people I like to hang with sitting around the table, drunkenly playing spoons.

I pull up a chair and get dealt into the next round. It appears to be that if you don't a spoon, you drink. If you get four of a kind at the same time someone else gets four of a kind, you drink. Someone pours me a shot, and I knock it back, even though we haven't even started passing the cards yet. I don't know what was in the shot, but it burns on the way down. My eyes actually water.

The party is loud, but everything seems sort of soft-edged after a couple of rounds of spoons. Everything is fuzzy and warm. The fuzziness is definitely partially from the joint they started passing around a little while ago. I saw Terrence earlier, but he was making out with a girl so I didn't bother him.

I play another round, accept the joint and take a pull, then give it back. I have to piss. I abandon the spoons table and look around for a bathroom. I end up upstairs, on the first floor. Considering the house seems to have an infinite number of doors without bathrooms behind them, I could be here a while. I should have someone send me a search party if I get too far into this house. It's like a labyrinth…how do you get out of a labyrinth? All left turns? I can't remember. I stumble over some chick passed out on the floor, but catch myself so that I don't fall over. I push open a door to a room, but it isn't a bathroom, so I close the door again.

I spy some guy I know vaguely from school, I think his name is John. Wait. It could be William. No. He goes by Slinky. Maybe not.

I decide not to risk it and walk over to him. "Uh, Slinky, where's the bathroom?" I ask, Slinky or William or John stares at me.

"Dude, you are so stoned."

"Yes. I am aware. Where's the bathroom?" I ask, Slinky or whatever points me towards a door at the end of the hallway.

"Okay. Thanks, man." I open the door I was pointed at, and finally, a bathroom. I pee and wash my hands, and I was just about to leave when the shower curtain rustles and I just about jump out of my skin. Whoever is in the tub pulls back the shower curtain. It's Georgie. Great. She's obviously been crying, and I decide to leave.

"Wait. Leon, can I talk to you?"

"Will you make me a milkshake?" I ask, because it's the first thing that comes into my head.

"What?" Georgie asks, looking confused.

"Never mind, I guess." I say. I put the toilet lid down and sit down on it. Georgie looks pleased by my compliance, but it's mostly because I want to sit down. I'm really sleepy.

"I don't know what to do." Georgie begins, then she looks at him to say something like 'well, can I help?' or something like that.

"Um. I hear they have Cheetos downstairs. If you like sparrows." I tell her, because who doesn't like sparrows, and Cheetos are delicious. Wow. "I really want Cheetos."

"I walked in on my boyfriend and this other chick banging, and I told him it was over and ran out." Georgie starts to cry again, and now I really want to leave. She takes a deep, shuddering breath and continues. "And now I don't have a boyfriend, and he was my first boyfriend, and now I'm in a bathtub crying!"

She means 'Reassure me now!'.

"Uh." I pause. Aha! "Do you want ice cream?"

Georgie wipes her eyes and laughs a little. "Okay."

Wait. I think I just accidently asked Georgie out on an ice cream date.

"Um. How do we get to the ice cream?" I ask. There is fancy soap shaped like seashells in here. I like fancy soap. "Have you seen this soap?" I ask, holding up a soap shell.

"That's nice. We could steal Federico's truck." Federico must be her ex. "I have his keys since I was supposed to drive tonight."

"Okay."

Georgie gets out of the bathtub and walks out of the bathroom. I follow her out, and through the house. Georgie seems to know her way around the house better than me, so we make it out in less time than it took me to actually find the bathroom.

On our way out through the massive living room, we are waylaid by Bones. He ignores Georgie completely, and holds out a banana.

"Take the banana!" Bones commands, and I take the banana. Bones has a different banana, and he has tied a string from one banana to the other. The string is like ten feet long, and Bones trots away into the hall. I stand there, holding one half of a banana phone and feeling somewhat stupid but mostly interested in why Bones thinks this will work.

I can see Bones standing like ten feet away, talking into the banana. I have no idea what he is saying, because obviously the banana 'phone' idea does not work in the slightest.

"Bones, you are an idiot." I say into the banana, and he frowns and runs back towards me with the banana.

"It didn't work!" He wails, and flings the banana away. Since the banana is tied to my banana, his banana takes mine with it. The bananas hit someone in the back. Bones is pouting now, and thus is not looking when the bananas come flying back at him and smack him in the head.

"THE BANANAS CAME BACK!" He yells, and picks them up off the ground. "Mystical, magical bananas came back!" Bones starts dancing around, a banana in each hand.

"Indeed." I say, and nod at Bones. Georgie grabs my arm and pulls me out of the house.

"Where are we going?" I ask, Georgie ignores me and keeps pulling me towards the street.

She lets go of my arm when we reach the sidewalk, and I follow her. She stops at a giant, jacked up silver truck. It's like brand new.

Georgie climbs into the driver's side of the truck and I go around the front and get in the passenger side.

"Okay, Dairy Queen is closest." I say, remembering suddenly that we are going for ice cream. Georgie starts the truck and drives to Dairy Queen, where she parks in the nearly empty parking lot and gets out. I follow her into the restaurant.

We're the only people there besides the staff and one guy with a grizzled face and a little girl, who appears to be his daughter or granddaughter.

Georgie walks up to the counter and orders a large Peanut Buster parfait. I order a yummy looking caramel sundae. The Dairy Queen slave brings us our ice cream shortly, and Georgie pays for her ice cream. I pay for my own ice cream. Maybe this means this isn't a date.

Actually, considering she just broke up with her boyfriend, maybe this is conciliatory ice cream. It better be. I have no interest in dating Georgie.

We sit down at a booth and Georgie tears into her ice cream like a shark into a seal. I feel almost delicate when I eat a bite of my caramel sundae, trailing strands of caramel to my mouth.

Georgie starts talking about Federico. I just kind of sit there and stare at her boobs and sort of listen, but I don't really comprehend anything that she is saying. I like this ice cream. It is yummy. I think I want to go back to the party, though. Maybe when I'm done with my ice cream, I can go back and play spoons and maybe have some more of that weed.

Georgie is somehow still talking about Federico. I never realized how much one girl could talk. All I've been doing is just grunting or nodding, and she still keeps talking.

By the time she finishes her Peanut Buster parfait, I've been finished with my caramel sundae for ages and really want to go back to the party.

"Do you need a ride back to Bradley's place?" Georgie at least has the decency to ask, after putting me through what feels like hours of torture. After all, I really don't care about her stupid ex boyfriend in the least.

"Yes please." I say, and toss my sundae container in the garbage can. Georgie throws away her plastic parfait cup, and follows me out the door. I climb into Federico's truck, and Georgie starts it. She drives me back to the party, where she lets me out and then drives away again.

I make my way back up the sidewalk and into Bradley's giant house. Even his front door seems larger than mine. I go through the giant door and reenter the party. Everyone is moving much more slowly now, most people are totally drunk or completely stoned out of their minds or both. It seems like a lot of the people have cleared out of the house, or maybe they have just disappeared deeper inside of it. The designated drivers all seem to be talking to each other, and I can tell because all of them are bright eyed and sullen, because none of them are drinking or smoking.

I locate Lance sitting on a couch by a couple making out, he's just sitting there giggling to himself and watching the muted TV. He's watching some political talk show.

Bones I find passed out near a clay pot full of dirt. He's got the plant that I assume used to be in the pot held loosely in his hand. I have no idea what happened here. I nudge Bones' side with the toe of my sneaker, but all he does is snore gently. At least he is still alive.

I continue on to the kitchen, where there is a group of people mixing up nasty combinations of food and drinks (example: ketchup, vodka, Cheez Whiz, crumbled crackers all smushed together) and daring the drunkest person to eat whatever they have concocted.

I cannot find Polly or Carolina, but I also don't look very hard. Terrence I find snorting crushed Smarties off a glass coffee table in the basement, while a group of people drunkenly cheer him on. He sneezes almost immediately after snorting them, and rainbow snot goes everywhere. I walk away from that particular group, and head back upstairs.

I can't tell if a lot of people have gone home or they're just in different places of this house. It's large enough that you could live here for a week and never see anyone else that lives here. I still haven't seen Jamie, but I'm assuming he's around here somewhere. I turn a sharp corner, hugging the wall, and run straight into this tall dude. I look up to see who it is, but I don't know him.

"Sorry, man." He says. He has a thin trickle of blood running from his nose. It drips onto his lip, and he brings his hand up to his face. "Frick."

"It's okay." I mumble, and the dude walks quickly into the kitchen to find a towel or something for his bloody nose. I continue on my walk through the house. I can't find any circles of people passing a joint or two around, which makes me sad.

Jamie comes tearing up a flight of stairs, butt naked, except for a knot of clothing clutched to his stomach, which thankfully covers up things that I really don't want to see. I pull my phone out of my pocket as he runs past me and take a picture of him running down the hall. He disappears into a hallway. I look at the picture I took. It's blurry since he was running, but you can clearly make out that he's naked. His butt is the best focused part of the picture, which makes me laugh. Then I kind of wonder why he was running around naked anyways, but I figure he'll tell me later, when I find him. Hopefully he will be clothed by that point.

I wander down the same flight of stairs Jamie just ran up, and find one locked door and one bathroom, and finally a room full of smoke. It smells like weed in here, so I walk over and join the people who are sprawled in a vague circle on the floor. I sit down cross legged. Carolina has the joint, and she takes a quick drag, then starts making out with Lars. They slowly move over to a couple of beanbags. The joint gets passed to the next person in the circle, someone I don't know. He has got a sloppy haircut, like he cut his own hair with a pair of very dull scissors. His hair is dark and I don't know if it's black or brown. I don't particularly care, though. He takes a pull and hands it along to a blonde dude with a crew cut. That dude just passes the joint to the guy next to me without taking a drag or anything. I am sitting next to this kid with bright neon green hair. He hands me the blunt, and I take a nice, long drag. I exhale a cloud of smoke, and hand the joint off to the guy next to me. He has long dreads pulled back in a ponytail, with dark blue glass beads on some of them, and reminds me briefly of Zach. It isn't Zach, though, because this guy has the lower half of his head shaved, so all the dreads on the top of his head.

"Yo, man, what's your name?" This from the dude with the goofy haircut. It is directed at me.

"Leon. You?" I reply, poking my finger through a hole in the knee of my jeans. Interesting. There is yellow paint dripped on my left knee. The one without the hole, I mean.

"Thom. That's Gerard," He points at the guy with the short blonde hair. "and that is Willy," This is the kid with the sweet dreads. "and that is Nelly." Nelly is the boy with the bright green hair. Nelly glares at Thom.

"My name is not Nelly. It is Nelson." Nelly/ Nelson snarls. He seems like a snarly type. I look at him a little closer and realize he is wearing a red plaid kilt (actually it could just be a red plaid skirt, something you might see on like, Catholic school girls or something) over a pair of extremely tight gray acid wash jeans. Those are girls' jeans. I don't understand how his balls fit in them. Honestly.

"All right." I say, because it really seems like the only thing I can say. Nelly/ Nelson is wearing a tee shirt (it says 'FIDLAR' on it in handwritten letters) with the collar ripped off, so it stretches from the tip of one shoulder to the tip of the other shoulder. He has super pointy collar bones. Like I could pour water on him and there would be little puddles collected in his collar bones. That is weird. He is also not wearing shoes or socks.

By the third time the joint has gone around the circle, it is nearly gone and I have a lovely little buzz making my head all fuzzy and white noisy. Nelly/ Nelson is lying flat out on his back, possibly sleeping, I don't know. Willy is chattering away too quickly for me to make out any of his words, but Gerard is talking to him at a very similar speed, and they seem to be having a rather deep conversation, if Gerard's expression is anything to go by. Thom army crawls over to me.

"Dude. You want to go upstairs?" He asks me, then he considers what he has just said. "Wait. No. We can't go upstairs. That requires standing up."

"Uh, I want something to drink." I say, Thom nods, as if I have just said something extremely profound. "Not like booze. Like a soda or milk or lemonade. Oh, yeah. Definitely lemonade."

"We can do that. Check that baby fridge." He says, and points over to a rather dark corner, where a mini fridge resides. I start crawling over to it, and Thom follows me, crawling as well.

We make it about half way, when Thom speaks up. "Take cover! We are under fire!" He yells, almost directly into my ear. I wince and roll over and over and over and over, until I roll directly into a wall. I bang my head on the wall, which hurts a little. Then I realize that while I was rolling, I have made it closer to the mini fridge.

I glance back at Thom, just in time to see Nelly/ Nelson launch an empty can of beer at his head. It clocks him in the forehead and Thom pretends to die. His death throes are extremely dramatic and played out.

I laugh and resume crawling towards the fridge. I finally make it there, and open the tiny door. Cold air hits my face. I look inside, and mostly there's expensive looking bottles of beer, and soda. But there is one little can of Minute Maid Lemonade. I grab the can and shut the fridge door, then crawl back to lay next to Thom. He is still pretending to be dead. I prop myself up on my elbows and crack open my can of lemonade. I take a long, long gulp of it. It is delicious. I like lemonade. It is lemony and yummy. Plus the can is shiny. I like shiny.

Thom stops being dead and uses my stomach as a pillow. His head is heavy. It's like a sort of light weight bowling ball sitting on my tummy. He has funny hair. It kind of goes everywhere at once. I sit up a little to drink some more of my lemonade, then set the can down and lie back. I stare at the ceiling. It looks weird for some reason, like it has some sort of abstract pattern on it. The lights keep getting turned on and off. I turn my head and see somebody standing by the switch, turning the lights on and off, on and off again. I can't tell who it is from where I am laying. Whoever it was finally just leaves the lights on and stops turning them on and off.

I close my eyes and look at the inside of my eyelids. It's dark. I open them again, and look straight up and Nelly/ Nelson is standing over me. I can see up his skirt (kilt? Skirt? I think they're pretty much the same, right?). Nelly/ Nelson crouches down, so he is not so far away and also looks like less of a giant monster human.

He has funky eyes. One is blue and the other one is green. This is an interesting development. I wonder why he has two different colored eyes instead of just one colored eye. I mean, two eyes with the same colors. That's what I meant. I have two eyes with the same colors. My eyes are gray. I think. At least, last time I checked they were gray.

"Maybe they changed colors." I say. I don't know why I said that out loud.

"What changed colors?" Nelly/ Nelson asks. He pokes Thom's head. Thom doesn't do anything. I think he went to sleep.

"I am not a pillow, Thom!" I say, but not too loudly because I don't want to wake him up. Then I remember Nelly/ Nelson's question. "My eyes. What color are they?"

"They're like gray. Like really pale though." Nelly/ Nelson says, looking at my eyes.

I nod, but then I think of something. "Wait. Like gray, or they are gray?"

Nelly/ Nelson looks closer at my eyes. "They are definitely gray."

"Okay. Just checking." I say. I look at Nelly/ Nelson's face. He has very green hair. It is the color of summer grass after it rains. He has a little piercing under his eye. It has two tiny little clear crystals on it. It is shiny and it sparkles a little when it catches the light. I like shiny. I forgot the name of the piercing. I think it has a specific name. Maybe it doesn't, but if it doesn't it probably should.

Nelly/ Nelson sits down beside me and pulls his knees up to his chest. He wraps his arms around his legs and rests his chin on top of his arms. He looks like a knot. Like a person tied up in a knot, I mean. I don't know what I am talking about.

Thom is still sleeping.

"Leon, right?" Nelly/ Nelson asks me.

"Yes. You're Nelson slash Nelly, right?" I ask, even though I remembered his name because he has green hair. It's hard to forget someone with green hair. Also he has big gauges that sort of stick out from his head. There's curly plugs in them, like a sheep's horns. Or whatever they are called. Rams' horns? The plugs look like that. I reach over and touch the plug.

"Can I see it?" I ask, tapping Nelly/ Nelson's arm.

"Sure." He says, sliding the thingy out of his ear. He hands it to me. It is surprisingly light. I mean, it isn't that big, but I expected it to be a little heavier. I hand it back to him and he slides it back in his ear. Fascinating.

Thom shifts slightly, but he doesn't wake up.

"Can I have a pillow, please?" I ask, nicely. I want to go to sleep. I feel like a little cat who wants to curl up in the sun and take a nap. But I also sort of want a snack.

A pillow hits me in the face. "Thanks!" I call, I have no idea who tossed it but I am happy now. I tuck the pillow underneath my head and close my eyes.

When I wake up, Thom is still lying on my stomach and my head hurts. I gently lift Thom's head off my stomach and set him on the floor. I stick my pillow under his head and stand up.

Whoa. Head rush. I should not have stood up so fast. Nelly/ Nelson is on the couch, sleeping soundly. His pants are on the ground, but he is still wearing the goofy kilt. I check my phone. Oh. It's just barely one o' clock in the morning. We're the only ones in the room. I walk up the stairs, and find that nobody is around up here, either. I make it back to the kitchen, and there's no one in there. There are a lot of empty bottles, and a huge pile of red cups, but no people. I finally find Bones in the living room, awake, thankfully, and talking to Jamie, who is wearing clothes this time.

"Okay. Tell me what you said again?" Bones asks, Jamie frowns and looks down.

"I said Lance, all right? I didn't say Lana or Lisbeth or Lois or something, I said Lance, of all the things I could've fuckin' blurted, it had to be Lance." Jamie says, and runs a hand through his hair. I come into the room and sit down in one of the armchairs.

"What happened?" I ask, Jamie sighs heavily.

"Bones, you can tell him if you want." Jamie says, pinching the bridge of his nose. "As long as he isn't going to flip out."

"He won't." Bones assures him, then Bones turns to me. "Look, Jamie was getting jiggy with Larissa, and he called her Lance." Bones explains.

I look at Jamie for a more clear explanation. He makes an exasperated sort of noise, whether at me or himself or Bones, I don't know. "I'm frickin' gay, and I've got a thing for Lance, all right?" Jamie snarls. I think my mouth drops open, but I'm not sure. I would never have pegged Jamie as the gay type.

I don't say anything.

"I don't care if you don't want to hang out anymore 'cause of this or whatever." Jamie says, I just look at him.

I finally figure out something to say. "Uh. So you called Larissa 'Lance'? Is that why you ran past me butt naked?" Bones starts laughing. "Dude, Jamie, I don't care if you're gay, I just don't want to see your scrawny butt like that again, man."

Jamie starts laughing so hard I think he might split in two. I start laughing, because Jamie and Bones are already laughing, and we just sit there and laugh and laugh, and I know that everything is all right between Jamie and Bones and me.

We eventually quit laughing. Jamie decides to call everyone he brought to the party, because Jamie is a good dude like that. He calls Terrence first, who has apparently already made it home, then he calls Carolina, who says she has made it back to Lance's house with Lars and Lance and they are staying there. He calls Polly, but she doesn't pick up. I tell him Georgie already went home, and he gives me a weird look but says nothing, just tries Polly again. Polly still doesn't answer.

"I guess she's stuck here." Jamie shrugs. "You guys ready?"

"Yep."

"Uh-huh." Bones agrees, and we follow Jamie out of Bradley's house to his man van. I climb into the passenger side, and Bones climbs into the bucket seat behind me. Jamie starts the car and pulls out into the street. The neighborhood is quiet and dark, and riding in the van makes me extremely tired. Maybe it's the way the streetlights pass and disappear, or the fact that it is one o' clock in the morning.

Anyways, by the time we reach Bones' house, I am almost asleep. Jamie lets us out at the driveway, and we say thanks for the ride and scamper up Bones' driveway to his house. Once we reach the door, Bones opens it very quietly, and we sneak inside. We make it up to Bones' room, but barely, because Tank barked once, then he realized it was Bones and I.

"Do you think Tank woke anyone up?" I whisper to Bones, once we are safely in his room.

"Nah. He barks at random stuff sometimes." Bones whispers back, taking off his leather jacket and putting it neatly on the back of his desk chair. He unlaces his boots and kicks them off. I take off my sneakers and toss them over in the corner by Bones' boots. Bones takes his pants off and throws them on the ground. He climbs into his bed, throws me a pillow and a blanket from his bed, and turns out the light.

I pull my pants off and situate myself on Bones' squishy carpeted floor. I've slept on Bones' floor dozens of times. Of course, as soon as I get comfortable, my entire sleepiness dissipates. I thought I'd be able to go right to sleep, but of course not. Bones is already snoring away up in his bed, and here I am wide awake on the floor.

This sucks.

It feels like I lie there awake for an eternity, but it has probably only been like an hour.

I finally fall asleep.

I awake to someone sitting on my chest. I open my eyes. It's Polly Ann, Bones' little sister. She is ten and in my book, old enough to know not to sit on people to wake them up. I twist and she slides off to the left and squeals.

"Larry, get Polly Ann off of Leon." Bones says, I can see him standing there in only his boxers, rubbing his head. His Mohawk is sticking up every which way, and I can count all of his ribs.

Larry walks over to me and drags Polly Ann out of Bones' room. Bones shuts and locks his door.

"Dude, you awake?" He asks, I prop myself up on my elbows.

"Yeah, I'm up. What time is it?" I ask.

"Uh," Bones consults his phone. "It is precisely six fifty nine."

"All right. Can I borrow a shirt?" I ask, I slept in mine and it smells a little funky from the party anyway.

"Sure." Bones digs through a pile of clothes on his floor, then he throws a black shirt at me. I sit up and peel off my shirt and put on the one Bones threw at me. I look down at it. It says 'The Buzzcocks' in sloppy white paint. And it is actual white paint, not screen printing. "Joey made it for me because I begged." Bones explains. "He didn't screen print it because he didn't want to make me a shirt in the first place."

"Ah." I say, and get up off the floor. I locate my jeans in Bones' mess of a room, and pull them on. I don't care about wearing the same pair of jeans twice in a row. Bones pulls on a pair of ripped up black jeans and a plain, but stained, white tee shirt.

He goes out his door and tramples down the stairs, I follow him, but go a bit more slowly downstairs. He pours himself a bowl of Honey Smacks and then hands me the box. I get myself a bowl while Bones digs around in the fridge for milk. He finds some chocolate milk and dumps a bunch into his cereal. I take the carton from him and pour some chocolate milk into my cereal as well.

Bones chucks a spoon at me, and I don't catch it. It just hits me in the arm and falls onto the counter. He starts shoveling cereal into his mouth and I pick up my spoon.

When we finish our cereal, Bones' mom comes downstairs, frowns at Bones' choice of attire (must be a mom thing since mine does the same thing), and says a strained "Good morning, Leon" to me.

She turns to Bones. "What time did you come home last night?" She asks, with all the cheer and concern of an interrogator asking a criminal about a crime.

Bones looks at me. "Around 11." He lies, since I think I remember his curfew being midnight. Under extenuating circumstances, like a show in Seattle, both mine and his curfews have been extended.

"Don't lie to me, Ryan." Martha says. It's very strange to hear Bones get called 'Ryan'. He's been Bones so long anything else sounds weird.

"Fine, it was like ten after midnight. Ten minutes!" It wasn't ten minutes. It was an hour and a half after midnight.

"Next time you're late on curfew, you are going to be in deep trouble." Martha tells him, Bones nods. "I'm taking Polly Ann and Larry to school. You two had better start walking."

"We're going, we're going." Bones replies. Polly Ann and Larry get a ride to school because the elementary school and the middle schools are on the opposite side of town from Jackson. They're over by the public high school. Jackson is just a seventh and eighth grade, and then the high school. I guess Jackson thinks sixth grade isn't middle school or something. I don't know.

We go back upstairs and get our shoes. We clomp back downstairs and start walking to school. Bones and I theorize about the riddle we found in the tire swing, but nothing comes of it. No new leads, not even something to try and find a lead off of. It sucked.

By the time we get into the school, the first bell has rung. This is due to Bones stopping and smoking three cigarettes in a row, and insisting on smoking them as slowly as possible. Joey joined us and talked to me about The Doors for a while. He's obsessed with them right now.

But as soon as it was ten to eight, Joey went inside to actually go to class. Bones decided to smoke one more cigarette, and then he made us late to first hour.

I sneak into the shop the back way, and trip over Neil and Romeo. Their legs are tangled together, and their faces are smashed against each other. I guess they made up. That was fast, considering it was yesterday that Romeo and Lauren had it out in Photo. They're sort of hidden behind some signs from the something the FFA did involving livestock.

"Who's that?" Neil mumbles, and then he cranks his neck around to look over his shoulder towards me. I wave. I can barely see Romeo's face, but from what I can see, he looks pleased. Not with my presence, obviously, but the fact that Neil is on top of him and not on top of Lauren. "Get out of here, Leon. We're busy." And Neil goes back to slobbering all over Romeo's face. I get out of there. I don't need to see any more of that, thanks very much.

I make it into the shop just into time for my name to be called on attendance. I guess I'm lucky today.

Nothing particularly interesting happens in woodshop. I wood burn the dragon. Neil comes back from his escapades with Romeo about half way through the class. He's sweaty and red faced and his hair is tangled.

The bell rings and I head off to English. I make it to the classroom with a minute or two to spare, and Bones arrives immediately after the bell.

"Bones, I guess I can let you get away with being late this time, so long as it doesn't happen again." Mr. Kent says, and Bones salutes him.

"All right, worksheets!" Mr. Kent says, altogether too excited for passing out work. Bones groans and bangs his head on his desk. "Shut up, Mr. Stanton." Kent adds.

"You may work in pairs if you like." I scoot my desk over by Bones and he groans again.

"I have to work with you?" He complains, his mouth twisted up in half a grimace and half a smile at the same time. I cannot even comprehend how his face can do that.

"Yeah, man. Sorry you're stuck with me again." I answer, shoving his shoulder. He shoves me back and laughs. I start writing down the answers to the questions, and Bones ignores his worksheet. He pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket and reads aloud from it.

"Congratulations, lucky you, aren't you the bees knees? You've got yourself an envelope, found by the trees. I suggest you next look under a boulder in a cave where a bear likes to shave, and don't mind me, I just like to doze near the prose. What does that even mean?" Bones asks. I shrug. I only have three more questions on the worksheet. I abandon it for the riddle.

"I don't know. Do you think there's a literal cave with a literal boulder?" I ask, fiddling with my pencil.

"How should I know? I think we should go do some hardcore googling later." Bones says, I agree with him.

"So, you guys done with your worksheet?" This is from Mr. Kent, who is standing at the front of the classroom. Everyone sort of mumbles their agreement. "I'm not collecting them, so just put them in your folders."

"Also, movie time!" He claps his hands together and pulls down the projector thing. "We're going to watch Dead Poets Society. Mostly because I don't have a lesson plan for the rest of today or tomorrow, and it is a rather excellent film." Kent says, Bones grins and shoves my desk back to its normal spot. Mr. Kent turns out the lights, and I prop my head up on my hand and try to sleep. I get in a decent nap.

I wake up a couple of minutes before the bell. I have no idea what is happening in the movie. The characters appear to be in English class, but there is a lot of shouting and things happening and less 'English-y' things going on.

When the bell rings I rush out of the classroom and dump my stuff in my locker before heading to lunch. I manage to get in the line before it gets too long, and Bones comes dashing down the hall and cuts in front of me. I let him, but the kid behind me groans.

Bones whips around and glares at the kid. It's some sophomore. I don't know him. The kid glares back, and before I can stop him, Bones pops the kid in the nose. The kid's nose starts bleeding almost instantly, and he starts after Bones, but I push Bones into the kitchen area, and Bones gets distracted by food. Even nasty food can distract Bones. I don't think anyone saw Bones punch the kid, and narks are not appreciated here at Jackson, so I think Bones will get away with it this time.

We load our trays with the nastiness that is today's lunch, which takes the form of a pseudo 'cheeseburger' and 'French fries'. It looks half edible, but I know from experience that it is not. Tofer joins Bones and I at the table.

I give him a questioning look. He has B lunch, not A lunch.

"Needed a break from coding." He explains, Tofer has an independent computer lab right now, thus he is working on some project. I don't know the details of it.

"Bones punched a kid in line." I offer, as a conversation starter more than anything. Bones is known to do things very impulsively. He has just taken a giant bite of his cheeseburger.

"Why?" Tofer asks.

"Kid looked at him funny or something." I respond.

"Mrromph. Norf!" He swallows his food. "That was Bryce and he is stupid. And he did look at me funny. But he's also been driving me nuts in art class. He deserved to be punched." Bones explains. Tofer rolls his eyes at me. I mouth I know. He is an idiot back at him when Bones turns around to scream at someone who has apparently said 'persnickety'.

"That is my most favorite word of all time." He announces.

"Persnickety?" Jamie asks, arriving at the table just in time to hear this.

"Indeed." Bones says, nodding. He resumes eating his cheeseburger. Jamie shrugs and sits down with his tray.

"Hey, don't you usually bring a sack lunch?" Lance asks, as he sits down next to Jamie. His question is directed at Bones.

"Yes. I didn't pack one this morning because I forgot." Bones explains, Lance nods.

"All righty then." Lance says, and starts eating his fries. I watch Jamie. Jamie keeps glancing at Lance out of the corner of his eye. Now that I know Jamie likes Lance, I'm kind of amazed I never noticed it before. Jamie is not particularly subtle about looking at Lance. It's sort of too bad that Lance isn't gay. They could probably be one of those couples who are really just best friends with sex. But not like a friends with benefits thing. I don't know where I am going with this.

"Hey, any of you guys know about a place a bear might like to shave?" Bones asks, everyone looks at him blankly. Dink sets his tray down and goes to grab a chair.

Tofer laughs and laughs. "Dude, that's this obscure Internet thing about the second amendment. Bear likes to shave, particularly his arms. Thus, the right to bare bear arms." Tofer explains. We stare at him.

"What?"

"Here, dude, I'll write it down." He writes down the right to bare bear arms, and everyone laughs except Lance, who doesn't get puns and probably doesn't know what the second amendment even is.

Bones turns to me. "Dude."

"Dude." I repeat.

"No, dude. The second amendment!"

"Yes. What about it?" The rest of the table has gone back to their own conversations, so Bones and I are pretty much being ignored. It doesn't matter, though, because Bones and I are the only ones who like Cocaine Blues. Lance and Jamie don't much care for indie, Tofer only really listens to electronica and dubstep, and Dink just doesn't care much bands who are not the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"The right to bear arms. Gun shop!"

I look at him. I'm sort of concerned for Bones' mental health right now. "Gun shop?"

"No, no, no. Gunstop!" Bones says.

"Gunstop?"

"Yes!"

"What is 'Gunstop'?" I ask, completely confused now.

"Gunstop is this grimy, mostly queer core playing music club in Seattle." Bones explains. He slams his fist on the table. "Gunstop!"

"Why does this help with the riddle?" I ask. "Why do you know of a queercore music club?" I pause. "Is it a gay bar?" Jamie looks up at 'gay bar'. He looks at me, I shrug and mouth Bones is crazy at him. He nods and goes back to his food and his conversation with Dink.

"No, Leon. It is not a gay bar. It is a primarily queer core music playing club. Called 'Gunstop'."

"And how does this relate to the second amendment?"

"It is called GUNSTOP!" Bones cries, grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me.

"Okay! Okay, I get it!" I don't get it (I realize it is called 'Gunstop' and the second amendment relates to guns, obviously but other than that…), but if I say I do, Bones will probably stop shaking me.

"Good. Now we have to go there and figure out the part about the prose and the sleeping. And the rock in the cave. But the rock could just be the music, I guess." Bones mutters, and starts mashing up his French fries.

"We have to go to this Gunstop place?" I ask, somewhat apprehensively. Bones described it as 'grimy' so it must really be a dump. Bones never describes grimy things that actually are grimy as 'grimy' he calls things that are nasty and dumps and gross and full of dirty needles and awful things like that 'grimy'.

"Yes. And not tomorrow, because we're going to the girls' basketball game. It's at home and I want to heckle the opposing team." Bones says. The opposing team is the public school across town. There's a bit of a rivalry between us and them, but without much backing because Jackson pretty much sucks at all sports except baseball.

"Why are you heckling them?"

"Because it is my duty to this school—"

"No, it is not."

"But I wanna!"

"Whatever."

"You're coming too!"

"Seriously?"

"Yes! And so is Lance, because Emma is on the other team,"

"And she will be exempt from your heckling, Bones." This from Jamie. Lance nods in agreement. He may or may not know what 'exempt' means, but definitely does not know what 'heckling' means. Lance asks Jamie, and Jamie tells him.

"Of course, of course." Bones agrees, bobbing his head up and down. "Thus, Leon, we go to Gunstop tonight."

"But today is Wednesday."

"And your point is?"

I consider what my point actually is. "I don't know."

"To Gunstop!" He cries, and raises a non-smashed French fry in the air. He grabs my wrist and holds my arm up like I have just won a boxing match. "To Gunstop! C'mon, Leon, say it!"

"No."

"Come on."

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"Pretty please with a cherry on top?"

"Fine."

"Really?"

"NO!"

"I hate you." Bones says, and turns back to his smashed fries and his half eaten cheeseburger. I ignore his pouting. He knows I know I'll end up going with him to this Gunstop place, even if it is a Wednesday, and even if my mother does kill me for going into Seattle and not going to Safety First. Oh well.

Jamie is sitting on the other side of me, and he leans over towards me. "So, uh, can I come with you guys tonight? Like, I have my van. So I can drive you, right?"

"Fine by me. Bones?"

"Yes! Jamie has his man van and that means I don't have to steal my father's car! Hooray!" And Bones probably would have stolen his father's car. He has done it before, in the Great Grand Theft Familial Auto Escapades of 2010. More on the G2TAE10 later.

"Okay, what time do you want to leave?" Jamie asks. He eats one of his French fries.

Bones thinks for a moment. "At precisely four forty three."

"I don't want to hit rush hour traffic in Seattle, man." Jamie says, and Bones reconsiders.

"At precisely three oh one." Bones gives his revised answer.

"Are we skipping study hall then?" Jamie asks, although he probably already knows the answer.

"Yes." Bones says, and starts mashing ketchup into his mashed up fries. He ends up actually eating the nasty mush.

Dink looks awful today. His twin black eyes look almost worse today than they did yesterday, if that's even possible. He picks at his burger but doesn't actually eat any of it. Lance steals it and packs it into his mouth in three bites.

Bones decides that he wants a smoke, and goes outside to hide behind the Dumpster. No one goes with him. Jamie is the only other one of our little table that smokes as regularly as Bones does, but he doesn't smoke nearly as much as Bones.

The rest of lunch goes by quickly, and when the bell rings I just go straight to Photography. Neil knocks into me in the hall, a few feet in front of Mr. Quant's doorway. Romeo is already in the classroom when I get there. His pants are unbuttoned, and his shirt, already short, is up above his belly button. His hair is disheveled and his face is flushed. Apparently, he and Neil are doing a lot of making up today.

Mr. Quant comes sweeping into the classroom shortly after I sit down at my computer. Today is the first time all year I have seen Mr. Quant not in his classroom. Actually, I didn't even see him outside of the classroom, I only saw him enter from the outside. Interesting.

Zach is not here today, and Quant declares another workday. I spend all of the hour and a half looking at cat pictures. Meow. I do not do any work on my PhotoShop project.

I regret nothing.

When the bell rings I go to the consumer education room and sit in my desk. I am not going to pay any attention in this class. I try to take a nap, but I can't fall asleep.

Finally, it is time to go to Gunstop. I don't need anything out of my locker, and thus do not stop there. I just waltz right out the doors and into the parking lot, where I then have to locate Jamie's van.

I finally find it, when he drives up behind me and lays on the horn. Bones is already in the passenger seat, so I climb in the back. Jamie glances in the rearview mirror at me.

"So, you guys are okay with me being, y'know, gay?" He asks. I thought we went over this yesterday. Or, technically, very early this morning.

"Dude. Jamie. We don't care." Bones says. He then punches Jamie in the arm. "What other reaction could we have possibly had?"

"Well…"

"Dink might give you some crap when you tell him, but he won't really mean it." I add, Jamie nods and Bones cranks up the radio.

The drive to Seattle isn't really that long of a drive, not when Bones keeps flipping off passerby and making stupid faces at cars. I like watching the reactions of the people in the cars. One tiny girl, probably not more than seven, flips him off as soon as he flips her car off. It was hilarious.

Bones gives Jamie directions to Gunstop, which, as I predicted, is located in a bad neighborhood and looks like a cheap bar. And not the good kind of cheap bars, this is of the type of cheap bars where one gets beat up by nasty girls in high heels and dudes who are high on PCP.

Jamie parks and Bones leaps out of the car.

I shrug and get out of the van. Jamie follows me, and I follow Bones into the club. The band hasn't started yet, they're just setting up their instruments onstage right now. I slip in a puddle of vomit and nearly fall, but Bones grabs my elbow just in time. Jamie gets the eye from a guy around our age wearing a fancy looking black jacket and fire truck red pants.

Bones checks a poster by the bar. Bar is a relative term here. The bar is actually just a bunch of doors set end to end on saw horses.

Bones punches his fist in the air and whoops. "Tonight, we get to hear the Witch Brigade, but I don't care about them since they're only opening for the Pen Fifteen Club!" Pen Fifteen Club is stylized as 'Pen15 Club' on the poster. Meaning the band is pretty much called 'Penis Club'.

"Hooray?"

"HOORAY! You'll like them, Leon, don't worry." Bones assures me. "Jamie, you'll like them, too." Jamie nods and resumes his staring at…I follow his gaze to some guy wearing too tight pants and sporting a shock of brilliant green hair. Hey! That's Nelly/ Nelson!

"Nelson!" I holler, and he looks our way, then grins and walks over.

"Leon, I didn't think you played for my team!" He laughs, and looks at Bones and Jamie.

"I, uh, don't." I say, and Nelson grins.

"You aren't my type anyways. Who are your friends here?" He asks, gesturing to Bones and Jamie.

"That's Bones," I point at Bones. "And this is Jamie." I also point at Jamie, albeit somewhat unnecessarily. Bones wanders off into the crowd, leaving me with Nelly/ Nelson and Jamie. Nelson watches Bones walk away. Then he leans over towards me.

"So, is he gay? Or bi, actually?" Nelson asks. I laugh. Then I stop laughing and actually think about the question. Bones would sometimes point out a hot girl or good boobs or whatever, but I don't know.

"I don't actually know. Bones could go either way. I've never seen him with a girl or a guy." I say, and look at Jamie for help.

"What he said." Jamie says. Thanks, James. You are a ton of help, man.

"I see." Nelly/ Nelson crosses his arms and taps a finger on his chin. "I guess I'll just have to find out."

"Nelson, wait, Bones can be kind of—"

Nelly/ Nelson flounces off into the people crowded near the stage before I finish.

"—confrontational."

"I hope he doesn't punch that kid. He has a nice face." Jamie says.

"I don't know, Jamie. You know how Bones can be." I say. We stand there in silence for a while, until Jamie announces that he has to take a pee and walks off in search of a bathroom. Then I stand there by myself, until Bones comes back.

"Did Nelson find you?" I ask, Bones shakes his head.

"What, was he supposed to?"

"Well, he was going to come find you."

"Oh. He didn't." Bones replies, and squishes his Mohawk a little higher with his hands. Nelson comes bounding up to us.

"Hey, you were going to find me?" Bones asks.

"Yes. Do you like boys?" Nelly/ Nelson asks. This kid is to the point, I'll give him that. Hopefully Bones doesn't punch him.

Bones considers this for a moment.

"Can I just find out?" Then he grabs Nelly/ Nelson by the shoulders and pulls him close. Bones kisses him for a bit, and then pulls back.

"Yeah, I think I might still like girls." He says. Nelly/ Nelson looks dazed. "Wait. Can we try that again? Just to make sure." Bones says, and grabs Nelly/ Nelson again. I politely avert my eyes, and then raise my eyebrows at Jamie, who has returned from the bathroom. He shrugs and shakes his head.

"Well?" I ask, turning back to Bones. Nelson is just standing there with his eyes all glazed over.

Bones wipes his mouth. "I like Nelson. I don't know if I like other boys, but I like Nelson." Jamie laughs. Nelson grins.

"Sounds good, babe." Nelson says, Bones frowns.

"Don't call me babe."

"Fine. Cupcake?"

"No."

"Snuggle bear?"

"Absolutely not."

"Love bug?"

"Nope. Nope. Nope."

"Fine. Bones it is."

"Yes. That is my name." Bones says. I watch all of this silently. I think my eyes might pop out of my head at any moment, though.

"That is not your real name." Nelson accuses, and sidles over to Bones' side and wraps his arm around Bones' waist. Nelson is at least four inches shorter than Bones, so when Bones puts his arm around Nelson's shoulders, it is at the perfect height.

"No, it's not." Bones agrees. He taps a cigarette out of his pack and sticks it in his mouth.

"Dude, you can't light up in here." Jamie says, Bones nods.

"I know. I'm not going to." Bones says, and lets the cigarette dangle out of the side of his mouth. Nelson frowns, but does nothing.

Finally, the band starts playing.

"Witch Brigade!" Nelson hollers, and he and Bones turn towards the stage. I make my way into the crowd, which has started pogoing and jumping around and elbowing and basically moshing around. As it turns out, Witch Brigade is just a bunch of extremely hairy guys in ill-fitting pink dresses and black witch hats. They suck, but make up for it in with their enthusiastic awfulness. And the fact that they are full grown men dressed as witches playing terrible music.

I shove my way through the crowd to Jamie. "Dude, these guys suck!" I yell at him.

"I know!" He yells back. "But I don't care! Because they're dressed as witches! And they look like they're having a blast up there!"

"Yes!" I yell back. I can just barely see the back of Bones' head up near the stage, and every so often, Nelson's green hair pop up by Bones' head when Nelson jumps high enough.

Witch Brigade rushes off the stage with their instruments as soon as they are done with their set. Some guy wearing a plain black shirt comes out and picks up cords and sets up other ones. He tests the microphone and goes backstage. Then two guys and a chick run onstage.

One of the guys grabs the microphone and screams "WE ARE THE PEN FIFTEEN CLUB! YEAH!" Then they launch into their first song. The girl is on bass, and backup vocals. She is blonde and slightly chubby, but in a good way. There's a skinny guy with no hair playing keyboards, and they have no guitarist. The guy playing the drums is singing. He has shoulder length purple hair.

The Pen Fifteen Club does not suck. They are actually rather good. But they need a guitar. The girl's bass skills are killer, she plucks and slaps and channels her inner Les Claypool, but they need a guitar to string it all together.

Tell me something I should know, cupcake,

And tomorrow hey, maybe we'll get baked

It's a rather clever play on words. I like it, even if it is a sloppy rhyme. Bones comes jumping over to me, and knocks into my shoulder with his own. I shove back, and then he yells in my ear.

"Aren't these guys awesome?" Nelson comes jumping over beside Bones.

"Yeah! I like them! But they need a guitar!" I shout back.

"I know, man!" Bones yells. The Pen Fifteen Club goes immediately into another song without pause. This song is fast and has a vaguely surfy beat. I like it.

I forget why we even came to Gunstop and lose myself in the mosh pit.

I like moshing.

I like jumping up and down and sweating too much, but it even doesn't matter because everyone else is as sweaty as you are, and they're jumping up and down too, and you're with your best friends and total strangers and you're all together in this, and the music is awesome, and that's really all that matters.

When the Pen Fifteen Club's set is done, the pit disperses and I relocate Jamie and Bones, and Nelson, who is apparently now attached to Bones at the hip.

We find an impressively beat up couch, and pile onto it. I end up squished between Bones and Jamie, and Nelson sits on Bones' lap. The Pen Fifteen Club is tearing down and putting away amps and the speakers they have brought with them.

"So, Bones, what's the clue?" I ask. I've remembered why we came to Gunstop.

"Clue?" Jamie asks.

"Cocaine Blues." I reply.

"I don't care about them."

"I know. Bones. Clue?" Bones is making out with Nelson. Right next to me.

"Lovely." I say, and turn back to Jamie.

"Cocaine Blues is playing a secret show. They set up a bunch of riddles we have to solve in order to find the location of the secret show. This is a place a bear likes to shave, which is some internet thing that actually means the second amendment, that Bones decided leads here, to Gunstop." I explain, although Jamie probably doesn't want to hear it.

"Dude. Gunstop and the second amendment probably equal Rifle Babies."

"What."

"Rifle Babies is this queer core throwback jazz rock band I like."

"Let me get this straight. The name of the band is Rifle Babies?"

"Yes. And they got their start here, at Gunstop." Jamie explains patiently. "They've moved on now, but they sometimes come back and play a show for old times' sake."

"Okay. Rifle Babies." I type 'Rifle Babies' into my notes in my phone so I don't forget the name of the band. "They play jazz rock?"

"Yes." Jamie considers this for a moment. "Well, punk jazz, if that's possible. They have a very talented saxophone player, and a trumpet player. Then they have a, like, buzz saw guitar and super punky drums and then a bass player."

"I see." Definitely sounds like a band Cocaine Blues would be into. "How long have they been around?"

"Like four years." I nod. Cocaine Blues has been around for three. I've only listened to them for about a year and a half, though.

"Jamie, you may have just gotten Bones and I one more step closer to seeing Cocaine Blues play their secret show. Thank you, man." I say, and Jamie nods.

"Welcome." Bones and Nelson still have their tongues stuck down each other's throats. I think we can go home now.

I get up, and Jamie does too.

"Bones."

"Mmph?" He makes a rather muffled but sort of questioning noise against Nelson's lips.

"Bones, we're leaving." I say, and Nelson gets off of Bones.

"All right, fine." He says, and kisses Nelson on the mouth once more. We start walking away, and Bones follows.

"Wait!" He turns and runs back to Nelson, who is still lounging on the couch. Bones shoves his hand into Nelson's pocket and takes his phone. I assume Bones is programming his own number into Nelson's phone. I hear him say 'Call me' as we walk away. Bones runs back to us, and we walk out of the club and back towards Jamie's van. Apparently, the next band at Gunstop isn't until later. It is a Wednesday, after all. Maybe there just are not any more bands after the Pen Fifteen Club or something. I don't know.

Bones catches up with me and walks next to Jamie and I. I look over at him. He's grinning from ear to ear. We locate Jamie's van, and climb in. I check my phone. I have four new text messages, all from my mother. I sigh and open them.

Where are you?

School called and you skipped 4th hour once and study hall twice this week?!

LEON YOU ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE

COME HOME NOW

"My mother is freaking out." I say. I get shotgun for the drive home, so Bones is in the back. I text her back: On my way. One hour.

"Did you tell her you were going to Seattle?"

"No, she never would've let me go. I said nothing." I explain. Bones taps my shoulder.

"She probably thought you were at my house. I assume she called my mother and my mom told her that I wasn't there, and you were probably with me." Bones says.

"That's probably what happened." I say, and slouch in my seat. Jamie turns up the radio, and we listen to the oldies station the entire ride home.

Jamie drops me off at my house. I thank him for the ride and he says that he had a good time.

I walk slowly up the sidewalk and into the house. I scuff my shoes on the concrete, and open the door as quietly as I possibly can. I get my shoes off and shove them into the corner.

My mother walks into the doorway from the mudroom to the kitchen and crosses her arms.

"Where have you been?" She is pissed.

"I, uh, hung out with Bones."

"I called Ryan's mother. Neither Bones nor you were at his house." She starts tapping her foot.

"That's 'cause we were not at his house. We were with Jamie." I say, which is not a lie. It definitely is not the whole truth, but it isn't a lie.

"Okay, Leonard. Where were you with Jamie?" She asks. I feel as though I am being interrogated. "It is ten o'clock. You didn't text me, leave a note or anything. And you've been skipping study hall? And last hour?"

"We hung out at his house." I ignore the questions about skipping study hall and senior consumer education. It isn't like I do anything for those last couple hours of the day anyways.

"Okay. That's fine. You are not to skip school." She pauses. "And you need to tell me where you're going. Phone. Now."

"But how am I supposed to tell you where I am if I don't have my phone?"

"Moot point. You're grounded for two weeks. School, and home. I've got short days at work for a while, so I'll be picking you up from school, sonny." Mom says, and I grimace. No. This sucks. I have a basketball game to go to tomorrow, and Bones' party on Friday. I guess I'll be sneaking out.

"Whatever." I yank my phone out of my pocket and toss it onto the counter.

"Leonard." I ignore her and go downstairs. I crank up Television as loud as my speakers can go without making the neighbors call the cops, and flop onto my bed. This sucks. This sucks a lot.

This sucks so much that even school cafeteria food is preferable to this amount of suckiness. Even that Call Me Maybe song on repeat is preferable to this…no. That still sucks more than being grounded. I pull my laptop off my side table onto my bed and flip it open. I wander around the Internet for around ten minutes, before I hear mom stomping downstairs. She opens the door to my room without knocking, and picks up my laptop.

"Thank you." She says, and shuts it. She does deign to pop the battery out and leave it on my bed. But the laptop goes upstairs with her.

Now this sucks more.

I leave my stereo on but turn the lights out and try to go to sleep out of boredom. Then I reconsider and peel of my jeans and my shirt.

Then I crawl under the blankets and try to go to sleep.

I manage to fall asleep relatively quickly. It's before one o' clock in the morning, at least.

Mom wakes me up by screaming "WAKE UP LEON!" from upstairs multiple times.

"I'm up!" I yell back. "Shut up already…" I mutter, and get out of bed. I stumble over to my bathroom and take a piss, then dig through the crap on my floor for a pair of pants. I locate a pair of somewhat clean jeans, and a shirt I haven't worn since last week. Good enough for me. The shirt has a ketchup stain (possibly it is blood, on second thought. Lance hit his head on something and cut it open. I can't remember if I used my shirt to make it stop bleeding or not). But the shirt also says 'Sex Pistols' on it, and it is yellow. So the blood (could be ketchup) adds character.

I stomp up the stairs, veto breakfast, and put on my shoes. I check my pockets for my phone and don't find it, of course, since mom took it. I do find one slightly bent cigarette. These could be Bones' pants, which would explain their snugness. He is one skinny boy.

I go back in the house and grab a match, then go outside and light the cigarette. It tastes good, but I'll probably get a stomachache because smoking on an empty stomach always makes me sort of nauseous. Oh well.

I smoke it down to the filter, then grind it out on the concrete. Mom comes outside just as I finish grinding it out, and tells me to get in the car. I comply and she drives me to school. I say nothing. She says nothing. It is good.

She lets me out at school, and waits until I get in the building. I assume she then drives off. Tofer catches up with me, then he sniffs and frowns.

"Dude, have you been smoking?" Tofer doesn't smoke. Tofer doesn't drink. Tofer is an athlete.

"Just one. And now my stomach hates me for it." It already is rolling and I feel sort of puke-y.

"Your lungs hate you for it, too." Tofer points out.

"Yeah, yeah. Spare me the health class, Tof." I tell him. He shrugs.

"Whatever, man." I say, and as I have left my backpack in my locker, don't bother going there. Tofer and I walk to the library, where we sit at one of the tables in the back and talk too loudly with Lance and Joey about Halo. The librarian shushes us, but we ignore her.

The bell rings, and I still have yet to see Bones. He'll probably come in later, or maybe he's at home sleeping and won't come into school at all. I can never tell with that kid.

I walk down to the shop, and get there before the second bell rings. I'm rarely this early it's kind of weird. The shop is pretty empty yet, there are a couple of kids examining some metal work, but no one else is here quite yet.

Everyone starts filing in, in groups of three or four, right before the last bell. Mrs. Levi comes in and takes attendance, and I decide against actually doing work today and go to the shop computer lab. I log in to the computer, but end up taking a nap in front of it rather than doing anything.

"Wake up!" Someone shouts this right in my ear. I nearly fall out of my chair, but catch myself. It's Neil.

"Thanks, Neil." I say, and I put as much sarcasm and venom into those two words as I possibly can.

"Anytime, Leon, anytime at all." He grins.

"So, you and Romeo kissed and made up?" I say, Neil turns to me.

"Oh, yeah we did. And we didn't just kiss, if you kn—"

"Yes. I get it." I interrupt him, before he can finish his sentence. No more mental pictures, thank you very much.

"Uh-huh." He mumbles, and turns back to his computer. I put my head down on the table again and try to go back to sleep. Why is it that I can sleep in school, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, or at a crappy desk, but I can't go to sleep in my bed at my house, which is comfy and warm? I don't get it.

This time, the bell wakes me, and I log out of my computer and walk out of the shop.

I stop at my locker and get my stuff for English, then head to the classroom. Bones still isn't here. I can't even find out where the stupid kid is because mom took my phone.

I take my seat in the English room, and Mr. Kent starts the movie. I don't go to sleep, because I even though I try, I just cannot doze off. So I just space out and sort of ignore the movie. I don't really know what's going on because I slept through it yesterday anyways.

Some kid dies. I don't know why because I wasn't paying attention for that part.

The bell rings. I leave and go to lunch. It's pizza day, which makes my terrible Thursday a tiny bit better. But it still sucks. The school's pizza is not awful, but it sure isn't amazing. I get my food and go sit down at our table. Dink is already there, frowning down at a tray of pizza. He looks up when I sit down.

"Hey, Leon."

"Dink." I greet him. His black eye on the one side is sort of yellow around the edges.

"Is Ann eating lunch here today?"

"I don't know. It's not my job to watch her." I say, and take a bite of my pizza.

"Great. I wanted to get out of here before she comes over." He complains.

"Well, she probably went to McDonald's or something like she usually does." Lance and Jamie arrive at the table and put their trays down. They steal chairs from the table next to us and sit down. Lance looks tired. Jamie looks high.

"Are you guys coming to the basketball game tonight?" Lance asks.

"No." Jamie mumbles, and laughs at something.

"If I can sneak out." I say.

"Is Bones coming?" Lance asks. "If he is he has to be on his best behavior so he doesn't freak out Emma and her friend."

"Bones doesn't freak peo—" I begin, but Lance interrupts me.

"He does so."

I sigh. "Yeah, I know. I don't know if he's going. He said he was yesterday, but that was yesterday. He might have found something better to do, like painting things he isn't supposed to." Bones has a long history of vandalism. Very long. Dating back to preschool when he drew badly constructed super villains on my notebooks. And his notebooks. And his desk. And my desk. And I think several other desks were involved as well, because Bones never got the whole 'hands to yourself' thing. Well, I suppose 'markers to yourself' would be a better rule for him. And he still colors on the walls.

"True." Lance says, and starts eating his pizza.

"Jamie, are you here?" I ask, Jamie is just sitting there and watching the lunchroom goings ons, and giggling softly. Not in a creepy way, just in an I-am-super-high sort of way.

"Nah, man." He says, and I sigh. I take another bite of my pizza.

"Dink, are you coming to the game?"

"I don't know. Maybe?" He replies.

"Come on, we can make up war stories about your raccoon face!" I tell him, Dink laughs.

"Maybe, dude." He says. Dink probably won't show up. He doesn't really 'do' sporting events. None of us really do, I guess. I go occasionally, and Bones goes only to heckle the other team.

The rest of the day passes slowly. It drags by. I want to punch Thursday in the face. It's such a stupid day. I keep thinking that it is Friday, but then it isn't and I hate Thursdays more.

School finally lets out, and I am excited for a moment before I remember I am going home to a house with no phone and no Internet and no friends. This sucks. I grab my backpack and On The Road, because I guess since I have nothing better to do I'm going to be reading.

I assume my mother is already here, and catch up with Joey as I walk down the hall.

"Hey, Leon." Joey greets me.

"Hi, Joey." I reply.

"Jamie said something about Bones being gay?" Joey asks. It's a statement with a question mark at the end of it, it sounds strange coming out of his mouth.

"I don't know about Bones. He and this kid Nelson are going out, but they only met yesterday. It was sort of abrupt." I tell him, shifting my backpack to the other shoulder.

"Bones is a very abrupt sort of guy." Joey observes. I nod.

"Yes, he is." I agree. "Are you going to come to Bones' party tomorrow?"

"I don't think so. I have a huge paper due on Monday." Joey explains. "Sorry."

"It's all right." I say, and then I leave. Mom is waiting in the car. I climb in.

"What took you so long?" She asks. It is three oh eight. We get out of school at three.

I choose to ignore the comment and turn up the radio. Psuedo Zen crap again. I change it to the classic rock station, but it's on a commercial break. This sucks.

Everything sucks today.

I sound like a spoiled little rich kid saying that, when I have a home and I am not poor and I have food on the table and good friends, but it's all in perspective. Today sucks for me, but it wouldn't suck in the least for Joey, who doesn't have a lot of money.

That's why he can't drink or smoke or do anything that could get him in trouble, because he is on scholarship and if he gets into such and such amount of trouble, he'll lose his scholarship and have to go back to the public school. And Joey does not want to go back to the public school.

The drive home is completely silent, because Mom turns the radio off as soon as the music comes back on. I turned it back on, but she turned it off again immediately. I didn't turn it back on after that for fear of having my punishment extended. She was still pissed at me, I guess, from last night.

One time, Bones went home wearing only a pair of sparkly blue boxers and a black cowboy hat, and he got home at like eight in the morning and then barfed and passed out in his vomit, and his mom didn't even ground him. Unfair. All I did was not tell my mom my every movement, and I get grounded for two weeks. I mean, I will probably just disregard the grounding any way, but still. It's the principle. Bones' mom Martha and my mom should talk more. Maybe they could swap parenting techniques.

When we pull into the driveway, I get out before she has even stopped the car completely and stomp inside. I kick my shoes off in the mudroom, go into the kitchen and make myself three grape jelly and butter sandwiches (I hate peanut butter) and go downstairs. I turn on my stereo, and tune the radio to the classic rock station. Yes. AC/DC is on. I eat all of my jelly sandwiches one after another, then I sit on my bed.

There is nothing to do.

I want to know why Bones wasn't at school today and I have no way to find out.

Then I remember the old, old landline I have crammed in my closet. Mom insists on keeping the one main home phone, for whatever reason. Both of us have cell phones, but I think it has something to do with the cable and Internet. Some sort of bundle thing, maybe. I dig out the phone from my closet, and plug it in. I listen for a dial tone, and I get one.

I have Bones' number memorized. It's the only number that isn't my own that I know by heart. You know, besides 911. Because I am not an idiot.

I dial his number. We used to call his phone the DUMB hotline, because the last four numbers spell out D- U- M- B on the keypad.

"Hello?" Bones probably doesn't recognize my home phone number. He sounds sleepy.

"Bones, it's Leon. I'm on the home phone."

"Leon!" Bones shrieks into the phone. I hold it away from my ear. "Guess what?!"

"Um. What?" I ask, slightly apprehensively. Once when he said guess what and I said 'what?' and then he told me several disturbing facts about how some animal that I forgot the name of eats their young and then barfs up the young and feeds the barf to its other children. I don't know if this is true or not.

"I was sick! I must have eaten something nasty, because I felt awful today." Bones says, with way too much cheer for someone who felt 'awful'.

"You sound too happy." I tell him.

"I wasn't really sick!"

"So you skipped with false parental permission?"

"Yep. And mom was working at home half the day, so I had to keep pretending to be sick, and then I wanted a smoke so bad I took a shower so the smoke would go with the steam up the vent. I smoked two cigarettes in the shower! I've never done that before and it was actually sort of fun." Bones informs me. I laugh. Only Bones would smoke in the shower.

"Didn't the water put out your cigarette?" I ask.

"Nah, man, I put my face out of the water." Bones explains. "I'm not as stupid as you think I am!"

"I don't think you're stupid." I say, and go over and sit at my desk. I doodle mindlessly on a piece of paper.

"Yes, yes. Anyways, what happened at school? Anything good?" Bones asks, he likes gossip as much as anyone I know.

"Romeo and Neil are still together. But they got back together yesterday."

"Really? I didn't realize that they broke up."

"I don't really know details. But Romeo and Lauren got into it in Photography, and Romeo was crying in the bathroom, according to Jamie. But yesterday they were all over each other." I tell him.

"Oooooooh, drama!"

"I guess." I don't understand Bones' fascination with gossip and drama. He loves it. I do not love it. I remember the band Jamie told me about. "Oh, hey. Jamie told me about this band that might help with the riddle when you and Nelly were sucking face at Gunstop."

Bones sounds vaguely embarrassed when he answers. Bones never, ever, ever sounds embarrassed. Interesting. "He prefers Nelson. And what is this band you speak of?"

I chuckle. "They are called 'Rifle Babies'. I guess they got their start at Gunstop but have since moved on to bigger and better things."

"Rifle Babies is probably the best band name I have ever heard of, man." He giggles. Yes, Bones definitely giggles. "Seriously, best band name ever."

"It is a terrible band name." I pause for a second to let Bones splutter his indignation, then continue. "All right, read me the rest of the riddle."

"Let me find it, man. Don't you have a copy on your phone?"

"Yeah, but my mother has my phone. I'm grounded. No internet, no phone, and but at least she didn't cut the cable to my TV." I tell him, he whistles.

"That sucks." I here rummaging around and papers crunching. "Found it! Ready?" He doesn't wait for me to respond. "Congratulations, lucky you, aren't you the bees knees? You've got yourself an envelope, found by the trees. I suggest you next look under a boulder in a cave where a bear likes to shave, and don't mind me, I just like to doze near the prose."

"I think Rifle Babies is only a part of the riddle. We need to figure out the 'doze near the prose' bit. Maybe he's an author? Assuming it isn't Cocaine Blues we're looking for." I muse, thinking out loud.

"I don't know, man. The rhyming stuff makes it hard to think about. I liked the anagrams better, I think." Bones says. I draw spirals on the piece of paper I have been doodling on.

"Do you think there is a literal boulder to look under at Gunstop?" I ask. Bones sighs.

"I don't know. This is hard. I want to just know the stupid secret location already. And I bet a bunch of people already figured out this part and have gotten their tickets all verified and stuff." He sighs again. "Oh, dude, I gotta take this. It's Nelson."

"Oh, okay. See you later. Wait, are you coming to the game tonight?"

"Yes, yes, I think I'm gonna bring Nelson. I gotta talk to him, though. Bye." Bones hangs up, and I put my phone down, feeling strangely rejected. I mean, Bones has a boyfriend, so good for him, right? I should be happy for him.

So why do I feel like I'm going to slowly lose my best friend?

I turn my radio up louder and get On The Road out of my backpack. I decide to start at the beginning, since I can't really remember anything from when we read some of it in class.

As it turns out, Sal is pretty cool. I would like him as a friend. I read three chapters, then I get bored of reading, and plus it's almost five thirty, and the game is at six.

I go upstairs. Mom is on the phone in the living room. She giggles at something the person on the other end says. It's probably the Toad, her boyfriend. Do you call a grown woman's boyfriend a boyfriend? I don't know. I assume so.

"Leon, come here." She says. I walk into the living room. Mom is dressed nice. She's wearing heels, too.

"What?" She covers the phone with her hand.

"Derrick and I are going to go out to eat tonight. You are still grounded and you are not to leave the house, okay?" I hope she realizes that she has just answered my prayers. I hope she realizes that there is no way I am going to stay at this house while she is out running around with the Toad. The Toad is an idiot. They're a good match.

"Okay."

"You are not to leave the house."

"Okay."

"I am leaving in five minutes. You do not leave the house. If you leave, I am extending your grounding indefinitely. This includes laptop, phone and TV."

"Okay." I repeat. Mom gets up off the couch and gets her coat, then leaves. I hear the car start up, and then I see her drive it past the windows.

Yes! This is perfect. I go grab the home phone, and call Bones, regardless of whether or not he is busy talking to Nelson.

He finally picks up, but only after I call and keep on calling him three times.

"What?!"

"Tell Lance to drive over and get me and you." I tell him.

"All right, all right. Nelson is coming, too. But he's driving himself to the school. He's even going to sit with me, even though it's his school's team we're playing."

"How sweet." I say, sarcastically.

"I know!" Bones squeals.

"Okay, I am going to hang up now." I hang up on him. Bones does not squeal. He never ignores sarcasm. What's going on?

Around ten minutes later, Lance drives up in his beater car and beeps the horn. I shove my feet into my sneakers and rush out the door. Lance is alone in the car. I briefly wonder why his girlfriend isn't with him, but I remember that he mentioned that she was on the basketball team and would probably take the bus to the game.

I slide into the front seat. "Hey, Lance."

"Hi Leon. Dude, you need to make Bones behave at the game around Emma, okay? She's playing, but after and at half time or whatever, make him be good, okay?"

"Do they have half time in basketball?"

"Do I look like I know?" Lance asks. He doesn't. Although he seems to have made an effort to dress nice. He's wearing a wrinkly black and gray plaid button down and shredded jeans. And a plain black beanie. Well, sort of nice. Nice compared to Lance's usual outfits.

"No."

"Yeah."

I want to say 'Well, Bones will probably be occupied with Nelson, anyways' but I don't, because it's something for me to tell. That's Bones' gig, there. He can tell who ever he wants to, but I am not outing him to anyone, at least until Bones tells him that he doesn't care or that it's okay.

Lance tells me a little about Emma, and how she's really good at basketball. Apparently the entire team is really good. Jackson is going to get crushed. We suck at basketball anyway, so up against a really good school, we'll just look even more sucky.

Lance plays some rap music. I don't know the rapper. We pick up Bones, who comes walking out of his house in his leather jacket and a red shirt. He's wearing a pair of jeans with holes ripped in the knees.

He slides into the back and starts running his mouth immediately, about some band Nelson told him about, that is apparently amazing and the best band ever.

"Who's Nelson?" Lance asks, glancing in the rearview mirror at Bones.

"My boyfriend." Bones says. Lance nods and continues driving. "Leon, you need a girlfriend." Bones announces.

"Yeah."

"Let's find you a girlfriend. Wait. Do you want a boyfriend instead?"

"No, Bones, I will stick to girls. Thanks, though." I say, I am not interested in kissing a boy. Girls are good with me.

"Okay. I shall look for a girl for you, Leon."

"Okay, Bones." I guess I'll humor him.

Lance pulls into the school parking lot and finds a spot. He parks the car, and we get out and walk to the building. The three of us go in the gym doors and pay our dollar to get in.

The girls are warming up, each team on a separate side of the court. The bleachers on the public school's side are packed, but on our side they are barely half full. Jackson is smaller than the public school, sure, but we also lack the school spirit.

Lance points out an extremely tall girl with really curly hair pulled back in a ponytail. "There's Emma!" He says excitedly. I look at Emma, and then back at Lance. I think there's like a seven inch height difference between them. It's rather impressive, really.

"Dude. How do you kiss her? With a stepladder?" Bones jokes, Lance frowns.

"Shut up."

I see a familiar head of green hair around twenty feet away, and Bones whoops and runs over to Nelson. Bones grabs Nelson and picks him up. They kiss. Lance stares.

"I thought that was a chick." Lance says, staring at Bones and Nelson. Nelson has eyeliner caked around his eyes, and he is sort of girly looking anyway.

"Nope."

"But he was wearing a skirt at the party the other day."

"I know."

"This hurts my head." Lance complains, and goes to sit on the bleachers. I follow him. We sit at the top, with our backs against the wall. Bones and Nelson climb up and sit by us a moment later. Bones sits by me. Nelson sits almost in Bones' lap.

The game starts a few minutes later, and Lance yells and whoops for Emma and Jackson's team. I don't think he has any idea what is going on though. I don't cheer. Nelson gets the death glare from a couple of Jackson students, since he obviously does not go to Jackson and is thus on the wrong side of the gym.

The game is boring. Jackson is getting killed, unsurprisingly. Emma and this blonde girl are wreaking havoc on our defense. The blonde girl isn't as tall as Emma, but she and Emma move like they know precisely what the other's next move will be. I don't even play basketball, and I'm impressed. Well, as impressed as I can be by a sport.

Eventually half time or whatever they call it in basketball rolls around and the players come off the court to take a break and drink Gatorade. Lance practically pushes people off the bleachers in his quest to get to Emma, and I follow in his wake and apologize to the people he stepped on. Bones and Nelson stay up in the bleachers. I glance back up at them, and they're talking. Nelson laughs at something Bones says, but I turn away and catch up with Jamie. He's talking to Emma. She's much, much taller than him. Lance sees me walk up.

"Emma, this is Leon. Leon, Emma." Lance introduces us. Emma is sweaty, but somehow her hair and makeup remain flawless. I don't particularly like makeup on girls. It's just one of those things I don't get. You're already a girl, and you have nice eyelashes and stuff, so why do you need to add makeup to that? I don't know.

"Hi." I say, Emma smiles. Her teeth are really white. I feel sort of small next to her (and it isn't just because she's two inches taller than me). She is so put together. And so far out of Lance's league. I wonder how they met. Correction. I wonder why she is going out with Lance in the first place. Who cares how they met. Nelson runs between Lance and Emma, and me, giggling manically. Bones comes after him a moment later, swearing, but stops for a second to politely say hello to Lance and I.

"Uh. Were they friends of yours?" Emma asks, looking slightly stunned.

"Yes." I say.

"No." Lance says, at precisely the same time I say yes. Emma gives him a look and he sighs. "Yes. Bones is the one with the Mohawk. What's the other kid's name?"

"Nelson." I supply.

"The one with the green hair is Nelson." Lance repeats unnecessarily. I turn around to see where Nelson and Bones have gone, but I don't see them. I do see Romeo, looking uncomfortable and waiting by the door for someone.

"Hey, Chloe!" Emma yells, and a blonde girl and her equally blonde friend walk over to us. I assume the blonde friend is her boyfriend, because he has his arm around her shoulders possessively. Chloe is the girl that was awesome on the court with Emma. "Chloe, meet Lance, and Leon, his friend. This is Mason, Chloe's boyfriend."

"Hi." Lance says, and I echo him. Mason glares at me, even though there's no way he can see him as a threat to his relationship. He's muscular, fit, has the sort of hair that looks like it takes no effort but probably took twenty minutes to style, and he's wearing some fancy polo shirt and pressed jeans. Pressed jeans. I'm wearing jeans that are simultaneously too long and too tight, and a yellow Sex Pistols shirt with a red stain on it. Blood or ketchup, I still have yet to figure out which. I didn't brush my hair this morning, because I pretty much never brush my hair. Like I said, no threat whatsoever. Chloe isn't my type anyway. Too sporty, too blonde.

"Nice to meet you." Chloe says, although she doesn't look pleased to meet us. At least me. Lance, she looks at like she pities him. I don't know why, Emma seems nice enough. Maybe it's his attempt to dress nicely.

Mason extends his hand to Lance, who shakes it. Then he offers his hand to me. I take it, and he nearly crushes my hand. I try not to grimace. He finally lets go, and I do my best to resist the urge to massage my poor dead fingers. That was unnecessary.

Mason smirks at my pained expression. He seems like a douche.

"Um, are you guys coming to Bones' party tomorrow?" Lance asks, Emma smiles and claps her hands together.

"Chloe and I talked about it already! Mason is coming too!" Emma squeals. I do not want this hulking blonde sack of douche at Bones' party.

"Cool." Lance says, and he and Emma walk off towards the concession stand, just as Bones and Nelson come running up to me. Mason eyes Bones' Mohawk, and Chloe stares at Nelson. They look like they've never seen people with abnormal hair before.

Chloe smiles uncertainly at Bones and Nelson. "Hi."

Bones snakes his arm around Nelson's shoulders, mirroring Mason's stance with Chloe. It's an interesting situation. Mason and Bones are of similar height, and they kind of stare at each other.

Chloe takes the initiative. "I'm Chloe, and this is my boyfriend, Mason."

"Nelson," Nelson says. "This is my boyfriend, Bones." Mason looks confused. He probably thought Nelson was a girl with no boobs or something.

"Is it your party tomorrow?" Chloe asks.

"Yes. Bring booze." Bones demands, Nelson grins.

"I think we can do that." Chloe agrees, Mason nods. I am standing slightly to the left of Bones, and he and Nelson face Chloe and Mason like mirror images. Maybe mirror images of their alternate universe selves or something. Although Chloe is taller than Nelson.

"We're going to go get something from the concession stand." Mason says, and they walk off. He glances back at the three of us once, before hustling Chloe away.

Bones pecks Nelson on the cheek. "I don't like that guy." Nelson says, frowning.

"You go to school with them, right?" I say.

Nelson nods. "Yep. But I'm a grade above."

Bones has his face buried in Nelson's neck. Nelson huffs and pushes Bones' face away. "Babe, not right now."

"Don't call me babe."

"Sorry." Nelson says, but he doesn't sound sorry.

"Leon, how do you deal with this kid?" Nelson asks me, shoving Bones' face away from his neck again. To Bones he adds "I don't want to have to explain a hickey."

"Well, Bones has never been fond of kissing my neck. So I can't help you there." I tell him, Nelson sighs. Bones takes this as an affirmative noise, and goes for his neck again.

"Is he a vampire?" Nelson asks, pushing Bones away for the third time.

"I'm still here." Bones says, and finally quits the neck business.

"Not as far as I know." I tell Nelson, ignoring Bones.

"I vant to bite your neck." Bones says, in his best Transylvanian accent, which isn't very good. He leaps straight up, and then wraps his arms around Nelson and tries to bite his neck. Nelson shrieks, then twists out of his grasp and runs away. Bones chases after him, and I decide to go and get a drink of water from the water fountain. It seems that because Bones and Lance each have a boyfriend or girlfriend, they no longer seem to need their 'just a friend'. Me.

I get my drink of water and go back into the gym. I climb up the bleachers and sit at the top, my back against the wall. Halftime ends, or whatever they call it in basketball, and Lance rejoins me at the top of the bleachers. We watch the girls run back onto the court from wherever they went at halftime, and the game resumes.

Bones and Nelson come back a few minutes later, clutching sodas and plastic bags of puppy chow from the concession stand.

Jackson scores ten points. Emma's school scores sixty three points. It is a massacre. The teams shake hands, and then everyone starts to leave. Bones and Nelson decide that right now is a perfect time to start making out, and do so. Lance leaves to catch Emma before she gets on the bus, leaving me sitting in the bleachers next to Bones and Nelson's make out fest. I try to ignore them, but eventually give up and go down the bleachers.

I walk out into the hallway, and find Romeo sitting on the stairs to the cafeteria. I walk over and sit on a step below him.

"What's up, man?" I ask.

He sighs. "Neil was supposed to meet me here, but he never showed up."

"Sorry." I offer, because it's the only thing I can think of to say. "Thought you guys made up?" I add.

"I thought we did too, but apparently Neil has better things to do." Romeo says, and sighs again.

"Um. That sucks."

"Yes. He is a douche bag." Romeo says, rather violently. I do not say anything, and Romeo just sighs for the third time. Lance walks out of the gym.

"Hey, Leon, you ready?" He asks.

"Yeah. Bones coming?" I say, getting up off the stairs and brushing myself off.

"Nelson is giving him a ride home." He pauses, and looks at Romeo. "You need a ride?"

"No, I drove." Romeo answers.

"Okay, man."

"Thanks though." Romeo says, and I follow Lance out the door, through the parking lot and into his car. He tells me more about Emma as he drives. I learn that she is precisely six feet tall, Chloe is her best friend, she likes Eighties chick flicks, and is extremely competitive when it comes to Monopoly. When he reaches my house, I thank him for the ride and check the driveway for my mother's car. It is not there. Luck is on my side tonight. I hurry up the path to the house and go inside. I check the phone for messages, and find none.

I stick a frozen pizza in the oven, and then turn it on to 400 degrees. The pizza can cook while it heats up or whatever. I retire to the living room to watch TV while it cooks. I am starving. I flick the TV on, and flip through channels. Nothing good is on, of course. I end up just channel surfing until the timer dings.

I go and grab the pizza out of the oven, cut it into square slices, because I want to have squares and not triangles tonight, then bring it out to the living room. I inhale the entire thing while watching some kid's sitcom that centers around a mischievous housecat. The show sucks.

Mom pulls in the driveway at ten. I'm still watching TV, but now it's some crappy made for TV movie on Lifetime, about anorexic, drug addicted, and also knocked up chicks. And their abusive stalker ex-boyfriends.

She comes into the living room, still wearing her heels.

"Leonard, thank you for staying here."

I nod. I think she and I both know I know she knows that I wasn't here, but since I was here when she got home, I guess we're going to overlook it.

"You remember Derrick, of course?" The Toad waves at me from behind her. He's tall and spray-tanned and has too much gel in his hair. I've been calling the Toad the Toad since he started dating my mother, not because of the resemblance (there isn't really one) but because his last name is Toddy. Which sounds suspiciously like 'Toady' sometimes. Thus, the Toad. Also because he is stupid and irritating. It's stupid, but Bones and I were baked when we came up with it, and it has stuck since then.

"Yeah." I reply.

"He wants to take you out for dinner on Saturday. Some male bonding time, he says." Mom explains. I think I almost throw up in my mouth. I do not wish to 'bond' with The Toad, thanks for asking me. "I'll let you off being grounded to go with him."

"It will be fun. We can go to Caruso's." Caruso's is a very fancy supper club. I have been there exactly twice, once with my mother (I was eleven), and once with Bones in the middle of night, when he spray painted some quote from Nietzsche or some other philosopher onto their wide, newly blacktopped driveway. He had a weird philosophy phase last year, and painted a lot of quotes. Mom gives me a look like 'don't you dare refuse'.

"Um. Okay." I say. The Toad is an idiot. I am an idiot for agreeing to this. Maybe I'll use it as leverage to go to Bones' party tomorrow. Mom knows I don't like the Toad. This might work to my advantage.

"Nice. It'll be fun, sport." The Toad grins. He called me sport. I don't know how to respond to that, so I just say:

"Okay."

Mom walks him out to his car and then returns inside.

"Good night, Leon."

"Night." I say, and go downstairs. I kick off my pants, turn on the radio, and crawl into bed. I can't sleep at all, and end up taking some NyQuil or whatever, the syrupy stuff that makes me go to sleep.

In the morning I wake up at seven fifteen with a pounding headache and eyelids that feel like they have been replaced by sandpaper. I slap my alarm clock until it goes to sleep, then roll over and try to go back to sleep.

"Leon! Up!" Mom screams from the top of the stairs. I groan and roll out of bed. NyQuil always gives me a headache. Every time. I stumble over to the bathroom, take a quick, hot shower, and then get dressed in a pair of black jeans and a gray shirt that declares 'Gabba Gabba Hey!' in big black letters. I grab my backpack and go upstairs. "Car, Leon!" Mom yells from the garage. I go out to the garage and get in the car.

"You're going to have to dress nicely for Caruso's on Saturday." Mom says, I sigh. I forgot about the Toad and his male bonding thing. "Nicely."

"Do I have to go?"

"Yes. You've already agreed."

"But I could easily come down sick or something before then."

"Leon, Derrick is making an effort to get to know you, and you should extend him the same courtesy." Mom says. I grimace.

"If I go on Saturday, can I go to Bones' party tonight?"

"No."

"I'll dress nicely and be civil to the T-Derrick." I add, although the civil part is going to be difficult.

"We'll see." She says.

"Can I just have an answer?" I ask, and turn the station from that annoying Zen stuff she likes.

"I'll have to think about it." Possibly code for 'absolutely not'. I sigh and we pass the rest of the drive to school in silence.

She lets me out at the doors, and I go inside. Bones tackles me as soon as I walk through the doors. I manage not to fall over.

"Dude!" Bones yells.

"What?" I ask, and pry his arms off of me.

"Party! Tonight! My house! Hooray!" He cheers, and starts leaping around like a retarded frog on speed.

"Yes, Bones, I know." I tell him, and he continues his leaping as he follows me to my locker. I shove my backpack in my locker.

"Nelson is coming, too!" Bones says happily.

"You've known him three days."

"Yes, and…?" Bones says. He has stopped leaping, but his bouncing on his toes. He is rarely still.

"That's not a very long amount of time and you're already like, insane about him." I say, Bones fiddles with his lip ring before answering.

"I like him." He says, quietly.

I sigh softly. I don't say anything else. Dink walks up.

"Hey, Leon, Bones." He greets us. His black eyes look about the same as they did yesterday. Maybe a little more yellow around the edges, but other than that the same.

"Hello, Dinkus!" Bones says happily. "Have you decided if you're coming to the party tonight?"

"I might swing by at some point. I have to work after school, so we'll see." Dink says. He works at the gas station, and sometime he swipes cigarettes for Bones. Because the gas station gets away with 'highway robbery' anyways, so why the hell do they care about one or ten packs of cigarettes? Those are Dink's words, not mine, by the way.

"Yes! Swing by!" Bones says.

"Speaking of swinging by, Bones," Tofer has walked up as well. He puts an elbow on my shoulder and leans on me. I shove his elbow off.

"I'm not that short." I am five ten. That's not short. Tofer is six four. That is abnormally tall.

"Shush, Leon. Talking to Bones." Tofer says. "I've got my best cousin Shane, my best cousin Lawrence, and my slightly annoying cousin Isabelle all at my house, as well as Shane's girl Lillian, and Lawrence's boyfriend, Jackson, who also happens to be Lillian's best friend. Can they co—"

"Yes, of course they may attend the loveliest of all celebrations!" Bones yells. A group of freshmen stare at him, and he turns to them. "Move along, young rapscallions! Nothing to be seen hither or there!" They scurry off after Bones says that, but not after giving each other identical looks of 'is he crazy? Yes, he is crazy'.

Tofer laughs. "Okay, I'm bringing them."

"Simply wonderful, my good sir! Wonderful!" Bones says, pretending to sweep a hat off his head. He bows.

Dink chuckles a little, and Bones grins madly. The bell rings.

"Nein!" Suddenly Bones is German. I am going to bet he smoked some weed before he came to school, now that I think about it. "I hate bells."

"Bones, on a scale of one to ten, how high are you?" I ask, Tofer and Dink have wandered off to wherever they need to wander off to.

He considers this for a moment. "Six and three quarters!"

"That specific?"

"Yes!" Bones yells, and then takes off running down the hallway, but he trips and almost falls right before he goes around the corner. I shake my head, and walk down to the shop.

"Hello, Leon." Mrs. Levi greets me when I walk into the classroom.

"Morning." I mumble, and go to the back of the woodshop and sit down on a stool. Then I get back up and go grab my skateboard deck from my woods locker, and a wood burner from the rack. I continue working on the dragon. Neil shows up halfway through the hour, looking tired. He has four yellow post it notes stuck to his shirt. I get up from my stool and look at the notes. The top one says 'NEIL YOU SUCK'. The second one says 'ROMEO IS A LOVELY BOY'. The third says 'NEIL RIVERS IS A DIRTY INJUN'. Neil is actually Blackfoot, so that is rather offensive. The last one says 'NEIL MUST NEVER EVER DO THAT AGAIN'. What 'that' is, I don't know. But whoever wrote the notes must know what exactly 'that' is, if the other notes are anything to go by. The 'Romeo' one is written in sloppy, all capital letters writing. The rest are in neater, lighter handwriting, but are also in all caps.

"Uh, Neil, what's up with the post its?" I ask. Neil looks at me, then he looks down at his shirt.

"Romeo's sister wrote the ones about me. I wrote the one about him." Neil explains dully. He sighs, and takes a piece of paper out of his pocket. He begins to read off the paper in a monotone voice. "I am an upstanding member of the society for douche bags of the highest class and it is my duty to let you know this."

"Um. Okay?" I say. I don't understand exactly why this is happening. But then I remember Romeo saying that Neil stood him up yesterday at the basketball game.

"Romeo made his sister write the note. She said she'd beat me up if Romeo said I didn't wear the post its. And if she tried to beat me up, I'd have to hit her, and I don't hit girls. Even manly ones like Darla." Neil explains.

"Oh." I say, and go and sit down. I check the wood burner's temperature on the table, and I am satisfied when it leaves a dark mark on the old, stained wood. I work on the dragon's shading for the entirety of the block.

Next hour, Mr. Kent actually makes us do things in English. He makes Bones read parts of On The Road, and Bones puts on various accents. Sal's narration is his usual speech, but when Sal talks, he is miraculously Russian, Dean is Irish, and anyone else speaking is Australian if they are men and British if they are women. Kent lets him get through an impressive three pages before he stops Bones and makes Sam read instead. Sam doesn't put on any accents and just reads in a monotone.

Mr. Kent then makes everyone write a one page paper about Jack Kerouac's persona. I decide it's not a persona and that Jack Kerouac is probably actually pretty much the same as Sal. When I finish, I put the paper in the inbox.

The class is finally over, and I can finally go to lunch. Bones dashes out of the classroom, and everyone else walks out calmly. Well. Calmly compared to Bones. But then again, most people are calm compared to Bones.

I dump my English things into my locker and hurry down to the cafeteria. Due to the proximity of the English wing to the lunch room, I can usually make it down there before the line gets too long.

Lunch today is breakfast for lunch. Meaning scrambled eggs and bread and bacon that looks made of plastic. The only half edible thing in this lunch is the bacon, and even that is tasteless. The bread is nearly always still frozen. Why do they feel the need to freeze the bread? Why doesn't Jackson, as a private, non government funded school have edible lunches?

Dink is already sitting at our table when I get there. I sit down with my tray.

"Not eating?" I ask, Dink shakes his head.

"No. I have an awful stomachache, and I don't think anything I ate would actually stay in my stomach." Dink tells me. "Also, I don't think you want barf all over you."

"Yeah, thanks for not eating." I say, and stab my fork into the scrambled eggs. I shove a bite into my mouth. Dink frowns.

"Those look nasty."

"They are." I say. The eggs are rubbery and icky. Lance and Jamie sit down with their trays.

Lance gives me a disappointed look. "I thought you were going to make Bones behave!" He whines.

"C'mon, Lance, no one makes Bones do anything." I tell him.

"You could have at least tried!" Lance complains, flinging his arms about.

"Well, I figured he'd be fine since he was occupied with Nelson."

"Nelson made Bones even worse!" Lance says.

Bones sits down with his lunch box. "Nelson did what?" He asks, giving Lance a look.

"Nothing." Lance says. He knows if he and Bones got into a fight, he would not come out on top. Bones is a living legend when it comes to fights. I can only recall him losing one fight in all the years I've known him, and that was in fifth grade against a seventh grader who had failed seventh grade twice. It was pretty much Bones the fifth grader against a ninth grader still in seventh grade. And Bones still got in a couple of solid punches. He also got knocked out. But hey, a couple of good punches, right? Focus on the positive.

"That's what I thought."

"Someone should bring some acid to the party." Jack is leaning over Jamie to talk to Bones. I don't know Jack very well. He has nearly white blonde hair past his shoulders, and I've only ever seen him wearing this one Pink Floyd shirt.

"Jack, that's your gig." Bones reminds him. Jack frowns.

"I'm out and my cousin broke up with her boyfriend and her boyfriend was my dealer. Not my gig!" He says, and slams a fist on the table.

"Dude, chill. I'll find some for you, somehow. Okay?" Bones says.

"Really?" Jack asks.

"Sure, why not." Bones assures him. I have never dropped acid. I don't want it to break my brain. Bones tried it once, and had a bad trip. He hasn't tried it since, but he likes to play accommodating host and get things for people at his parties.

"Yes!" Jack says excitedly, and returns to his table. Bones grins. Lance sighs and puts his head in his hands.

"Emma is coming and she's bringing her friends and Jack is going to drop acid with his hippy friends and someone is going to have a bad trip and she's going to end up somehow near the one on a bad trip and she's going to get freaked out and why did I invite her to this party and oh this is going to suck." Lance says all of this very quickly and very worriedly. He worries too much. And he'll probably just end up screwing up and Emma will break up with him for something he did, not because of something that happened at the party unrelated to Lance. Actually, I bet she doesn't even break up with him. She just gets pissed because Lance is stupid.

"Lance." Jamie says.

"What?!" Lance sounds panicked.

"Shut up." Jamie says calmly, and returns to his eggs.

"B- but Emma and the party and everyth—"

"Shut up." Jamie repeats, this time through a mouthful of scrambled eggs.

Lance opens his mouth. He shuts his mouth. He opens it again, and shuts it for the last time. He looks down at his tray and then starts eating his bacon.

I nudge Jamie with my elbow and mouth Thanks for that at him. He grins and shrugs in a 'no problem' way.

I continue eating my eggs. They are still gross.

Bones talks my ear off about how he spent hours on Wikipedia yesterday reading articles about Argentinean indie punk bands. I have no idea why he reads these things.

Dink leaves halfway through lunch. Ann arrives at the table ten minutes before lunch ends, calls everyone there a retard, and leaves again. That's her way of making sure we know she still likes us, even though she doesn't eat lunch with us often. At least, that's my assumption.

Lunch ends and I head off to Photography, where I plan on doing nothing but playing stupid games on the internet the entire time. And that is what I do.

I manage to sleep all the way through last hour, and it is glorious. I love sleep.

I wake up a couple of minutes before the bell and have to suffer through a mere two minutes of lecture. First world problems.

Then I go to study hall.

Tofer sits in the back with me.

"Have I met Shane?" I ask, because I can't remember.

"I don't think so. You've definitely not met Lawrence or Isabelle." Tofer tells me, and takes out a GameBoy SP.

"Tofer, why do you have that? It's like ten years old." I ask, Tofer glares at me.

"It's been out nine years, thanks. February 14th, 2003, in Japan. A couple weeks later in USA and Canada and other places." Tofer corrects me. I roll my eyes, but he doesn't see because he's playing his game. "Also, it's a great system. At least in my opinion."

"Yeah, okay, why do you know that?" I ask, Tofer shrugs but doesn't look up from his game. He doesn't answer my question either. Tofer knows everything about Nintendo. Everything. I have yet to ask him a question he doesn't know the answer to. Actually, he usually just gives me answers I didn't ask the questions to.

The bell finally rings.

"Dude, I love Fridays." Tofer says, as we walk out of the classroom and head for out respective lockers.

"Agreed." I say, before we go our separate ways. I grab my backpack out of my locker and head out the doors. Mom is waiting in the car. I climb in the passenger side.

"Okay, Leon. I made my decision. You can go to Ryan's party if you look presentable for Caruso's and you're polite to Derrick." Mom says.

"Okay, okay, I can do that." I say. "Thanks." I add. Then I turn the radio to the classic rock station and crank it up. She turns it down a little, but I decide not to be obnoxious and turn it up again the way I usually do. I just got let off my grounding for a party. At Bones' place. This is a win.

We don't talk for the rest of the drive home, but it's not an awkward silence. It is just a silence.

When we get home, I stop in the kitchen for a snack. Mom follows me into the kitchen, and blocks my path when I attempt to go downstairs to eat my cheese sandwich.

"Leon, I picked up a shirt on my lunch break for you. For Caruso's tomorrow night." Oh, this out to be good. She hands me a plastic shopping bag. From some fancy men's store in the larger than this town town where she works. I set my sandwich down on the counter and open the bag. I extract a very crisp plain black button down. It's dressy. I hate dressy. But it's black. I like black. "I know you have a tie somewhere, so wear that."

"Okay." I agree. I hate ties. I hate the Toad. I hate supper clubs. But I like parties. I guess I can humor her.

"Thank you. Also, I want you to take your phone to the party." She hands me my phone. I take it. Then I take my sandwich and the shirt downstairs. I put the shirt on the floor, flat and back in the bag. Then I sit on the bed and eat my sandwich. I turn the TV on and watch stupid cartoons that suck.

I finish my sandwich, and then dig around in the top drawer of my dresser for a tie. I think I have one. Maybe. Aha! I find the black one that looks like it has tiny white flowers or something on it, but actually has tiny white skulls. That shall do.

Then I continue with the watching of crappy television. Bones calls me at five thirty.

"Dude! Come over her! My mother just left and I want to have a pre party! Nelson is coming and you and Lance and Jamie!" He says.

"Okay, I'm coming over." I tell him, and he whoops.

"Hanging up now!" And he hangs up. I put on a sweatshirt and go upstairs.

"Mom! Going to Bones' house!"

"Okay! Don't forget: Caruso's!" She yells back. I don't yell anything back and shove my feet into my sneakers and go out to the garage. I grab my board from its place by the wall, and skate down the sidewalk towards Bones' house. The wheels clunk over the seams in the sidewalk with a comforting sound.

I reach Bones' house, hide my skateboard behind some assorted yard things like volleyball nets and a wheelbarrow, and find Bones, Lance and Jamie in the kitchen, sorting out the booze they have purchased/ stolen/ procured from older brothers and/ or cousins. There's not much. Bones usually relies on his guests to bring booze. What they do have is a bottle of Grey Goose, three twelve packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and a large bottle of Jack Daniels.

"Leon!" Bones yells.

"Hey, man." I say, and walk over to the table. Bones goes upstairs and then returns with a baggie of weed and rolling papers.

"Here we go!" He says, and puts it on the table.

Lance looks at his watch. "I have to get Emma at six thirty."

"Dude, it's like ten to six. You've got time." Jamie says, and sits down in a chair. He rips open the package of Blue Ribbon and takes out a can. He cracks it open and takes a sip.

"Ew. This is warm. Don't you have ice?" Jamie complains.

"Yes! Dink dropped three bags of ice off yesterday. And I have a bucket." He says, and goes out of the kitchen. There's some banging around in the garage, and then Bones returns with three twenty gallon buckets. He sets them down and goes and gets the ice from the fridge. He fills each bucket a quarter of the way full of ice, and Jamie dumps cans of PBR into each one. Then more ice over the top, then the rest of the beer. Jamie shoves the bottle of Grey Goose into the middle one and the Jack Daniels into the other one.

"Done." Bones says. The doorbell rings. "Nelson!" He yells, and runs to the door.

He returns looking disappointed, with Jack and around eight of his friends in tow. No Nelson.

"Did you get the acid?" Jack asks, his friends go out to the living room and flop on the couch.

"Vern is bringing it later." Bones says.

"Okay. Good. You're the best, man." Jack says, and heads into the living room. He and his friends are watching cartoons in there.

"Okay, I'm going to go and get Emma. Right now." Lance says, and he leaves.

The doorbell rings again, and Bones yells "Nelson!" and runs to the door again. This time it actually is Nelson, and Bones dashes back into the kitchen with Nelson clinging to him piggyback style.

"Where is the beer?" Nelson yells, and leaps off of Bones. He digs through one of the buckets to find the coldest can, and then cracks it open and takes a drink. "I like cheap beer." He says, and slings an arm around Bones' waist. Nelson's a bit too short to easily put an arm around Bones' shoulders, so I guess he settles for his waist.

Bones grins and kisses Nelson's cheek. "Cheap beer is the best beer." He says, and the doorbell rings again. I go and answer it. Standing there are Neil and Romeo, Vern and his girlfriend, whose name I can never remember, and Zach.

"Come in, come in." I say, and they go in. Zach has a twelve back of Budweiser, Vern has the acid and some pot, and Neil and Romeo both have identical bottles of cheap vodka.

I follow them inside and make a sign for the door that says "stop ringing the damn doorbell and just come in" and tape it to the door.

There is no more doorbell ringing after that, and people start actually coming. Lots of people. By eight, the house is pretty packed, and there are people from three surrounding schools, besides Jackson and the public school.

Tofer arrives with his cousins and their respective girlfriend and boyfriend. Bones yells at them to "DRINK!" and makes them all plastic cups of things.

I go downstairs and hang out in the basement for a while. Jack and his friends got into the LSD Vern brought, and they're all lying on the floor and staring at things. They've got the Beatles playing loudly. This gets boring really quickly. Jack is counting Shanna's fingers. I leave and go into the basement game room. A couple of the guys are having a small Halo tourney. Tofer is supervising and killing everyone in game. I watch them play for a while, and then Bones comes and gets me.

"Dude, you want to smoke?" He asks, Nelson is standing slightly behind him.

"Sure." I say, and we go back upstairs.

Bones heads straight for Tofer's cousin's girlfriend. I think her name was Lily. She's cute.

"You guys want to smoke?" He asks.

She looks a little apprehensive. "Um, I think I want to wait for Shane…" But Bones just ignores her and drags her downstairs. Wait. Shane is her boyfriend. Man. I can never catch a break.

We return downstairs, go past the room where Jack and his buddies are having acid trips, and instead go into a room already full of smoke. Neil and Romeo are smoking a joint together and talking quietly in one corner. Some kid I don't know is sleeping on the floor. Bones and Nelson claim the couch, and I sit on the floor.

Bones hands me the baggie of weed and a couple of rolling papers. I roll the joint and light it, then take a drag. I pass it to Lily.

"I'm Leon." I tell her, and she takes the joint gingerly.

"Lillian," She says, and takes a drag. Her cheeks bulge out and she coughs violently.

"Dude, slower. First time?" I ask. Then I immediately wonder if calling a girl I just met 'dude' is acceptable behavior. I call everyone dude.

She nods and takes a second drag, only coughing a little this time. I lean back onto the couch. Bones sticks his feet in my face, and I slap them away. The joint gets passed around and makes it back to me, and I take a long drag. Everything is softer and fuzzier now.

Some guy comes into our little den of smoke. He coughs, then he spots Lillian.

"Lillian! What the hell are you doing?" The guy yells. Well, for starters, she's obviously getting high. "Are you high?" No. Of course not. She's sitting in the basement at a party, passing a joint around. There is no possible way she could be high.

"Dude! Don't be a downer! Somebody get this boy a joint." Bones says.

"Just have some fun, baby." Lillian says to the dude. She pulls him down next to her. I pass him the joint, which has made its way back to me. He takes a drag, and it's clear to me that it's not his first time.

Lillian looks a little pissy. "Have you done this before?"

The guy sighs. "I used to get high a lot, Lillian. I quit for a while. Hopefully this time will be my last."

Bones pipes up with: "I used to get high a lot, too. I still do, but I used to, too." I twist my head around to look at Bones. He sitting on the couch, and Nelson is sitting on him. They're holding hands. Aw. Cute. Barf.

The dude I don't know picks Lillian up and carries her upstairs. Okay.

I take another drag off the joint. Nelson and Bones start making out, and I get up and walk away from the couch. Neil and Romeo leave too, and I shut the door behind me. I go upstairs, where the party is in full swing, and all the people around me are blurry lumps of color. I think someone brought a keg. I go upstairs, where I find Jamie sitting by himself at the end of one hallway, by an open window. He's smoking a cigarette and staring into space. I walk down the hallway and sit next to him.

"Oh, hey, Leon." Jamie says.

"Hi." I reply. "What are you doing up here? There's a whole party going on downstairs, if you didn't know." I can feel the music pounding in my feet. Bones refused to let anyone play anything but punk, which made a lot of people angry, but Bones being Bones, he didn't care.

"I don't know, but Lance is down there with Emma. It's difficult." Jamie says, frowning down at his hands.

"Oh." I say. Jamie sighs and takes another drag on his cigarette. I realize he has three empty cans of Pabst lying by his feet, and one seemingly full one by his knees. Geez, he's getting almost as bad as Dink.

Jamie laughs without any mirth. "It's like the person you love most in the world can never be yours. But they can constantly be with you, just never in the way you want." Jamie says, and sighs.

I look at him. "Dude." Is the only thing I can think of to say. That is definitely not the proper answer, but Jamie doesn't say anything. I get up and walk back downstairs. Jamie is bumming me out.

Downstairs, there's a mess of people dancing in the living room. I don't dance, so I go into the kitchen and pour vodka and grape soda into a cup. I have no idea if this is going to be delicious or absolutely terrible. I take a cautious sip. It's sort of good.

I wander into the dining room, where a bunch of people are sitting around the table playing poker. Judging by the appearance of the people playing, the missing articles of clothing, it's strip poker. No thank you. I continue on.

I spy Joey standing uncomfortably by the entrance to the den.

"Joey!" I yell, and make my way over to him. He sees me and smiles slightly.

"Hi, Leon." He says. He's wearing a vintage looking Mickey Mouse shirt with an old, pale denim jacket.

"I can't believe you came to the party. You never come to parties!" I say, and grab his arm. I pull Joey behind me into the kitchen. "You want something to drink?"

"Of course he does!" Forrest yells, and pours Joey a cup of orange juice. He hands Joey the cup.

"Dude, you forgot the vodka." I say, but Forrest only shrugs and walks off.

"No thanks, Leon. Just orange juice is good with me." Joey says.

I shrug. "Suit yourself." I say. Joey and I go sit down in the corner of the living room that is not occupied by people making out. Lillian comes over and sits down by Joey.

"Hey." She says. She looks like a mess. Of drunkenness, like most everyone else at this party. But not me!

"I'm not drunk!" I yell.

"Only a drunk person would say that." Joey points out.

"But I'm not drunk! I had some weed and that's it!" I protest. Lilly giggles. "Hey, um, where's Shane?"

She giggles. And giggles. "He passed out!"

"Oh, that's fun." I say, and she giggles more. She is super giggly.

"Want to go outside?" It's getting kind of stuffy and warm in here for me. I get up and go outside to the deck. Lilly and Joey follow me out there. The pool is still uncovered, but it's heated so I guess it's all right. There's a bunch of people messing around by it, pushing people in and what not.

Lilly looks concerned. "Do you think they should be doing that?" She asks.

"Dude, they'll be fine." I tell her, and sit down on one of the deck chairs. Oooh, cigarette. I pick it up off the wood and check it out. It looks okay. Probably one of Bones'. Hm, a cigarette sounds good right now. I take my lighter out of my pocket and light the cigarette. I take a drag. Mm.

"I'll share if you like, Lily. Joey here doesn't smoke." I offer, she shakes her head. "Tastes pretty good." You know, for a cigarette I found on the deck.

"I've never smoked." She says, Joey nods.

"You want to try it?" I ask, holding out the cigarette. She takes it gingerly between her thumb and index finger, like it's something dirty. She takes a shallow drag, and coughs.

"I feel funny." Lilly says, and rubs her forehead. She leans close to me, closes her eyes like she's going to kiss me. Ugh. Her breath smells like stale beer. It's like a liquor store barfed in her mouth.

I push her face away gently. "You've got a boyfriend, dude, and also, your breath is terrible." I laugh a little, try to lighten up this awkward situation. Joey is trying very hard not to bust out laughing. His face is turning red from trying to hold it in. Lilly sort of looks at me, and then she gets up and heads back inside. Okay.

I sit on the deck with Joey and finish my cigarette. The cool air has cleared my head a little, and now everything seems sharper. I also left my vodka and grape soda concoction inside. It's probably soaking into the carpet somewhere in Bones' living room. Speaking of Bones, I haven't seen him in a while. He's usually gallivanting around his parties wreaking his own brand of havoc on things and people. I guess he must be with Nelson still.

"Hey, Leon, you ever think about how fragile everything is?" Joey asks, out of freaking nowhere.

"Uh, sometimes. Why?" I ask, flicking my cigarette butt off the deck.

"I was just thinking about the leaves falling and winter starting and stuff. Nothing ever lasts, you know?" Joey says. I look over at him. He's sitting in the deck chair, left foot on his right knee, left knee poking out of the hole in his jeans.

"Yeah." I say, and wish I had another cigarette. "I know."

Then Joey gets up and walks back inside. I stay out on the deck, watching the people fool around in the pool. Most of them are fully clothed.

I sit in silence. Well. Not really silence, the people in the pool are yelling and laughing, and the chainsaw guitars from inside are roaring. Bones has got the Ramones on. I sigh. It's cool out, but not as cold as it should be in November.

I think about what Joey said, about how nothing ever lasts. It seems that way sometimes. I mean, my dad and my mom sure didn't last. My short lived relationship with Janice last year didn't last. Bones' parents' relationship didn't last. Neither did Lauren and Neil's relationship. Joey's parents are still together, but they hate each other. So that didn't last. I can't really think of anything that stays constant. Not even my favorite TV shows are constant (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends went off the air years ago). Not anything. Well, Bones has been my constant partner in crime since we were in elementary school.

There's something that lasts.

Yet even that seems to be leaving. Usually, Bones and I would be inside drinking and fooling around. But he's with Nelson, now. Nelson of what, three days? And me, of almost ten years of friendship.

I sigh again. Then I get up out of my chair, and go back inside.

I locate Tofer standing by the couch, drinking a can of Pepsi. He's watching everyone fall over and dance drunkenly with a smirk on his face. I weave my way through the crowd and stand by him.

"Hey, Tof." I say, taking the can of Pepsi out of his hand and taking a drink.

"Hello, little Leon. And that is my Pepsi." He says, and takes the can back from me.

"I'm not actually little." I correct him. I am five foot ten, thanks very much. And skinny. But not as skinny as Bones!

"Compared to me, you are little." Tofer says, patting me on the head.

"Dude, you're actually the same height as me." I say. Tofer is the same height as me, but he has an easy seventy-five pounds on me. All muscle, of course. He plays lacrosse in the spring and summer, soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and then he double teams lacrosse in the spring with baseball. He is crazy. And he's really good at each of the sports, which is ridiculous.

"Yes. But you're still littler."

"Fine. Whatever." I walk away, and flip him off over my shoulder. I can hear him laugh, even with the music on and drunken people yelling. I check my phone. Mother.

I'm going to stay over at bones place tonight be home tomorrow by one pm. I text her, when she asks 'what's up?'. It is ten fifty six. I want something to eat. I walk through the house to the kitchen, where a couple of people are hanging out on the counters, mixing drinks and eating potato chips. I confiscate one bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, and retreat downstairs to eat them in peace. But I can't eat them in peace, because there are people playing Halo loudly, and when I go towards the other two rooms down here, I can hear someone having very loud sex in one of the rooms, and someone bawling in the other room.

I go back upstairs.

In the living room, I see Emma sitting with her friend, what's her name, Chloe. And there is the big blonde guy hovering over Chloe, Mason, I think his name was. I'm terrible at names. Anyways, Emma looks sort of sad, probably because Lance puked on her feet and her new shoes or whatever. Chloe seems to be comforting her. Mason just sort of stands there, watching Chloe. His eyes never leave her, even though there are tons of other girls in the room, most of whom are wearing much less clothing than Chloe. I definitely noticed the other chicks before Chloe.

I wander back through the throngs of people packed into the room.

Then I go up the stairs, and locate one of the guest bedrooms with three people smoking weed in it. They're watching Wayne's World and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon in addition to the bong they're passing around.

It's Jones (I have no idea what his first name is, he is always referred to as Jones), Jamie and Ann.

"Oh, hey, loser." Ann greets me, her signature scowl softened slightly by the weed she's been smoking. Not saying she isn't still scowling, because she is. Just slightly less. Very slightly.

"Hi Ann. Jonesey." I say, gratefully taking the bong from Jamie. "Thanks, Jamie." I take a hit and exhale a little cloud of smoke. Mmh.

I like this movie. It's funny sober, but now it's even funnier high.

I fall asleep on the floor around halfway through. But then I wake up a little later. Then I leave and go back downstairs, just in time to see Lance barf all over Emma's feet.

"Ew! You idiot! These are brand new!" She pauses for a moment, for emphasis. "And they're Gucci!" She shrieks. "We are so OVER!"

"No, we're over, you psycho! I didn't even do it on purpose!" Lance says, and he slurs every word. Kid's so drunk he can barely talk.

Emma slaps him, and stalks off into the crowd. This gets a laugh, because drunk people.

Lance stumbles off into the dining room, a red handprint on his cheek. I don't follow him, instead I go into the kitchen and fix myself a glass of straight Jack Daniels. I feel like getting drunk.

Dink is sitting there with a bottle of rum and drinking it straight from the bottle. He's about a quarter of the way through it. He doesn't acknowledge my presence at all, just keeps swigging from the bottle. Everyone in the kitchen is avoiding him. He is getting to that state of drunkenness when he is either going to start crying, or he is going to get super pissed off and start flinging things at people. It could go either way, really. I decide to get out of there before this happens, and head back upstairs. I go into Bones' room, which I find empty. Then I realize Nelson is sleeping in the bed. I steal one of the pillows, grab a blanket, finish my cup of whiskey, and set it aside. Then I go to sleep.

I wake up to Bones nestled against my side, and someone yelling.

I jump away from Bones. "Why are you so close to me?" I shout, and immediately regret it. My head hurts. My brain hurts. Everything hurts. He groans and holds his head.

"Leon?!"

"Yes, that is my name."

"Dude, last night I must have thought you were Nelson. Sorry. This is weird." Bones says, and rubs his head. "My head hurts."

"Yeah, mine too. What time is it?" Bones sticks his tongue out and crosses his eyes trying to look at it. "Bones. What are you doing?"

"Trying to see what curled up and died in my mouth."

I laugh and my head throbs. Then I dig in my pocket for my phone. It is eleven thirty.

"I guess we should go make the rounds." Bones says. By rounds he means kick anyone out who spent the night uninvited.

"I guess." I agree, and stand up. My head spins, and I feel nauseas. "I am going to puke." And then I run over to Bones' bathroom, make it to the toilet, and barf up everything I've eaten in what feels like the last year. It is particularly gross looking. As it turns out, grape soda and vodka and Doritos make nasty looking puke.

Ugh. I dry heave twice after my stomach has nothing left to puke up, and then I rinse my mouth out in the sink.

Bones walks into the bathroom and looks in the toilet. "Dude. That is spectacularly disgusting." And then he takes out his phone and takes a picture of the puke.

"No. You are spectacularly disgusting." I tell him, and flush the toilet. I actually feel a little better after throwing up.

We go back into Bones' room. Nelson is asleep on the bed, tangled in the blankets. The only thing visible is his bright green hair, and one foot with the toenails painted black.

Bones smiles at Nelson's sleeping form, and then goes out into the hallway. He's only wearing a pair of shredded black jeans and one neon pink sock. I'm still wearing what I had on yesterday, minus my jeans. I must have taken them off at some point last night. Maybe while I was asleep, because I can't remember actually taking them off. We check all the upstairs rooms first, find Lilly and Shane still sleeping in one.

"I guess since they're here with Tofer they can stay. But I think Tofer may have gone home." Bones says.

We close the door and continue the search for people. No one else is upstairs sleeping or passed out or otherwise, so we move to the main level. Dink is in the living room watching TV, surrounded by the detritus of the party; plastic cups, chip bags, random articles of clothing, et cetera.

"Morning, Dink." I say. He looks pretty rough.

"Morning." All the curtains are drawn and it's rather dark in here for almost noon.

I continue on my search for people. There's some chick passed out on the kitchen floor. I nudge her with my toe.

"Hey. Girl. Get up." I say, and kick her shoulder. "Come on." She blinks her eyes open. She's sort of cute, I guess. In a hung over, previously drunken slut sort of way. Her shirt dips nearly to her belly button, and although I like boobies, I do not like puke covered boobies. Like hers. "Also, I would advise you to take a shower. And get out. Party's over." She stares at me for half a second, and then she scrambles to her feet and walks out. Her skirt is tucked into her underwear. Her underwear have tiny cupcakes on them. Nice view, actually. There is no puke on this side of her, so that is a definite plus.

I continue downstairs, and find two guys snuggled together on the couch. One is wearing a plaid flannel shirt, and the other is wearing nice long sleeved shirt. It's blue. I think they may have come with Tofer. I can't really remember. They look way too peaceful sleeping there, so I don't wake them up.

I check the rest of the rooms, and locate Tofer in the basement kitchenette thing, eating a sandwich and reading the Saturday paper.

"Oh, hi Tofer. Thought you went home." I say, and eye his sandwich. I probably shouldn't eat anything, because my stomach is still kind of feeling like a storm tossed sea. But I'm hungry.

"Nah, man. I hung around to keep an eye on my guests. Plus, I was really the only sober kid here. Besides Joey, but he must have gone home, because I haven't seen him." Tofer says, and takes a giant bite out of his sandwich.

I nod. The kitchenette is the last thing I needed to check for people, so I go back upstairs. I stop in the kitchen and pour myself a giant glass of water. I happen to know Bones keeps a bottle of aspirin in the fridge, hidden behind some extremely old cream cheese. I feel around behind all of the other, more edible foods, and finally touch the pill bottle. I pop two into my mouth and swallow them with a drink of water. Then I drink all of the water and dump the glass in the sink.

I head back upstairs, and duck into Bones' room to find my jeans, and instead find Bones and Nelson in bed. Thankfully, they are still mostly clothed. At least they're under the blankets.

"Agh! My eyes!" I say, but not too loudly because that would hurt my head. They pull apart sheepishly, and I find my jeans on the floor, half hidden beneath a pillow. By the time I get my pants on, they're back at it. "I'll show myself out." I mumble, and leave the bedroom. I check the time. It's after twelve. I don't really care about the minutes. Then I decide the minutes might feel bad, and check them. It is twelve thirty four. Ha. One two three four. I need to go home.

I turn around, but don't go back into Bones' room. Instead I crack open the door and holler. "I AM GOING HOME NOW."

"Okay!" Bones yells back. I close the door gently and start down the hallway.

A door opens, and Lilly walks out of the bathroom, looking worse for the wear. Her hair is messy, and her eyes bloodshot.

"Hi, uh, Leon." She says. Shane or Shawn or whatever his name is emerges from one of the guest bedrooms.

"Hi, Lilly." I say. "Hi, Shawn." I'm pretty sure that was his name. I know it started with a 'sh' sound, at least.

He frowns at me. "It's Shane." Oops.

"Sorry. Bad with names." I apologize.

"Where's Tofer?" Lilly asks. Shane rubs his eyes.

"He was in the basement, being much too cheery for this time of day." I say, and then I walk away. I am going home.

"Bye." Shane sort of mutters.

"Bye." I reply, and continue walking. My head feels a little better, probably thanks to the aspirin. I remember to grab my skateboard from the garage. It is still where I hid it, and in one piece, too. One time, I left my skateboard unhidden in the garage, and Bones threw a party, and I returned to two pieces of skateboard and only three wheels. It sucked epically.

I carry my skateboard under one arm and walk home. Well, halfway home. Then I skate the rest of the way, damn the consequences. I thought I might end up falling off somehow, my balance impaired by my pounding headache. The sunlight is not helping. I should have worn sunglasses.

I make it home three minutes before one o' clock, and stash my skateboard in the garage. I kick my shoes off in the mudroom. Mom's in the kitchen doing something with food.

"Hi, Leon." She says. "Did you eat?"

"Yeah." I say, because if I say I didn't she'll pester me and I have no wish to be pestered right now. And I am not in the least bit hungry.

"The Toad will be along to pick you up at six o' clock. Shower. Dress nice." She reminds me.

"Okay. Got it." I say, and retreat downstairs to my room. I set the alarm on my phone for five fifteen, take my pants off, and crawl into bed. My bed feels awesome after sleeping on Bones' floor. Beds are far, far superior to floors.

I finally doze off and sleep until my alarm rudely wake me up at precisely five o' clock. I open my eyes slowly. It's pretty dark in my room. On account of daylight savings time and whatever. It gets dark so quickly. And I have a basement bedroom with minimal windows. That could also be a contributing factor.

I slide out of bed onto the floor. Then I crawl over to my bathroom. I wish I could just turn into a ball or something and roll around. Then there would be no walking involved. I peel off my clothes and get in the shower. I do not wish to eat dinner with The Toad. I do not wish to eat at Caruso's. I especially do not wish to eat at Caruso's with The Toad. I make the shower hot. It's nice. My head doesn't hurt quite as much as it did earlier. It's still throbbing, but not as bad.

When I'm done showering I dry off and go back into my room. I find some clean boxers and put them on. They have bananas on them. Why do people insist on having food on underwear? First that chick with the cupcakes, and now me with bananas. I don't understand. I find the black shirt mother dearest bought me, and put it on. It is slightly too short in the arms, but that really can't be remedied. I have awkwardly long arms and legs, but getting a size up results in the length fitting and the rest being too large. I find some jeans that are rather clean, and only have one hole (the right knee), and put them on.

I get the tie off the floor and put it on.

Ugh. Ties make me feel like a really weak guy is choking me. I hate ties. I grab my phone off my bed and put it in my pocket, and then I go upstairs. Mom is in the kitchen, talking on the phone. She smiles when she sees me, then her eyes go to the hole in my jeans and she frowns. She motions at me, pointing at my pants, and then pointing down. She wants me to go downstairs and change my pants. I pretend I do not know what she is motioning about and go to the mudroom and put on my sneakers. I check the time on my phone. Five forty nine.

Mom walks out into the mudroom and sighs. "Are you going to wear those pants?" She asks, giving me an accusing look.

I look down at the pants. They're probably one of my nicer pairs of jeans, actually. "Yes." I tell her, and then I hear the Toad pull up. "Do I have to go?" I ask, deciding I might as well try to get out of this at the last second.

"Of course you have to go." Mom says. The Toad opens the door and comes in.

"Hi, Leon." He says, and kisses my mother. "Hello, Caroline dear."

"Well, are you ready to go?" He asks, and gives him what I expect he thinks is a 'winning grin'. Instead it just makes him look like he is trying to see if something is in his teeth. Nothing is in his teeth, unfortunately.

"Yeah." I say, and he claps his hands and heads out the door.

"Have fun boys!" My mom calls from the doorway, as I walk down the path to the Toad's vehicle. It is, I kid you not, a giant black ugly Hummer. I hate Hummers. The Toad must be compensating for something. Cough.

I go around to the passenger side and climb in. The windows are too small and I'm glad I'm not claustrophobic.

"So, Leon, how's school?" The Toad asks, in a rather pathetic attempt at small talk. Why do adults always ask about school? I never understood that.

"All right." Skipping class and smoking out by the Dumpsters, that is definitely all right with me.

"That's good." The Toad says, and turns on the radio. Awful soft rock filters through the speakers. And it's Air Supply. Lovely. And by lovely I mean anything and everything but lovely.

"Do you like this?" The Toad asks, gesturing to the radio. What a loaded question.

"I like rock."

"This is Air Supply. That counts, right?" He asks. He is a sad, sad little man.

"Not really. I like Led Zeppelin and the Adolescents and Pennywise and Cocaine Blues." Pennywise is more Bones' band, but I like them too. And Adolescents and Pennywise are definitely punk rock. Cocaine Blues is punk, too, but they are indie punk and more experimental than the other, more classic punk bands like the Adolescents. And Led Zeppelin is just awesome.

"I like Guns 'n' Roses." The Toad says. "I like their song 'Stairway to Heaven'." He says, looking proud of himself. I want to hit him. With a chair. Or a brick or an anvil or a boulder or a piano or something else that is nice and heavy.

"Stairway to Heaven is Led Zeppelin's song." I tell him through gritted teeth.

"No, Guns 'n' Roses did it first." The Toad tries to correct me. I want to strangle him. "Look, you can Google it. It is on Led Zeppelin IV. And that was way before Guns 'n' Roses." I tell him.

"Okay, sure. I'll Google it sometime, and then you'll see that I'm right." The Toad says, and pulls into the Caruso's parking lot. It is packed. It is a Saturday night. "I made reservations, don't worry."

"I wasn't." I say, although I was secretly hoping he had neglected to make reservations and I could just go back home and sleep and watch movies. That sounds really, really good right now, actually. Movies and then sleep. The Toad parks his stupid Hummer in a corner spot. Then he gets out of the mammoth car (can it really be called a car?) and I get out as well. I didn't bother to tuck my shirt in. I am wearing a tie. I qualify as dressed up in my book.

We go into the supper club and the hostess chick seats us in a booth in the back corner of the place. She leaves us with menus and glasses of ice water.

"So, Leon, do you play any sports?" The Toad asks, just as I take a drink of my water. I nearly choke on my water, and cough.

"N- no. I don't play any sports. I skate." I tell him. His eyes light up.

"You play hockey?" What? I said I skate. He looks like he's going to spaz out.

"No. I skateboard." I clarify. The Toad deflates.

"Oh."

"Yep." I take a sort of pleasure in seeing him disappointed. Because he is annoying and fake tanned and fake and has too much gel in his hair even now.

He examines his menu for a bit, and check out mine. I guess I'll have fish and French fries, because that seems like the best thing to eat. Just because it is a fancy- shmancy supper club does not mean I can't have my French fries.

And I am going to have my fries.

The Toad looks up from his menu for a moment. "What are you having?" He asks, flipping through the menu.

"Fish and chips." I say, because that is how it is titled on the menu.

"Oh. I thought I'd have the chicken." He says, and returns to staring at his menu. I don't say anything, because I honestly don't care what he orders for his dinner. Do. Not. Care. At all. I am surprised the Toad hasn't noticed the hostility that must be radiating from my body. I dislike him so intensely it has to be almost tangible. And I have a headache still. I hate being hung over. It always lasts so much longer than it really ought to.

"What can I get you two gentlemen tonight?" The waitress asks, taking out her notepad and a pen.

"I will have the rosemary chicken with a baked potato." The Toad says, the waitress nods and writes that down. Then she turns to me.

"Fish and chips, thanks." I say, and give her my best grin. I have a rather terrible habit of flirting with waitresses. And this one has flaming red hair. I love red hair. She smiles a little back at me and writes down my order. Every single time Bones and I and whoever else go to Milo's we end up with this grouchy old dude named Charles, and I can't flirt with grouchy old dudes named Charles. There is this extremely cute college girl who has the blackest hair I've ever seen, and a shiny silver nose ring. Very intelligent looking and cute. Her hair is definitely dyed, because she's paler than Dink, and he's blonde and fair skinned.

The redheaded waitress takes our menus, and is back half a minute later to refill our water glasses. The Toad kind of just sits there and looks at me for what seems like way too long but probably really is not that long at all.

"So, Leon. Your mom said you got into some trouble last month?" The Toad says, somewhat vaguely, because I get into a lot of trouble. Trouble finds me and follows me around. Actually, Bones finds me and follows me around and he is pretty much the personification of mischief.

"What sort of trouble?" I ask, and examine my fingernails. Last month I snuck out to go places probably five or six times, got caught behind the school smoking cigarettes with Bones (this was at lunch, so we weren't even skipping class), Dink and I got super drunk at my house and he threw a shoe at my head and dented the wall. I took the blame for the wall denting, because otherwise I would have to explain everything that happened, and that we were drunk, so I just said I was throwing things around with Dink and I hit the wall. Mom has Dink up on some sort of pedestal, so she would never think he dented her wall. I'm sure there are other things I got in trouble for, but right now that is all I can recall off the top of my head. I might think of some things later, though.

"You were smoking behind the school?" The Toad says, but he says it like it's a question. I think briefly of just saying 'no' and maybe getting him to drop the subject. Male bonding time, sure, mom. You just wanted to get the Toad on my case, too.

I sigh. "Yeah."

"With some kid named Bones."

"Yeah." I say again, because of course Bones was out there with me. Mom clearly

"This Bones kid sounds like bad news." The Toad says, and takes a gulp of his water. Bones is always the bad influence, never any of my other friends. Probably because Bones has no filter, unlike Dink who can be a perfect polite little angel. Jamie and Lance both just get really quiet and say please and thank you too much. Bones in a room with parents, policemen, teachers, whoever, any kind of authority brings out his bad side. Angry, insulting, ticking people off just because he can, sulking, Bones will do it all.

"He's my best friend." I say, and pick at a cuticle. The Toad opens his mouth, closes it, and opens it again. He looks somewhat like a fish.

"Maybe he was once. But if he's pressuring you to do things maybe he isn't really your friend." The Toad sounds like he is reading from a script my health teacher wrote for him.

I laugh at him. He looks sort of put out at my laughter. "Look, dude. Bones has been my best friend since third grade, and I am not just going to drop him."

"And, I actually wanted to go smoke out behind the school, thanks." I add, as an after thought. It isn't like I can get into more trouble for something I did three weeks ago.

"Oh." The Toad says, just as the waitress brings us our food. Yes. French fries and fried fish. The Toad ignores her and takes out his knife and fork.

"Thank you." I tell her, and she smiles. And apparently I am the bad kid here. The Toad isn't even polite to the foodservice worker bees. They can piss in your food! Even if the waitresses aren't cute or they're waiters, I try to be polite. Bones shares this viewpoint. He's probably the politest punk kid ever. At least when he's in a restaurant. Even at McDonald's he calls the guys sir and the ladies ma' am.

We eat in silence. I drown my fish in tartar sauce. It is a delicious fish. Caruso's is no less awful to me, and neither is The Toad, but at least Caruso's makes good fish and The Toad is paying for my good fish. It is an okay deal, I guess. Although I would still rather be at home watching movies in my bed. Then I would not be wearing a tie, or pants, or be sitting here with the despicable Toad. This chair is actually really uncomfortable, too.

I stand up from the table.

"Where are you going?" The Toad asks, looking up from his chicken with herbs or whatever it is.

"Bathroom." I say, and then I walk out towards the entryway, where I remember seeing the bathrooms. Sure enough, there they are. I go into the men's room, obviously. I don't really have to piss or anything, I just wanted to get away from The Toad. I go into one of the stalls and sit on the toilet. I text Bones: stuck at carusos with the toad, but he doesn't text back.

I just sort of sit there in the stall with my elbows on my knees, but then I was like, screw this, why am I even here, and I made my escape.

That is what I wish I had done, at least. What I really did was wash my hands unnecessarily and return to the table with the Toad. He is sitting there, picking at the remains of his chicken. I sit down and finish eating the very last of my fries, meaning the ones that are gross and super mushy or the ones that are gross and burnt to a crisp. Nasty. But they are okay since I drowned them in ketchup.

"Leon, your mom said something about you and marijuana." The Toad says, and then he looks around the restaurant like someone might be listening in and hear him say 'marijuana'. Here we go.

"Okay…?" I say, and let the word dangle at the end. He can fill me in on whatever he wants to say. And my mother sure talks about me and my habits a lot. To the Toad, of all people. But Mr. Toad is her boyfriend. Or whatever you call a grown women's special friend. A date? A beau? I don't know.

The Toad actually sort of blushes. It does not really show up against his stupid slightly orange spray tan, but I get the feeling. "Well, um, it can, like, damage your relationships and stuff." The Toad has never sounded so awkward. He is always so 'smooth' and 'put together'. Whatever that means.

I laugh. Seriously, I laughed at him. He frowns and gives me a look, but the waitress comes and gives him the bill, and takes our dishes, and he doesn't say anything more about it to me. Thankfully. I do not need another 'Say NO! to Drugs' lecture from a supposedly well meaning adult.

We go out to the Hummer (read: the earth destroying, gas guzzling monster of a vehicle. And I'm not even really a tree hugger!). I get in the passenger side and the Toad gets in the driver side, because even though I have my license and am a perfectly good driver, there is no way the Toad will let anyone drive his vehicle. I am a proficient driver. Much better than Bones, who drives like a drunk blind guy on crack. Seriously, I have had several near crashes while ensconced in his mother's car. He never, ever gets to drive unless he can find the keys, because Bones is almost constantly grounded. He ignores the whole being grounded thing, but when his mother refuses to give him the car keys, there really isn't much he can do.

The Toad drives me home in silence, with the radio tuned to that crappy soft rock station we listened to on the way here. Bones doesn't text me back, but I do get a confused text from Jamie, asking if I have talked to Joey today. I text him back no I havent seen him since the party why

Jamie texts back almost immediately. That is definitely one of Jamie's good qualities, texting back quickly. Not that he does not have tons of other better qualities, but I figure I would point that one out. I calld him to c if he wantd to c a movie but he didnt pick up got his voicemail

Joey always picks up his phone when he gets called. I can't ever remember getting his voicemail. I don't even know what his voicemail sounds like.

I shoot Jamie a text back saying thats weird you call his house?

nah man but I will Jamie sends back, and I don't text anything in response. The Toad pulls up to my house, and I get out. He insists on coming inside with me, because he wants to talk to my mother.

"Did you guys have a good time?" She asks, as soon as we get in the door. I pry off my shoes and toss them in the corner.

"Yes, we had a nice dinner." His Toadliest said, and I made a noncommittal sort of grunt. Mom smiles like I just gushed over the Toad and dinner and how we are the best of pals now.

"Uh, thanks for dinner." I mumble, and go straight downstairs. Movies first, then sleep. I've been sleeping a lot better lately. Maybe it is the weird hours I have been going to sleep. Like yesterday I didn't go to sleep until the morning, like one or two or something, and I got a nice ten or eleven hours of sleep. Well. I had had a lot to drink. And there was weed involved, which always mellows me out and makes me want to go right to sleep after a while.

I turn on my TV and flip through channels until I find Rocky I. I love Rocky. He talks to a turtle and runs around punching the air in New Haven, and I like him. He's just such a loveable character.

I watch all of Rocky's exploits, and then I go to sleep.

I sleep until noon, then spend another hour and a half lying in bed because I am way too lazy to get up. This bed is just so damn comfortable. I finally get up because I really have to take a piss. So I do that, and then I go upstairs and raid the fridge. My mother isn't home, there's a note on the counter that says she has gone out to pick up some groceries and do errands or something. I make waffles and drench them in syrup and ReddiWhip. Yum. I eat my waffles at the table, reading the miscellaneous bits of paper strewn about. Mostly ads for things I don't need or want. I read part of one of my mom's Women's Health magazines, but get tired of that after one paragraph.

I finish my waffles and then decide that there is nothing worth doing today. I go back downstairs, and I check my phone to find seven missed calls. I guess somebody has something they really want to tell me. Two missed calls from Jamie, one from Dink, and four from Bones. No voicemails from any of them, which is weird, because Bones has a thing for leaving extremely long rambling voicemails.

I call Bones first, since he has called the most, and seems most desperate to get a hold of me. He picks up on the first ring.

"L-Leon," He takes a deep shuddering breath, and I realize with a start that Bones is crying. I cannot recall Bones crying in all the time I have known him. Not when he fell off the jungle gym in fifth grade and busted his arm. Not when he wiped out so bad freshman year on that hill and he had road rash everywhere and giant bruises and a broken wrist. Never. And he is crying now.

"What's going on?" I ask, because Bones crying is really wigging me out. I don't know how to even comprehend this.

"Leon. Joey's dead." He says, and starts bawling. I just sort of freeze up, sitting on my bed, phone to my ear.

"What?" I make my mouth form the word, but it feels like the word has come from someone else, and I am far, far away, maybe underwater.

"Joey's dead. He's fucking dead." Bones repeats and it feels like there is a huge disconnect between Bones and I right now. I sit there. I don't move. Joey can't be dead. Joey was the smart one, the good one, the quiet one. The one who didn't drink or smoke or make bad decisions. The one who skipped parties to study. The one with the penchant for vintage t-shirts and 60s music.

People don't just die. They don't just disappear from life.

"Joey isn't dead. I talked to him yesterday." I say. There is no way Joey can be dead. We were just talking about how fragile things are.

How nothing ever lasts.

"He can't be dead."

"Leon. He is." Bones says, and takes another huge breath, one that hitches in his throat. I hear Nelson in the background, murmuring something.

"He can't just be dead. That doesn't just happen." I say.

I can hear Bones crying on the other side of the line again, but he can't seem to find any words. I can't find any words. It is as if my entire vocabulary had fled. I can't seem to make my mouth work properly. I just sit there and hold the phone to my head, listening to Bones' misery and feeling my own.

I don't cry, and this feels somehow inhuman to me. People cry when friends die. Why am I not crying?

"I'm gonna go, Leon." Bones chokes out.

"Okay." I say, still just sitting there on my bed. He hangs up. I take my phone away from my ear and stare at it. I press the red button to end my side of the call and set the phone beside me on the bed.

Joey Welk cannot just be dead.

He can't be dead

He can't.

He is.

I let out a long, long, slow breath.

Joey will never, ever, ever do that again.

That thought hurts. My stomach hurts. My chest feels too small for my lungs. I don't know what to do with myself now. I can't go back to sleep now, and watching TV seems too cheap, and music feels too sharp and lively.

I pick up my phone mechanically and put it in my pocket. Then I go upstairs and put on my sneakers, and then I walk out of the house. I don't bother with my board. I just walk.

I end up in front of Bones' house, my feet having carried me on the familiar route to his house seemingly of their own accord. I stand at the end of the sidewalk to his house, and stare at the house for a good five minutes. I just stand there and look.

Then I walk slowly up the path and into his house. I leave my shoes by the door. Bones has actually cleaned up after the party. The house is back to its usual state of semi-clean.

I go upstairs, where I find Bones in his room, and Nelson isn't there. His shoes are here though, so he must be in the bathroom. Bones is lying face down in the bed.

"Hey." I say, but I can't muster up anything louder than a whisper. Bones sniffles into his pillow and turns onto to his side to face me.

His face is blotchy and red and his eyes are bloodshot. He looks on the outside the way I feel on the inside. He doesn't say anything to me. What is there to say? I walk over and sit on the edge of the bed. Nelson emerges from the bathroom and says a quiet hi to me before getting back into bed with Bones and allowing Bones to cling to him as though Nelson is an oversized teddy bear.

"Jamie and Lance are coming over." Nelson says. "Dink would come but he isn't driving because he has been drinking since ten when he heard the news." Bones closes his eyes and buries his face in Nelson's shoulder.

"Ann is in Seattle with her boyfriend." Nelson adds. I assume Bones called all of them and they said they would come over, because as far as I know Nelson doesn't really know Ann or Dink. I think he knows Jamie and Lance vaguely, though.

"Okay." Is really all I can manage. Bones says nothing, only burrows deeper into the blankets. He eventually just yanks the comforter over his head, releasing Nelson, who rolls out of bed and onto his feet.

I hear a car pull up outside. A little bit later, Jamie and Lance come into Bones' bedroom. Lance's eyes are red, and Jamie looks stoned. But I think Lance's eyes are red from crying, not smoking. Jamie sits down in one of Bones' beanbags and just stares into space. None of us have any idea of what to say. So nothing gets said. But there's something comforting about being in a room with almost all of your closest friends, even if nothing is said and there is only the silence.

Bones is still sniffling in the bed. He also still has the comforter over his head. Nelson has retreated to Bones' desk chair. He looks uncomfortable.

Finally, Nelson stands up, crosses the room to the bed, crawls under the comforter and hugs Bones. Then he emerges from the blankets.

"I'm going to go." He says, and then he puts on his shoes and he goes.

Jamie breaks the silence. "Do you remember that time Joey made us all watch Yellow Submarine and he loved that movie so much, and Lance hated it and I was stoned and loved it, and—"

"And I fell asleep halfway through it because I was so tired from the party the night before." I add.

Bones slowly pulls the blanket off his head. "And I thought it was awful because something about the animation sort of freaked me out."

"Do you guys remember when he brought that Walkman to school to make us listen to that bootleg tape of Shadows of Knight?" Lance asks. "And it was fuzzy and stuff, but he was so excited I ended up listening to the entire thing."

Bones starts to cry again. "I did too."

"Me too." I add.

"So did I." Jamie says. "Joey was just so damn sincere."

"He was the nicest kid ever." Lance says. He looks like he's going to cry, too, but he doesn't, just bites his lip and stares down at his feet. We all just sort of sit there and stare around the room.

"The wake is going to be on Tuesday." Jamie mumbles. I don't think anyone really knows what to say to that.

I'm still kind of in shock that I won't see Joey's goofy grin and his slicked back hair tomorrow at school. That he's just gone.

I put my head in my hands, elbows on my knees. I just sit there, still. No one talks. Lance is sitting cross legged on the floor, his eyes closed. Jamie is still sitting in the beanbag, staring off into space. Bones sits in his bed, blanket clutched to his chest, a haunted look in his eyes. I just sit in this chair. I close my eyes.

I can see Joey, sitting on the deck talking with me yesterday. I see him lying dead in the street. I see him talking to me and Bones while Bones smokes, even though Joey hates the smell of smoke and the danger of it. I see him in a hospital, doctors and nurses all around and the beeping goes flat. I see him when he took him to that concert in Seattle, of his favorite indie 60s throwback band. I see him floating in the river, face down. I see him saying how much he loves Iggy Pop, even if Iggy Pop isn't a 60s musician. I see him crumpled in a car on the side of a highway. I see him in that Mickey Mouse shirt and the jeans that rode right below his belly button and the once white sneakers with the grass stains and those goofball headphones he had.

Eventually, Lance and Jamie go home, and then it is just Bones and I. Bones has long since retreated under the blanket. He gets up, trailing the blanket from one hand, goes to the stereo, and puts the Beatles on. Then he returns to the bed and gets in. He leaves his face out of the blanket this time.

The Beatles make my chest hurt.

"I'm going home, Bones." I tell him and then I stand up. He gets out of bed and gives me a hug.

"Bye." I say, and then I walk out of the bedroom, down the stairs, and out of his front door. I walk home slowly. I keep thinking I see Joey running up behind me, or riding his bike out of the corner of my eye. Right on the edge of my vision, as though if I turned around quick enough, he would be there, telling me about some band he loves.

I think I'm going crazy.

I walk home and feel like Joey is going to walk into my house at any moment. So I go downstairs (mom is not home yet, thankfully) and sit on the edge of my bed. I stare at the floor.

I feel like I am watching a movie of someone's life, not living my own. Everything seems so far away. I feel like I'm no longer in this house in this town, but I am somewhere else.

I end up lying down on the bed and just staring at the ceiling. I don't know how to react to this. I pick up my phone. I have to tell someone. I end up calling the first number I register seeing.

"Joey's dead." I say, as soon as whoever it is picks up.

"Leon?" I called a girl. I don't know which girl. I don't really recognize the voice.

"It was nice talking with you." And then I hang up. I don't know why I called. I look at the phone. Oh. I called Lillian.

I'd feel bad for springing that on her if I could feel any worse than I already do. I feel like all the air has gone out of my lungs and I can't get a breath in. My throat hurts when I try to swallow.

I crawl under the blankets on my bed, and pull them over my head. Bones must have been on to something with this, because it feels safe and dark under here. My face itches, and I reach up to scratch my cheek and realize that I'm crying. I bury my face in my pillow and yell until my throat hurts and I can't yell any longer.

I can't even bring myself to turn on any music.