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Authors: Brooke Davis

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BOOK: Lost & Found
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The girl smiles at him in the rearview mirror.
Seat belt.

Karl leans back in his seat, trying to be casual. Thinking of Branson Spike.
You know
, he says,
we didn’t have seat belts when I was your age.
He clicks his seat belt into the buckle.
All this safety stuff. It’s a bit much, don’t you think?

Wow, sir
, the boy says, turning around to face Karl, looking at him with wide eyes, as if he’s stumbled upon an ancient city.
No seat belts? You must be, like. You know.

is wearing thin.
You’ve probably never driven drunk, either
, Karl adds haughtily.

No, sir
, says the boy.
Don’t drink.

He’s gonna be a brain surgeon
, the girl says.

, the boy says, shrugging sheepishly.

My baby has such a steady hand
, she says.

The boy holds his hand sideways in front of his face.
I hope so
, he says. Karl is starting to dislike him.

, Karl says, putting his arms around Manny and the
Used to drive drunk all the time. Cops expected it.
He can see Manny looking at him out of the corner of his eye, calling his bluff.

What did you do, sir?
the boy asks.

What did I do?

For, like, a living.

That past tense.
I was, uh.
He searches for something impressive.

Who’s that?
the girl says, eyeing Manny in the rearview mirror, saving Karl from disappointing them.
Is that some weird kind of, you know, sex thing?
She whispers the word
We won’t judge you
, she says.

Yeah, we won’t judge
, says the boy, wiggling his eyebrows at Karl.
Whatever you’re into.

Oh, Karl wishes it was some weird kind of, you know, sex thing.
he says before his brain catches up with his mouth.
Sex. And all that. Lots of it.

, the boy says, cocking his head to one side, looking at Manny as though he’s trying to work out the logistics.

With grown-ups
, Karl adds hastily.
Very old grown-ups.

We like it
, the girl says.
You know. IT.

What’s up with your hands?
the boy says.

What’s up with them?
Karl says.

Yeah. What’s happening there? Why you so twitchy? You on something?

Karl looks down at the seat beneath him.
On something?

It’s cool. Is that why you’re headed to Kal? Looking to score?

In what?
Karl feels very confused and takes a moment to gather himself. He cranes his neck around to look out the back window and watches the black tar of the road spear out from behind them as if a magician is pulling an endless ribbon out of a sleeve. He looks at the blender and the toaster beside him and thinks about how nice it would be to share appliances with somebody; how nice to start a whole new life with nothing but the capability to mix food and brown bread.

There was someone on that bus
, Karl says.
I need to get to them

The girl ogles him curiously in the rearview mirror.
Are you in love with this person?

Karl thinks about that.
In some way
, he says.

, she says.
Old-people love. That is so cute
. She turns to the boy.
We really need to get him to that bus. We’ll get you to that bus. You are too cute.

Karl thinks. He doesn’t know if it’s a compliment or an insult.

Are you married, sir?
the boy asks.

Yes. I mean, no. It’s complicated.

Why? Where’s your wife?

Karl looks down at his fingers.
I am here, Evie
, he types on his knees.

Port Cemetery
, he says.

, the boy says, and then, after a moment,
Meaning she’s . . .

In it, yes.

The boy turns to look at him.
I’m sorry, sir.

You have such good manners, baby
, the girl says, gazing at him, the car pulling to the left.

From the backseat, Karl points to the road.

You do
, the boy says, gazing back at her.
You have good manners, baby.

She swerves the car to the side of the road and parks it. She grabs his face with both hands, looks him desperately in the eyes, and says,
Don’t die. Don’t you ever die.

I won’t
, he says, putting his hands on her shoulders.
I promise.

Say it
, she says, squishing his face.
Say, “I’ll never die.”

I’ll never die.

He will die
, Karl wants to say, as they begin to slobber all over each other with an urgency they must have learned from the films. They’re grabbing at each other, pulling at clothes and hair and lips as if they want to turn each other’s skin inside out. They’re not going to stop anytime soon. They look set-in, the way country people talk about rain.
I guess I
, Karl says.
We’ll just. Step out for some air.
They haven’t heard him. Or, if they have, they don’t care. The boy’s taking his shirt off now. Do sixteen-year-olds normally have pectorals like that?
We’ll just be.
Karl points outside.
I’ll just let you.
He can’t take his eyes off the boy’s chest. It’s unbelievable. Like something from the telly.
Have some.
Karl touches his own chest, where his pectorals might once have been. Were they ever there?
Alone time.

Karl leans over Manny, opens the door, pushes Manny out, and falls out after him. He closes the door quietly. He doesn’t know why he does this, like they’re sleeping children, but he does it. He picks Manny up and hauls him over to a nearby tree. He leans Manny against it and stands next to him. Either side of the road is dotted with small gum trees, tufts of grass appearing sporadically out of the red dirt, like an adolescent mustache.

, Karl says, pulling at the collar of his own shirt and peering in. He can feel Manny’s eyes on him.
Don’t look at me like that
, he says, leaning against the bark of the tree.
I’m sorry about the. You know. Sex thing.
He finds himself whispering
, too.
I would never.
He shrugs.
I wouldn’t even know where to start.
He folds his arms.

Karl can hear muffled noises coming from the car, rising in pitch.
What do they know about love, Manny?
The horn starts beeping, rhythmically, startling a bunch of pink-and-gray galahs into flight.

Karl falls asleep sitting against the tree, his arms wrapped around Manny’s remaining leg. He wakes to the sound of slamming doors and giggling.

the boy calls.

Quick, Manny
, Karl says with a rush of spontaneity.
Pretend you’re dead.
He slumps to the ground. The gravel digs into the
back of his neck.
Don’t worry
, he assures Manny, tapping him on the foot.
It’ll be fun. They’ll love it.

Through his eyelashes, Karl watches them walk toward him. The boy slaps her bum, and she jumps in the air and waggles her finger at him, mock-annoyed.

the boy says, standing over him. Karl can feel him blocking out the sunlight, casting a shadow over his body.

Karl feels a poke in the shoulder.
, the boy says again.
We’re ready now.
The boy grabs his shoulders and shakes him.
You should get up now, sir.
Karl doesn’t move.

Is he?
the girl says, gasping a little.

, the boy says, and slaps Karl across the face.
You can get up now.
Karl feels the boy’s breath on his cheek.

The girl starts wailing.
You’ve killed him, you stupid bastard
, she shrieks.
I knew you’d kill somebody someday.
The boy says,
It wasn’t me
, and she says,
We shouldn’t have picked up somebody so old, I told you he was too old
, and Karl twitches a bit at this.
Shut up,
the boy says,
I’m trying to think, I can’t think with all your yakking,
and she’s hitting the boy now, flailing her arms at that chest, and the boy barely flinches—what is he, Superman?—and she says,
What are we going to do with the body?
, and the boy says,
We’ll have to bury him
, and starts pulling at Karl’s legs, and Karl is starting to feel really awkward now, so he opens his eyes and does a two-handed-wave at them, like the contestants sometimes do on
, he says, but he’s not very confident in his delivery, and the boy drops his legs and screams, and the girl
screams, too. Has anyone ever screamed at him like that? He doesn’t think so, so he smiles and pushes himself to his feet, wincing with the pain of having old bones.
Just jokes, see?
He spins around and does his best to do a little jig.

It is a tense drive from then on. Karl tries to make small talk, about family, weather, car makes. He reads out the signs they pass—
Kalgoorlie: one hundred, not far to go now. Give way. Cattle crossing ahead.
Pointing out lone birds, roadkill, changes in the scrub, trying to vary the pitch and tone of his voice to incite interest.

He tries a different approach.
Listen, how many Dead Things do you know?

Excuse me?
the girl says.

He clears his throat.
You know—has anyone in your life . . . passed away.

Why are you asking us that?
the boy says.

Are you going to kill us?

No! Of course not. It’s just a question. When you get to my age, well. All the people you love have died.

The girl pulls up at the side of the road again and gets out of the car.
I’m pissing
, she says.
When I get back, no one better be pretending they’re dead. Or I’ll kill you.
She slams the door and disappears into the scrub.

The boy turns to Karl and says,
Way to go, old man.

I wasn’t born old, you know
, Karl says.
Young man.
He leans forward.
Let’s do something
, he whispers conspiratorially.

What are you talking about?

Steal something. Put beer in our water flasks.

What’s a flask?

He thinks of
That Was Wack!
Of Branson Spike.
Knock over some letter boxes. Egg a house.

We’d just have to clean it up.

Don’t you want to flirt with danger?

Not really.

Karl thumps back in his seat.

It’s over, old man.
The boy raises both eyebrows at Karl.

What do you mean?

You know what I mean.

So Karl folds his arms. If that’s the way he wants it.

Karl looks out the back window again. The road seems different now that they’re stationary. It isn’t a magic trick anymore. It’s so bleak in its stasis. But then something moves over the horizon toward them. A bus.
A bus
, he says to Manny.
the boy says.
The bus
, Karl says as it zooms past them, shaking the car. He leans forward over the gearstick and plants his palms on the dashboard.
, the boy says. Karl sees the outline of a white piece of paper in the back window of the bus.
It’s her
, he says, turning to the boy.
It’s her. It’s definitely her. Follow that bus.

the boy says.

It’s getting away from them and Karl is desperate so he tries to climb into the front seat but the boy pushes him back and
they grunt and groan at each other, but Karl can’t win, he has no chance against that chest, those unbelievable pectorals, so he sinks back in his seat, and there’s no sound but the sound of their breathing.

Just calm down
, the boy starts to say, but Karl changes his mind, he can win, he will win, and he opens the back door and then the front door and tries to slide into the front seat but the boy pushes at him and Karl grabs at the steering wheel to lever himself but the boy tries to peel away Karl’s fingertips, and it’s unfair because he has all of his fingers and he hasn’t lost anything, the boy doesn’t know what it feels like to lose anything, to lose everything, he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know, so Karl releases his grip on the steering wheel, and this boy doesn’t know, so Karl channels it all into his hands, anything he’s ever lost, it’s all in his fingertips now, the ones he has left, and he feels it all there, pulsing down the length of his fingers,
, and he flicks him, he flicks the boy as hard as he can on the forehead.

, Superboy says, rubbing his forehead and looking accusingly at Karl.

BOOK: Lost & Found
7.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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