Underthrow, 12

“I don’t need it that bad,” Travis said. He tried to cover the lie with confidence by turning to meet Miles’s eyes with a paper towel pressed hard against his wound.

“Take my shift tomorrow night,” Miles said. Travis could smell lemonade on his teeth, which beat the skunk odor that hung on Miles’s lips and clothes during night shifts. “I want to ask Sarah out to a movie.”

Travis froze. Out in the restaurant, Sarah filled a diet soda for a middle-aged businesswoman who carried a bagged lunch. The woman came in every other Thursday, just for the soda; she knew Sarah’s mother from local PTA meetings. Sarah’s face sparkled as she talked about Johns Hopkins and practicing medicine, like her oral surgeon father.

“Come on, man,” Miles murmured into Travis’s ear, beneath Sarah’s voice. “You’re not here Fridays. I’ve thought about this for months and now the summer’s over. Be a friend.”

“Why wait until now to ask her?” Travis asked. Blotches of purple danced in front of his eyes and his stomach was upside down. He tried to focus. Miles wasn’t making sense; didn’t Miles know, anyway, about Travis’s feelings? “When have you been nervous about girls?”

Miles shrugged and kept his shoulders raised.

Just a movie date, Travis thought. He wanted to crawl into bed, feeling deathly ill, like when strep throat took two weeks of seventh-grade classes and replaced them with sweaty sheets and a boa constrictor around his neck. He could hear Sarah laughing, but he wasn’t sure if he was imagining it or if she really was laughing. Either way she was right there, ten feet away. She wasn’t Travis’s girlfriend; how could he stop Miles from asking her out, if Miles really wanted it? At least, this way, Travis could get something he wanted, too.  Seems reasonable, Travis thought, and so he resisted the urge to vomit.

“Deal,” Travis said.

Post Comment