by M. Sullivan
On the first really nice day of spring, Tommy and Bruce hopped on their skateboards as soon as they got home from school. Just a few weeks ago there were piles of dirty snow thawing in the mall parking lot. Now, daffodils were at their peak, like little smiling suns standing at attention. The boys didn’t notice the flowers. They just knew it was time to put on their shorts, skate down to the mall, and hang out.
They tore down Tommy’s back alley, working their boards back and forth like slalom skiers. At the bottom of the hill was a broken patch of pavement. The last second before hitting it, they jumped from their boards and crashed into each other laughing like first-graders.
“Dude, that was messed up,” Tommy said, as he picked up his board and looked it over. He was the same age as Bruce, but he looked older− tall and with a gut spilling over last summer’s shorts. They usually ran with his ideas.
“Chocolate chip, my favorite,” said Tommy, as he got a closer look.
“Hey, Bruce, let’s build a ramp behind the Acme like last year,” Tommy said. “Maybe that plywood is still there, and we can use it to catch some air.”
They skated across a busy street and turned into a corner strip mall with an Acme market, a bank, a pet store and a hair salon. The traffic was heavy, and they swerved through it unconcerned.
“Yo, look at what I see,” Tommy said excitedly, as they skated to a stop near the dumpsters and a parked trailer. Some sea gulls flew away as they approached. Trash and food that had missed the dumpsters littered the ground and smelled, cooked in the warm afternoon sun.
“Holy crap,” Bruce replied, staring at a pallet of Breyers Ice Cream, hidden behind the dumpsters. It was stacked chest high and was bundled in plastic shrink wrap.
“I wonder what it’s doing here,” Bruce asked, looking around to see if anyone could spot them.
“It’s melting, dumbass,” Tommy said, laughing at his own joke, pointing to a white puddle forming at one corner of the pallet.
“What the hell, Tommy!,” Bruce cried, as he saw Tommy ripping the plastic wrap away to get at a box.
Bruce looked around again to make sure no one could see them. They could now hear two smokers out on a break near the loading dock, but the boys were behind the dumpsters, out of sight.
Tommy tore the top off a freed box and started licking the soft ice cream like a dog would.
“Man it’s good, Bruce. Try some!” Tommy said, his nose dripping white.
“I don’t know, Tommy,” Bruce said suspiciously.
“This is too good to go to waste. Let’s take it,” Tommy said flatly.
“Ok, then find a bag and let’s get out of here,” Bruce said.
“I mean all of it,” Tommy said.
“What the hell are you talking about, “ Bruce asked. “That must weight 200 pounds.”
“I could make some money from that,” Tommy continued. “The Korean store might buy it. Or maybe I could sell it on Craigslist.”
“You’re out of your mind,” Bruce said. “Bad idea”.
“Who the hell are you, squirt? I was thinking your brother could help us with his car. That kinda thing used to be right up his alley. Isn’t he working in the Acme today? He could make a few bucks.”
“Jim won’t do it,” Bruce said.
“What’s his cell number?” Tommy said. “It don’t hurt to ask.”
“You’re an ass wipe,” Bruce said.
“You’re a wuss,” Tommy said, and then he lunged at Bruce with his skateboard held up like a club, laughing.
Bruce skated away without looking back. He’d learned that it was better not to say anything back to Tommy when he got like that. In the past they’d always meet up later for video games like nothing had happened. This time it was different. Jim was involved.
Bruce skated to the front of the Acme, put his board across his shoulder and walked in the store. He wanted to run into his older brother Jim, but didn’t want to go asking for him. If he didn’t see him, he’d buy a Coke and leave. Old folks glared at him as he strode past them in the narrow isles, his board balanced menacingly on the top of his heavy metal tee shirt, his long hair swinging.
“Hey sport!,” Jim snuck up behind him and shouted, putting him in a friendly, big-brother headlock. “How the hell are ya doing?”
Bruce was always embarrassed by his big brother’s shows of affection, even if they did involve head locks and other moves he learned on the wrestling team.
“Yo, Jim,” Bruce said after being released. “Watchya up to?”
“About six three,” he joked. Then he said, “I’m off work in 10 minutes. You want a ride home?”
Bruce talked with his brother while Jim emptied trash bins around the store into a rolling dumpster in the stock room. Jim was home after two years away in college, and they discussed his upcoming induction in the Navy for officer training. They were excited. And Bruce was happy to see his brother doing something big. He felt a hard part inside of him soften as they talked about all the places Jim would see.
“Maybe I’ll join up after high school, and we can serve on a ship together,” Bruce said, smiling.
“Let’s empty this outside, and then we’re outta here,” Jim said, as he wheeled the dumpster of trash out a back door, and across the lot towards the big metal dumpsters with the ice cream behind it.
Jim stopped at the dumpster and said, “Check this out.”
Bruce held his breath as he followed Jim behind the dumpster.
“Yea, it would serve him right,” Bruce agreed.
“Corporate called in an alert for all stores to toss out this new batch of Breyers Ice Cream. They said there’s a high probability of contamination. It broke my heart, but bad is bad,” Jim said, looking around. “It looks like some punk found it and helped himself to a few. I hope he gets sick. It would serve him right”.
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