Since he'd fallen off the roof a week ago, Leo told everyone he could see through walls; that he'd woken up with X-ray vision. Closed doors, curtains, certain foods, clothes of people on TV, he saw through it all. Very few of the people on television, he claimed, wore underpants. Will listened to his brother talk about what he could see through in the kitchen. He picked up an orange from the fruit bowl. "You want?" Will asked. Leo shook his head. Will started to peel the fruit, digging his thumbnail into the oily skin. He stopped and held it up. "Hey, Wonder Woman — how many seeds?"
"Superman," Leo said. "Not Wonder Woman." He scowled and concentrated. "Twenty-seven."
"Superman could fly," Will said. "Let's hit it." Will helped his older brother with his coat, guiding his chubby arms through the sleeves. Leo looked forward to the cold outside, how it would make his snot freeze, how it would be sharp and poke the insides of his nose. Will thought about a girl, the same girl he'd been thinking about since she dumped him.
"We go to the diner," Leo said. "Then a movie."
Will said no, that they'd go some other time. "We're going to see Todd. You remember Todd." Leo nodded. Will wrote a note to their mother and taped it to the fridge. Their father, before he died, had always said, "Leave your keys in the same place every time. That way, you never lose them." Will fished his keys out of the bowl next to the front door and thought that was the most boring advice he'd ever heard. His car, an old bruised and rusted hatchback, choked in the cold, protested, and shook to life.
Leo pointed to a house, a two-story colonial with dormers like cat ears. It was a nice neighborhood — hedges, green grass, and yard crews moving leaves back and forth. Will didn't know anybody that lived there.
"There's bees there," Leo said.
"Sure thing, buddy," Will said without looking away from the road. He turned the radio up. They listened to rock songs and commercials until they pulled into the Burger Bar parking lot.
"Todd," Leo said, pointing through the building's stucco wall.
"You want a hamburger, big man?" Will crushed his cigarette under his shoe. Halfway through the parking lot they ran into Mrs. Selby. She'd taught at the high school with their father. They'd not seen her since the funeral two years ago.
"William," she said with a curt nod. Her face softened, and she took Leo's hand. "How are you? How is your mother?" Leo told her that the weather girl on channel three wore purple underpants. Will pushed him into the restaurant, sputtering apologies, and Mrs. Selby shook her head in what Will assumed was resigned disappointment. He knew that everyone thought the family had gone to hell since Dad died.
They opened the doors and the smell of old grease hit them. Will glanced to see if Charlene was working in her purple shirt and visor with matching nails. They'd been an on-and-off thing for almost six months. Three weeks and three days ago, she'd taken stock of him, a skinny community college kid, and decided she wasn't impressed. Managers wore purple, she had reminded him. She said he'd never wear purple, not at the Burger Bar, not in life. But she wasn't there, just bored teenagers joylessly making sandwiches.
"Way to pick the afternoon 'the one that got away' is getting her pap smear," Todd said as they sat in the booth. His face was greasy, and it glistened like the skin on old pudding.
"You're the one who said she was working today." Will slid down the plastic seat in defeat and watched as Leo sat nervously and chewed his nails.
"Mistakes were made," Todd said. He cleaned a smudge from his name tag. Last week, Charlene had promoted him to head of the bun toasting station.
"I heard that there's something going down at the Elk tonight," Will said. The Elk was a rundown motel on the old highway. After the new interstate was built, the Elk slouched into a comfortable decline; the only residents were old drunks and kids looking for a place to party away from their parents and the cops. When Will was in high school, parties at the Elk were stuff of legend. He'd never been.
"You going?" Todd asked. "You think she's going?"
"I don't know. I got a night class, Intro to Econ."
"Isn't this the second time you've taken that? What a goddamned family of geniuses you all turned out to be."
"I want my hamburger," Leo said. He thought of a hamburger with onions and bees, millions of them crawling over each other — how shiny their backs must be and the loud buzzing sounds.
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Lovely read:) thank you for sharing!