First Place: "Drone" 

Page 2 of 4

"You know if she's going?" Will asked. Todd shrugged and he let his long hair out of its slithery ponytail. It fell and draped over his shoulders. Will gritted his teeth. "Todd, man, help me out—"

"She might be, but c'mon, friend," Todd said, grinning. "She don't want anything to do with your ass. I'm telling you this so you can sleep tonight: Drop her. Cross her out of your mind, just X her out. She told me you're dead to her."

Will sat numbed, gut bottomed out. He lost track of his extremities and seemed to float over the booth, watching his brother pick his nose and Todd twirl his greasy hair. Todd changed the subject and started talking about his promotion ("You got to be on your toes, man. Burgers need buns — it's like ying and yang"). Leo fidgeted. Will had forgotten Todd was only tolerable while blisteringly drunk. He handed Leo two bucks for a burger and mumbled a see you later in Todd's direction.

Leo ate his hamburger in the car. He'd never been to this part of town, with all the smokestacks and wide empty roads. They drove up to a large apartment building, and Will got out, telling Leo to be good and that he'd be back. Leo counted all the doors to all the apartments.

"Thirty-two doors," he said when Will came back.

"Cool, buddy." He'd awakened Charlene's roommate, who did nails at the mall. She told him the party would start around 11, in the Elk's only room with a hot tub. She'd answered the door in tights and a baggy T-shirt. He turned to leave, and she told him not to go, to just stay home.

"Thirty-two doors," Leo repeated. "I'm thirsty."

"Well, let's get you something to drink." Will lit a cigarette and thought about his next move.

"Come on, Mom." Will daubed cologne on his wrists and checked his teeth in the bathroom mirror. He'd put his mother on speakerphone and her voice bounced around his tiny bathroom. Leo snored from the next room, deep in his afternoon nap.

"I know it's last minute, honey," she said. "The church bus leaves at 6, and Dr. Carlisle thinks it would be good for me to get out. Ever since your father—"

"Alright, alright," he said. "No need to bring out the big guns." She rattled off emergency phone numbers for all of Leo's doctors.

She said, "We're going to SeaWorld to see Shamu."

"Ma, I think Shamu's dead."

She paused. "You've always been so negative, William." After saying goodbye, he turned off the phone and the only noise left was of his brother's sleepy breathing.

"I got a job for you, big bro." Leo's eyes widened. His face broke out in a hopeful smile. They sat in the Elk's parking lot in the idling hatchback. It was dark, and the place was empty of people. "We're going to spend the night here," Will said. "We're going to get a room and camp out. I need to know if you can see through things like you say you can." Will handed his brother a sack of candy bars. Leo laughed and hugged the bag to his chest. While his brother checked in, Leo picked out which one he'd eat first.

Room 15 had the hot tub, according to Charlene's roommate. Will asked for Room 14 and the motel clerk shrugged and charged his credit card 40 bucks. Room 14 smelled stale and bleachy; a bed with a questionable blanket sat in the corner. A threadbare pullout sofa and lamp took up the opposite wall. Will took his tallboy from the paper bag and sat on the bed.

"Anything yet?" Will asked.

"Nobody yet," Leo said. Leo ate half a candy bar in one bite. Smacking his lips, he fumbled to take off his sweater. Will smelled peanut butter and took a long drink from his beer.

"You remember what she looks like, don't you."

"Charlene's pretty," Leo said.

"Sure is."

"Tall." Will agreed. Leo said, "I remember that you like her and she's nice when I order a hamburger."

The room didn't have a television. Will stared at the walls, hoping the beer would make him drunk soon. The sofa stank like old cigarette smoke and he had the realization that he was breathing in air full of shitty particles of pathetic old men long past, the kind of men who'd slept in motels off the highway since forever. He drained the tallboy and reached for another. An hour went by and the only noises were from occasional passing cars. Beer sloshed in his stomach, and he belched.

"C'mon, champ," he said, resting his hand on Leo's shoulder. "Change of plans."

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