46 comments

American Drama Friendship

Dusk comes early to the blue-black Virginian woods in November. 

I know these paths well, but I still stumble on scraggly branches and twigs which poke angrily through a pristine icy blanket of snow. It crunches under our heavy boots as we make our way to the old oak. It seems the perfect time of night for a visit to our childhood haunt.

I stagger a bit, wondering how many beers we’ve had.

“Careful, Thomas,” Peter calls out. “You can’t go back to college with a broken ankle.”

His younger brother Andrew predictably laughs, carrying the nearly depleted case of Pabst Blue Ribbon. 

Tired of the post-Thanksgiving questioning by the adults (“What are you majoring in?”) and the annoyance of younger children (“Can I see your new tattoo?”), we three grab what we can to drink from the cold garage. If it were warmer, we'd just hang out there, the place where our fathers keep their beer and our mothers hide their wine. But we've been housebound all day, eating and playing cards.

There is just so much football we can watch and pie we can shove into our gobs. The adults seem happy to surfeit themselves on both.  

The brothers and I give each other a sidelong glance. We gotta get outta here.

It’s been a while since we’ve lumbered through the woods together, looking for a quiet place to smoke weed and riddle out the mysteries of the universe. 

It was simpler when we were kids. We’d steal a box of Jell-O Strawberry Instant Gelatin or dozens of little white sugar packets from their dad’s restaurant. I’d be chasing our childhood Jell-O high the rest of my life. 

“That’s our tree, right?” I say. The night air is cold and dry and crisp; my breath comes out in small white puffs. “Oh my god, this is it!” I squint in the dark. It is hard to see without my glasses, but I stride over to an old oak tree, climbing the lower branches. 

Andrew puts the remaining beer down; both brothers scramble onto the limbs. Andrew, eager to show off, ascends to higher and higher branches. 

“You aren’t thirteen anymore, Andrew—” I yell. Peter snickers, jumps down, walks over to pop open another beer. I join him. Let Andrew continue to prove himself. 

Peter and I sit in companionable silence for a while, listening to Andrew drunkenly talk to what he thinks is an owl. It's just a gnarled knot in the old oak, but Peter is not dissuaded.

“He’s an idiot,” Peter says. 

“A useful one,” I reply. 

“So college is good?” he asks, a little more guarded than he usually is around me. We've been friends for so long. I don’t know how to respond to him. The six months that have passed since high school graduation seem like decades to me. To him and his brother, not so much. Every stultifying day must be the same for them, working in their father's restaurant. 

“Yeah,” I say. “College is good.” I don’t want to tell him how much smaller this town feels or how much more claustrophobic my parent’s house seems. 

The quietude hangs between us.

Andrew is still high above, singing a jingle from our childhood, suggestively swaying his hips. “It’s Baby Bottle Pop! It’s a Baby Bottle Pop! Just lick the pop, dip it and shake it and lick it again!”

“You. Are. Disgusting!” his brother yells. Andrew responds by dropping his pants and peeing in a perfect arc, graciously avoiding either one of us. 

“If he gets down that tree without killing himself, it’ll be a holiday miracle,” I remark. 

“Whoo! That feels so good!” Andrew screams, zipping up his pants. 

We mutually decide to ignore him. Since childhood, his endless need for attention is cloying.

“Thomas . . .” Peter says pointedly, motioning to a mound nearby. “I think that’s where I buried that dog you hit.”

I look at him, almost angrily. 

“You remember—last July? I was out here digging in the middle of the night.”

I clench my teeth. Peter promised me he’d never bring that up. 

He walks over to the mound while my stomach gurgles and turns queasy. Too much rich food. I am used to just grabbing pizza or a ham sandwich between classes.

“Yeah, Peter. That was a rough night.” I attempt to placate him. This isn’t a conversation I want to have. 

“Dude, you woke me up at like two in the morning . . . My parents were pissed.”

“It’s Baby Bottle Pop! It’s a Baby Bottle Pop! Just lick the pop, dip it and shake it and lick it again!”

“Shut up, Andrew!” we both yell. Andrew laughs at both of us, high overhead. He throws a beer can at us, nearly missing his brother.

“If I didn’t adequately thank you for that night,” I say diplomatically, “then I apologize. You really helped me out.”

“C’mon, Thomas. The end of high school was a weird time. Everybody was making plans—or not making plans.” He looks at his feet. “You’d just dumped Jenny McKinney for getting fat,” he slyly remarks, punching my shoulder.

“Peter," I say. "C'mon, stop.”

“Most girls get a glow up after high school. After prom, that girl just got hella fat. Nobody blamed you, especially with you heading off to college and shit.” Peter walked over to the mound and began kicking the frozen ground.

“Peter,” I warn. My hands involuntarily clench into tight fists.

“That was weird you showing up in the middle of the night. That dead dog wrapped in paper bags. It seemed little for a dog. What did you hit—like a chihuahua? It could have been a squirrel or some rodent. Didn’t feel like much,” he says, draining his beer and pitching the can into the bushes.

"No," I reply.

He kicks the mound with his boot. “We should dig it up, right? It would be cool to have a little dog skull . . .”

“Peter!” I scream, eyes tearing up in the brisk night air. “Stop kicking the mound!"

“Why not—what the hell?”

“Jenny McKinney,” I whisper. “She didn’t get fat.”


April 18, 2021 16:40

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46 comments

K. Antonio
19:38 Apr 18, 2021

Loved the twist. I swear this brought me back childhood memories. My friends and I were no where near as crazy as Andrew, but I can say I knew a couple guys like him (annoying as hell). The baby bottle pop lyrics were great, unexpected and witty. I really loved the dialogue between all the characters, felt fresh and relatable at the same time!

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Deidra Lovegren
19:56 Apr 18, 2021

I personally think 18-19 year old males are the most dangerous people on the planet... Especially the "Andrews" -- oy vey.

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K. Antonio
20:05 Apr 18, 2021

Being a teacher, when ever I get a student with a certain name, or a very familiar last name, I face palm myself internally.

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Deidra Lovegren
20:13 Apr 18, 2021

"Colleen" is almost an immediate parent-teacher conference.

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K. Antonio
20:20 Apr 18, 2021

I'm exceptionally hard on any child named "Bruno". I look at the attendance sheet and my almost immediate reaction is to write them up 😂.

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Deidra Lovegren
20:23 Apr 18, 2021

Other troublemakers: Riley Colin Frank (...oddly, all Irish.)

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Aym Less
17:19 Apr 18, 2021

This took me a second read to get but I was not expecting that twist at all! You captured the atmosphere perfectly :)

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Deidra Lovegren
17:22 Apr 18, 2021

My students are reading Neal Shusterman's "Unwind" -- so this topic has been on my mind. It's been a perennial concern for the human condition. One with no easy answers...

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Aym Less
17:51 Apr 18, 2021

Definitely. I remember reading "Unwind" in class as well- it was a good book.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:10 Apr 18, 2021

Yep. My students seem to love it. Lots of conversations about some pretty challenging aspects on the human condition...

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Erick Carmona
01:29 Apr 25, 2021

Woaaah this was a ride! I'm such a sucker for stories where someone comes back to their hometown and everything is just so different, and skewed. It's so uncomfortable how much people can change, and you wonder if you ever knew anyone at all, even yourself. I didn't expect the twist at ALL! Your writing style is so engaging, I just wanted to keep learning more. Need a whole book from you! Need it yesterday lol.

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Deidra Lovegren
01:38 Apr 25, 2021

High praise, indeed! I’m working on the books... Great insight into how perception is reality and how off that can be. That’s truly the horror in this tale. Or PBR — a truly awful 🍺 beer haha

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Jennica Ley
19:30 Apr 21, 2021

"A Fellow of Infinite Jest" "Your Poor Rick" "The Play's the Thing"? I'm sensing a pattern here. I know a good Hamlet Allusion when I see one, Missy, and if I had to guess I'd say you're a Hamlet fan! This story was phenomenal... and creepy. Very well done. I actually read it because I thought the title was a Hamlet reference. I love Hamlet!!!!!!

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Deidra Lovegren
19:39 Apr 21, 2021

Title is a Hamlet reference—when Hamlet holds Yorick’s skull. He had loved the man, coping with the reality of death. Some things can’t stay buried... There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Yep. Hamlet forever.

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Jennica Ley
14:08 Apr 22, 2021

I KNEW IT!!!!!!!!!!!! (:

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Deidra Lovegren
16:34 Apr 22, 2021

You smart :)

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Mary Rothery
07:44 Apr 20, 2021

Wow I love the brilliant bang of your twist!

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Deidra Lovegren
11:00 Apr 20, 2021

Hopefully it wasn't too unexpected. That's the tricky part... :)

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Mary Rothery
11:12 Apr 20, 2021

Oh no, you did it perfectly I thought. I just began to feel it coming just before it did, but it still hurt! brilliant!

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Deidra Lovegren
12:52 Apr 20, 2021

That's actually the best comment ever. I was told that endings should be "surprising but expected." Voila :)

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Aisa M
07:12 Apr 19, 2021

Didn't expect that twist. I was kinda expecting that Andrew's gonna fall down and crack his skull, a crazy guy!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:28 Apr 20, 2021

It would be a merciful death. Andrew's life is most certainly going to go awry.

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Phoenix Langston
20:47 Apr 18, 2021

You created a really good trio of characters here. Particularly Andrew -- that dude is WILD. How did you even come up with the song he was singing? Not to mention peeing from the tree. His antics really cracked me up! At the end, when Peter was kicking the mound of dirt, did they discover something that wasn't a dog? That is what happened, right? I got a little confused there, but I think that's just me. Sorry about that. This is really well-written, though! The only mistake I found is that towards the end, it says "He kicked the mound with ...

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Deidra Lovegren
20:59 Apr 18, 2021

Baby Bottle Pops was an actual (gross) candy in the 1990's and that was the official jingle. (I know. It's awful.) Andrew is the typical little brother always trying to fit in with the older kids in the neighborhood, mainly by being obnoxious. That wasn't a dog that Thomas brought Peter to bury...he couldn't really go off to college with a pregnant ex-girlfriend, who obviously didn't want the baby either. Whether it was a miscarriage, an accidental death, an unintended *surprise* pregnancy that went awry, or something darker -- I'll leave t...

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Phoenix Langston
21:24 Apr 18, 2021

Seriously? That was an actual slogan? Oh, jeez. . . I hope Andrew can learn to be himself one day. I'm sure that in actuality, he's not like that at all. Ohhh, okay, I understand what happened now. Dang, now I've got the shivers, and I'm pretty sure it's not from the cold of the forest! You're welcome. Present tense is great to write in, but it can be one difficult vixen! I'm right there with you, don't worry.

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Jennica Ley
19:32 Apr 21, 2021

Lols the baby bottle pop song is actually in the old Baby Bottle Pop commercials. Seriously, look it up.

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Blue Green
18:33 Apr 23, 2021

Loved this! Great characters, and a nice creepy twist at the end! :-)

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Deidra Lovegren
20:26 Apr 23, 2021

Glad you enjoyed the creep. Mwah hah hah...

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14:13 Apr 22, 2021

great story. the twist was perfectly orchestrated, andrew's personality was *chef's kiss,* and the way you so naturally wrote in peter's jealousy was amazing. nice job. :D.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:35 Apr 22, 2021

I think we've all know an Andrew or two. High school is comprised of 73% Andrews.

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16:42 Apr 22, 2021

amen.

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13:09 Apr 21, 2021

Amazing twist. Wow. You are so good at this. The characters were really well put together. Overall amazing story! And the baby bottle pop... hahaha! Andrew is defiantly my favorite. I'm new to Reesdy (two weeks in new) so mind checking out my first story? IT's sad. But I have another one coming up soon. (I'm um kind of young so please don't judge if it's... horrible. Haha)

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Deidra Lovegren
14:23 Apr 21, 2021

Thanks for reading :) I'll head over and check yours out now!

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Ash Jarvis
17:59 Apr 20, 2021

You did an absolutely wonderful job building the tension in this story! I felt like you did just the right amount of build up to to your twist, and I particularly liked wondering whether or not his friend knew exactly what he had buried for him. Great story!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:10 Apr 20, 2021

Thanks, Ash! It's a little grisly, but so is growing up. And Andrew is my new favorite annoying character :)

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Arya ...
07:12 Apr 20, 2021

If I say I'm spooked by the ending. Just wow. Great story. The way it fits the prompt in not so obvious way. Also. Please read my last story. It's nowhere as good as yours though. Thanks. ❤

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Redd Herring
14:41 Apr 30, 2021

Great hit of reality there at the end. It took your story to another level.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:56 Apr 30, 2021

Thanks for the shout out. You have a great Author Bio. I'm sure you made your English teachers very happy :)

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06:01 Apr 30, 2021

I saw the twist coming when I read that Jenny became fat. But it was still thrilling to read

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Deidra Lovegren
11:12 Apr 30, 2021

Hooray! I was once told that endings should be both expected and surprising...seems like a high bar in these short stories, but always a fun challenge. Thanks for the kind remarks :)

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Devansh Agarwal
13:38 Apr 27, 2021

Ok. One word. Amazing. No, another word seems better suited. Out of the world. The characters felt very real and the narration, my god, it was mind blowing. I never felt as if I was reading a story. It felt like I was watching a movie. Not to mention the twist at the end. I would have never guessed this ending. When I first read it, I though it would be a cheerful tale where three brothers reminisce about their childhood tree.

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Aisha Khan
22:18 Apr 28, 2021

Hi There! I read your story and please excuse my inattention but it took me a while to understand the twist. It was a really dark end to a story that seemed initially so casual but it was still beautifully put. I actually would love to read more about these characters. Awesome work! P.S. Would it be too much if you reviewed some of my work?

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Devansh Agarwal
13:39 Apr 27, 2021

Also I was wondering if you could share your valuable insights aon my story and help me improve my game? I would really appreciate any and all tips and techniques

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Anita Neal
02:31 Apr 26, 2021

Good dialogue of boys being boys but wow, didn't see that ending coming. Good job.

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Brandon Rich
20:43 Apr 25, 2021

Excellent reveal. Way to go.

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Arwen Dove
22:12 Apr 24, 2021

Love it!

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