Antonio, Trebor, and Brennan represented the most impulsive segment of humanity.
More specifically, teenage boys with a penchant for lighting up.
Especially Antonio and Trebor.
Both of these walking testosterone samples based their daily routine on the whims of Mary Jane.
They kissed her on the cheek in the morning.
They big her adieu before entering school.
They paid her a visit during the 1st and 2nd periods.
Then again during lunch.
She’d come by once the last bell rang.
She’d hang out once they arrived home.
She'd greet them after dinner and even help them with their homework (sometimes).
At the end of the day, she’d kiss ‘em goodnight.
These boys were whipped.
Brennan wasn’t as eager a participant but did indulge on occasion.
He was mocked by Trebor for “lacking balls”, which was an irony escalator that climbed to the heavens.
So, it goes.
By some miracle, the three maintained decent grades, led semi-productive social lives, and even wrestled for their school’s varsity team.
They were even starting to look into colleges and, thanks to SAT scores that caused everyone else’s eyes to bug (Antonio had forgotten even taking the test), these brothers-from-different-mothers were looking at some dope scholarship offers.
Life was pretty solid…. even if none of them had a girlfriend.
But they were working on that.
All good things in time.
Even previous concerns about getting caught were mostly gone.
There were scares every once in a while.
Plenty of hideouts and “full proof” bunkers had been foiled and/or compromised.
Such is the case when the footsteps of a squirrel cause a tree to rustle; you can never take that chance in guessing whether it was, indeed, a squirrel or possibly the vice-principal taking a mid-day stroll in a park half-a-mile away from school.
Risks cannot be taken.
With the benefit of a car (which they bummed off a friend, whose knowledge of the arrangement was questionable at best), The Three Caballeros (Brennan had once heard the word while staring out the window during Spanish class) had their rotation of hideouts in and around the area.
The on-foot options mostly consisted of neighboring backyards (the owners of which were not privy to their gardens becoming makeshift Deadhead Dens) and McDaniel Park.
Antonio and Trebor loved “living on the edge”, meaning they thrived when sitting on a stranger’s lawn furniture and playing with their wind chimes.
Brennan, who was often clear-headed and the unsolicited lookout during these particular excursions, did not.
McDaniel Park was a safer ground since it was larger, open, and lacking hurdles such as picket fences.
Antonio once thought he was Kevin Young at the ’92 Olympics and attempted to hurdle an eight-foot fence.
He slipped and strained a hammy without leaving the ground.
Trebor wet himself laughing, while Brennan was left to carry Antonio on his shoulders after the latter’s efforts to impersonate '88 Kirk Gibson failed.
The benefits of McDaniel Park included multiple trees (for climbing and standing under), benches (for sitting and terrible attempts at Parkour), and a giant turtle in the middle (for admiring).
You don’t fuck with the turtle.
Walking to and from the park was a near-perfect excursion.
You could begin the festivities while going towards the park, meaning you had a nice buzz upon arrival.
Once the wave had been ridden sufficiently, you could then spend the walk back to school coming back down to earth.
By the time you stepped foot on campus, things were cool, calm, and copesetic.
Depending on who else was accompanying you to the park there were various entertainment options.
On more than one occasion a girl was brought along.
The only problem was none of the three nitwits were capable of going to McDaniel without another nitwit tagging along.
Records fail to account for the sheer amount of cockblocking that occurred, intentional or not.
Friendship was tested, words exchanged, insults thrown, masculinity questioned, and extreme over usage of the word “pussy”.
No one was spared.
Now, all members of the trio knew each one had that one girl.
The one who mattered more than any other.
You didn’t embarrass your fellow member in front of this girl nor did you dare make any attempt to interrupt any attempts at Game.
This was code both spoken and unspoken.
So, when Antonio had convinced Joan to walk to the park with him during lunch, without Brennan or Trebor lingering, this was big.
Really fucking big.
When Antonio and Joan arrived at the park, they were greeted by a cool spring breeze and various shades of green.
No, not that kind.
Neither had partaken in any Mary Jane business.
Antonio wanted to be at his best even if it meant his nerves were living in his gut.
The park appeared to be empty save a homeless man or two.
No one from school was in sight.
As Joan surveyed the scene, Antonio offered a seat on a nearby bench.
The two sat down silently with their hands in their pockets.
Antonio had noticed how Joan wore various t-shirts associated with assorted punk bands and soon offered his iPod for her to listen.
Joan smiled and offered to split her earbuds.
Holy shit, they were listening to The Clash together.
This was happening.
The girl who spoke of rugged adventures outdoors, sneaking out to bars at night, and argued in favor of making Johnny Cash a saint was splitting her earbuds.
And she was wearing her fishnet stockings to boot.
Antonio couldn’t have scripted this any better.
The two sat and swayed their heads along with the changing rhythms.
Like many an anxious teenage boy, Antonio would glance a peek at Joan but never held too long of a gaze.
Look, don’t stare.
There were a couple of close calls when Joan would begin to turn her head as Antonio took one of his many glances.
On one particularly close call, he jerked his head a little took quickly causing his mane of hair to shift violently.
She told him it was okay to look.
That she wouldn’t bite… unless he liked that.
Just as quickly as he had turned away Antonio now found himself reversing course.
His saucer eyes were now locked with Joan’s, which were subdued and smokey with a hint of hazelnut.
Antonio recovered quickly enough to offer a smile and a sight chuckle.
Play it cool.
Joan looked down at the iPod and threw a changeup.
The Isley Brothers.
Was she setting the mood now?
Before Antonio could register what was happening Joan scooted over and put her head on his shoulder.
Yup, this was happening.
The two sat for a minute or two before Joan turned and looked straight at Antonio.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
What was he waiting for?
As his internal dialogue echoed Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday, Antonio geared himself up.
What was long (by his standards) a fantasy was now a reality.
He was even sober to experience it in full.
All he needed to do now was complete the dream with one….
KA KAW KA KAW!
Joan lifted her head and looked around.
Antonio soon took a glance.
The two examined their surroundings but couldn’t locate anything.
There were no birds.
Seemingly no humans aside from the aforementioned homeless men.
Joan took a look at her watch.
She noted how lunch was almost over and there was a crucial AP Chem class to attend to.
“Let’s do this again”, she said before proceeding to walk back to campus.
Antonio nodded and gave a quick smile.
As Joan walked away and out of his sight, he sat alone and comforted himself with the thought that this may the beginning of something special.
He nodded his head, smiled, and gave a slight fist pump.
Besides, it wasn’t as if Joan was going anywhere any time soon.
Spring break came soon after.
The Three Caballeros went their separate ways for the week with Antonio continuing to imagine another chance with Joan.
He mulled over the possible scenarios over and over.
With Mary Jane and without.
He finally decided to be a man and ask Joan on a date once they returned from break.
Someone was going to show how mature they were.
On the first day back Trebor and Brennan congregated in their usual spot outside the computer lab.
They spotted Antonio and called him over.
Since it was raining out, they planned on taking the car and driving to the forest not far from school.
More trees equal more shade which means less chance of getting drenched.
The logic was flawless.
Antonio agreed with the plan and fist-pumped his comrades before splitting for class.
American History first thing in the morning.
With Joan sitting behind him.
The class filled in slowly with the usual rush just before 8:10.
Nearly everyone else arrived.
But no Joan.
Antonio figured she might be running late.
Worst case scenario she’s still on vacation or sick.
Mr. Yuritz began to take role.
He started with Kendall.
Joan was usually the first to be called since her last name began with an ‘A’.
No big deal, Mr. Yuritz probably saw that she wasn’t there and skipped ahead.
Once attendance was taken, he began discussing details concerning the class’ ongoing end-of-year group projects.
“Barb, you’ll be joining Mike and Kia for the remainder of the year.”
Antonio was confused.
Wasn’t Joan Barb’s partner?
Barb didn’t seem too surprised for someone who was just reassigned.
What was going on?
Once the class broke out into groups, Antonio snuck over towards Barb.
He had to know what happened.
It needed to be poised, however, in an almost off-handed manner.
Don’t wanna look too desperate.
“Oh, she moved back to Oregon.”
Everything went silent.
Minus a dull ringing.
Antonio’s reaction must have not been as smooth as he imagined since Barb quizzically looked at him and asked if he was okay.
He turned towards the door and walked out.
While standing in the hallway he came-to and returned to his group.
Mr. Yuritz asked where he had gone and why he hadn’t asked permission to leave.
Diarrhea was the response.
Who could argue with that?
As the trio walked to the car, Brennan and Trebor engaged in yet another debate over who the current GOAT was.
Trebor was staunchly pro-Kobe, while Brennan was firmly pro-Jordan.
Despite the two having a greater difference in political leanings (Trebor worshipped at the altar of Reagan, whereas Brennan admired the likes of Bobby Sands), the Kobe-Jordan debate was the most heated on-going argument (amongst many) the two had.
In their typically disjointed, run-on, interrupting style of conversation, the two would rage over Kobe being a ball hogging, ring totting, Shaq-fortunate, clutch king, and then switch over to LeBron as the choke-artist, support lacking, most physically dominate, stat accumulating, teammate elevator.
Jordan was a mutually agreed-upon neutral zone.
Upon reaching the car and commencing their trip to the forest, Brennan looked in the rearview mirror to see Antonio gazing into the distance.
As they cruised along, Brennan and Trebor ceased their monumental task of anointing a current GOAT and focused on comforting Antonio.
He explained how Joan was gone and that the news was bumming him out.
All agreed this was a major bummer.
Trebor noted how there were plenty of biddies out there and that Antonio would find another Joan in no time.
Besides, as noted by Brennan, it wasn’t as if they were in a relationship or anything.
Antonio then proceeded to tell the ignorant two how he had taken Joan to the park before spring break.
How they shared earbuds, listened to music together, and that Joan had put her head on his shoulder.
After some ribbing (because, hey, what are friends for?), Antonio then explained how his seemingly perfect moment was interrupted by a strange noise almost similar to a squawking hawk.
That Joan had smiled while getting up from the bench and flicked her hair back before saying they should do this again.
That she kissed him on the cheek.
And now she was gone.
Upon hearing these details both Trebor and Brennan went silent.
They drove in silence the rest of the way.
Once they arrived at the entrance to the woods, the three got out and began walking out to the point.
Antonio ventured ahead while Trebor and Brennan hung back for a second.
Accusations were soon thrown in hushed tones.
It was Brennan’s idea to scare the couple on the bench by squawking.
It was Trebor who leaned out the window as they drove by.
It was Brennan’s idea to go get KFC for lunch.
It was Trebor’s idea to take the back way instead of the usual route.
It was Brennan who asked Trebor to skip 3rd period so that they could chill.
It was Trebor who suggested bringing Mary Jane along.
Finally, they decided to pull off the impossible and acknowledge that both of them were at fault.
What do they do now?
One party suggested telling the truth.
Brothers don’t lie to each other.
The other party suggested not offering any details unless asked.
Even then, however, they should play dumb.
The two continued to bicker as they walked towards the peak.
Antonio was already there and looked to be surveying the valley below.
They sat down and began eating their cheesesteaks.
While the two guilty parties ate their food without abandon, Antonio only nibbled and soon began pacing around.
Brennan and Trebor began glancing at each other while taking turns making faces about whether to talk or not.
Eyes bulged, nudges conveyed, gestures made with food in hand.
Subtlety never was a teenager’s strong suit.
Antonio asked what was up.
Before Brennan could open his mouth Trebor blurted out how it was such a dick move that someone would interrupt Antonio’s mack game.
They began to exchange guesses about who it could have been.
The art kids were too infatuated with love to play spoiler.
They probably would have watched and cooed.
The jocks were eliminated since most popular kids were considered too gossipy to be that loud.
They spoke in whispers and reveled in going behind people’s backs.
Nope, this was the work of rival smokers.
Only they would see such a tender moment and attempt to sabotage it.
But who specifically?
Trebor began throwing out names.
It was as if he couldn’t help it.
Brennan kept trying to give him the “shut the fuck up” stare.
He knew that by shrinking the pool, Antonio would narrow down the culprits that much quicker.
Wait, was Brennan now trying to sabotage the truth?
How did that happen?
Was Trebor fucking with him?
He would do that.
One minute he wants to lie but now he’s setting it up so he gets to blurt the truth and be the hero.
Trebor glanced at Brennan and panicked.
Son of a bitch is giving the scornful glare.
He’s probably waiting for Antonio to realize what’s going on and then swoop in as the hero.
Trebor then decided to stay quiet.
Shut up before it was too late, yet, wait for the perfect time to confess.
The timing was everything.
As Antonio continued to ruminate out loud the other two sat silent.
They continue to glance at one another.
Each waiting for the other to crack.
Brennan figured Trebor had realized the error of his nonstop blabbing and was now retreating to avoid suspicion.
Antonio would figure everything out eventually.
Brennan then envisioned himself telling the whole truth.
Wait, why should he have to do it?
Antonio soon snapped his fingers and declared he had figured it out.
The guilty two looked at each with squinted eyes.
Time to draw.
Before Antonio could finish his thought both nimrods jumped up.
They stood there holding their fingers aloft.
Antonio quizzically looked at both and asked what the heck they were doing.
The silence was now just awkward.
As they peered back and forth and then back at Antonio, Brennan and Trebor began exchanging inaudible vocals, most of which were some version of “uh” and “eh”.
Finally, Brennan put his hands down and looked at Trebor.
He implored him to go ahead with a wave of his hand.
What did it matter?
It’s gonna be bad no matter who says it.
Trebor began to describe how he and Brennan had gone out for KFC that same day.
How they were both trying to relax and happened to have taken the longer route back to school.
At this point, Antonio was gesturing for the story to pick up.
Trebor glanced over at Brennan.
He explained how, while driving alongside McDaniel, they had spotted two people sitting on a bench.
Without thinking they decided to mess with the couple just for shits and giggles.
Antonio’s face went blank.
Brennan knew this gaze.
It was the gaze of ass-kickings to come.
He looked down and sighed.
Trebor continued telling how they had driven slowly to not draw attention themselves.
They were far enough away to avoid detection and still positioned behind the bench.
Quick enough to make a sound and then turn onto the side street.
As Trebor pantomimed leaning out an imaginary vehicle and cuffing his hands towards his mouth Brennan tensed.
This was the moment.
Trebor made the exact sound as heard on that fateful day.
But then, he scurried back.
Brennan was puzzled.
Was Trebor that scared?
What was he doing?
He then began stammering about huge it was.
That it scared him right back into the car.
How it was the biggest damn hawk he’d ever seen.