“I don’t have to listen to you anymore.”
“Oh, Mister Bigshot thinks he doesn’t have to listen to his old man anymore. What’s that, sonny? You think you can take care of yourself? You wouldn’t last a month without me to give you a roof over your head, or your mom to feed you.”
Mutt’s door slams and Jocelyn winces. It’s been like this all summer. When they’re not yelling, they’re ignoring each other at the dinner table. Her baby boy. He’s always out. Doing god knows what. If it’s anything like what she and Rollie got up to at Mutt’s age, it’s bound to result in a little Mutt, Jr.
She carefully covers the leftover casserole in plastic wrap, but has to tear off another piece because there’s a gap left on the side. Plastic wrap manufacturers know how big a standard casserole dish is, why do they make the packaging so narrow? Before Gwen disappeared, she told Jocelyn to buy Saran Wrap other than Gel-Time, but it’s fifty cents more expensive and that just seems unreasonable.
There’s nothing she can really do about Mutt. If she butts her head in, that will just end in him high-tailing it out of there and as it is, she doesn’t think he will be under their roof for much longer. It’s bad enough he’s had to have his dad as a mayor and his mom as a teacher—she can’t go sticking her nose further in his business.
She remembers when her father tried to tell her to dump Rollie, and see how well that worked out? Well, it did work out well for her. But her father didn’t let Rollie come over for dinner for months after they came back married.
No, she’ll just have to wait it out. They’ll get over it. Eventually.
And if they don’t, maybe some distance will do them some good and they’ll come to their senses. It’s the first day of school tomorrow, and Mutt will be back to a routine that keeps him out of the house from 8:30 a.m. ‘til dinner time. Everything will be just fine.
She puts the casserole in the fridge, puts tomorrow’s pot roast into the fridge to thaw out, and then gets to work packing up the green beans. Then, she retrieves the bologna, yellow cheese, Miracle Whip, and bread, and gets to work on everybody’s sandwiches. Everybody can have an Arrowroot cookie as a treat.
David thinks that, all things considered, he has been remarkably well-behaved when it comes to Patrick. There has been no biting, no dreamwalking, no compulsion, and he’s kept his hands (mostly) above the belt. It’s very responsible of him. One might even call him put-together, or self-controlled, maybe even mature.
There’s a pounding on the bathroom door. “David! Get out of there. You have been in the shower for, like, a million years!”
“Fall into a volcano, Alexis!”
“David! It’s the first day of school! I have to do my hair!”
“I have to do my hair!” David shuts off the water, and as always, the pipes offer an ominous thunk.
“It doesn’t matter if you take five minutes or five hours, your hair always looks terrible!”
David grips the towel around his hips and swings the door open. “Just for that. I’m going to do an extra five steps to my skincare.”
He slams the door in her face and is rewarded with a loud, “Ugh!”
He gives himself one last look in the mirror and is pleased with the outcome. His jawline is looking especially cut thanks to his Valentino sweater. It’s the first day of school, which is a day for statements. And his skirted pants are a statement.
There’s a knock at the door and David’s heart skips a beat. He just saw Patrick last night, but he can’t help the Jake Ryan fantasy that’s been playing in his head. Patrick, his boyfriend, is picking him up for the first day of school.
“Um. Where’s the truck?”
Patrick is standing in the gravel parking lot, looking adorable and sheepish in his t-shirt and jeans, his shoulders tense under the straps of his backpack.
“Well, my dad said that I could take it since it’s the first day of Grade Twelve and all, but my mom said that I still technically have one more day of being grounded.”
“Oh. So, that’s where you get it.”
They walk to Stevie’s next to get her and Twyla. Though, now that it turns out they don’t have a ride, there’s really no point.
Twyla comes bouncing out of the house as soon as they get there, but they have to wait around a few minutes for Stevie to emerge. When she does, she’s…well…
“What on earth are you wearing?”
Stevie looks down at her ripped shorts and black, lacey, bell-sleeved top and then back up at David, wide-eyed and innocent. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Twyla and Patrick don’t say anything, just shuffle ahead in their pedestrian caravan.
“You’re wearing a lot of eyeliner.”
She shrugs. “I’m trying something.”
“You’re wearing chunky pleather boots!”
He tugs at the very ‘90s cluster of tin chains with star and moon pendants hanging around her neck. “Is this some sort of teenage goth crisis? Should I be worried? Do you need an intervention?”
Stevie smiles at him, but it’s an eerie smile. The kind of smile that reminds David that she could burn him to a crisp with the snap of her fingers. He rushes up ahead to walk next to Patrick.
It was either this or Child Development. The chalkboard at the front of the room says “Animal Science with Mr. Osbourne” over a chalk sketch of a dog. Alexis thinks that given the option, puppies are better than babies.
Rachel and Ted are both in this room and Alexis does her best not to let her vision drop to either. They’re both sitting up front, so Alexis sits in the back. Well, not the last row. If there’s anything Alexis has learned at the tens of high schools she’s attended, it’s that last-row desks are disgusting—vandalized and covered in sticky substances. She sits in the third row, near the middle, so she’s not sitting directly behind either of them.
“Hey, Alexis.” Ted looks back at her and smiles politely.
Alexis squares her shoulders and gives him her best smile. “Hi, Ted.”
“Hey, sorry about yesterday. I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s good to see you.”
“Oh. Um. Don’t worry about it.”
Ted turns back around and settles into his seat while the room fills up around them. Alexis catches a brunette white girl making eyes at the empty chair between Rachel and Ted, and Alexis realizes that she doesn’t want her to take it. In one long movement, she migrates seats and plops herself front and center in the room. Brunette girl gives her the stink eye but moves on.
Alexis sighs into a smile when Rachel finally looks her way. “Hi guys,” she says, eyes darting between them.
“Mr. Butani, I don’t know if I’m qualified for this.”
“What? Being a courier? Don’t be silly. Small children do it for parliament every day!”
“Um. Those are pages, and I don’t think the federal government has employed kids for a few years.”
“Oh really?” Mr. Butani frowns. “That’s too bad. I always thought it would be such a good opportunity for my future children.”
Patrick tries not to make a face. The conversation is skirting way too close to Mr. Butani’s romantic life for his comfort. “I wasn’t talking about taking this paperwork to Bob’s Garage. Of course, I can do that. I’m just not sure I’m qualified to actually help Mr. Currie fill out the paperwork.”
“Oh, I’m not sure anyone is qualified, Patrick. Bob is somewhat averse to bureaucracy. The trick is just to get him to sit down long enough to try and fill it out that he finally gets frustrated enough to actually come into the office so I can fill it out for him.”
That doesn’t make Patrick feel any better, but he doesn’t feel like arguing anymore. It’ll be the last thing he has to do for Mr. Butani today and then he’ll go pick David up at the motel. They’re going to go all the way to Elmdale for pizza. Matt and Lana said they would meet them there.
When he gets to the garage, there’s an old blue car out front with its hood popped, and he can hear the sound of a wrench cranking. But when he walks around to the front, he’s surprised not to find Mr. Currie, but Mutt under the hood.
“Oh. Hey, Mutt. Sorry. I was looking for Mr. Currie.”
Mutt lifts his eyes to meet Patrick’s, and shakes his head to get some hair out of his face. “Nope. No Bob here. I don’t know if Bob ever really is here.” He says it resentfully, his voice high and gravelly.
Great. Now Patrick’s going to have to hunt him down. At least there’s some likelihood that he’s just next door at the café.
He decides to linger for a moment before embarking on that wild goose chase. “I didn’t know you worked here.”
Mutt huffs. “I don’t work here. I’m doing time here.”
Patrick’s stomach drops. “What?”
He stands and stretches into his next words. “Yep. Community service.” He throws his oil rag over his shoulder. “My dad got a real kick out of saying the words, ‘Let the punishment fit the crime.’”
He wants to say, What did you do? But that’s probably not the nicest way to ask. So instead, he phrases it like “What happened?”
Mutt shrugs. “Got busted for joyriding. I had a date. Needed a ride.”
“What’s wrong with your truck?”
Mutt smirks, but his eyes don’t engage. “She was a hot date.”
Patrick doesn’t know what to say to that.
“No, I, um. I crashed the truck,” Mutt says, more softly. “I, um, I fell asleep at the wheel.”
Patrick isn’t sure what to say. So they just stand there kind of awkwardly until Mutt says, “Anything I can do for you, man?”
“Oh. Uh, no thanks, man. I’m just gonna go see if I can track down Mr. Currie.”
“Sure.” Mutt bends over back under the hood of the car.
“Hey, listen, I’m sorry about,” Patrick waves his hand to gesture at the garage, “all this.”
Mutt turns his head to look at Patrick again. “Don’t worry about it.”
Patrick mumbles, “See you at school,” but he’s not sure he said it loud enough to register, and then he turns and heads toward the café.
“Okay, what do you want?”
“Mmm. I’m thinking it’s a pepperoni and mushroom kind of night.”
“Oh yeah. That sounds good.”
“With extra mushrooms.”
“Oh. Agreed.” Patrick is playing along, being theatrical and flirty, but his heart is racing a mile a minute. David’s not stupid. He knows it’s a physiological sign of attraction, but honestly, he used to worry that Patrick had some sort of heart condition, or an anxiety disorder.
David doesn’t realize that they’ve been staring at each other until the girl at the counter clears her throat. “What can I get you guys?”
Matt and Lana are two of Patrick’s cousins from Mrs. Brewer’s side of the family. Matt is the same year as Patrick, but only because Patrick got held back in first grade, and Lana is the year behind. They’re both nice, and wholesome, and all three of them have hair on the light-brown-to-white blonde spectrum.
They’re nice. And they’re Patrick’s cousins. And some of his closest friends. And they’re human. Not at all terrifying.
As soon as they sit down at the booth to wait for their order, Patrick puts his arm around David and squeezes him close.
“Yay! You guys are here!” Lana sighs dramatically and looks at David with dreamy eyes. “I’m so excited we’re doing this.”
David waits for Patrick to say something, but he’s making a face like he’s waiting for David to say something so David tries, “Me too.” He hopes it was loud enough for human ears.
Lana reaches over the table and grabs his upper arm and gives it a squeeze.
When the pizza arrives, David has to remind himself that humans have to wait for the cheese to cool down before consuming. Matt goes for it too early though and has to go “Ha hhhhaaa” around his slice.
Lana laughs at him and pushes his shoulder. “You’re practically a grown man. But you never learn.”
Matt groans. “That’s my middle name. Matt ‘Never Learns’ Keane.”
“How are your college applications going?” Lana looks at Matt with concern.
“I don’t know.” Matt picks up his pizza again for the second attempt, but he quickly drops it with an Ah! “Maybe I just won’t go to college. I could do something else. I have a friend whose dad flips houses. Maybe I could learn to do that.”
That’s something that David can talk about. “Oh, that’s a good idea. There are so many properties in this area that haven’t been cared for properly. And yet, there’s a housing shortage. And it can be so lucrative for somebody with the right skills.”
As he’s talking, he starts to worry that maybe he’s saying the wrong thing. But then, Matt’s mouth quirks in a small smile, and Patrick gives David’s thigh a squeeze under the table.
Lana smiles too, but then schools her face more seriously. “Are you applying anywhere, though?”
Matt shrugs. “I have a list. But I don’t know if I would even get in anywhere. My GPA is…not great.”
Lana leans over to squeeze his shoulder. “I’m sure it’s not that bad. You’re so smart!”
“Tell that to my English teacher. I’m pretty sure she wants to fail me just out of annoyance.”
Lana starts (lovingly) arguing with him about this and something about it makes David sure that this is an old conversation, one he’s not entirely privy to. He looks over at Patrick, whose hand hasn’t left David’s thigh, and whose eyes don’t meet his. It doesn’t escape David’s notice that the conversation doesn’t veer over to Patrick’s plans. David’s not even really sure what they are, exactly.
It’s not really any of his business. Patrick has such a bright future ahead of him. David knows it. He’s responsible, and kind, and brave, and so smart it makes David’s teeth hurt sometimes. Patrick can do whatever he wants to do. He has a supportive family, he knows who he is, there is absolutely nothing holding him back.
He tries not to think about their time coming to an end, but time slips by so quickly, even as he tries to savor every moment. When he’s feeling particularly sorry for himself, wandering the woods at night in search of prey, he thinks about all the ways he’s been fundamentally changed. By this little town. By Stevie. Especially by Patrick. He knows that he won’t be the same from now on. He thinks it’s good that he’s learned what being cared for is really like. What it feels like to be appreciated. He doesn’t think he can go back to living his life half-there, hanging on the arms of the Sebastiens and Irenes and Jared Letos of the world.
Maybe—if that’s something Patrick wants—they could stretch it out another year. It would be pushing it. But if Patrick wanted, he could follow him to college. No, he’s being silly. They’ve been dating just a little over four months. High school relationships don’t last a year, let alone two. He shouldn’t even think about it. He’ll just enjoy this time with Patrick while he has it. And he’ll take all the memories with him that he can.
He looks over at Patrick again, and this time, Patrick does meet his eyes. He’s holding the button on the chain around his neck in his hand, tugging at it, as is his habit. His heart rate has increased again, and his breath has shortened. So, David leans in and presses his lips to Patrick’s, trying to be soft and sweet. There’s no need to worry. They have plenty of time.
When they separate, Patrick smiles, and he has a glint in his eye. He turns to Matt and Lana. “So, guess what? I’ve been teaching David how to drive a manual.”
Stevie wishes she wore pants. She’s had to look at her pink, poky knees surrounded by loose pale skin all day. This is why she wears pants. She doesn’t need to know this much about what her body looks like. She only has a Post-It Note’s worth of space in her brain for minute insecurities. Pants also would have been better for the amount of time she’s been sitting on this bench. She can feel a red imprint forming on skin with its accompanying itch. She adjusts in her seat.
“Okay, try him.” Maureen nods to the approaching jogger.
Stevie squares her jaw and mumbles the spell. She tries to do what the book says. It describes holding the feeling in her chest and sending it outwardly from her, toward the person she wants to summon. The tentative feeling pops immediately. It was only ever as strong as a bubble.
She sighs and falls back into the bench, the jogger already long gone.
Stevie shakes her head. “You try.”
Maureen clocks somebody walking her dog. Stevie waits silently and pays attention, though she’s not surprised at all when the dog and their walker disappear down the street.
Stevie and Maureen have come a long way in their skills of witchcraft. Their locator spells and cloaking spells and defensive spells are all impressively advanced. Even Mrs. Rose talks to Maureen like a formidable opponent, if not a respected colleague. But spells like this, emotion-based spells, even simple summoning charms, she and Maureen are both—
“Complete shit,” Maureen says. “I can barely feel the spell inside myself, let alone cast it out like a—what did the book say?”
“Like a rolling ball of yarn.”
“Yeah. That. The spell does not feel like a ball of yarn. It feels like a floating bit of fuzz, it was so hard to get a hold of.”
“Oh really? I thought it felt more like a dust particle.”
“Well, for me, it feels like a germ.”
“Well, I thought it feels like an electron.”
“Well, I thought it feels like a quantum particle.”
Stevie can’t think of anything smaller than that, so she just crosses her arms and huffs. It’s not like it’s any secret why this is so hard. She and Maureen, they’re not good at the touchy-feely stuff. In the instructions for the spell they found, there was an introduction. There are usually long introductions to spells in which people describe how the spell came into their family, different tweaks they added that made the spell more effective for them, etc. Stevie usually scrolls past that part, to try and get to the instructions faster. But sometimes she reads them, and all the introductions for all the versions of this spell that she’s come across say that the essence of the spell comes from love—a general love, for humanity, for the stranger who crosses one’s path, agape.
Stevie doesn’t have much of that. And she knows Maureen doesn’t either. Their approach to magic is a lot more practical. And maybe more selfish. It’s mostly about solving immediate, practical problems. Or setting things on fire. That’s pretty easy.
“We haven’t really talked about, like, who in the family has magic,” Stevie says. She says it mostly to procrastinate on having to try again. “Like, where does the magic come from?”
Maureen shrugs, the tendrils of her salt and pepper hair falling off her shoulders. One time, Mrs. Schitt asked her why she doesn’t dye it and Maureen told her to fuck off. Stevie doesn’t think she wants to dye her hair when it gets gray. She thinks Maureen’s hair looks cool. She looks like a wise woman from a children’s book. Or a grungy Bride of Frankenstein.
“Not that many people in the family have it. Or not that many people have enough of it to use it. Or not that many people figured out how to use it.”
“Who do you know that did have it?”
Maureen is Stevie’s dad’s aunt and is the only other witch she’s met in her life that she knows of. Neither of her dad’s sisters are witches, as far as she knows, and her dad, well—she’ll never know. His half-brother wouldn’t be, because that’s on his mom’s side. Maureen doesn’t have any biological kids—just Stevie and Maureen’s ex step-son, Brandon, who lives in Saskatchewan with his mom.
“Well, I don’t know. Neither my brother—may he rest in peace—nor my sister—may she go to hell—ever showed any signs that I know of.”
They sit quietly for a while, not wanting to dig into the well that is all the layers of fucked-up that makes up their family. Stevie can count on one hand how many of her cousins she knows whose parents still talk to each other.
“I think my mom could have had it, though,” Maureen finally says.
“Yeah?” Stevie swallows around the curiosity that itches in her throat. Maureen hardly ever talks about her mom. There’s a black-and-white picture of her on the mantel in the living room. In it, she’s very young, probably a teenager. She’s standing outside in a field, facing away into the distance with a posed smile. Her messy hair is clipped haphazardly out of her face and she wears a ruffled top tucked into a pleated skirt. Her stance is wide in her simple shoes that look too big for her. Stevie doesn’t know much, except that she died young. And that she was an alcoholic.
“Yeah,” Maureen says, facing ahead of her. “I don’t know, sometimes, when she was sober, it kind of seemed like she could do things. Like, sometimes it seemed like she could pull things out of thin air. Or when I was little, sometimes she would call my name, and I just dropped whatever I was doing and would go to her. I don’t know. Maybe it was a summoning charm, like this one.”
“Is she the one who told you that you’re a witch?”
Maureen nods. “Yeah, when I was younger, she would tell me pretty regularly. She told me when I was a kid that I had to be careful and not get too angry, or I might accidentally set someone’s pants on fire. And then, later, when I started to be able to make things float, she got me some books. I didn’t read them all the way through or anything. I would rather watch TV or go hang out with people. But I would reference them. If I wanted something.”
It sucks. Stevie woke up the other day, thinking about being a witch. Thinking about being part of this special kind of person, who has this constant awareness of nature, of power, and how to tap into it. She woke up with this feeling in her chest, something close to pride. She started thinking about where she comes from, where she got this gift. But she can’t even cobble together a solitary story from all of the broken shards of her family. All she has is Maureen. And all Maureen has is Stevie. They’re going to have to find answers somewhere else.
“And how are you ladies enjoying Bob’s Bench?” The unwelcome sight of Roland Schitt comes sauntering through the trees. He stands in front of them with his hands on his hips, looking pleased with himself. He looks at them, eyebrows raised, expecting some sort of reaction.
Whatever he wants from them, neither Maureen nor Stevie give it to him.
“You know, this bench is a real hot spot for all kinds of criminal behavior. Especially with the kids. Yep. The kids. Oh, look at all this nice grass everywhere. I bet you two would know where to get some nice grass. You’re grass enthusiasts. Really into botany.”
“Roland,” Maureen warns.
Roland throws his hands up into the air defensively. “Hey, don’t mind me. I’m just trying to make sure me and my fancy guests are well entertained tonight.” He wiggles his eyebrows. “You know, the Roses. They’re our guests tonight for dinner.”
Maureen just looks at him, face impassive. Stevie turns back to Roland and does the same.
“You know, Moira Rose is really taken with me. Of course, I told her I’m married. And happily so. But they’ve really taken a shine to us in general. We hang out, oh, multiple times a week. I think old Johnny is thinking of buying the town. Could be very lucrative.”
Still he gets no response, and his demeanor turns huffy. “Come on, Maureen. Why don’t you come tonight, huh? I can’t take another night of trying to entertain the Roses. They’re so boring.”
“There it is,” she says.
Roland whines. “Please?”
“Thank you for the invitation, but I’m all booked up tonight.”
“C’mon, Maureen! Jocelyn’s making banana pudding. You love banana pudding!”
“Good bye, Roland.”
He groans and simpers, and finally walks off.
“Did you summon him?” Maureen asks.
Maureen scoffs. “Maybe we should start practicing banishing spells instead.”
The next time Patrick walks by Bob’s Garage, Mutt is there again. This time, he’s wearing one of those neon safety vests that traffic cops and people picking up trash on the side of the road use.
His back is arched over the engine of another car—newer this time. Patrick’s been thinking about Mutt on and off for the past couple of days. It’s occurred to him that he hasn’t talked to Mutt all summer. Of course, he was busy, what with making out with David everywhere, hiding from his extended family, and rescuing Twyla from a ghost cult. But still, it’s an aberration. Historically, they would see each other a few times a week during the summer holidays—playing baseball and lacrosse, hanging out at the creek, riding dirt bikes through the trails on the Warner property. And now Mutt has to do community service? He crashed his truck? He’s been joyriding?
Mutt’s always been sort of a tough guy. A tough guy in a long line of tough guys. He’s never been an angel, he’s acted out in the ways they all have—partying, staying out too late, some light vandalism. Patrick remembers Mutt’s end of the year party and how his dad arrived and yelled at Mutt in front of everybody. He made a scene and it was embarrassing, but not really for Mutt. Everybody knows the Mayor likes his high horse.
“Hi Patrick! What can I get you?”
“Hey Twyla.” Patrick puts his elbows on the counter. “Can I get a tuna sandwich, a BLT and a couple of cokes? Bottles please. To go. David and I are going to go down to the creek and have a picnic. We’re also supposed to read All The Pretty Horses, but my guess is the way it’ll go down is I’ll be trying to read the book, meanwhile David will interrupt periodically to tell me about all the things he knows about the book from the other times he’s read it and the fact that he met Cormac McCarthy at a party one time or something.”
Twyla laughs, clear and bright. “That sounds fun.”
Patrick frowns. “I’m sorry you’re working today. Otherwise you could come. Next time, okay?”
Twyla smiles. “Yep! And if it’s our last warm day, we’ll do it somewhere else.”
Patrick smiles, and Twyla excuses herself to put the order in. What Twyla said makes him happy, that he and Twyla and Stevie are good enough friends now that they know they’ll hang out soon whether it be at the café, by the creek, at the motel, at his house, or at Stevie’s. He likes Twyla and Stevie so much. And it really helps that they’re all in on the Big Magic Secret. Well, he’s lucky he’s on the secret, considering he’s the only one without any. It’s really something special. He’s known Twyla and Stevie his whole life. They have inside jokes and shared memories, and they could hold a conversation on just that alone for hours. But he’s never been friends with them. They both come from these tough backgrounds and, hell, have superpowers and he had no idea. Until this year, he doesn’t think he would even be able to ask about any of it. But now, they’re real friends. They hang out, they make plans together, they have a text chain. He wants to be there for them.
He thinks about Mutt. He’s known Mutt his whole life, too. And he knew his dad was hard on him. But he doesn’t know how to be there for Mutt.
“Hey, Twyla?” She’s pouring somebody’s coffee down the counter, and is within reasonable hearing distance. He waits for her to have a moment available to come over.
She smiles at him, and practically skips to his side of the counter. “Hey.”
“Hey. Did you know that Mutt is doing community service at Bob’s Garage?”
She furrows her brow. “No. I saw that he was over there a lot, but I didn’t know it was community service. I thought he got a job or something.”
Patrick shakes his head. “No, he got in trouble for joyriding.”
Twyla looks shocked, and then worried. “Oh.”
They look at each other, sadly, for a few moments until the moment is broken by an “Order up!” from the kitchen. Twyla goes to retrieve it, and when she comes back, it turns out it’s his order.
“Have you talked to him?”
“No, not really. He just told me a couple days ago because I was at the garage for an errand for Mr. Butani.”
She contemplates a coffee ring under Patrick’s fingers. “Maybe I could try.”
“Yeah,” Patrick says. Twyla has a really soft touch. And she’s cheerful. Maybe she could help make him feel better.
“Okay. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
Twyla texts him later that evening.
She manages to get through the first week of school without committing any major faux pas. She sits in the front of class every day with Ted and Rachel and nobody says anything snippy or passive aggressive, and she does a pretty good job of keeping her nose from scrunching in disgust when discussing any of the class’s content. Except when fecal matter or scat is mentioned. She absolutely wrinkles her nose when somebody says that.
She does pretty well, that is, until one day, Ted comes into class smelling like…well, smelling like scat. His hair is disheveled as well, and a five o’clock shadow is peeking through even though it’s 10 a.m. Alexis didn’t know Ted could grow a beard.
“Woof, Ted!” It comes out more scolding than she meant it to, so she leans in with a full nose wrinkle and a fluttering hand.
Ted ducks his head. “I know. I’m sorry. I was, uh, I got up early to help the Animal Shelter in Elmdale bring in some new dogs and I…didn’t have time to go home and shower.”
“Was it worth it?”
Her head snaps around, and she finds Rachel, glaring at her. It looks like it didn’t come across as teasing after all.
Every time Patrick passes by Bob’s Garage or the Schitts’ house, his stomach twinges with guilt. He doesn’t know why. It’s not his fault that Mutt stole a car and got in trouble. He doesn’t feel guilty about that. But maybe he feels a little guilty that his friendship with his teammates—Mutt included—fell through the cracks last year. He feels guilty because Mutt in trouble came as a surprise when it shouldn’t have. From the timeline he’s put together in his head, Mutt’s been on a downward spiral for months and Patrick didn’t even notice.
And it’s not like Patrick wasn’t dealing with his own shit, but Patrick has a cushion. He has parents who nudged him in the right direction, and gave him a soft padding on which to land, and make dinner for his boyfriend on a weekly basis. His dad would never berate him in front of the whole school, even if he had thrown a party with underage drinking. He would get in trouble, and he would have to work to earn certain privileges back, but they would never belittle him like that.
“I’m going to talk to Mutt!”
David startles, looking up from scribbling in his journal on the couch in the den. “Um. Okay. Care to share the backstory for this little announcement of yours?”
“He’s my friend, he’s going through a rough time, and I want to be there for him.”
David’s eyes soften, and then he pulls Patrick by the front of his t-shirt. Patrick lands on top of David with an oof and then David’s journal is on the floor and they get wrapped up in each other for an unknown amount of time before they’re broken apart by the sound of Patrick’s mom coming home from grocery shopping.
He tries to talk to Mutt the next day, but when he passes by the garage, he’s not there. He sees him at school, but Mutt arrives last-second to almost every class and high-tails it out early. Then, Patrick can’t even try the next day because he has to work at Ray’s all afternoon. So Patrick doesn’t get to talk to him until a day later when he finds Mutt inside Bob’s. Or rather, he finds Mutt’s legs, sprawled out from under a vehicle.
He taps Mutt’s foot lightly with his own. “Hey, man.”
Mutt slides out from under the car, his face is sweaty and smudged, and his hair looks even more bedraggled and overgrown than usual. “Oh. Hi, Patrick.”
“So I was thinking,” Patrick starts, “what if you helped me build a car?”
Mutt’s impassive face curls into something incredulous. “What?”
“Or, more specifically, what if you helped me rebuild the broken down 2005 Mazda 6 wagon that’s been taken over by weeds at my Aunt’s place. I want to give David a car and it’s the only way I could afford it.”
“You want to give your boyfriend a car?”
Patrick smirks. He knows it’s a ridiculous idea. But it’s also romantic. He got the idea because David was talking about one of the boyfriends in Gilmore Girls doing the same thing for one of the Gilmore girls and how it was off the wall but very romantic even though he doesn’t think Dean is the right one for Rory.
“I don’t know.” Patrick kicks at a scuff on the floor. “Maybe I want to get us a car. We could go places together.” Mutt just keeps looking at him, skeptically. “Whatever. It might be crazy, but I can’t do it without you. So will you help me or not?”
Mutt sighs. “I’ll think about it.”
David is trying a new strategy, now that he’s got his face buried in boy neck about a thousand percent more of the time than he used to be. He’s trying to hunt every night or every other night, mostly on small animals, as opposed to the bigger ones less often, so he doesn’t try to devour Patrick every time they’re together.
He slurps down what he thinks is his last rabbit for the night and tosses it aside. He pulls out his biodegradable wet wipes—he’s going to have to restock soon—and cleans up. He smooths down the front of his shirt, well, it’s actually Patrick’s shirt, an old capture-the-flag shirt from his honest-to-god summer camp. His pants are Patrick’s too, some sweats that say “U of T” down the side. Patrick was nice enough to loan him the clothes after David complained for the hundredth time about the effect moss, dirt and underbrush have on his jeans. He didn’t even hesitate, just pulled some shirts and sweats out of his dresser and tossed them at David. “They’re yours.”
When he gets back to the motel, he’s greeted by a mother-shaped lump under the sheets on his bed (mattress on the floor).
“Ew! What are you doing in my bed?”
Slowly, Moira Rose sits up—well, more like she pushes her torso up slightly to face him. David listens. There’s no sign of his dad or Alexis.
“Oh, David.” His mother’s voice is wet and strained. “The most terrible thing has happened.”
“What? Did you psych yourself out about playing Patty Hearst again?”
“No! David! Something far far more pestiferous!”
That’s when he notices it. It’s a smell. At first, he just thought it was a motel guest, maybe a drunk. But it’s morphed quickly into something deeper, darker. It’s on the other side of the wall, through the door, in his parent’s room.
The door creaks when he pushes it open.
“Oh my god. Mom! How could you let this happen?”
Perched tentatively on a chair sits the body of Roland Schitt. He’s dead, but he’ll be awake again in a couple of days.