Dispatch

Dispatch by Bentley Little Read Free Book Online

Book: Dispatch by Bentley Little Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bentley Little
game was starting to get to us, and we decided to just shoot randomly and not play anything.
    Robert made a granny shot from the fence across the alley. "I don't like my pen pal," he said. "The kid's a dick."
    "Mine's just boring," Edson said, throwing a hook that fell short. "When's this stupid program going to end?"
    I didn't say anything. Both of my friends knew that my pen pal was a girl. Although I'd led them to believe that she had been assigned to me, I'd never said anything negative to them about Kyoko, and I wasn't about to start now. It was a point of honor.
    They looked at me, waiting to hear my complaints. Robert's eyes narrowed with suspicion.
    "If you don't like your pen pals," I told them, successfully diverting attention from myself, "then get them to stop writing to you."
    "How do we do that?" Edson asked.
    "Pretend you're a fag," I said, grinning.
    "No way ," Robert said emphatically.
    "You wouldn't have to pretend." Edson snickered.
    Robert nodded. "Yeah, but we couldn't get away with it."
    "Then do something else. Write something crazy. Scare them."
    Edson's eyes lit up. "I could pretend I killed someone and I'm on the lam and I need a place to hide out! I could ask him if I could stay with his family!"
    I grinned. "Now you're thinking."
    "Or I could say I'm in an insane asylum!"
    Robert shook his head. "My guy'd never believe it."
    "Why not?" I asked.
    "He knows me too well."
    "Knows you too well?" I looked from Robert to Edson and back again. "Have you guys been telling your pen pals the truth ? What's wrong with you?"
    "I have to write something," Robert said defensively.
    "Yeah, but it doesn't have to be the truth . Look," I explained, "you're never going to meet these guys. They don't know who you are. You could pretend to be ... Murdoch. Or Brick Hayward. Pick someone. They won't know the difference. And you only tell them things that you want them to know. Make yourself up. Be who you want to be. Be smarter, more popular, older, cooler, whatever."
    "Is that what you do?" Edson asked admiringly.
    I smiled in what I hoped was a mysterious manner. "That's for me to know and you to find out."
    "Yeah, but your pen pal's a girl ," Robert said derisively.
    I said nothing, and the meaning of that sank in.
    "Do you guys write anything ... nasty?" Edson asked, and there was a gleam in his eye.
    "Me to know, you to find out." I grabbed the basketball from him, made a layup, rebounded my own ball and did it again.
    It was weird that evening eating dinner with a functional family, where the parents got along and children were not just an annoyance. At the table, everyone laughed and joked and had a good time, just like people on television did. The angry silences and hostile put-downs that I was used to were nowhere in evidence. After dinner, we all sat down to play Monopoly, even Robert's parents, and it was fun.
    This wasn't The Brady Bunch , though. Robert was still a regular kid, and after his dad set up the tent and sleeping bags in the backyard, then returned to the house and closed the drapes, the three of us sneaked out to see what was happening in the neighborhood. A little brat named Stevie lived a few doors down, and Robert's idea was to hide in the bushes under the kid's bedroom window, make spooky noises and scare the shit out of him. But a dog started barking the second we stepped onto Stevie's lawn, and we beat a hasty retreat. We ran all the way to the corner. A Mustang full of teenagers sped by and from the open rear window flew a water balloon that smashed on the sidewalk at our feet. "Eat it!" someone yelled.
    My eyes followed the car as it roared away, but halfway up the block my attention was grabbed by a smaller figure hobbling down the sidewalk.
    The witch.
    That old hag was haunting me—I'd run into her at the post office again while dropping off a letter to Kyoko—and seeing her by moonlight sent a chill down my spine. "Check it out," Edson whispered, pointing. He looked from me to

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