Downers Grove

Downers Grove by Michael Hornburg Read Free Book Online

Book: Downers Grove by Michael Hornburg Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Hornburg
humidity made everything nice and sticky. Six-foot weeds drooped over both sides of the narrow bike trail, some with fuzzy tops, others draped with wide brown leaves. The path’s chalky white gravel rattled against the rusted fenders of my Western Flyer. I coasted along, trying to digest the concept of a new dad. I guess I never realized that your relatives could evolve. Tossed into a soap opera with a total stranger, it’ll be like camp that never ends. Here a dad, there a dad, everywhere a dad, dad.
    The path cut through a swatch of weeds and spilled into the Green Knolls shopping mall, a geographical armpit at the corner of Sixty-third and Main. Foremost Liquors had windows full of white paper signs advertising cheap six-packs and discount vodka. Lawn ornaments and pallets of wood chips surrounded the doorway of Ace Hardware. A soldier was smokinga cigarette outside the armed forces storefront. The Hobby Barn was barren. I stopped at the Dairy Queen and filled out a résumé, used Tracy as a reference, Mom as a past employer, and listed boy watching as one of my hobbies. I have to get a job this summer. Money is my only hope.
    Outside the DQ I saw the mechanic’s purple Dodge Charger parked beside the Steakhouse. I pedaled across the lot and locked my bike around the flagpole, then went inside. The room was decorated with wagon wheels and various other western memorabilia. There were picnic benches in the center room and a smoky effervescence that reminded me of a camp-fire. Bobby was sitting in back, hunched over a hamburger and fries. I picked up a yellow plastic tray and slid it down the silver rail, stopping in front of the beverage dispenser to fill a paper cup with iced tea. I paid the cashier, then took a deep breath and slowly cruised his table. His face was buried in some gear-head magazine, totally absorbed by an article about tires. Long dark bangs curled over his skyscraper cheekbones, his lips were purple, as if he’d been sucking on a Popsicle. He didn’t look up, so I sat down across from him, squeezed some lemon over my ice cubes, stirred the citrus into the tea with my pinkie finger.
    â€œMind if I sit here?” I asked. When he looked up I stared right into his eyes, just like the first time we met, hoping he’d pick up where we left off.
    He shook his head and mumbled “mmmnbrgh” with a mouthful of food, then picked up the ketchup bottle and shook more onto his plate. Twisting off the white cap and smothering his fries, he reminded me of a European movie star playing a cowboy. His elegant features clashed with his rough gestures.He seemed somehow miscast as a mechanic. He was too shiny for his job.
    I took a long sip of tea while watching him chew. “I saw your hot rod outside. You drive here? I mean, you only work across the street.” I pointed with my thumb.
    â€œI know,” he said, still trying to swallow. “Habit, I guess.” He took another bite of his hamburger, stuffing in french fries between gulps of soda. Now he was looking at me, noticing me, trying to place me. He had the biggest brown eyes. “How did you know I work across the street?”
    â€œI buy gas sometimes.”
    â€œOh yeah, you’re the girl who always buys a dollar’s worth of gas. I didn’t recognize you without your car.” He took another bite, looked back at his magazine.
    I started to feel annoyed. He wasn’t making this very easy. I thought that once I laid myself on a silver platter for him, he’d respond with a few lines of yummy tease or scalding words of affection, but instead he acted like a Frisbee had landed beside his beach blanket and now he was annoyed about having to stand up and throw it back. He took another bite of his hamburger and turned a page of his magazine.
    â€œI heard the world is gonna end in a few days,” I said.
    â€œOh yeah?” Bobby didn’t look up. “Where’d you hear

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