The Last Child
hard, and when he stepped back, he looked satisfied. “That’s what you get.”
    Johnny rolled his arm, tossed one of the pebbles and Jack ducked it. “How’d you know I’d be here?”
    “It’s not rocket science.”
    “Then what took you so long?”
    Jack sat on the rock next to Johnny. The pack came off and he stripped off the shirt, too. His skin was burned red, peeling on the shoulders. A silver cross hung on a thin steel chain. It spun as he opened the pack, winked silver in the sun. “I had to go home for supplies. Dad was still there.”
    “He didn’t see you, did he?” Jack’s father was a serious, hard-ass cop, and Johnny avoided him like the plague.
    “Do I look like an idiot?” Jack’s good hand disappeared inside the pack. “Still cold,” he said, and pulled out a can of beer. He handed it to Johnny, then pulled out another.
    “Stealing beer.” Johnny shook his head. “You’re going to burn in hell.”
    Jack flashed the same sharp smile. “The Lord forgives small sins.”
    “That’s not what your mom says.”
    He barked a laugh. “My mom is one step away from foot washing and snake handling, Johnny man. You know that. She prays for my soul like I might burst into flame at any moment. She does it at home. She does it in public.”
    “Get out.”
    “That time I got caught cheating? Remember?”
    Three months ago. Johnny remembered. “Yeah. History class.”
    “We had a meeting with the principal, right. Before it was done, she had him on his knees, praying for God to show me the path.”
    “No shit. He was so scared of her. You should have seen his face, all scrunched up, one eye squinting out to see if she was looking at him while he did it.” Jack popped the top, shrugged. “Still, can’t blame him. She’s gone off the deep end and is trying just as hard to take me down with her. She had the preacher over last week to pray for me.”
    “In case I’m touching myself.”
    “I don’t believe it.”
    “Life is a comedy,” Jack said, but there was no smile left. His mother was scary religious, born again and taking no prisoners. She was on Jack all the time with threats of hellfire and damnation. He played it off, but the cracks showed.
    Johnny opened his beer. “Does she know your dad still drinks?”
    “She says that the Lord disapproves, so Dad put a beer refrigerator in the garage, his liquor, too. That seems to have settled it.”
    Jack chugged. Johnny took a sip. “That’s some crap beer, Jack.”
    “Beggars and choosers, man. Don’t make me hit you again.” Jack chugged the rest of his beer, then stuffed the empty in the pack and pulled out another.
    “Did you do your history paper?”
    “What did I say about small sins?”
    Johnny scanned the area behind Jack. “Where’s your bike?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “What do you mean, you don’t know?”
    “I didn’t feel like riding it.”
    “It’s a six hundred dollar Trek.”
    Jack looked away, shrugged. “I miss the old one. That’s all.”
    “Still no sign, huh?”
    “Stolen, I guess. Gone for good.”
    The power of sentiment, Johnny thought. Jack’s old bike was piss yellow with a three gears and a banana seat. His dad bought it second-hand and it had to be fifteen years old. It had been gone for a long time. “Did you hop the train?”
    Johnny’s eyes slid to the stunted arm. Jack fell from the back of a pickup when he was four and shattered the arm, which turned out to have a hollow bone. He’d had an operation to fill the hollow core with cow’s bone, but the surgeon must have been pretty bad, because it never really grew after that. The fingers didn’t work that well. The limb had little strength. Johnny gave him hell about it because it made the arm a nonissue between the two of them. But that was just cover-up. When it came down to it, Jack was sensitive. He saw the glance.
    “You don’t think I can handle a train jump?” Angry.
    “I was just thinking of

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