The night the cops beat the crap out of me and Lucky, was the same
night I knew I wanted Greer in more than just a friendship way. It
wasn’t the first time I’d had a case of the “unwanteds.” But it was
the first time I’d felt something for a girl that one of my friends was
going out with. It was like someone stood over me and dropped a
boulder straight down on top of my head jamming this feeling into my
brain, exactly where I didn’t want it.
That night we were finishing up at the restaurant, trying to figure out
how to spend the last night of summer.
“Dude.” Lucky threw a dishtowel over his shoulder and shoved a
towering load of dishes through the dishwasher. “Kenny, you need a
night of just hangin’out.”
I sat on a stool, and stuffed a chip loaded with artichoke dip into my
mouth, dropping a blob on my black uniform vest. “I do need to chill,
but someone’s got to do the night deposit from this whole three day
weekend. Dad would kill me if I left it here.”
“Doesn’t your dad have a safe? Isn’t that what safes are for? A whole
lot of money?” Lucky ran both hands through his shoulder length black
hair, which, if my father were here, would be tied in a ponytail. The
dishwasher was out of bleach; dirty dishes were piled on the metal
counter, right next to food prep. Since Dad had been arrested, the
staff at Panteria’s had taken advantage and ignored the rules, big time.
Lucky threw sharp knives into a bucket. “Hire a bookkeeper. Man I’ve
never seen it as busy as it was this weekend. You?” His eyes avoided
mine, but, after all, he was tossing knives.
It was a pathetic tribute that since dad sat in the county clink our
restaurant had slammin’ business. Even though it happened eight years
ago, it brought a whole new surge of interest to Panteria’s where “it”
Lucky pulled out a finely rolled joint from his tee shirt pocket, slid
it under his nose, and took a deep breath. “I’ll call Greer, and we’ll
head to the park. I need to talk to you, anyway.”
“Will you put that away?” I stood up and looked around for Jacob the
“Lighten up. You act like you’re already the owner of this fine
establishment, and I thought you didn’t want that gig.”
“I don’t. But I can’t get out of Walburn if I’m sitting in the cell
next to my dad, okay?”
“Man, it’s bum about your old man,” Lucky said, tucking the joint away.
“What are you gonna do?”
“Me? Mom is already talking about my college fund for Dad’s defense.
I knew I’d never get out of here.” It was a lousy circle. If Dad
doesn’t get out of jail and ends up going to prison, I’ll get stuck
with the restaurant. If he uses my college fund for his defense either
way win or lose, my college fund is gone and I’m stuck with the
restaurant. When my brother Ben and I were younger we’d have wrestling
matches, and the winner would take over running our family restaurant,
Panteria’s. When we got older, the loser would get stuck here in
Walburn with Panteria’s. Now I’d unload that legacy on the neighbor’s
dog if I could.
“Dude, he’s your father. That’s cold.” But Lucky still wouldn’t look
at me. Was Lucky hiding something?
“What’s going on with you?”
“Nothing, it’s just, you know. Family. My old man is crap but he’s
still my dad.”
Lucky didn’t understand. He had no interest in going to college.
Hell, he barely made it to class. But I’d been planning to get out of
Walburn since middle school, when dad told me he expected me to take
over running Panteria’s. A very true “unwanted.” If my college
fund’s eaten up for his defense, I’ll never get out of town. My grades
just aren’t good enough. It wasn’t that I thought dad was guilty of
killing the cop here at the restaurant. I knew he was innocent. Not
sure how I knew, I just knew my dad. Not a killer.
Lucky flipped his phone to his ear.
“Do we really need Greer tonight?”
“Need being the key word. If you hadn’t broken up with Tamara you’d be
fine with me getting Greer.”
It was partly true. Greer and Lucky had been going out for about six
months. Trouble was, whenever Greer came along all they did was
make-out. Which, I’m totally not against, unless I don’t have someone
to make out with. Which I don’t.
Later, after locking up the restaurant, ignoring the vacuuming and the
mopping, we “borrowed” my brother Ben’s car just like we’d been doing
all summer. Since I didn’t know the combination to the safe, I left
the money in the locked drawer of Dad’s desk.
“Great,” Lucky said. “What’s the point of having the safe if you don’t
know the combo?”
“I could call Mom,” I said, but I knew I wouldn’t. She’d spent the
last two nights at the hospital with my brother Ben, and she probably
didn’t have the combination memorized.
We picked up Greer, who crawled into the front seat beside Lucky while
I lay in the back smoking that joint. We stopped at Druver’s, an In
and Out gas station slash market, and Lucky bought beer from a girl we
all went to school with and who graduated last spring. Another of
At Strathmen Park, Nirvana boiled in the hot summer night, shaking the
dashboard and announcing our arrival in the parking lot.
“Gimme some of that,” Lucky said, slamming on the brakes, and throwing
his arm around Greer. The streetlights flickered giving me a headache.
I sat up, pushed the door open, and jumped out into the warm evening.
The tiniest breeze spilled over me, reminding me summer was over and it
was back to school in the morning.
I pounded a beat on the hood of the car in time to the music. We were
the only people in the parking lot, except across the park you could
see the headlights of another car.
“Man, are you guys going to start that?” I said peeking through the
windshield and seeing Lucky’s face stuck to Greer’s.
“You don’t have to stay around?” Greer’s voice grated.
I could smell the garlic and marinara sauce that never seemed to wash
off my hands.
I knew Greer wasn’t crazy about me hanging around. She let me know on
more than one occasion.
“Don’t you have any girlfriends you hang out with?” I cupped my hands
around my mouth and spoke through the windshield.
“Cute,” I said.
“It would be good if you guys could get along,” Lucky said, throwing
the door open.
I poured a cold beer down so fast I got the hiccups, which broke the
silence and we all laughed. I hated being the third wheel and for an
instant wished I hadn’t broken up with Tamara Little, but that thought
disappeared as quickly as it came.
Lucky crawled out of the car, but he got stuck on something.
“Oh no! Your bracelet,” Greer said. Greer reached across the front
seat. She liked to make jewelry and stuff out of beads.