"How about this one?" Jimmy put his hand on Mr. Carlton's Bel Air, and his voice was loud in the dry breeze.
"Hey, Jimmy?" Sean walked toward him. "Maybe some other time. Right?"
Jimmy's face went all saggy and narrow. "What do you mean? We'll do it. It'll be fun. Fucking cool. Remember?"
"Fucking cool," Dave said.
"We can't even see over the dashboard."
"Phone books." Jimmy smiled in the sunlight. "We'll get 'em from your house."
"Phone books," Dave said. "Yeah!"
Sean held out his arms. "No. Come on."
Jimmy's smile died. He looked at Sean's arms as if he wanted to cut them off at the elbows. "Why won't you just do something for fun. Huh?" He tugged on the handle of the Bel Air, but it was locked. For a second, Jimmy's cheeks jiggled and his lower lip trembled and then he looked in Sean's face with a wild loneliness that Sean pitied.
Dave looked at Jimmy and then at Sean. His arm shot out awkwardly and hit Sean's shoulder. "Yeah, how come you don't want to do fun things?"
Sean couldn't believe Dave had just hit him.
He punched Dave in the chest and Dave sat down.
Jimmy pushed Sean. "What the bell you doing?"
"He hit me," Sean said.
"He didn't hit you," Jimmy said.
Sean's eyes widened in disbelief and Jimmy's mimicked them.
"He hit me."
"He hit me," Jimmy said in a girl's voice, and pushed Sean again. "He's my fucking friend."
"So am I," Sean said.
"So am I," Jimmy said. "So am I, so am I, so am I".
Dave Boyle stood up and laughed.
Sean said, "Cut it out."
"Cut it out, cut it out, cut it out." Jimmy pushed Sean again, the heels of his bands digging into Sean's ribs. "Make me. You wanna make me?"
"You wanna make him?" And now Dave shoved Sean.
Sean had no idea how this had happened. He couldn't even remember what had made Jimmy mad anymore or why Dave had been stupid enough to hit him in the first place. One second they were standing by the car. Now they were in the middle of the street and Jimmy was pushing him, his face screwed up and stunted, his eyes black and small, Dave starting to join in.
"Come on. Make me."
Another shove. "Come on, little girl."
"Jimmy, can we just--?"
"No, we can't. You a little pussy, Sean? Huh?"
He went to shove him again but stopped, and that wild (and tired, Sean could see that, too, suddenly) aloneness pummeled his features as he looked past Sean at something coming up the street.
It was a brown car, square and long like the kind police detectives drove, a Plymouth or something, and its bumper stopped by their legs and the two cops looked out through the windshield at them, their faces watery in the reflected trees that swam across the glass.
Sean felt a sudden lurch in the morning, a shifting in the softness of it.
The driver got out. He looked like a cop-blond crew cut, red face, white shirt, black-and-gold nylon tie, the heft of his gut dropping over his belt buckle like a stack of pancakes, The other one looked sick. He was skinny and tired-looking and stayed in his seat, one hand gripping his skull through greasy black hair, staring into the side-view mirror as the three boys came around near the driver's door.
The beefy one crooked a finger at them, then wiggled it toward his chest until they stood in front of him. "Let me ask you something, okay?" He bent at his big belly and his huge head filled Sean's vision. "You guys think it's okay to fight in the middle of the street?"
Sean noticed a gold badge clipped to the belt buckle beside the big man's right hip.
"What's that?" The cop cupped a hand behind his ear.
Mystic River. Copyright (c) 2001 by Dennis LaHane. Reprinted with permission from Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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