Skywriting at Night

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Chapter 17

     "What are you eating?" Rubber Boots asked Jet, who was sitting on the front steps of the school delaying the inevitable.

     "Breakfast."

     "Looks more like potato chips."

     "Same difference," Jet said.

     "Yeah man, the breakfast of champions."

     "More like the breakfast of people who can't face oatmeal, cinnamon toast, or cold cereal on a Monday morning," Jet said.

     "So that's breakfast?"

     "No," Jet said holding up the potato chip bag, "This is breakfast."

     Rubber Boots reached in and pulled out a chip. Boys and girls walked by, some hurrying but most taking their sweet time.

     "You oughta come over my house for breakfast some morning," Rubber Boots said. "My mom'll treat you right."

     "Let me guess. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?"

     "How'd you know?"

     "I hear it every morning," Jet said.

     "Yeah, but do you get eggs any way you want them, bacon or sausage—both if you tell her how good she looks—toast or English muffins, hash browns, and pancakes?"

     "Every morning?"

     "No," Rubber Boots said, "some mornings she makes waffles instead of pancakes and blueberry muffins instead of English muffins."

     "Bet that sucks."

     "You kidding? Waffles beat pancakes any day of the week."

     Timmy Padget walked up to them. "What happened, your mother run away and leave your father to make breakfast?" he asked Jet.

     "Yeah, you won't some?"

     "Sure."

     "The store's that way," Jet said, pointing down the street. Timmy stuck his hand in the bag. Jet closed his fingers around Timmy's hand, trapping it. "What do you say?"

     "I won't kick your ass if you give me some," Timmy said.

     "That's 'cause you can't."

     "Yeah, right. Oh, what the fuck......please?"

     "That's better," Jet said as he loosened his grip on Timmy's hand, which emerged from the bag with a huge handful of chips.

     "As in 'please kiss my ass'."

     "Hey, how about those break-ins this weekend?" Rubber Boots said excitedly.

     "What about them?" Jet asked.

     "What about them?" Timmy said incredulously. "This is getting cool as a moose on a hot tin roof."

     "Leave your mother out of this," Jet said.

     "Can you believe it?" Rubber Boots asked. "Two in one weekend. Man, he's really hauling butt now."

     "How'd ya like the one in the church?" Timmy asked. "You know Ralph was there through the whole thing."

     "Ralph who?" Rubber Boots asked.

     "Marconi," Timmy told him. "He lives down the block from Jet and me. Anyway, Ralph was playing altar boy—hard to picture any preacher thinking Ralph oughta to be an altar boy—when they discovered the Kool-Aid and crackers. Man, I wish I coulda seen the look on the preacher's face."

     "Maybe if you went to church once in a while you would," Jet said.

     "I wish I went this time."

     "You mean this guy Ralph was there?" Rubber Boots asked in awe.

     "So were a couple hundred other people," Jet said.

     "Yeah, but Ralph was standing right in front," Timmy said, reaching into the bag and grabbing another handful of potato chips. Jet's breakfast was getting smaller by the minute. "Well, I’d love to stay and chat but I gotta find someone smarter and smaller than me who'll let me copy his history homework before first period. See you guys later."

     "Not unless I see you first," Jet said.

     Rubber Boots looked at Jet in awe. "You know this guy Ralph?"

     "Yeah, we grew up together. So what?"

     "You know anyone who works at that French restaurant?"

     "Uh-uh."

     "I mean, was that a slick move or what?" Rubber Boots asked Jet, who shrugged and looked bored. "You really don't get it, do you?"

     Jose Rosenbloom approached with five of his friends. Hard as it was to believe, Jose's head looked even bigger when he was standing; his head very nearly caused a total solar eclipse.

     "I don't know who the guy is, but he sure is livening things up around here," Jose said to his friends.

     "My Dad says it's some loony who broke outta the nuthouse and he doesn't want us goin' out at night 'til they catch the guy."

     "A restaurant's one thing, but a church? My mother says he's gone too far this time."

     "What's the difference?"

     "A church is for salvation," Jet interjected from the sideline, "and a restaurant's for salivation."

     "That'll make my mother feel better."

     "If not, try vitamins."

     As the group started up the stairs, Jose reached into Jet's bag of potato chips and pulled out a big handful.

     "See you in English," he said as he stuffed the chips in his mouth. 

     Jet reached into the bag and found a small pile of broken chips and crumbs. "If breakfast is the most important meal of the day," he said, "I can't wait to see what's for lunch."

     He tipped his head back and poured the potato chip crumbs in his mouth. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a police car pull up to the curb. Two uniformed officers got out of the car, put their hats on, shoved their nightsticks in their belts, and walked towards Jet and Rubber Boots.

     "Shouldn't you boys be in school?" one of them asked.

     "We've still got a few minutes," Jet said.

     "If they're still here after the bell rings we pick 'em up for truancy," the second cop said as they continued up the steps. When they got to the top they turned and looked back at Jet and Rubber Boots, who were still watching them. The cops started laughing and went into the school.

     "I bet they're here to arrest Johnny for the robberies," Rubber Boots said.

     "They can't be that stupid," Jet said.

     "It's not stupid to think Johnny's doing them," Rubber Boots said, hurt and defensive.

     "No," Jet corrected, "but it is stupid to think today will be the first time in his life that Johnny won't be late for school."

     Rubber Boots laughed as Jet stood up. "I bet you any amount of money that as soon as Johnny shows up they take him to the police station and give him the third degree," Rubber Boots said.

     "You seem awfully anxious to pin the crimes on Johnny," Jet said, raising one eyebrow in mock suspicion. "And where were you at the time of the crimes?"

     "Yeah, right," Rubber Boots said, "can you just see me doing something like that?"

     Jet stopped walking and looked his friend over from head to toe and back again. "Now that you mention it, you do kind of look like the criminal type," he said.

     "Okay wiseguy, and where were you this weekend when the menus were taken?"

     "Out of town with my parents," Jet said as he opened the door and walked into the school.

Chapter 18 ]



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  Skywriting at Night - a novel by Mad Dog

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