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“They’re perfect,” she says. “You should work in fashion.”

I can’t wait to see him in the candy cane shirt, but I doubt he’ll even wear it. Tough luck for him, the Rag has a very strict NO RETURNS policy. But, he can donate it back if he likes. I’ll make sure Delaney re-buys it for his birthday.

When I get home, my mother’s door is closed. She’s left a note taped to my door, though. Pick up my medicine

Sure. Why not? I’m my mother’s unpaid errand girl. I crumple up the note and throw it at her door. It’s unfortunate that she chooses that very moment to exit her room. The note hits her left breast and bounces to the floor. She watches it fall to her feet, and then brings her eyes back up to my face. My mother doesn’t have to say anything to punish me. She’s not verbally abusive. She turns back around and shuts her door. The message is clear. I disgust her. She wouldn’t even keep me around, except she won’t leave the house anymore, and I get shit for her. I head back outside and walk to the crack house for Wendy’s medicine. At least she didn’t send me to the bad people house.

“Yo, Margo!”

“Yo,” I say.

Judah is wheeling himself back and forth on the driveway. He’s wearing a thin white t-shirt and all of his muscles are popping out.

“Ew, gross. You have muscles.”

“Yeah, I’m a stud,” he says.

“Why are you doing that?” I ask. He’s wheeling himself left, then right, around and around, as fast as he can go.

“Workin’ out.”

“Cool, I don’t do that.” Like it’s not evident in the fat pockets around your knees, I think.

I keep walking, but he follows me out onto the sidewalk. I can hear his wheels squeaking behind me. I grin.

“You don’t smoke or work out. What do you do?”

I don’t know what I do; I’m kind of a loser.

“I talk to you once … now you think we’re friends?”

“You’re kind of mean looking,” he says. “I was scared of you. Once you got things rolling…”

He’s full of shit. He can’t even say it and keep a straight face.

I fall back into step, and he has no problem keeping up with me.

“I read,” I say. I look at him out of the corner of my eye to see if he’s judging me.

“I do too,” he says. I remember the book he was holding, the day I walked up his pathway. “Mostly biographies.”

“Ew,” I say. And then, “I get enough of real life in the Bone. I want to go somewhere good when I read, not into someone else’s crappy life.”

“Good lives aren’t worth reading about,” he argues. “I read about the struggle. Other people’s growing pains.”

“I like happy endings,” I say. “Real life never has a happy ending.”

“God, you’re depressing. I don’t know why we’re friends.”

I turn into the crack house’s cracked driveway. “We’re not,” I call. “Now wait for me out here, and if you hear gunshots, call the police. They won’t come, but call them anyway.”

“I’ve got guns,” he says, flexing his arms. “I can protect you.”

I laugh. I didn’t know I had a laugh in me.

I stop laughing when Mo opens the door. I’m hit in the face with the smell of weed and cooking steak. He shoves his eight-month-old son at me. “Hold him,” he grunts. I take Mo Jr. and sit down on front step with him. I have to brush aside a bunch of cigarette butts. Mo Jr. smells like a week-old diaper. He looks up at me like I’m the most boring creature alive, before staring off into the bushes to the left of the house.

“Mo,” I say. “Little Mo.” He won’t break his gaze with the bushes. I start whistling. I’m a fairly accomplished whistler; Judah looks up from where he’s doing wheelies on the sidewalk. Little Mo turns his face to me.

“Finally,” I say. “It hurts my feelings when you don’t pay attention to me.”

I whistle him a song I’ve heard on the radio at work. He smiles a little. When Big Mo comes back to the door, he reaches down to take the baby and slips a couple baggies in my lap. I stand up and dust off my pants. Mo leans against the doorframe. “Your mom okay?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Same as always.”

“She used to babysit me, when I was real little.”

I keep my face blank, but I’m more than surprised. She never told me. Not that she tells me shit.

I leave the wad of twenties on the stairs.

“Bye Little Mo,” I say. But the door’s already shut. I put the baggies into my Groceries & Shit bag.

When I reach the street, Judah looks at my bag.

“Those for you?”

“Nah, my mom’s a prescription pill druggie.”

He looks relieved. “Even if they were, you’d have no right to judge, pot head.”

“Marijuana is different,” he says. He pronounces it mari-jew-wana.

“No. It’s all an addiction. Emotional, physical. You do it because you need it. It doesn’t matter if your body craves it or not. Your mind does.”

“I like you,” he says.

I’m surprised.

He walks me home. He wheels me home. Which is better, because anyone can walk you home. I don’t let him get right to the house. Everyone knows what my mom is, but you still don’t want anyone to see it first hand.


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