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David S. Atkinson

    “She just dropped her robe and stood there,” I said, shifting a little on Steven’s bed. “You could see her back. She looked nude.”
    “Yeah,” Steven agreed. “You could tell she was really naked. Not just pretending.”
    “Then she just grabbed him.”
    “I wish they’d showed her from the front when she did that,” Freddy chimed in. He was sitting on Steven’s floor.
    “I wish a girl would do that to me,” I replied.
    Steven got up off his bed and lay down on the floor. He held his head in his hands and propped it up by resting his elbows on the floor. I laid out on the bed, kind of in the same way.
    Steven didn’t have a whole lot in his room. There was the bed. That was against one of the blue walls under the one little window. He always kept the shade down. The window looked out on the space between Steven’s house and the next one, so I guess he just didn’t see any reason to keep it open.
    Other than the bed, there was just the desk where Steven was supposed to do homework and a bookcase. Steven didn’t really have any books, just a couple of his dad’s old marine manuals. Mostly he kept plastic model planes and pinewood derby cars on the shelves. That and all his stupid baseball trophies.
    “Maybe she would’ve been facing us if we’d seen Teen Wolf at the movies,” Freddy suggested. “Maybe they edited that for TV.”
    “I bet she was,” Steven said. He rubbed himself on the brown carpet. “I bet you could see everything.”
    Freddy leaned back a little away from Steven. “What’re you doing?”
    “It feels good.” Steven laughed. His eyes were closed a little.
    I started rubbing, too, on Steven’s bed. I thought about the girl from the movie. She grabbed me.
    Freddy looked at us. Then even he stretched out on the floor and started doing it. “Hey. It does feel good.” He said it like he hadn’t believed us.
    Steven had his eyes all the way closed, grinning. “You’d see her boobs. You’d see it all.”
    “Yeah,” I said quick to Freddy, pushing up a little off the bed, “and if you do it long enough something happens.”
    I’d done that. On the carpet in my room. There’d been this old movie on where this little guy hid some paper in his shirt. Some real sneaky pretty girl snuck her hand inside his shirt and was reaching all over inside there trying to get it. She tickled him, inside his clothes, grabbing for the paper. When I was lying on the floor in my underwear I thought about her doing that and rubbed.
    “What happens?” Freddy asked.
    “You finish,” I guess. I started rubbing again.
    “Finish?” Steven opened his eyes.
    “Yeah.” They didn’t look like they got it. I thought about it. That’s what it was, finishing.
    “Just do it long enough until something happens,” I finally said. “You’ll see.”
    “We should practice,” Steven said, getting up. “We need to be ready.” He looked around at Freddy and me.
    “Huh?” Freddy asked and sat up. I sat up too.
    “For a girl, stupid.” Steven rolled his eyes. “You got to practice for when it happens. I bet you don’t even know how to kiss a girl.”
    Freddy crossed his arms. “I do, too. I know better than you.”
    “Show me then. Show me how you’d kiss a girl,” he challenged.
    “With you? That’s gross!”
    “It’s just training! Just do it or admit you don’t know how.”
    “Fine,” Freddy snapped. He scooted over to Steven on the floor. He put his arms on Steven’s shoulders, kind of like he was hugging him but didn’t want to get too close. Then he closed his eyes and gave him a quick peck on the mouth.
    “There. See?”
    “That’s not how you kiss a girl!” Steven got up on his knees. “That’s how you kiss your mom. This is how you’re supposed to kiss a girl.”
    Steven wrapped his arms around Freddy’s neck and pulled him over so their chests were touching. Then he closed his eyes and kissed Freddy, opening his mouth. It looked funny. They were both boys. Then Steven let go and pushed him away.
    “See? That’s how you’re supposed to do it. With tongues and stuff.”
    “I know,” Freddy said. “If you were a girl I would’ve.”
    “Doesn’t matter,” Steven said, standing up. “You got to train and be ready so you do it right. Otherwise you’ll never get to make out with girls.”
    Then Steven came over and sat on the bed. I guess it was my turn. I made sure to do it like he said.
    At first it was weird when I had my eyes open. He was right in my face and I smelled deodorant. I closed my eyes, though, and then it was okay. It was supposed to be practice for kissing a girl so I didn’t think about kissing Steven. I thought about kissing the girl from the movie. That was all right.
    We stopped and Steven stood up. “He knows how to do it,” he told Freddy.
    “Like you know,” Freddy argued. “You push your tongue too hard. They don’t do that in the movies.”
    Steven shook his head. “That’s the movies. Movies are just pretend and they make it look like it’s real.”
    Freddy didn’t say anything to that. He couldn’t. Everybody knew movie kissing wasn’t real. Nobody would make movies if they had to kiss somebody just because it was a movie.
    “We should practice being naked, too,” Steven said.
    “Anybody can be naked,” Freddy sneered. “I’m naked all the time when I take baths.”
    “Not naked like that,” Steven insisted. “Naked with somebody. It’s not the same.”
    So we took our clothes off. Steven locked the door to his room first. It locked by pushing in the knob and turning till it clicked. There was a little hole on the other side of the door and the knob unlocked if a nail or something got stuck in it.
    Freddy had on tighty-whities. All of us had them, but Freddy still had his on.
    “Come on,” Steven told Freddy.
    “Don’t watch.”
    “We’ll see in a second anyway. Who cares?”
    Freddy shrugged. “Just don’t watch.”
    We turned around. It was kind of different, while people were looking. Even if nobody wanted to see. Kind of exciting. That was weird, though, so I didn’t think about it.
    We turned back around. He’d taken them off. Our clothes were all in a pile on the floor and he was standing like me, kind of covering himself up. Freddy and me looked over at Steven. At his face.
    “Now lay down,” he told Freddy as he got on the bed. He stretched out, waiting.
    Freddy stopped a minute, but then he walked over and lay down next to Steven. Steven rolled over so that they were touching. I just stood there.
    Suddenly, Freddy jumped up off of the bed. “Eee ee eeh heeh,” he squealed. He jumped back and forth and shook. “Our wieners touched!”
    “See?” Steven sat up. “That’s why you got to train. It’d be over if you were in bed with a girl and did that.”
    I started walking over to the bed. It was my turn and I wasn’t going to act all freaky like Freddy.
    We all looked up. It was Steven’s dad. He called up from downstairs.
    “Just a minute!” Steven yelled back.
    We all ran over and started grabbing clothes and trying to throw them on. Steven and Freddy both grabbed the same pair of pants.
    “Those are mine,” Steven tried to yell at him quietly. “Yours are over there.”
    “Who cares? Just get dressed!”
    “He’ll know if we aren’t wearing our own clothes,” Steven snapped. “He saw what I wore this morning.”
    Freddy let go of the pants and grabbed for his own. I tried to hop into mine in one jump, but my leg got caught. I tripped and had to jump around so I didn’t fall.
    “Steven!” His dad shouted again. “You coming?”
    “Yeah,” Steven yelled back again.
    We finally got our clothes on and ran out Steven’s room and down the stairs. We stopped before we got to the bottom, out of breath. Steven’s dad was waiting.
    “Yeah, dad?” Steven was in front. Me and Freddy were behind him on the stairs.
    Steven’s dad looked at us. He was a quiet guy. Always real calm. He was a cable man.
    “Your mother called,” he told Steven. “She said she was going to stop by home on her way to Target. If you want to go with she said to be ready in about twenty minutes.”
    “That’s okay, dad.” He put his hand on the banister. “I’ll just stay here.”
    “All right, then.” Steven’s dad hooked his thumbs in the front pockets of his pants. “So...what’re you boys doing up there?”
    Steven shrugged. “Just playing.”
    Steven’s dad nodded. “All right, then. Go on and get back to it.” He turned and walked off into the kitchen.


    Steven stopped kissing. “You’re much better at training than Freddy is,” he said.
    “Yeah?” I opened my eyes.
    Steven smoothed his hair down where it was messed up from rolling around. “Yeah. You don’t act all dorky and spaz out. It makes it funny when he does that.”
    I didn’t think Steven trained with Freddy again after that one time. The only training we did was when only me and Steven were around.
    “We’re getting pretty good at that,” he said. “We need to move on to something else.”
    “Like what?” There were only so many things we could do. Neither of us were girls.
    He scooted up the bed and sat up a little. “Rub it. With your hand.”
    “What?” I sat up a little, too. “Girls don’t have one of those. I don’t need to practice that.”
    He put his hands on his knees. “It’s practice for me.”
    I sat up all the way and scooted to the other end of the bed. That wasn’t something Steven needed to practice. It didn’t sound like training at all.
    “I don’t know,” I said finally.
    He threw up his hands like he was mad. “Fine, then. Don’t. I thought you were getting really good at the simple stuff and you were ready for harder training. I guess you’re not. I guess you can only handle the baby stuff.”
    “It’s not that,” I said quick. “It’s just, well...I don’t know.”
    He shook his head. “And here I was going to share my leftover Halloween candy with you because you were helping me. I was even going to help you practice, too. But, you don’t want to. Some friend you are. I bet Freddy would.”
    “Wait,” I said and scooted back over on the bed. “I’ll do it. I just had to think about it a minute.”
    Steven had a bunch of butterscotches in his candy. The orange ones that come wrapped in the yellow plastic wrappers. I’d seen them. His parents didn’t hide his candy either, they just let him have it. Mine only let me have a couple of pieces a day except after trick or treating. They said I was allergic.
    “Okay,” Steven said. “Do it.”
    He spread out and leaned back. I looked at it for a while, but I grabbed it when he started looking mad again.
    His was different than mine. It was shorter, but fatter. The end was bigger and darker, almost more brown than purplish like mine.
    “Do it or don’t,” he said and I did it.
    It was squishy but not. Closing my eyes didn’t help at all. I couldn’t pretend it was anything else.
    I didn’t know how long I was supposed to do it. I hoped only for a little bit. Suddenly, I felt it move and my hand was wet. I jumped up and Steven laughed.
    “Ha! Me play joke. Me go pee-pee in your Coke.”
    I shook my hand.
    “Hey! Don’t get pee on my floor. That’s gross.” He whacked me one on the arm.
    “You peed! Why’d you do that?”
    He laughed again. “It was funny.”
    I got off the bed and started grabbing my clothes. It was bad enough already. I couldn’t believe he did that. Steven was a dick.
    “Hey, stop. Don’t get pissy,” he laughed again.
    I kept grabbing my clothes. I found my underwear and put them on.
    “Come on,” he said. “I won’t do it again.” He grabbed a piece of candy off the desk next to the bed and tossed it to me. I had to drop my clothes to be able to catch it. It was a butterscotch.


    “This’ll be perfect,” I told Nicky.
    He came walking up into the lookout fort behind me. It was on a high part of the hill to the graveyard. There was a big flat area so there was plenty of room to sit and there were a bunch of trees so people down on the street couldn’t see in. No one’d see us kissing anybody.
    “Yeah,” Nicky agreed. He held up a couple pillows he’d dragged along. They were big and overstuffed. Dark brownish-green with designs all over them. “My mom said we could have these for it.”
    “You told your mom we were going to have a kissing booth?”
    “Sure.” He tossed the pillows down on the ground. There were two of them. We each sat on one.
    “Do you think a lot of girls will come?”
    “I bet they will,” I told him. “Kissing booths always get lots of people.”
    We’d made a sign with magic marker that had an arrow up to us and taped it to a tree at the bottom of the hill. All we had to do was wait for the girls.
    It was a great idea. We didn’t know why everybody else didn’t open kissing booths. Girls just came to kiss. No having to try to talk them into it. Maybe other people would do it, too, once they saw how well it worked for us.
    “How much should we charge?” Nicky asked after a while.
    “Yeah, don’t people have to pay? Like a dollar a kiss or something?”
    I threw a stick at him. “Dummy! You’re not going to kiss a girl because she doesn’t want to pay a dollar? If we charge we might not get as many.”
    “Oh,” Nicky chewed on his lip. “Maybe we should charge the ugly ones, though.”
    “Good idea. Kisses are free but if the girl’s gross she has to pay a dollar.”
    Nicky looked down at the alley. There was nobody down there. There was nobody down our block either. It was Sunday and it was pretty quiet.
    “Do you think it’ll just be kissing? Maybe they’ll let us do other stuff. Like see their boobs.”
    “Sure,” I shrugged. “If they come to kiss somebody they’ll probably neck or stuff like that.”
    That made me think about Heather. I was always staring at her during class. She never talked to me, though, so I didn’t think she’d let me kiss her or anything. Thinking about necking made me think about necking with Heather. I got really wound up thinking about that.
    No girls were coming, though. We had a sign up, but nobody. There wasn’t even anybody walking by. We’d waited for a while, too. Maybe even an hour.
    “Maybe we should practice until we get some girls,” I suggested. I’d still been thinking about Heather. “Like training.”
    “Naw,” Nicky replied.
    “I want to kiss girls. Not you.”
    I grabbed another stick and threw it at him. “Stupid! This is just while there aren’t any girls. If there were girls we wouldn’t kiss each other.”
    He threw the stick back, but not hard. It didn’t even come close to me.
    “But I don’t want to,” he replied.
    “Tell you what,” I bargained. “If you let me practice necking then you get first pick of any girl that comes to the booth. I’ll even kiss the ugly ones myself if I have to.”
    His eyes opened wide. Then they narrowed a little. “Just today, or all the time?”
    “All the time.”
    “What if they want to kiss you and not me?”
    “Then they have to kiss you first or I won’t do it,” I promised. “It isn’t a big deal. Steven does it.”
    “All right,” he sighed and tilted his head to one side. “But just until girls show up.”
    “Right,” I agreed, pulling my pillow next to his.
    “You don’t get to keep all the money we make,” he said, “even if you do kiss all the ugly girls.”
    “I don’t care,” I said. Then I closed my eyes. I was going to neck with Heather.


    “See? It’s like a girl,” Nicky told me.
    I tried it like Nicky said. He’d wanted to do that so he had me try it. He was going to do it next.
    “It is, kind of,” I said, even though Nicky didn’t have boobs. None of the girls in my class really had boobs yet either, though.
    “Told you.”
    We were in Nicky’s bed, but we were only kind of naked. If Nicky’s parents called we had to be able to get dressed fast. They’d get suspicious if we didn’t come right away. All the way naked took too long. We took our shirts off but kept them close by. We didn’t take our pants all the way off either. We just pulled them down so they’d be easy to pull up again. The blankets were over us. Nobody could see that we were doing anything, but it’d look weird if they saw us in the bed.
    “Maybe for the sleepover I can get one of my mom’s bras,” he suggested. “That’d be even better.”
    “We’d have to put something in it,” I replied, “or it wouldn’t stay on.”
    He shrugged.
    The sleepover wasn’t for another week. Nicky’d begged his parents for forever before they let him have one. Probably because his little brother always got in the way when Nicky had friends over. They finally said yes.
    We’d been planning the sleepover for a month. Nicky talked about it all the time. At the sleepover we wouldn’t have to be so careful. His parents wouldn’t check on us so much. We’d even be full-naked in the bed and not have to worry about them.
    “My turn,” Nicky said.
    I rolled over on my back. I didn’t think he was doing it right. I didn’t say anything, though. I didn’t have to teach him anything. As long as I got to practice the right way he could do it wrong all he wanted.
    “I saw Mrs. Bateman’s boobs,” he said. “That’s what these are.”
    “No you didn’t, Nicky,” I snapped. “You’re lying.”
    Mrs. Bateman was his next-door neighbor. She moved in with her husband a couple of months before. They had a hound dog they kept in the backyard. She was fat and had red hair, but she did have big boobs.
    “She did so. She was getting undressed and I saw her through the window. She saw me looking.”
    “Stop lying, Nicky. She wouldn’t do that.”
    It was dumb that Nicky lied. I didn’t even want to see Mrs. Bateman’s boobs. They’d be gross. If he was going to lie he could at least lie and say he saw Steven’s sister’s boobs. That’d be worth lying about.
    “Nicky?” His mom knocked on the door. “It’s time for dinner. Peter needs to go home.”
    I jumped out of the bed and pulled my pants up. Nicky tried to do the same, but he got caught in the blanket. I pulled on my shirt. I took care of myself first before worrying about Nicky.
    “Coming, mom,” he tried to say while wrestling with the blankets. “We’re coming.”
    He needed to hurry. She wasn’t calling from downstairs. She was right outside the door. I bet she could hear us.
    “Nicky, I-” She stopped, standing in the open doorway.
    Nicky was stupid! He hadn’t latched the door. She wouldn’t have even asked why it was latched. He always latched it so his little brother couldn’t get in. He hadn’t this time, though, and she’d just walked right on in.
    His mom stared. I looked down at myself. I didn’t look like anything. My clothes were all on and I was just standing next to the bed. She was looking at Nicky, though. He’d gotten loose of the blanket, but he was still in the bed. His shirt was off and his pants were around his ankles. Me looking okay didn’t help if he looked like that.
    She just stood there for a couple minutes. Her face looked like it was frozen. Nicky and I didn’t move either. Then, her face started twisting all up. Her mouth clamped shut.
    “Peter,” she finally said with her teeth gritted. “Go downstairs. Now.”
    I tried to go, but she was still in the door. She almost seemed frustrated when I went to get around her. It was like she didn’t think I had to go through the door to go downstairs. Finally, she moved enough to get by. She shuddered. Nicky was still lying on the bed.
    I ran downstairs as soon as I got around her. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. Let Nicky get the worst of whatever she was going to do. I almost ran right out the door. I thought she’d probably call my parents, though, before I got home if I didn’t do what she said. I sat down on the couch and waited.
    Still, I thought she would’ve yelled or smacked us or something. I couldn’t hear them, but it didn’t seem like she was doing anything like that. Maybe we weren’t in that bad of trouble. Maybe she’d just tell us not to do it anymore.
    Nicky’s cabbage patch kid was sitting on the couch next to me and I picked it up. It was mostly bald with just a little bit of black hair in the middle of its head. Nicky named it Guido even though cabbage patch kids came already named.
    I had nothing to do, waiting there. The cabbage patch kid had lips so I practiced kissing those. It didn’t work good. The lips were hard plastic and I couldn’t really kiss them.
    “Peter,” Nicky’s mom snapped, walking down the steps. I tossed the doll away. Nicky wasn’t with her.
    “Yes?” I tried to slouch so it looked like I felt really sorry. Maybe she wouldn’t punish me if I looked like I already felt bad enough.
    She stopped in front of the couch. Her face was still all twisted. It kept twitching. She didn’t look like I was in trouble, but almost like I was covered in dog doo. She kept almost saying something, but then stopping herself again before she actually talked.
    “Peter,” she finally stammered. “We don’t do that in this house.” She said ‘that’ real loud.
    She stopped. I didn’t say anything.
    “It’s wrong. The bible says that it is.”
    I knew that stuff from Sunday school. God didn’t want people making out with anybody if they weren’t married. It wasn’t doing it, though, so it wasn’t as bad. I didn’t tell her I knew it was bad. Maybe I wasn’t in as much trouble because she thought I didn’t know any better.
    “I want you to leave,” she said, her face still twitching. “There will be no sleepover. I don’t think Nicky should play with you so much for a while either.”
    I didn’t get it. She didn’t yell or call my parents. She just kept looking at me like I had puke all over me. Then I got it. She wasn’t talking about people making out. But we weren’t doing that. Steven wasn’t like that. That was gross. This was just training. That’s all. I wasn’t like that.
    “I want you to leave right now,” she said and pointed at the door.
    I got up quick. She opened the door and I ran out. After I went through, she slammed it.

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