Everybody Wants to Rule the World
by Twins & Twins & Twins: Eliza Lane and Teresa Lane
Trevor shoved me into the passenger seat and turned up the CD player. Apocalyptic metal, hard and fast, deafened me. He mouthed something and peeled a donut over the curb and into his grandma’s rock garden, where an old cross marked the grave of Whitey, the black mouse we had accidently killed back in fourth grade. Trevor pulled back onto the driveway, killed the engine, and handed me the keys. “Don’t be afraid to put this baby up on the curb,” he repeated.
I spent the afternoon learning to drive stick shift in the red pickup that was usually parked outside the shop owned by my best friend’s dad. I’d finally picked up a job as their pizza delivery guy, my first job since I delivered newspapers in middle school. My friend Trevor had warned me that business was down, but if I was lucky I might “catch a babe or two.” He always called them babes.
It was the end of the summer before my senior year, when the leaves were still green but the grass was brittle. The neighbors were always outside: the one crazy lady who watered her driveway even in the rain, the three kids who were all different colors but were cared for by the same woman. My first evening on the job was steaming. The truck had a decent stereo, but no AC and I could feel the sweat trickling down my neck, past my chicken pox scar, and into my shirt. I pushed my long hair out of my eyes, and let out a sigh.
The last delivery of the night was scheduled for a two-storey house encased in huge trees, a rainforest canopy shading the front porch. I knocked on the door with my elbow, pizza in hand. It opened so slowly I imagined that it was a trap: the home of a serial killer, a cannibal or some kind of Buffalo Bill character. Finally, a kid about my age appeared, pale in the light of the streetlamp. He was fair, so much so that I could almost see the blood pumping blue beneath his skin. I knew the guy from school, but had never talked to him. I didn’t even know his name. He handed me a ten and a handful of change. Pizza delivery guys hate exact change. His hand trembled and all the pennies and nickels and dimes spilled onto the wooden porch. He knelt over, peered at the coins, and laughed nervously. “That was supposed to be your tip,” he said. “Just—uh—stay—no, come inside. I guess.”
I followed the kid into his house. An old woman was sitting upright on the floral loveseat in the living room. “Brian, who’s your friend?” she asked, not looking away from Wheel of Fortune. I was still carrying the pizza. He squinted at me and shrugged.
“Well, you two boys have fun. You should go upstairs and play.”
Brian looked at me, unsure, and then motioned for me to follow him up the stairs. Trevor would be disappointed; this was no babe.
I knew I was breaking all of the delivery guy rules. I had come inside the house—with all my cash. The keys of the truck were still in the ignition. I didn’t know what, or who, was up these stairs.
“She stays here on the nights my mom’s at the hospital for work,” the kid explained, jerking his head towards the frumpy woman. “My mom’s a nurse. She’s out of the house most nights, but she’s not a hooker.” I’d heard that rumor, and others, about this kid. People thought he was really weird, but his house looked pretty normal.
“I have a couple of dollars I can give you for a real tip. I’m sorry I dropped all the change.”
I glanced through the first doorway. The room was crowded: a bookshelf packed with textbooks, a well-used treadmill, a ping-pong table, and the most brutal stereo system I’d ever seen.
“You like music?”
The guy smiled. His lips cracked. He reminded me of summer camp and those kids who go home red and crispy. “For sure! I really like Duran Duran, Frankie, Tears for Fears, Eurythmics. Old school.”
“Oh, uh, cool, dude.” He could tell I wasn’t impressed and he looked a little hurt. I wanted to apologize; he seemed so weak. “So you’re a junior?”
“Yeah. And I take college classes online.”
Of course. He didn’t look like he got out of the house much. I set the pizza box on top of the bookshelf and flipped through some of the CDs. Nothing good. I turned back to Brian and picked up a ping-pong paddle. I knew I should get going, but he seemed really lonely. I thought I was tough, but I sure was a sucker for sad kids and baby animals.
I made a quick call back to the shop, telling Trevor that I had “met someone.” I’d make up a story about a hot girl tomorrow and he’d never know the difference.
Brian won the first game without any trouble, obviously in practice. I managed to fight back and the score of the second game was much closer, though I still lost. It was getting late and I knew I needed to get the pickup—and the pizza money—back to the store. I shifted my weight and put my hands in my pockets. I touched the keys to the truck and two tickets to the summer’s final show at the amphitheater. It started in less than an hour.
I pulled the tickets out of my pocket. “Hey, do you want to get out of here?”
He immediately looked concerned, disbelieving. His face scrunched and he nervously ran a hand through the straw of his hair. Downstairs the babysitter began to snore.
“Come on. When’s your mom get home?”
“Does the babysitter check on you up here?”
“No, she never comes up.” He didn’t even protest the word babysitter.
“Okay, but where we’re going, you’ll need something else to wear.”
I could tell that he had mixed feelings. I did, too. This was stupid. I didn’t even know this kid, but I guessed it was better than going alone, since Trevor had bailed.
I followed Brian to his bedroom: another bookshelf, twin bed, desk, dresser. In one corner was a saltwater fish tank with crystal clear water. The purple anemone pulsed gently as two clown fish chased each other through a ceramic pirate ship.
“What should I wear?” he asked, opening his closet.
He pulled a pair of black slacks and a black short sleeved buttoned shirt off their hangers. He looked at me for approval. “Okay, I guess. Is that all you’ve got?” He pointed to a black ball cap on top of his dresser, next to a tube of SPF 90.
“Whoa, I didn’t know they made sunscreen that strong.”
“SPF 90 is an albino’s best friend.”
“Cool.” Honestly, I didn’t really know what to say. I was embarrassed; usually I try to be smoother than that. Brian, however, seemed unaware of my discomfort. In fact, he laughed a little.
“Just kidding. I’m not an albino. My mom‘s just a bit overprotective.”
I turned away from the closet while he changed out of his blue polo and plaid shorts. His window overlooked the side yard and I could just see the back end of my truck. The branch of one of those tall trees brushed the window.
“Logan, I don’t know what shoes to wear,” he said, interrupting my thoughts. “I have dress shoes for church and these same athletic shoes that I was wearing before.” He wagged the white running shoes in front of me, one in each hand.
“Just wear black.”
He laced the shiny black shoes and pulled the cap on. He looked like a demonic missionary. I smiled for the first time since getting out of the pizza truck.
“What you need is a nice pair of shades.”
He opened the top drawer of his dresser like a car model on The Price is Right. He was beginning to get into the spirit. Lined up in the shallow drawer were at least six pairs of sunglasses. “Sensitive eyes,” he explained. I stopped myself from saying “cool” and pointed at the pair he should choose.
“We’re going to have to go down the tree,” I told him. “Have you ever snuck out that way before?”
“No, I never sneak out.” I wasn’t surprised by his answer.
“This will be easy. That tree is made for climbing.”
He tucked his wallet into his back pocket and grabbed what looked like a yellow marker off the dresser. I raised an eyebrow.
“EpiPen. I’m allergic to bees.”
“It’s nighttime. You’ll be fine,” I told him, but he still put the EpiPen in his other pocket.
I opened the window and, one at a time, we reached for the closest branch, swung our legs over the sill and stepped onto the thicker branch just below. The final drop was no more than six feet.
Back at the pizza place, I quickly handed over the money pouch and the truck keys to Trevor’s dad. I knew that I was ninety minutes late, but I hadn’t missed any deliveries and the money was all there. He never ran the tightest ship anyway. We drove my Honda to the amphitheater just as the band started to play. My tickets got us through the gate with a half-assed pat-down. The crowd was already raging, surging like a wave of frantic animals in front of the stage.
“This is insane!” he screamed at me. I pushed him deeper into the mass of bodies and we lost and found each other over and over in the pounding mosh. I felt like I was getting punched in the gut with every chord from the bass.
He was bright red and soaked with sweat when I led him to a clear space near the fence. He had lost his hat in the pit, but his smile was like nothing I’d ever seen. He was an escapee from 80s pop, a newborn zealot for hard rock.
Staggering out of the crowd, directly at us, came two girls. One, with cropped red hair, supported her friend, who appeared to be in some trouble. Her breath came in short, harsh bursts and her skin, wet with perspiration, looked clammy. She sunk from her friend’s grasp, her long black hair falling over her face. She groaned.
Brian’s eyes went wide and he sprung to her side. “Are you having an anaphylactic reaction?” he shouted above the noise of the band. His hand was reaching for the pocket with the EpiPen.
She rolled her head to the side and I could see that she was pretty. She had a flat chest and baggy black cargo pants held to her hips by a wide red belt.
“I have epinephrine if you need it.”
“I don’t do that—whatever it is,” she announced. We could both tell now that she was fully coherent, just winded from the wild mosh pit. Brian sat by her side and they were soon talking, screaming actually, the music nearly drowning their conversation. I wanted to make eye contact with the red haired girl, but she looked away, bored. The band played just one encore, their most thrashing song, and we all threw ourselves back into the human blender.
Back in the car, I nudged Brian hard in the shoulder. “Dude, did you at least get her name?”
“Ellie, no number. But her friend goes to my church.”
I parked the Honda down the street from his house. I didn’t want to chance waking the babysitter before he could climb back up the tree and into his room. We hurried past the porch, light glinting off the scattered coins that still lay on the floorboards. Brian needed a boost to the lowest branch, but then scrambled up to the window next to his bed. He waved, smiling broadly. I turned and walked towards my car, softly humming Billy Idol’s Dancing with Myself.
© 2010 Eliza Lane and Teresa Lane