Oh, my little guy. Every time I think about him, about the way we had to leave him with my sister, Mavis, so we could come here and make some money, I just choke up. I feel awful, you know, like the worst mother in the world, but I know that once our luck turns we’ll be able to buy a house and a yard and a little dog and all those things, like his friends have. I mean, he must feel terrible, left there with his parents gone away, and maybe that’s made him a little unusual, a bit lost. But I think he knows it’s for his own good, he’ll thank us, one day I gotta go, my shift starts in ten.

- - -

That boy is rock solid. Anyone who says different can come see me. Including Mavis; she always has been half-baked. I remember watching him learn to walk. We were in a real nice park and he saw a leaf falling off a tree, spiraling down kinda slow, and he just went for it. Bolted right up on those fat little legs. It was like he’d been walking in the park for years. That’s the way he’ll tackle life. I always told him, nobody hands you opportunities, you’ve gotta make ‘em and take ’em. That’s what we’re doing here, Eunice and me. We’re on the upswing.

- - -

Friend (Cranky)
He’s a mess. That kid smells like dog crap.

- - -

I feel for the boy. He’s like a ghost in the house, that’s what I think sometimes. I work the night shift at the hospital and my daughter Pammy’s finishing up at the vo-tech, so we’re not home much. When we are all home together, he never watches the game shows with us, he just hangs out in the backyard building forts and playing his strange games I heard a yell once and looked out the window and he was in a fight. What do you call it, hand-to-hand combat? Then he turned around and I saw there wasn’t anyone out there with him. It was just him, fighting alone.

I went down to the school that one time his teacher called, and we had a conference and she told me some things, and when I got home did he get a scrubbing and a talking to, let me tell you. But it’s just me here, and I’m not his mother. And to be honest with you, I think it’s criminal the way Eunice and that damn gambler dumped him here and ran off. I mean, yeah, I do have the house and car and a twenty-inch color TV, but I’m not made of money. I can’t be spending my retirement on stuff for her kid, like soap. Not to say I don’t care for the boy, because I do. It’s just I’m stretched thin. I’m stretched thin.

- - -

Friend (Dog/Flying Ace)
He smells good.

- - -

I was pretty ticked off when my mother told me he’d be living with us while Aunt Eunice and “Uncle Jerry” went to Las Vegas, but that was two years ago, and you get used to things. He’s a good kid, underneath the filth. He doesn’t say much, but he’s busy… likes to build things and pretend he’s a building code inspector or something. And he collects things.

Like for example bunches of dead bugs mostly, and nuts and bird feathers. They’re all over his room. He also has National Geographic pictures of cities around the world.

One night I heard a crash from his room and went in to chew him out. Turns out, he got dizzy spinning and fell against his dresser. What he does is, he lines the National Geographic pictures up on his bed and spins around with his eyes closed. Wherever his finger’s pointing when he stops is where he travels that night. It’s all in his imagination. He lies in bed and charts his course, imagining adventures, the people, the buildings — even the food, which, involves lots of slimy things like squid that he eats without flinching.

That’s what he said.

Never mind the fact that the only thing I’ve ever seen him eat is peanut butter and bananas.

He does that travel thing most every night. I don’t think he sleeps much.

I’m not sure when the no-bath thing started. He didn’t always smell so bad. We fought with him about it but now we’re all like whatever.

- - -

Friend (Bald)
We make him play outfield because he’s kind of smelly and because if he isn’t paying attention, we can yell and he might have time to catch the ball by the time it gets out to him.

We haven’t won any games.

Right, never.

That’s what I said. Not one game.

It’s not his fault. I mean, good grief.

It’s bad luck. None of us seem to have much luck.

- - -

School Psychologist
This is a troubled young man.

- - -

He’s distracting to the other students. I called his guardian because of his personal hygiene issues and because his summer vacation essay was all lies.

Because I knew he was not given any gun by Russian double agents, or involved in a shootout on a barge in the Bering Strait.

When I asked him to write the truth he just stood there with his jaw jutting out and asked if I knew how much he could find out about my personal life by rummaging through my garbage.

Really. He said that.

He has a real defiant streak.

- - -

Friend (Musical Prodigy)
Who? Oh. We don’t know each other that well. He asked me once if Shostakovich was a communist.

- - -

Bus Driver
He’s late every morning. A pain in the ass, actually. I have to honk outside that rundown house until he comes running out with his shoelaces untied, clutching a banana in his hand like it’s a pistol.

I guess that’s his breakfast, poor kid.

He used to show up every day, but he’s been missing the bus, maybe not even making it to school, more and more.

Maybe because he’s been hurt by comments from the other kids? I don’t know. They call him stinky and dirty and whatnot.

He’s in another world, that’s what I think. When he comes running down the sidewalk, right as I start to pull away from the curb, it’s like he’s not really here, not really going to school. One minute his banana is a gun, the next he’s talking into it as if it’s a walkie-talkie and he’s chasing after some spy, on his way to becoming a hero.