Next we dug a small firepit, in which we spent some time tryingto blow up a magnet that Ronny had gotten off his refrigerator. Whenthat didn’t work, he brought out a pepper shaker and had us take turnssnorting the pepper, holding our eyes open with our fingers when wesneezed to see if we could make our eyes pop out. This didn’t produceany significant results, so he went back inside, eventually bringing outa red party balloon and a six-pack of sodas. He placed the inflated balloon in the grass and had us chug the sodas. We waited a few minutesand then one at a time endeavored to pop the balloon by peeing on it.By the time I was ready to pee on the balloon a second time, we wereboth laughing so hard I could barely hit the thing. Ronny’s backyardwas wild with the sound of crickets, and peeing on a balloon felt like akind of freedom.
Fun, I would realize later. We were having fun.
“The subject, a balloon,” Ronny narrated through his laughter as he
wrote, “withstood the force of six cans of soda peed on it with ordinary
After a few more experiments, I realized how late it was and told
Ronny I’d have to call my mom to pick me up. But when I called from
the phone in Ronny’s kitchen, no one answered. Mom had assured me
this was her night off, but either she’d fallen asleep or Sam had the vol-
ume on the television so high they couldn’t hear the phone. I was start-
ing to feel the typical, stranded panic of a latchkey kid when Ronny took
the receiver from my hand and hung it up.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ll give you a ride.”
Before I could ask him what he meant, he was standing over his fa-
ther in the other room, rifling through the sleeping man’s pockets for the
keys to the Trezzo truck. Once he found them, he twirled them around
his index finger and shoved them into his back jeans pocket.
“That reminds me,” he said, pulling out his father’s wallet. “I owe you
Seeing Ronny going through his sleeping father’s wallet made me un-
derstand exactly what it was I’d been doing over the past few days.
“That’s okay,” I said.
Ronny must have noticed me looking down at his father.
“The money’s not his,” he said, taking out a stack of bills. “It’s from
He took half the bills and put them in my hand. The rest he pocketed.