I told him I’d heard it, and he took a bite of his sandwich, chewingslowly and looking down at his hand on the wheel.
“It’s not true,” he said.
“Not at all. It was a mule. Completely different species.”
He balled up his empty sandwich wrapper and threw it on the floor
of the cab.
“To be honest,” he said, “I never felt great about it.”
I told him that must have been a tough time, and he seemed to think
this over, keeping his eyes on the road.
“I guess I was just a kid,” he said. “Your parents are supposed to be
the ones stopping you from doing that shit.”
I knew how he felt. It’d been about a year since my mom had asked
me what I’d done at school that day.
“That’s why I like science,” Ronny said. “It’s the only rules you can’t
break. Hyde could drop dead tomorrow, and a horse would still be dif-
ferent from a mule.”
We got quiet again, and after a while I told him it would have been
great if we could have popped that balloon. Our laughter lasted until we
reached my house. Ronny squealed to a stop when I noticed we’d almost
passed it. He congratulated me on a good day’s work, and I said I’d see
“Bet your ass,” he said.
As he pulled off down the street, Knife raised a leg and started peeingover the side of the truck bed. It was a powerful stream that reached allthe way to the sidewalk. Ronny laid on the horn and raised a friendlymiddle finger out the driver’s side window as he took a left onto DouglasRoad and hit the gas, roaring out of sight.
When Ronny wasn’t in class the next day I assumed he’d been pulledover or gotten into a wreck. I felt only somewhat guilty over my reliefthat I’d gotten out of the truck when I did. I told myself that whateverit was, he could handle it; I was distracted by a pssst from Annie, whoseemed to view Ronny’s absence as an opportunity to talk to me withoutbeing insulted. She was wearing a plaid dress and a rose-colored clip inher hair.
“Hey,” she said, “when’s your lunch?” She was smiling.
I told her fourth period, and she wrinkled her nose as if she didn’tunderstand why I hadn’t told her earlier.