“Do you have a crush on her or something?” asked Colin suddenly.
“No. I was just thinking aloud. For the last time, I’m not interested in dating a girl I’m not gonna marry. Dating Lindsey would be haram. 49 Also, she’s got a big nose. I don’t go in for noses. ”
“Well, not to start an argument, but you do all kinds of shit that is haram. ”
Hassan nodded. “Yeah, but the haram shit I do is, like, having a dog. It’s not like smoking crack or talking behind people’s backs or stealing or lying to my mom or fugging girls. ”
“Moral relativism,” Colin said.
“No it’s not. I don’t think God gives a shit if we have a dog or if a woman wears shorts. I think He gives a shit about whether you’re a good person. ”
The words “good person” made Colin immediately think about Katherine XIX. She would be leaving Chicago soon for a camp in Wisconsin where she worked every summer as a counselor. The camp was for kids with physical disabilities. They taught them how to ride horses. She was such a good person, and he missed her all over his body. He missed her like crazycakes. 50 But he felt, in the throbbing missing piece inside him, that she didn’t long for him like that. She was probably relieved. If she were thinking of him, she’d call. Unless . . .
“I think I’m going to call her. ”
“That’s the worst idea you’ve ever had,” Hassan replied immediately. “The. Worst. Idea. Ever. ”
“No, it’s not, because what if she’s just waiting for me to call like I’m waiting for her to call?”
“Right, but you’re the Dumpee. Dumpees don’t call. You know that, kafir. Dumpees must never, never call. There’s no exception to that rule. None. Never call. Never. You can’t call. ” Colin reached into his pocket. “Don’t do it, dude. You’re pulling the pin on a grenade. You’re covered in gasoline and the phone is a lit match. ”
Colin flipped open the phone. “Dingleberries,” he said.
Hassan threw up his hands. “You can’t dingleberry that! That’s a flagrant misuse of the dingleberry! I dingleberry you calling her!”
Colin closed the phone and mulled it over. Pensive, he bit at the inside of his thumb. “Okay,” he said, sliding the phone back into his pocket. “I won’ t . ”
Hassan sighed heavily. “That was a close one. Thank goodness for the Double Reverse Dingleberry. ”
They sat in silence for a moment and then Colin said, “I want to go home. ”
“No, to Lindsey’s. But we still have forty minutes to kill. ”
Hassan stared out through the windshield and nodded his head slowly. After a few quiet moments, he said, “Okay. Okay. Fat kid asthma attack. It’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie. ”
Hassan rolled his eyes. “What, are you deaf? Fat kid asthma attack. It’s the oldest trick in the whole fat kid book. Just follow my lead. ”
They got out of the car and Hassan started wheezing very loudly. His every inhalation sounded like the cry of a dying duck. HEEEEEENH; exhale; HEEEENH; exhale. He placed his hand against his chest, and ran into the Gutshot General Store.
“What’s wrong with him?” Lindsey asked Colin. Before he could answer, Hassan started talking amid his wheezes.
“HEEEEENH. Asthma. HEEEENH. Attack. HEEEENH. Bad one. HEEEENH. ”
“Oh shit,” said Lindsey. She hopped off TOC’s lap, turned around, grabbed her first-aid box, and started looking through it in vain for asthma meds. The Other Colin sat silently on the stool, no doubt displeased by the interruption.
“He’ll be fine,” Colin said. “It happens. I just need to get him home to his inhaler. ”
“Hollis doesn’t like it when people show up when she’s working,” Lindsey said.
“Well, she’ll make an exception,” said Colin.
Hassan kept up his wheezing for the drive home, and as he raced up the Pink Mansion’s stairs toward his room. Colin sat with Lindsey in the living room. They could both hear Hollis in the kitchen saying, “This is an American product. It’s made with American labor. That’s a selling point. That’s a marketable, promotable facet of our product. People buy American. I’ve got a study here . . . ” Colin had wondered whether maybe Hollis just watched the Home Shopping Network all day and left other people to run the business, but obviously she did work.
Hollis came out then and the first thing she said was, “Please don’t interrupt me during working hours,” and then Lindsey said Hassan had an asthma attack and forgot his inhaler, and then Hollis took off running up the stairs. Colin followed quickly, shouting, “I hope you’re okay, Hassan!” so that Hassan would know she was coming, and when they all got to his room, he was lying peacefully on the bed.