Colin turned into the store’s parking lot and stopped the car, but made no move to get out. “I know you’re right. I mean, about me being a self-centered asshole. ”
“Well, it’s only sometimes. But still. Just stop. ”
“I don’t really know how,” he said. “How do you just stop being terrified of getting left behind and ending up by yourself forever and not meaning anything to the world?”
“You’re pretty fugging smart,” Hassan answered. “I’m sure you can figure something out. ”
“It’s great,” Colin said after a while. “About Katrina, I mean. You fugging kissed a girl. A girl. I mean, I always sort of thought you were gay,” Colin acknowledged.
“I might be gay if I had a better-looking best friend,” said Hassan.
“And I might be gay if I could locate your penis under the fat rolls. ”
“Bitch, I could gain five hundred pounds and you could still see Thunderstick hanging to my knees. ”
Colin smiled. “She’s a lucky girl. ”
“Too bad she’ll never know just how lucky unless we get married. ”
And then Colin was back on the subject. “You are sort of a dick to me sometimes. It would be easier if you acted like you actually didn’t hate me. ”
“Dude. Do you want me to sit here and say that you’re my best friend and I love you and you’re such a genius that I just want to cuddle up to you at night? Because I’m just not going to. That’s sitzpinklery. But I do think you’re a genius. No shit. I honestly do. I think you can do whatever the fug you want to do in your life, and that’s a pretty sweet gig. ”
“Thanks,” said Colin, and then they got out of the car, and they met in front of the hood, and Colin held his arms out a little, and Hassan shoved him playfully, and then they hustled into the store.
TOC was restocking some beef jerky sticks while Lindsey sat on the stool behind the counter reading a celebrity magazine, her bare feet up on the counter beside the cash register.
“Hey,” TOC said. “Heard you got a date tonight, big guy. ”
“Yeah, and it’s all thanks to your excellent driving. If you’d missed that pothole, she never would have ended up in my arms. ”
“Well, you’re welcome. She’s a hottie, ain’t she?”
“Hey!” said Lindsey without looking up from her magazine. “I’m the hottie!”
“Oh, baby, hush,” TOC said.
“So, Colin,” said TOC. “Hass says you aren’t much for cruising, but you gotta come out hunting with us next weekend. ”
“That’s nice of you to offer,” Colin said. And it was sorta nice. No quarterback or cornerback or anyone else in any way associated with football had ever invited him to do anything. But Colin thought immediately of the reason he chose Katherine XIX over Marie Caravolli. In this world, Colin figured, you’re best off staying with your kind. “I don’t know how to shoot, though. ”
“Oh, I bet you’ll bag a hogzilla,” said TOC. Colin glanced over at Hassan, who opened his eyes wide and nodded subtly. For a split second, Colin thought of passing on the hog hunt, but he figured he owed it to Hassan. Part of not being a self-centered asshole, Colin reasoned, is doing things with your friends even when you don’t want to. Even if they could result in the death of a wild hog. “Okay,” Colin said, looking not at TOC but at Hass.
And TOC said, “Sounds good. Listen, since y’all is here to look after the store till closing, I’m gonna head off. I gotta meet the boys down at the factory. We’re going bowling. ”
Now Lindsey put down the magazine. “I like bowling,” she said.
“Boys night out, baby. ”
Lindsey fake-pouted, then smiled, and stood up to kiss TOC good-bye. He leaned across the counter, pecked her on the mouth, and strode out.
They closed up the store early and went home, even though Hollis did not like to be interrupted before five-thirty. She was lying on the couch in the living room saying, “We need your help here. If you look at the price point—” and then she saw them walking in and said, “I need to call you back. ” She hung up the phone. “Now I’ve told y’all—I work until five-thirty and I can’t be interrupted. ”
“Hollis, why are you selling land to that guy Marcus?”
“That’s none of your business and I’ll thank you not to try and change the subject. Y’all stay out of the house until five-thirty. I’m paying you to work, remember. And Lindsey Lee Wells, I know you weren’t down at Mr. Jaffrey’s house today. Don’t think I don’t find these things out. ”
“I’ve got a date tonight, so I’ll be skipping dinner,” Hassan interjected.