“And she’s straddling some guy. ”
“That’s correct,” said Colin.
Hassan pursed his lips and nodded. “And—I just want to make sure we have our facts straight here—she’s naked. ”
“She certainly is. ”
She Was facing away from them, her back arched, her butt bobbing in and out of visibility. Colin had never seen actual people having actual sex before. From his angle, it looked a little ridiculous, but he suspected it might appear different if he were in the guy’s position.
Hassan laughed silently, and he seemed so amused by the situation that Colin felt okay laughing, too. “This is some fugging snow globe of a day,” Hassan said. And then he raced forward about ten paces, cupped his hands over his mouth, and screamed, “I AM BREAKING UP WITH YOU!” Still, though, a goofy grin was on his face. Hassan takes so little seriously, Colin thought. As Katrina turned back toward them, her face shocked and scared, her arms crossed over her chest, Hassan turned away.
Hassan looked back at Colin, who finally tore his gaze away from the inarguably quite fetching naked girl before him. “Give her some privacy,” Hassan said. And then he laughed again. This time, Colin didn’t join in. “You gotta see the humor in it, baby. I’m bug-bit, hornet-stung, bramble-cut, covered in chaw, and wearing camouflage. A feral hog, some hornets, and a prodigy led me through the woods so that I might stumble upon the first girl I ever kissed riding TOC like he’s a thoroughbred next to the grave of an Austro-Hungarian Archduke. That,” Hassan said to Colin emphatically, “is funny. ”
“Wait, TOC?” Colin’s head swiveled back to the Archduke’s obelisk, where he saw—holy shit—TOC, his very self, slithering into some camo pants. “The. Rat. Bastard. ” For reasons that he didn’t understand, Colin felt a pulsing rage, and he took off toward the graveyard. He didn’t stop running until he got to the knee-high stone wall, and was staring TOC dead in the eye. And then he didn’t quite know what to do.
“Is my dad with you?” TOC asked coolly. Colin shook his head, and TOC sighed. “Thank God,” he said. “He’d have my ass in a sling. Have a seat. ” Colin stepped over the wall and sat down. Katrina was leaning against the obelisk, dressed now, her hands shaking slightly as she smoked a cigarette. TOC started talking. “You’re not gonna say a word. Because this ain’t none of your business. Now your little Arab friend can have his words with Kat, and that’s fine, and they’ll keep it ’tween themselves. But I don’t reckon you want Lindsey to know anything. ”
Colin stared at the Archduke’s obelisk. He was tired and thirsty and sort of needed to pee. “I think I have to tell her,” he said, a trace of the philosophical in his tone. “She’s my friend. And if I were in her position, I’d expect her to tell me. It’s just basic Golden Rule stuff, really. ”
TOC stood up and walked over to Colin. He was a sizable presence. “Let me tell you both,” and only then did Colin realize Hassan was standing behind him, “why you aren’t going to say a word. If you do, I will beat your asses so bad, you’ll be the only guys in hell walking with a limp. ”
Hassan mumbled, “Sajill. ”75 Colin quietly reached into his cargo pocket and fiddled with the device for a moment, then kept his hand in his pocket so it wouldn’t look suspicious. “I just want to know,” Hassan said to Katrina, “how long this has been going on. ”
Katrina put her cigarette out against the Archduke’s obelisk, stood up, and walked over to stand next to TOC. “A long time,” she said. “I mean, we dated when we were sophomores and we’ve been hooking up occasionally ever since. But we came out here and I was going to end it. Honestly. And I’m sorry because I really do like you and I haven’t really liked anyone since him,” she said, glancing up at TOC, “and I wouldn’t have even done it this time except, I don’t know. It was, like a good-bye or something. But I’m really sorry. ”
Hassan nodded. “We can still be friends,” he said, and it was the first time Colin had ever heard those words spoken sincerely. “No big whup, really. ” Hassan looked at TOC then. “I mean,” Hassan said, “it’s not like we had agreed not to see other people. ”
TOC shot back, “Look, she just said it’s over, okay? So that’s it. It’s over. I’m not cheating. ”
“Well,” Colin pointed out, “you were cheating five minutes ago. That’s a pretty narrow definition of cheating. ”
“Shut up before I knock your goddamned teeth in,” TOC said angrily. Colin glanced down at his muddy shoes. “Now listen,” TOC continued, “they’re all coming back here from Bradford in a little while. So we’re all just gonna sit here like a big happy family, and then when they show up, you’re going to make your retarded jokes and hunch over and look like the shitsucking pussy you are. And the same goes for you, Hass. ”
This is what Colin thought in the long silence that followed: would he want to know? If he were dating Katherine XIX, and if she’d cheated on him, and if Lindsey knew, and if Lindsey would get physically injured as a result of sharing the information. Then no, he would not want to know. So perhaps the Golden Rule indicated that he should stay mum, and the Golden Rule was really Colin’s only Rule. It was because of the Golden Rule, actually, that he hated himself for Katherine III: he’d believed that Katherines did unto him as he would never have done unto them.
But there was more to consider than the Golden Rule: there was the small matter of liking Lindsey. That shouldn’t factor in to an ethical decision, of course. But it did.
He hadn’t quite made up his mind when Lindsey, trailed by SOCT and JATT, came running up with a six-pack of Natural Light beer in each hand. “When’d you get here?” she asked TOC.
“Oh, just a minute ago. Kat picked me up as I was walkin’, and then we ran into them,” TOC said, his head gesturing toward Colin and Hassan, who were seated together on the stone wall.
“There was some concern that you might be dead,” Lindsey said to Hassan matter-of-factly.
“Believe me,” Hassan answered, “you weren’t the only one concerned. ” Lindsey leaned in toward Colin then, and he thought for a second she might kiss him on the cheek, and then she said, “Is that dip?”
He touched his ear. “It is,” he acknowledged.
Lindsey laughed. “It ain’t supposed to go in your ear, Colin. ”
“Hornet sting,” Colin said morosely. He felt so horrible for her, cheery and smiling and holding beer she’d brought for her boyfriend. He just wanted to take her to her cave and tell her there, so she wouldn’t have to go through it all in the light.
“Hey, by the way, did anyone kill a feral hog?” Hassan asked.
“Nope. Well, not unless you did,” SOCT said. And then he laughed. “Me and Chase shot us a squirrel, though. Blew the damned thing to bits. Princess treed it for us. ”
“We didn’t shoot it,” JATT corrected. “I shot it. ”