The phone buzzed on Kevin Cox’s bedside table. He groaned, rolled over, and smacked his lips. It buzzed again.
Kevin woozily pushed himself into a sitting position. Who would be calling him at… 11:35 AM? Oh. Huh.
The phone buzzed again. Kevin fumbled for it and hit Answer. “Hello?” He hoped the grogginess in his voice didn’t carry through the phone too obviously.
“Hey, Kevin. It’s Esther. How’s it going?”
Kevin pulled the phone away from his voice and rubbed his eyes. The caller ID swam into focus. Yep, it was her all right. Wait, she’d just told him it was her. Why was he trying to prove it? Wake up, he instructed himself.
“Kevin? Are you there?”
Oh, right, he hadn’t answered her yet. “Uh, hi!”
“Did I call at a bad time?”
“No, I, um…” Just woke up? Sure, sleeping in almost until noon was a great way to impress a girl. “I just… stubbed my toe,” he said. “Ow.”
“Oh, are you okay?”
And now I sound like a wimp, thought Kevin. Wonderful. “Yeah, no big deal,” he said. “What’s up?”
“I was wondering if you could do me a favour.”
“Sure, of course.”
“I have to go to the prison where they’re keeping Caleb to sign some paperwork for the legal proceedings, but my car is in the shop and Max took his truck to Vancouver to visit our parents. Would it be possible to get a ride?”
“Absolutely,” said Kevin. “Whatever you need.”
“You’re sure it isn’t an imposition?” said Esther. “The prison’s out near Shawnigan, after all.”
“No, it’s fine. It’s my day off today.”
“Great. Maybe pick me up in an hour or so?”
“Sounds good, Esther.” Kevin smiled as he said her name. “See you in an hour.”
“Bye.” Kevin hung up, swung himself out of bed, and practically danced into the kitchen to grab some cereal. It had been a couple of weeks since he’d seen Esther. She’d been really busy, understandably, taking care of her little brother, Max, in the aftermath of the confrontation with their deranged middle sibling, Caleb. He’d wanted to call her, wanted to explore the meaning of that kiss on the cheek the night she’d saved his life. They’d bumped into each other once or twice since then, but hadn’t really spent any time together. The opportunity just hadn’t presented itself.
Now that opportunity was here. It took an hour to get to the prison, so two hours there and back. That was plenty of time to chat while they drove.
Wait, while they drove? Oh man… You’re an idiot, Kevin chastised himself. He’d forgotten he didn’t own a car.
“Bacon man! What can I do for you?”
“I need to borrow your car.”
“You mean my sweet ’84 Mercury Marquis? I dunno, I’m pretty protective of that lovable old boat…”
“Please, I need it.”
“I have to drive Esther to the prison to sign some paperwork.”
“Oh, so it’s for romantic purposes, then?”
“Er, not exactly.”
“But sort of.”
“Well that’s different! Old Rosy is made for winning hearts.”
“…Yeah. Can I come by in like 20 minutes?”
“Sure. I haven’t had lunch yet, anyways, so you can lay some bacon on me while you’re here. Oh, and have you seen my left arm?”
“Dang. I’m not sure where it ended up after last night. Feels like it’s lying on some carpet somewhere. I thought I might’ve left it at your place after we got back from over-fertilizing that old woman’s garden last night.”
Oh, right. That was why Kevin had slept in so late this morning. Messing up that garden had taken all night. Why didn’t Kevin and Andy get sent on any good jobs these days? “Sorry, Andy, I haven’t seen your arm anywhere.”
“Hmm. Oh well. I’m sure it’ll show up.”
“I’m coming over now.”
Kevin ran all the way to Andy Button’s house. The two friends lived at opposite ends of Gordon Head, in the northern end of Victoria, so it wasn’t that far to go, but by the time Kevin got there he was sweating through his t-shirt. He burst through Andy’s front door, breathing heavily.
“Hey, bud!” called Andy from the kitchen. “Come on in.”
“Where are your keys?” huffed Kevin, between breaths.
“I’ll grab ’em for you in a second,” said Andy. “Can you give me a hand with something first? C’mon in here.”
“Fine.” Kevin staggered into the kitchen.
Andy was leaning against the counter holding a sharp knife in his right hand. Red juices were running over his fingers, and his left shoulder socket was empty.
“If I was meeting you for the first time,” said Kevin, “I’d really wonder what was going on here.”
“Huh?” Andy looked down at himself. “Oh. Ha! Because of the arm disconnecting thing, right. Hilarious. No, it’s just really hard to slice a tomato with one arm. I was trying to get BLTs ready for when you arrived. Would you mind?”
Kevin rolled his eyes, took the knife, and sliced the tomato Andy had been mangling on the counter. He laid the slices on top of the bread Andy had put out and layered some lettuce on top. Then he passed his hand over the sandwich and several strips of thick, juicy, evenly cooked bacon popped into existence atop the lettuce. “There,” he said. “Enjoy.”
“Thanks, man. You’re the best,” said Andy. “Oh, could I get a few extra slices on the side?”
Kevin summoned another small pile of bacon onto the counter. “That’s all you get. It’s a wonder you aren’t sick of the stuff yet, with the amount you eat.”
“Sick of bacon? No way, man.” Andy grabbed a slice and stuffed it into his mouth.
“Where are your keys?”
“Here.” Andy fished around in the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a well-worn key. “Take good care of my baby!”
Kevin took the key and wiped off the tomato juice on the hem of his sweaty shirt. “Thanks. Um, I think I’d better grab one of your shirts, too.”
“Help yourself. Second drawer from the bottom in my dresser. And if you find my arm, let me know.” Andy lifted the BLT to his mouth and took another huge bite.
“Will do,” said Kevin. He hurried into Andy’s bedroom, navigated the mess of dirty laundry on the floor, and rifled through his friend’s dresser for something suitable. All he could find were nerdy t-shirts with video game characters or goofy slogans on the front. Was this really how he wanted to present himself to Esther? He checked his watch. There wasn’t enough time to go back to his place for a clean shirt. He should’ve thought this through better…
Finally he settled on a relatively benign blue shirt with a picture of Mario eating a mushroom on the front, pulled it on, and headed outside. Andy’s big, red car sat at the curb, looking shabby, weary, and forlorn. Kevin sighed and hopped in. Rosy’s engine finally started up on the third attempt. Kevin drove off, feeling much less excited about his “driving date” with Esther than he had half an hour ago.