Tommy left home a lot. He would come over and hangout. We would play in an old play set outside my house. He didn’t talk a lot. There was woods across the street from me. It was pretty dense, a lot more trees than you’d think. We would explore.
There was a big open spot between roots by a really old tree. We wanted to make a fort but put as little effort into it as possible. Tommy said we should dig a hole. My dad had a couple shovels, one for digging, one for snow. We used both. Tommy said he would decide when the hole was deep enough. Every day after school we would work on it. I was on the right, Tommy on the left.
Then we would play videogames.
After a couple feet I was bored. He wanted to keep going. I had nothing better to do so I helped. Two feet and then three feet, he wanted to dig more. When we reached about four feet he said that was good. We could sit in it and be completely covered; no one could see us unless they were right over top.
Tommy and I would go there a lot. He stole playboys from his dad and cigarettes from his mom. We would look at the magazines and smoke. He would show me every picture he saw, but I enjoyed the articles. I felt bad looking at naked girls. I knew they wouldn’t want me staring at them. Tommy would get this crazy look on his face. He was so excited to break the rules; break the rules somewhere would never find him.
At night, there was always a chance for Tommy to sneak to my house and throw rocks at my window. It was always the nights his parents fought. I’d open the window and he’d loudly whisper for me to meet him at the hole. Most of the time I did, some of the time I didn’t. When I did, he told me about the situation his Power Ranger toys found themselves in that day. It always seemed the Red Ranger was in a fight with the Blue Ranger because Blue wanted to be the leader.
Jake moved into the house behind mine. He was the same age as Tommy and I. My mom made me go to his house after his family finished moving everything into the house. Tommy said he didn’t like Jake, that he was a pussy. I thought he was pretty cool. I kept going over to his house, and he would come over mine. I was the second shortest guy in the grade and Tommy was the shortest. When Jake moved in, I became third shortest, Tommy stayed first.
I didn’t hangout with Tommy as much.
Jake said that he was a jerk. I agreed. He was just the only kid my age that lived by me. Tommy would follow Jake and I around at school. Jake was really good at talking to girls. I was better at talking to them just by association. Tommy would stay quiet next to us besides the few occasions he spoke up to say something quiet and weird. He would walk away.
Tommy hung out with the bad kids. They were the ones who always talked in class and were called down to the principal’s office. In class, Tommy said that I thought I was too cool for him. I told him to shut up.
I got sent to the office.
It had just rained. Tommy threw rocks at my window. He told me to meet him at the hole. I agreed since it had been a while. When we got there the rain had washed in a lot of mud and leaves, about half full. There was a dead rabbit. It probably fell in and couldn’t get out. We didn’t go back to the hole.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Daria Nepriakhina