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The following contains descriptions of graphic sexual acts between consenting underage boys. It is a work of fiction and has no basis in reality.

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What We Are - Richie’s Story
By: R. Ryan

Chapter 11: Friday Morning

Although it was Friday morning, the day of the big dance, Richie didn’t feel any different when his alarm clock shattered his peaceful sleep. Until he started to get out of bed that is, and found his chest, stomach, and pubic hair coated with dried cum. ‘Oh, man’ he thought, ‘What a mess.’ Then he smiled as he remembered his orgasm from the night before. Thinking he would have time to rekindle the moment, he quickly changed his mind when he grabbed his cum encrusted morning hard-on. Since the dried mess had the feel of sandpaper around his dick, he decided that a shower was in order instead. Still smiling, he fished his boxers from under the sheets, pulled them on, then headed for the bathroom.

With thoughts of the dance tonight, and the party tomorrow night, occupying Richie’s mind, he showered and brushed his teeth at a somewhat leisurely pace. As he casually dressed for school, he was unaware that an event of the previous night, only now unfolding on the Morning News, would soon have a profound impact on him and his partying mood.

After he finished dressing, he stuffed his books into his back pack, took one last look at his choice of clothes for the dance, then glanced at his clock. Only then did he realize he was running late, almost fifteen minutes late. ‘Shit,’ he thought as he bounded down the stairs. ‘No breakfast today. Oh well, maybe I’ll have time to grab something at school to munch on in homeroom.’

After shoving his feet into his shoes while he pulled on his jacket, he burst out the back door, shouting back to a seemingly empty house, “I’m late! See ya later!”

He was only casually aware of the sound of the TV coming from the family room as the storm-door closed behind him. Looking to the sidewalk as he ran down the driveway, he fully expected Lindy to be waiting impatiently for him. To his surprise, however, he wasn’t there. Looking at his watch, he decided that since he skipped breakfast he was almost back on schedule, and that Lindy could be running late as well. Just then, he saw Lindy, stepping unhurried from his back door onto the driveway.

“Hey, Lindy, get a move on, will ya,” he yelled. He still hoped he would have time to get something to eat before homeroom.

Lindy raised his arm to acknowledge Richie’s plea, but did not pick up his pace any. When he finally reached the point where Richie stood, they began to walk together.

Wanting to move a little faster, Richie said, “Hey bro, can we hustle it up a little. I got a late start this morning and had to skip breakfast. Thought maybe I could get something to eat before homeroom, ya know?”

Getting no response from his friend, he said, “Yo, Lindy, you OK, man? You look like you‘re on drugs or something.”

“What?” said Lindy, “Oh, no, I’m fine. I was just thinking about that kid, I guess.”

“What Kid? What the hell are you talking about?”

“That kid on the news this morning. Didn’t you see it?”

“No, I told you I was running late. I didn’t see anything.”

Looking down at the ground as they walked, Lindy began to fill him in.

“Sean Mullins, a tenth grader from our school. He killed himself last night, Rich.”

Richie stopped dead in his tracks, unable to move, and barely able to breathe. Only when Lindy stopped a few paces ahead and turned to him did he start to walk again.

“What the hell are you talking about, man?” asked Richie when he caught up with his friend, “And who’s Sean Mullins, anyway?”

Richie had never heard the name before, but that didn’t surprise him since didn’t know many of the sophomores by name.

“I don’t really know who he is, Rich, just what I heard on the News this morning. Well, that, and what Parker was saying about him on Monday. Anyway, he killed himself last night. His parents came home late and found him in the garage. He hung himself, Rich.”

“Are you serious?”

After a few silent moments, Richie spoke again.

“That sucks, man. How can that even be? I mean, it doesn’t make sense to me. God, can you imagine how it must have been for his parents? So tell me about it. What did they say on the News?”

“Pretty much what I told you. They said that he left a note, but they didn’t know, or weren’t saying, who the note was to, or what was in it. That’s it. That’s all I know.”

Richie shivered at the thought. Then something else Lindy had said needed clarification.

“What did you mean when you said ‘What Parker was saying about him on Monday’.”

It was Lindy who stopped walking this time as he looked at Richie with a blank expression on his face.

“Weren’t you there?”

Then, immediately remembering, Lindy started walking again.

“No, you weren’t, were you? You didn’t come back to practice until Tuesday. Well, we were all getting ready for practice, and, as usual, Parker was running his mouth again. He said this kid, this Sean Mullins, was seen making out with some other guy in the back row of the balcony at the Rialto last weekend. He didn’t mention any other names of course, just Sean’s, but he seemed pretty sure it was true.”

Richie’s mind was approaching overload as he tried to comprehend all of what Lindy was telling him.

“How come I never heard anything about the Rialto thing? I mean, I didn’t hear anyone talking about it around school all week, and Parker never said anything more about it at practice, either.”

“Don’t know, Rich. Maybe Parker lost his audience. Maybe nobody else thought it was worth talking about. I know none of the guys in the locker room seemed to believe him. Who knows?”

“How come you didn’t tell me about it, Lindy? I mean, you and I were just talking about gays on Wednesday when I told you about Phil Peterson. Why didn’t you mention it then?”

“You know me, Rich. I don’t put much stock in rumors and shit. Especially from people like Parker who spread the kind of rumors can really hurt somebody whether they’re true or not.”

Richie was getting angry now, and his voice showed it.

“Yeah, well I guess that I wouldn’t consider it spreading rumors, exactly, if my best friend told me something like that. I guess I would think of it just like so many other things we tell each other. That it wouldn’t go any further. Did you think I would run to school and start blabbing it around or somethin? And what about what I told you about Phil? Did you think I was starting a rumor then, too? God, Lindy, what kind of a person do you think I am, anyway?”

Realizing that his friend was really upset now, Lindy stopped and grabbed him by the arm.

“Whoa, Rich. I’m sorry, man. I really am. I guess I don’t know exactly why I didn’t bring it up. I honest to God did not even think about it the other day... and as far as thinking of you as spreading rumors, no, never. I know you’d never do anything like that. OK?”

After a moment, Richie shook off his friends hold.

“Yeah, OK,” said Richie as his anger began to subside, “but you still shoulda told me.”

They walked the rest of the way to school in silence.

In stark contrast to the festive appearance of the school from all the decorations, the mood of the student body was noticeably somber as news of the tragedy was already the main topic of conversation. Although most of the students showed no outward signs of how this event was affecting them, there were a few who were obviously struggling with it. As everyone gravitated toward their respective home rooms, each in his own way, was profoundly affected.

The entire school faculty was doing an excellent job in temporarily putting aside their own personal struggles so as to concentrate on the welfare of the students. A formal announcement of the death had already been issued and was posted on all of the bulletin boards throughout the building. Another announcement was ready to be read by each home room teacher as soon as everyone was present. Richie and Lindy were the last ones to file into their room, and once they had settled into their seats, a quiet, never before experienced in the history Radison High School, fell over the class. Immediately, Mr. Randolph stood up from his desk and proceeded.

He started by reading aloud the official announcement, then expounded on how his and, he was sure, the hearts of the entire student body went out to the grieving family. He then announced how special counselors would be available in the office throughout the morning for any student feeling the need to talk to someone in dealing with this terrible experience. Next, he mentioned that a special school wide assembly would be held during second period to announce, among other things, whether or not the dance and the Hockey Tournament would be canceled. Then he added that although no official decision had been made as of an hour ago, he was pretty sure that at least the dance would be canceled. He also said that even though today was to consist of only a half-day of classes, he was pretty sure that all students would be released immediately following the assembly.

After checking through his papers to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, he turned the remainder of the time over to the students for questions. There were none. Then, looking at the clock, he encouraged everyone to talk quietly among themselves until it was time to go to their first class. Few said much of anything during this time, most everyone sat silently with their own thoughts.

When the bell finally rang, Richie and Lindy agreed to meet outside the auditorium before the assembly in order to sit together. Once that was settled, they parted ways for their first period class, Richie to Geometry, Lindy to English.

Since Richie’s Geometry class was held just down the hall from his home room, he was one of the first to arrive. His teacher was already there, and nodded silently as Richie took his seat. This promised to be a very long fifty minutes thought Richie as he waited for the rest of the class to assemble. While he waited, he tried to picture who this Sean Mullins was, but kept coming up blank. If necessary, he decided he would pull out Carl’s year book from last year to look him up.

Just as the final bell rang, he looked up in time to see Larry Parker come through the door. This was the same Parker that was on his team - the same Parker who was spreading rumors about Sean Mullins on Monday. He had somehow forgotten he was in this class. Richie could feel his blood start to boil as he stared at Parker, fighting off an almost uncontrollable urge to jump up and start punching his face in. Despite how he felt, however, he sat quietly, and after a moment, shifted his gaze out the window.

Richie’s Geometry teacher pretty much echoed what his home room teacher had said about his condolences for the grieving family. He encouraged any student who felt the need, to leave at any time to see one of the counselors. Finally, he said there would be no formal class this morning, that each student should feel free to study or talk quietly among themselves for the rest of the period. As Richie expected, the next fifty minutes dragged on for a very long time. When the bell finally rang, everyone was grateful as they gathered up their things to head for the auditorium.

Richie met Lindy as planned. He wasn’t surprised when he saw the bulk of the swim team gathered there as well, but did take notice that Parker was not among them. They all milled about the hallway until the final bell rang, then moved as a group to take their seats.

“That fucker is mine, Lindy,” whispered Richie as they sat down.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Rich?” whispered Lindy in return.

“Parker, that’s what.”

“Chill, Rich,” said Lindy in a quiet but stern voice. “We’ll talk about it after, OK?”

Before Richie could say another word, the Principal stepped to the podium. He began by thanking everyone for coming and that he wished it could have been under better circumstances. He continued by announcing that in light of the tragedy, the dance planned for that night would be canceled. He thanked the students for all of their hard work in putting it together, but felt that under the circumstances, it would be inappropriate at this time. There were no visible signs of disappointment at the news, since nobody felt much like dancing anyway.

As for the Hockey Tournament, it would proceed as scheduled. There was just too much planning, involving too many other schools from around the state, to cancel it on such short notice. He then encouraged each of the hockey players to talk to their coach. If any of them felt that they couldn’t, or shouldn’t play in the tournament, they would be excused from participating.

Next he said that since there would be no school for the next two weeks, letters would be sent out to each and every student as well as their parents. Among other things, these letters would contain the phone numbers of special counselors who would be available throughout the next two weeks to provide counseling for any student or family member requesting it.

Finally, he asked everyone to stand.

“The untimely death of a fellow student is a great tragedy that affects us all whenever it happens... but it affects us all the more when it happens during these normally festive holidays. I encourage you all to begin the healing process right away. Talk to your friends and family about it, and get your feelings out in the open. We all have to grieve before we can become healed and move on with our lives. And now, before we leave, please join me in a moment of silence for the family and friends of Sean Mullins.”

For the next three minutes, each student and faculty member stood with their heads bowed and their eyes closed - each with his or her own thoughts of respect and condolence.

Finally, the Principal broke the silence by saying, “Thank you all for coming and we’ll see you back here in two weeks.”

While the students slowly filed out of the auditorium, Richie began to shove his way past them. His face was twisted in anger as his eyes constantly searched the crowd. Seeing the look on his best friends face, and remembering his remark at the beginning of the assembly, Lindy was suddenly very concerned. Pushing his way through the crowd in an effort to catch up to Richie, he unknowingly grabbed one of the members of the hockey team by the arm. As he pulled himself past, a voice from behind caught his attention.

“Whoa, Lindy, what’s the rush, man?”

Briefly glancing back toward the familiar voice, he caught sight of Kyle, now just slightly behind him.

“Kyle!” he yelled, “It’s Rich! We gotta stop him!”

Then he snapped his head to the back of the auditorium again, not wanting to lose sight of the object of his pursuit. He spotted Richie just as he passed through the double doors, his movements intense as he continued to search through the crowd.

Detecting the urgency in Lindy’s voice, Kyle began to push through the crowd as well. He didn’t know what was going on, but he sensed there was going to be trouble if he didn’t catch up.

When Richie emerged into the hallway, and the growing crowd of students, he searched frantically for Larry Parker. He had no idea where he’d been sitting, or if he was even out of the auditorium yet, so he paced through the throng of kids as they began to spread out in all directions. He was beginning to panic now, afraid he would miss him altogether. Suddenly he remembered something. He knew where Parker’s locker was, so he decided to catch up with him there. Just as he was ready to move in that direction, a strong hand gripped his arm from behind, pulling him off to the side. Before he could say a word, Lindy was in front of him, his face just inches away. Placing his forearm across Richie’s chest, Lindy pushed him heavily against the wall. With rage surging through his body, his eyes glaring, Richie looked into Lindy’s face.

“Let me go, Lindy.”

“No way, Rich, you ain’t goin anywhere until you chill.”

“Bullshit!” he yelled as he tried to break free.

Only when he realized he couldn’t move was he aware of the vice-like grip that was still on his arm, a grip too strong to be Lindy’s. Turning his head in that direction, he saw Kyle, a very determined look on is face as he held Richie’s arm so tight that it hurt.

“Kyle,” he said, his voice pleading. “Let me go, man. This is none of your business.”

“Sorry, Rich, no can do. Now just try and relax, OK?”

Turning back to Lindy again, he said, “Lindy? C’mon, man, he’s gonna get away.”

“In a minute, bro, as soon as you chill.”

Then, with pure adrenaline pumping through his veins, he made one more attempt to break free. He almost made it, too, but the combined strength of his two friends was more than he could overcome, and he was once again slammed against the wall. With his breath coming in ragged gasps, and tears beginning to form in his eyes, he realized that any further struggling was futile as he looked into Lindy’s determined face.

“Please, Lindy. Let me get that son of a bitch.”

“No way, Rich. The only thing you’re gonna do right now is calm down. Now do it, man! Cause we’re not letting go until you do.”

A few curious students showed a moment of interest in the slight commotion as they passed, but quickly moved on when Kyle directed them away with a shaking of his head.

Since the auditorium was almost empty now, Kyle suggested the three of them move back inside so as to not attract any more attention. Lindy thought it a good idea, and Richie quickly acquiesced. Not taking any chances, neither Kyle nor Lindy released their hold on their friend. Soon they were seated in the back row, with Richie in the middle. After a few minutes, Richie tried to shake his arms free.

“OK, you can let go now, I’m all right.”

Not quite sure whether to believe him or not, Kyle and Lindy slowly released their grip, always ready to move quickly should Richie bolt. Just as Richie pulled his arm free of the loosened hands, Mr. Randolph leaned in from the aisle to ask if everything was all right.

“Sure thing, Mr. Randolph,” smiled Lindy. “We’re just waiting for the crowd to thin out.”

“OK, have a nice vacation boys.” Then he turned and was gone through the doors.

Three or four more minutes passed before Lindy finally spoke.

“Damn it, Rich, you can’t be doin this, bro.”

“But he’s guilty, Lindy, just as sure as if he pulled on the rope... and you know it.”

Having said nothing since entering the auditorium, Kyle finally sat up in his seat and looked to his friends.

“Would somebody please tell me what the fuck is goin on here.”

“Larry Parker,... ” started Richie. Then, looking sternly at Lindy as if to express guilt by association, he finished, “ ...a teammate of ours, is responsible for that kid killing himself.”

“C’mon, Rich, you’re wrong, man. You know you are. Christ, no one except maybe his family and the cops knows why he killed himself. But for sure, Larry Parker had nothin to do with it.”

“What did this Larry Parker do, anyway?” asked Kyle, still not having the full story.

It was Lindy who explained.

“He was running his mouth in the locker room on Monday about how some unnamed somebody, saw Sean Mullins in the back row of the balcony at the Rialto, making out with some other guy... also unnamed, I might add. That’s the only time this week I heard him or anybody mention it, too. Nobody cared, Rich, and he ain’t worth getting into trouble over... big trouble.”

Fully understanding now, Kyle settled back into his chair. For what seemed to be a very long time, all three boys sat in silence, each deep in their own thoughts. Finally, from the back of the auditorium came a familiar voice. It was Nancy.

“There you are, Lindy. I’ve been looking all over for you.”

Remembering that he was supposed to meet her by the pay phones after the assembly, Lindy jumped to his feet to face her as she came down the aisle.

“Nancy,” he said with a smile, “I’m sorry, we kinda got to talking and I must’ve lost track of time. Did ya get hold of your mom? Is she coming to pick you up?”

“Yes, to both questions. She’ll be here in about ten minutes. C’mon, walk me down to the door, would ya?”

Getting the go ahead nod from Kyle, Lindy reached down and squeezed Richie’s shoulder.

“I’ll be right back, Rich, just wait for me, OK?”

Then he was gone with Nancy in tow. Another moment passed before Kyle spoke up.

“You got one hell of a friend there, ya know.”

“Who, Lindy?” asked Richie, as he stared at the floor between his feet. “Yeah, they don’t come any better than him.”

“And he’s one hundred percent right, too. This guy for sure ain’t worth it.”

Another silence. Then Richie sat up in his chair and took in a deep breath before he spoke.

“Yeah, it would be pretty dumb of me, wouldn’t it.”

“More like fucking insane, if you ask me.”

Kyle and Richie sat in silence until Lindy’s return broke their concentration. Moments later, Kyle stood, glanced around the auditorium as he straightened out his clothes, then looked over to Lindy.

“C’mon, let’s get outta here. I’ll give you guys a ride home.”

Nobody said a word as Richie stood, took another deep breath, then moved into the aisle and stood next to Lindy. When they emerged from the auditorium, the hallway was empty except for a few students who busied themselves by tearing some of the posters and banners from the walls. Even though this would be done by maintenance during the next two weeks, it seemed to help these kids cope with what they were feeling right now.

The three boys stopped briefly at their lockers before heading to the parking lot, Lindy and Kyle staying very close to Richie. There were no further incidents, though, and the three finally piled in Kyle’s car and headed for the exit.

The bulk of the ride was made in silence, with Kyle and Lindy concerned for Richie as he just stared blankly out through the windshield. When they were just blocks from Richie’s house, Lindy leaned forward from the back seat.

“So, Kyle, is your party still on?”

“Yeah, it is. At first, when I heard the news, I decided to cancel it. Then, when me and Rich were waiting for you to come back to the auditorium, I changed my mind. It may not be as good a party as I planned, but I think that if nothing else, it’ll be a chance for some of the kids to talk about what happened in a more relaxed setting. What do you think?”

“You could be right about that.”

“You guys still coming, then?”

Richie was oblivious to this conversation as he continued to stare out the window.

“I don’t know yet,” said Lindy, “I haven’t had time to talk to Nancy about it, so I can only guess at how she feels. And since I don’t know how Andrea feels either, I just can’t give you an answer right now. I’ll be talking to Nancy later today, so we’ll go from there.” Then, reaching over the seat to squeeze Richie’s shoulder, he said “What d’ya think bro? Sound like a plan?” There was no response from Richie.

Just as they pulled into Richie’s driveway, Kyle said, “Well, even if the girls don’t want to come... and believe me, I totally understand if they don’t... I think you guys ought to come, anyway.” Then looking at Richie he added, “Who knows, it might just be what we all need right now.”

As soon as Kyle pulled his car to a stop, Richie began to slowly, mechanically, open the door to get out. Once out of the car, he shoved his hands into his pockets as he leaned in to look at Kyle.

“Thanks, Kyle, for everything.”

“No prob, Rich.” he said as he watched Richie stand up again, scrunching his neck into his collar against the cold wind that had picked up since morning.

When Lindy started to crawl out from the back seat, Kyle put a hand on his arm to stop him.

“Here, Lindy,” he said as he fished a piece of paper from his console, followed by a pen from his pocket, “Here’s a map, just like the one I gave Rich.” As he wrote something on the back he added, “It has my phone number on it already, so give me a call and let me know about the party.” Then, looking outside to where Richie stood, he said, “I’m putting Kevin’s number on the back, too, so if you need anything else... and I mean anything, night or day... you call either one of us, OK?”

Taking the map and folding it into his pocket Lindy said, “Thanks, Kyle, I will. And thanks for being there today, too. I don’t think I could’ve managed without you.”

“No problem, man. I’m glad I was there, but I think you would’ve done just fine anyway. Your a good friend, Lindy, and Rich is a lucky man because of it.”

“Thanks, I’ll talk to you later.”

After he had finally extricated himself from the car, and gently closed the door, Lindy waved a quick goodbye as Kyle disappeared down the street. Turning to Rich, he noticed him staring down the street in the direction that Kyle had driven. Following Richie’s line of sight, he realized he wasn’t looking after Kyle at all, but at the Peterson house, instead.

Shuffling up to him, and standing in front to block his view, he said, “C’mon Rich, let’s go inside where it’s warm.”

As if in a zombie like trance, Richie started to move up the driveway to the back door. Once inside, Lindy went through the usual routine of kicking off his sneakers and hanging up his jacket. Richie, on the other hand, moved directly into the kitchen and sat down in his chair, the melting snow from his shoes beginning to puddle around his feet. Wanting to lighten the moment, and get his friend to talk to him, Lindy went to the refrigerator.

“Want a Pepsi Rich?” No response.

Pulling out two cans of Pepsi, he opened one before setting it on the table in front of Richie. Then he opened the second one as he sat down in the chair across from him. Unable to think of anything to say, Lindy sat quietly and waited. Finally, Richie spoke, his eyes focused on the table, his voice dry, and cracked.

“Thanks, Lindy. If you hadn’t been there, man, there’s no telling what I might have done.”

Leaning across the table, Lindy put his hand on Richie’s forearm, giving it a gentle squeeze as he looked into his eyes.

“Hey, no problem, Rich. That’s what best buds are for, man.”

After a quick smile, Richie took a sip of Pepsi as Lindy sat back in his chair. When Richie’s gaze returned to the table top, Lindy spoke again.

“You’re one strong fucker when you‘re pissed, did you know that? If Kyle hadn’t been there, things might not have gone so well.”

Remembering the vice-like grip that Kyle had put on his arm, Richie reached up to squeeze it. It felt a little tender, even through his jacket. Grimacing slightly, he stood and walked toward the back door, pulling his jacket off as he went.

“All I know is that I owe both of you, big time.”

“Nah, forget it,” said Lindy as he followed Richie’s movements with his eyes, “What I want to know is, what set you off like that?”

When he had his jacket hung up and his Nikes off, Richie snatched a paper towel from the roll on his way back to the table. Without saying anything, he bent down, wiped the melted snow from the floor, then stood as he tossed the towel into the wastebasket. Sitting down again, he looked over at his friend.

“I’m not exactly sure, Lindy. All I know is, when Parker came to first period class, I just saw red. I can’t remember ever being so pissed in my life. I can’t believe I didn’t get up and pound him into the floor right there on the spot. That’s how pissed I was.”

“Well, I know I’ve never seen you like that before. It was scary, man.” Since Richie didn’t respond, Lindy continued, “You do know that Parker had nothing to do with that kid’s death, though, right?”

“Yeah, I know,” said Richie. Looking at Lindy’s face. Seeing some doubt there, he added, “I do, man, really, I do. But I also believe that anybody who spreads rumors like that is at least partly to blame for the consequences.”

Richie was getting on a roll now, so Lindy thought it good for him to get it off his chest. He watched his friend closely as he stood and began to pace back and forth across the kitchen.

“And just suppose... hypothetically, of course... but just suppose it’s true. Just suppose this kid, this Sean Mullins, is gay... was gay... and he was seen with another guy. Then he was outed by Parker’s rumors. Don’t you think it’s just possible that he was so devastated and scared that he couldn’t handle it? That just maybe he saw his whole future destroyed in one day, or two days, or whatever?”

Lindy began to get concerned that Richie was getting all worked up again. He continued to keep an eye on him, but made no effort to stop him.

“Then there’s the other kid, too, Lindy. What about him? The kid that he was supposedly seen with. Isn’t it just possible that there’s someone else out there who is just as scared and devastated as Sean? Another life on the line? Another kid who’s on the edge, ready to pull the plug at any minute?”

When Richie finally stopped his tirade, he was breathing heavily, and droplets of sweat had formed on his forehead. Much to Lindy’s relief, he sat back in his chair again, took a big gulp of Pepsi and began to settle down.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Rich. I guess what you say is possible. But wouldn’t Sean have to have other problems as well to make him go so far? There’s just too many things that we don’t know about this. Hell, we don’t even know who Sean was, or even what he looked like. Basically, we know nothing. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any answers for you.”

Both boys thought for a few minutes. Then Lindy spoke up.

“Look, Rich, when the letters from school come out, why don’t you call the number? These guys are professionals at this stuff. They have years of training. They’re the ones who have the answers. That’s what they do, bro. So why don’t you call and find out?”

“You think I’m crazy? You think I need to see a shrink?”

“No, I don’t think your crazy. I think you need some answers, though. These guys are counselors. Like at school, when you have questions about what classes to take, you go see a counselor. Why? Because they know. Because that’s what they do. They’re there to help. So call the number.”

“I don’t know, bro. I don’t know if I want to do that or not.”

“C’mon, man. Look, I’ll even go with you. We’ll find out together. What d’ya say, deal?”

“Let me think about it a while, OK? We won’t get the letters until Monday at the earliest, anyway. That’ll give me the weekend to think it over.”

“OK, on one condition. You gotta promise me you won’t freak out in the mean time... and if you feel like you might, you gotta promise that you’ll call me, or Kyle, or Kevin right away.”

“Sure, I promise,” said Richie. Lindy, however was not convinced.

“This is a no bullshit thing here, Rich. I’m serious. You gotta promise that you’ll call... and I mean anytime, day or night.”

“OK, OK, I promise. Problem is, I don’t have Kevin’s or Kyle’s number.”

“Yeah ya do. Well, you have Kyle’s, anyway. Where’s that map he gave you, his is on there.”

“Ya know what? I never even looked at this since he gave it to me,” said Richie as he pulled the map from his wallet. “You’re right, it is on here.”

“Good, now give me your pen and I’ll put Kevin’s on there, too.”

“Where did you get Kevin’s number?” he asked as Lindy fished his own map from his pocket.

“Kyle gave it to me just before he left,” answered Lindy, as he scrawled the number on the back of Richie’s map. When he was finished, he slid the map back across the table. “There, now put it back in you wallet and don’t forget where it is.”

Standing up, Lindy drained the rest of his Pepsi from the can before tossing it in with the recyclables.

“You gonna be OK now?” he asked as he looked down at Richie.

“Yeah, Lindy, I’ll be fine, man, thanks,” said Richie, as he stood and walked his friend to the door.

“Good,” said Lindy, as he put on his jacket and shoes, “I’m going home to call Nancy. I’ll call you later. And don’t forget your promise either, Rich... day or night, right?”

“Right, day or night.”

Then, after the slap-tap handshake, Lindy was out the door and gone.