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“Lucas is busy forking his new girlfriend, but if you’re feeling vengeful, I can pop in my dentures.”

Those were the words I heard as three things were happening at once.

One, I was just dumped.

The message was being delivered from Newt, my boyfriend’s—no, my very, very recent ex-boyfriend’s—grandfather, while I was standing on his doorstep.

Two, my phone started ringing.

I glanced at it, half hoping it was Luc-ass, but it wasn’t.

I gulped because the person calling was a blast from my past, like my way early past before Lucas, before the guy I was using Lucas to get over, before even him. That far back, and while the person calling me was a guy, he wasn’t a romantic guy. At all. It was more the group of people he represented, a group that I left in my dust years ago.

So, hence the gulp, because none of them had called for at least six years. Give or take.

While both those events were hitting me at once, the third was what shirt Newt was wearing—my Reese Forster shirt.

I pointed at him. “You stole my shirt!” And because I was getting flooded with everything happening, the question blurted out of me. “If an owl could talk, what accent would it have?”

My neck was getting hot, furiously hot.

Newt was the one in front of me, so I was dealing with him first.

Who did he think he was?

A thief, that’s what.

I loved that shirt. I lived in it. Slept in it. Drooled even. I did so many things in that shirt. And there was no way he could claim it wasn’t because the collar was ripped. I put it there, one time in frustration when I watched Forster get the ball stolen from him during the West Conference Finals.

Reese Forster was the Seattle Thunder’s star point guard. They had other star players too. In fact, their team was stacked this year, but it was Reese.

It was my shirt of him.

I got it the first year he was drafted, when he was nineteen, and while my obsession with basketball had waned over the years, my obsession with him had not.

I kept up on his stats. He was lined up to have one of his greatest years this next season.

Goddamn. I’d have to get a new shirt. Maybe a jersey even?

“Is that a no on the revenge sex?” Newt countered.

“I hope your dentures get glued to the bottom of someone’s saggy ass and you have to go to the emergency room to get them removed. You old fuck!”

I stormed off after that, but my phone kept ringing.


Looking down, seeing a name I never thought I’d talk to again, I faltered in my storming away. I couldn’t lie, even to myself because I wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Too many things were all converging at once.

But Luc-ass.

Was I devastated? No.

Was I annoyed? Yes.

Lucas and I bonded over our love of Reese Forster and he’d been the first guy I could tolerate in over a year so I was using him. The whole mantra of getting under someone else to get over someone—well, I’d been trying to test that theory out with him.

It hadn’t worked.

So no, I wasn’t crushed about Luc-asshole’s cheating. I mean, it made sense. In a way. I could never bring myself to practice human corkscrewing, as he’d put it. He’d tried selling me on role-playing opening a bottle of wine.

I’d be the wine bottle, and…


Okay. It kept ringing.

In the past, the very distant past, if they tried calling, it was only once.

They’d call. I wouldn’t answer. They’d leave a voicemail, which I usually deleted. There’d been a few I had kept saved in my mailbox and depending on how much I wanted to suffer, I might listen to them over a box of wine and Cheetos.

This was different.

He called. He called again.

He kept calling.

Oh boy.

Taking a breath for courage, my thumb lingered over the accept button. I mean, why not? The day had already gone to shit. Might as well add another to the pile.

But if I was going to answer it, I was going to do it my way.

“If you had to pick an alcoholic drink to be the title of your autobiography, what would it be and why?” Pause. A breath. Then, “Heya, Trent.”

Eight hours later, we were drinking.

Yeah. I was surprised myself.

At noon I was being dumped via a saggy pervy grandpa, then I answered my phone, and bam. We were here. I mean, that’s not exactly how it worked. There was an awkward call.

Trent just landed in the city, and his usual person he called to stay with wasn’t in. He explained it was me or a hotel. His gut had a word with him, and he chanced it, figuring he had nothing to lose.

Why I answered, I don’t know. I didn’t know then. I didn’t know now. Maybe I’d look back later and know the answer, but when he asked if he could stay at my place for a night, I heard myself giving him my address.

Then there was a whole disjointed meeting.

I blurted out that I was dumped, I cursed Newt to him, and then told him about the real travesty of the day: my Reese Forster shirt had been stolen.

Trent was quiet at first, standing there as I told him all of that, but both of us knowing the big elephant in the room was my disappearing act from our group of friends, or really: the why I faded from the group.

He knew the reason. I knew the reason. Even Lucas knew the reason. None of us were talking about it.

“Charlie, uh,” he coughed. “The grandpa. The boyfriend.” He frowned, shaking his head. “This is a new boyfriend, right? I don’t recognize that name.”

“Oh, yeah.” My throat burned.

Somewhere an elephant was doing whatever sound they do, raising their trunk up, spraying water everywhere.

A bad taste rose up in my throat, and I clamped a hand on my stomach. “Oh no.”

I knew more were coming. They were never pretty.

“Do camels’ backs actually break?”

The words rushed out of me. I couldn’t stop them. I was biting my tongue, suppressing the rest.

I wanted to ask if he ever wondered if mimes enjoyed making sexual gestures more than the others?

What was the name of his imaginary pet chicken?

Did he actually have an imaginary pet chicken because everyone should have an imaginary pet chicken. Pros and cons, please.

Trent was eyeing me sideways. “You still do those, huh?”

I nodded. When things got too much for me, weird and random things came out of my mouth.

“So.” Another big sigh from him. He folded his head down, his hands in his pockets and he asked, “Wanna go get drunk?”

“If Jesus were alive, you think he’d be good at Jerkin dance?”

He just shook his head.

? ? ?

He yelled in my ear as we were dancing, “You should come with me.”

We were at the bar two blocks from my apartment.

For whatever reason, Trent decided to give me a break and not push for explanations and apologies that he deserved. Instead, he’d been on this new persuasion of getting me to go with him when he’d go back to our stomping grounds in the morning.

The music was now blaring, and I’d already sweated out two of the tequila shots, so I’d moved on to a Long Island Iced Tea. Which wasn’t much better alcohol-wise because dammmn they were tasty. And when I say dancing, I really mean we were bobbing up and down like apples floating in a barrel for a bad Halloween game—with random arm flailing.

I liked to pretend it was the surprise grouse attack. You’re walking, walking, things are great, calm, the world is beautiful, and whoosh—a grouse shoots up from the ground and you just peed your pants. It was that kind of arm flailing. Trent had it down perfectly. He was convinced he should be in a dance crew.

“What?” I stuck a finger in my ear, yelling back, but I was lying. Again.

I was a bad friend because I knew what he was asking me to do.

Echo Island Camp.

The name is deceptive. It wasn’t a total island, smack in the middle of the largest lake in Minnesota—well, the largest inland lake. Not Lake Superior. But it was scary big.

Despite all this, I did have a soft spot for Echo Island Camp.

It was a sanctuary place, kinda, for me. I went there as a kid, graduated to junior counselor in training during high school, then joined their summer staff full time after that. My family didn’t live far, so it’d been a second home to me. Kitchen. A brief stint on the maintenance crew. A counselor. I did it all.

That group of friends I ran from, they continued to get together every year—without me.

And Trent was asking me to go back. He was hired for a speaking event there tomorrow night.

The tequila had made all my thoughts and feelings fuzzy.

Is there such a thing as a tequila meltdown? Because I was nearing it.

I tapped his shoulder, and as he leaned down, I yelled into his ear, “Pee.”


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