Avery and Gil saddled up with baseball caps, and sunglasses, and sporting dog collars wrapped around their wrists and calves, rode off into the clear light of day in search of fortune.
Three hours later, they rode home, exuberant with the success of unloading the entire booty. Avery had pitched them to the owners of three different hardware stores and left with each believing that no self-respecting dog owner could be without one.
“This calls for a celebration, Gil,” Avery said. “There’s a Rita’s Water Ice just up the road. Gelati?” Gil nodded, irrepressible, and bobbed and weaved the whole way to Rita’s.
The boys rode home in the daze following a good sugar dose. Gil smiled, trails of chocolate gelati on his mouth smiling with him.
“You gotta wash your face and change your shirt before Kori sees you,” Avery said as they parked their bikes. Ignoring Avery, Gil ran inside to find his sister.
“Kori? Where are you?” He checked the basement, but it was dark. He ran to the hallway stairs and yelled into the air above them, “Kori.”
Avery joined him at the base of the hallway stairs. Gil looked perplexed.
“Robbie’s car’s gone. She probably finished those wedding invitations and went to deliver them. Which means…” Avery smiled wide and stared at Gil, arms folded.
“What?” Gil said, eyes wide with anticipation.
“Which means she won’t be home for a couple hours going over the changes.” Avery rubbed his hairless chin in contemplation. “I got an idea,” Avery said. “But first you need to get cleaned up.”
Half an hour later, Avery climbed in behind the wheel of Ruth’s minivan. Wearing his father’s lightweight overcoat and hat, Gil slipped into the front passenger seat and onto the phone books Avery had stacked, enabling Gil to be higher than the dash board. He struggled with the seat belt until Avery snapped it into place. Three fifty-five gallon drums, one oil, two gas, were loaded in the back. It had taken a makeshift ramp and their combined strength to roll the drums in and now there was no time left for second thoughts.
“You ready?” Avery asked, hands gripping the wheel.
“Kori’s going to be pissed,” Gil said, rocking.
“Not if she doesn’t know, she won’t,” Avery replied. Gil shook his head and wrung his hands together, moaning softly.
“Easy, Gil. It’s no big deal. I can drive, but I need an adult with me. So sit there and try to look old. No cop’s going to stop me with my dad in the car.” He cocked his head and looked at Gil for emphasis. Gil nodded and stared straight ahead. Avery crawled out of the driveway and onto the street.
“Oh, no!” Gil shouted. Avery looked in the direction Gil was pointing.
“Jesus, it’s Aunt Stella,” Avery said, ducking down in his seat. Stella was walking back to her house, sorting through the mail, her back to the street. Gil moaned and Avery put the window up. He crawled past Aunt Stella’s house then gunned the engine, disappearing over the hill before she looked up. Avery glanced in the rearview mirror long after they were out of sight; Gil turned around to see if they were being followed.
“She’s not going to run after the car,” Avery said. “I don’t even think she saw us.”
Gil mulled this over a moment then broke into laughter so contagious that Avery started laughing so hard that he violated the first rule of driving: keep your eyes on the road.
“Look out!” Gil shouted.
Avery’s head snapped back so fast he could feel the air around him swirl. He cut the wheel and zigzagged right, grazing the hip of a mangy-looking dog now limping to the side of the road.
“Stop,” Gil screamed. “Avery, stop!”
“Shut up!” Avery said. He cut the wheel hard to the left, and the combined weight of the drums sprang to life, bolting in the opposite direction and wreaking havoc on a suspension system already under duress. The van bucked and moaned and after much screeching of tires, Avery skidded to a halt.
Gil bolted toward the injured animal now lying on a soft patch of grass under a tree. He knelt down, shed his father’s coat and pillowed it under the dog’s head. He scratched its ears, hummed softly, and placed a hand on the dog’s hip. The dog licked Gil’s hand in return.
“Gil!” Avery parked at the curb, got out and ran to check the back hatch for damage. The walls of the van had been scuffed in the pandemonium, the drums dented, but the lids remained secure. Avery breathed a sigh of relief then turned to Gil and the stray.
“Gil, we can’t keep him.”
“We have to. He doesn’t have a collar and he needs a vet. And you have to take him because you almost killed him.” Gil eyes grew wide, his face resolute. Avery leaned over and scratched the dog behind the ears. He tried to examine the dog’s hip, but the animal winced and pulled away so Avery withdrew his hand. He looked at Gil’s pleading eyes and his own softened.
“Alright. Let’s take him to the vet and get him checked out. He probably needs shots, too,” Avery said, wondering how he was going to pay for it. Gil smiled so big that Avery could feel the force of it.
“I guess that ramp’s going to come in handy for the second time today,” Avery said and trotted off to the car to retrieve it.
to be continued. . .
to read what came before, click here