Almost Home
second Rusty and Eeyore lie down too, first him, then her. My eyes are closed but I hear them. I keep my eyes shut, slow my breath so they’ll think I’m asleep and the whole thing can be over. That noisy itchy feeling starts to creep up inside again, even though I’m not even by myself, not really. The car sounds outside layer on top of each other, building, and I brace myself for another night awake. I must be tired, though: before the noise can take over I pass out.
    I’m awake already when the dark starts to lift. Little streams of light leak in through the cracks in the wood of the shack.
    The windows make squares on the ground; dust swirls around inside them. I lean in and shake Rusty’s shoulder. He opens his eyes right at me, surprised to see my face so close. He blinks twice and then looks at me normal. “Hey,” he goes, and smiles a little. I can tell there’s nothing else he wants to say instead. My heart’s been high up near my throat since last night, but now it settles back into the right place in my chest. Rusty glances over at Eeyore, who’s still sleeping on the red dirt floor. She looks like a little kid, curled up on her side, one hand up by her mouth and one between her knees. “Do you think she’s okay?” Rusty whispers.
    “Yeah,” I say, because I don’t really know any other answer.
    By the time it’s bright out I’ve bought everybody breakfast. We even went to Jack in the Box, which costs way more than donuts. It took me down to the last fifty cents I panhandled this week, but I wanted to make sure everyone knows I’m not an asshole. At the register Rusty went digging in his sock. I saw he had some cash wadded there, but I told him to quit it. Eeyore just took the food without looking at me and her cheeks turned red.
    When we get back to Benito’s Critter’s already there, squatted down on the parking lot curb. He’s with this other guy. The guy’s probably seventeen and he’s that kind of redhead whose eyelashes and eyebrows are all orange too, freckles blanketing his face and arms over the sunburn. He’s wearing black patched-up Carhartts and a bull ring through his nose. His T-shirt says Crass . He’s fiddling with the hardware knotted into his crusty red dreadlocks, steel rings and black rubber and nuts without the bolts, and he won’t look at us. I can tell he’s mean. Critter’s pissy too, in some mood about something. The two of them just sit there in that mood like it’s a couch.
    I have to walk right up to the guy and stare him down before he’ll even look at us. “Hey,” I go. “I’m Squid.” And he doesn’t even talk, just raises his eyebrows like there’s something I’m supposed to do. I don’t do anything. Finally Critter says “I know Scabius from back in Reno. I ran into him on Hollywood this morning.”
    Rusty slouches back behind my shoulder, chewing on his hand. At first Eeyore does too, and it’s like there’s two little groups, them on the curb and the three of us standing. I spread out my shoulders so there’s room back there for Eeyore and Rusty both. Eeyore stays back there. For a minute I think maybe she might be okay with me again.
    But then she darts out and squats down by Critter on the curb. Even though he seems mad, way madder than yesterday, and even though Scabius is coiled beside him like a guard dog, she goes right back to Critter. I know she’s got a crush on him, but it still makes me feel bad. Like even Critter pissed off, with some weird guy, is better than me buying breakfast.
    As soon as Eeyore sits down he starts swearing: JuanCarlo stiffed him last night, took all his money but didn’t give him his drugs. Eeyore looks over at Scabius and starts to say something about how if she was there Juan-Carlo wouldn’t have done that, but Critter’s eyes flash hard and it makes her shut up. She scrunches up her shoulders and leans away but watches from the side, like Germ does with me when he’s in trouble. She knows not to

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