The three young boys were inseparable. Cool sunlight danced between rippling leaves as they traipsed through their favorite woods. Tommy saw a tree that was just right for climbing, ran to the trunk, and began shimmying his way up. His best friends busied themselves with the beginnings of a fort made of boughs and branches.

Suddenly, Tommy called out, “Oh my gosh! You guys won’t believe this!”

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)

Read this one twice! 😉

Tommy didn’t like his name, and couldn’t wait to be of age to change it. Lucien was his top choice but Hank hated it. Hank was perfectly comfortable with his name. His parents gave him Hank because of some writer guy Bukowski whose first name wasn’t even Hank but Charles. Tommy didn’t understand that. But he was only seven.

Cecil Ray, rounding out the trio, had no stake in whatever people chose to call him. He knew how irrelevant titles were, especially the one of Dad. Cecil Ray had had a few.

The boys talked about lots of things in the forest. Names. Dads. Cecil Ray liked to talk about his miserable adolescence but Hank didn’t seem to like that. His parents were perfect. He was an only child so his life incited jealousy in Tommy, who shared his room with his sister until Mum cleaned out the cubby underneath the stairs. Then, she promised Tommy his own space.

“Who do you think would win in a wrestling match, Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson?” Hank asked Cecil Ray. Tommy felt Hank was always trying to impress the older boy even though he disliked how Cecil Ray complained so much. So, he asked what Tommy thought was dumb stuff. “I know they’re baseball, but still?”

“Gotta watch out for those lefties.” Cecil Ray made a career out of digging eyeliner crust from the corners of his eyes (which Hank thought were spooky green like Halloween limes). The current Dad threw a fit about the makeup but Cecil Ray watched his mother squelch all of his complaints. She was good at arguing. She stuck up for her son, but scolded him in private often enough.

“I think Gibby would nail it.” Hank wasn’t giving up. He was always the one with an opinion.

The three crested a hill that was slippery and Tommy got clay all down his pantleg when he lost his balance. It was Cecil Ray who took his hand, pulling him over the rise. The older boy was protective of Tommy. Even Hank, for that matter. Hank who found his way just fine over the wet leaves and clay of life.

Tommy spotted it first. A Christmas-morning feeling spread through his tummy as his friends followed his finger pointing to the object. It was a cobalt blue coaster bike lying in the ravine. Tommy was busy marveling at his luck when Cecil Ray spoke up.

“That’s my bike.”

“No way!” Tommy shrieked. “I saw it first. It’s mine!”

“No, I mean, it’s mine “today”.” Cecil Ray began down the incline towards it. Hank followed, and left Tommy to half-skid down the ravine by himself. Tommy thought Hank sucked most of the time. Hank was the least helpful of the personalities but he served a purpose even if he made Mum mad.

Mum didn’t want Hank in the house. She yelled at Tommy for speaking of him. She’d yell more if she found out Tommy faked taking his pills, Cecil Ray told him. Tommy liked having Cecil Ray around so fake it he did. Then, Hank came along. He ate all the peanut butter cookies, but was really good in school where Tommy wasn’t.

At the bottom of the hill, Tommy tumbled into Cecil Ray and the older boy surprised him by picking him up. “It’s okay,” Cecil Ray told him. “It’ll be easier to get home now.” “But,” Tommy whined, sensing himself getting smaller.

Cecil Ray shook his head. “This is my bike today. I’m the only one who can steer it. But, you guys can ride along.”

“I want to ride,” Hank said. “I want to get home.”

Of course Hank would. He was the goody two shoes. He got the privacy. Tommy longed for the cubby underneath the stairs but knew it wouldn’t be coming soon and that made him sad. Things were so “busy” in the young boy’s mind.

To just have some “space”…

But, there was Cecil Ray to keep it all straight. Cecil Ray often took the lead so Tommy didn’t have to.

“Tomorrow the bike’s yours,” Cecil Ray told Tommy. “Let me have it today.”

Cecil Ray’s makeup crust rested in the corner of Tommy’s eye, so he dug it out, and worked the bike up the other side of the ravine. There was a paved service road that would take him close to home. Hank could push it the rest of the way across the wide yard to Tommy’s house. The boys “were” inseparable.

The lone seven year old boy pushed off the tarmac, voices swimming inside his head. The static like a radio stuck between channels. The bike wobbled but stayed true.

“Hang on tight.” said Hank. “We might crash.”

But, by then, Tommy didn’t even care. He whistled along with Cecil Ray, and enjoyed the cool sunlight as he sped towards home.

He whistled along with Cecil Ray, and enjoyed the cool sunlight as he sped towards home.