The Buddy System
Do you remember the buddy system? No, not the 80’s movie, I’ve never even seen that. It’s this thing that they drill in you when you’re in high school swim—having a buddy, making sure neither one of you drowns because there’s always someone looking out for you. In theory, anyway. My buddy was always Sonny, no surprise there. But even before high school, like when we were in grade school, our moms made us use the buddy system on the playground. Mostly that ended up being me watching out that Sonny didn’t get hurt. If there was going to be a fight—yes, even one provoked by something Sonny did, although never malicious and often stupid—then I was gonna be the one to take the lumps, not him.
Which is what’s going through my mind as I listen to that strange voice, the one that answered Sonny’s phone but sure isn’t Sonny. All I can think is that he’s my buddy and I gotta find him and get him out of whatever he’s gotten into now, and take his lumps for him. And hope that he hasn’t gotten himself into some serious shit.
But I think he has.
I mean, this guy is talking life and death here. Why, I don’t know. But I gotta find out.
“Know where the Riverview Mall is?”
Huh? Of course I do, Sonny and I’ve been hanging out there for years. It’s our old stomping ground. We bought our first dirty magazine there. Sure we had to wait until we were of age to do that. Before then, we managed to hijack one or two. And by hijack I do mean shoplift. I feel bad about that now, wonder if it’s bad karma come to get us somehow, with what’s happening now.
I know, my brains are scrambled and, as usual, it’s cause of Sonny.
“Yeah, I know it. Who is this?” I finally get the balls to ask.
“Someone who’s gonna cut the cojones off your boyfriend if you don’t do just what I tell you to do.”
“Why?” I ask, trying to think, trying to wrap my head around what this guy is saying, but nothing comes to mind.
“You’ll find out,” is his only response. “Let me tell you one thing, Tim, if you don’t do exactly what I tell you , your boyfriend is gonna take a long walk off a short pier.”
A what off a what? Seriously? Um, do you realize we don’t even live near a body of water or anything? Not an ocean or a river or anything even remotely close. And he’s my fucking ex, not my boyfriend. Guess this guy didn’t get the memo.
‘Course some days I don’t think Sonny did either.
Part of me wants to laugh at this guy for his punk bravado attitude, but that’s a small part. The rest of me is scared shitless. Just do what he says, get it over with. Get Sonny back and then go ahead and chew him a new asshole, if you want to.
“Okay, okay.” I have to put my other hand on top of the one that’s holding the phone, cause it just started to shake, and I’m afraid I’ll drop it if I don’t and then I’ll lose this slim connection to the person who says he has Sonny and I guess he does or else why is he saying this and oh my god, why is nothing making any sense at all?
I force myself to breathe but it comes out pretty raspy. “I know the mall,” I repeat. “Where do you want me to go and what do you want me to do?”
“Go down to the end near the anime store, know which side I mean?”
“Um, yeah, I know where that is. Then what?”
“Next door to that is that fancy jewelry store. Can you picture it?”
I cast about in my mind. Jewelry isn’t exactly my forte, I’m not a bling kind of guy ,but then I remember the store in question. Sonny and I stopped in there once, for shits and grins, at his request, of course. He wanted us to look at rings. For ourselves, yeah. Wedding rings. Silly, huh? Of course they don’t make wedding sets for two guys, or at least they didn’t then, I’m not sure about now. I haven’t looked lately, or even cared.
“Yeah, I know the one.” What’s the name? Heberts? Hobarts? Heebie Jeebie? Shit, I can’t really remember and I don’t really care. “What about it?”
“I want you to steal me a big diamond, the huge motherfucker they’ve got sitting on display in the window, the one that costs twenty gees.”
What the fuck? Okay, now I’ve heard everything. Who does this guy think he is, Marlon fucking Brando junior? If the next thing he says is something about this being the day of his daughter’s wedding, I swear I’m gonna find him and punch him within an inch of his life.
He starts to laugh. “Just kidding, Tim. Lighten up.”
Shit. My nerves are so on edge, I’m about ready to have an accident. Thinking quickly, I wav e good-bye to Lia, cause I’m still standing there, I realize, like an idiot, and I head to my car. Might as well, right? I’m about to take a road trip.
“Okay, what do you really want then, funny guy?” I snap.
“Go past the jewelry store to the Orange Julius stand, pick up four of those to go, and meet me in the parking lot , by marker 7E.”
“7E,” I repeat, using my spare hand to start my car. Shit, do I even have cash on me? I can’t think for some reason. I’m suddenly living in an Andy Warhol world, and I think I’m talking to Salvador Dali.
“How’s Sonny?” I demand to know. “Is he okay?”
Without another word he hangs up.
Sonny, I pray, please, please, please be okay.
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