Sam and Eric had been best friends since they were four. Their next-door neighborliness had seen them through many backyard wars, cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, and even the occasional all-out brawl. Boys love their violence.
Between them, they had many secrets, among them the location of Eric’s father’s stash of Playboys, how many cigarettes could be in Sam’s sister’s pack before she’d notice two missing, the best food on earth (cheeseburgers), and how to make it (with moon cheese).
There was never any question that they would be best friends 4 ever, from the time they first met until the moment in Sophomore year of high school when Eric was startled to feel Sam’s erection pressing against his back on the gym class wrestling mat. And then… there was a question.
Eric had always heard the rumors and denied them, vehemently defending his best friend’s sibilant “S” with his fists. Tales of furtive locker room glances were met by flying elbows to jaws, resulting in frequent visits to Detention.
“Dude! Get the ##### off me!” he yelled at Sam the moment he realized that what he felt on his back was not Sam’s forearm. Sam had rolled quickly off and away from Eric, a stunned and horrified look on his place, his hands over his groin in an attempt to disguise his guilt.
Sam had never—ever—thought of Eric that way. Yes, he’d noticed that the Playboys had never changed from childhood hilarity to awed bazoom whispers. And he’d notice how certain actors, the Leonardo DiCaprios and Hayden Christensens made his breath catch short. But, like all good Midwest WASP’s, he’d learned to deny his obvious preferences, and while other boys with driver’s permits nightly pulled at themselves, he lived a monastic life.
But once the faux pas had occurred, Eric virtually disappeared from Sam’s life. When bullies teased Sam’s lilting walk, his defender was nowhere to be found. On those occasions when the two passed in the crowded high school hallways, Eric averted his eyes, or worse still, regarded Sam with eyes tinted with fear.
Weeks passed with no contact between the two and Sam became certain that 4 ever was only twelve years. Regretfully, he took the small box that Eric had given him for his tenth birthday, laid it on the welcome mat of his old compatriot’s front step, and walked away. Inside was the moon rock that Eric had brought back from summer Space Camp with his father.
He was awakened late that night, perhaps two in the morning, by many dogs barking. Rubbing his eyes, he stole from bed to his moonstreamed window. Brushing the gauzy curtains aside, he looked out at the street. A solitary shadow threw lump objects with intense ferocity up into the sky. Neighborhood canines tore after the blobs as they came to earth. The shadow was Eric.
Sam turned the lock on his window, and lifted the sash. “Eric?” he called into the night.
“Hey, Sam,” Eric called back, never ceasing his continuous motion, except to occasionally nudge a dog away from the box from which he pulled his ammunition.
“What are you doing?” Sam asked.
“Making cheeseburgers,” Eric replied, and lofted another clump into the night.
“The best kind,” Eric said. “Wanna help?”
Sam responded by slamming the window shut, tossing on a robe, and running out into the street. Eric removed a bloody dripping hunk of meat from the box at his feet and schlupped it into Sam’s outstretched hand. The two best friends 4 ever emptied the box, one with sure athleticism, the other awkward and girlish, throwing hamburgers at the moon.
Criminals From the Neck Up