Robby felt bad, not because of his bloody nose. Because he blamed himself when things like this happened. He cried a little, and that made me sad.
History shows, after things like that, you either get up and have a cigarette, in your socks, with your bloody friend, or you don’t.
Since it wasn’t time for Robby and me to die, we decided to have a smoke.
I believe Andrzej Szczerba would have wanted a smoke when he pulled himself, bloodied, up from the wreckage in that snowy field in Poland.
There are as many theories on how to deal with a bloody nose as there are ears of corn in all the combined silos of Iowa.
Robby’s approach was artistic.
Propping himself dog-like on his hands and knees, he hung his head down, depositing thick crimson coins of blood from his nostrils and simultaneously puffing a cigarette, while he drip-drip-dripped a pointillist message on the blacktop: GRANT WALLACE
I watched and smoked and wondered how our shoes and skateboards were getting along, up there on the roof.
Unfortunately, as funny as it was to both of us, Robby stopped bleeding after forming the second A, so he only got as far as GRANT WA.
“Nobody’s going to know what that means,” I said.
“I should have used lowercase.”
“Lowercase does use less blood. And a smaller font. Everyone knows that.”
“Maybe you should punch me again.”
I realized I’d never punched anyone in my life.
“I don’t think so, Robby. You got any quarters on you?”
“Let’s go throw our shirts in the laundry place. You need to learn how to use those things anyway.”
So Robby and I limped around to the front of the mall and went inside Ealing Coin Wash Launderette, where, maximizing the return on our investment, we not only washed our T shirts, but the socks we had on as well.
“This is boring,” Robby observed while we waited for the fifth dime we slotted into the dryer to magically warm the dampness and detergent from our clothes. “No wonder I never come here.”
“Doesn’t your apartment building have a laundry room?”
“Worse than this?”
“This? This is like Hawaii, Porcupine. Sitting here with you, barefoot, with no shirts on, watching socks and shit go around.”
Robby lived alone with his mom in a tiny two-bedroom at a place called the Del Vista Arms, a cheap stucco apartment building only three blocks from Grasshopper Jungle. We walked there, in our damp laundered socks and T-shirts.
Two of the apartments on Robby’s floor had Pay or Quit notices taped to their doors.
“Wait here,” he said, and he quietly snuck inside.
It meant his mother was home. Robby usually didn’t like people to come over when his mom was there. I knew that. He was just going to get the keys to the Ford and take me for a ride, anyway.
So I waited.
“The blood didn’t come out of your Spam shirt,” I said.
We drove west, down Mercantile Street toward my house, and I noticed the diffused brown splotches of post-laundered blood that dotted Robby’s chest. And he was still in his socks, too.
“I’ll loan you a pair of shoes when we get to my house,” I offered. “Then let’s go get Shann and do something.”
I glanced over my shoulder and checked out the backseat.
I wondered if I would ever not be horny, or confused about my horniness, or confused about why I got horny at stuff I wasn’t supposed to get horny at.
As history is my judge, probably not.
“I think we should go up on the roof and get our shit back. Tonight, when no one will see us. Those were my best shoes.”
Actually, those were Robby’s only non-Lutheran-boy school shoes.
I was willing.
“I bet there’s some cool shit up on that roof,” I said.
“Oh yeah. No doubt everyone in Ealing hides their cool shit up on the roof of The Pancake House.”
“Or maybe not.”