“Alright, we’ll get two cans of Krylon, hit the bike parts department and pick up some other stuff.” Fish said as he pulled the door to the hardware store.
The brass bell attached to the door jamb announced our arrival and the middle aged owner at the cash register greeted us with a smile. “Afternoon boys. Looking for some more BB’s for that gun? You’ll find them back in the corner by the Lionel Trains.”
“Don’t need more BB’s Mr. Przbylski.” I said “We’re looking for some spray paint and bike parts.”
“Ok, paint is back in that corner.” He said and pointed towards the back of the store “and the bike parts are a couple aisles over near the sporting goods.”
“Thanks Mr. Przbylski.” I said and headed for the paint. Fish and Fin headed over to the bike parts section. As I walked down the aisle towards the rear of the store, the sound of my footfalls were absorbed by the well worn wooden shelves and the overpowering smell of fresh cut wood, kerosene and oil all mingling together made me wish I could stay in the store and discover all the secrets of fixing anything I ever found that was broken.
I passed by cans of interior house paint, exterior house paint, wood stains and paint thinners to the section of spray paint in all their multitude of colors. The cans of Krylon were lined up on the wooden shelves like soldiers on a battlefield. Rows of yellows, greens, whites, reds, blacks and blues in my mind had become infantrymen, air cavalry, artillery units, armored cavalry and airborne units all ready to lay their lives on the line for the cause.
I scanned through my soldiers until I found two cans with the right shade of blue. I grabbed them and went to find my compadres. I found them two aisles over, they were laughing and having a lightsabre battle with some kickstands. “Hey guys, I found the paint. Fish, did you find the parts you wanted?”
“Nah, not a big selection here Skip. But I am kicking Fin’s ass!” he called out as he lunged with his makeshift lightsabre “Take that Vader!” and landed the tip on Fin’s chest.
“Ow! Dammit Fish!” Fin cried out, dropping his kickstand. “That fucking hurt.”
“Yeah, yeah, take it like a man. Geez, you get so sensitive.” Fish said through his laughter and dropped his kickstand on the floor.
“C’mon, let’s pay for the paint and get out of here before Mr. Przbylski kicks us out.” I said pushing past my buddies.
As I approached the counter I noticed Mr. Przbylski giving me a funny look. “Everything ok back there Skip? I thought I heard some fighting.”
“Yeah, my buddies are goofing off. I told them to stop.”
“They better be careful or I’ll kick them out and call their parents. I know the long haired ones dad. He’s a good customer. The other one though I don’t know.”
“He’s a neighbor of mine. He’s ok, he just doesn’t get out too much.” I covered for Fin. “You guys want a soda and a Snickers?” I called over my shoulder “I’m buying but you gotta get up here.”
“Yeah we do. Be there in a sec.” came the reply.
“I guess you can add three cokes and three snickers bars to the cans of paint Mr. Przbylski.”
“Ok. That’ll be $7.68 Skip.” He said to me after pushing a bunch of buttons on the cash register.
I pulled the wadded up money out of my pockets and started counting out 8 dollars while Mr. Przbylski bagged up our stuff. I could hear Fish and Fin approaching behind me. They were muttering under their breath. I turned and saw Fish give Fin’s arm a hard punch.
“Ow…what’d you do that for?”
“Skip, we’ll meet you outside.” Fish said and turned to Fin and said “Just shut up and let’s go.”
I smoothed the money out and handed it over to the owner “Here you go. Eight dollars.” I said.
“Nice friends you got there. They always act like that?” He asked frowning down at me.
“I guess. We all kind of do.”
“Uh-huh.” He said as he counted out the thirty-two cents change. “Here’s your change Skip. You be careful with them two boys. You hear me?”
“Yes Sir. I will.”
“Ok, have a good day then. Oh, and I don’t want to see any graffiti on any walls around here with that paint.” He warned.
“Oh, no, this is for the bike we’re building.” I replied.
“Good luck with it then.” I heard him call to me as I walked out the door with my bags of paint, candy and soda and the sounds of a brass bell tinkling in the building behind me.
Fish was leaning against a telephone pole at the entrance to the parking lot and Fish was sitting on the curb a few feet away from Fish. I could hear them talking but I couldn’t tell what they were saying.
“Hey guys,” I called out to them “everything ok? You took off out of there pretty fast.”
“Ask Fish.” Fin spat as he nodded his head in the direction of our buddy.
“Fish? What’s going on?” I inquired as I handed Fin the bag from the store. He reached inside and grabbed a Coke and a Snickers, popped the top on the soda and drank half of it in one gulp then he went to work on the candy bar.
“Aw, man, nothing’s going on. Fin is all worked up cause I pocketed a couple things while we were in there. Fin, hand me a Coke and a Snickers, would ya?” his voice reflected the nonchalant attitude we had all come to know. It made me a bit nervous that he could so easily talk about his theft while standing right outside the store he’d just stolen from.
“Why don’t you just go back inside and steal your own?” Fin said bitterly as he pushed the bag towards Fish.
Fish just stood there leaning against the pole, his right leg kicked out, his left leg folded up behind him against the pole, his hands in his pockets, his “Keep On Truckin’” shirt un-tucked, and you could barely see his boots peeking out from his Levi’s, the hair on his head hung down to his shoulders and needed to be combed. He looked like a greaser. Like the juvenile delinquent we all wanted to look like. “Fin, you’re too soft. If that little five finger discount upset you this much then you’re not gonna be in any shape for the rest of the stuff we need to do to get this bike built.” And then he unfolded himself, reached down to the bag, rifled through it, pulled out a coke, and tossed it to me.
“What about you Skip? You got the balls to finish this bike?”
“Man, I just want to finish this so we can go camping.” I said and caught the coke in my left hand.
“See Fin? Skip has his eye on the goal. You need to think about that. Stop worrying about the little details. That’s my job.”
“I aint going to juvie for no one!” Fin said in defense of his position.
“No one’s going to juvie. They don’t send you to juvie for takin’ bike parts. Beside’s I know pretty much where to get the rest of what we need.” Fish boasted as he pulled out the last coke, popped the top, drank most of it and let out a gut busting belch.
“Good one.” I said and responded with a burp of my own “Toss me a Snickers, Fish.”
He did so and then started in on his own candy bar. Fin sat on the curb eating his candy in anger and frustration. When we had all finished our snack we headed down the hill towards Fish’s house.
As we walked, Fish and I next to each other and Fin bringing up the rear, Fish began to pull out of his pockets a set of new pedals, chain, pressure brake and a couple of reflectors. “Damn, how did you fit all this crap in your pockets?” I said in awe.
“It’s easy man, just keep shoving things in and then un-tuck your shirt to cover the bulge.” He replied.
“You guys suck. This aint right.” Fin complained from behind us.
“Can it Fin, you’ve done nothing but complain all day. Shit, Skip should be bitching up a storm but he’s just taking everything in stride. You could learn something from him.”
I slowed up my pace and let Fish walk ahead as Fin and I started to walk step for step. “Look Fin, I’m not gassed about what Fish did, but he means well and it’s not like we can’t use the new parts. Just relax and go with it. No harm no foul.”
“I can’t afford to get in trouble, Skip. You know that. Shit, my Mom will kill me if I get busted for shoplifting not to mention what my old man will do to me.”
“I know, but no one got caught, Mr. Przbylski didn’t know Fish boosted that stuff so let everything rest and if Fish had gotten busted then you and I would only have been an accessory.”
“Hey. What are you guys yapping about back there?” Fish called to us.
“Nothin’ man. We’re just trying to figure out all the other stuff we need to finish the bike.” I responded.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll make a new list when we get to my house.” He said.
“You know, sometimes I wonder why we hang around Fish. He always seems to piss off adults.” Fin complained quietly to me.
“Yeah? And you always get into fights and if it weren’t for Fish and me, you’d be getting your ass kicked every day.” I said harshly and immediately regretted it. The look on Fin’s face told me how badly my words had hurt him. “Look Fin, I’m sorry. But you do have a tendency to be a bit too cocky and it gets you in trouble. And, when that happens, usually Fish or I do try and help. You gotta admit, out of all of us, you’re the one who gets into the most fights.”
“Yeah, that’s true.” He said with a defeated tone in his voice. A tone that conveyed all his insecurities and pain to me that he’d experienced as an only child being fought over by his parents. “I don’t mean to get into fights, you know that right? It’s just… I don’t like being getting picked on.”
“I know Fin, I know.” Was all I could manage to say, in truth, I really did feel sorry for him not having any family around most of the time. I guess that’s why we became friends so quickly after him and his mother moved in next door to my family.