Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
Brendon had long replaced the sketches of Casey when the tapping came on his window. He woke sluggishly to a pale face outside, a face full of promise. Casey’s whisper through the screen a few moments later came fast and breathless.
“There’s a night tonight. Big Man Skiv and Taylor L. are going to tear up the street. Becks has a cooler full of beer and a hankering not to go alone. Come on.”
And that night, a cool September twenty-eighth, only five months before Tori Kel smiled and said yes to Robbie, was the first night the boys snuck to the track all together. Not the first night for Casey, not by a long shot. Not even the first time Casey had dragged Brendon, but the first time Robbie—straight-laced Robbie and his worried eyes—finally gave in and slipped his bedroom window and snuck through the fence to join them. Blame an argument with his father for that one.
They piled into Becky’s car, glitter shining on her eyelids and a familiar scent, that Brendon did not identify as weed until later, ghosting about the interior. She had a low voice, but a high laugh as she went roaring through the neighborhood, the engine yowling like a cat in heat (Casey’s words) and the moon like a fingernail hanging onto the sky for dear life.
Brendon had been to the races before, had felt the fire in his belly when they snuck through tall grass to watch roaring on the tarmac, cars parked at abandoned properties and ungated lots all down the road. Seen the red and blue flashes in the distance that sparked a scattering of Olympic runners and the quiet puttering of cars going from a hundred to thirty in a false pretense of being legal.
He’d been here, but not like this. Robbie putting a beer can to his lips for the first time, skittish, blanching at the taste, but keeping on until the whole of it was gone. Casey, twirling a glowstick through his fingers, orange light whipping through the darkness, lighting up the excitement in his eyes as he chattered on about Big Man Skiv’s crackling engine.
“Taylor L.’s been talking shit all month. Keeps bragging ‘bout his times and popping off threats. He’s got to show up or blow up now, don’t he?”
This was one of those third wheel moments. The whole night was, Brendon finding himself sitting back with his sketchbook, scratching out lines by the light off phones and headlights. He tagged along behind as Casey nearly dragged Robbie forward, thrusting another can in his hands and if Robbie noticed Casey’s fingers lingering a little longer, his body leaning a little closer, well, Robbie never said.
“Your mouth smells like beer,” was what Robbie did say.
Casey threw back his head and laughed, the line of his neck appearing on Brendon’s page, the darkened crinkles near his eyes accentuated in mirth. Brendon drew a vague approximation of another boy standing near Casey. Not Robbie, but not quite anyone else. A vessel in the shadows that could have been Brendon.