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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
They talked about running away. Not to the circus, but to the races, of course. To Dayton, to Nashville, to France for the Grand Prix, all the places that made sense in middle school because those places couldn’t be that far away, could they?
The talks were cathartic to Brendon for those days when life felt unfair because he’d been forced to do extra dishes or bathroom scrubbing or burgeoning yard work as the season did its slow change. He hadn’t quite been aware of Casey’s seriousness, even after that afternoon spent hidden away with Taylor L. Casey certainly didn’t talk much of it, though he got surly and muttered worse things about his father than he ever had about Tori Kel.
“Maybe we could talk to Robbie, the three of us do something like we used to. Paintball, maybe? Robbie’s got the extra guns.”
Casey’s expression about split Brendon’s head in two it was so vitriolic and cruel as he returned Brendon’s words in a mocking tone. “Robbie’s got extra guns. Of course Robbie’s got extra guns. Got extra everything. I thought you were my friend.”
He’d been nostalgic, thinking of the days the three of them had rode their bikes down The Big Hill, racing against age and time and color and all things grown-up. Back when he hadn’t noticed that Robbie’s bike had been newer, cleaner, more expensive. That Casey’s clung to sun-warped stickers that had originally been pink, now faded a dirty white.
To change the subject, Brendon turned his sketchbook toward Casey. “Been drawing my own comic. Want to see?”
The first few made Casey snicker—a problem with ants, a superhero with black, black hair and shaded skin, a sidekick who always had the car, jokes about bodily functions riddling every page. Then they got to the next arc, where another sidekick joined the fray—a boy with Robbie’s eyes, Robbie’s hair, Robbie’s—
Casey slammed the sketchbook shut, folding pages into a jumbled mess. “Why’d you bring him into this?”
“I just like to use models. It’s easier.”
But one look in Casey’s face made the excuse flimsy.
“I don’t understand why you two can’t be friends. What did Robbie do?”
“Robbie’s always flaunting himself, like he’s better than us. Like he deserves better.”
“I never saw him do that.”
“That’s because you’re never watching. Always with your stupid nose in your stupid sketchbook drawing stupid superheros.”
Suddenly, the comic became worthless, horrible. It became unworthy of finishing, unworthy to show anyone. The worst.
He fingered the folded pages, something gnawing away at his gut. Chew, chew chew. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich from lunch threatening to explode, a volcano stirring, shifting, boiling emotions he didn’t like from places he didn’t understand.
“That’s not nice,” he murmured.
“Robbie’s not nice. You could have used anyone else to draw. Why him?”
Brendon muttered something.
But he didn’t repeat himself. Not then. Not for years. But the words always lingered in the far back recesses of his mind.
Because he’s my friend too.