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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXIII: Yesteryears

The fact that Tori Kel no longer hung around Robbie, rubbing in Casey’s face all that he could not have, became a springboard for that rubber band to return. The two of them called a grudging truce one random day, with not an iota of advance warning or thought to it.

“Can I sit here?” asked Robbie that April, tray of sloppy joe and french fries held balanced in one hand with his red bookbag hanging from the other.

Casey looked up with mouth frozen half-open and for once didn’t seem to have a word to say, though his gaze bounced all around Robbie and down to his hand where the splint had been a mainstay for many months during middle school.

“Sure,” said Brendon with a raised brow toward Casey. He scooted his sketchbook down, away from danger, and crumpled his trash to a more reasonable diameter. “Read any good comics lately?”

“Oh man,” said Robbie with a grin for the ages. “You know that one you really like about the mage with the tattoos? The guy who wrote it just came out with a new webcomic. It’s about a werewolf patrol that falls into a different dimension. It’s pretty good.”

“Send me the link.”

After a few moments of painfully awkward silence at the table, Casey cleared his throat and said, “Saw a new BMW in your driveway last week. Parents get a new car?”

Robbie’s face went from happy to excited. “It’s mine. They want me to learn in what I’ll actually be driving.”

And they were off, awkwardness dissolving as if Tori Kel had never existed, latching onto the approaching joys of driving fast, quizzing one another subtly on capabilities, a bit of a who-knows-more-about-driving though neither had a license yet.

“The shade on mine’s called New York Autumn.”

“Mine’s going to be a shade called Metallic Ocean when I’m done painting it, with a double pinstripe in black.”

Brendon thought the moment a one and done sort of thing, but the bandage over Robbie and Casey’s friendship lasted the rest of the spring, all that summer and continued through the autumn. At first he felt ecstatic, his best friends twanged back together like the rubber they were, but slowly that first rush of happiness dulled, becoming a pointed, throbbing thing and useless third wheels began to crop up in his sketchbooks.

It wasn’t until mid-summer that he finally summoned the courage to ask his dad for a car.

“A car? You can’t even drive yet.”

He couldn’t exactly explain away the hole in his heart, the one that felt ignorant, unable to contribute to a conversation he so desperately wished to be a part of, not because he had the same fascination with the vehicles, but because he wanted to belong.

“We’ll talk about jobs and cars when you have a license in hand.”

That was that. His father had no desire to revisit the conversation until Brendon’s birthday and Brendon let the issue drop and focused on a third painting for display in The Bayscape. This one had to do with ecology efforts in Maryland so he depicted an eroding cliff-side in Calvert, the nuclear power plant twisted within the trees in the background, yet almost seeming to spill outward in a sleek gray waterfall down the cliff. Could have been just a landscape, but Donna Pierceman saw the implications immediately and put his piece in a place of honor that September.

By October, with both Casey and Robbie street legal, the car conversation muted and turned into something of a competition of who could get to Brendon’s house first to drive him to school. It was all a bid to show off a tannish BMW and a blue Mustang, but Brendon didn’t mind. Sometimes though, Brendon would ignore Robbie’s honk, hide behind curtains in the living room and quietly wait for that blue Mustang to pull up in Robbie’s wake.

His preference didn’t exactly slice a hole between Casey and Robbie since that hole had already been there, but it frittered away at the patch over top, with Robbie slowly easing away. So Brendon hefted his sketchbooks one day and walked the three quarters of a mile to Robbie’s house to show him a story arc he’d let Brendon see that summer.

Another patch, but Brendon didn’t realize it at the time.


Next Chapter Coming Apr 14th!