idol season ten | week two | 681 words
That One friend
Even back when we were young, Larry McGill was always the kid who had no sense. You know the type: "Look, Ma—no hands!" or "Betcha I can." You found yourself saying things to him like, "Get down from there!" or "Geez, Larry, are those leeches?" He ran with scissors, he played with matches, and if you spent too much time with him, he'd get you in trouble, too.
He never meant any of it, but hell if he ever learned anything either. He was a bad-luck magnet in bib overalls and second-hand cowboy boots, and when things went wrong, well… best not to stand too close.
Larry wasn't the kid who fell down the well (that was Johnny Hayes), but he could have been. He nearly lost a finger to a lawnmower at age four, and he broke his leg jumping from a tire swing into the creek one year when the water was low. He lost a pickup to that same creek a decade later because he forgot to put the handbrake on. All the shelves that fell off the walls at the dry goods store that one time? That was Larry. He had to work for over a year to pay that off. The turkeys that escaped the farm over in Waterton and ran down the main street through town? Folks were pretty sure Larry was visiting nearby that day.
I owed the scar over my left eye to him and his refusal to yield to the concept of "dibs," even when flatware was involved.
The funny thing was that Larry always did pretty well in school. He wasn't a genius or anything, but he wasn't exactly stupid, either. Well, not when it came to book learning. Now, me—I could butcher a math test with the best of them, but I knew better than to knock down a hornet's nest or run barefoot through a junkyard. So what the heck was Larry's problem?
"You are not to lend that boy your bicycle, do you hear?" Ma would say. Larry's own bike was destroyed when he parked it at the bottom of someone's driveway—though to be fair, he was eight at the time. Still, you'd think he would've known better. Clear up through middle school, he would accidentally lock himself in a closet at least once a month, and he seemed to lose his shoes more often than most kids.
Sure, there were other kids who did things like that. Bobby Lidell set his own garage on fire by leaving a soldering iron plugged in, and Hannah Tate flooded the upstairs bathroom at her house when she forgot she'd started water running to fill the bathtub. Nathan Herbert got some notion to tease a bull at a farm where the fence was coming apart, and found how just how fast an angry two-ton animal can run.
But with Larry, it was like all those dumbass things were happening to the same person.
Most of us honestly wondered if he'd survive childhood. You'd think one of those mistakes would probably get him killed someday, wouldn't you? He made it to graduation, though, and got a job at a mechanic's in the city. That was a huge opportunity for disaster, so when we didn't hear anything from him after a while, we figured the worst had happened.
Then, just last week, I ran across his cousin at the Piggly Wiggly. She said Larry wasn't dead after all, though maybe he wished he was.
Now, if you had Larry's bad luck—heck, it wasn't bad luck as much as reckless stupidity—would you even think about going into a life of crime? Larry did, I guess, and he wound up in prison doing ten years for a robbery.
He should have seen it coming, but he didn't, and it was just like every other stupid mistake he made. Some people leave fingerprints at a crime, or get spotted by a witness.
Larry dropped his wallet—with his driver's license—right next to the china cabinet he'd stolen the silverware from.
-- fin --
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