by Steve Berman
On the drive back home to New Jersey, Dault listened to the voice message. Route 295 seemed deserted. He was hours late. He still smelled the other boy on his skin.
"Dault, he stole it." Jerrod’s voice sounded so weak. Either he whispered or he could barely speak. "The gingerbread boy stole my foot." Nothing more. He tried replaying it but the message, the voice, had vanished.Maybe he had been so tired he pushed the wrong button. He caught himself beginning to swerve onto the shoulderand kicked the brakes. The tires squealed and he almost cracked his skull on the steering wheel. His chest ached from where the seat belt restrained him. He put the car in park and decided that a good cry might be the best thing.
The porch light remained lit at his house. When he pushed the key into the lock, the wood around the doorknob cracked like stale pastry. He pushed a finger past sharp slivers and felt splinters bite.
On the bottom step of the hall staircase was the yellow pad where his mother wrote down phone messages.
Jerrod called. Twice. You got lucky. He felt sick that she had guessed right about spending the night with another boy.
In his bedroom, he threw his wallet on the desk. A scrap of paper, the receipt for the ice cream cone had the third boy’s digits scrawled on it. The desktop computer, sleeping, rumbled to life.
New email blinked over the blurred desktop picture of Dault and Jerrod kissing. Blinked over their eyes, his closed, Jerrod’s open and wary of the cell phone taking their picture inches away.
Sorry I have been out of touch. I had to have two surgeries in a row and been mostly sleeping. Guess now you can tease me about being a dope fiend. I have to tell you whatever they put in my IV was amazing stuff. No pain whatsoever.
My foot’s all wrapped tight. The doctor (he’s this cool guy who’s worked on the local football team. . . does that make me an honorary athlete?) said I should be wiggling toes in no time. But no dancing. I don’t dance, remember.
Please, please forgive me. My father’s only wanted me to rest.
I must have made your mom crazy tonight with calls. She told me you went out. Please, please call me tomorrow. Hearing your sweet voice would make everything better.
A whole Jerrod
Dault glanced at his cell phone. That creepy message. Had he imagined it? He rubbed his face and wished the whole day had been a hallucination.
He hit Reply.
Glad the surgery went okay. You need to relax and get better. Don’t worry about dancing. I promise I won’t ask you to dance.
Dault stopped typing out of fear what he’d write next. He thought about hiding behind some lies. Jerrod would never have to know about the gingerboy. Or would the phone ring again with his conscience on the line whispering to him? He didn’t want it eating away at him.
I’ll see you when you come back home.
He might not be the good boyfriend, a seventeen year old Prince Charming, but Dault swore he needn’t be the villain. He wished though that he was made of sugar and spice and everything nice.