The garage door drones below, waking Anthony and Sydney from their naps. Sydney lies on his back, with Anthony curled up by his side. Anthony’s head rests on Sydney’s chest. He caresses Sydney’s collarbone—washed in burnt brown skin. He traces its outline, starting from the shoulder furthest from him.
Anthony’s called it “sharp,” “smooth,” “strong,” and “important.” “Collarbones are important,” Anthony’s said and will say again.
His finger takes its time to slide its way to the divot under Sydney’s Adam’s apple. At this divot, between both collarbones, Sydney closes his eyes. When he opens his eyes, he looks down at the mess of Anthony’s hair. He smiles small.
The garage door drones again and the door downstairs slams.
“Shit, my mom.”
Sydney tries to spring out of bed, forcing Anthony off his chest. Anthony shakes his dark hair as Sydney raises his torso out of the sheets. Anthony’s head rises and the poof of hair at the top of his head rams into Sydney’s chin.
Sydney falls back against the headboard, gripping his chin, letting a laugh out through his grin.
Looking back at Sydney, Anthony says, “Shit. Shit. Here.”
Anthony hops out of his bed and grabs some of the scattered clothes on the floor. He throws jeans and a dark tee onto the bed while Sydney fiddles with the window behind the headboard. He pushes on the dirty glass and the window opens out onto the city of North Las Vegas. The window is painted white but it’s chipped, showing brown spots. The window rubs against a large tree and the dark green leaves shake. Some fall. Behind the tree sits the Las Vegas Mountain Range. Right now, in a sunset of the South West, the mountains show in purples.
Sydney turns around from the window and stretches the pants on. He grabs the dark shirt on the bed and shoves part of it in his jean’s waistband. Then, fastening his brown leather belt, he makes eye contact with Anthony. He leans in and gives him a kiss on the cheek before bolting out the spotted window. Grabbing the nearest branch, he lets himself hang from it before dropping the rest of the way to the grass. Five feet. More leaves fall, following Sydney. Anthony watches him run away from his house in the warm winter sun.
In this neighborhood, the white sidewalks and white driveways are blinding against the black asphalt. Some lawns look a washed-out green with specks of dead grass—wheat colored. Some lawns are made up of dirt and rocks. Some rock lawns look a light pink. Some look white.
Anthony breaks his gaze and quickly puts on the remaining pair of jeans on his floor. He goes for the dark blue top on the ground. Picking it up, it hangs long. He eyes the long sleeveless top for a moment before slipping it on.
“Tony!” a deep voice sounds from below.
Anthony exhales and says, “Coming.” He throws blankets that fell from the bed back on and exits the room. He runs down the stairs, booming with each footfall.
On the cool kitchen tile, Anthony sees his mother, Celia, loading groceries into the stained fridge.
She looks up from her work and says, “When did you get that tank top, mijo?”
Celia is doubled over, grabbing the brown paper bags at her black sandaled feet.
Anthony’s slender arms hang at his sides. He stares at the bags before saying, “Last weekend. Uh, when I went to that street fair, with Sydney.” He raises an arm to touch the low neckline of his tank.
Celia nods. “How is that boy doing? He hasn’t been over for dinner in ages.”
“Oh, fine. He’s just been busy with school, and some new girl.”
“Ah. I see,” Celia says. She lifts a carton of eggs out of the fridge. “Now, help me with these dishes. I’m going to start on dinner.”
Anthony moves his feet to the steel sink.
At dinner, Anthony’s father, Mason, wears a tight-lipped straight face with dark narrowed eyes. He still wears the button down and jeans that he wears on the factory floor.
Earlier, at the factory, they were loading jet parts from storage to the trucks that would carry the parts to the Dallas assembly line. Loading the jet parts required the use of a forklift. Mason stood near the jet parts, waiting for José. José’s stubby fingers lost their grip on the forklift’s steering wheel and before he managed to slam on the breaks, he clipped the corner of the lockers. The lockers lurched forward, on their way to the floor. Mason’s gaze snapped over at the sound of twisted metal. The lockers crashed, throwing up a mixture of dust, noise, and personal belongings. Morning jackets fell off metal hooks. Deodorant slipped out, clacking on the cement floor. Change and dollars alike found their way out of the bent and grated metal. Lastly, Javier Ramirez’s blood results floated down in front of Mason. They swayed left and right, in front of Mason’s dark eyes. The eyes blinked as he watched the paper fall. Left. The forklift stopped. Right. José stepped out of the forklift, wide-eyed. Left. “So much for beating our old safety record,” someone said. Right.
Mason bent over, the papers within reach. He picked up Javier Ramirez’s papers—a doctor signed, filled with acronyms and abbreviations, positive blood test for HIV.
Before the end of the workday, Javier Ramirez was fired from his job.
Anthony sits hard in his seat at the kitchen table listening to his father tell this story. Mason’s words are quick and rhythmic. There’re no usual breaks or odd breaths suggesting that this is his first time telling his proud tale. He ends with: “Got that faggot just where he likes it, in the ass. Who does he think he is, coming into to work all sick like that?
Nearing the end of dinner, Anthony gets up to wash his plate. Mason slaps his butt and says, “Tony. Here,” with a plate in his raised grip. Anthony takes the plate and then goes to sweep the food scraps into the trash. He takes the plates to the sink and runs the warm water. He takes the torn sponge from the sink’s corner and suds it up. Behind him, he hears the news run.
“The British have announced plans to perform a nuclear test. This will be another addition to recent nuclear tests from Europe following France’s test on Muruora Island in late November. This announcement comes just days after the Malta Summit. More details on the Malta Summit will be reported as they are released. And up next in sports, our analysts weigh in on the upcoming fight, ‘Uno Mas,’ between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán, at the newly opened Mirage Hotel and Casino. This is the third fight between the two and will air live, tomorrow, on pay-per-view and certain closed-circuit television locations.”
Celia bends over, her lips close to Mason’s ear. “Honey,” Celia says. “Please stay here tomorrow night. We’ll listen on the radio. Together.”
Anthony watches the grey water trail down the rusted brown drain.
“Honey. I got a good feeling about this one. Remember the last time there was an accident at the factory? You know; you remember.”
Anthony looks straight ahead, hot water pouring over his hands and the plates. His right hand, gripping the sponge, rubs in circles.
The next day, Thursday afternoon, Sydney and Anthony walk home from their high school. It’s quiet until Sydney says, “Hey, I’ve never been in the ocean before. I think I’m going to go tonight. Wanna come with?”
Anthony stops walking and says, “What are you talking about? What about school tomorrow?”
“Don’t you wanna go? C’mon. How much can we miss in a day? It’ll be easy. Viva Venice Beach! Plus, won’t your dad be out tonight anyway?”
“Hey. I don’t know if he will. Last time he was way under, and last night I overheard my mom tell him to not go.” Anthony puts his hand in his back pocket. “Anyways, like, I’ve never been either, but what’re we going to do? And where will we stay?”
Sydney shakes his head. “I don’t know. Check it out. Walk around.”
“That’s it? All the way to Venice Beach just to walk around?
“Well I’ve always wanted to try surfing, too.”
Anthony looks at him silent and then says, “It’s December.”
“Wet suits? Listen, I’m going to go be at the bus station at eight thirty tonight. The bus leaves at eight forty-five. It’s Venice Beach or bust.”
Anthony opens his mouth to speak.
Sydney says, “Also, if you wanna come, make sure to bring a sweater or something. The nights‘re getting cold.”
Anthony tugs at some facial hair and makes eye contact. Sydney’s eyes are a coffee brown and before Anthony knows it, they’re kissing on the side of the street. The passersby’s cars kick up the desert dust.
At eight pm, Anthony is sitting on his bed, rubbing his thumbs on the sweater he’s holding. Mason still isn’t home and Celia is watching the news downstairs. The TV sounds through the whole house. Shouts and shots ring through the house. “Yes Sharon, we’re here at one of the largest crack houses in Las Vegas. This is the end of a six-month-long investigation led by Las Vegas Police. They’ve just broken through the door with this tank-like vehicle. Let’s take a closer look.” Grunts and smacks from batons are heard.
Anthony stands up and looks out his window onto his driveway. It’s already dark outside except for the city’s lights. There are no headlights in sight. He gets on his bed and lifts a foot onto the windowsill. He jostles the tree a bit before his feet fall hard on his rock lawn. He begins to walk from the house and, looking back, he sees his window still open. Anthony turns his head to the cracked concrete and runs to the bus station.
Anthony pushes the glass door of the bus station and goes in. He swings his head back and forth, searching. Scanning the station’s chairs and lines, he ends by turning towards the restroom and entering. When he comes out, Sydney is outside waiting for him. “Here,” Sydney says, handing him a bus ticket.
“You knew I would come? You had that much faith in me?”
Sydney lets out a laugh. “I wish. That’d be cute, huh? I was next in line when you burst in here. Really can’t believe you missed me.”
“Oh.” Anthony looks down at his watch.
“Right. Man, you cut it pretty close. Thought I was gonna be in it alone.”
Anthony shows him his smile and together they walk to the bus.
Anthony is cold by the time they leave. He sits cross-armed in the aisle seat, sweater on. Sydney sits by the window. The final passengers are loading on. Two men and a woman pass their aisle, followed by a man holding a child. The child looks to be about five and has his head on the man’s shoulder, eyes closed. Once the child and man take their seats, the bus doors close and the bus driver makes his speech. “Hello, I’d like to welcome you aboard. My name is Marty Yates and I will be your driver tonight. This bus will be making stops in Barstow, Victorville, San Bernardino, Riverside, Claremont, and El Monte, before ending in LA. I would like to remind you that no alcoholic beverages are allowed in this bus. If you would like to use the restroom it is located in the rear of the bus. Thank you for riding with us today, and have a pleasant ride.”
The bus gets on the I-15 at nine nineteen. The bus driver makes the merge onto a nearly empty interstate. Once comfortable in the right lane, he turns on the radio. The boxing match is on. A fuzz of background noise is just below the announcers’ voices. Cheering. Commands. Clapping.
“Leonard has to know his legs are his big advantage over Durán.”
“You know, Matt, that’s right, and it raises the question how patient he can be. On both sides.”
“A left from Durán. Grazing. A counter from Leonard. A good shot to the body.”
“Leonard has been known to have a good body shot.”
“And Durán knows it. These two are well acquainted with each other.”
Anthony exhales and his forehead wrinkles as he leans back to listen to the match.
At seven years old, Anthony stands short in the recently mowed grass of left field in North Town Park. His father stands close to third base, twenty-five feet away. Little league season is coming up and they’re practicing. The ball comes from up high, finishing its arc. Anthony raises his baseball mitt and the ball lands with a slap. He turns the mitt towards his chest and takes out the ball, breaking into a big grin. He wraps two fingers at the red seam near the top of the ball. His thumb slips around the bottom seam. Anthony takes a moment to look at his dark hand. He turns his shoulder to his father, like he’s been told to, and takes a step toward him with his front foot. He raises his left arm, ball in hand, and throws.
The ball makes it a little over half way and his father bends down to ground the white and red ball into his glove. He stands up straight and walks over to Anthony. Anthony’s arm hurts but he makes mock motions like his dad tells him to. “Follow through, alright. Lead with your shoulder and elbow.” His dad nods and smiles before walking back to his spot by third.
The ball’s arc is higher this time and for a moment, Anthony loses track of it in the sun. He squints. It comes down fast, faster than before. Anthony raises his glove again and slap. Anthony catches it with just the top webbing of the glove (later, his dad will call it ice cream cone style). Though caught, the momentum of the ball is enough to bend Anthony’s wrist back; the back of his glove whacks him in his left eye.
The blow to his eye is enough for Anthony to fall on his back, into the grass. He hears his father’s cries, calling him. “Buddy boy. Are you okay?”
Anthony says, “Yes,” and his eyes burn red. He bites his bottom lip and lifts his glove up in front of his face. The ball is still peaking over the brown webbing when his father arrives to take a look.
His father moves the glove from Anthony’s face and looks at his eye. He helps him up from the grass and brushes the grass off Anthony’s backside. Together they walk. His father walks fast and Anthony struggles to keep up, taking two or three steps per his father’s one stride.
Once home, his father goes to the icebox to grab some frozen peas. He wraps the peas in paper towels and presses them against Anthony’s eye. Anthony shrinks back, hearing his father mutter something about decreasing the swelling before his mother gets home.
“Hold the peas tight, alright Tony?” his father says.
Anthony nods and takes the cold bag in his hands. His father ruffles Anthony’s hair and exhales. Anthony’s hands are cold, his smile warm.
“And that’s it for the sixth round folks. So far, Leonard seems to be in the lead. Durán will need to come out strong in the next rounds to change the momen-”
An engine groans in its acceleration, causing Sydney and Anthony to look. It’s a white car—with Las Vegas plates—that’s beginning to pass the bus on the left. Anthony leans forward to get a better look. Then, Anthony turns his head to look at Sydney. He’s looking out the dark window. The outline of the Las Vegas Mountain Range is still there. The lights of the city are still there. Sydney strains his neck, watching the car gain on the bus. In cursive lettering, on the trunk of the white car, it reads “Camaro.”
“Fucker,” Sydney says.
The car continues to flaunt its engine and soon enough the tones are waning.
Anthony says, “Yeah,” and closes his eyes.
When they get into Los Angeles, it will be five o’ six in the morning. The sun will just be peaking over the ocean and Anthony and Sydney will still have to find their way to Venice Beach. Mason will be stumbling home. He will be just about to put the key in the door. Celia will be asleep on the couch in the living room. The rattle of the key in the door will wake her up. Three hours after that, she’ll go check to make sure Anthony is getting ready for school.
For now though, Anthony and Sydney are asleep. They just left Nevada and Mojave National Preserve is on their left. It’s a vast waste in this dark. In the sun, it will be full of giant sand dunes and towering plumes of dust—winding in the air.