“So, are you coming with me or staying with him?” Xander demanded.
I didn’t quite know what to say though, because Xander and Charlie are my two best friends in the world and it felt wrong to join one and abandon the other.
“Yeah, Tommy, you’ve gotta make up your mind soon,” Charlie added. “It’s getting dark and I can’t be late for dinner.”
“I, uhh, I don’t know yet. Gimme a second to think, would ya?” I was stalling. I didn’t really feel like going to Charlie’s house for dinner again, what with his mom’s awful cooking and his dad’s booze-induced speeches.
“I think I’m gonna go with Xander,” I said, mimicking the decisiveness I heard in Xander’s voice when he told us his top-secret plan to go spray paint the old train cars on the other side of town. It seemed like a dumb idea at first, but now that I’d agreed to it I was starting to see the plan’s true potential.
Xander climbed up the barbed-wire fence and hopped over, taking a few giant steps when he landed in order to avoid falling. I started up after him. But, seeing as I was wearing new jeans and they were a little stiff, my movements were a bit slower and significantly less certain.
About halfway up, it hit me—this was, in fact, a dumb idea. Why was I bothering to go along with it anyway? Because Xander said it would be cool? I should’ve gone to Charlie’s house for that stupid, insufferable dinner. At least I’d be safe and warm and given a full meal, even if it was terrible.
But by now I was straddling the fence, where I sat calmly contemplating my choices until I noticed my new jeans were caught in the barbed wire.
I was definitely losing my cool and collected manner, but I didn’t want to seem totally panicked, so I said, in as casual a voice as I could manage, “Uhh, guys? I don’t know about this. I’m on the fence—“
Before I could say anything about my pants being caught, the boys cut me off, screaming about my indecisiveness in the crude and cruel way that only 12-year-old boys can truly understand. It was weird having a friend on either side, each telling me what he thinks I should do and both suggesting total opposites. The whole thing gave me a weird angel-on-one-shoulder-devil-on-the-other sensation, which I thought was a funny image. It reminded me of all the cartoons I used to watch and laugh at with Xander and Charlie on Saturday mornings. The parts where a kid had to make a tough decision and he could hear the voice of fun from one side and the voice of reason from the other.
So I started laughing, a deep, belly chuckle but I quickly lost control and it turned into a high almost-cackle. I ended up sounding like a crazy person, which was admittedly not great, but it got them both to shut up and listen to what I was saying. It unintentionally worked to my advantage, and I told myself it was all a part of the plan so that I’d feel a little less unstable. Stability was the big thing right now.
“I’m really on the fence, you guys. Like, I’m literally stuck on the fence—my pants are,” I said in my most convincing sane-person voice.
“Don’t worry dude, we’ll get you down,” Charlie reassured me.
“Yeah,” Xander replied. “Well, which way do you want to come down? Towards Charlie or towards me?”
But I didn’t know how to answer. I was on the fence about the whole thing, and I couldn’t seem to pick a side.