Driving along Minnehaha Parkway on my way to see Kick, I felt like Archie going over to Veronica's. Not because she lived in a massive stone house and I mowed lawns for cash. Or because I was prone to Archie-type screwups. I felt that way because our relationship was two-dimensional.
And that was the test. Could I make it to the third dimension with her?
Rudolphs was packed like always on Saturdays. The buzz ricocheted off pink plaster walls as I squeezed through the rowdy crowd swigging beer in the entry. Eddie was sitting alone in back. "Kick's not here yet?" I asked, sliding my lanky frame into the fake-leather booth.
"In the bathroom—probably stocking up on cheap dispenser condoms," he said, straight-faced.
"Don't be so sure she's not. That girl is in heat." I gave him a look. "Your ears must have been burning," he said.
"You talking about me?"
"Mmhmm. Your sex life."
"What!" I crunched down on an ice cube. "Who brought that up?"
"Kick wants to know why you're so slow."
"She said that?"
"Yeah." Eddie turned the salt shaker on its side and spun it. "Why are you so slow? No, really, I want to know."
"Shhh! She's coming," I said.
"There you are, David," Kick said, sliding in next to me. "What took you so long to get here?"
"I got lost."
"That's pathetic." She patted my hand like I was five. "How many times have you been downtown Minneapolis?"
"Downtown!" Eddie replied. "You call this downtown? I can't wait for us to be in New York, Kick."
"New York?" I asked.
Eddie nodded. "We're applying to NYU."
"You are? Both of you?" I looked at Kick.
She nodded and handed me a menu. "I want to go to .film school."
Oh, sure, I thought, but didn't say it. "I'm staying here," I said.
"Why? Cut loose a little bit," Eddie said.
The waiter came over. Which was good. Eddie gets on this rant that I'm uptight and who needs it? I ordered the house special: slow-cooked country ribs with corn on the cob, onion rings, and buttermilk rolls.
"Just a large salad for me," Kick said. "Dressing on the side."
I studied her lips as she recounted her adventure to the Mall of America the night before. They were plump, freshly remoistened with gloss. She smiled at me. I sat up straight, brushing the hair out of my eyes. Did she want me to make a move? How?
"My mother is really losing it with me," Kick told us. "I got home a half hour late. Twelve-thirty instead of midnight. Okay, maybe it was quarter to one." She sighed. "Now I have to be home every night by ten. Including weekends."
"For how long?" I asked.
"Until further notice."
"Poor baby," Eddie said.
"She's trying to ruin my life. It's envy."
Two platters of ribs arrived, sitting in lakes of barbecue sauce and topped with mounds of golden brown rings. Eddie had both paws covered in sauce in seconds, but I tried to hold back. The waiter set Kick's salad down, and she began poking at it, looking at our plates longingly. I speared her a perfect ring. After cutting off the breading, she ate it slowly, savoring each nibble. I don't know why she didn't eat more. So what if she was chubby.
As Eddie and I gorged, I let my knee brush against hers. She reached down and held it there. My heart sped up. Were we moving into a new dimension? Because you don't hold people's legs under the table if you're just friends.
"You look cute tonight," she said to me.
"Please," Eddie interrupted, reaching for another half ear of corn. "I'm eating."
Kick laughed and took her hand off my leg. Was I supposed to touch her knee now? I wiped my .fingers on a wet-nap in preparation. Should I just drop my hand on her? Were you supposed to squeeze? As I reached for her leg, Kick's leather bag started squawking like a chicken. "What's that?" I asked, pulling my hand back.
She took out her cell phone and answered it. "My mother," she mouthed. It was after 10:00.
"The depressing thing," Kick said, standing up, "is that she thinks I'm out having sex." She threw up her arms. "I don't even have a boyfriend." Kick looked at Eddie and then me. "But maybe that will change." She dropped a ten on the table, stole an onion ring from my plate, and disappeared into the crowd.
Excerpted from DAVID INSIDE OUT by Lee Bantle
Copyright © 2009 by Lee Bantle
Published in 2009 Henry Holt and Company, LLC
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher