Jeremiah came into class on Thursday with thin burn lines across his face. During gym class, when he got changed in the locker-room, we saw that he had more thin burn lines across his chest. He refused to shower after gym, and his pants looked padded out, so the conclusion was kind of obvious to us all. No-one said anything, but after school I headed down to the mall, where I knew he'd be hanging out. Sure enough, he was in the ice-cream shop, sat at the counter looking uncomfortable.
"Dude!" I said, slapping him hard on the shoulders and sitting down next to him. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, biting his lip to whiteness. "Hell, sorry man," I said.
"What do you want?" he said back, sniffing. "Apart from making me hurt?"
"What happened to you, man?" I said. "Dude, you look like someone's sent you to Guantanamo for a week."
"It's nothing," he said, turning away from me.
I slapped his shoulder again, and he winced. "It's not nothing," I said. "Nothing is where I have to punch you in the nuts to get a squeak out of you. When I can give you a shoulder massage and watch you pass out in pain, that's not nothing man."
"Dude, just leave it, right?" he said. His voice sounded kind of choked.
"Dude, you can tell me what happened, or I can keep hitting those shoulders of yours. Your choice man, but I know what I'd be doing right now."
"Yeah right," he said. "Your mother doesn't get home from whoring on street corners for another hour, so you'd be sat at home playing with yourself."
I leaned in, and squeezed his shoulder. He looked at me, and I punched him in the chest. He couldn't hold the tears back this time.
"Smartass," I said. "Now tell me the deal."
It was the timeless story of course, the one that everyone's been through one way or another. Sometimes the players change a little, but this one was a classic.
"We met in the park," he said, slowly, hesitantly. "She was a beauty, I could see that right from the start. She was barbecuing, managing a dozen burgers, a dozen hotdogs, some sides of onion and slaw with no trouble at all. The sun was shining in a blue, cloudless sky, there were children being mauled by dogs nearby, and their parents were all drunk and rolling out in the kiddie's sandpit. Yet she handled it all with dignity and aplomb, and got that 'cue cooked to perfection. Something inside me knew it then, but I just turned away and walked on, and tried not to regret not making a move."
"But I went back to the park the next day, and she was there again, this time doing fish, with a tinfoil tray of tomatoes and peppers blackening alongside, and I thought to myself, she's versatile. She's flexible. She's got what it takes, and she can go with the flow. She knows how to handle herself. And I nearly went up there then, but there were two guys with her, and I couldn't be certain, but it looked like she might be with one of them. So I walked off again, and forced myself not to look back."
"And it's kind of been like that for a few weeks, but when I went to the park yesterday, she was on her own. She was sat there, cold and magnificent, but she was alone, and so I went up to her, and ran my hand down her side, and she was amazing. I touched her grill and smelled my fingers, she smelled of charcoal and there was a lingering scent of beef; no fish at all. She was mostly clean, but she was dirty where it mattered most, and that was just such a turn-on for me. And she was encouraging me, I could tell. She was such a cute little minx."
"I turned her on, I heated her up, and I took her when she was most passionate."
"Dude, you screwed a barbecue grill?" I said. "Way to go, homie! We thought you were the goat-fucker for sure!"
And there you have it, the timeless tale of 'boy meets grill, grill heats boy, boy ends up in intensive care.' Even Romeo and Juliet doesn't measure up to this.