by Jake Christie

NODDING ON THE PHONE.
a story.

“I understand completely,” says Alvin. He has the cell phone in one hand and Jeremy's fingers in the other. Jeremy slides his glasses up his nose and stares up at Alvin. The frames are bent and slide down again.

“Mm-hm,” says Alvin. “Mm-hm.” He repeats himself half a dozen more times, nodding. Jeremy watches him. The lights from the gas station's sign turn his blond hair blue and red.

“We'll be right here,” says Alvin. “I'm sorry, again.” He listens and nods his head. “Okay. See you soon. Sorry.” He hangs up and kneels down, making himself Jeremy's height. His hair goes back to its normal color.

“Your Mom wants us to wait here for her.” He puts his hand on his own forehead, like he's trying to push it in, and runs it through his hair. “Is that okay?”

“She can't hear you when you nod,” says Jeremy.

“What?” says Alvin.

“She can't hear you when you nod on the phone,” says Jeremy. “You don't have to do it.”

“Was I?” says Alvin. He looks down the road and stands up. “Where's that tow truck?” he says.

“It's okay,” says Jeremy. “My Mom bites on her nails when she's nervous, even though she doesn't have to. She cuts them when they get too long.”

Alvin puts his hand on Jeremy's head. “I'm not nervous,” he says. He feels for bumps. “Are you sure you're okay?”

“Don't be worried,” says Jeremy. He pushes his glasses back up and they slide down almost immediately. “It's no big deal.”

Alvin plops down on the pavement. He hugs his knees. Jeremy can see a line of scratches on his arm, maybe from the window. “I don't think your Mom's going to let me sit for you again.”

“Why not?” says Jeremy.

Alvin looks at him and manages a smile. He reaches over and takes Jeremy's glasses off, working the frames with his thumbs. “You're a smart kid, Jeremy,” he says. “You'll figure it out.”


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