“Sorry, Mavis,” I said automatically.
“Don’t be sorry, Clem. Stand up for yourself. I like Stank cuz he’s honest, handsome as the day is long and don’t take lip from nobody, not even me.”
“Sorry, Mavis,” I said again.
She shook her head.
“But, Mavis, I—”
“Clem,” she said. “I’m with Peter and that’s final.”
I hung my head and sauntered toward the door. As I passed Stank, I looked up at him. He didn’t meet my eyes.
I wandered outside and collapsed into a heap on the dirt. I’d lost my best friend, my gang, and my lady in the space between a Sparry bird’s ears.
That’s where I was when Old Man Cooter found me. “So you’re the broken part of the triangle?” He asked.
“Come on, son,” he said. “Let’s get you some ice cream. Ain’t nothing heal a broken heart like ice cream.”
We walked inside and poured chocolate syrup and hot fudge on our Sundaeas.
Mavis and Stank took off a few days later. I think they tried one of their plans. It went about as well as all their other plans. I send them money for the commissary every now and then when the crops are good.
Old Man Cooter and I got along like chickpeas in a chicken beak. He taught me everything he knew about farming, and I didn’t leave. When he died, I was the only one of his kids to show up to the funeral. It was on a remote planet, in a dreary town where arriving would likely mean staying forever, but still.
Since taking over the farm, I’ve bathed regularly, just about every month since.