Chapter 3 Friends on the Road

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Dahl —Friday, 6:23 PM

Javier reappears in the doorway. He grins without stepping in. It's a signal we're leaving—already! I grab my hockey bag and pocket my phone.

"Gomez is waiting in the car," he reveals, "we better get over there before someone sees him drooling with his tongue hanging out and tries to smash my windows to prevent cruelty to Mexicans."

I sling my hockey bag over my shoulder and press the swinging door open for my patrone. The sun hits us hard.

"It supposed to be the hottest summer ever—worse than last year."

"That's my Canadian—talking about the weather again."

He wipes a hand over his forehead as we saunter through the market towards the street. The real farmers pack their wares, having sold the bulk at dawn, while street vendors welcome hungry crowds. Scents of onion, spices, and hops blend into a combination that smells heavenly but wouldn't make sense on a plate. Ottawa's farmer's market is a party district —a nighttime hotspot where students congregate within its twenty packed bars for bad choices, drunken stupidity, and 2:00 AM pitas. They're not like me.

We near the street. The traffic sounds intrusive from the market where cars are forbidden. I smell pot and peek at Nightmare. His reaction sours—he shares my suspicion. Sure enough, we turn around the last patio to find Gomez leaning against Nightmare's black and yellow hardtop, sucking on a doobie.

"Fuck sakes, cuz, are you stupid for real?" Nightmare states it like a scolding joke then jabs his fingers under Gomez's ribs.

"C'mon Javier, it's legal now. We're about to setup a whole pot farm. What's the conflict?" Gomez faces me with a dramatic grin. "Helloooo... Dollll."

He mocks my name every chance he gets in a way that only a friend could get away with. His humor's simple but has its moments. Nightmare cuts me off before I can clap back.

"Get in the car, idiots."

Nightmare settles into the driver's seat. He slams the door and pops the trunk. I toss my bag on top of Gomez's gear and notice Javier has no luggage stowed. The passenger side of the car's been taken over by a built-in laptop stand and box of files, like a home office setup. Probably a way to keep the crew in the backseat also. I get in beside Gomez. He shares the same dark features as Nightmare —like a younger clone from a failed test tube experiment compromised by a roach falling into the mix.

He leers at me, sticking out his lips and dragging his vowels, "Dollll, you ready, bro?"

"Dude! I'm just happy to be out of that dorm. Gonna miss my beer case chairs though, and my beer case table. The summer students can keep 'em. May it serve them well..."

Gomez's face reacts to every word like a cartoon. It's intense —like having your camera face you while live-streaming. He pulls out the same phone I just got and lowers his unlawful eyebrows as he concentrates —composing what I expect to be a 'Fuck you' text beeping across my screen in five seconds. I roll down the window and burn my arm against the black paint. The streets wind by, sidewalks with college students already in their July gear, immigrants walking to the jobs the lazy don't want, weekend suits in ripped, five hundred-dollar jeans meeting to brag on patios and be seen. My leg vibrates and I pull out the beeping phone, intent to change the ring tone pronto.

The alert splayed on the screen is a pic of the guy sitting next to me in a rented suit from his high school graduation five years ago. I click on the pic to open the page.

"Shit Gomez, you've always been ugly, bro." He just grins at me, waiting... Clicking has brought me to a 'Meet our Team' page. Under Gomez's face is the caption 'Heavy Equipment Technician'.

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