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Jeff Rigger

Word was, Tami was returning from her trip to the UK. Honestly, I don’t know why David put up with her. She’d treated him like crap since high school started. Heck, she treated us all like crap. I honestly wasn’t looking forward to her return.

I remember when David first pulled her into our group. We had been the Three Musketeers: Alan, David and me against the world. Then David goes and finds this stray and pulls her into our group. I never liked the Four Musketeers. The thing was that David liked her, so by default we were friends with Tami, too. For a girl, Tami was cool. She was a tomboy and liked to do the things we liked, so she fit in.

Alan was my Tami. Alan and I were neighbors and our moms traded off watching us. Alan was an acquired taste. He had unfortunate hair that made him look like a crazed poodle. His mouth didn’t have a filter on it. Whatever he thought came out. When David and I became friends in kindergarten, Alan was part of the package.

From first grade on the four of us were inseparable. We each had our role to play in our little group. Tami was our information source. If something was happening or we needed to know about it, she knew. She also wanted to be a doctor, so she was our medic when we scraped a knee or tried to kill ourselves. Tami actually taught us sex education before we had it in school.

Alan was our loose cannon. You never knew what he would say or do. I think today they would’ve figured out he needed to be on some kind of medication to curb his spaz quotient. If we got into trouble, Alan was usually the cause. I remember in fifth grade when he talked David into drawing on Miss Broker’s whiteboard with a permanent marker. David was the only one of us that could actually draw well enough that you could recognize what it was.

We all came back from recess and Alan and David had the giggles. Miss Broker came in and began her lesson and the class all giggled because there was a giant bunny drawn on the board. She finally noticed.

“Very funny … ha, ha,” she said and she went to wipe it off so we would focus on her lesson.

“What the hell!” she blurted.

There was a collective gasp as everyone realized what had happened. When she used the eraser to clean the board, the bunny transformed itself into a dick and balls. Son of a monkey! Miss Broker cussed because there was a permanent marker drawing of a dick on the board!

It took Alan all of nanosecond to rat David out. Tami got mad, because no one tattled on our group, and smacked him in the forehead. Alan made a lunge at Tami and I had to tackle him before he hit a girl. Miss Broker was not in a forgiving mood and sent us all to the office. Mrs. Dawson was called to come down to the school to deal with us. Even Alan started to shake when we heard the Vice Principal announce that.

When she finally arrived, they told her what we’d all done. School was out, so she had us march down to Miss Broker’s class and apologize to her. She then turned to David.

“Show me,” she ordered.

David drew the bunny again, and she used the eraser to wipe it away so it would uncover the giant dick. She didn’t say a word until we all got into the car. When we pulled away from the curb she started laughing. While the school wasn’t happy, we never got punished at home for it.

David was our spokesman. If we wanted to do something, which we weren’t sure if we could do or not, he was nominated to plead our case. He was also the first one to try something if it looked dangerous. If he didn’t die then we knew we could all do it.

I was the mediator of the group. If there was a dispute it was up to me to get things worked out so everyone could live with things. I’d had practice because of Alan being a spaz. I’d saved his butt more times than I wanted to count. I could usually talk him out of whatever he said he wanted to do, if it was insane, which it usually was.

Looking back on the Tami and David situation, it all started when Jan Duke used him to make Justin Tune jealous. I tried to talk to him and explain what we all thought was obvious, but he wouldn’t listen. He felt like we all ganged up on him and he became a little shit.

I wasn’t there when things really got bad and Tami screamed at him that she never wanted to see him again. I look back, and if I’d done my job as mediator I don’t think he would have gone as far as he did. The one thing you had to know about David was that if he got mad, his practice was just to walk away. If you gave him his space and time to think, he calmed down. This was one of the few times that didn’t work. I think Alan might have had something to do with that when he told David that Tami was right.

He started to hang out with kids who were heavy into drinking and taking drugs. Then everything blew up when he threw a party and Lily almost died. I don’t know how, but he was never arrested. The next thing we knew he was sent to his uncle’s farm for the summer. We couldn’t even talk to him because his uncle took his cell phone away from him.

Tami seemed to withdraw into herself and gradually stopped hanging out with Alan and me. We heard she was seen with Bert Nelson and the country-club set. I knew David would be devastated if he found out. I spent the summer keeping Alan sane and out of trouble.

When David came back from the summer it was obvious he’d changed. The good news was that he and I buried our differences and picked up being friends again, so we were the Three Musketeers again.

For David and Tami it wasn’t quite so easy. Unlike guys, who can say the horrible things to each other and then thirty minutes later all is forgotten and they’re laughing and goofing off, girls remember what you said or did. They seemed cautiously to circle each other. David wanted things to go back to the way they were before, but for the first time in their lives Tami had secrets that she didn’t share with him: she’d dated Bert and had gotten a scholarship to go to a private school miles away. Of course, she couldn’t keep those secrets forever, and the revelations caused more tension between them.

David unexpectedly going out for football ended up being a boon to Alan and me. The guys who used to pick on us now wanted to be David’s friends. David made it clear that he wasn’t dropping us to start hanging out with the jocks. I sat back and watched him excel at football. I think many people were surprised. I, for one, wasn’t. David was always a good athlete and we’d played Little League baseball together. He was always the best player.

When we played baseball, he made sure that his friends were all a part of it. He even made sure Alan was on our team. The coaches would let Alan bat once so he could say he participated, and then he would keep the stats. I wasn’t surprised when David pulled me in to play baseball in the spring. Alan again was in charge of stats and was much happier when he didn’t have to play.

David also wanted me to play football with him. That was a much longer negotiation. He did talk me into joining a new workout program after school. It was run by a new transfer student, Cassidy Hope.

Like David, regular exercise combined with a growth spurt finally made me realize that I might as well cave and go out for football. David even found a role for Alan as our coach.

Playing football also got me my first girlfriend, Sammie. Even Alan showed up with a girl, Gina. This was all new territory for us, but we had David to guide us. Actually, his older brother indirectly guided us. Not everything went smoothly, but David taught us some good lessons, like if you go to a school dance with a date, dance with her.

Then I became the luckiest guy in the world when Cassidy decided to go out with me. She was everything I wanted in a girl. I was glad I met her after dating some of the others, because they’d shown me what not to do. They’d prepared me for someone like Cassidy. While I didn’t know if she was my forever girl, I had hope that she might be.

I’m really looking forward to this summer. We won State in football and will work hard to do it again. Cassidy’s my girlfriend. I look forward to being able to spend more time with her now that school’s out. Alan is being kept busy coaching, so he isn’t quite the spaz he used to be. As far as David and Tami goes, who knows? I do know that she’s in for a surprise. David is no longer her ball of Play-Doh she can shape. He’s his own man now. I’m looking forward to that with mixed emotions. Part of me can’t wait to see how she takes the new David. Part of me shudders at the thought of what might happen.