The infrared viewer swung across the street from Central High to the brick hardware store before gliding down to the bus stop. Two teenage boys on a bench, one lanky, the other more solidly built, appeared as masses of swirling bright reds and yellows. Around them swam cooler dark greens and blues.

   The army corporal lowered the viewer and glanced at another soldier standing next to the jeep. He nodded, and the soldier spoke into his radio.



   Dave barely listened as Sidney yammered on beside him. He snapped another toothpick in half and dropped it to the sidewalk where it landed in a pile, taking shape, like a grass hut. Maybe I'll set it on fire, he thought, when the school bell rings. A miniature bonfire celebrating another day of cutting class and not listening to those teachers drone on like Sidney is now. Sidney, full of himself and his new jacket with all the auto racing patches.

   "You start out in amateur drag or oval, then work your way to semi-pro, get sponsors. I'm practically there now at the Raceway."

   Dave smiled. "Sid, you work at the concession stand."

   "That's your problem, Dave. Always getting technical."

   "You sell corn dogs!"

   "Picky, picky," Sidney said. "Always stuck in the particulars."

   "Do you or don't you?"

   "Senior year's almost over and what have you done?  You got a chance to learn carpentry from your dad, and you break toothpicks."

   "It's all bullshit."

   "P.M.A. Positive mental attitude. That's what you need."

   "You sell sodas and corn dogs at the Raceway, not drive cars. Admit it!"

   "You got to have a goal."

   "Admit it, that's all!" Dave pressed. "Just admit it!"

   Sidney glared at Dave. "Yeah, so?  I sell sodas. You got to start somewhere."  He looked away. "Ever since Sarah died you've been negative, a big nothing."

   Dave clutched Sidney's shoulder. "Don't talk about Sarah!"

   Sidney jerked his arm away. "If I wanted someone to rag on me, I'd stay home."

   "Yeah?" Dave said.


   They sat in silence for a moment. "Sorry," Dave said finally. "Sorry."

   "I got a big mouth."  Sidney squinted, holding his hand above his eyes to shield out the sunlight. "There's another soldier pointing one of those things at us."

   Dave looked down the street. Three soldiers stood near an army jeep parked in front of Axelrod's Drugstore. One of the soldiers had what looked like binoculars trained on the boys.

   "Smile for the camera," Dave said. He threw his arm around Sidney's bony shoulders and they both flashed enormous artificial grins.

   "Cheeser!" Sidney shouted.

   The soldier lowered his viewer and climbed into the jeep.

   "Why are they snooping around off the base all the sudden?" Dave asked.

   "Who cares?" Sidney pointed to the school. "Check it out."

   Seven cheerleaders ran onto the school lawn, swinging pom-poms. The school bell rang and students flooded out of the building.

   Dave stood up. "How about a burger?"

   "Homework first," Sidney said, engrossed by the cheerleaders.

   Dave sat back down, pulled out his wallet and casually looked through it. He took out a strip of four photographs from a coin-operated photo booth. The shots showed poses of a teenage girl with short, sandy hair kissing Dave tenderly on the cheek. In each frame Dave's eyes were closed as he smiled blissfully.

   "Dave?" Sidney asked. "What do you want?"

   "I hate that game, Sid."

   "What do you want?"

   "What do you want?" Dave asked. The cheerleaders did a cancan routine, kicking high, unwittingly giving Sidney a show.

   "A red Corvette and a fine cheerleader with long blonde hair. What do you want?"

   "I want this day to be over," Dave said. "What do you want?"

   Now the girls, with their backs to Sidney, bent down and touched their ankles, wiggling their rumps. Sidney was enthralled. "A red Corvette and a fine cheerleader with long blonde hair. What do you want?"

   "You just said that!"

   "That's what I want," Sidney said.  "I can't help it. What do you want?"

   "I want to be as far away from this town as I can get. What do you want?"

   "A blue Mustang and a fine cheerleader with short brown hair."

   "Oh, man."

   "It's totally different. What do you want?"

   Dave looked at the photo strip.

   "What do you want?" Sidney asked again.

   "I want Sarah," Dave said softly. "I want Sarah to be alive."



   In the alley behind the bus stop a striking, olive-skinned young woman knelt, peering fearfully around the corner at Dave and Sidney. Abundant black hair tumbled past her shoulders. She watched them intently, then suddenly looked down the street, startled. She trembled and slowly moved backward, crouching behind a dumpster. ...