"I don't understand," Blink says, clutching the strap of his laptop bag tighter. "What do you mean 'no Internet'?"
Mush winces. Blink's constant attention to Facebook and Twitter is more like a nervous tick than an addiction. It's like those people who push their glasses up on their noses even when they don't have their glasses on. He can't not update every second of his life. He shares everything, from two-second frustrations to major life accomplishments, to corny photos of clowning around in the 24-hour mart at 2:00 a.m. and pictures of his face stuffed with gauze after he got his wisdom teeth removed.
And even though Mush is with Blink for 90 percent of those things, he still likes to see Blink's updates pop up, likes seeing the world through Blink's eyes, having the record of it to scroll through at the end of the day before he goes to sleep.
"You mean, like, DSL instead of wireless?" Blink asks hopefully.
Spot snorts but Race elbows him. "It's not like you'll be playing Madden any time in the next four days, genius."
Spot gestures at Jack. "He said 'no Internet' not 'no TV' or 'no electricity,'" he points out.
Jack scratches the back of his neck. "Yeah, about that . . . "
Of the five other boys standing on the deck of the cabin holding sleeping bags and backpacks, four jaws drop open. David just facepalms.
"Did anyone bring a flashlight? Or a lantern?" David asks. They're all flopped on the floor of the cabin, pawing through their packs.
"I got a deck of cards," Race volunteers.
"No one is surprised," Spot rolls his eyes. He's on the futon couch, feet kicked up on the second-hand coffee table. Contributing has never really been Spot's thing. Chances are he's got a lighter or a pack of matches he's going to hoard until he can get the right price for it.
"I have a flashlight," Mush offers, placing it in the pile of supplies they're pooling. Luckily, although Jack failed to tell any/everyone there wouldn't be power at the cabin, he brought a decent amount of practical stuff himself, like hotdogs and soda and beans and supplies for s'mores. The one thing they have a ton of is bug spray. David is the only one who brought sunblock.
"My phone doesn't even have a signal," Blink says, sitting in his own pile of cords and computers.
"'Course it don't," Race says, tossing a package of sunflower seeds at the pile, "We're in the boonies."
Mush throws a sympathetic look Blink's way, but he misses it, too busy staring intently at the connectivity bars on his phone as he sways and twists, trying to catch a signal. It's just the first hour of the first day -- he doesn't think Blink will keep trying all weekend. Eventually something will distract him. Hopefully. Mush resolves to find that something.
"Where'd Jack find this place, anyway?" Spot asks David, nudging him with the toe of his sneaker.
David swats at him irritably. "How would I know?"
"It's a friend of my father's," Jack says, carrying in a huge box of fireworks. Spot's on his feet in a second.
Mush shakes his head and digs a handful of energy bars out of backpack, adds them to the community pile. Okay, so Jack brought mostly practical stuff.
The cabin faces a lake. There's a clearing for a fire pit out front and a set of rickety wood steps leading down to a short dock. A raft bobs a few dozen feet offshore. Mush doesn't need electricity—everything is awesome just as it is.
The cabin has two bedrooms and the futon in the living area. One room has two twin beds, the other has a double. Race claims Spot kicks in his sleep and is prepared to fight to not have to share a bed with him, but when Jack wraps him into a headlock and noogies him through his cap he yields pretty quick.
Mush just shrugs and drops his backpack and sleeping bag on the double bed, leaving Spot and Race to deal with the futon. Blink mopes after him, dragging his pack and balancing his open laptop on one arm. He plops onto the bed and props the laptop on his knees without looking up.
"If Race knows Spot kicks in his sleep doesn't that mean they've shared a bed before? I don't see what the big deal is." His head flies up, eyes wide. "Oh my God, I'm totally tweeting that. 'Race says Spot gets his kicks in bed.'" Then his shoulders slump. "OH MY GOD THIS SUCKS," he yells and flops backward.
Mush bumps his knee consolingly. "It's just a couple days. You'll be okay."
Blink throws a despairing are over his face. "I can't go for DAYS, Mush! Pound: FML."
Close to dinner time, Mush and David go investigate the shed on the far side of the cabin, looking for a grill or something else useful. They find a small motor boat, fishing tackle, and dusty sports equipment instead.
Mush grabs a baseball and two gloves off the shelf, grinning.
He trots around to the other side of the house, where Blink is plugging his phone into the car charger in hopes of boosting the signal. "Think fast!" he calls and chucks a glove into Blink's lap. He runs backwards a few steps, watching Blink's face light up and then takes off at full speed out to the clearing out back.
Mush catches Blink's pitches, moving further and further back as his arm warms up.
Jack shows up with a bat and bets Blink can't strike him out. David brings them an old catalogue he found to use as home plate. Later, Spot scratches bases into the ground with his pocket knife and Race stands at third, bent over his knees and heckling the batters.
And that first night six of them take turns at bat, playing a small game with no score and too many home runs until the first stars rise and it's too dark to see.
They make s'mores for dinner and stay up until the fire dies.
Blink drops onto the bed next to Mush that night and passes out almost in seconds. He didn't even check his phone.
The next day dawns hot. Blink leans over the edge of the bed to reach for his laptop and check the weather, then moans in despair. Mush laughs and pushes at him until he slides to the floor.
"New tweet," Blink says from the floor, beyond Mush's line of sight. "'So hot I melted out of bed this morning. Send ice.'" He sits up, making a face. "Oh my god, seriously. It's so hot I think can smell Race's feet from here." At that he's up and running. "Race!"
They're all in the water before breakfast and, really, it was only a matter of time before Spot pushed Race off the raft. A fierce but funny round of King of the Raft kicks up as a result.
The third time Mush gets knocked off he swims back to the dock, pulling himself up onto the warm wooden boards instead of climbing back onto the raft and fighting off the current champion. His abs actually hurt from laughing so hard.
He watches Blink wrestle with pale, wiry Spot as Jack rocks the raft back and forth, trying to unbalance them both. David and Race are fighting for a hold on the ladder. Mush squints against the sun and grins. He's always been the quiet observer. He keeps up, plays hard, gets the joke, but it's Blink's nonstop energy that carries him, Blink who does most of his talking for him—or enough talking for the both of them, anyway. Mush likes that about Blink, too. That he's always on it, always quick to join a group, to ask the questions Mush would want answers to or say exactly what Mush is thinking. They work good together that way. Good best friends.
He lays back to soak in sun, listening to the shrieks of victory and defeat until a shadow darkens his eyelids. He blinks up to see the outline of a dripping body above him. He leans up on his elbows and squints at Blink's silhouette.
"I won!" he beams.
"This ain't over!" Spot yells from shore. "I'll get you for that!"
Blink rolls his eyes and looks back down at Mush. "You look hot," he observes.
Mush quirks an eyebrow at him, something fluttering in his stomach. "Thanks?"
"No, the other kind," Blink says and tackle rolls Mush back into the water.
So Spot's kind of a pyromaniac. That's not really a surprise, Mush thinks, but knowing there's some actual talent behind it is. He and Jack put on an actual fireworks show that night, lining up little rockets off the end of the dock and lighting them in sequences while David paces on shore and tries really hard to stop suggesting they stay a safe distance away.
It's cooled down a lot after dark, but they don't have a fire going yet, what with Spot having control of the lighter for fireworks. But Blink's shoulder is pressed against Mush's as they sit hip to hip on the shore end of the dock, elbows wrapped around knees and staring up at the bursts of color against the night sky.
It's perfect. Everything is perfect and Blink hasn't touched anything more technologically advanced than a cooler for twelve hours. Mush feels strangely pleased and proud of that.
When the fireworks end, they all clap and holler. Blink gets to his feet and offers a hand up to Mush before trotting down to the end of the dock to talk to the pyrotechnics engineers. Mush is already up at the cabin's porch when he hears the splash.
"God-d-damn it, Spot, give us the lighter," Blink chatters, one hand sticking out of the towel that Mush wrapped around his shoulders. "You're a sore fucking loser."
Spot's shit-eating grin makes it seem impossible he's ever lost anything in his life. "Do it and I'll give it to you."
Mush shakes his head. "Spot, please, okay? Please. He's freezing." The firewood's all prepped and ready to go, they just need a light. Blink shivers harder.
"Man up, Blink. One trip around the cabin, and don't forget to sing."
"I am not r-running around naked and singing some stupid song just because you're an asshole. J-just give it to me." Blink makes a swipe for Spot's hand and Spot jerks back, holding it high in the air.
Jack saunters behind Spot on his way inside. "Stop being an ass," he says casually, giving Spot a whack upside the head. He snatches away the lighter while Spot's disoriented and tosses it to Mush.
Mush sighs with relief and bends over to get the fire going. Ten minutes later they've got a pretty good blaze and Blink's stopped shivering. Mostly.
"New status update," he says, bouncing in place a little. "'Fucking froze my balls off because Spot's a douche.'"
"You don't swear on Facebook," Mush reminds him. "Your mom has an account."
"'Having a great time at the lake! Water's cold!'" Blink amends, brimming with sarcasm.
Mush rubs his back through the towel. "That's the spirit."
Sunday they wake up together where they collapsed the night before. At least, Mush doesn't remember climbing into bed, or making the conscious decision to wrap himself and a blanket around Blink. Then again he doesn't remember who brought out the beer, either. But he's not hungover, he's just normal groggy.
He rubs at his eyes and feels Blink shift, burying his face into Mush's chest as he begins a stretch. "Oh," Blink says, opening his eyes. He smiles up at Mush. "Hey."
Mush gets suddenly hyperaware of the way Blink is pressed against him, of how his arm is curled around Blink's back, and he concentrates really hard on staying still. "Hey," he answers, breath held.
Blink kisses him then. Just pushes up and presses his mouth to Mush's, easy as you please, and Mush melts. He sinks into his pillow, into the mattress, and lets Blink slot into place above him. It's wonderful, for all of two minutes.
"I'll be right back," Blink breathes against his mouth. "Right back. Promise," and he skitters out of the blanket, leaving Mush gaping and cursing the day God invented Facebook addiction.
But Blink is back in under a minute, grinning like mad and carrying two energy bars and bottles of water. He crawls back over the bed and sidles in against Mush again. "You'll never guess what I just saw!" he stage whispers and Mush smiles at his excitement, curious. But when Blink pulls his phone from his shorts pocket he frowns.
"No, no, look!" Blink says thumbing through a few screen and holding it up to show Mush. And there on Blink's phone is a picture of Spot sprawled across Race on the futon and drooling. "It's perfect." Blink coos. "And it's so going on Facebook."
Mush smothers his laugh, and Blink kisses him again.
As they pack the car on Monday, getting ready to head home and back to the world wide web, Mush notices Blink looking at him strangely. They've been catching each other's eyes and trying to hide giddy smiles for the past twenty-four hours, but this is different somehow. "What?" he asks, getting that crawly feeling up the back of his neck.
But Blink shrugs it off. "Nothing," he says. "Just . . . nothing."
Mush just shakes his head.
Goodbye isn't really goodbye since they all see each other all the time anyway. But there's a lot of see yas and name calling and boasting and laughter. David is making Jack stay behind an extra hour or so to make sure the place is as clean and tidy as they found it, and Race passes them while Spot flips them off as soon as they hit the main road.
A couple hours later, as they near town, Mush looks over at Blink, whose attention has been completely devoted to his phone since the first signal bar came back. "I'm sorry you didn't get to share the weekend with everybody online," he says and means it.
Blink stops his frantic poking and looks up at him, frowning. He shakes his head and stops whatever it is he's doing on his phone, opens the glove box, shoves the device inside and shuts it firmly. "I did share it," he says, and twines his fingers with Mush's. "With you."
Mush thinks he couldn't actually smile any wider.
He drops Blink off, stealing half a dozen kisses before letting him out of the car, after which Blink practically bolts inside to get on his laptop. Mush shakes his head.
At home he says hi to his mom, tells her that yes, the weekend was great and, yes, everyone still has all his appendages and, yes, he knows he smells and needs a shower. Before taking one, though, he goes upstairs and fires up his own laptop to check his e-mail. He doesn't have much, but there's one from Facebook, sent just fifteen minutes ago. Rather than open the e-mail he just logs into Facebook and checks his feed. And there, at the top, is the notice: Blink has changed his relationship status to "in a relationship with Mush Meyers."
It's just a stupid Facebook status, but Mush feels all giddy delighted inside. He kind of wants to call Blink right that very second, but manages to hold off. He really does need to shower. But he sits there a few minutes longer, gazing dopily at the those all-important words on his laptop screen. He's so dizzy with glee that he almost misses the post below it, also from Blink.
It's the one with the picture of Spot drooling on Race's chest.
- end -