When Bud got home, the lawn looked different somehow. Then he caught a whiff of freshly cut grass and heard the mower roaring in the backyard. Bud went through the bungalow, pulling the tabs off a couple of cold beers on his way. The back kitchen door was open, and Matt, shirtless in low-hanging gray shorts and work boots, was out back, mowing around the scuppernong trellis.
His shoulders looked red-brown, but not burnt. In fact, his whole body shone like new copper. His stomach was tight—two curved, undulating cylinders that met below the pinpoint of his navel, under which his iliac furrow echoed those lines down to the shorts’ loose elastic band. Despite a bandanna round his forehead, sweat dripped from his nose to his lower lip and from his chin to his belly.
Bud caught his attention by waving the beers over his head and shouting over the snarls of the motor. Matt shut the mower off, removed the bandanna, and used it to sponge the sweat off his skin. He held the cold beer to his neck for a second before taking his first swallow. Bud noticed the size of his adam’s apple.
“I was antsy this afternoon. Needed to work up a sweat.”
“You stole my keys.”
“I didn’t think you’d mind. Besides, I saw you see me.”
“Don’t you have friends your own age to hang out with? A girlfriend?”
“You’re not that much older than me. Six years?”
“Okay, nine years, big deal.”
Bud noticed he ducked the question of a girlfriend. He sat on the edge of the patio, and Matt plopped down beside him.
Bud inhaled Matt’s nutty musk. He felt the heat radiating off the kid’s arms and back. He dared to look over at Matt’s face in profile, the boy’s eyes turned downward, yet probably sensing that he was being watched up close.
Matt turned to look at Bud straight on. Bud started to avert his eyes, but decided to be bold instead. Matt smiled.
“I got nothing to do. I could stay over.”
(To be continued)