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The art of small talk, Johnny reflected, was a dying one.

He waited a moment, then followed Caleb into the "restaurant". As the other boy made his way towards the counter, Johnny turned to a couple sitting down at a table, near the door.

"Hey y'all, don't worry, I got that."

He flashed a smile and took the tray from their table, laden with empty paper plates and crumpled napkins, and made his way to the bins. He held it open with his left hand and pantomimed pushing the trash in, snapping a brief glance over his shoulder at Caleb. His friend was engaged in conversation with the cashier and had her attention. Ideal.

Turning back to the garbage, Johnny rolled up a sleeve and stuck in his hand, feeling around until he found the rim of a cup, and pulling it out with two fingers. He placed it on top of the bin, shook the rest of the garbage off the tray, and then with cup in hand made his way to the drink machines. He placed it under a tap and then turned his back and pretended to be absorbed in one of the giant, neon menus as he listened to the sound of Sprite pouring.

Johnny Ray McKay had made a promise to his brother some years back not to steal, or as Johnny understood it to at least steal less. This though, he would have argued, could hardly be called stealing. If he'd paid for the cup, he could stand at the machine with his finger on the button and watch two, three gallons of soda just drain away, and they wouldn't call that stealing. Some diabetoid could chain these things, just sit here all day drinking them end on end until their veins ran with the shit and nobody'd so much as blink, but two healthy boys, two growing boys want so much as a single cup and fuck me, suddenly it's a felony.

How was that fair?

Johnny took a lid and a straw, and had the latter through the former right as the cup began to overflow. He turned, and capped the drink in a single, practiced motion. It wasn't exactly their first time doing this, and if Johnny said so himself, he was getting mighty good at it.

Caleb definitely made things easier. Johnny hadn't an idea of what the boy said to the people up there, but they always seemed to like him fine. People didn't like Johnny, not so much. Girls smiled at Caleb. Strangers didn't smile at Johnny when they talked to him. They narrowed their eyes, and they watched his hands to make sure he wasn't taking anything.

He took a sip of the Sprite.

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Pizza Rats · Main Street