Buddy continued to sleep as they kept vigil for fifteen minutes. Finally, Mavis announced that she was tired, and she wanted to go home. She turned to Andre and said, “You can ride with me on the bus. I may need help getting off.” Mr. Caldwell immediately offered to take her and Andre home. “I don’t want to be a burden,” she insisted.
“You won’t be,” replied Kyle’s father. “I’ll be more than happy to take you home.” After a brief refusal, Mavis finally consented. She said she was too tired to argue.
Kyle waited with Mavis and Andre in the lobby while his father went to get the car from the parking garage. Every time Kyle looked over at Andre, he would catch him staring at him. He had never had another boy show so much interest in him, so he felt awkward and embarrassed. He walked away and stared out the window as he waited for his father to arrive.
Mavis gave Mr. Caldwell directions to her home. When she turned and reminded Andre to bring Buddy’s things to her home, Kyle’s father told her it would be no trouble for him to take Andre home first, and then bring the items to her home.
Kyle and Andre sat in silence in the backseat. Occasionally, he would notice Andre look over, but he pretended that he didn’t see him. Since his confrontation with Andre in the hospital restroom, he was confused as to what was going on. Andre confided in him that Buddy had a crush on him. Then, why hadn’t he said something? They shared a few classes together. They had even sat together on a couple of occasions. Kyle hadn’t noticed that Buddy was interested in him. But then again, he really hadn’t given him a chance. It was his nature to be aloof around strangers, and he had treated Buddy with the same indifference as he did everyone else.
His eyes widened when Andre told his father to pull into Chandler’s Mobile Home Park. The gate looked to have collapsed years ago, and the road into the park contained large pot holes. The street was lined with old trailers that appeared to have been there since before he was born. The areas around the trailers appeared clean, but it was still obvious that most had been neglected over the years.
Kyle looked around and with astonishment asked, “You live here?” He looked in the rearview mirror to see his father scowl at him. He quickly said, “Sorry.” Andre pointed to an old green trailer and told his father to pull up front.
“That is where Buddy lives,” he said before quickly adding, “Or he used to live.” Mr. Caldwell got out and helped him load several trash bags full of clothing. They also put an armload of school books and an old stereo in the trunk. As they started to drive away, he pointed to a blue trailer with stained siding and said, “That’s where I live.”
Kyle couldn’t believe that Andre and Buddy lived in such squalid conditions. He had seen pictures on the news, but he thought that places like this only existed in the larger cities. When they pulled up in front of Mavis’s home, it didn’t look much better. Even though she lived in a wood frame home, it still appeared that she was as impoverished as Buddy and Andre. Moving from his home to hers wouldn’t be much of an improvement for Buddy, he thought to himself.
He sat in the car and quietly watched as his father helped Mavis to her door. It surprised him that his father embraced her and gave her a kiss on the cheek before she went inside. Andre took Buddy’s belongings from the trunk and carried them into the house. Before going inside, he turned and looked sadly at Kyle.
“Those poor people,” his father remarked as he started to pull away.
Kyle squealed, “Can you believe they live like that? I’d kill myself if I lived in an old trailer!”
His father looked over and said coldly, “I wasn’t talking about their financial situation. I was talking about the hurt they are feeling.”
“Oh,” replied Kyle as his face reddened.
It surprised him when his father didn’t head directly home. He was afraid to say anything because his father seemed upset. At one point, his father took out his phone, called home and told them that they wouldn’t be home until late. He could hear his mother ask if Buddy was alright. His father looked over at him and said, “Yes, Buddy’s fine. I’ve got some other business to take care of.”
They drove in silence for over an hour. Kyle assumed that his father was heading to a construction site and was taking him along. He couldn’t understand, though, why his father wasn’t speaking to him.
Soon they came to a small town. It looked like at one time it might have been a small, manufacturing town. Now, however, only small homes lined the streets. Many of the larger buildings were shuttered. They passed by a barber shop, and several old men waved as they drove by.
Mr. Caldwell continued to drive through town before turning onto a narrow side street aligned with small cottages. Trees lined the street, but it was obvious that most homes were in desperate need of repair. Several of the homes were boarded up. Shingles were missing from many rooftops, and gutters hung from others. Kyle thought it didn’t look much better than where Andre lived.
He looked over at his father when he pulled into the driveway of one of the homes. Grass was growing between the cracks. The yard hadn’t been mowed for ages, and plywood was covering the windows. Kyle asked, “Who lives here?”
His father looked over and stated sharply, “I did.” He then opened the door and got out. Kyle hesitantly got out and followed his father as he strolled around the dilapidated home.
When they returned to the front of the house, his father stopped and stared at the porch. Without looking at Kyle he said, “This is where I grew up when I was your age.” He pointed to a boarded up window. “That was my bedroom.”
Kyle gave his father a puzzled look and stated, “But grandma and grandpa live in a nice house.”
His father smiled slightly and replied, “This was a nice house at one time.” He turned back to the house and continued, “This is your roots. This is where you came from.”
Kyle asked, “We were poor?”
“I was poor,” his father stated sharply. “I’ve provide you and Melissa with everything I never had. Now I realize it may have been a mistake.”
“I’m confused,” replied Kyle. “How come you never told me before about where you grew up?”
“Because I didn’t think it mattered,” he said sadly. “Dad worked hard and put me through college.” He pointed to an old warehouse about a mile away. Much of the brick smokestack had fallen to the ground. “Your grandfather worked there for thirty-eight years. We didn’t have much, but we were happy. After I became successful, I bought them the house they live in now.”
“Why are you telling me all this now?” asked Kyle.
His father’s eyes narrowed. “Because you’re arrogant and snooty,” he replied angrily.
Kyle replied excitedly, “What? I’m not snooty. Besides, I don’t even know what that means.”
“It means you’re a snob.” His father looked angrily at his astonished son. “I saw how you looked at Mavis and Andre when you saw how they lived. Just because they don’t live like we do, doesn’t make them anything less.”
“But Dad,” argued Kyle. “I didn’t think that.”
“Yes, you did,” replied his father. “It’s not your fault though, it’s mine.”
His father pointed toward the house. “This is where you could be living if your grandfather hadn’t busted his ass off to make my life better.” Kyle watched as tears appeared in his father’s eyes. “And your mother and I have busted our asses to make your life and Melissa’s better.”
“I know, Dad, but...”
“But all it did was make both of you arrogant,” he said. “Melissa thinks she’s a princess who should have everything she demands.” He turned and started to walk away. “And you look down on Andre and Buddy because you think you’re better than they are because you live in a big home, and they live in a mobile park.”
Kyle’s face reddened when his father stated, “Your mother told me about your little theory of supply and demand. Three hundred and sixty-eight dollars for video games? Do you think money grows on trees?”
“Dad,” whined Kyle. “Listen to me.”
“There’s nothing right now you have to say that I care to hear,” his father replied. He pointed to the boarded up home. “This is your roots. This is where you came from.” He opened the door and got in the car. When Kyle climbed in, he warned, “Don’t you ever forget it.”
They rode in silence all the way home.
* * * * *
Kyle was tired when he entered the cafeteria the next morning. During dinner, he was afraid to look at his father because he was embarrassed. He knew his father was right. He had been appalled with the way Andre, Buddy and Mavis lived. However, he was more disappointed that his father had recognized it. Now he felt his had hurt his feelings. He had said nothing to him on the way home, and he made no attempt to say anything after dinner. He went to his office, while Kyle went to his bedroom. A couple of times, he considered going to his office and apologizing, but it would be meaningless. He was arrogant- and snooty.
Looking back over his brief life, he had always associated with guys who lived in his affluent neighborhood. He rarely associated with students who he viewed as poor. He didn’t do it intentionally. It was just that he felt he had nothing in common with them. He often laughed when one of his friends teased another boy about the clothes he wore, or the neighborhood in which he resided. Until his father’s admonition, he had never realized that he, too, looked down on those who he thought were less unfortunate. He tossed and turned all night with the visions of his father’s boyhood home.
“You look like shit,” remarked Donnie as he sat down across from Kyle in the cafeteria. He tore open a wrapped doughnut and took a bite. “These aren’t half bad,” he said as he took another bite.
Kyle giggled and said, “Not if you like eating dog biscuits.”
“And how would you know what dog biscuits taste like,” replied Donnie as he raised an eyebrow. “Been dipping into your dog’s bone?” His face reddened, and he burst out laughing. “That sounded kind of perverted, didn’t it?”
“Yeah,” laughed Kyle. “I don’t do four legged animals.”
Donnie raised another eyebrow. “Then that implies you do two-legged ones?”
“You sound like my mother,” replied Kyle with a laugh as he tossed a pencil at Donnie.
Donnie took another bite of his doughnut, sat back and asked, “So why do you look like shit today? Big night?”
Kyle leaned forward, looked around to see if anyone was listening and asked, “Am I a snob?”
Donnie gave him a puzzled look. “A snob? What brought that on?”
Kyle sat back and replied sadly, “My father said I acted like a snob.”
Donnie asked, “Why?” Kyle spent the next few minutes telling him about his visit to the hospital to see Buddy. He then described his living conditions, and those of Andre and Mavis. When he finished, he asked, “Is it wrong to not like the way they live?”
“It depends on the motivation of your feelings,” replied Donnie.
Kyle asked, “What does that mean?”
Donnie leaned forward and stared into Kyle’s eyes. “It means do you feel it’s wrong not to like the way they live because you feel empathy for them or because you think they are not as good as you are.”
Kyle sighed. “My dad thinks I’m a snob and I look down on them.”
“Do you?” asked Donnie.
“Your dad has a lot of money,” replied Kyle. “You live in my neighborhood. You must feel like I do. Would you want to live in a run-down trailer?”
“No,” replied Donnie. “But if that is where I lived, then I wouldn’t have a choice.”
“But we don’t,” exclaimed Kyle.
“No, we don’t,” replied Donnie. “But this Buddy and Andre don’t have a choice, either. They can’t help where they live no more than we can help where we live. And to answer your question, the answer is yes.”
Kyle gave Donnie a puzzled look. “Yes?”
“Yes,” replied Donnie as he rose from the table. “You are a snob.” He turned and walked away.
* * * * *
Buddy was lying in the hospital bed with his head facing the window. “Come on, Baby,” cried Andre as he reached for Buddy’s hand. Buddy pulled it away and hid it under the sheet. A few minutes earlier, Andre had told him about Kyle and his father visiting him the night before.
“Say something,” begged Andre. “Didn’t you hear what I told you?”
Buddy looked at him and scowled. “I heard you just fine,” he answered angrily.
“I thought you’d be happy,” explained Andre. “Kyle came to visit you.”
Buddy asked sadly, “You don’t get it, do you?”
Andre looked worriedly at Buddy as tears began to appear in his eyes. “Get what?” he asked as he reached down and wiped away a tear falling down Buddy’s cheek.
“He knows all about me now,” replied Buddy. “He knows I’m lying here because I got beat up because I was selling drugs.”
“I don’t think that’s come out yet,” replied Andre. “At least the news hasn’t said anything about it.”
Buddy’s eyes widened as he asked, “This was on the news?”
“Well, yeah,” replied Andre. “Mr. Caldwell is a big shot.”
“Jesus,” mumbled Buddy. “Just great.” He turned his head away from Andre and closed his eyes. He pretended to be asleep as Andre attempted to get him to say something. He just wanted to be alone, and he hoped Andre would leave.
Andre asked, “You gonna talk to me?” He sat quietly for about twenty minutes before he got up. “I’ll be back tomorrow, okay?” He leaned down and kissed Buddy on the forehead. Buddy buried his head in the pillow and cried.
* * * * *
Kyle was standing on the steps after school waiting for Donnie to go to his car. He hadn’t shown up at lunch, and Kyle hadn’t seen him in the halls. He couldn’t figure out why he had gotten mad at him and walked out earlier in the morning.
Finally, Donnie emerged from the building. He stopped when he saw Kyle. Kyle was relieved when he saw a big smile appear on Donnie’s face. He bounded down the stairs toward him.
“Hey,” he said. “I didn’t know if you’d show.”
“I thought you were mad at me,” confessed Kyle.
Donnie asked, “Why would I be mad at you?” He laughed and added, “I’ve had worse assholes for friends before.” He lightly hit Kyle on the arm and said, “Come on.”
“Am I really an asshole?” Kyle asked as they were driving out of the parking lot.
“Don’t know,” laughed Donnie. “The verdict is still out on that one.”
“Listen,” insisted Kyle as he turned toward Donnie. “I’m really not a snob. I didn’t mean all those things I said this morning. Honest.”
Donnie smiled and turned right onto a street. “Let’s go somewhere and talk.” Kyle nodded and sat back in his seat. Occasionally, he would look over at Donnie, but Donnie kept his eyes forward and said nothing.
Ten minutes later, Donnie pulled his car into a Tim Horton’s. “I like the mocha latte they serve here,” he remarked as he got out of the car.
“Mocha latte?” asked Kyle. “And you call me a snob?”
Donnie opened the door for Kyle. When he did, he giggled and said, “If you’re not nice, I’m not going to share any of my honey dip timbits with you.”
“I’ll be nice,” promised Kyle as they approached the cashier. After ordering, they sat down at a booth. There were few diners in the restaurant, so they didn’t have to worry about anyone overhearing their conversation.
“So?” asked Kyle as they snacked. “What do you think about it?”
Donnie stuffed a tidbit into this mouth. “About what?” he asked as he took a sip of his latte.
“Me,” replied Kyle. “Do you think I’m a snob?”
Donnie smiled and asked, “Why is this bothering you so much?”
Kyle shrugged his shoulders. “I guess it’s because my dad called me a snob. He also said I was snooty.”
“Snooty!” laughed Donnie. When Kyle confessed he didn’t even know the meaning, Donnie explained it to him.
“Okay,” said Donnie as he leaned forward. “Let’s take a hypothetical situation.” Kyle nodded and listened. “You say this Andre guy said that Buddy likes you.” Kyle nodded his head again. “Let’s say he gets better and someday he asks you out. Would you go on a date with him?”
“I don’t know,” replied Kyle skeptically. “He’s cute and all, but...”
“But he’s poor?”
“You should see how he lives!” exclaimed Kyle excitedly. “He lives in a run-down trailer.”
“So, you think you’re better than he is because you live in Forest Ridge?”
Kyle responded, “I didn’t say I was better than him. It’s just... what would people say?”
Donnie’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, what would people say?” Suddenly, Kyle realized that he sounded exactly like Melissa. He now knew that what his father had said about him was true.
“I didn’t mean that,” he apologized. He buried his face in his hand and moaned, “God, I am arrogant and snooty just like my father said.”
“I could have told you that,” laughed Donnie. “Now, what are you going to do about it?”
Kyle shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“I do,” replied Donnie. “We’ve got somewhere to go.” He took the last bite of his timbit, picked up the tray and headed toward the door. Kyle hurried behind him.
When he got in the car Kyle asked, “Where are we going?”
Donnie grinned and replied, “You’ll see.”