Mini darts back under the seat.
I start feeling around for him with my foot, suddenly worried that he might try to ditch me—even though he’s just a plush doll and wouldn’t be able to do much in the event of an unexpected perv-pounce.
Muj bože, why did I get into this car?
Oh, but I already know the answer: because it was cold. Because I had no bus fare. Because I thought that I’d be one of the lucky ones, that not every grown man wants to molest every boy he picks up off the street. Maybe Robbie just likes to watch—or maybe he’s only into fat kids. No sick will toward any fat kids out there, but please, God, let him be into fat kids only.
“So,” he says, offhandedly, “am I alone in thinking Dakota Fanning’s sex appeal went to shit after War of the Worlds?”
Compromise, then. Let him be into fat kids and Dakota Fanning only.
“But I guess them’s the breaks, you know? Ever see what happened to that Dewey kid from Malcolm in the Middle? Grotesque.”
Okay, it’s settled: Robbie reads JCPenney kids’ catalogs, listens to Justin Bieber, eats Kinder Chocolate, and thinks Dakota Fanning and some kid named Dewey were sexier before they hit puberty. I’m officially nailed. I’m in it bad—and still my brain refuses to acknowledge the obvious. “Maybe it’s mere coincidence,” reads a small thought bubble that’s just appeared beside my head. “Maybe he’s a dad and the Bieber CD is his daughter’s, the catalog his wife’s. You don’t know. And if he’s into boys and girls and kiddie chocolate, well, look on the sunny side: there are worse things than riding in the passenger seat of a honey bun-stuffed Geo Metro that’s being driven by a Hawaiian shirt-wearing pervert who once masturbated at the foot of Ernie’s bed…aren’t there? Falling down a well and discovering that you’ve used up all your cell phone minutes, for example. Or contracting leprosy from a toilet seat.”
I shake my head.
The thought bubble vanishes.
I look out the window and wonder how seriously I’d be injured if I throw myself from the car while it’s still moving. It feels like I’ve been stuck here since December of 2011 even though it’s only been five or ten minutes. Hitchhiking with a pedophile has that effect on the passage of time, particularly if you’re twelve years old and homeless.
(It doesn’t help that Justin Bieber keeps panting “baby, baby” over and over again.)
Robbie goes on to lament the loss of Logan Lerman to adulthood. I nod and mutter an obligatory “uh-huh” every few minutes, only vaguely paying attention. I just want the car to stop at a red light long enough for me to grab Mini and do a dive roll out the door. Speaking of Mini, he’s been busy gathering the most horrific evidence from beneath the passenger seat: a bottle of Jergens, a box of condoms, a camcorder, some kind of giant toy shaped like a man’s—
—that’s it. I’m jumping. I’d rather take my chances face-surfing the asphalt than sitting here waiting for Ernie’s boy-stalker to make his move. I reach for the door handle, then pause, noticing that we’re pulling into a gas station.
“Just a little pit stop,” Robbie says, parking the car and turning off the engine. “You want anything from the mini mart? My treat.”
I start to politely decline his offer when Mini tugs on my jeans. “Ask for something!”
I pay him a questioning look.
“If you say you don’t want anything, he might just turn the car back on and drive off to the nearest sleazy motel, with you as his very own personal body pillow. Ask him for a fountain drink and a microwaved burrito. That’ll give us time to skedaddle.”
I glance awkwardly at Robbie. “Uh…I’ll have a drink from the fountain and a microwaved burrito.”
“What kind?” he asks.
“Um…beef. And cola.”
A moment passes between us.
Robbie’s eyes do a quick dart-and-dodge.
“Dude,” Mini says. “Is he checking you out?”
Robbie smiles. “Right on. Back in a jiffy, stud.” He gets out of the car.
I watch him cross the parking lot and enter the mini-mart. As soon as he’s inside, I start unbuckling my seat belt.
“Dude, he totally just undressed you with his eyes.”
“Don’t tell me about it.” I fumble with the door lock. I’ve had enough of riding in cars with strangers—
“Wait,” Mini says, and crawls onto the driver’s seat, where Robbie’s left his cell phone. He hefts it in his mitts. “Take this. We can use it to call Theo.”
“But that’s stealing,” I say, frowning.
“It’s also illegal for grown men to scarf on underage boy-muff.”
Mini rolls his eyes. “Yeah. Muff. Pubescence. Your burgeoning bedroom superpowers as embodied by the parts of you that start to blossom the night after you stumble upon your dad’s Playboy collection for the first time. Your short and curlies—”
“You think about sex a lot, don’t you?”
“Blame Theo! He’s the one who’s suppressing his spunk, ignoring his muff! You can’t keep the cover on a pot of boiling water and expect it not to blow up in your face sooner or later!”
I don’t exactly know what Mini is talking about, though it does stand to reason that if I want to call Theo (or anyone else) for help, I’ll need a phone, and since mine fell into a storm drain, well, Robbie’s will have to do.
I grab Mini and the phone; I start to get out of the car.
“Wait!” Mini says again.
“What now?” I ask, half in, half out.
“Grab a box of honey buns.”
“Food. Bargaining power. I don’t recognize this part of town—we may end up camping out under some smelly bridge for the night.”
I hop the rest of the way out of the car. “But…but Theo can come pick us up, right? I mean, we just call him and…”
Mini pats my arm reassuringly, a solemn look on his face. “When did Noah build the ark?”
“Before the rain.” He holds his expression a moment longer, then relaxes, cracks a smile. “Robert Redford. Spy Game. Ever see it?”
I glare at him.
“Sorry,” he says, hanging his head. “I quote movies when I’m nervous.”
At least he’s not talking about muff anymore. With my free arm, I reach into the backseat of Robbie’s car and grab a box of honey buns. Then, hefting the buns, Theo’s doll, and the stolen cell phone, I dart into the night.