A chill soaked under his feet to the base his nails. It crept through his bones to wind into the base of his skull. He rubbed his hands together until it felt better.
“It’s cold as shit.”
“Fifty isn’t that cold.”
“Fifty is cold. My nail beds are blue. Look at my hands.” Sef pressed them over his mouth and huffed. “I don’t have your, uh, you know northern constitution. This weather’s not normal. ‘Fifty isn’t cold’. You and I’ve lived here for six years and you’re like, ’No this is fine. This weather is a record low piece of garbage and you’re just, ‘No it’s not that bad.’”
“Save your sorries for when you do something wrong. We can’t drive in this.”
“Should’ve checked the forecast.”
“We’re not driving then nobody else is,” Sef said. “It’s not gonna be a thing.”
The little tension lines in the boy’s face relaxed, he drew the hood of his sweatshirt forward, and curled sideways into the passenger seat. Sef shrugged then turned it into a stretch, bearing against the steering wheel. He played the clutch with one foot. He looked out the window. He adjusted his seat and turned off the headlights. He watched the rain passing over them in sheets, gently then with a strained malice, gently, soft, then beating hard at them. The sound of thunder clambering somewhere, ahead, faint. The car squeaked.
“You got a cigarette.”
“I’m bored. Hey. You asleep already.”
“Take a nap.”
“I can’t sleep on cue like you.”
Thane ignored him and, for a time, Sef played with his phone by reading and deleting a backlog of text messages one by one. U up. Delete. Where R U. Delete. Hello. Delete. I’m coming over. Delete.
“D’you know if you punch someone real hard right in the breastbone their heart stops. Like in a movie.”
Sef waited. Thunder roared, closer now.
“You believe me.”
“It’s totally a thing.”
“It’s not a thing.”
“It’s in your wheelhouse. Try it.”
“Maybe if there’s a good opportunity.”
“Try it on me.”
“That can’t be a real though. Maybe you saw it in a movie and you were-“ Thane held one nostril shut and sniffed.
“I’m cutting back. Hand to god.”
"Not kidding about the one punch thing."
"One punch. Gimme one."
“Don’t be a pussy. Come on. Just,” he inflated, rapping his chest. “One big punch.”
The boy flipped to face him, still bundled into himself, and drew something from the big front pocket of his sweatshirt. Soft tapping noises.
“Oh. You’re gonna check on your little phone. You gonna fact check me now.”
“Yeah I’m gonna fact check your shit.”
“My ‘shit’.” Sef tongued his gum into one cheek to force the juicy, wet noises out while Thane squinted into his phone. Paused. Drew his thumb over it again. Paused. He didn’t move his lips when he read anymore.
“Does reading about it at four words a minute make you feel better or you gonna go ahead and give it a try.” Sef knocked his breast.
“This says it’s a ‘medical procedure’.”
“Yeah but you can do it in reverse, y’know. Like. Make the heart do the thing by punching. Why are we being weird about this.”
“Big word, big man.”
“Did you sleep today?”
“Did you. You read that whole article, idiot?”
“Don’t make this into a thing all a sudden. C’mon, Sef.”
“C’mon, Thane. Just a lil’ tap.” The way he knocked his breast, it rang hollow. Not that there was anything in there to begin with.
“Nah. I’m not playing with you.”
“Because you’re a faggot. This is so a thing you duneven know.”
“I know. I read it. I believe you.”
“Just hit me right here then.”
“Nah, c’mon, let’s just sit in the car and wait for the rain t-“
“But I’m bored.”
“I’m not gonna. Hit you in the chest? Because you’re bored. Take a nap, okay.”
“This has you written all over it.”
“Learn how to go to sleep.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
“Please, then,” he drew back his hood. “Sef, please.”
“I’m giving you permission. It’s weird you’re being such a bleeding princess about it. You’re not gonna spoil me. Just gimme what I want ‘n’ I’ll shut up.”
“You’d shut up if you’re dead,” he mumbled, ripping at a callous on his hand.
The boy settled back and Sef climbed over the shoulder rest between them, the parking break, the stick shift. Thane shrank. Sef drew himself closer.
He whispered, “Hit me, you dumb cunt.” Then slid a tongue into his ear.
Thane bore down on him, thrust his fist square into the bony hollow of Sef’s chest resounding once like a gunshot, and cracked him off the driver’s side window. The man made a noise then contorted. He clutched his chest with his thumb and forefinger curling over his hard-edged collarbone, pressed into his shirt, tunneling as he breathed once. Then jerked. Then made a little chuckle as he locked eyes with Thane. Grunting now, without awareness of how it might sound. Jerking again. One hand arched over the dashboard and the other against his chest. Shuddering, trembling. The boy drew him forward to hear it. Just there. Just in the air between them he thought it was there; the heart inside twisting, fibrillating. Sef’s face gained enough sense of itself to convey the faintest wondering delight before its light changed and a shade passed. Thane waited. He waited until the body changed. When the minute, near imperceptible stillness washed over with glassy eyes, fixed and dilated. Stupid grin, fixed too. Stupid fucking grin. The triumph of the last word resting on his face.
Another squall rocked the car on its axles. Thane stared into it and massaged his ear. He looked at the body, twitching now. He laughed.