“This is my life now”, Steve said to no one in particular, looking up at the darkening sky. “I can’t believe this is how I spend my time nowadays.”
Dustin patted him on the back before elbowing him to the side immediately afterwards, and threw a grin his way. “Some would say it’s not a matter of how you spend your time, but who you spend it with.”
Steve leveled him with an unimpressed stare. “I stand by my earlier statement.”
Dustin just gave him a thumbs-up without looking back. Steve sighed and watched as the kid wobbled and almost fell down the pile of junk he had started climbing. In the distance, Mike was yelling excitedly about something, and there was a faint crash from the other direction, where Billy – if Steve had to guess – was probably busy smashing old car windows.
It was a Friday evening just after dinner, and they were all at the junk yard, of all places. ‘For a science project’, according to Dustin. ‘For fun’, according to Max. Steve wasn’t entirely sure how he’d gotten roped into driving half the Party here, but at least he wasn’t alone. Billy had been forced to drive the rest of them, as they all wouldn’t fit in Steve’s car. (‘For a moment of peace and quiet’, as Billy had put it before stalking off to take some of his aggressions out on some poor abandoned cars.)
Steve wished he’d gone with him – maybe they could have snuck in some light necking, out of sight – especially when Dustin shrieked with delight and emerged behind a pile of trash a second later, holding what might once had been a vacuum cleaner. Steve wasn’t sure – the dirt and dried mud made it hard to tell.
“You’re not putting that in my car”, he said before Dustin had a chance to open his mouth.
“No. That’s where I draw the line, Henderson. If you’re bringing that home, you’re walking.”
Dustin drew in a breath to – no doubt – argue, but that’s when Mike and Lucas ran up to them, holding what looked like a piece of cardboard.
“Guys, guys, look what we found!”
Lucas brandished whatever it was like a prize, and what had looked like cardboard turned out to be an actual board, made of wood. It had a bunch of letters and shapes on it, and Steve groaned as he recognized what it was. “Oh no.”
“Oh yes!” Mike said excitedly, and when El approached (closely followed by Max) he held it up for her to see.
“What is that?” she asked, just as Max’s eyes lit up;
“Oh cool, an Ouija board!”
Mike, always eager to explain things, jumped on the opportunity to do just that. “It’s a way to contact the spirit world.”
“It’s a scam”, Steve muttered. “It’s not real.”
“It’s really cool, is what it is”, Mike insisted and glared at Steve before turning heart eyes to El once again, “we can totally use it in our Halloween campaign! You’ll see, it’ll be awesome!”
A loud metallic bang made all of them jump and turn around. It was Billy, having discarded whatever pipe he’d been demolishing cars with into an old oil barrel. And he was grinning.
“What’s up, losers?” he said as he walked closer. “Whatever you found, I can guaran-fucking-tee you that it’s lame compared to what I found.”
“It’s not lame!” Lucas said – with another glare in Steve’s direction. “Or a scam. It’s an Ouija board!”
“Lame”, Billy said, still grinning.
That grin meant something, Steve was sure of it. So he took the bait. “Oh yeah? What did you find, then?”
Billy turned, raising his eyebrows and making a ‘ta-daa’ gesture at where he just came from. At first, nothing happened. Then, a couple of seconds later (and Steve could hear Dustin’s intake of breath in preparation for a comment), something moved. A haggard-looking bird – a rooster, Steve’s mind supplied – came strutting after Billy, its walk a little wonky.
“It’s a cock!” Billy announced and turned back at them, looking absolutely delighted at the pun.
“Oh god”, Steve groaned.
“He followed me around for a bit, I think he likes me.”
Max sniggered. “He’s probably drawn to you, ‘cause you’re a dick.”
“Fuck you, Maxine”, Billy said, scowling, before swooping up the – weirdly un-protesting – bird in his arms. “I’m keeping him.”
“Oh god”, Steve said under his breath, already predicting how this would go.
And just as he thought, Dustin took the opportunity to wave his mess of a vacuum cleaner around. “Alright, if he gets to bring a bird home then I should be allowed to bring this!”
Steve rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Ugh. Whatever.”
“Sure. If you use Billy’s car.”
Billy only cackled. “In your dreams, Henderson!”