“Well, it’s Christmas,” I said.
“And why don’t you come over to my house for Christmas?” JP asked.
“Shitty food,” I answered. I walked around the couch and took my place on the middle cushion.
“Racist!” JP exclaimed.
“It’s not racism!” I said.
“You just said that Korean food was shitty,” he said.
“No, he didn’t,” said the Duke, lifting the remote to restart the movie. “He said your mom’s Korean food was shitty.”
“Exactly,” I said. “I quite like the food at Keun’s house.”
“You’re an asshat,” said JP, which is what JP said when he didn’t have a comeback. As comebackless comebacks go, it was a pretty good one. The Duke restarted the movie, and then JP said, “We should call Keun.”
The Duke paused the movie again and leaned forward, over me, to speak directly to JP. “JP,” she said.
“Can you please stop talking so I can go back to enjoying Daniel Craig’s outrageously good body?”
“That’s so g*y,” JP said.
“I’m a girl,” said the Duke. “It’s not g*y for me to be attracted to men. Now, if I said you had a hot body, that would be g*y, because you’re built like a lady.”
“Oh, burn,” I said.
The Duke raised her eyes at me and said, “Although JP’s a freaking paragon of masculinity compared to you.”
I had no response to that. “Keun is at work,” I said. “He gets paid double on Christmas Eve.”
“Oh, right,” said JP. “I forgot that Waffle Houses are like Lindsay Lohan’s legs: always open.”
I laughed; the Duke just winced and restarted the movie. Daniel Craig walked out of the water, wearing a pair of Euro boxer briefs that passed as a bathing suit. The Duke sighed contentedly while JP wretched. After a couple minutes, I heard a soft clicking sound next to me. JP. Using dental floss. He was obsessed with dental floss.
“That is disgusting,” I said. The Duke paused the movie and scowled at me. She didn’t have much meanness in her scowl; she scrunched up her button nose and squared her lips. But I could always tell in her eyes if she got really pissed at me, and her eyes still seemed pretty smiley.
“What?” JP said, the floss dangling out of his mouth from between molars.
“Flossing in public. It’s just . . . Please put it away.”
He did, reluctantly, but insisted on the last word. “My dentist says he has never seen healthier gums. Never.”
I rolled my eyes. The Duke brushed a stray curl behind her ear and unpaused Bond. I watched for a minute, but then I found myself looking out the window, a distant streetlight illuminating the snow like a billion falling stars in miniature. And even though I hated to inconvenience my parents or deny them a Christmas at home, I could not help but wish for more snow.
The phone rang ten minutes after we restarted the movie.
“Jesus Christ,” JP said, grabbing the remote to hit pause.
“Your mom calls more than a clingy boyfriend,” the Duke added.
I jumped over the back of the couch and grabbed the phone. “Hey,” I said, “how’s it going?”
“Tobin,” replied the voice on the other end of the line. Not my mom. Keun.
“Keun, aren’t you su—”
“Is JP with you?”
“Do you have speakerphone?”
“Uh, why do you w—”
“DO YOU HAVE SPEAKERPHONE?!” he shouted.
“Hold on.” As I looked for the button, I said, “It’s Keun. He wants to be put on speaker. He’s being weird.”
“Fancy that,” said the Duke. “Next you’ll tell me that the sun is a mass of incandescent gas or that JP has tiny balls.”
“Don’t go there,” JP said.
“Don’t go where? Into your pants with a high-powered magnifying glass on a search for your tiny balls?”
I found the speakerphone button and pressed it.
“Keun, can you hear me?”
“Yes,” he said. There was a lot of noise in the background. Girl noises. “I need you guys to listen.”
JP said to the Duke, “Where does the owner of the world’s smallest br**sts get off impugning someone else’s personal parts?” The Duke threw a pillow at JP.
“YOU MUST LISTEN NOW!” shouted Keun from the phone. Everyone shut up then. Keun was incredibly smart, and he always talked like he had memorized his remarks in advance. “Okay. So my manager didn’t come to work today, because his car got stuck in snow. So I am cook and acting assistant manager. There are two other employees here—they are (one) Mitchell Croman, and (two) Billy Talos.” Mitchell and Billy both went to our school, although it would not be accurate to say that I knew them, on account of how I rather doubted either could pick me out of a lineup. “Until about twelve minutes ago, it was a quiet night. Our only customers were Tinfoil Guy and Doris, America’s oldest living smoker. And then this girl showed up, and then Stuart Weintraub”—another classmate, and a good guy—“arrived covered in Target bags. They distracted Tinfoil Guy a little, and I was just reading The Dark Knight and—”
“Keun, is there a point?” I asked. He could ramble sometimes.
“Oh, there’s a point,” he answered. “There are fourteen points. Because about five minutes after Stuart Weintraub showed up, the good and loving Lord Almighty looked kindly upon His servant Keun and saw fit to usher fourteen Pennsylvanian cheerleaders—wearing their warm-up outfits—into our lowly Waffle House. Gentlemen, I am not kidding you. Our Waffle House is full of cheerleaders. Their train is stuck in the snow, and they are staying here for the night. They are high on caffeine. They are doing splits on the breakfast counter.
“Let me be perfectly clear: there has been a Cheertastic Christmas Miracle at the Waffle House. I am looking at these girls right now. They are so hot that their hotness could melt the snow. Their hotness could cook the waffles. Their hotness could—no, will—warm the places in my heart that have been so cold for so long that I have nearly forgotten they ever existed.”
A girl voice—a voice at once cheery and sultry—shouted into the phone then. By now I was standing directly above the speaker, staring at it with a kind of reverence. JP was by my side. “Are those your friends? Oh my God, tell them to bring Twister!”