“What the hell did you do?” I asked as we took off running toward the Duke.
“I used all my remaining floss to tie a trip line between the sides of the bridge. I raised it right after you carried the Duke past,” he said.
“That’s rather awesome,” I said.
“My gums are already disappointed with me,” he mumbled in response. We kept jogging, but I couldn’t hear the twins anymore, and when I glanced over my shoulder, I could see only the still-driving snow.
By the time we caught up with the Duke, the brick buildings of downtown surrounded us, and we finally made our way off Sunrise onto the recently plowed Main Street. We were still jogging, although I could barely feel my feet anymore from the cold and the exhaustion. I couldn’t hear the twins, but I was still afraid of them. Just one mile to go. We could be there in twenty minutes if we jogged.
The Duke said, “Call Keun, find out if those college guys have already beaten us.”
Still keeping pace, I reached into my jeans, pulled out my phone, and called Keun’s cell. Someone—not Keun—answered on the first ring.
“Is Keun there?”
“This Tobin?” I recognized the voice now. Billy Talos.
“Yeah,” I said. “Hey, Billy.”
“Hey, do you got Angie with you?”
“Uh, yeah,” I said.
I hedged my bets, not knowing if he would use the information to help his friends. “Reasonably,” I said.
“Okay, here’s Keun,” he said. Keun’s boisterous voice came on the line then. “What’s up! Where are you! Dude, I think Billy is in love. Like, right now, he is sitting down next to a Madison. One of the Madisons. There are several of them. The world is full of Magical Madisons!”
I glanced over at the Duke to see if she had heard anything through the phone, but she was just looking straight ahead, still jogging. I thought Billy had asked about the Duke because he wanted to see her, not because he didn’t want her to catch him trying to hook up with someone else. Lame.
“TOBIN!” Keun shouted into my ear.
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“Uh, you called me,” he pointed out.
“Right, yeah. We’re close. We’re at the corner of Main and Third. We should be there in half an hour.”
“Excellent, I think you’ll still get here first. The college guys are stuck on the side of the road somewhere, apparently.”
“Great. Okay, I’ll call when we’re close.”
“Awesome. Oh, hey, you guys have Twister, right?”
I looked over at JP, and then to the Duke. I put a finger over the mic and said, “Did we bring the Twister?”
JP stopped running. The Duke followed suit. JP said, “Crap, we forgot it in Carla.”
I uncovered the mic and said, “Keun, I’m sorry, man, but we left Twister in the car.”
“Not good,” he said with a hint of menace in his voice.
“I know, it sucks. Sorry.”
“I’ll call you back,” he said, and hung up the phone.
We walked for another minute before Keun called me back. “Listen,” he said, “we took a vote, and unfortunately, you’re gonna need to go back and get the Twister. The majority agreed that no one will be allowed in without Twister.”
“What? Who took the vote?”
“Billy, Mitchell, and myself.”
“Well, come on, Keun. Lobby them or something! Carla is a twenty-minute walk into the wind and plus the Reston twins are back there somewhere. Get one of them to change their votes!”
“Unfortunately, the vote was three to zero.”
“What? Keun? You voted against us?”
“I don’t see it as a vote against you,” he explained. “I see it as a vote in favor of Twister.”
“Surely you’re kidding,” I said. The Duke and JP couldn’t hear Keun’s end of the conversation, but they were now looking on nervously.
“I don’t kid about Twister,” Keun said. “You can still get here first! Just hurry!”
I flipped the phone shut and pulled my hat down over my face. “Keun says he won’t let us in without Twister,” I mumbled.
I stood under the awning of a café and tried to kick the snow off my frozen Pumas. JP was pacing back and forth on the street, looking generally agitated. No one said anything for a while. I kept looking up the street for the Reston twins, but they didn’t appear.
“We’re going to the Waffle House,” JP said.
“Yeah, right,” I answered.
“We’re going,” he said. “We’re gonna take a different route back so we don’t run into the Reston twins, and we’re gonna get Twister, and we’re gonna go to the Waffle House. It’ll only take an hour if we hurry.”
I turned to the Duke, who was standing beside me under the awning. She would tell JP. She would tell him that we just needed to give up and call 911 and see if someone somewhere could pick us up. “I want hash browns,” the Duke said from behind me. “I want them scattered and smothered and covered. I want them chunked, topped, and diced.”
“What you want is Billy Talos,” I said.
She elbowed me in the side. “I said to shut up about that, Jesus. And I don’t. I want hash browns. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. I am hungry, and I am the kind of hungry that only hash browns will fix, and so we are going back and we are getting Twister.” She just marched off, and JP followed her. I stood under the awning for a moment, but finally I decided that being in a bad mood with your friends beats being in a bad mood without them.
When I caught up to them, all of our hoods were scrunched shut against the oncoming wind as we walked up a street parallel to Sunrise. We had to shout to be heard, and the Duke said, “I’m glad you’re here,” and I shouted back, “Thanks,” and she shouted, “Honestly, hash browns mean nothing without you.”
I laughed and pointed out that “Hash Browns Mean Nothing Without You” was a pretty good name for a band.
“Or a song,” the Duke said, and then she started singing all glam rock, a glove up to her face holding an imaginary mic as she rocked out an a cappella power ballad. “Oh, I deep fried for you / But now I weep ’n’ cry for you / Oh, babe, this meal was made for two / And these hash browns mean nothing, oh these hash browns mean nothing, yeah these HASH BROWNS MEAN NOTHIN’ without you.”