Gus (4’ 2”), Aidan (4’ even), and Sawyer (4’ 1¾”) spit into their palms, shook hands, and called the meeting of the Sycamore Street Clubhouse (No Girls Allowed!) to order. All three boys took a seat in the garden shed in Gus’s backyard.
“First agenda,” Gus said, pausing for emphasis. He’d learned agenda the day before when his dad took a conference call from his soccer game.
“I think you mean, first on the agenda,” Sawyer said. He was the best at vocabulary in the third grade, but worst (his friends not-so-privately thought) at knowing when to shut up.
Gus socked him in the arm. Admittedly, he hadn’t been paying a lot of attention to his dad’s conference call yesterday. He’d been busy getting pushed into the mud by boys twice his size. “First on the agenda… Amy Carter, Certified Babe. Aidan, report.”
Aidan ducked his head. “I, um, …” He blushed, his cheeks flooding crimson.
Gus sighed. “We’ll circle back to you, okay?” He’d learned circle back last week when his mom Zoomed in to a business meeting during breakfast.
Gus puffed up his chest. “Next on the agenda… I have it on good authority that there is a magic pill that can turn boys into men.” “Who told you that?” Sawyer asked suspiciously.
“Charlie,” Gus said. He raised his eyebrows. His older brother was a legend at Sycamore Elementary, ever since he’d gotten detention for planting a wet kiss on the principal, Ms. Kelly’s, cheek.
“Fine,” Sawyer said. “Wha’d Charlie say?”
Gus fished in his pocket and produced three small, blue, diamond-shaped pills. He held them out for Sawyer and Aidan to inspect. “Charlie said these pills would make even little guys grow a ton.”
“Has Charlie taken them?” Sawyer asked skeptically. Charlie, though two years older, wasn’t much taller than them.
“No, but my dad has. Charlie told me. He got them from Dad’s dresser…and he said the bottle was almost empty. And you know my dad.” The other boys nodded, impressed. Gus and Charlie’s dad was famously 6’ 4”.
“So… should we take ‘em?” Gus asked, wiggling his fingers so the pills rolled over in his palm.
Aidan nodded vigorously. Before the other two boys could do anything, he lunged forward, grabbed one, and swallowed it dry.
His friends leaned in, watching for any immediate effects. Aidan stared back at them, wide-eyed.
“Am I gonna die?” he croaked.
“If you are,” Gus said bravely, “we’ll all die together.” He gave a pill to Sawyer, grabbed his water bottle from his backpack, and swallowed the remaining pill. The three of them sat down to wait, holding their breath.
“Maybe it takes a while to kick in?” Sawyer asked, scratching his head.
The other boys shrugged.
“Maybe we should stand up, so we can see if we’re growing,” Sawyer suggested a minute later. The boys obliged.
“I’ve got some new Pokémon cards,” Gus said a couple of minutes later. Aidan looked up from his hand, where he was watching an ant wander between his fingers.
Gus pulled out his deck and spread the cards out on a couple of overturned buckets. The boys crowded around the buckets, scanning the cards for anything good. Nada. Gus shrugged, trying to hide his disappointment. Aidan clapped him on the back in solidarity.
Several minutes later, Aidan cupped his crotch. He looked up at his friends in horror. “Something’s happening… down there,” he whispered.
Soon, Gus and Sawyer felt it, too.
“What’s happening?” Sawyer yelped, spinning around to face the wall. “Why is it doing that?!”
“It hurts,” Aidan whimpered. His face was flushed red, redder than when Gus had brought up Amy Carter, Certified Babe.
“Gus!” Sawyer bellowed, clutching his head. “What’s happening?!”
“I don’t know!” Gus tried to push the front of his pants down. “Charlie said—”
“I want my mom,” Aidan wailed, tears streaming down his cheeks. He was taking deep, heaving gulps of air.
Sawyer whirled back around.
“NO MOMS!” he and Gus shouted at the same time.
Gus felt a sharp, stabbing pain in his groin and doubled over, groaning. “I think I’m gonna puke.” He hadn’t cried since last year when he’d gotten stung by almost a million bees while clearing out the shed, but he was very close right now.
“That’s it, I’m getting help,” Sawyer said. He pulled out his phone and dialed on speaker.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
Emma Korolik writes in Boston, MA.