POOCHY'S BUFFET

Brandon was allowed to bring one friend to his grandmother's eighty-third birthday party. They would be dining at Poochy's Buffet, an all-you-can-eat joint with steaks and baked potatoes cooked to order. But first, his dad had to get the car started. It was the middle of winter, and the family's 1985 Cutlas Supreme wasn't looking too good. Luckily, Brandon chose the right friend to accompany them: Zachary Snugglechuck.

[ENGINE SPUTTERING]

DAD: ...Start! ...Start!

MOM: Yelling won't make the car start, dear.

DAD: Carol, I swear to God if you don't shut up I'm going to staple your lips together.

BRANDON: Dad!

DAD: Brandon, play your Gameboy.

BRANDON: Sorry about this, Zachary. My dad gets crazy on holidays and stuff.

Zachary Snugglechuck was an extremely compact and almost comatose 12-year-old boy, whose size 3 shoes dangled from every chair he got on. His eyelids were slack and his tiny hands were turned palms-up and resting on his knees. He wore a bright red baseball cap and a brown vest with an embroidered "Z" on the left breast.

ZACHARY: Hmmm?

BRANDON: Hey dad, Zachary is pretty good with stuff like this. Maybe he could take a look under the hood. Will you, Zachary?

Zachary nodded.

BRANDON: He wouldn't mind, dad.

Dad laughed and dragged his shaky hand across his face.

DAD: Be my guest.

Dad popped the hood, and Zachary and Brandon got out of the car. They looked at the motor. Zachary touched it with the tip of his finger and quietly said, "Try it now."

BRANDON: Try it now, dad!

[ENGINE SPUTTERING]

DAD: Nope! What else ya got?!

Zachary touched another part of the motor with the tip of his finger and said, "Try it now."

BRANDON: He says try it now, dad!

[ENGINE SPUTTERING]

DAD: Nope! Nothing!

Zachary kept touching various parts of the engine with the tip of his finger but nothing ever happened. They got back in the car. Brandon shut his door and got comfortable.

BRANDON: Well sorry dad. I thought he could fix it.

Dad inhaled deeply. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel.

DAD: Okay... everybody out. We're walking to Poochy's Buffet.

MOM: We can't walk there! It's a 25 minute drive, for heaven's sake!

DAD: Then it should only take us a few hours if we hurry. I'm not missing my mother's eighty-third. I understand why you don't want to go, though.

MOM: I love your mother! You didn't even know it was her birthday until I reminded you this morning!

DAD: Bundle up, kids. It's very cold. And the wind is whipping. Violently.

MOM: You kids go inside.

DAD: Do not go inside that house, kids.

BRANDON: Please stop fighting!

Dad's hand went under the driver's seat and came out with a single-action Colt 44 revolver.

DAD: We're going to see Grandma.

Brandon and Mom screamed. Dad fired several rounds through the roof of the car and the screaming stopped. Birds chirped. Daylight shined through the bullet holes and smoke from the gun twisted around in skinny ribbons. Zachary's Bugle Boy shorts were visibly soiled at the sides, but his expression was stoic and he hadn't moved an inch since returning to the car.

DAD: Brandon... will you ask your friend if he pooped on my leather upholstery?

BRANDON [WHISPERING URGENTLY]: Did you poop, bud?

Zachary nodded.

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