Part 136

I pulled on my shorts, and got into my blades while Ned went to the front room to get some cash. He returned to the kitchen with $100.

"Whoa! This is $20 too much! Actually, I didn't work the whole eight hours, so…"

"It's all yours, and don't argue. You've done a lot more for me than just the gardening."

"Thanks a bunch. Hey, it's been a cool experience for me, too. I've really enjoyed it. And if I'd known what a cool guy you are, I probably would've done the whole damn job for nothing."

"That's not the way to succeed in business, Daniel."

"Guess not. And, hey, I didn't mean to get so aggro before."

"If I didn't want you to shout at me, I would've told you so. Normally, I'm not easily pushed around, even though it may have appeared that way to you. You said a lot of things that made sense to me. You're a very bright young man."

"Yeah, right. Tell that to my teachers." Ned walked me to the front door, where I paused a moment to shake his hand. "Listen, I dunno how you're gonna take this, but it'd be way cool if I could call you Pop."

"Pop!" He raised his bushy eyebrows, and said with a chuckle, "You make me sound like I've got one foot in the grave already!"

"Pop kinda suits you, and… well, it would kinda give me a pop… I don't have one."

His lined face dissolved into a kindly smile, and his green eyes twinkled. "In that case, Daniel, I'd be very proud. Very proud, indeed."

"K, Pop, it's a deal," I grinned. "You want me back here next Saturday?"

"So long as it's OK with you."

As soon as I arrived home, I made a beeline for the fridge, and took a couple of mouthfuls of milk straight from the carton.

"Some things just never change," mom smiled, shaking her head. "So how did it go today?"

I told mom about the hundred bucks, and about how cool Pop was… but I didn't mention anything about the kinda stories he wrote. Whoa! She would've freaked big time! "And he wants me back next Saturday. Cool, huh? Hey, can I use the phone? I wanna find out how the other dudes went."

Well, Teen Muscle's first day on the job had been a fantastic success, and all the guys were totally chuffed about having fat wallets for a change. Paul was a bit pissed, though. He'd spent the whole day weeding some old lady's huge lawn, and was complaining about having sore muscles from kneeling and bending. "But that wasn't the worst part! The bitch was sitting on a chair, watching me work!"

"We don't call our customers bitches, dude. And she wasn't watching you work. She was ogling your killer bod."

"Think so?"


"What if she hits on me?"

"Ever heard of the word 'no', Paul? It's not that hard to say."

After dinner, I went to my room to catch up on email, and to let Kyle know about my new business venture. I'd just sent the email to Kyle when Greg knocked on my door. "Hey, Daniel? Are you decent?"


"Cool." He opened the door and came in. "Hey, can I see that hundred?"

"Sure. It's in my top drawer."

He spread the six tens and two twenties over my bed, then stood back to look at the greenbacks. "Wow! All that dough for a day's work! Wicked!"

"Less than a day's work, and Pop tipped me twenty."

"How did you con him?"

"I didn't con him! Gimme a break! I even offered not to take it all."

"Is he kinda loopy or something?"

"Nope, he's totally cool… well, maybe a little bit loopy, but in a funny way. We got along together really well."

"Hey, I wanna be a Muscle Teen, too."

"We've already got our corporate photo shot."

"So shoot another fucking one! I wanna make some bucks!"

"No prob. We're booked out, anyway, so there's a stack of work. Just phone Freddie and let him know that you're on the team. Don't forget, though, our uniform is shorts and blades. That's it. Our customers are gawkers."

"That old guy gawk at you?"

"His eyes nearly fell out."


"It wasn't like that. He was as nervous as all fucking hell. Besides, I kinda liked the attention."

"Next thing you know, he'll be asking you to get naked."

"He didn't have to… I was."

"Fucking hell, Daniel! Are you crazy or something?"

"You should know… you're my bro."

"Hey, listen, I just don't want you getting into any shit. OK? There's a lotta weirdos out there."

"Pop's not a weirdo. Well, some people might think he is, but I don't. He's cool."

"Maybe I should check him out. Lemme take your place next Saturday."

"No fucking way!"

Greg took hold of my shoulders and swivelled me around on my comp chair so that I was facing him. "Daniel, is there something I should know? Did this old guy do anything?"

"What the fuck do you mean? Hey, I'm not some naïve kid who doesn't know what his weenie is for!"

"So he touched you?"

"He gawked. That's all."

"You're not telling me the truth, Daniel. That guy gave you a hundred big ones, and I think I know why."

"Lighten up, Greg, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. Pop's cool. So stop bugging me with your paranoid crap."

"Paranoid? Daniel, I'm your bro, and I love you. I'm not gonna stand by and watch you…"

"Watch me what?"

"Get fucking molested!"

"Jesus! Where the fuck are you coming from? You know nothing about Pop. This is all fucking bullshit! Nothing happened. OK? Nothing happened!"

About a half hour after Greg had stormed outa my room, there was another knock on my door, only this time it was mom. "Daniel?"

"C'mon in, mom."

Mom sat on the side of my bed, and studied my face for a moment. "Son, I want you to know that I love you… very much."

"And I love you, too, mom."

"What happened today?"

"You mean at Pop's house? I told you already."

"Did you tell me everything?"

"Has Greg been talking to you?"

"Greg spoke to Andy, and Andy spoke to me."

"Mom, this is all bullshit. Greg's got this crazy idea that Pop's some kinda molester or something."

"Is it true that you were naked at his house?"

"Mom! I'm always naked here! What's the biggie?"

"Being naked here, and being naked at some old man's house, are two different situations entirely. Do you have any idea of how much danger you're putting yourself in?" She rose from the bed. "Your father and I would like a word with you… in the living room."

"My father's dead."

"Son, you've never talked back to me before, and I don't expect you to start now."

"You weren't married to Andy before."

"OK, if that's the little game you want to play, here's the deal. Either you're in the living room in five minutes, or you're grounded for the week. Is that clear?" And with that, she left my room.

I stood up from my comp chair, gathered the $100 off my bed, and put it back in my drawer. This was gonna be the hardest money I'd ever earn, I thought to myself. How the fuck could people jump to conclusions like that? They weren't even there!

Mom and Andy were sitting side by side on the sofa, and looking like they were on some kinda murder trial jury. I chose to sit on a single chair, and waited for the interrogation, which began with Andy.

"Daniel, is it true? Were you naked at that man's house?"


"Did he offer you anything? Such as alcohol?"


"Did he talk about personal things? Body parts?"


"Daniel, I know this is difficult for you, but I want you to answer this question honestly. It's for your own good. Did that man touch you?"



"The same place you have."

Mom went into instant shock, and placed both hands on her cheeks, while Andy leapt from the sofa in a rage. "Daniel!" he roared. "What's happened to you? Explain yourself!"

I looked up at his angry face, and used a soft, calm voice to answer him. "He touched my hand. We shook hands." I pointed to my right palm. "That's where Pop touched me. The same place you have."

Andy was obviously shaken, but also at a loss to comment on what I'd just told him. He sat down again, and studied mom's eyes for quite a long time. Finally, he spoke again. "Your mother and I are going to have to discuss this matter further. We'll let you know tomorrow what we've decided. In the meantime, you're never to see that man again. Is that clear?"

It was after midnight when I climbed outa my bedroom window, put on my blades, and skated over to Pop's house. It looked kinda spooky in the moonlight, and I stood out front for a while wondering if maybe mom and Andy were right. Maybe Pop was a conman. Maybe he was just fattening me up for the kill.

Greg's and Andy's words began to reverberate in my head.

"Hey, listen, I just don't want you getting into any shit. OK? There's a lotta weirdos out there."

"Did he offer you anything? Such as alcohol?"

"Did he talk about personal things? Body parts?"

In any case, there were no lights on in the house, and Pop was probably sound asleep. Even if I did knock on the door, he probably wouldn't wake up. And if he did, he'd most likely yell at me big time for coming around so late. This was a totally dumb idea. Then a light came on in the bedroom, followed by another light in the hall. The front door opened.


"Hi, Pop. I was just kinda bladin' around the hood, and…"

"It's after midnight."

"You're right. I'd better jet."

"Is there anything you'd like to talk about?"

"Nah… it's fine, Pop. Sorry for waking you."

"You didn't. It was intuition… a sort of premonition. I knew you were out here. Are you sure you don't wanna chat? You make helluva good coffee, and I could do with one."

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 Daniel's Diary Part 137