Three stories of a lonely youth. Jimmy Kruzel's bad luck is that his worst enemies are always his best friends, or is it the other way around, and that sometimes his darkest hours seem to come right after the dawn. In tales more bitter than sweet, Jimmy finds that you can attract more flies with honey than you can with vinegar, but really, who wants to attract flies anyway?
Around the time I turned twelve, my best friend and my worst enemy were one and the same. He was my best friend because he was my only friend, even though I didn't even like him. I had a lot of enemies, but he was the worst, or at least tied for the title. His name was Alan Belew. Mine is Jimmy Kruzel. The other important person in this story is a girl named Dana Sanderson. She wasn't a friend or an enemy. I don't even know what she was. We were temporary partners, Dana and me, in a plot to get, and get rid of, Alan Belew. She wanted to get him. I wanted to get rid of him. We thought maybe we could help each other out. It was a dumb idea, but far from the dumbest we came up with that fall.
I had just come back from a year somewhere else. Let me tell you, going away for a year as a kid, and then coming back, is a great way to lose all your friends. They all moved on and left me out. I could hardly believe it. These were kids I had known pretty much all my life, kids I had played with, gone to school with, had sleepovers with, gone camping with, hung out with, kicked the can with, you name it. But now we were all turning twelve, and I'd missed out on one crucial ceremony - the spinning the bottle with. How did my childhood buddies all pair up into romantic couples in the space of a prepubescent year? Yet they did. All of them, it seemed, except the girl with the cooties, the Nazi boy, and the two brand new kids: Alan Belew, and Dana Sanderson.
I found out all about it on the first day of sixth grade. Brandon was with Sarah. Tucker was with Jenny. Carl with Candy. Gregory with Terry. Erica and Charlie. Even Annie, whose family had just changed their last name from Barkowicki to Barnes, was hooked up with Scooter McDaniel. The twins, Marcie and Margie, had boyfriends in Ricky and Rajel. That left Ariel (cootie girl) and Duncan (Nazi boy), and Dana and Alan, and yours truly, myself, on the outside of the glorious circle of light. You'd think that soon there would be only one - the extra boy would be totally alone, and I was certain that that would be me. It seemed inevitable that the other two pairs would form as I have just named them.
It was all new to me and I wasn't ready. I wanted my friends back, and I didn't like girls, not for holding hands, kissing and going steady at least. Or maybe I did but didn't want to admit it. The thing was, I was small, I was weak, I was shy and I was convinced I was ugly as well. It was not going to be a good year. That first day at school, I stood there at recess with nobody talking to me, nobody bothering with me, too nervous and scared to do anything myself, just watching my former friends gather together and command secret audiences with coded messages, gestures and expressions. I was like a rabbit exposed in a field, and it didn't take long for Alan Belew, raptor that he was, to swoop down.