Like The Sun

Mush moaned and leaned back against the brownstone building, fanning himself with his cap. It didn't do nearly enough to help. It didn't even cool the sticky sweat that ran down his face and neck, into his collar. He'd already loosened that, undoing as many buttons as was decent in public, and then another few because it was hotter than the hinges out, and with the sun so directly overhead, there wasn't even any damn shade.

"Hey -- heya, Mush!"

He looked up and found Blink barreling towards him, moving fast compared to the molasses pace everyone else trudged at. The heat mired everyone else in place, made it a struggle to move just a few steps, but Blink didn't even seem to notice it. He skidded to a stop next to Mush, sunlight gleaming off of his hair, which was now the bright yellow that it got every summer. Like Blink himself was the sun, stronger and brighter during the summer.

"Hey," Mush groaned. "Either siddown or step right," he motioned Blink over half a step, "there, so's you can block the sun for me."

Blink laughed. "Come on, get up. I got somethin' for you."

Mush looked up, intrigued. Blink's single eye was bright and his smile was radiant. Like the sun again.

"Whatcha got?" Mush asked, pushing himself up to his feet slowly. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and pulled his cap back into place.

"Well, not here, I don't got it exactly," Blink said, grabbing his arm to tug him along. "But we're goin' for somethin' fancy. See, I was sellin' an' this guy, I dunno, he musta been some bigshot. He was in a rush but he wanted his pape an' I told him I didn't have no change but he didn't even care. Just handed me some coins without lookin' and huffed off inside. I think it mighta even been the mayor, I dunno, Mush, he looked really important."

Mush had to hurry to keep up with Blink, but he didn't mind, really. It was too hot to move so fast, and definitely too hot for touching each other, but even so, Blink's hand on his sleeve was nice and familiar. Comfortable.

"Where are we going? What the heck are you even talkin' about, Blink?" Mush gasped, out of breath from matching Blinks' crazy pace.

"You'll see where we're goin'," Blink said, still pulling him along.

"But it's almost lunch time," Mush pouted, as Blink dragged him past the block with Tibby's. "Can't it wait until after we eat?"

"We're gonna eat, you'll see, just listen an' stop askin' me things!" Blink said.

"Okay, okay, I'm listening," Mush said. But Blink didn't say anything else, just concentrated on dragging him through the crowded streets. Even in heat like this, tons of people were out, running errands and doing work and whatever else it was that grown ups had to do all day. But Mush was used to the crowds, and even knew the area pretty well, since it wasn't all that far from Duane Street.

Blink stopped suddenly, pulling Mush under a restaurant awning. Mush definitely knew this place. A couple of weeks ago, Jack had been bragging he'd made so much money that he'd come here for the ice cream sundae, which none of them could afford, usually. It cost thirty whole cents, which none of them had to spare. Not with having to pay for food and lodgings and their papes. A newsboy with thirty cents to spare was practically rich. Mush didn't even think Jack had really come here. He'd have saved the money if he had it, so he could buy his train ticket someday.

"So this bigshot, he didn't even look at what change he gave me, just tossed me some coins," Blink said, clenching Mush's arm excitedly. "An' when I looked down, it was two whole bits, Mush, two bits plus what I already got for selling normally!"

"Whoa," Mush said. Blink pulled him further off the sidewalk, right by the door, dug into his pocket, and showed off the coins. Two quarters, as much as they'd spend to buy papers in a day, but all for free. Money to spare.

"I was thinkin', it's so hot today, Mush, it's killing me. An' I thought maybe I wouldn't sell no more, I'd just give up 'cause I made all I need to for the day, but I kept on selling 'til the morning edition was gone 'cause then I'd have it extra. 'Cause I wanted to buy you lunch. But not lunch. You remember what Jack was sayin'? About ice cream on a hot day an' how it's like heaven on earth an' he's never had nothin' like it before?"

Mush nodded dumbly.

"Well, I thought -- I thought we could split one," Blink said. "I mean, I ain't got enough for two, not if I still want to pay rent tonight, but you an' me could share. Jack talked like it was plenty big enough, an' if it's thirty cents, then I can still pocket twenty an' that's more than usual anyways, right?"

Mush stared at him. "You really don't mind sharing?" he asked, because a treat like this -- well, he could never afford it. He was pretty good at selling, broke even more often than not, did okay for himself, but he could usually only afford a treat like seeing a show or buying sweets once or twice a month.

Blink beamed at him, sunny again. "Course I don't mind. What's the fun of a treat if it ain't to share? An all this money's burnin' up in my pocket, come on."

Inside, Blink took them to a proper booth in the back, and told the waiter they wanted the biggest sundae the place had. The waiter looked a little skeptical, but maybe he heard the change jangling in Blink's pocket or something, because it didn't take long before he brought it out.

The ice cream sundae was big enough for two, alright. It sat in a giant silver bowl with a stem under it. There were three whole scoops of it, piled on top of a banana, and dollops of whipped cream covered the whole thing. Two spoons, shiny silver like the bowl, were stuck in between scoops, just waiting for them.

"Wow," Mush breathed. "It's even bigger than Jack said."

"An' I bet it tastes even better," Blink said, his voice just as awed as Mush's. But then it went back to normal, bright and happy, and he added, "So let's dig in!"

Mush didn't need to be told twice. He grabbed for a spoon, his hand crashing into Blink's, then started shoveling the ice cream into his mouth. Maybe it would have been nice to eat slow, to savor -- but heck, it would have melted anyway, and Blink was eating like he'd never tasted food before.

Mush had never tasted anything quite like it. It was sweet and smooth and cold, so cold it gave him chills and made his skin break out with gooseflesh. Even the banana tasted different when it was frozen, like it was sweeter, part of the treat.

It was over too soon, and for a few seconds Mush's mind screamed in agony. Blink's, too, if the way he screwed up his face meant anything. But Blink shook it off, so Mush did the same. He licked his tongue and teeth, still tasted the sugar-sweet flavor on them, and sighed happily.

The waiter still didn't seem to believe they could really pay for it, but stood and watched as Blink counted out the money. He had to bring them back change and ambled off, looking disappointed, like maybe he'd wanted an excuse to scream at a couple of kids or call the bulls on them.

Blink leaned over the table and said, "I don't know why he's such a sourpuss, but I don't care. Do you think rich folks eat like this every day?"

"I bet they do," Mush said. "They can eat as much as they want and pay for it all. I bet they don't even have to share." He swirled his spoon around in the empty bowl, catching a few drops of melted ice cream, and brought it up to his lips.

"Bet they can, yeah," Blink said, but his eye fixed on Mush. On his hand, the spoon -- his lips. "Hey, hey, Mushy, you got... c'mere."

"Huh?" Mush asked, as Blink grabbed his shirt and dragged him closer, leaning across the table.

Blink glanced around, furtive, then reached over and pressed his lips to Mush's. It barely lasted a heartbeat, so quick that Mush wasn't even sure it had happened, and Blink's cheeks were bright red when he settled back against the bench.

"Blink?" Mush asked, gaping at him.

"It was just, you got a drop of it spilled on your lip an' I..." He cleared his throat, shook his head, and smiled. That wide, radiant smile, the one that that -- more than his blond hair, more than his bright eye, made Mush think he was like the sun. "Well, I don't mind sharin' with you, Mush. Even if I had a million bucks, I'd still split my sundaes with you."

Mush smiled back. Maybe he didn't beam like Blink did, because no one else could grin that wide ever, but his mouth still tasted sweet and he meant it with all his heart when he said, "Me too, Blink. Me, too."