“We’re not friends anymore,” he said from deep in the backseat. I was driving and couldn’t find him in the rearview mirror.
“Why?” I asked. “What happened?”
“He won’t play with me,” he said. “He only played with the other kids.”
We were driving down a long and winding road. The cliffs were steep and fell straight to my gut.
“Just because a friend is playing with someone else doesn’t mean that he isn’t your friend, too.”
I saw movement in the backseat, but it was his brother trying to position himself for a better look at the rocks we were passing.
Then, “I told him I didn’t want to be his friend.”
“What did he say?” I asked.
“He said that was good. He said that he lied about being my best friend.”
“I don’t believe that he meant it,” I said. “People say mean things when they have their feelings hurt. It happens all the time.”
“He hurt my feelings first,” he answered.
“And then you said something mean,” I replied. “Mean words are contagious and have a way of spreading.”
His brother yawned and fiddled with his backpack. Then our street was there, where it always is, waiting around the corner. As I turned I could see them both, each leaning against a window, one looking far and full of wonder, the other looking farther still, past the things that I could see and lost in his reflection.
Then I showed them the spot where I had seen a vulture earlier in the day.
“A real vulture?” they asked.
And the car filled with conversation.
“May I use that?” I asked. He handed me the note that I had, just moment before, found him writing.
“Because I want to share it,” I said.
“I’m proud of you,” I told him. “And I always am.”
The next day came and went again, their friendship was all the stronger.