I first met Grimm in fourth grade.
I was at lunch. Normally my mom gives me money for lunch, but that morning she was out of cash, so she made my lunch.
My mom is a lovely person with many fine qualities. Making nutritious lunches is not one of them. But to be fair, I didn’t mind. A jar of peanut butter and a warm soda beats cafeteria mystery soup any day of the week.
I was just about to open the warm soda when it slipped out of my hand.
There was silence. Everyone knew I’d just let loose a live soda grenade in the cafeteria.
I was suddenly alone with a warm soda bomb of my own making. Or so I thought.
“Why didn’t you run away with the others?” I asked.
“You looked like you needed some help,” he said. “Also, I’m an expert at bomb disposal.”
“It’s not a bomb. It’s a can of warm soda.”
“If we don’t get it out of here and it explodes, you’re going to be in detention for a month.”
That’s when we heard a metallic . . .
“We don’t have much time,” said the kid.
“Do I know you?” I asked.
“First thing we need is body armor,” said Grimm.
“Body armor?” I said.
“Let’s see,” said Grimm, looking around the cafeteria. “This should work.”
I found a bowl and a backpack and suited up as well.
“Now what?” I asked.
Grimm said, “We need a couple of those long lunch-lady spoons.”
Right. The kind they use to stir the Monkey Eye Soup.
We found two spoons and approached the vending machine.
“This is a delicate operation,” said Grimm. “We have to move as one. You grab one side of the can; I’ll grab the other.”
We both reached under the vending machine and pinched the can between the two spoons.
We slowly pulled out the can. Then, very carefully, we stood up.
The can could have exploded at any second. It was about one hundred yards from where we were to the school’s back door and the soccer field beyond. We each took a deep breath, then carefully, oh so carefully, picked up the can again and slowly started to move. We looked like two deranged giant mice tiptoeing down the hall.
“Thanks,” I said. “You really didn’t need to help me with this.”
“Are you kidding? This is a blast!” said Grimm.
We got out the back door and headed straight to the soccer field as carefully as we could.
From that point on we were best friends forever. Pinky-swear friends. Spit-shake friends. And walla-walla-elbow-bump friends.
The Warm Soda Grenade Incident was just the first of many adventures.
In fifth grade our big adventure was climbing the water tower. No big deal. Walk in the park. Piece of cake.
In sixth grade we painted ourselves silver and pretended to be statues in the park.
This fooled only the pigeons.
This year we topped ourselves. We decided to dig a hole to China. This was Grimm’s idea. I was a bit skeptical that China was within digging distance.
We were both grounded for life after that, but it was worth it. We made the local news.
We had a great time together. Grimm helped me get out of my shell. Normally, I kind of blended into the background.
And when he needed it, I provided him with cover.
We had so much fun that we made a list of future adventures. We called it our Totally To-Do List.
A couple of weeks ago we made plans for the spaghetti bath thing. We were all set. We had the spaghetti. We had the tub. Mom was at yoga class. There was just one problem. No Grimm. He didn’t show. Which was weird. He always shows.
I called his phone. No answer. I went to his house down the block to get him. It had been a stormy day. A big thunderstorm had blown through. Noisy. Lots of lightning.
As I approached Grimm’s house, I could see a fire truck. But I didn’t smell smoke. I just smelled that nice after-storm smell. Rain-rinsed air. Sparkly. Like just-washed underwear out of the dryer. It smelled calm.
And then I blinked. I saw the ambulance. I saw Grimm’s mom crying. And I knew in my gut that my best friend was . . .